Chapter nine

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Sally struggled to follow Toad.

"Let me go. Bring him back. Please, Aunt Bella! Mama!"

Mama had wrapped her in the tightest of embraces, and when the sailors came, and she struggled harder to come to Toad's aid, Aunt Bella had added her own strength, her arms around Sally and Mama both, so Sally had no chance of escape. The dukes kept themselves firmly between the females wrestling Sally, and the men binding and abducting her love on the other side of the room.

"You cannot take him! This is kidnap! Don't hurt him!"

"Now, young lady..." Papa began.

"Go away, Anthony," Mama told him with a frosty snap in her voice that brooked no argument. She was patting Sally's shoulder and stroking her hair, as if she were a baby with a skinned knee, and not an adult woman whose heart was being bound and torn from her chest.

"You cannot take him!" she sobbed, as Aunt Bella's boat captain threw Toad over his shoulder.

"Yes, Haverford, leave Sarah to us," Aunt Bella insisted.

David shouted again and again that he would write, his cries fading as Aunt Bella's sailors carried him away.

The kitchen door slammed in the distance. He was gone. It was over.

No. She could not just give up. He had risked everything to rescue her. She must at least try to rescue him. She had until the tides changed. She had only to let the mothers believe her defeated, then escape when they were not watching. And Uncle Wellbridge had left the satchel with all that money when he followed the sailors out. She could hire someone to help her. Perhaps one of her Wakefield cousins would...? No. She could not involve family. They would tell Papa.

Her mind racing, reviewing and discarding a dozen ideas one after the other, she stopped struggling and let Mama hug her, as opposed to merely keeping her in check.

"He is gone now, isn't he?" She asked, in as conquered a voice as she could muster, when she heard a carriage drive along the side of the house.

"He is gone," Aunt Bella said, with some degree of compassion, but no sympathy. "It is late, Sally. Let us put you into bed. Everything will look brighter in the morning."

Indeed, it would, for she would be on the way to Scotland with David by then, once she figured out which boat he was on in Aunt Bella's shipyard. And if she were killed by a footpad going to the docks alone at night, it would serve them all right.

"Nothing will ever look bright again. You have torn out my heart, all of you. It is all your fault, and I hate you!" She devolved into sobs at the thought of all the people she loved most keeping her from the only man she would ever wish to marry.

"I know you are angry, Sally," Aunt Bella told her, "but truly, darling, we want only to save you the heartache of a man who is bound to hurt you." She helped Sally remove her jacket and undid the buttons on the skirt.

"He wants to marry me."

Aunt Bella and Mama exchanged looks. "What?" Sally asked. "He came to get me. He said he wanted to marry me."

"It is to his credit," Mama said thoughtfully, "that he was prepared to do the right thing."

"If only I could believe it were for the right reasons." Aunt Bella shook her head, sadly.

"He said he would never hurt me," Sally insisted. "He promised." She stepped out of the skirt. They would take it away, but it did not matter. She had others. She would go in her shift if need be.

"He would not mean to, Sally," Mama agreed. "But hurting women is what rakes do. Abersham is far from ready to marry. He has no idea what to do with a wife." She began undoing the buttons on the shirt-waist.

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