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Jane and the Hidden Hoard 7-9

June 21, 2015 10:33AM
Chapter 7

The attic was full of the usual sort of articles generally found in such places. Some of its space was used as bedrooms for the three lowliest maids, Minney, Sarah and Charlotte, or Lottie as she had shyly asked to be called, and the rest given over to the storage of rarely-used items and old furnishings and clothing in trunks that were no longer wanted, but had never been thrown away. Here was a trunk of the clothing of Sir Colin’s late wife; the school trunks of both Richard Neville and his cousin, Neville Braxton, and some empty trunks belonging to various servants whose clothes were hung in wardrobes in their own quarters. The tank serving the kitchen sink gurgled mournfully like the ruminations of a dyspeptic cow, which must have been quite unnerving to the kitchen maids and the tweenie, Lottie, when they first arrived.
Sir Colin was not as profligate as some, since the furniture up here was merely outdated, not in need of the odd nail, or re-upholstery. There was a suite of Louis Quatorze furniture, its baroque splendour definitely outmoded, but stored against a swing in the vagaries of fashion, in which antique furniture might once again be popular. Jane turned her attention to a large and heavily decorated armoire desk, with sphinx faces and breasts on the legs, marquetry decoration of birds in the central cupboard, and heavy gold ornamentation on each of the drawers. The key to the drawers was tied to one of the handles, and Jane opened each to check, her sensitive pianist’s fingers also searching for hidden catches.
“It’s empty, Mrs. Armitage,” said Amy. “Well, unless there are spiders living in it. I used to pretend there was a hidden treasure, but when I found the secret drawer there was nothing but rather sickly love letters in old writing.”
“Oh, do show me the secret drawer, Amy, I do like looking at old furniture,” said Jane, who thought the desk quite hideous.
Amy clicked open the drawer.
“I tied them up again in their faded pink ribbon,” she said. “I suppose they must have belonged to one of the family. I don’t know enough to know if it was from a husband to his wife or whether it was something illicit, and I don’t really care enough. I was hoping for doubloons from a pirate ancestor or something,” she added candidly.
“Letters are not as interesting as pirate treasure,” agreed Jane, thinking that the privacy of the dead should perhaps be respected in any case.
If Amy was inclined to play up here and poke around, probably Mrs. Ebden also knew this, and therefore it was most unlikely that the attic would be used as a hiding place. She should have ascertained that first, but no matter. It was still important to find out if there were fabrics that might be used in repairs. Since very little that was not serviceable seemed to have been relegated to the attic, the chances of that, too were slim.
The only useful thing Jane and Amy uncovered was a rag bag, in which offcuts of all kinds had been placed.
“There may be enough in here to perform some repairs,” said Jane, “and perhaps you might begin to use simple mathematics, to wit, the Euclidian figures, like the hexagon and the double triangle as a diamond, to make patchwork, so you may have a quilt for your dower chest.”
“I did not know my brother did mathematics that help sewing,” said Amy. “I do not really know what you mean.”
“Oh, perhaps Master Gregory can explain to you how to make a hexagon with a circle,” said Jane. “And a hexagon is made of six triangles. If he will not, I am sure Miss Phipps will show you.”
“It will not do Master Gregory any harm to revise his mathematics,” said Catherine.
“And you may save any odd shapes, and perhaps cut your uncle a Banyan out of an old blanket, and sew on the odd pieces with herringbone stitch to make it gay and bright,” said Jane.
“I would like that,” said Amy. “I do not need a dower chest as I do not plan to get married. I want to write books like Miss Wollstonecraft.”
“Well, you may wish to have a quilt for your own bed, even if it is not a marriage bed,” said Jane.
“What a most remarkable woman you are, Jane Armitage,” said Catherine, quietly, as they descended the stair. “An accomplished pianist, familiar with Euclid, and yet you are a housekeeper. I don’t want to pry, but I think you are more than you seem, but my instinct tells me to trust you.”
“Catherine, it is not my secret,” said Jane.
“Then I will ask no further,” said Catherine Phipps.

