Titania stared at her in evident shock for some moments, before climbing into the carriage and sitting down opposite her. The door was closed, and Titania rapped on the roof, telling the driver that they were ready.
“Goodness, Dinah, you have changed somewhat since I was last in London,” Titania commented quietly, looking at Dinah carefully. “What has come over you?”
Dinah shook her head, a little embarrassed. “It is not a change that has been within me for some time,” she answered honestly. “It has only been since you spoke to me with such frankness that I have realized that my piety has done no one any good, not even myself.” She spread her hands. “I am sorry for the times I have spoken words of judgement over you, Titania.”
Titania’s brows rose all the more, appearing quite astonished, only for her to let out a shout of laugher and shake her head.
“I can hardly believe that you are saying this Dinah – much less that you are in the carriage with me now, but I will accept your apology and state that I am glad you have decided to change so. I think, truly, that you will feel the benefit of it.”
Dinah let out a long breath, her stomach tightening with tension as the carriage made its way through the dark streets. “I must hope so,” she replied, as Titania smiled broadly. “Although I do not ever think I shall have the same boldness as you!”
Titania laughed again, her eyes softening. “No, indeed not. Although that is, mayhap, rather wise on your part, Dinah. I am so often still outspoken and act without thinking first.” She smiled gently. “I suppose everyone has something they need to change, do they not?”
“Yes, I believe so,” Dinah answered, wondering whether Lord Whitehaven would ever be willing to give up his vices. She looked out of the window at the darkness but saw very little—other than a few flickering lights in the windows. Her hands tightened in her lap, her anxiety mounting furiously.
“I do not know what Grayson thinks he is doing,” Titania muttered, referring to her brother in the same way as her mother did. “To go to Elder View and throw money around is utterly ridiculous and very foolish.”
“Elder View?” Dinah enquired, aware of just how quickly her heart was beating. “What is that?”
Titania bit her lip and looked away, her face lit by the two small lanterns that hung within. “A gambling house,” she told Dinah, making Dinah’s heart sink all the more. “Foolish man.”
Dinah said nothing in response to this, recalling how Lord Whitehaven had laughed in her face and stated that he had every intention of going to gambling hells and the like back when he had first come to London. Of course, she thought to herself, she ought not to expect a gentleman to change his behavior immediately and completely, reforming himself all at once. After all, she was not able to prevent herself from thinking judgmental or critical thoughts about others simply because she realized now she ought not to do so. They still came to her. She still had to battle them, had to force them away. Mayhap that was the same with Lord Whitehaven.
“Stay here,” Titania said, as the carriage came to a stop. “I have two of the grooms with me and–”
“Regardless of how many you have, I am coming with you also,” Dinah stated, interrupting her cousin and making Titania stare at her with surprise. “Do not try and prevent me.” So saying, she waited for the carriage door to be opened and then stepped out as quickly as she could into the dark London streets.
Titania joined her almost at once, and they stood looking up at a rather imposing building with a large wooden door that seemed to be shut up tight. There were obviously drapes in the windows because here and there, there came small chinks of light that caught Dinah’s attention.
“Do you think he is within?” she whispered, only for the sound of a shout and a scuffle to catch her ears. Frightened, she reached for Titania’s arm, holding onto her cousin tightly and praying that Titania would not laugh at her.
Her cousin did no such thing. Instead, she put her hand over Dinah’s and took in a long breath – mayhap trying to gain her courage, Dinah thought. Another shout of pain rent the air, leaving Dinah and Titania standing together and looking all around them for evidence of where it had come from.
“If I might,” said one of the grooms, coming closer to Titania. “There is a small alley just to the left of this building. I did wonder if…?” He trailed off, gesturing behind him. “I would not want to leave you, but–”
“We shall all go together,” Titania declared, as a hard, cruel laugh came towards them. “Do stay beside me, please, Dinah. We cannot lose each other.”
Dinah could say nothing, for her heart was beating so quickly and her mouth so dry that she could not even speak if she had wished to. Instead, she simply concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, aware that they were drawing near to the sounds of a fight, which her mind told her she ought to be running from instead of turning towards.
“Courage,” Titania whispered – although whether this was for Dinah’s benefit or her own, Dinah could not tell. Keeping their arms linked tightly together, the two ladies walked around the corner and came upon the most dreadful sight.
Lord Whitehaven was propped up against a pile of barrels. Two lanterns hung on the wall above his head, although Dinah suspected that this was to ensure that the three gentlemen who were beating him senseless could see what they were doing. Her stomach churned furiously at the sight of Lord Whitehaven, seeing the blood running down his face, the dark bruises around both eyes and the way that one arm seemed to hang at a haphazard angle.
Whatever it was he had done, Dinah did not think that he deserved this.
Titania’s voice was loud and authoritative, but the three men
turned towards her as one, their eyes narrowed and their jaws set hard. They each bore a steely gaze, a mop of unkempt hair and were in their shirtsleeves. Dinah did not think that they were gentlemen of the ton.
“Ah, look what we have here,” said one of the men, advancing towards Dinah and Titania. “Two angels come to save a devil from himself.”
Dinah swallowed hard, reminding herself that there were tigers with them and that they had nothing to fear. Her eyes remained fixed on Lord Whitehaven, seeing his weakness and how he could barely remain standing. Were it not for the barrels, then Dinah was quite certain that he would have collapsed entirely.
“You will leave my brother alone,” Titania said loudly, her voice shaking just a little. “You will not touch him again.”
The three men laughed as though this was the most ridiculous thing they had ever heard. The laughter was cruel and unkind, making Dinah tremble visibly. She did her best to remain strong, to show the same strength of character as Titania, but still her weakness remained within her. Praying silently that God would give her the strength to help Lord Whitehaven, and that He would protect both Titania and Lord Whitehaven, Dinah lifted her chin and let out a shaking breath.