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“Thank you, brat!” With his wife’s assistance, Lord March chafed his abused extremities. “I daresay, Osbert, that you’re wondering what all this is about.” The baronet acknowledged that he was in fact a trifle curious. Tersely, his lordship explained.

“Good God!” Sir Osbert eyed his offspring with no little curiosity. “Ran away, did she? I made sure she’d gone to animate your wife’s spirits, March. I’m sure Mab told me she had—but she ever was a mettlesome chit. A rare handful. Mab, that is, not Nell!”

“And if I am, whose fault is it?” Having cut Marriot’s bonds, Mab still retained possession of the walking sword, which she now brandished beneath her parent’s nose. “You never did explain how you came to be here, Papa.”

Sir Osbert looked distinctly uncomfortable. “I came to town to see Parrington!” he said, lamely. “Thought I might have been a trifle harsh.”

Fergus took pity on his prospective papa-in-law, whose sporting instincts were so obviously not confined to field and track. “We encountered one another en route. Has anyone any suggestion what we should do with this female? I hardly think we should remain here.”

Before anyone could answer, Jane put forth her own suggestion of what her captors might do with themselves, a suggestion which led Mab to inquire whether such a thing was humanly possible, and Henrietta to almost swoon with the shock.

Hard on the heels of this digression came yet another from the doorway. “There they are! Plague on’t, I
told
you you had the wrong sow by the ear!” Into the room hobbled Lady Katherine, indignation personified—and furthermore handcuffed. Retorted the short fellow responsible for her humiliation, “You’ve told me a lot of poppycock, you and your precious son! I hope I may know a rotten fish when I smell one!” Jakes became aware of the roomful of people. “What’s all this?”

“Well you may ask!” Fergus responded dryly, keeping a wary eye on Jane. “On the bed there is March, who I sought to convince you was in need of assistance. Bow Street having proven uncooperative, we undertook to rescue him ourselves—with excellent results. This female—Jane!—is a thief. I believe that somewhere in this building you will find other associates of hers, and that they have been responsible for the recent series of thefts. If I might make a suggestion, those handcuffs that you have placed upon my mother would go a great deal better on Jane!”

Jakes needed time to evaluate this decidedly bizarre situation. “Thefts, is it?” he inquired.

Lady Katherine had no interest in thefts and thieves, or even in the misadventures of Lord March. Holding her cane awkwardly in her manacled hands, she hobbled across the room and halted before Mab. “You think you’re going to marry my son, do you, miss?” she malevolently asked.

Lady Amabel hefted her sword into a defensive position. “Yes, I do! I am very fond of Fergus, ma’am, you see! So fond that I no longer mind that he is tied to your apron strings. Or I do mind it, rather, but I’m willing to put up with you forever pulling long faces over me for his sake!”

“Put up with—!” Had not the walking sword been between them, Lady Katherine would have slapped the hussy’s face. “Stab me, I don’t mean to have a shameless twit dwelling under my own roof, so
there!”

“Shameless twit?” echoed Fergus, his temper growing short. “I told you, Mama, that you were not to speak so of Mab. And she
will
be dwelling beneath my roof— it
is
my roof, if you will recall—because I have every intention of making her my bride!”

“I’m glad to hear it, Parrington!” Sir Osbert had been following this conversation with no little interest. “After coming upon my daughter in a bawdy house, I think she’d better be married posthaste! Has it occurred to anyone else that perhaps we should make a push to tidy up this business?” Upon hearing this suggestion, Lord March ceased to exchange murmured amenities with his wife and addressed himself to the baronet instead.

If it had occurred to no one else that she was in a dreadful fix, that unpalatable fact was clear to Jane. That enterprising villainess did not go down easily to defeat. Sensing everyone’s preoccupation, she made a break for the door.

Her dash for freedom was not successful. Down, in fact, she did go, felled by Lord Parrington with a blow from his mama’s cane. Simultaneously, her prop snatched away from her, Lady Katherine tumbled onto the bed. “Oof!” said Lady March, upon whom she had sat.

Poor,
poor
Lady Katherine! Henrietta was eager to console her friend. “Is that any way to treat your mama?” she chided, casting a reproachful glance at Fergus and simultaneously patting Lady Katherine’s manacled hands. “Ungrateful boy!”

