After classes a few days later Elswita spotted Edward leaving the university grounds on foot. He had no books. His hands were shoved into his pockets. He appeared angry and upset.
Elswita followed him purely out of curiosity, dragging her heavy books with her.
He walked down Windmill Street, then crossed the road to Chappell Street. He glanced over his shoulder before he crossed a road that led to a row of shops and stepped into a tavern. Elswita watched and waited as passers-by glanced at her curiously.
Edward reappeared a few minutes later and began walking back in her direction. Elswita slipped into an alleyway. He walked past yards from where she’d stood. She breathed a sigh of relief as she popped her head out and saw the back of his tall frame making his way back towards the university.
When she felt it was safe she followed him again. Instead of turning left towards the university, he made a sharp right some way ahead. Elswita followed. As she turned the corner a hand covered her scream as she was dragged down the length of an alleyway and pushed against a wall.
Edward’s face was dark with anger. He also appeared frightened; terrified, in fact. She’d never seen such fear in a man’s face.
“What do you want, Elswita?” he said roughly.
His large hand was across her nose and mouth. She could hardly breathe. His eyes looked dangerous. He eased his hand from her mouth so she could speak, but still, he held her firmly against the rough wall.
“Nothing,” she said. “I want nothing.”
“What did you see?”
“Nothing,” she said.
He visibly relaxed, but did not let go of her.
“I suppose you think I had something to do with Christian’s shooting?” he said. “Is that why you’re following me?”
Elswita didn’t answer his question. Instead, she managed to say, “I know about you. You might be able to bully Christian, but you can’t bully me. You’re detestable.”
Elswita was horrified she’d revealed Christian’s secret, even to his tormentor. Her revelation enraged Edward further. His eyes turned to slits. His lips tightened to a gash. He raised his hand, balled his fist and . . .
“If you put your hand on her, you’ll have me to deal with!” George shouted.
Elswita almost fainted with relief.
* * * *
He knew about Edward being a bully and a sycophant. George had been a guest in Christian’s London home on many occasions over the years. He’d watched Edward slink about like some malevolent spirit. He’d seen Christian’s reaction to him.
Fear could not be hidden. It could be detected in the eyes, the twitch of an eyebrow, the rising colour of one’s cheeks. Especially Christian, with his pale complexion and his readable blue eyes.
Perhaps George should have said something, done something. At the time he’d been too young and did not know how to deal with such sensitive matters.
But this time, George caught Edward committing the most horrendous evil. It seemed he was about to strike Elswita.
Edward turned around, stunned. He threw Elswita to the ground and scarpered. George ran to Elswita’s side and pulled her up gently into his arms.
“Oh, George. Thank you.”
“Are you hurt?”
She leaned her head against his shoulder and trembled. He held her tenderly.
“What were you thinking of, Elswita?” George said. “Edward is not a man to be played with.”
“I saw him leave the university in a rush. He didn’t have his books. I wondered where he was heading.”
George didn’t want to admit that he’d been watching Elswita, too. When he saw her from an upper window leaving the grounds at speed not long after midday, he rushed to follow her.
He’d lost her for a while until he spotted her in the distance being pulled into the alleyway.
Elswita eased away from his arms. Then she looked up at him. Her expression was unreadable. George took Elswita’s heavy bags from her. She did not resist.
“He seemed terrified,” she said.
“Yes, George. Something or someone frightened him. It was plain to see.”
“What on earth is going on?”
When they reached the main grounds of the university, George was firm.
“Elswita, I don’t want you following Edward or anyone else, for that matter. It’s far too dangerous. If you have any suspicions then you must come to me.”
For the first time, Elswita reached out her hand to George, and he took it in his own. It made his heart beat faster.
“Christian claimed to be my knight in shining armour,” she said. “Now I have two fearless knights. Thank you for coming to my aid.”
George would not be moved by her words without an assurance, a promise, that she would take no further risks.
“I mean it, Elswita. I want you to promise me you won’t do anything like this again.”
“I promise,” she said.