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Jane and the Hidden Hoard 1-3

June 15, 2015 08:33PM
Jane and Caleb are back! It's only a novella but that was how long it wanted to be. Brief explanation about Bow Street Runners out of London: if anyone in the provinces wanted a Runner to investigate, he had to pay for it, and the Runner had to be sworn in as a law officer locally or he had no more powers of arrest than any other man, though he was more skilled in investigation. This story deals with how Lloyds of London have suggested hiring Caleb and Jane to find jewellery stolen from a banker that was not his to lose and which loss could cost him everything.

Chapter 1

“There is a … gentleman … to see you, madam,” said Fowler, in his starchiest and most disapproving voice.
Jane straightened from where she was trimming wallpaper. She was decorating in the small manor house in Essex that she and Caleb had bought, working with the aid of Caleb’s three ex-soldier helpers, and was not best pleased to be interrupted.
“I love the way you infuse a wealth of meaning into a single word, Fowler,” she said. “In what wise is this visitor not entirely a gentleman?”
“He is a banker, madam,” said Fowler, with all the fine distaste in his voice as though the visitor was engaged in some malodorous or vice-ridden occupation.
Jane raised one delicately sculptured eyebrow.
“And he cannot be both a gentleman and a banker?” she queried, mildly.
“Certainly not, madam! He is engaged in commerce,” said Fowler, “and by his name, which is Sir Colin Neville, he has not even the saving grace of being an Israelite.”
“I am intrigued as to your description of that being a saving grace,” said Jane.
“Why, madam, the Israelites are accustomed to deal with money, and take it as no sin, and therefore those of the Israelite persuasion may be bankers without loss of dignitas,” said Fowler. He paused and frowned. “I suppose he might be a Methodee or other specie of dissenter. They, after all, can undertake such tasks no Christian gentleman would stoop to.”
“Fowler, you’ve become uncommon high in the instep since we bought a country house; you even insist on ‘madam-ing’ me all the time,” said Jane.
“Thank you, madam,” said Fowler.
“It was not a compliment, you old fraud,” said Jane.
“Sorry, Mrs. Jane,” said Fowler.
“You are not sorry in the least, but let it pass,” said Jane. “Dear me, where have you put the poor man? We are at sixes and sevens with the amount of decorating needed.”
“I have placed him in Mr. Armitage’s study, which is at least more salubrious for having the walls lined with books, not grimy and faded papers,” said Fowler.
“Most of which are in sad need of attention too, I fear,” said Jane. “I admit, perhaps it was a mistake to purchase a neglected property to gain a larger one, but the roof at least is sound, and there is no rising damp.”
“We’ll have it right and tight in a brace of shakes, Mrs. Jane, especially if this banker wants to hire Mr. Armitage as a runner for something lucrative,” said Fowler.
“You are a fraud; I thought you were being lugubrious to express disapproval at our new home,” said Jane.
“No, Mrs. Jane, but I thought you ought to have a more forbidding acting-butler to depress the pretensions of any visitors,” said Fowler.