“You don’t know the half of it!” After the recent abuse she had received, Lady Katherine greatly appreciated a sympathetic audience. “I do not scruple to tell you, Dougharty, that I am bitterly disappointed in my son. Long have I coached him in deportment, and set him a decorous example, and sacrificed and slaved— I even assisted him to escape arrest! And to what end, I ask you? He didn’t even thank me! Instead he allows me to be arrested while he dangles after a girl from a bawdy house!”

“She is not
from a
bawdy house, but merely
in
one in an effort to rescue Marriot!” Henrietta pointed out. “But I know exactly what you mean! Sharp as a serpent’s tooth is a thankless child!”

Lady Katherine glowered at her thankless offspring, who had flung his many-caped overcoat about Mab’s shoulders and was currently applying his handkerchief to her dirty face. “I won’t share a dwelling with that hussy, no matter wha
t
my son may say!” she snapped.

“No, and only a heartless monster would expect it of you!” Henrietta soothed. “You may stay under
my
roof, and welcome—although I fear you will not like it, for it is small and very damp!”

Her son’s recent lack of compassion made Lady Katherine all the more receptive to this generous offer. “I shouldn’t like the damp!” she retorted frankly. “Plague on’t, I’m not homeless. There is always the dower house. I shall remove there, and you, Dougharty, shall go with me!”

“Thank God for that!” murmured Lord Parrington to Lady Amabel—both had been eavesdropping shamelessly. “I hope that I may make you happy, Mab. I shall certainly try very hard! But I fear I am not a very
adventurous
fellow.”

Lady Amabel could not let this poor self-opinion pass. “How can you say such a thing? When you have just single-handedly rescued us? I think you have been
very
brave! As for adventure of this sort, I have had enough of it to last a lifetime.” She fluttered her long eyelashes. “But there are
other
kinds of adventures, and I think we shall both enjoy them—Fergus, I would like it very much if you would kiss me again!”

Meanwhile, as Lady Katherine and Henrietta settled upon a future which was to prove of mutual advantage, and Fergus and Mab embarked upon a fervent embrace, Sir Osbert and the Marches were settling with Jakes upon what official explanation of these proceedings was best rendered to Bow Street—one, preferably, that would exclude all mention of their names. Jakes, now convinced of the facts, and additionally convinced of the glory that would be his as result of the culprits’ capture, was very eager to cooperate.

“We’ll bring it off safe! Sure as check!” Jakes shook his head and simultaneously sucked air through his teeth. “Here I thought I was rainbow chasing—I only followed the baron because he made off with my pistol, thinking he was right queer in the cockloft—and instead I’ve caught a pretty kettleful of fish.” His marveling gaze fell upon Lady Amabel. “So
that’s
the lass of which so many interesting things have been said!”

Lord March elevated his own fond gaze from his wife’s face, and his thoughts from the various pleasurable pursuits in which they might pass their time now this mystery was cleared up, and looked instead at Mab, who was still engaged amorously with Fergus. “That reminds me, Osbert! I promised Mab I would put in a good word for Parrington.”

Chuckling, Nell snuggled closer to her husband’s fur-lined redingote. “I think, Marriot,” she said wryly, “that you are a little late!”

And so, despite various trials and tribulations, a happy ending was contrived—save for Jane and her fellow miscreants. Yet even Jane’s fate was not so dire as it might have been. Like any good villainess, Jane was not averse to stealing a page from someone else’s book. Upon official questioning, she claimed to have suffered so grievously from assault by Lady Katherine’s cane that she had lost all memory, not only of stolen gems but also of how she had come to hold a lordship and three ladies captive in a house of ill repute.

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 1982 by Maggie MacKeever

Originally published by Fawcett Coventry (0449502929)

Electronically published in 2007 by Belgrave House/Regency Reads

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

No portion of this book may be reprinted in whole or in part, by printing, faxing, E-mail, copying electronically or by any other means without permission of the publisher. For more information, contact Belgrave House, 190 Belgrave Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94117-4228

 

     http://www.RegencyReads.com

     Electronic sales: [email protected]

 

This is a work of fiction. All names in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to any person living or dead is coincidental.

BOOK: Maggie MacKeever
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