Chapter Nine

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Charlie was jolted awake when the carriage went over a particularly rough patch of road.

Yawning and blinking the sleep from her eyes, she looked around at her riding companions. Colleen slept on with her head laying on Diana's shoulder, while Diana rested her head against the side of the carriage. Charlie's mother sat next to her, quietly working on her needlepoint.

Golden rays of late afternoon sunlight filtered in through the windows, making the carriage warm and stuffy. The countryside rolled by outside the windows in hues of muted greens, browns, and golds.

They were heading for the Calenberg Essex Estate for a house party Lady Claire had planned. Charlie's father and brother were already there, hunting for sport and overseeing the estate. Because Colleen and Diana had been invited to the party, Lady Claire had allowed them to ride with her and Charlie.

Now fully awake, Charlie lifted her head and watched as olive green fields went by.

It had been two weeks since finding Diana's father's journal. And since then, Diana and Charlie had both combed through their libraries. They had come up with over thirty common books every household would have. That didn't exactly narrow the playing field. Of course, they could only know which book was right when they went to Wellington Hall, the Wellington holding on Essex. Much like their town houses, the Calenbergs and Wellingtons had Essex estates right next to each other.

The carriage turned left and began the last stretch of the journey up Calenberg drive. Charlie watched as their lands went by, golden in the afternoon sun. She loved that golden colour; she didn't see it very much in London.

Colleen woke first, sitting bolt up with her eyes impossibly wide. Charlie and Diana had told their friend their findings the moment they had seen her. Colleen had taken to the idea of finding out a spy, saying that 'just think of it, we'd be heroines!' and had supplied plenty of ideas.

Charlie could tell Colleen was itching to say something to her, but held her tongue in the presence of Lady Claire. Charlie's mother would be absolutely furious if she knew what follies and shenanigans her daughter got up to.

Grinning mischievously, Charlie leaned forward and flicked Diana's nose with her forefinger. The girl startled awake and glanced around wildly. Charlie hid her chortles behind her hand, while Lady Claire shrewdly rolled her eyes at her daughter.

"Have we arrived?" Diana asked, after shooting a glare at the still giggling Charlie and stretching.

Lady Claire began to put away her needlepoint, "Yes, I believe so, dear."

The carriage rolled to a stop in front of the manor, it's windows glowing with light and making the house look warm and welcoming. The giant mahogany double doors were opened, revealing the frame of Charlie's father, dressed in leather breeches and a white shirt, both with the cuffs rolled up.

Charlie saw his smile as he received the carriage, opening the door and helping Lady Claire out.

"Hello, dear." Lord Fredrick said to his wife, and then he kissed her full on the lips.

Lady Claire rolled her eyes, "I daresay you could not have been any less direct."

Lord Fredrick threw his head back and roared with laughter, "It must be the country air, dear."

He turned and helped Charlie down, "Alright there, goosey?"

Charlie couldn't stop the wide grin from spreading across her face, "Never better, papa."

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