Christian remembered. They had been attending a ball at the house of his aunt Sylvia’s dear friend, Arabella. Christian should have been in bed with all the other children, but had given Nanny the slip so he could watch the wonders of the ball.
He’d seen his uncle climb the stairs to Arabella’s rooms and had followed him. Through a crack in the door, he’d watched him lift jewels from a box and tuck them into his pocket. When his uncle had turned to leave, Christian ran down the hall and back into the nursery with a pounding heart.
The following morning he’d informed his father of what he’d seen and Uncle Horace was arrested that day.
“They’ll hang you this time,” Christian said.
“Hang me? They’ll have to catch me first. You have no idea what they did to me in prison. You have no idea of the conditions I had to endure while you partied away, drinking yourself to oblivion, womanising and living life to the full while I rotted in that prison with the scum of the land.
“You and your stupid little mouth and your propensity for truth are what put me in prison.
“Without you, I would have got away with it. My dear boy, I had plenty of time to hate you while I was incarcerated. I think the last five years of my sentence were eased knowing that as soon as I was let free, you were the first person I would visit. Every time I thought of it, I got a shiver of satisfaction.”
“You’ll never get away with it.”
“Even you didn’t recognise me. After I’ve dealt with you, I’ll be on my way to Liverpool and on the first ship to America.”
“Well, shoot me and be done with it,” Christian said scornfully.
“Shoot you? Here? Come, come, Christian, do you think me a fool?”
Uncle Horace stepped closer. Christian sank back in his bed. With lightning speed, Horace grabbed a pillow from under Christian’s shoulder and slammed him down on the bed. Christian opened his mouth to shout out a warning, but before he could do so the room went black.
* * * *
It seemed that Christian’s uncle was in so much of a rage he didn’t hear the door open behind him. It was Elswita’s quick response that led to the rotter’s eventual downfall.
George attempted to pull Horace off, but he was as strong as a bear. When George made for him again, he swung his arm around and threw George a blow that sent him reeling across the room, and he hit his head as he fell.
In a daze, George watched as Elswita picked up the jug of water from Christian’s bedside table and whacked him over the head. Christian’s uncle collapsed on to the floor, unconscious.
Christian was gasping for air. George, though dizzy, eased himself from the floor and helped Christian to sit up.
“Thank you, George,” Christian panted. “You are a hero.”
“Don’t thank me. Thank Elswita. Had it not been for her . . .”
George looked over at Elswita. She was frozen as a statue with the jug still raised in her hand. She seemed to be holding her breath.
George ran to her and removed the jug from her fingers.
“Elswita,” he said gently.
She blinked, which seemed to wake her from her shock. She fell into his arms and looked up into his face.
“Are you all right?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said. “But I’ll have an almighty headache later.”
Elswita touched the bump that was forming on George’s head. He leaned down towards her and kissed her gently on the lips. She held him tightly and kissed him back.
“Hurrah!” Christian said.