Jane had already spoken to the housemaids, and Matty had volunteered that her next sister took in sewing, but would be willing to come to the Hall for a few weeks to help with mending, and Jane had sent her forthwith to arrange for this. Perhaps she was being overly zealous, since she was only posing as a housekeeper, but on the other hand, it would be unwise not to immerse herself in the role.
When she returned from the attics it was to find the gawky and tongue-tied Tibby, who had brought her roll of clothes and husif, all tied up in her apron. Jane suggested that she share a bed with her sister, as the maids’ beds were not niggardly in size, and work in the housekeeper’s room. She must go through to Caleb to be private, but it was of no moment.

Jane decided to see Susan next.
She asked the girl to come into the housekeeper’s room, as Tibby was still being settled in by Matty.
Susan stood in front of Jane, pleating her apron between her fingers.
“I’m sorry I was ill, today, Mrs. Armitage,” she said.
“Who is the father, Susan?” asked Jane.
Susan burned deep red.
“What do you mean, Mrs. Armitage?” she asked.
“Come, Susan, do you think I cut my eye teeth yesterday? You are pregnant, which is apparent to anyone who looks at you. Who is the father?”
Susan broke down and sobbed into her much-abused apron. Jane gave her a minute to give way to her grief, and then said, crisply,
“Susan, I can’t help you if you won’t tell me who has fathered a baby on you, and whether or not you were willing.”
“Oh, Mrs. Armitage!” wailed Susan. “It weren’t my fault, I di’n’t really know what I was doing, and by the time it went that far, I couldn’t stop him! I di’n’t mean to, reelly I didn’t!”
“I see. You are saying you are a good girl but a few kisses got out of hand?” said Jane.
“He said there weren’t no harm keeping warm together, and … well, he … he fondled me, and … and it happened,” said Susan, flushing miserably.
“Did you ask him to stop?” asked Jane.
Susan flushed even more.
“I did mean to, but I … it weren’t like nothing I’d ever done before.”
“I understand,” said Jane, gently, who recalled how hard it had been to keep her hands off Caleb when she had first known him. An innocent country girl in the bed of a man who knew what he was doing, by the sound of it, was like wax in his hands. “And who was this?”
“Di’n’t I say? That was James; Mr. Summerby, I should say.”
“If you’re still calling a man ‘Mr.’ when he’s had his way with you, he is plainly not very gallant,” said Jane. “He is a menace to all women; but do you wish to marry him?”
“He wouldn’t marry me even if I did,” said Susan, dolefully. “But he just laughed at me and told me to take some of the usual herbs, and thank him for the experience, and I don’t even know what he means by ‘the usual herbs’, Mrs. Armitage.”
“You poor child,” said Jane. “No, you should not have to marry a man so heartless. There are herbs which can abort a child, which will make you ill while it happens, but mean you will no longer be pregnant. If you want to do that, I am willing to make you up a tea of them. If you want to have the baby, you are likely to be turned off, but I can recommend you to a friend of mine who is housekeeper in another big house in Essex. The Mistress and Master there would support a decision to keep your baby, but would expect you to do duties according to your abilities while you were pregnant and nursing. But it is your choice.”
“Isn’t aborting murder?” asked Susan, wide eyed.
“In theory, perhaps, and certainly the way some so-called doctors do it,” said Jane. “You must balance whether you can give your little lovechild a loving enough home to offset any hard names thrown at him or her, and whether you feel able to work and care for a child, against wishing to avoid killing the foetus. I will help you whichever you decide, though if you choose the tea, I will ask you not to speak about it. Everyone does it, but technically, as you say, it is murder. I just can’t see that bringing an unwanted baby into this wicked world does it any favours. If you do want it, that’s an entirely different matter.”
“Well, I don’t want it,” said Susan. “And I didn’t want him to keep on, and it ain’t fair that men don’t have to have babies, and nor don’t they get turned off for doing exactly the same thing women get turned off for.”
“No; it isn’t fair,” said Jane. “I will make you a tea, then, which will help your sluggish monthlies to come, as you are late with them.”
“Th … thank you, Mrs. Armitage,” said Susan, sniffing.
“Very well! Go and wash your face, and change your apron,” said Jane, briskly. “You look a perfect fright!”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Susan, and fled.

