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Diana stepped forward. "I did."
He put a hand against the lump above his temple. "A child brought me down?"
"A frying pan, sir. Why were you breaking into our house?"
He swayed forward.
Miss Wigglesworth dropped to her knees and held him up. "Water and a
When she returned with a basin of cold water and several clean towels, the
man was stretched on his back with his head on Miss Wigglesworth's lap.
He gave Diana an unfocused look. "If you want me alive, Madam Fury, why
the deuce did you try to kill me?"
She knelt beside him and began to dab a wet cloth at the blood on his
cheek. "I'm not altogether sure I want you alive, sir. You are proving to
be a dratted nuisance. And I never tried to kill you. I meant only to stop
you." She turned worried eyes to Miss Wigglesworth.
"Scalp wounds bleed more than most," Miss Wigglesworth assured her. "You
can't have hit him terribly hard, or he'd not be awake and talking
His teeth began to chatter, and soon he was shivering uncontrollably.
"I believe we should see him warm before tending to his head," Diana said,
setting aside the towel. "Are you able to crawl into the kitchen, sir?
It's only a short distance."
"C-crawl?" His eyes flashed. "I think not. Help me to my feet."
"It would be best," Miss Wigglesworth said, "to get him upstairs. The
kitchen fire can be built up, of course, but the stone floor is
"I'll make a pallet on the table," Diana suggested. "He can climb up
"Stop t-talking about me as if I wasn't here!" He sat up, reached for one
of the wooden chairs, and used it to pull himself to his knees. A few
moments later, he managed to stagger to his feet. "Where the devil are we
Even in the flickering lantern light, his face was ominously white. He
swayed, and looked about to topple over.
Diana rose swiftly and slipped her arm around his waist. "If you care to
try, sir, I'll help you to one of the bedchambers. Or you can--"
"Let's get on with it then." He steadied, one hand propped on the
chairback for support. "Don't attempt to support my weight, madam. Should
I fall, I'd bring you down with me."
"I won't let you fall," she told him, not at all sure she could keep that
promise. "And it would be no more than I deserve if you were to land atop
"A not unpleasant prospect," he said with a flash of white teeth.
"Come along," Miss Wigglesworth said briskly, taking the lantern and
leading them into the passageway.
Diana kept hold of his waist, more to secure his balance than to keep him
upright. He was wet clear through to the skin, and cold as a block of ice.
She sensed the effort it was costing him to continue moving, step by slow
step, but he never faltered. He was definitely weakening, though, and she
began to wonder if he could make it up the long flight of stairs.
He did, using the banister to pull himself up. Once his foot caught on a
step and he nearly tumbled over backward. She held on to him with all her
strength until he righted himself, and then they went on.
"In here," Miss Wigglesworth said when they reached the landing. "We'll
put him in my bed."
"It's far too small," Diana objected. "His feet would hang over the end."
"Never mind his feet. Your room is at the far end of the house. He won't
"Dammit," he swore, breathing heavily. "This is one hell of a time for a
"Come, sir." Diana towed him along the passageway.
He made it to her bedchamber, but not by much, and fell onto the bed
face-first with a groan. At least he had stopped shivering, Diana thought.
The exertion had gone a long way to warming him up. But his strength had
run out, and it was all she could do to strip off his soaked greatcoat
while Miss Wigglesworth helped her lift his arms and roll him from side to
side. There was no point trying to remove his boots, she decided. He was
virtually a deadweight now, and would simply have to stay in his wet
After a considerable struggle, they got him onto his back with his head on
the pillows and piled blankets and the down coverlet on top of him. By
then he was unconscious or asleep--she didn't know which--but his pulse
was strong and he was breathing easily. She allowed herself to hope he
would survive the attack, even if he had come to the house bent on robbing
it and murdering the inhabitants.
While Miss Wigglesworth built the fire to a roaring blaze, Diana examined
the wound on his head. It had stopped bleeding, thank heavens, but dried
blood covered the right side of his face. Fearing that she would reopen
the cut if she tried to clean him up, she left him be.
"You have got wet from holding him," Miss Wigglesworth said, touching her
on the arm. "Change into dry nightclothes, my dear, and go to bed in my
room. I'll sit up with him."
"I will change," Diana agreed, "but it would be impossible to sleep. Could
I persuade you to make some tea, Miss Wiggles-worth? I'm feeling a bit
shaky at the moment. Then you can return to your bed."
"I'll bring up the tea, yes, and we'll keep watch together." On her way
out of the room, Miss Wigglesworth paused for a moment to study the man's
face. "He has a familiar look about him, although I am quite certain I
have never seen him before. I wonder who he could be."