I put my plan into motion that Thursday. I suppose my actions will appall your modern sensibilities, but remember, Pamela was my servant, not my peer. I arranged to have my coachman from Lincolnshire take her to my estate there. The servants in Lincolnshire are less inclined to independent action; they would not be susceptible to Pamela's complaints.
I'd kept back three of Pamela's last letters; I'd warned her what would happen if she crossed the line into gossip. I sent my own letter to her father in lieu of Pamela's letters advising him that Pamela was betrothed to my chaplain, I was working to arrange the marriage, and Pamela was safe. There was no reason her parents should be worried when she didn't show up.
I didn't expect her father to actually appear at my door.
More precisely, he appeared in Mrs. Jervis' parlor. He is about fifty and terribly poor: the grooms mistook him for a beggar. I leaned in the doorway and watched him. He was a big man and, despite his distress over his daughter, tough. If he'd walked all night, he would have plenty of stamina. His hands were calloused, his neck darkly bronzed. A hard worker. I wondered what he and Pamela ever found to talk about.
"Your daughter," I told him, "has made a great racket in my family."
He sighed. "Where is she?"
"She is well taken care of."
"How shall I know this?" he said. I guess Pamela came fairly by her lawyer's mind.
"Recollect who I am," I told him. "If I am not to be believed, what's the point in asking me questions?"
"I just wish to know her whereabouts, sir."
"She'll write to you," I said, "unless she's negligent. I can't answer for that."
I had no doubt Pamela would write. Whether I would let anyone see her letters was a separate issue.
He seemed assuaged, and I instructed Mrs. Jervis to feed him and give him money before he left. I sent a letter to Pamela, asking her to copy one I'd composed for her that would allay her parents' fears. I truly didn't want the rustics to suffer.
Pamela sent the copied letter back with an angry missive to me. Kidnapping hadn't quelled her spirit. She'd even annotated the copied letter, adding phrases like "vilely tricked" but the content was more or less the same, so I handed it over to Mrs. Jervis to send to the parents.
"Is she going to marry your chaplain?" Mrs. Jervis asked me then, and I shrugged. I suppose I would once Pamela relented. Clergymen are supposed to rescue fallen women. I didn't know then how angry this particular clergyman was going to make me.
John Arnold had brought Pamela's letters from Lincolnshire plus messages from Mrs. Jewkes, the Lincolnshire housekeeper; he approached me later in the stables, looking worried.
"It's not nice, sir," he said. "Pamela's not safe, if you pardon me mentioning it. That Mrs. Jewkes doesn't treat her well."
"Pamela is used to being treated better than her station," I pointed out, and he nodded glumly and went away.
I thought about his complaint, however. Mrs. Jewkes is a harder woman that Mrs. Jervis, being more cynical, not to forget more exacting. It occurred to me that Pamela would be chafing at her eagle eye: I'd instructed her to watch Pamela very carefully.
I wrote Pamela, assuring her that Mrs. Jewkes was meant to treat her well. I also promised not to visit until Pamela herself invited me to Lincolnshire as if she were truly mistress of the house. I did not know then what schemes were being hatched between Pamela and my chaplain.
That's right--my chaplain, a man dependent on me for a living entered into a conspiracy with Pamela. I've no doubt she began it; Mr. Williams isn't clever, alert, or cool-headed enough to "save" a kidnapped girl. But once Pamela got him going, he did plenty of damage.
I first learned of Williams's damage when Sir Simon visited Bedfordshire. "Do you know," he said to me, "your chaplain fella is spreading all kinds of rumors about you in Lincolnshire?"
Williams didn't have the imagination to spread rumors about me. I nearly said so until a qualm struck me.
"About what?" I said warily.
"You keeping some chippy locked up in your house. I told him he was out of bounds, engaging in an affair against his friend and patron."
"I don't care if you have ten chippies locked up in your house--nothing to do with me. I told him so. But you might want to bring him to heel."
"Yes," I said, and I knew how to do it.
Williams is not an intelligent financial manager. He's a good man who does his duties (usually) faithfully (usually). But he'd borrowed money from me nearly a year before and never repaid it. He'd probably forgotten, and he probably didn't have enough money to cover the entire sum anyway. It was a good enough reason to throw him in gaol, an excellent way to bring him to heel.