Jane tripped lightly into the study.
“I’m afraid my husband is not yet home from the city, Sir Colin,” she said. “However, I anticipate his arrival shortly, unless something has occurred to delay him. Might I ask whether I may get you refreshment?”
“Coffee would be welcome,” said Sir Colin.
“I’m sorry, we do not drink coffee; the implications of slavery, you understand,” said Jane. “I can offer you tea or wine?”
“Tea, then,” said Sir Colin. Jane rang the bell. He was regarding her in a manner he plainly considered covert. “Demme, you look as ladylike as anyone!” he burst out.
“And so I should hope,” said Jane, tartly. “And I have to say that I am quite prepared to have you thrown out if you intend to insult me in my own home.”
Sir Colin flushed.
“I beg your pardon,” he muttered. “Sir Nathanial Conant recommended your husband for private hire, and mentioned that you worked with him; I could not picture what sort of female would be the wife of a Bow Street Runner, even one of respectable birth, and a good record as an officer in the Army.”
The respectable birth was a fiction cooked up by Fowler, to enable Caleb to be accepted amongst the gentry amongst whom he did most of his work, and the commission in the army had been arranged by Caleb’s old colonel.
“Indeed.” Said Jane. “Perhaps you should have asked Sir Nathanial about that too; he would have been quite able to reassure your mind on that score.”
“I said I was sorry,” said Sir Colin. “And perhaps the idea I had will not work after all, if my perception was so awry.”
“Perhaps you should wait for Mr. Armitage to return home, if Sir Nathanial has recommended you to hire him,” said Jane. “Indeed, you could have saved yourself a hard ride from the city had you visited him either at Bow Street or in his apartment nearby.”
Fowler arrived, soft footed as always, at this point, and Jane sent him for tea and refreshments. Sir Colin waited until he had withdrawn.
“I wanted to see you both in your own milieu,” said Sir Colin. “How the dev – deuce – did you know I have ridden from London?”
“The weather is not clement,” said Jane. “You are in top boots for riding, which are much bespattered, as are your breeches, with mud, which appears to be the colour of London clay. Your face is reddened by the wind, and visible in your redingote pocket is a playbill from Covent Garden advertising a play for this evening. There is also a mark across your left boot made by lifting the latch of the tollgate after Dartford, since the gatekeeper there refuses to turn out if you have the token to show you paid for three gates at Dartford.”
“Remarkable observation!” said Sir Colin. “I can see that you must be a great help to your husband!”
“I certainly try to be,” said Jane. “Ah, I hear his foot upon the stair; I anticipate that you will wish to see him at once, as you have no baggage to anticipate an overnight stay, and will wish therefore to return to London in time for dinner.”
“A deduction astray, Mrs. Armitage, but a reasonable assumption,” said Sir Colin. “I have a house of my own not far from Dartford to which I plan to return, and where I hope you will both be able to join me in due course, one way or another.”
“I am intrigued,” said Jane. “Ah, Caleb; permit me to introduce Sir Colin Neville; we have been recommended by Sir Nathanial.”
“Yes, I know something of it, as Sir Nathanial has spoken to me,” said Caleb. “Sir Colin; ah, here is Fowler with tea and sandwiches and macaroons, just what a man needs.”
“Indeed, a hot drink and refreshments are welcome, though at times I am finding eating quite difficult for worrying,” said Sir Colin.
“What has Sir Nathanial told you?” asked Jane of Caleb, resenting the presence of a stranger which meant that she might not greet her husband with a kiss.
Caleb never tired of watching his wife’s elegant movements as she unlocked the tea caddy and mixed the tea to put into the pretty china pot, and turning the spigot on the tea urn to pour boiling water on it to mash.
He tore his eyes from her long, sensitive hands, to look at her dear face.
“It’s a matter of being hired by Lloyds of London,” he said. “I was not aware that Sir Colin was also a member.”
“I am a Name at Lloyds,” said Sir Colin, “but as the greatest losses have been mine in this matter, Lloyds suggested that I might be ready to undertake the actual hiring, after the manner of any private citizen who calls on Bow Street in the provinces.”
“Ah, I see,” said Caleb. “The principle that you should risk your blunt on a successful outcome, rather than merely increasing the premiums on all their insured if I should happen to fail.”
Sir Colin shrugged.
“That, I suppose is a fair summation,” he said.
“Excuse me, what is a Name, spoken of with a capital?” asked Jane.
“It’s one of the people who are there to put up the capital if a large insurance claim has to be paid out, Jane-girl,” said Caleb. “They may be beggared by Lloyds at need, but on the other hand, generally stand to make a considerable profit out of the way the house always wins.”
“You may have to go a little further explaining that last,” said Jane, “and Sir Colin looks faintly outraged.”
Caleb laughed.
“Why, Sir Colin, is not insurance like a bet? You pay the insurers a sum which is a bet that you will need to claim on them. If you do not need to claim, they win. Because of the way things are set up, insurers, like gambling dens, always win in the long term.”
“Ah, thank you, that explains it perfectly,” said Jane. “Pray go on to explain what Sir Nathanial required of us.”
“Well, it is what Sir Colin requires, my dear, for he has approached Bow Street; and as the saying goes, ‘if the gentleman writes, the gentleman pays’, and I am not so happy to leave our new home at a time that dear Aunt Hetty is about to enter into the state of matrimony that I shall be ready to accept less than the nominal fourteen shillings a day plus a guinea a day for my trouble,” said Caleb, “for it is no serious outrage against persons, but merely stolen baubles.”
