Chapter 13

5.2K 232 8
                                                  

"Do you think your uncle will allow us to go?" I asked Sylvia. We'd remained near the carriage, trying to decide whether to obtain Langley's permission to follow Jack or not. It boiled down to this single question, and her answer.

She pulled up the collar of her coat and sunk her chin into the fur. "No."

"That's settled then. We'll go anyway."

"Hannah! That's terribly rebellious of you."

"Rebellion would be leaving and not returning." I clasped her arm. "We can't let Jack stroll into a meeting with Tate without being completely aware of the danger."

"He has his fire to protect him."

"What if Tate has a gun? Or drugs him?"

"Yes, of course you're right."

"If we hurry, we'll catch him on the road or at least arrive soon after."

"Uncle could send somebody else," she said. "Tommy or Bollard."

"We'll take Tommy anyway." She still hesitated, so I added, "I've been kept in an attic most of my life, only doing what I've been told to do by others, going where I'm told to go. If coming here has taught me anything, it's that I am a free person now. I make my own decisions."

"I don't know," she hedged. "Uncle will be very angry, and I'm dependent on him. We both are."

"He won't throw us out. Not when he went to so much trouble to get me."

"Precisely: to get you. Not me." Tears filled her eyes and she blinked rapidly. "I am nobody."

"You're his niece!" I didn't feel quite as certain as I sounded. In many ways, she was as much a prisoner at Frakingham as I had been at Windamere. Most women were in one way or another. We weren't allowed to own property or open bank accounts, and many professions and educational institutions were closed to us. Now that I had left the only home I'd ever known, I was beginning to realize how much my welfare was in the hands of others.

"You're braver than I," she said.

"It doesn't feel like it. My heart is trying to break through my ribs. I'm determined to ignore it. For Jack." And for me. I needed to do this to assure myself I wasn't Langley's prisoner, that I could get away if I wanted to. I wouldn't allow myself to be locked up again.

"I'll get Tommy," I said before she could protest again.

When Tommy and I returned to the carriage, we found Sylvia waiting. She didn't look any less concerned, but at least she was still there.

"Let's go immediately." She extended her hand for Tommy to help her up the step. "We have coats and money. Uncle will still think we're going shopping in Harborough, but we'll go on to Hackney Wick instead."

"Excellent." I smiled at her. "You're turning out to be quite the rebel yourself, Sylvia."

"I want to go shopping in London after this is all over. Since we're not taking a change of clothes, we'll have to visit Oxford Street again."

At least she'd agreed to come.

***

We didn't find Jack on the road. He must have traveled faster than us, which wasn't surprising since he had the better carriage and horses to pull it. We stayed overnight at an inn on the way, and reached Hackney Wick late in the morning.

The suburb was indeed at the edge of the great city and we came upon it suddenly. The open spaces of the countryside gave way to featureless, interchangeable terraced houses and brick factories that spewed smoke from dozens of chimneys. Their high walls blocked passersby from seeing the machinations behind. Not that there were many passersby. I could count the number who walked the muddy street on one hand. Who could blame people for staying indoors? The air stank and the machinery beyond the walls whirred and clanged in an endless drone. We kept the window closed.

The Wrong GirlWhere stories live. Discover now