The blasted ferret waited at the threshold, doing a happy war dance that consisted of a series of sideways hops. Clearly he was delighted by his new acquisition, and even more by the fact that Miss Marks seemed to want it.
"Let me out!" Harrow cried in a smothered voice, and there was a violent pounding from inside the wardrobe.
"That blasted weasel," Miss Marks muttered. "This is a game to him. He'll spend hours teasing us with that vial and keeping it just out of reach."
Staring at the ferret, Leo sat on the carpet and relaxed his voice. "Come here, you flea-ridden hair wad. You'll have all the sugar biscuits you want, if you'll give your new toy to me." He whistled softly and clicked.
But the blandishments did not work. Dodger merely regarded him with bright eyes and stayed at the threshold, clutching the vial in his tiny paws.
"Give him one of your garters," Leo said, still staring at the ferret.
"I beg your pardon?" Miss Marks asked frostily.
"You heard me. Take off a garter and offer it to him as a trade. Otherwise we'll be chasing this damned animal all through the house. And I doubt Rohan will appreciate the delay."
The governess gave Leo a long-suffering glance. "Only for Mr. Rohan's sake would I consent to this. Turn your back."
"For God's sake, Marks, do you think anyone really wants a glance at those dried-up matchsticks you call legs?" But Leo complied, facing the opposite direction. He heard a great deal of rustling as Miss Marks sat on a bedroom chair and lifted her skirts.
It just so happened that Leo was positioned near a full-length looking glass, the oval cheval style that tilted up or down to adjust one's reflection. And he had an excellent view of Miss Marks in the chair. And the oddest thing happened-he got a flash of an astonishingly pretty leg. He blinked in bemusement, and then the skirts were dropped.
"Here," Miss Marks said gruffly, and tossed it in Leo's direction. Turning, he managed to catch it in midair.
Dodger surveyed them both with beady-eyed interest.
Leo twirled the garter enticingly on his finger. "Have a look, Dodger. Blue silk with lace trim. Do all governesses anchor their stockings in such a delightful fashion? Perhaps those rumors about your unseemly past are true, Marks."
"I'll thank you to keep a civil tongue in your head, my lord."
Dodger's little head bobbed as it followed every movement of the garter. Fitting the vial in his mouth, the ferret carried it like a miniature dog, loping up to Leo with maddening slowness.
"This is a trade, old fellow," Leo told him. "You can't have something for nothing."
Carefully Dodger set down the vial and reached for the garter. Leo simultaneously gave him the frilly circlet and snatched the vial. It was half-filled with a fine dull green powder. He stared down at it intently, rolling it in his fingers.
Miss Marks was at his side in an instant, crouching on her hands and knees. "Is it labeled?" she asked breathlessly.
"No. Damn it all." Leo was gripped with volcanic fury.
"Let me have it," Miss Marks said, prying the vial from him.
Leo jumped to his feet immediately, hurling himself at the wardrobe. He slammed it with both his fists. "Damn you, Harrow, what is it? What is this stuff? Tell me, or you'll stay in there until you rot."
There was.nothing but silence from the wardrobe.
"By God, I'm going to-," Leo began, but Miss Marks interrupted.
"It's digitalin powder."
Leo threw her a distracted glance. She had opened the vial and was sniffing it cautiously. "How do you know?"
"My grandmother used to take it for her heart. The scent is like tea, and the color is unmistakable."
"What's the antidote?"
"I have no idea," Miss Marks said, looking more distressed by the moment. "But it's a powerful substance. A large dose could very well stop a man's heart."
Leo turned back to the wardrobe. " Harrow," he bit out, "if you want to live, you'll tell me the antidote now."
"Let me out first," came the muffled reply.
"No negotiating! Tell me what counteracts the poison, damn you!"
"Leo?" A new voice entered the fray. He turned swiftly to see Amelia, Win, and Beatrix at the threshold. They were staring at him as if he'd gone mad.
Amelia spoke with admirable composure. "I have two questions, Leo: Why did you send for me, and why are you having an argument with the wardrobe?"
" Harrow 's in there," he told her.
Her expression changed. "Why?"
"I'm trying to make him tell me how to counteract an overdose of digitalin powder." He glared vengefully at the wardrobe. "And I'll kill him if he doesn't."
"Who's taken an overdose?" Amelia demanded, her face draining of color. "Is someone ill? Who is it?"
"It was meant for Merripen," Leo said in a low voice, reaching out to steady her before he continued. "But Cam took it by mistake."
A strangled cry escaped her. "Oh God. Where is he?"
"The Gypsy campsite. Merripen's with him."
Tears sprang to Amelia's eyes. "I must go to him."
"You won't do him any good without the antidote."
Win brushed by them, striding to the bedside table. Moving with swift deliberation, she picked up an oil lamp and a tin matchbox, and brought them to the wardrobe.