Sir Colin gasped in outrage.
“Merely? Armitage, you are flippant.”
Caleb smiled.
“Most people accord me the honorific ‘Mr.’,” he said.
Sir Colin scowled.
“Sir Nathanial says you are the best of his Principal Officers and the one with the most probity, or I might just take my leave,” he said. “I have lost tens of thousands of pounds worth of jewellery, not even my own, but jewellery deposited for safety in my bank that I had taken to my home when there was a fire at the bank, and the structural integrity of the vaults was in some question.”
“A potential personal tragedy to you then, if not found; I apologise for flippancy,” said Caleb. “Such circumstance Sir Nathanial did not make clear, and I assumed it was your own to lose.”
“Well, misunderstandings happen,” said Sir Colin with a quick glance at Jane. “I had to suspect a member of my own household of being involved, despite signs of a break-in, for I slept heavier than I should, that the key to my Bramah safe was taken from my bedchamber. Indeed, some of the jewellery had been fenced, and Bow Street at that time traced the sales back to my butler and housekeeper, who are now in gaol. The housekeeper had drugged me, for that end, and I do not know why she and Ebden should have betrayed me so. I am not a hard master. The circumstances of that drugging, and that Ebden was hasty in pawning some trifling items led to their complicity being uncovered. However, the majority of the jewellery is still concealed, and they have refused to say where it is hidden. And I fear that there may have been complicity from other members of my household.”
Jane sat forward.
“A very fortuitous fire to make you move valuables,” she said. “Was much damaged apart from some structural damage?”
“No, the paper money was undamaged, and no paperwork was harmed,” said Sir Colin. “By Jove! You mean that the fire may have been set deliberately in order to prompt me to move the valuables?”
“It is a valid suggestion,” said Caleb, “and I am sure Jane is correct. “Which narrows it down to those of your household who have access to the bank.”
“Alas, it does not,” said Sir Colin. “For the fire started in the building next door, which had been the house of a ship’s captain, for which reason nobody questioned why such ship supplies as barrels of tar and lamp oil might be stored in the cellar, as captains often furnish their ships from their own pockets, since the Navy Board is often too mean. Unless it was a means to use the empty house to burn a way into the vaults, and that failing, theft from my house was the next option.”
“That too is not impossible,” said Caleb. “Though burning as a means of entrance seems a little hit and miss; the chance to damage seems more realistic.”
Sir Colin groaned.
“A clever set of ruffians, and I am left suspecting even my kin!” he cried.
“It seems a little far-fetched, to be honest, that servants would be able to travel to light the fire unaided by closer members of your household,” said Caleb.
“May I ask, is it common for so much jewellery to be stored in the bank?” asked Jane.
“At certain times of year, yes,” said Sir Colin. “You see it was between the Little Season alongside the Parliamentary sessions and the main Season, and most people retire to the country. And they do not wish to risk carrying all their jewellery by road, in case of footpads and highwaymen. So it is left in secure boxes in a bank pending their return, and if I do not have it back in time….” He took out a handkerchief and passed it over his sweating brow.
“It would be the finish of your bank,” said Caleb.
“In short, yes,” said Sir Colin. “I would only have one honourable recourse, but it would not help my son or my dependents, as naturally all my worldly goods would go towards paying off the value.”
“We shall do what we might then,” said Caleb.
“Sir Colin, you spoke earlier of an idea, and wondered if I might be too ladylike for it,” said Jane.
Sir Colin gave a sickly smile.
“I had intended asking you and your husband to pose as a new butler and housekeeper, but I am wondering if instead you should be house-guests….”
Caleb frowned. “And Fowler and Ella to be butler and housekeeper in our stead? No, it would not answer. You would not have house guests at such a time.”
“Moreover, we are quite capable of acting the part of butler and housekeeper,” said Jane. “It is an opening for a woman in genteel poverty, as is being a governess, so if any remark on an excess of gentility, why my own background as the daughter of a poor army officer, and orphaned at an early age suffices. And Caleb might claim to be an ex soldier, invalided out, as indeed he was, after Corunna, having learned the ways of a butler as batman to an officer.”
“Perfect!” cried Sir Colin. “Then if I might ask you to arrive at your convenience tomorrow, I shall let my household know that you are expected as I have engaged you!”
“And in the meantime if you could furnish us with some details of your household, it would be very useful,” said Jane. “If, as seems likely, there is another in a position of trust who was involved, we will need to watch them all, because even as we are searching for the jewels, so too may they be; and they might have a better idea where to look.”
“The only bright note is that I cannot think that Ebden and Mrs. Ebden had a chance to communicate where they were hidden,” said Sir Colin, “but undoubtedly in that situation, a search will occur. Will you accept a finders fee of two hundred and fifty pounds if you uncover the jewels?”
“Four hundred,” said Caleb before Jane could agree.
“Very well. It is a fair price for my life,” said Sir Colin.