A tea of appropriate herbs having been brewed on the housekeeper’s fire, and bottled for Susan, Jane checked that dinner was properly in train, and decreed that the footmen should eat before serving the meal as none of the family wished to listen to their hungry bellies.
“And I know my husband will ratify that,” she said.
“I do,” said Caleb, who had come into the servants’ hall to inspect the footmen as Jane came in search of them to add the order she had given to Gaston Lefevre to them. The footmen were much relieved; it had been hard to stand serving, with delicious smells, and feeling hungry.
After dinner, Matty came to Jane for help with her reading, and Jane also showed her how she added up the daily expenses in her ledger.
“I have a lot to learn,” said Matty, dolefully.
“And if I didn’t think you capable of doing so, I shouldn’t teach you,” said Jane. “One of the first steps to learning is to be aware of how much there is to learn; nobody could teach anything to someone who thought they knew it all, already. Do you think I could show Martha how to keep a ledger?”
Matty’s eyes widened.
“No, you could not, because she would declare that she knows how to read and write and figure because she’s better than the rest of us.”
“Precisely,” said Jane. “There are none so blind as those who will not see. And you know that you need to keep looking.”
Matty nodded her unruly head vigorously.
“And I can practise it by learning what you’ve teached me to Tibby,” she said.
Jane decided it was not time for a serious grammar lesson.
“You can indeed teach Tibby what you have learned,” she said, contenting herself with putting the sentence into a more grammatically acceptable frame. “But do not keep her up until all hours! She’s hardly more than a child, and she needs her sleep!”
“Tibby would gladly go without sleep to learn,” said Matty.
Jane sighed.
“You’d better bring her with you, then,” she said. “I don’t want her going without sleep. She will strain her eyes sewing if she is tired, and will not do good work, either.”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Matty, more alive to the idea of Tibby being sent away for not doing good enough work than to that of a young body being worked too hard. As a farmer’s daughter, Matty knew all about young bodies being worked too hard, which was why she had entered service in the first place! Her tasks were much the same as on the farm, albeit on a grander scale, and she got paid for it, and never had to get up in the middle of the night to help with a lambing. If she could rise yet further, and have even less to do, Matty would do whatever it took in the meantime! And as she was fond of Tibby, she was ready to drive the girl as hard as she drove herself.
Much of this Jane guessed, and understood; but she also was adamant.
And Matty would do anything for Jane!

