An Earl's Agreement(133)

By: Joyce Alec

Chapter Six

Bartley had to do something. Seeing how the inspector had gone out the front door, Bartley decided to do his search out the back of the house. After all, the bedroom overlooked the carriage house. Although he was glad to have his lamp, the walk to the carriage house was quite lit up. Bartley walked backwards looking up towards the window, willing it to tell him its secrets.

“Anything strike you as strange, My Lord?” It was the old man again. He was standing beside Bartley looking up at the house.

“What did you say your name was?” Bartley asked.

“Jedediah Larkin, My Lord, I am the caretaker here. Does it not strike you as strange the position of the window? I always found it strange, the lack of symmetry.”

Bartley looked at the house plans and then looked up. Certainly, there seemed to be more wall than was allowed for on the schematics, but was this just a trick of the eye, perhaps.

“It does look odd, and if there's a secret passageway, then it must lead somewhere. Perhaps out here, what do you think?” Bartley looked at the old man who just nodded.

Now, if I could figure out where this could go, Bartley thought. As his eyes followed the possible layout of a secret chamber, his eyes fell upon the snow underfoot.

As he tried to process where a chamber could possibly lead, the horses became uneasy in the stables. He could hear a mix of roars and snorts and ran to the stables. He and Jedediah went into the stables to see what had caused the horses' distress. They were sensitive and would hear sounds that humans couldn't.

“Calm down, there's a girl,” Bartley went into one stall where the mare was extremely agitated.

“What is that sound?” he asked. Was that what startled the horses? But the sound stopped. He cocked his ear, straining to hear the sound again but nothing. Then he heard a wail, or maybe a scream, that set the horses off again.

“Help, I need some help,” Bartley called out. The snow was dampening any sounds. He walked the mare out of her stall, and Jedediah took her outside. Some of the stable boys were coming to his aid, and he sent one to find the inspector. Could the secret chamber run this length of the garden from the house and into the stables?

He went back inside the stall, and with his foot, began to shove the straw around. There was no sign of a trap door or hatch, but it had to be near here. It dawned on him that the horses wouldn't be put in stalls with trap doors. It had to be outside.

He called for more light as he made his helpers sweep and clear the floor. The Inspector arrived as Bartley told him of what he heard. It was the best clue they had so far, and even the skeptical Inspector wouldn't deny it.

“Lady Amelia, I'm coming for you,” he called out. “If you can scream again, please do, my love. We need to hear you,” he called out frantically. The inspector called for everyone to stop as they listened out. As they were about to resume clearing, a faint bang was heard.

“She heard me. Work faster. We have to get to her.” Bartley worked harder than anyone else, and his efforts were rewarded when he found the trap door.

He opened it up and looked inside.

“Lady Amelia, I've found you,” although he could not yet see her, he jumped into the passageway. Lifting his lamp and turning it to full, he saw the cramped tunnel, and there ahead of him was Lady Amelia in a heap on the floor. He ran to her, while he called for help.

“Bartley, have I died?” she asked.

“Oh, my love, you are not getting away from me that easily,” he smiled at her.

“Lady Amelia, where are the others?” Inspector Grimshaw was eager to find the others.

His question seemed to give Lady Amelia the rush of adrenaline that was needed.

“Henrietta, Lucille. It's too far to go back this way. Take me to the room and I'll show you,” she screamed out.

With him supporting her, Lady Amelia rushed back to the room. John just watched as Lady Amelia sat in the chair and showed them how to open the passage. With the wall secure, John and the inspector ran down the stairs, and soon the women were safe.

Chapter Seven

All the guests agreed that Lady Henrietta, now Duchess of Kentonville, looked radiant on her wedding day. Mary had styled her mistress's hair to disguise the gash on her forehead from her fall.