Chapter 2

“I have a large household,” said Sir Colin. “I presume you mean the servants as well?”
“How nice to meet a man who counts his servant as part of his household,” said Jane. “I shall have words with Fowler to explain to him that you really are a gentleman, despite being a Banker.”
Sir Colin looked faintly outraged, but Caleb laughed.
“Oh Fowler is the most top-lofty creature!” he said. “And jealous of my image, bless him; a more loyal man one could not have.”
“In my experience one generally earns loyalty,” said Sir Colin, “Which I why I find this betrayal so particularly hurtful. I am not a soft touch, but I did not think I have ever done anything to make Ebden and Mrs. Ebden behave so, though whatever it is I have done to cause them despite is more like to have been in the eyes of Mrs. Ebden. Ebden is a weak creature before his wife, though he kept the footmen in line well enough.”
“Had she been in your employ long?” asked Jane.
“Yes, from as soon as she went into service; I believe she started as tweenie maid or nurse maid at fourteen or thereabouts,” said Sir Colin. “I do not know the details; the hiring and firing of the lower servants is in the purview of the housekeeper, in lieu of there being a real mistress of the house. My wife died when Richard, our son, was about ten; and I left the running of the house in the capable hand of the previous housekeeper, whom I pensioned off a few years ago. Larkin, as Mrs. Ebden was then, was a senior housemaid and applied for the promotion. I preferred someone who knew my ways, and moreover Ebden had applied for permission to marry her. It seemed ideal.” He sighed.
“And it does indeed appear ideal,” said Caleb. “Our own Fowler and Jane’s dresser, Ella, are planning to marry, and it makes life very comfortable on the whole to know that one is then likely to keep a very efficient couple.” Fowler had applied for permission to court Ella, and Ella had told Jane, with a sniff, that she might as well have him, as there were worse men out there. The courtship by bickering had been going on long enough that Jane had held no concerns for Ella’s motives.
Sir Colin nodded.
“Many people do like a married couple as butler and housekeeper, though I’ve never seen a butler and a lady’s maid marry before.”
“Strictly, Fowler is my valet, but he’s filling in until we increase our household,” said Caleb. “Having risen to be my man from being a footman, so he knows the ropes.”
“Ah, understandable,” said Sir Colin. “And a good man you have there to be prepared to undertake the other duties at need.”
“We think so,” said Caleb. “Besides, I enjoy his social commentary on callers.”
Sir Colin looked rueful.
“Well, I would hope I am a gentleman,” he said. “After all, nobody disputes that Lady Jersey is a lady, and she, after all, heads Child’s bank, and takes as much of a personal interest in it as I do in mine.”
Jane chuckled.
“I will tease Fowler unmercifully about it,” she said. “Now, I pray, tell us about your household.”
“You understand, I do not know the servants well, save those with whom I interact more,” said Sir Colin.
Caleb nodded.
“A man must know his male servants, but too much interest in the female ones is an intrusion on them that can only be unwelcome,” he said.
Sir Colin nodded.
“Very well; let me list my household,” he said. “My son, Richard, whom I have considered bringing in as a partner; my widowed sister, Annabelle Whitby, and her two children, Gregory and Amy, who are almost fifteen and twelve respectively; my secretary, Neville Braxton, who is by way of being a cousin of mine, in some degree, whom I took into my home when he was orphaned, and saw to his education; Peter Tippet, my man of affairs, somewhere between a steward and an accountant, I suppose, the son of my chief clerk. He likes a more outdoor life than working in a bank. My solicitor, who is my uncle, Silas Makepeace, which is an ironic name for any lawyer, but he’s a gentle old man. Chorleigh is my man, Summerby is Richard’s, and Gregory isn’t old enough for one, he is under Mr. Granger, his tutor, who is waiting to take up a living as a rector, and is cramming Gregory for Oxford in the meantime. Miss Phipps is Amy’s governess, and Annabelle has a dresser called Larson, but I call her Sour Milk. There’s a maid attached to the nursery as well. Then I have a cook, two under-cooks, a couple of kitchen maids, a slavey of all work, four housemaids, and three footmen. Outside staff, one coachman, a groom, four under grooms and the boy. I don’t hunt, so I don’t need a kennel master. I’m not fond of dogs, to tell the truth.”
“You’ve left out your uncle’s valet and your cousin’s,” said Caleb.
“Oh, Uncle Silas doesn’t want to be fussed over,” said Sir Colin, “and Neville doesn’t need one, as my secretary he has no need to go into society.”
“A comprehensive list, then,” said Jane. “Perhaps your sister will know more about the female staff; it would not be unreasonable for the housekeeper to ask the lady of the house about servants.”
Sir Colin snorted derisively.
“My dear Mrs. Armitage, my sister Annabelle is a pretty widgeon. If she knows the names of any servants beyond Larson I shall be very much surprised, never mind knowing anything about them. She’ll probably call you Mrs. Ebden, since the idea that a different housekeeper might have a different name would be a concept that would take so long to penetrate that she’ll be likely calling a genuine replacement ‘Mrs. Armitage’ after you have left – assuming you are successful. Unless you are fast enough that your name has not impinged.”
“I am hopeful that we shall be successful,” said Jane. “There are only so many places that purloined jewels could be hidden on the premises, and that they have not shown up augurs well for them never having left the house, since the break-in was contrived. And as we shall be working from the position of butler and housekeeper, we shall be looking for hiding places from the point of view of a butler and a housekeeper. I certainly mean to look very hard, since I have a young son and daughter that I can scarcely bring, whom I shall miss. An added incentive to efficiency.”
“Well, that’s heartening,” said Sir Colin, who had heard of Principal Officers who had strung out jobs for their guinea a day.
“Can you tell us more about your immediate household?” said Caleb.
“Well, I cannot suspect Gregory of being involved; he’s little more than a child,” said Sir Colin. “Do you include him?”
“His place in the household may affect how others act,” said Caleb.
“Ah? Well, you know your business. He’s a young limb but I like him. His mother would like to keep both him and Amy laid up in lavender, wrapped in cotton, but he’s an adventurous boy, and I for one blink at any truancy. A boy cannot study every day but Sunday, and then do nothing but study his catechism. It ain’t reasonable.”
“Does she fear for him as a result of being widowed?” asked Jane.
“Eh? You know, she might. Whitby died in a carriage race, you know; came off at a sharp corner and broke his neck. A bit of a risk-taker, and… yes, I can see that she fears Gregory doing the same. But if she trammels the boy, he’s more likely to break out in worse mischief later.”
“Which leads me to wonder if anyone involved the boy, as an adventure, and he not aware of what it means to you,” said Caleb.
“Good G-d!” said Sir Colin. “I hadn’t thought of that, and yes, of course he then becomes important. Do you want to know about his tutor?”
“It’s not a bad idea to know about as many of your household as possible,” said Caleb.
