Cecil came rushing up to her, saying something so quickly that Diana couldn’t make out head nor tail of it.
Cecil, please, slow down.
Cecil stopped talking, and collapsed into a prettily carved wooden chair. Diana stopped brushing her hair.
Now. Tell me, when will Belle come back?
“Oh, Diana, I’m not sure she --” Cecil stopped. She knew what she was about to say was against her promise to Belle. “Don’t worry, she’ll find us.”
What has happened? What do you mean, she’ll find us? Diana wrote, confused.
“Well, Diana, the most awful thing has happened. Your great aunt took Belle out of her employ!”
Diana was shocked. Cecil, are you lying to me?
“No, no! Diana, I’d never do that to you!”
Are you sure she didn’t just tell Belle to go somewhere? I know you are good at jumping to conclusions.
“Diana, I was there. And oh, it was most awful to watch! I just stood there, watching helplessly, whilst your great aunt yelled at poor Belle.”
Impossible! I must go and tell her about it! I am sure she’d change her mind after I talked to her.
“I beg that you don’t, Diana. For your great aunt has already sent the stable boy to take Belle out to the edge of the city. I do not mean to seem rude, Diana, but right now I might as well storm out of this house on account of your great aunt.”
Cecil, pray you not get into a frenzy. I will go and find her right now.
“Don’t talk to her. She’s in quite a mood. She hates reading Belle’s slate, as far as I gather. If you do, I only fear the worse for you.”
Very well. But tell me, Cecil. Did she tell you about a rendezvous point before she left? She’s a smart girl, and I trusted that she’d remember that. She isn’t one to let her emotions get the better of her.
“A rendezvous!” Cecil gasped, suddenly turning very pink. “That’s what she was trying to tell me! Oh, curse and bother me! You’re right, Diana, she isn’t one to let her emotions get the better of her; I am. I was crying too heartily to notice that my dear friend was trying to signal something to me.”
Take a deep breath and tell me what happened, Diana wrote, looking into Cecil’s eyes. Trust in me, I will not blame you for anything.
“Oh, Diana, you will have been such a good friend, then, for it is entirely my fault, and you should blame me.”
Tell me the whole thing.
“Well, it happened like this. I saw Mrs Anderty take Belle away, then started crying at the harshness and cruelty of it all. She called Belle the Mute One. Oh, Diana, can you believe it? And what did poor Belle ever do to her to get that nickname?
I heard a whip cracking, and that just made me cry even harder, for I now knew that my friend was getting further and further away by every second. Then I shook off those thoughts, for suddenly a thought came into my head that my friend was leaving, and I was not there to look at her departing figure and wave? I was not even looking up, and here was my friend, probably trying to say good-bye to me.
So I looked up, and found that she was trying to tell me something. I didn’t really try to read her lips, for I was so sure she was trying to say good-bye to me. Now I know that I was being particularly silly, for we had already said our last condolences, and Belle was not one to repeat things twice. I now know that she was trying to tell me a rendezvous.”
If that is the case, then it is truly not your fault, for all you were trying to do was to stay brave, so you could help me get out of this truly horrid place. My sympathies lay with Belle, not Great Aunt. Oh, now I see how truly wicked she is.
“Diana! We cannot waste anymore time! For Belle is out of employ already, and there is nothing more to wait for. Why stay for dinner? If you can quickly get out, and follow the coach, then we might at least try to find Belle.”
Diana realized she was right, and quickly put her hairbrush away and got her Escape Bag. In it, she had a map of the city, candles and matches, food, spare clothes, and most importantly, money. All of her savings were in that little cloth bag. She could only pray that no pickpockets robbed them when they were on the streets.
Cecil, on the other hand, was praying that Diana didn’t realize they had no chance of following a coach. Their best shot was to escape quickly, and hopefully meet Ben on the way back, so they didn’t have to ask him about Belle in the Testhmus Property.
Diana had changed into her plainest dress, and Cecil had no need of bringing anything. Cecil lead the way out. They made sure they crept past Marryanne Le Testhmus’ rooms extra quietly, lest she hear them and put a stop to their operation.
They also crept past the servants’ quarters and the kitchen, for Cecil knew that Mrs Anderty had sharp ears, and took care to tell Diana so.
They went into the backyard, and Diana showed Cecil how to unlatch the gate.
Finally, they were free. Diana felt almost as if the restricting bonds of the house had broken, and she was free to do as she wanted. She knew this was not true, though, for they needed to find shelter and Belle.
At Cecil’s insistent tugging at her hand, Diana took one last look at the home of her whole life, the home of her parents' whole life, and would-be inheritance, and fled.