Livia sneaked down the stairs and tiptoed toward the back door.
Only when she was outside, closing the door behind her, did she remember—how stupid of her—that Mott wouldn't have returned yet from driving Charlotte to Mrs. Watson's house. She glanced down at the small gift in her hand. She supposed she could place it by the door of the carriage house, but what if he didn't see it before he took the Holmeses to the railway station tomorrow and then left their employ forever?
The light in the carriage house was on. Had he come back, then, so swiftly?
She was still hesitating when the light in the carriage house went out and its door opened a few inches. It was hard to see in the dark, but could that be the corner of a summer cape, not unlike the one Charlotte had been wearing?
Charlotte was still here?
Livia's heart flooded with wild hopes.
They had spoken about Charlotte's plans to poach Livia and Bernadine from their parents, but Livia had understood it to be intentions for a too-distant future. What if she was wrong? What if Charlotte meant to put everything in motion tonight, right after she'd spoken to and perhaps bribed Mott?
But as Charlotte fully emerged from the carriage house, she didn't look quite right. When did she change her cape to a dark one? Not to mention—no, no, it wasn't Charlotte at all, but Mott dressed in women's clothes!
She stared at him, her jaw somewhere around her feet. He saw her and raised his index finger to his lips, signaling for silence. After looking in both directions, he crossed the completely deserted carriage lane and let himself into the small rear garden of the house next door.
She rushed to the low fence that separated the gardens. "What's going on?" she whispered. "Where are you going dressed like this?"
He looked indecisive for a moment. "I'm in some trouble—some bad people I was mixed up with before I entered service. They are after me now, and Miss Charlotte is helping me to get away. I'll wait in this empty house until the coast is clear. You go back inside and don't come out again. If anything should happen to you, Miss Charlotte will have my hide."
If anything should happen to Livia? What about Charlotte?
As if he'd heard her question, Mott said, "She has a gentleman with her, someone you both know. Please, Miss Livia, go back and stay inside."
She still hesitated.
Mott's voice grew more urgent. "Hurry. There's no time to lose."
Her knees shook. How she hated to be so useless when Charlotte was headed toward danger. But Mott was right. She would help no one by not knowing what to do.
With another glance at the carriage house, Livia did as she was told.
* * *
This excerpt ends on page 11 of the paperback edition.