“Well, then, I can’t say I have a high opinion of Mr. Granger,” said Sir Colin. “He’s taken orders, but I do sometimes wonder if the reason he’s not been offered a living is because he’s managed to offend any patron he has. I took him on for Gregory as a favour to an old friend, whose nephew he is, but I wouldn’t have him as a rector if I had a living in my gift. I don’t think he actually likes people, especially the poor, and that really is a requirement for a vicar. He doesn’t seem to know much, and I’m considering terminating his employment, as Greg neither seems to learn from him, nor to spend any more time than necessary with him. At least he doesn’t beat the boy, but I think I’d rather have a swipe from the birch than be lectured about how disappointing I have been for an hour or more. I heard him. But this matter has overshadowed all other considerations.”
“Quite so,” said Jane. “Poor Gregory! Our son, Simon, has an excellent tutor, who is paying his way through Oxford by giving him intensive classes in the holidays and sending him assignments in term time. And could we bring Simon? He could work in the stables and pick up what he might there. He’s very good with horses.”
“Why, certainly!” said Sir Colin. “If he is a helpmate of yours too, a valuable son to have, and likely to come into contact with both my son and my man of affairs. Peter Tippet and Richard are good friends, through both being horse mad; it’s the only thing Richard is ever forthcoming about, he’s normally quite taciturn. Peter is an intellectual, wasted as a steward, if you ask me, but he enjoys the job. I fancy Greg learns more from him by chatting, when playing truant, than he ever does from Granger.”
“Perhaps Mr. Tippet would like extra pay to bring the boy on, then, in spare time,” said Jane.
“He might well; and I’m minded to offer it when I give Granger his congé,” said Sir Colin grimly. “M’sister said that Uncle Silas drifts round the house like a benevolent ghost, but Granger haunts the place with his Friday face.”
“I take it that your uncle is more by way of being your pensioner than anything else?” asked Jane.
Sir Colin looked shamefaced.
“Well, he is available if I need legal advice,” he said.
“I like you more than I thought I was going to, Sir Colin,” said Jane. “A man who is shifty about doing good for his dependents is a decent man, even if he is a banker!”
“Well, I inherited the bank,” said Sir Colin. “And I enjoy the game of making money for my investors and hence myself. But a gentleman has to do the right thing by his dependants. Which is why I took in Neville. He’s a couple of years older than Richard, he’s twenty-six, and his mother and father both died when their house burned down when he was eleven, a year before my wife died. The place was too heavily mortgaged for him to get much for it, and it was not insured. So he was essentially penniless. His mother was my first cousin, and I suppose there are those people who would say that Neville has no claim on me, but I could not leave him to follow the gun, or join the navy as the only alternatives for an impoverished young gentleman. I kept him at Winchester, where his father had sent him, rather than transport him to Eton with Richard. It seemed unfair to uproot him from where he had probably made friends. And he and Richard never were very close. He’s a helpful young man, works very hard, has a bit of a tendency to fancy himself a dandy, but I’m sure he’ll grow out of such nonsense. In a way, I’m quite pleased to see him assert his personality in some measure, even if it is only by copying fashion. He’s always been very quiet, and like a little shadow.”
“I think you have covered those of the household whom I presume sit to eat with you, except your niece and her governess,” said Jane.
“I have? I suppose I have,” said Sir Colin, surprised. “One thing leads to another. Amy is going to be as pretty as her mother, but Annabelle is worried she will be too tall. I can’t see why it would matter, plenty of tall fellows out there. At least she don’t stoop, like some tall girls do,” he added. “As for Pippy, as we call Miss Phipps, I think Greg could have done worse than learn from her, as she’s a bit of a bluestocking. Talks too much, but at least she ain’t downtrodden like half these poor creatures are. I like Pippy, she gives you a good debate, and she encourages Amy to be more of a personality than poor Annabelle. Pity she ain’t musical, m’sister likes music, and she’d complain less about Amy knowing more Cicero than Haydn.”
“I play, and am held to be accomplished,” said Jane. “Which might help me to get to know your sister, for I am sure she knows more about the household than she realises.”
“Good luck,” grunted Sir Colin.
Jane smiled her enigmatic smile. Annabelle might very well be a ninnyhammer; or she might have learned how to be a ninnyhammer for male company. And if she really was as dense as Sir Colin thought, why, even so, she probably knew more than she realised in any case.
“And your valet and that of your son?” Caleb prompted.
“Chalk and cheese,” said Sir Colin. “My Chorleigh could probably find something to disapprove of in a duke, mind you with the Royal Dukes he’d not be far… forgot what I was going to say,” he said.
Caleb laughed. Fowler’s fiction that Caleb was the natural son of a Royal Duke, probably the Duke of York, had evidently reached Sir Colin.
“Oh they are a disreputable crowd,” he said. “I wouldn’t worry if you agree, Sir Colin. One must be realistic.”
“Oh, er, quite so,” said Sir Colin. “Well, Chorleigh is about as conservative as one might find, and he’s also a Wesleyan, and I have to give him every fourth Sunday off as he’s a lay-preacher. I make do with one of the footmen, and those are the Sundays we entertain, so I don’t have to put up with Chorleigh disapproving, and the hairs on the mole by his nose bobbing up and down in disgust at me breaking the Sabbath. He’s an excellent valet and we agree to disagree on some issues. He strongly disapproves of Summerby, who is an attractive rogue who flirts with all the maids. So long as it goes no further than flirting, I’m not about to censure him, but be aware, Mrs. Armitage, he will probably try to charm a young and pretty housekeeper.”
Jane smiled brightly.
“Then he will be disappointed with my response,” she said. She did not add that if need be she would cool his ardour by other means.
Sir Colin was looking less troubled now he had unburdened himself; and took himself off, after shaking hands with both.
“Well, Jane, Fowler and Ella won’t be pleased to be left out,” said Caleb, ruefully.
“No, but I wager they enjoy bullying the soldiers in making the house fit to live in, and will take a delight in finishing it before our return, that they might look smug,” said Jane.
Caleb laughed.
“I dare say you have the right of it!” he said. “And with Simmy – Simon – out from under foot, they can get on with it. I am glad that Major Coate offered Aunt Hetty hospitality as well as Araminta while we wrestled with our pig in a poke!”
“Should I not have made an offer on it?” said Jane.
“You were quite right to do so,” said Caleb. “It will be good to be near enough to Aunt Hetty and Araminta to ride or drive to see them when Aunt Hetty is married; though I suspect Araminta is keen to go back to Miss Goddard’s school with her friends for a while!”
“She might as well take education where she finds it,” said Jane. “And consolidate good friendships into the bargain!”

