Chapter Forty-Five: Part 2

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"If I might make a suggestion?" Merry offered.

Haverford waved a hand, palm upward. "Please."

"If, indeed, you are worried he will speak too freely, then place him somewhere that his words will be meaningless. I am certain the navy can find a place for him on a South Sea Islands run, or a trip to the back side of Africa. It won't matter to whom he brags then."

Bella nodded. "I had thought the same. I am pleased to offer up a merchant ship, where his life would be subject to a different sort of discipline, but I am not choosy about where he goes, as long as it is away and he can be monitored to keep him out of England."

"If Lord Joseph and Prince Nikolaus will assist me," Merry suggested, "we will take him to Portsmouth. It's a full moon and will be a fine night. We can be back for the wedding."

Haverford considered. It was not enough, but it would have to do. However much Haverford might wish it, dukes could not execute criminals without due process, and a magistrate's hearing would condemn Sally even more than her attacker. "Very well, but not tonight, gentlemen. Lord Joseph, your brother's castle has a secure room? An oubliette, for preference? My brother, Wakefield, will have some questions for this pond scum before he joins the service of Her Majesty."

Gildeforte nodded. "I will arrange his imprisonment, Your Grace."

"Thank you. And Gildeforte? Merry? Nikolaus? I am entrusting his incarceration and my daughter's name to the three of you. Crowhurst is to see and speak with no one else, except Wakefield when he arrives."

The three men nodded, and Merry prodded Crowhurst junior to set him in motion.

Haverford shot a challenge at Crowhurst senior with one lifted brow, and the man said hastily, "Yes, yes, whatever you wish. Cameron, go with the gentlemen, and pray to God they can teach you appropriate manners before they are through." The response seemed less than sincere to Haverford, but Wakefield would wring the son dry of information and then Merry would commit him to hard labour and, with any luck, war. That would have to be enough for now.

"Father!" Cameron Crowhurst protested, but Niko and Merry dragged him out.

For a long moment, Haverford examined Crowhurst senior, his face still as granite. When he spoke, his voice was as inflexible as that rock. "Your son took ill this afternoon, and as such, you will both return to Saltash and remain there. My family and Coventon's will, of course, understand you cannot stay for the wedding, for the illness will require your family withdraw from society until next Season. And you will not speak of what has happened here. Do you understand my meaning fully, Crowhurst?" He raised one eyebrow.

"Indeed, Your Grace; my lips are sealed, Your Grace; I am so ashamed—"

Haverford cut him off by turning away. "Sutton, can I rely on you to see Mr Crowhurst to the county border?"

The door closed behind them, and only Haverford and the Wellbridges remained.

Haverford sank into a chair. If he read Crowbait's escort aright, the villain would bear a few more bruises before the door to his prison closed, and Haverford envied his grandson and nephew that physical outlet.

Bella came to put her arms around him. "Go to your daughter, Haverford. They need you. Wellbridge and I will do what we can to quell any gossip."

***

Later that evening, the Wellbridges joined the Haverfords in the private sitting room of their suite.

"How is she?" Bella asked.

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