Chapter 8

“Excuse me, Mrs. Armitage, isn’t it?” Neville Braxton stopped Jane as she passed the dining room after the family had had breakfast. The family at breakfast consisted of all those but Mrs. Whitby, of course, who would have her breakfast in her own room at a later time.
“Yes, Mr. Braxton, how may I help you?” Jane dropped a respectful curtsey. Drat the man, what jobs would he find for her, she wondered, knowing perfectly well that poor relations almost always were the worst offenders in abusing the servants.
“Oh, the reverse, Mrs. Armitage; I wondered if I might be able to help you,” said Mr. Braxton, with a smile.
“Indeed, sir?” asked Jane.
“Why, yes; I understand you intend to do a spring cleaning, and I might be able to prevent extra work for you there, by telling you that the spring cleaning has already been done by Mrs. Ebden before she … left.”
Jane did not snort; it was not ladylike, and even in the character of a housekeeper, there were some things she could not bring herself to do. She did look down her nose.
“Begging your pardon, Mr. Braxton, sir, but I would not describe anything that feckless hussy did as ‘cleaning’. I don’t believe she knew the meaning of the word. Why, the grates are encrusted with soot, as should be cleaned daily, never mind as part of the great spring clean; and dust atop the doors and cupboards thick enough to plant potatoes in to feed all the Irish!”
“Is that so? How remarkable,” said Braxton. “I am sure we will all notice a difference. Perhaps I can help you, however? I am quite tall, and not a weakling, if you need anything lifted or carried.”
“Oh, there’s no need to trouble yourself, sir,” said Jane. “I can call on my husband to help with any heavy work, he being an ex soldier and quite capable despite that.” She added, “I confess, the idea of the housemaids cleaning all those windows is one that fills me with foreboding, however. What was the usual practice here? I cannot think that they can reach outside without considerable risk.”
“Oh, Uncle Colin has someone in to clean the outside of the windows once a year; the servants are only required to clean the inside,” said Braxton. “The house was built around the same time as the famous Layer Marney tower and somewhat in imitation, though of course not on so grand a scale. I should think cleaning the upper windows of that must be next to impossible: why, it’s quite eight storeys high, and the three great rooms that are in the gatehouse as you might call it, between the two towers, fully two storeys each with massive windows.”
“I am glad I do not have to be housekeeper in such an inconvenient house,” said Jane. “Sir Colin has seen to the convenience of his servants very nicely, with a faucet in the kitchen, and good closed stoves of the latest design. I am half afraid to polish the panelling, however, in case there should be a priest’s hole, and I fall in and become incarcerated!”
Braxton laughed.
“I have never heard of any such thing,” he said. “A pity; Richard and I should have put it to capital use when we were boys, I am sure!”
“Well, sir, I am glad to hear it,” said Jane.
Of course having Sir Colin’s secretary deny the existence of a secret panel of any kind was not proof that such did not exist; merely that he knew of none. It seemed reasonable to suppose that two small boys would manage to find any secret passages or rooms that there might be, however. It might yet be possible that a housekeeper had discovered something of the kind when spring cleaning, and kept it secret. But for it to have remained unknown for centuries also seemed unlikely.
Well, Jane would just have to surreptitiously sound the panelling and feel for hidden catches when polishing it.
Or maybe set Gregory and Amy to searching. A laughing comment that a priest’s hole would be a perfect place to hide from Mr. Granger might be enough to set Gregory searching, and getting his sister involved too.
“Let me know if you need any help,” said Neville Braxton. “Sir Colin is not an exacting task master.”
“He is a very lenient master, sir,” said Jane. “And with the laxity of the previous butler and housekeeper, it is fortunate that he is tolerant, since the servants have learned to be lax too.”
“Oh, I’m sure you and Armitage will lick them into shape,” said Braxton. “Is that what this spring cleaning is really about, keeping them on the go, so they are glad of the ordinary rigours of daily work?”
Jane smiled primly.
“It does need doing, anyway, Sir,” she said.

Mr. Braxton’s offer of help was not the only one.
Gregory Whitby slid into the housekeeper’s room.
“Mrs. Armitage, did you need any help? I thought if I was working with the maids, Mr. Granger wouldn’t think to look for me,” said Gregory.
“What you need, Master Gregory, is a priest’s hole,” said Jane.
“Is there one? Famous! Is it written in the notes for the housekeeper?” demanded Gregory.
Jane laughed.
“I have no idea if there is one, but I can’t be held responsible if you happen to put on a gown and a pinafore with a mob cap and polish the panelling for me, which I wager is a task better suited to a lad than a girl, being hard labour, and feel for any hidden springs as you do it,” she said.
Gregory beamed.
“I can do that, I used to help Ebden polish silver, I’m a dab hand at polishing! Where will I get a gown?”
“Well, an old fashioned style won’t show under a good pinafore, and your late aunt’s effects are still in the attic,” said Jane. Lady Neville had died some dozen years previously, and the styles had been high waisted then, if a little short. “Don’t forget to wear dancing pumps in imitation of female shoes, and white stockings with smallclothes underneath, so any stretched portion of leg won’t show pantaloons.”
“I say, Mrs. Armitage, you’re a capital sport!” said Gregory, and made himself scarce. The polishing cloths all lived in the cupboard with other cleaning equipment outside the kitchen, and doubtless the boy knew where that was to clean up the various spills and messes generally attendant upon the life of a growing boy. And that would sort out looking for a priest’s hole. Gregory would doubtless think it capital sport, in his own idiom, and would contrive to enjoy himself, as much for the imposture as for searching for a hiding place. And the panelling would get polished, probably no worse than any of the maids would manage it.