And I probably should have just done it and let the issue drop, but I wanted to know how far Pamela had confided in him. I confess, I was jealous. I could not believe Pamela would be attracted to his bland personality or labored conversation or lack of wit. What I did next was beneath me, but I did it: I sent a letter to Williams offering him Mr. Fownes' living plus Pamela's hand in marriage.
Mrs. Jewkes' next message to me confirmed my suspicions: upon receipt of my offer, Williams--the fool--immediately confessed his and Pamela's conspiracy. He was so grateful that he had been beforehand in his declarations to Pamela. In fact, they had been secreting notes to each other for over two weeks. Even after I assured Pamela that I wouldn't come down to Lincolnshire until she asked, she'd been urging Williams to help her "escape." I suppose you think I would have gone down eventually anyway, and I did, but not until Pamela proved false.
I wrote two letters, one to Pamela and one to Mrs. Jewkes. I've never been so angry. To Mrs. Jewkes, I called Pamela every name I could think of, and I wrote her directly that she was a hypocrite. All those protestations about needing her parents' approval and "yet," I wrote, "you could enter into an intrigue with a man you never knew till these last few days, and resolve to run away with a stranger you bewitched to break his ties of honor and gratitude," especially when the ridiculous man's livelihood depended on me. I sent instructions to my attorney to have Williams arrested for the debt.
I intended to go to Lincolnshire, but if I'd gone after writing those letters, I can't trust what would have happened. A bad temper runs in our family--my sister's is worse, believe it or not. I went instead to the Hargraves in Hertfordshire, and there, I nearly died.
I'd planned to visit the Hargraves, go on to London and after that, Lincolnshire. An accident at the Hargraves altered my itinerary. I went hunting on Wednesday with Bertram Hargrave. We were fording the stream on the estate when the damn horse shied. I felt myself falling and swore; my right foot was still caught in the stirrups. I shook it loose and went into the water. The horse fell towards me. I rolled sideways. I remember the horse didn't strike me, but its collapse sent up a wave. I was tossed over, my face scrapping the gravel bed. I gasped like a fool and water flowed into my lungs. I pressed down with my hands, pushing my body desperately upwards. I met only another wave of water, and then everything went dark.
I woke from a dream. I didn't remember my dream then, but I know what it was now because I dreamed it later over and over: the sensation of choking, large falling shapes that loomed over me no matter which direction I twisted.
People were speaking--not in the dream but in the room. I lay in a bed. I recognized my sister's voice: "Is he going to die?" I didn't recognize the soothing voice that replied, but I praised it silently: "No, Lady Davers, the water is out of his lungs." And then I heard Bertram's voice: "Only bumps and bruises, Lady Davers. He'll be fine."
"Let him rest. He will be well."
The voices faded. I slept and dreamed and woke, pushing frantically at the sheets. I was thankfully alone. I got up slowly and peeled off my nightshirt. My left side was a mass of dark bruises. I winced as I stood but made my way to the wardrobe. I was half-dressed when my valet entered.
"Sir," he said and looked uncomfortable. "Lady Davers will not be pleased you are up."
"My sister does not control me," I said. "Get over here."
We managed to dress me, but I had to sit down when we finished. Breathing was more difficult than I'd anticipated. I probed my ribs carefully. They didn't seem broken, but the bruises on the left-side were beginning to creep across my chest. I groaned.
"What time is it?"
"Friday evening, sir."
I'd been in bed two days.
"Has the family eaten?"
That was a blessing. I would never be able to sit through a meal.
"I'll visit with the ladies and gentlemen," I said.
There was much exclaiming when I appeared in the sitting room. My sister began to lecture me for rising but stopped when I turned away. Bertram said, "I knew he would be fine! Hunting tomorrow?"
I smiled and sat beside Sir Hargrave. He pressed a drink into my hand and started a conversation with Bertram about hounds. Intelligent man. I sipped my drink and retreated upstairs before my sister could maneuver me into a one-on-one diatribe.
She would insist on such an encounter eventually while Bertram kept proclaiming that another hunting trip would set me up "good and proper." I decided on Thursday that my trip to London could be postponed. It was time to visit Lincolnshire, to put an end to the problem of Pamela.