Chapter 3

“It is not,” said Simon, “going to be easy being a stable boy, having got used to being a gentleman. I shall have to hope any other boy is a decent fellow.”
“If they tease you for your twisted body, tell me, and I’ll thrash any of them,” growled Caleb.
“I suppose a butler who could, would,” said Simon, thoughtfully. “But I’d rather fight my own battles if I might. I’ve learned an awful lot from Henry.”
Henry Redmayne, Simon’s sometime tutor, was keen to see Simon flourish in more than the arts of Latin, Greek and Mathematics, and besides fishing and shooting had introduced him to the art of dirty fighting, since nobody might expect a boy with a withered arm and shortened leg to manage boxing.
“Well, if it’s too hard, come to me, boy,” said Caleb. “You don’t even have to be there; we just thought you are too clever to leave behind, and that you wouldn’t thank us for being left out.”
“No, not hardly,” said Simon. “I would hate to be left out, though if you’re going to put me in school at all, I suppose I shan’t be as free to help out.”
“We hadn’t really thought about it,” said Jane.
“I noticed an advertisement in the local paper for a school for weekly boarders of twenty young gentlemen,” said Simon. “Thirty guineas a year, with all subjects to remove to university. I thought it might be interesting. Minty enjoys being at school, and it wouldn’t be like Eton, where the big boys bully the little ones and make them be servants to fag for them.”
“True,” said Caleb, “and something to look into.”
Simon chuckled.
“So long as you don’t send me to that place in Westmoreland which advertises that vacations are bad for the nature of learning, and boys will not be sent home save at the express request of the parents.”
“And a queer sort of cove as would think that a good idea,” said Caleb. “Mind, at sea it’s no easier for the little boys.”
“Yes, but at least they get paid for it,” said Simon. “Like girls who go into service.”
“And some of them hardly older than you,” said Jane. “Our own Molly and Annie were just twelve and fourteen when they came to us!”

Caleb, Jane and Simon travelled by the Mailcoach to the nearest coaching inn to Sir Colin’s hall, outside the village of Tolleshunt Marney. Here they were met by Joseph Ferrers, the coachman, and Sir Colin’s Berlin, to take them to the hall.
Ferrers nodded at Simon.
“Your boy strong enough to care for prads?” he asked.
“My other arm is strong enough, sir,” said Simon, “and I have a built up boot. I can fettle the prads as well as anyone.”
“As you can see he can also reply for himself; nothing wrong with his wits,” said Caleb.
“Beggin’ your pardon, Mr. Armitage, I were took aback, seeing as the boy looks like one as have come early but been too long in coming if you takes my meaning; and most o’ them are half light in the head,” said Ferrers, looking curiously at Jane, quite clearly wondering how she might be old enough to have birthed Simon.
“My stepson was afflicted by some kind of stroke in the womb, we think,” said Jane. “He is a hard worker and does not like to be babied. He is very capable.”
Ferrers nodded.
“He’ll be working with my lad, Roger, who’s eleven,” he said. “Show your worth to him, boy, and he’ll stand your friend, even if some o’ them duzzy-headed grooms want to make game of you.”
“They can try,” said Simon.
Ferrers nodded.
“Ar, you’ll do fine,” he said. “Ain’t so good if your pa have to interfere; butler don’t have no call to give orders in the stable. That’s Mr. Sparrowe’s job, that is, the chief groom.”
Caleb nodded.
“I’m sure if I find our jurisdictions overlap in any wise, that Mr. Sparrowe and I can sort out any matters arising over a heavy wet, in an amicable fashion,” he said.
“Can’t see how they would,” said Ferrers.
“I can,” said Jane. “If one of the ostlers got one of the maids in the family way.”
Ferrers snorted, but nodded.
“Ar, reckon that could do it,” he said. “Iffen any o’ those totty-headed pieces didn’t think herseln too good for a man as smells of horse.”
“It’s been known to happen, though,” said Jane.
“Ar,” agreed Ferrers.