Spring cleaning was an awkward business to tackle as a housekeeper in someone else’s house. In her own house, Jane would expect to take a part in it, and to supervise much of it, and would put up with a lot of disruption to get the job tackled quickly, eating cold collations for several days. Spring cleaning in the house of another, where the family above stairs did not expect to be disturbed by the evolutions of servant activity, this was another matter. Even as stair carpets were supposed to be swept daily whilst the family were at breakfast and so not inconvenienced, they would have to be removed, beaten, and returned in a similar fashion, so that all the maids were turned to one job so as to get it completed for the convenience of the family. It was giving Jane quite a different outlook on the life of servants, and how they made a house run smoothly without their masters seeing all the things they did, unless through the omission of duties. The bedrooms might be cleaned as they were daily, during the afternoon, and if they had been done properly as a matter of course, this would take no more than beating the carpets, stripping the bed-curtains and the counterpane and blankets, and removing the window curtains, and checking if the mattress needed additional filling, or replacement of feathers. This would be in addition to the normal daily sweeping, mopping, and airing, and turning the mattress, then weekly dry-rubbing of the floor, stripping off the bedlinen, and shaking of the rugs out of the window. However, as the servants had been lax, Jane fully expected to find fluff and smuts under the furnishings, uncleaned grates and fire irons, and dust lying on top of the testers and impregnated into the bed-curtains that would likely make them cough when removed.
For that matter, she suspected that not only were the mattresses likely not turned weekly, never mind daily, but that the sacking that covered the bedstead and the bedstead itself were not regularly brushed, so that too would harbour dust. Almost she quailed at the task. But it must be done, and was an excellent mask for checking every nook and cranny for hidden valuables. Nobody could fault a housekeeper for looking everywhere for dust and dirt!
It was merely depressing that she had every expectation of finding more dirt than jewellery.

