“Fetch Christopher, if you please, Elam,” Lennard said.
“What? Are you going to have me manhandled out the door?”
“No, Terrence. Christopher is waiting for me with my riding equipage. I was about to exercise my horse and I shall do so once I’ve seen to Miles. You’ve paid me for the destruction of my window and given me a promise for the carpet, but surely you realise you owe me for the mistreatment of my butler?”
“You can’t be serious, Lennard. We’re talking about chattel here. Servants are no different from your carpet or your priceless window. He’ll recover. A quick slash across the chops is a lesser thing than one of my own servants might have received had one of them tried to grapple with me. How dare he touch a person of—”
Lennard strode quickly to Astley and grabbed the fronts of his jacket.
“Let me tell you this. Although I said I’ve changed, my hate for you still burns in my chest. How dare you stride into my house, abuse my servants, and feel free to do whatever you like. Remember this before you leave. One word from me to the right person and you’ll find yourself gasping for air as you descend to the depths of the Thames, your arms bound behind your back, and your feet chained to an anchor. You’d just disappear. Like that!” Lennard snapped his fingers next to Astley’s ear.
“Have care to whom you make threats, Lennard. I’m too valuable to the Prime Minister. I still hold a seat and a loyal group of Irish lords who keep him in power.”
“Threats against other men interest me not, sir. I wish to have nothing ever to do with you from this day henceforth … not ever. Do you understand?”
“You’re making a big mistake.”
“Not so big a one as you made by appearing at my door and forcing your way into my house.”
“I shall take my leave of you. But don’t think this is over. I’ll put it about that you dishonoured your uncle’s word.”
“Do what you feel best, sir. But, by now, my coachman will have arrived with my riding gear and is waiting outside the door. If I were you, I’d leave this very moment before I grab my whip and thrash the living daylights out of you. You can apologise to Elam on your way out for injuring his brother.”
“Apologise? Why, I—”
“Oh, and Astley?” Lennard added, interrupting the man by violently releasing his jacket and pushing him backward, his knees hitting the edge of the Chesterfield. “Putting it about that I dishonoured your agreement with my uncle? Well, two can play at that game. It would not be hard to start a rumour that you’ve dealt with your ward, Neasa, inappropriately, and that’s the reason you’re so reluctant to allow her to marry into one of the most noble families in the land.”
“No one would believe that for one moment.”
“People have been wondering about your reluctance these past four or five years, ever since Sir George’s son first approached you. However, now, with my new title, I will have the ears of not only the leading members of society, but also those close to the throne. An innuendo is as good as an oath, don’t you think? Even Irish baronets who hold some sway in parliament are not immune to gossip. You’d not be invited anywhere, whether the slander is proved or not. Everyone knows Sir Hugh was not a businessman, and although the sum you offered would make you out to be a villain at the best, the premature plucking of a tender blossom before its time … why, Her Majesty would send someone banging at your door.”