AUTHOR'S NOTE: The title is an edited quote from William Shakespeare's King Lear (act 1, scene 5, line 125). The original quote was "come not between the dragon and his wrath."
"What do you mean, you lost the baby?"
Lady Augusta Fairfax of Bracknell narrowed her eyes at the sniffling nursemaid.
"I… lost the… baby… ma'am," Miss Prism gasped through her tears.
"How?" Augusta demanded, slamming her walking stick onto the wooden floor for effect. "One loses books, not children!"
Miss Prism flinched. "I... don't k- know, ma'am. I left with young Ernest for a stroll and returned to the house with no baby in the perambulator. I don't know how it happened."
"Was he stolen?"
"I… I don't thi- think so, ma'am."
Augusta turned to a footman standing by the door. "You. Send an urgent telegram to Lord and Lady Moncrieff at once about the news." She stood. "Send my maid to sit with Gwendolen and Algernon. I don't want this woman anywhere near them." Augusta glared at a quivering Miss Prism. "And call the police."
Miss Prism went pale.
"Yes, dear?" Lord Henry Fairfax of Bracknell said absentmindedly as he read his paper.
Augusta marched to his desk. "Henry, young Ernest was lost by Miss Prism."
Her husband finally looked up. "What?"
"She said she took him out for a stroll and when she came back he wasn't in the perambulator."
Henry threw down his paper. "Have the police been summoned?"
"I told a footman to do so. The butler is keeping Miss Prism in the library. I had my maid sit with Algernon and Gwendolen."
"Has my brother been contacted?" Lord Bracknell stride to the door, and Augusta followed.
"A telegram is being sent."
"A telegram is too slow. I will personally call their hotel."
"I always knew Miss Prism was good for nothing," Augusta added as they headed for the telephone. "Absentmindedness is a virtue in the upper classes, but dangerous in the working."
"You have without a doubt convinced me in the superiority of the upper classes," Augusta snapped as Miss Prism swayed on her feet.
"Don't get too..." Henry sighed. "Personal."
"Personal?" She turned to her husband. "Our nephew is missing because of this woman and you tell me this isn't personal?"
A light thump was heard on the carpet, and the couple turned to see Miss Prism's crumpled unconscious figure on the floor.
"Mama?" the six-year-old Gwendolen asked as she and her seven-year-old cousin Algernon were brought into the sitting room by Augusta's lady's maid. The policeman's voice could be heard in the library as he questioned Miss Prism.
"Come here, children," Henry said kindly, and their daughter and nephew approached. Lord Bracknell took one of Gwendolen's and one of Algernon's hands in each of his own as Augusta sat stone faced beside her husband.
"Young Ernest is missing."
"Missing?" Algernon asked. "Why is my brother missing?"
"They deserve the truth, Henry," Augusta interrupted.
"They're six and seven years old, Augusta."
"Young Ernest is lost," Lord Bracknell said firmly. "We're looking for him."
"Is he dead?" Algernon asked innocently.
"Perhaps-" Lady Bracknell began bluntly.
"Or perhaps not," Henry interrupted again. "We don't know. Now, Alegernon, your parents will be back soon from their trip. Until then, you'll continue to stay with us. Also, you will be getting a new nursemaid, Algernon."
"And we'll make sure you don't get lost as well," Augusta sternly added. "Or see Prism again."
The door opened to reveal the policeman. "I just finished speaking with Miss Prism and-" He stared out the window in shock.
"And she's getting away," he finished, running towards the front door, and Augusta turned to see Miss Prism sprinting down the street.
"We cannot be seen as being weak or absentminded," Augusta said to her sobbing sister-in-law. "Tell people your son was lost and everyone will assume he's dead. It happens often enough that no one will suspect anything of it."
"But-" Caroline Moncrieff gasped as her husband put a hand on her arm.
"But nothing!" Augusta said harshly, and Ernest Moncrieff Sr. finally met his sister-in-law's gaze. "We've had too much scandal in this family already. We can't have society thinking we're stupid enough to hire a stupid nursemaid."
"Perhaps nothing!" She whirled to face her brother-in-law. "I am well aware that my marrying Henry was the gossip of the year when our wedding took place, and I won't have this family brought so low again because of a nursemaid! Not when we finally walked away from scandal with our heads high!"
As the minister droned about heaven, Augusta watched as Caroline clung to Ernest Sr. and cried. Lady Bracknell looked down as Henry laid a hand over hers, but she pulled her gloved hand away. Further down the pew, Algernon and Gwendolen kicked each other until Augusta gave them her sternest look.
She inclined her head as she heard a whisper somewhere in the church. It would be improper to turn completely, but she pretended to be looking at a stained-glass window and strained to hear the words.
"I heard it was the nursemaid who killed the baby."
"I heard it was the butler."
"No one knows where Augusta came from, do they? What if she did it? Who knows what those dancers are willing to do to stay with their rich husbands?"
Now it was Augusta who reached for Henry and gripped his fingers.
Elsewhere in London, Miss Prism sat across a desk from one Thomas Cardew.
"I'm glad you are able to start on such short notice," he said. "The unfortunate child came upon us very suddenly. I've never taken in a ward before and my children are all grown, so we've had to scramble for accommodations. Let me know if there's anything you need."
"I understand, and thank you, sir," Miss Prism said, glancing at the door. "What is the child's name?"
"What?" Cardew looked up from where he had been staring at a train ticket on his desk.
"The child's name, sir?"
Cardew stared at her for a moment before looking back down at the ticket. "Ah... John. Or Jack." He cleared his throat. "John Worthing."