An Earl's Agreement(129)

By: Joyce Alec

The snowfall was beautiful, and Amelia would have been delighted with the scene, being it was so close to Christmas. But because her mind was focused on the important task at hand, she had hardly noticed the breathtaking trails of white the snowflakes were leaving across the dark sky.

When their investigation didn’t turn up any clues to Henrietta’s disappearance, Amelia headed to the front door to return to the warmth of the house. Bartley thought a piece to the puzzle was still missing, so he questioned Lady Amelia.

“Does Lady Henrietta know anyone along these streets? Anyone she may have called upon?”

“Goodness, no. And if she did, she would never call upon acquaintances unannounced at this hour. And if she was leaving, she would have extended an invitation to me or at least told me about her plans.”

“The timing may seem off, but I wonder if you’d considered the possibility of me calling upon you sometime?” For once, the usually confident Bartley, seemed a little shy in his demeanor. “I mean, we are out alone. Would that not mean we are practically engaged?” He laughed and tried to recover his confidence.

Amelia was not amused. “Lord Swinford, this is certainly not the time, and we are certainly not alone. Our carriage driver and Lucille have been within a safe distance, so my honor is intact.” Amelia softened her tone, “But I am not against you calling upon me. After we find Lady Henrietta, of course.”

She was grateful for the cover of night that could cover her flushed cheeks.

“You have made me very happy. And, I will find your friend. That, I promise you. Now, shall we return to the house?”

As they warmed up by the fire, Amelia and the Bartley stole glances at each other. The duke was sitting by the fire now, but he didn't seem to notice that they had even left the room, let alone the building.

Andrews had brought blankets and pillows; no one was going to bed. They settled in the drawing room for the rest of the night.

There was a harsh knock on the door that woke everyone up. Sleep had descended upon them despite their fears and upsets of Lady Henrietta's disappearance. Andrews announced the arrival of Inspector Grimshaw, who had resumed the search at first light.

“Your Grace, I wish to examine the bedroom now that we have daylight.”

John just nodded as Amelia and Bartley followed the inspector upstairs.

The inspector stopped in front of Henrietta’s door and addressed Bartley and Amelia, “My Lord, my Lady, I wonder if you could leave the investigation work to the police. Could you kindly return to the drawing room?”

“But inspector, I would like to freshen up. May I use my room?” Lady Amelia asked as Bartley walked away, disappointed to be dismissed so easily.

“Certainly, my Lady, I don't see any problem with that.”

Lucille was in Amelia's room.

“Lucille, did you manage to find anything out from the policeman?”

“Not a lot ma'am. He does say Inspector Grimshaw is very thorough in his work. He did hear the inspector say he was concerned for Lady Henrietta's safety especially as they had no clues,” Lucille said as she lay out fresh clothes for her Ladyship.

“Hmm, I wonder. I do think the answer lies in the bedroom. I wonder if there's anything to Lord Swinford's idea of a secret passage. Lucille, will you fetch the earl for me?” If the earl could find the plans, then they may be able to help Henrietta.

As Lucille was leaving, Amelia couldn't help overhearing the inspector and his policemen talking about looking around the back of the house They wanted to inspect the carriage house and stables. She peeked out her door, and seeing there was no one on duty at the door, took the opportunity to sneak into Henrietta's room. It belied the events of the past evening.

“What secrets are you hiding?” She said as she looked around the room, wondering how Henrietta had spent her last moments. There was nothing odd or out of place in any way. It was very strange.

She sat in the chair that seemed to be placed at an awkward angle. She was going to move the chair, but as the morning sun bounced off the mirror, she sat down to see the room as Henrietta had. She too was intrigued with the placement of the mirrors on opposite walls. As she looked at the reflection of the mirror behind her, something caught her eye.