Silken Secrets

Silken Secrets by Joan Smith

Book: Silken Secrets by Joan Smith Read Free Book Online
Authors: Joan Smith
Tags: Regency Romance
Plummer gave an annoyed tsk. “There goes the most selfish beast in nature.”
    Mary Anne went to the kitchen with Mrs. Plummer to discuss the affair. “Are we accessories, Mrs. Plummer?” she worried.
    “Not I; I know nothing about it. I suggest you turn deaf and blind as well, missie.”
    “If Uncle insists on being a thief, I wish he would just sell the stuff to Mr. Robertson and have done with it. I don’t think Mr. Robertson would ask too many questions. He’s very eager to get some silk, for his shelves are empty.”
    When the coffee was made, Mary Anne offered to deliver it to Fitch. “I’ll take a cup up to Uncle first and try to persuade him to return the stuff to Vulch,” she said.
    “Your uncle’s as stubborn as he is crooked. Let him sell it to Mr. Robertson and have done with it.”
    It was true; there was no dissuading Uncle when he had made up his mind. But she must at least keep him out of jail, and she came up with an idea.
    “You could store it in Mr. Christian’s shepherd hut and have Fitch take the payment. In that way you wouldn’t be directly involved,” she outlined to Lord Edwin.
    “Everybody knows Fitch is my man. You might as well put a notice in the papers. In Folkestone I called myself Mr. Smith,” Lord Edwin added, and smiled at his cleverness.
    “Fitch could wear a mask,” she suggested. “There’s no saying Jeremy Black will let Fitch have his boat another night, you know. And the trip to Folkestone is dangerous. The customs men are out along the coast all the time.”
    Lord Edwin’s fingers played along his cheek. “There’s something in that,” he said. “Perhaps I should tell Fitch to take it along to Christian’s hut tonight.”
    With a thought to the assembly on Saturday, Mary Anne objected. “It might be better to make sure Codey has already searched Christian’s hut. It would be a pity if Fitch took it there, then Codey decided to search it.”
    Her uncle was astonished at her cleverness. “By the living jingo, I come to think I should have had you in on it from the start. You’re right; I shall write an anonymous note off to Codey telling him the stuff is at Christian’s hut, and after he searches it, I’ll have Fitch put the cargo there tomorrow, say, around ten in the morning.”
    But if Mr. Robertson got his cargo in the morning, he might leave town before the assembly that night. “I think you should wait a day before transferring the silk to Christian’s hut, Uncle,” she said cautiously. “Just to be on the safe side, you know. Meanwhile, it will be quite safe in the hayloft, since that’s already been searched.”
    “I’ll have Fitch snoop around Christian’s place and see if Codey takes any interest after he finds it empty. If the coast is clear, there’s no point dallying. The sooner it’s over, the sooner I get my money. And there will be a little bonus in it for you, too, missie.’’
    “No! I don’t want anything to do with stolen goods!”
    Lord Edwin stared at her foolishness. “Stolen from the Frenchies! That isn’t stealing; it’s patriotism. Vulch didn’t pay for the cargo. I checked with him tonight. ‘Old Albert Menard is out his blunt,’ he told me, and laughed. In times of war, you know,” he added piously, “it is every Englishman’s duty to bilk the Frenchies out of all we can. The money would only go to buy bullets for Boney.” On this piece of rationalization, he lifted the coffee cup and sipped daintily, wishing he had a tot of brandy to put in it.
    He took up the pen and began his note to Codey and the letter to the journal. Mary Anne carried all the weight of worry and guilt that her uncle seemed to ignore. But she was happy to know Uncle was only stealing from the Frenchies. That would be a good point to make if he ended up in the dock. She put on her wrap and took the coffee down to Fitch.
    The night air was heavy with fog and drizzle. Through the cloudlike mist she heard the heavy clip-clop of hooves

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