An Earl's Agreement(131)By: Joyce Alec
She was in darkness.
Bartley returned to the house, frustrated. His attempts to find the original architects and any plans had failed. Then it struck him that the plans should actually be in the house, as was the case with the plans of his own estate. He felt foolish for not thinking of it earlier. So much time had been wasted.
“John, we need to search the library for any drawings on the house. I am sure the clues lie there,” he hadn't even waited to be announced as he drew open the doors.
“Come on man; I need your help. Lady Henrietta needs you to do something. You can't sit there feeling sorry for yourself.”
John stood up. Bartley was right. Sitting and fretting wasn't finding his beloved.
Bartley explained that he thought the house might have secret passages. As they took up their positions, the duke and the earl began looking at the oldest books in the library. They began to cough with the dust that accumulated on the books that hadn't been touched for decades. Hours went by as they opened book after book, hoping for some revelation that would solve the mystery of the house.
“I think I've found something,” John exclaimed as though he had just found Lady Henrietta herself.
John placed the schematics out on the table and they studied them. There was no mention of any secret passages.
“I suppose it was a long shot. Another story without any substance,” Bartley was so disappointed.
“Excuse me, Your Grace, Mary, Lady Henrietta's maid, would like a word with you,” Andrews stood at the doorway with a very timid Mary behind him.
“Begging your pardon, Your Grace, My Lord, but I thought you should know. I haven't seen Lady Amelia or Lucille for quite some time.”
John and Bartley exchanged glances as they raced up to Amelia's quarters. There was no sign of either woman.
“You don't think…” Bartley ran across Lady Henrietta's room, but the police officer who had returned to his station guarding the room wouldn't let him through.
The duke lost his composure, “This is my house, and I shall enter the room. Get Inspector Grimshaw this instant. Lady Amelia and her maid have gone missing.”
The young officer bolted to find the Inspector as the two men entered the room. Daylight was fading, but even with the lamps, they saw nothing new. The room was exactly as it had been when Lady Henrietta had gone missing.
“What is happening?” Bartley was frightened and now had insight to how John must have felt with Lady Henrietta's disappearance.
With the inspector's arrival, Bartley left the room. This couldn't be happening. Something was missing. He was overlooking some piece of evidence, but he didn’t know what it was.
“So more have gone missing, eh?”
Bartley was startled by the sound of a croaky voice and turned to see the old man that Lady Henrietta and Lady Amelia had met on their first night there.
“Where did you come from, old man?” Bartley didn't know what to make of him.
“I see things. I hear things. Is it that pretty lady that was here a few nights ago?”
Bartley didn't know why, but he felt compelled to answer.
“Yes, both ladies and a maid have disappeared. What do you know of the place?”
The inspector called Bartley, distracting him. As he looked back waiting for the old man to reply, all he said was “Look outside,” and shuffled away again.
“Coming, inspector,” Bartley said.
Bartley joined the inspector and John mid-conversation.
“This is a most unusual case, and I have to say, it confounds me, Your Grace. How three women have disappeared from a room defies logic,” the inspector said, as he rubbed his chin in deep thought. He turned to Bartley, “The duke tells me that you have been considering the possibility of a secret chamber of sorts. It seems to make the most sense. There are no signs of forced entry and no signs of anybody leaving the room.”
John chimed in, “If this is true, why haven’t the ladies found a way to free themselves?”
Bartley said, “Well, we have been looking in the archives, but there is no mention of any extra space. My plan was to look around the outside, but I am afraid that we are running out of time, especially for Lady…” Bartley stopped when he saw the look of fear on John's face.