“Miss Bowen, may I have a word?” Mr. Carrington asked as I stood from the dinner table.
“Yes, of course.” I replied, although were it not impolite, I might have refused.
We walked in silence to his study. As he closed the door behind me I recalled my last private visit inside the room. More accurately I recalled being spanked for my vocal opinions.
“I am aware you no longer feel any loyalty toward myself or my wife. We are disappointed, but your loyalties are your own.” Mr. Carrington paused as though searching for the words to express himself.
“You are correct. We stand as if on opposite shores and the bridge once strong between us now crumbles from a weakened foundation.”
“An apt analogy. Perhaps in time the foundation can be repaired.”
“Time will see.”
“Irregardless, I am aware you are not letting matters lie.”
I remained silent not certain of his meaning and not wanting to give away anything which he did not all ready know.
He regarded me with an inquisitive eye. By the look of it he knew less than he purported to know. How typically masculine.
“You are meddling with a delicate balance. If not for yourself, then for your friends, let these matters go. No good will come of this.” Mr. Carrington sounded desperate.
“I will consider your request. If there is nothing else, I should retire.” I replied, heading for the door.
“Edith, please think beyond your own pride.”
“My own pride has never entered the equation. If you knew me as well you think, you would surely realize that simple truth.”
I opened the door and walked out before he could reply. The conversation would not improve, I am certain.
Upstairs in my room I found a note on my pillow.
- Meet me at Primrose Hall. Matters have changed, we must discuss.
By the late hour I knew I could not leave by the front door. Considering the strained relations in her room, I wondered how she planned to be out past curfew and not be caught.
I decided to check with Penelope before leaving.
“Elizabeth?” Penelope asked.
“Yes, where is she?”
“How should I know? I have not seen her since dinner.”
A giggle came from behind me. Lucy stood in the doorway.
“What are you looking so happy about?” Penelope asked her.
“None of your concern.” Lucy replied and it seemed she could barely contain herself from sticking her tongue out at Penelope.
A sinking feeling hit the pit of my stomach. The note had hardly sounded like Elizabeth and Lucy’s too good of mood with her fate still uncertain seemed murkily connected.
“Where is Elizabeth?” I asked her.
“Where do you think she is?” Lucy answered but her eyes betrayed her as the glanced too knowingly at the folded note in my hand.
“Lucy Meyer, what have you done?” I tried to keep my voice calm.
“I’ll never tell.” She smiled.
I would like to have wrapped my fingers around her neck at that moment. I dreamt of slapping the evil smile from her lips and beating the truth out of her, but at last it was not in me to do such.
I returned to my room and sat on my bed. I looked at the note in my hands and read it over. I suppose I hoped the words would somehow reveal a deeper story if I only read them in the right light.
Everyone around me fell asleep. Carrington Manor fell silent as night settled in. I crept from my room to the hall and stood before the window at its end.
My hands went to work unlocking it and sliding it open. Undoubtedly, a trap lay ahead but Elizabeth was trapped in it all ready and I could not shake the responsibility for it from my shoulders.
A noise behind me made me jump.
“Don’t.” Penelope whispered.
I turned, startled, to face her.
“What are you doing here?”
“Why should I trust you?”
“Because Elizabeth is a friend.”
I regarded her suspiciously for a moment in the dimly lit hallway.
“What do you propose?”
“Lucy knows something.” She replied.
“Of this I have no doubt.”
“She will require more persuasive measure to talk than I am capable of without attracting attention.”
“So, again I ask, what do you propose?” I said with impatience creeping into my tone.
“The one thing no one expects, Edith. Let’s wake Mister and Misses Carrington.”
“Have you lost all sense?”
“No, think about it. Lucy and her friends are clearly counting on you and I keeping quiet to protect Elizabeth, but if what we suspect is true then Elizabeth will not be protected by our silence at all. If we are wrong then the worst case is Elizabeth will suffer a little at the hands of Mrs. Carrington for staying out after curfew.”
I would never like to admit it to Penelope but her logic actually made a good deal of sense. The only question I still had remaining was how informing them would help matters.
“What can they do which we cannot?” I asked her.
“Make Lucy talk.” She replied.
I nodded as understanding finally dawned.
There was no reply.
Inside their room I could hear rustling. After nearly another full minute the door swung open to reveal a disheveled Mrs. Carrington.
She eyed Penelope and I with annoyance.
“What is going on girls?” She asked.
“Elizabeth is missing.” Penelope spoke before I could choose my words.
“What do you mean missing?” Mr. Carrington’s voice called from the darkness.
“As in not where she belongs, missing.” I replied.
“You might want to start at the beginning girls.” Mrs. Carrington said.
Her eyes scanned over us as if pointing out our less than appropriate attire for bed.
Penelope and I explained the evenings event starting with the note I found after leaving Mr. Carrington and then our encounter with a gleeful Lucy.
They listened carefully. They studied the note. They closed their door to confer privately for a moment.
Penelope and I waited nervously.
The door flew open and Mr. Carrington exited fully dressed.
“Girls you will accompany me to Primrose Hall. We shall see if she is indeed there waiting for you.” He ordered.
“I will have a chat with Lucy in the meantime.” Mrs. Carrington informed us.
The journey to Primrose Hall was quick but seemed to last twice as long as normal. When the carriage rolled to a stop at last, Mr. Carrington stuck his inside for a moment.
“Stay here.” He said with a somber look on his face.
He closed the door and I could hear his footsteps click on the concrete. I peeked out the window into the darkness and gasped.
A street lamp illuminated the step of Primrose Hall. In the dim light it was easy to see her, Elizabeth. She lay face down on the steps and her face was hidden never the less I knew it to be her.
She was stripped naked, her arms and legs bound to the side railings of the steps. Her body stretched across them like an “X”. Her skin was red and welted. No doubt she had been thoroughly whipped while bound.
A tear slipped from my eye. I opened the door and exited the carriage and ran to her. Mr. Carrington clearly did not approve but he remained quiet. He cut the ropes binding her one by one.
“Elizabeth.” I said gently.
She did not respond. Her ties cut, I carefully rolled her over. Her eyes were open but they did not see me.
“I tried to warn you.” Mr. Carrington said.
I hugged her to me. Tears of anger burned my cheeks. I glared at Mr. Carrington but bit my tongue from lashing out at his unhelpful words.
Penelope joined me and together we carried Elizabeth’s limp body to the carriage.
Back at Carrington Manor, we carried her inside. She was starting to come around and moaned in obvious pain.
“Run her a warm bath and set her in the tub. I’ll be up in a minute.” Mrs. Carrington instructed.
Lucy stood behind her in her nightclothes. She looked smug and had it not been for Elizabeth in my arms I would have polished the floor with her face.
Mr. Carrington was not immune though. He crossed the room between them in hardly a second. His large hand swung through the air and his open palm caught her face and sent her flying into the wall with a resounding slap.
“Tell me what you know.” He thundered.
He grabbed her by the hair and ripped her nightclothes from her body.
He threw her to the floor.
“You can talk now or you can talk later. Either way you will talk, the only question is how much pain you will endure first.” He said.
She rose to her knees, the smug look finally faded from her face and replaced by fear.
He slapped her face again and she fell back to the floor with a cry.
I would have liked to have stayed and watched the rest but Elizabeth required my attention more.