The men and children were at least out of their bedchambers for most of the day, and Jane divided the maids into pairs, placing Martha and Julia together on the grounds that Julia was too thick-skinned to take offence at Martha, and Martha had too high an opinion of herself to be upset by Julia. Matty she placed with Susan, and commandeered the services of the tweenie, Lottie, to work with her. She made their duties clear, and laid hampers outside the rooms into which all the stripped linen and hangings might be placed, and carried down by the footmen, who would also use their superior height and strength to hang the second sets of hangings for each room. It was fortunate that there were enough hangings to replace what had been taken down; Jane had not enough in her own house, nor in the town house, and the family must live without bed hangings and curtains whilst they were laundered each year.
Some of the bed hangings were not washable, and they must be separated out for careful beating, and judicious rubbing with a damp cloth. And those that were brocades must be handled carefully, any stains soaked in warm white vinegar, and then washed by hand, with a care to make sure none of the colours ran. Modern cotton fabrics were, thought Jane, far easier to care for. But one could not blame an old family for keeping the trappings of times gone by, to remind them of their antiquity.
There was an awkward moment as Jane stripped the curtains in Mr. Richard Neville’s room, her face and Lottie’s covered with kerchiefs, as she had advised the other girls to do as well. She knew fine well that Martha felt it beneath her, and Julia considered it an imposition, but if they coughed, that was their business. They had been warned. Matty would do as suggested, and poor little Susan, who had spent a miserable night and was not really capable of much; but Matty was more than equal to the task, and Jane had told her privately to call her through to help turn the mattress and lift it off and on in order to deal with the bedstead.
In the meantime, Jane and Lottie were disturbed at their work as Richard Neville came striding into his bedroom, and stopped and stared at them.
“Why are you dismantling my room?” he demanded.
Jane curtseyed.
“Spring cleaning, sir; I thought all the gentlemen were occupied downstairs,” she said.
“I wanted to change to go riding,” said Richard.
“Then we can come back later, sir,” said Jane. “I will just carry out these hangings, and the bucket of dirt, and leave you to it.”
“Yes. Well, make sure it’s neat again by the time I want to change my dress again,” he said.
“Yes, sir; of course,” said Jane, managing not to ask how he could tell the difference since his own habits of tidiness left much to be desired.
She took Lottie firmly along to see how Mattie was getting on, only to find another gentleman haranguing her. Neville Braxton had actually, by the marks on Mattie’s face, slapped her. Susan was crying.
“What is the trouble, Mr. Braxton?” asked Jane, icily.
“These girls are in my room, rummaging!” cried Braxton. “They say they are not stealing, but why should they be interfering with the mattress if not looking for valuables?”
“Mr. Braxton, in a well-run household, the mattress is turned daily if filled with feathers or flock, and twice a week for palliasses. If you keep valuables in or under your mattress, it is most unfair to the maids. But as you have not noticed before, one might assume any valuables you have hidden there after the fashion of a shop-keeper must have been left safely by the maids. Calling their honesty into question for doing what housemaids are supposed to do is quite unfair, and inappropriate. I trust I shall not have to speak to Sir Colin about this?”
Braxton flushed.
“I apologise. I am not in the habit of hiding valuables under my mattress, but I did place a rather important document there after I had been reading it in bed.”
“That was last week, sir, and I placed it on your commode,” said Mattie. “I can’t turn the mattresses on my own but I always lift them in a hump and thump any lumps out.”
“You’re a good girl, Mattie, and you do your best,” said Jane. “Mr. Braxton, have you also come up to change? If so we shall leave you to it, and resume our work when you have departed the room.”
“No … no, I came up to look for my snuff box,” said Braxton. “However, I believe it was in my pocket all along. Permit me to help with that heavy mattress to show my contrition for a display of temper, Mattie!” he added.
“There’s no need, sir; Mrs. Armitage will help me,” said Mattie.
Nothing would do for Mr. Braxton, however, than that he should help lift off the big mattress, and watch while Jane demonstrated how to brush off the sacking, and the ropes of the bedstead underneath.
“And moreover, checking the ropes to clean them shows if any have frayed, because one does not want any of the family to be suddenly let down in the night for the parting of a bedstead rope,” said Jane.
“Where does one get new? From a ship chandler?” asked Mattie.
“It is best to buy old rope, that has been used in rigging in ships or for use in cranes on shore, that is still good, but has already been stretched by use,” said Jane. “Such occupations change rope frequently, since the wear and tear is greater, and the risks to life and limb if it breaks concomitantly more. It is strong enough to bear a body’s weight, and being stretched will not sag for being slept upon, such as would cause much discomfort.”
“There’s a lot to being a housekeeper,” said Mattie.
“And much of it pure common sense,” said Jane. “Perhaps Mr. Braxton would be good enough to help us both turn and restore his mattress now that we have cleaned beneath it.”
Braxton helped in silence, then nodded, embarrassed, and left.
“Well!” said Mattie. “I was that surprised when he flew into the boughs like that, and please, Mrs. Armitage, may Susan go to bed? She looks terrible.”
“She would do better to have a brisk walk, but yes, and you may take the time to get her a hot brick and a drink of warm milk,” said Jane. “Lottie and I will finish up in here, and we will work as a threesome for the rest of the day, and just hope to finish each room quicker thereby.”