Sir Colin was waiting to greet Jane and Caleb when they came into the house, Simon having been taken by Ferrers to meet his Roger and stow his belongings in a room over the stables that the boys were to share. The Hall was an old red brick Tudor building, dating to the period of Henry VIII, and blessed with an excess of wide windows which Jane thought must take a lifetime just to keep clean.
“Ah, excellent,” said Sir Colin. “I, er, yes, delighted you could come. Cadell will show you your quarters; there’s a livery for you there, Armitage, and of course Mrs. Armitage will dress as she pleases. Cadell will wait for you, to show you the butler’s pantry, the housekeeper’s room, and bring you both to meet my sister and, er, the rest of the family.”
“Thank you sir,” said Caleb, bowing.
Cadell was a medium sort of man; medium height, medium brown hair, a very ordinary face which was set in a properly trained expression of disinterest. It was why, reflected Caleb, Fowler made a better valet than he had a footman, as he was too full of personality to be able to submerge himself into being one more man in livery. At least Sir Colin did not insist on wigs or powder for his footmen.
“This way, Mr. Armitage, Mrs. Armitage,” said Cadell, in a subdued tone.
“Thank you, Cadell. Have you worked here long?” asked Caleb.
“Nine years, Mr. Armitage. I started as a kitchen boy.”
“Happy?” asked Caleb.
“I am quite satisfied with my position, Mr. Armitage,” said Cadell.
“I expect it must have been quite difficult without a butler and housekeeper for a while,” said Caleb.
“Yes, Mr. Armitage,” said Cadell. “Mostyn has been acting as butler however.”
“Hmmm,” said Caleb. “Expecting the promotion, was he?”
“I could not undertake to second guess what Charlie Mostyn may have thought,” said Cadell. If his tone was too well trained to betray a degree of satisfaction over the fact that Mostyn was not being promoted, then his total lack of tone was enough to betray him, as did the pleased set of his shoulders.
Caleb determined to watch out for this Mostyn, who might quite fairly resent having another put over him, or who might merely have been the most experienced footman; because there needed to be one person to direct the others.
“Who acted as housekeeper?” Caleb asked.
“That governess, Miss Phipps,” said Cadell.
“You do not like her?” asked Jane, crisply.
“A governess is above stairs, Mrs. Armitage. A housekeeper is below stairs,” said Cadell.
“I see,” said Jane. “Perhaps when we have settled in and you have shown me to the housekeeper’s room and we have met the family, you will ask if she will be good enough to come to talk to me.”
“Yes, Mrs. Armitage,” said Cadell.
“And I’ll see you, Mostyn and… the other footman in my butler’s pantry,” said Caleb.
“Pole, Mr. Armitage. The third footman is called Pole,” said Cadell.
“Ah, thank you for filling me in,” said Caleb.

The couple were to share a room, which was well enough appointed, and better, Jane knew, than many a governess might expect. It looked homely and cosy.
“Sir Colin sees his servants well,” said Jane, quietly. “Was it my imagination or is that fellow Cadell as full of spite as an egg is of meat?”
“I think it may just be that he dislikes Mostyn, or feels that he is no better than he is, and has no right to expect promotion,” said Caleb. “As for his despite against poor Miss Phipps, well the governess fits neither above stairs nor below, often enough, but she is always a lady, and he sees it as gentry-folk interfering with the servants.”
“I have a strong suspicion that Miss Phipps might well be having the ordering of any housekeeper in the foreseeable future,” said Jane. “Sir Colin seems to admire her greatly.”
“If she’s prepared to take on the housekeeping, any man could go further and do worse,” said Caleb. “I suspect if you can make an ally of her, you will get much help.”
“So too thought I,” said Jane. “Your livery is almost as silly to look upon as your Regimentals.”
“Most women, Jane-girl, are supposed to fall for a man in his regimentals, when he looks dashing,” commented Caleb, mildly. “And you the daughter of an officer!”
“I cannot admire men dressed up in so much glittering finery, like a dog dancing for a street musician with a hurdy-gurdy,” said Jane.
“Thus military display, ground beneath the heel of womanhood,” said Caleb.
Jane laughed.
“In truth, it makes me think of Frank and his finery, aping the fashions to appear military as much as possible,” she said.
“Then your despite is understandable,” said Caleb, kissing her. “I feel a bit like an organ-grinder’s dancing dog, I have to say!”
They left the room to follow Cadell once more.

