Em and Thomas walked away from Mrs Benson’s townhouse both lost in thought, until Thomas spoke.“If this Parisian lawyer was right, there would be no relative to speak up and claim the title after Mr Delaine.”“It would be a way, however extraordinary, of ‘picking off’ the French nobility, even on foreign soil.”They walked on.“If Mrs Benson was uncomfortable allowing a servant to sit in her salon, she did not show it,” Em remarked.Thomas smiled. “I think she is the sort of woman to notice a pretty face first, and rank second,” he said, and Em blushed.
For many days, Thomas hid from his employer that he was making attempts to investigate the death of Patrick Delaine. It wasn’t difficult: Lady Louisa barely emerged from her bedroom. But at the beginning of October the parish constable came from Brighton and asked to speak to the lady of the house. Em watched him tug at his hat and rub his toes into the rug in the hall as he reported that there was no more he could do in the matter.“I understand, Mr Smith,” Lady Louisa said. She stood in a bedgown, with a loose long jacket thrown over it, her hair unkempt.Em saw the constable out and turned to go back to the kitchens. Celestine and her tutor were in the music room, and sounds of their lesson wafted under the oak door. Em hesitated as Lady Louisa turned slowly to climb the stairs. Jenny stood on the landing, her face a picture of sympathy for her mistress.“My Lady,” Em said. “I have to speak, though you may scold me scold us terribly. But Mr Meredith and I have been able to learn . . .”“Learn what?” Lady Louisa crossed the hall. “Something to calm my racing mind, to stop me speculating like this?” Her face was close to Em’s. “If I knew how, or even just why he died, I could feel at peace. I worry so about my darling Celestine, Emma. What if this . . . this killer should come again? Not knowing why it was done, well ”As she spoke, her voice had risen in pitch. The singing lesson reached a pause and the music-room door opened. Celestine, who had clearly heard her mama’s distress, hurried out and embraced her, and Thomas followed.“What have you learned?” Lady Louisa asked him frantically.“I went to Brighton,” he said in a low voice, “to make enquiry. There may be a connection between Mr Delaine’s discovery of his probable ancestry and his death. But my Lady, we cannot be certain. Please don’t think that we can.”“We?” Celestine drew back from her mother and looked at her tutor, and then at her lady’s maid. “Has Em been helping you?”Em saw the challenge flash in the girl’s eyes. How potent was female jealousy, even at times like these, she thought. Celestine had no reason to be jealous, but that made no difference to the child.