“I never tease about knots. A good knot is a thing of beauty.” Harry gave the rope end to Beatrix, and watched as she placed the jar atop the frame of the food lift cab. Then he realized what her plan was. “Clever,” he murmured.
“It may not work,” Beatrix said. “It depends on whether the monkey is more intelligent than we are.”
“I’m rather afraid of the answer,” Harry replied dryly. Reaching inside the food lift shaft, he pulled the rope slowly, sending the jar up to the macaque, while Beatrix kept hold of the silk cord.
All was quiet. The group held their breath en masse as they waited.
The monkey had descended to the top of the cab. A few inquiring hoots and grunts echoed through the shaft. A rattle, a silence, and then a sharp tug at the line. Offended screams filled the air, and heavy thumps shook the food lift.
“We caught him,” Beatrix exclaimed.
Harry took the line from her, while Valentine lowered the cab. “Please stand back, Miss Hathaway.”
“Let me do it,” Beatrix urged. “The macaque is much more likely to spring at you than me. Animals trust me.”
“Nevertheless, I can’t risk one of my guests being injured.”
Poppy and Miss Marks both drew Beatrix away from the food lift opening. They all gasped as a large, blue black macaque appeared, his eyes huge and bright above a hairless muzzle, his head comically tufted with a shock of fur. The monkey was stocky and powerful in appearance, with hardly any tail to speak of. His expressive face contorted in fury, white teeth gleaming as it screeched.
One of the front paws appeared to be stuck in the comfit jar. The irate macaque tugged frantically to get it out, without success. His own clenched fist was the reason for his captivity—he refused to let go of the comfits even to remove his paw from the jar.
“Oh, isn’t he beautiful!” Beatrix enthused.
“Perhaps to a female macaque,” Poppy said dubiously.
Harry held the cord attached to the jar with one hand, his fencing foil with the other. The macaque was larger than he had expected, capable of inflicting considerable damage. And it was clearly considering whom to attack first.
“Come on, old fellow,” Harry murmured, attempting to lead the monkey to the open crate.
Beatrix reached into her pocket, pulled out a few comfits, and went to toss them into the crate. “There you are, greedy boy,” she said to the macaque. “Your treats are in there. Go on, and don’t make such a fuss.”
Miraculously, the monkey obeyed, dragging his jar with him. After casting a baleful glance at Harry, he entered his crate and scooped up the scattered comfits with his free paw.
“Give me the jar,” Beatrix said patiently, tugging at the cord, and she pulled it out of the crate. She tossed a last handful of comfits to the monkey and closed the door. The Nagarajans hastened to lock it.
“I want it triple chained,” Harry said to Valentine, “and the other monkey’s crate chained as well. And then I want them delivered directly to Regent’s Park.”
Poppy went to her sister, hugging her in an open display of affection. “Well done, Bea,” she exclaimed. “How did you know the monkey wouldn’t let go of the comfits in his hand?”
“Because it is a well-known fact that monkeys are nearly as greedy as people,” Beatrix said, and Poppy laughed.
“Girls,” Miss Marks said in a low voice, trying to hush them, draw them away. “This is unseemly. We must go.”
“Yes, of course,” Poppy said. “I’m sorry, Miss Marks. We’ll go on with our walk.”
However, the companion’s attempt to urge the sisters to leave was foiled as the Nagarajans crowded around Beatrix.
“You have done us a very great service,” the head diplomat, Niran, told the girl. “Very great indeed. You have the gratitude of our country and our king, and you shall be recommended to Her Majesty Queen Victoria for your brave assistance—”
“No, thank you,” Miss Marks interceded firmly. “Miss Hathaway does not wish to be recommended. You will harm her reputation by exposing her publicly. If you are indeed grateful for her kindness, we beg you to repay her with silence.”
This produced more discussion and vigorous nodding.
Beatrix sighed and watched as the macaque was carried away in his crate. “I wish I had a monkey of my own,” she said wistfully.
Miss Marks gave Poppy a long-suffering glance. “One might wish she were as eager to acquire a husband.”
Smothering a grin, Poppy tried to look sympathetic.
“Have the food lift cleaned,” Harry told Valentine and Brimbley. “Every inch of it.”
The men hastened to comply, the older man using the pulleys to send the food lift down, while Valentine departed in swift, controlled strides.
Harry glanced at all three of the women, lingering an extra moment on Miss Marks’s set face. “I thank you for your assistance, ladies.”
“Not at all,” Poppy said, her eyes dancing. “And if there are further problems with recalcitrant monkeys, do not hesitate to send for us.”
Harry’s blood quickened as lurid images filled his mind . . . her, against him, beneath him. That smiling mouth, his alone, her whispers curling into his ear. Her skin, soft and ivory pale in the darkness. Skin heated by skin, sensation emerging as he touched her.
She was worth anything, he thought, even giving up the last remnants of his soul.