The butler’s pantry was not as cosy as the one Caleb had used to conduct the investigation into the death of Mrs. Steggall, but it was quite pleasant. It was next to the housekeeper’s room which was very similar. Fires burned in the grates, and both rooms had a desk for working at. The housekeeper’s room had shelves for account books and stillroom books, with a door into the stillroom, and the butler’s pantry had locked cabinets containing the silverware. Caleb made a face; that was a lot of polishing to be maintained. There was also the big butler’s sink for washing the silverware as that was the responsibility of the butler. Seemingly the previous butler had been careful enough of the silverware, the loss of which could be easily brought home to him. Caleb wondered whether some of the less-frequently used silverware would prove to be a possible hiding place, and determined to look, later.
Now, however, he and Jane must be presented to the family, so that they would be recognised. A nerve-wracking ordeal, as they must present the appearance of being arrogant enough to be upper servants, without in any wise overstepping the mark and raising suspicions.
In the event it was not a problem.
Sir Colin of course knew exactly who they were, and his sister Annabelle seemed to take little interest beyond murmuring that it would be nice to have a well-run house again. She was still a very lovely woman, and Jane could not but compare her carefully contrived loveliness with poor Miss Bates, scarcely older than Annabelle Whitby, but looking so much older for having had to work so much harder. True, Aunt Hetty was looking younger for having had time in which she was not nursing her mother, and in looking forward to her impending nuptials. Jane resented on her behalf, though, that happy as she was to marry Major George Coate, she did not have the inner glow that Joseph Redmayne had brought to her visage. However, at that, Aunt Hetty looked more serene than the rather vapid Annabelle, and the apparent considerable age difference would likely be reversed in another decade.
The old man was Mr. Silas Makepeace, who looked up from a novel, and smiled vaguely and waved a languid, but surprisingly graceful, hand of greeting. The three adult men stared with undisguised interest, a slight scowl on the face of the tall young man who was introduced as Mr. Richard Neville. He was plainly a bit of a Corinthian, but did not take the style to excess, being every inch the gentleman. Neville Braxton smiled and murmured that he was ready to give any assistance newcomers required, and Peter Tippet merely bobbed his head in a travesty of a gracious nod of welcome to underlings. He was dressed quite casually whilst within the bounds of acceptable dress for the evening; unlike Mr. Braxton, who appeared to aspire to dandyism, although his coat must needs be cut loose enough to put on for himself, recalled Jane, as he had no valet. Caleb made the conscious choice to wear clothes he could get into and out of without help, but perhaps Mr. Braxton must cut his coat to suit his wages.
Young Mr. Whitby was neither of the dandy nor the Corinthian persuasion, being dressed conventionally enough for the evening, but somehow looking as though his clothes had been thrown at him. It was the nature of boys who were still very much boys, who had not discovered the urgings of adulthood. The boy’s tutor was quite easily recognisable from Sir Colin’s description of him as ‘Friday faced’. The lad’s sister looked neat enough, but somehow the idea that she would have preferred to look like her brother hung about her. Her governess was a small, neat person who looked at Jane with interest.
The new butler and housekeeper were swiftly dismissed, now their employers had seen them and they knew their employers for when they might be summoned.
The governess excused herself and followed them out.
“I do hope you don’t mind, Mrs. Armitage, only I wondered if you wanted to go over the household accounts that I have been keeping,” said Miss Phipps.
“Indeed, I had asked Cadell if he would take you message that if you would be kind enough to do so, I would be very pleased,” said Jane. “Starting the management of a house which has its accustomed ways is always a little daunting. One needs to know, for example, if the Master of the House is generous as regards provisioning, or nipcheese, and how much the Mistress of the House likes to make her personal touch felt in the day-to-day running of it.”
“You will have no mistress breathing down your neck,” said Miss Phipps. “Mrs. Whitby is sufficiently uninterested in the running of the house that she prefers not to look over the weekly accounting. It is, however, good training for young Amy to see her mother do so.”
Jane laughed.
“You mean I must précis everything that I have done and explain it without being too detailed so she might initial it without having to think too hard?” she said.
“Precisely,” said Miss Phipps, who reached for the latest account book as they entered the housekeeper’s room. “I have kept the accounts this last month, as you can see by the change of hand.”
“And may I say, what a neat hand and efficient accounting,” said Jane. “Far superior to the rather slapdash way of putting things down of the previous incumbent.”
Miss Phipps sniffed.
“It was not entirely Mrs. Ebden’s fault. She was a good enough manager, but because Mrs. Whitby did not care to oversee the accounts, she fell into bad habits.”
“Dear me! I shall endeavour not to do likewise!” said Jane. She hesitated. “Miss Phipps, I suspect we are of similar birth, and I am sure we are to be allies; is it in order to ask you to call me Jane in private?”
Miss Phipps beamed.
“I would be delighted! And I am Catherine; never Kate. Though most people call me Pippy,” she added, sadly. “It can be a lonely business being a governess.”
“Catherine is a lovely name. But I suppose one cannot permit one’s charges to be free with one’s given name.”
“No, indeed! I take it you had no aptitude for teaching? Or is it impolite to ask?”
Jane laughed.
“I considered being a governess, but I fear the thought of dealing with children who might be monsters of vanity, unchecked and out of control, caused me to quail. As a housekeeper I am queen of my domain, if not counted as being so socially elevated as a governess. One makes choices.”
“Indeed so,” said Catherine Phipps. “I confess, I am too proud to wish to be considered below stairs; though I have been glad to fill in for Sir Colin as needed,” she blushed becomingly. Jane smiled to herself.
Of course it was also a matter of economic exigency that made most indigent young ladies choose to be governesses over being housekeepers; six guineas a year more honoured the education of a governess, and she might dream of going on to open her own school, or even hope for marriage. A housekeeper had no further to rise, and being a step away from the gentry might not usually hope to marry anyone more socially elevated than the household butler, though tales were told of wealthy old misers marrying their housekeeper to save themselves her wages.
Miss Phipps explained clearly and concisely how the house ran; and Jane nodded. Sir Colin was not a mean man, but nor would he brook profligacy. The menus written down by Miss Phipps were good plain meals, and Jane could see no problem in taking up the reins of governance of the household where the governess relinquished them. It looked to be a good position, and once again she wondered at Mrs. Ebden for throwing it up to become a thief. There had to have been more to it than momentary temptation, she thought. Well, perhaps that would transpire in due course.

Jane and the Hidden Hoard 1-3

Sarah WaldockJune 15, 2015 08:33PM

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Re: WHAT HAPPENED to my 'P'????? (nfm)

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Re: Jane and the Hidden Hoard 1-3

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Re: Jane and the Hidden Hoard 1-3

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