Chapter 9

The bedrooms took all day to strip, clean and re-equip with hangings, blankets and counterpanes. And Jane had to leave her cleaning to play for Mrs. Whitby for an hour. She debated playing so badly that she would not be asked back, but decided that it would not serve, and wished that the woman had a piano not a spinet, so she might be soothed off to sleep with lullabys. Another time, perhaps she would see that the wine brought by the footman serving was well spiked with laudanum. In the meantime, Jane gritted her teeth and played Rossini airs until she might escape and check how the maids were doing.
They were managing quite well.
Jane decreed that the floors should not be scrubbed or dry-rubbed this day, but that they should be dry-rubbed with hot sand once a month in the future, and might be scoured instead in high summer.
“If we have one,” said Mattie.
“Indeed, and common sense must prevail there,” said Jane. “It is no good scrubbing a floor, especially in a bedroom, if there is insufficient dry in the air to let it be damp in the room come bedtime. Nothing is more injurious to the health than sleeping in cold, wet air! Tomorrow we will commence the laundry of all these extra items, and then you might be permitted Saturday off for the Tolleshunt Marney fair as you have worked so hard, as soon as the regular chores are completed. And then on Sunday, of course we will do nothing extra.”
Jane might be a clergyman’s granddaughter, but sometimes it irked her not to be able to get on with things on a Sunday, especially as it seemed unlikely that any criminal would balk at Sabbath-breaking! But the maids had put in a gruelling day’s work and would put in another, beating carpets and hangings, washing, wringing and hanging things to dry over the bushes of the kitchen garden. And the mats were so filthy that Jane was debating having a dozen potatoes grated to soak for a more thorough clean, such as one might have to do in the smuts of London. One might hope the weather would not prove too insalubrious, so that everything might dry. The month to date had been very wet, and one could not wait much longer as the Season would soon be upon them, and those returning to London for it would want their jewellery. And Easter was early this year too! That meant the Season would also start early. And that gave Jane and Caleb no more than two weeks in which to succeed.
And Gregory reported mournfully that he had found no secret panels and he was sick of the smell of furniture polish.
“Not so much as you would be, my lad, if you were the one having to make a year’s supply of it at once,” said Jane. “It takes time and care, whether you use the Speenhausen receipt or whether you use common beeswax in linseed oil, when you must be careful not to have too much beeswax or it will leave an unpleasant patina. I am sorry you found no passages but at least it was a day off from Euclid.”
“By Jove, Mrs. Armitage, I appreciate the efforts of the maids much more now, and I will almost welcome Euclid! And I say, was that why you urged me to do it?”
“Not entirely, Master Gregory; I did want those panels polished,” said Jane. “And a volunteer, as they say in the navy, is worth three pressed men. But I am glad that you have a bit more understanding and respect for the tasks of the servants.”
“And the indignities they put up with! Summerby pinched my … er, my fundament!” he declared.
“He tried to pinch mine,” said Jane, “but I wear hair pins.”
Gregory laughed.
“I’d have liked to have seen his face,” he said, frankly. “Though it was a study when I turned round and glared at him. I told him it was for a wager; no need to give m’cousin’s valet too much information.”
“No, indeed. I hope the revelation that he had molested a boy not a girl might have a salutary effect upon that man’s predatory instincts, but somehow I doubt it,” said Jane. “It was a new experience for you, Master Gregory, and I hope a valuable one.”
“Yes, by Jove, but not one I’d willingly repeat in a hurry,” said Gregory. “Old Granger is going to find me as meek as Moses for a while!”

Caleb had not been idle whilst Jane and the maids cleaned house. His duties did not take him upstairs, but they did permit him to keep all the clocks in working order, and search inside them, and to clean all the silverware, and look inside that too. The glassware was also in need of attention, and though diamonds might not show up at first glance inside cut glass decanters, any other jewel would, and so would the settings, which meant it was merely an irritating chore. Caleb would also be needing grated potato to get the glassware sparkling again.
He might, however, also go into the library to oversee the removal of candle wax from the candelabra, and the trimming of the wicks, though this was a less likely place for the larcenous Ebden couple to have considered as a hiding place,
He meticulously checked behind any books that looked as though they had been taken out in the last year or so, and had less dust on them; apart from the classics, as presumably used by Mr. Granger, and some novels, it looked as though the library was not a popular room. Caleb sighed. He and Jane would love a good library, and it was almost painful to see such a room neglected and unused. He immediately chuckled as he imagined Fowler on the subject of Bankers and Philistines.
Simon slid into the butler’s pantry late at night to report. Jane also came in, leaving Tibby taking herself off to bed.
“Nothing that I can find, Pa, sorry,” Simon said. “I’ve gone over every inch of the harness of the gentlemen, and Mrs. Whitby’s too, not that she rides much, and there’s nothing. I wouldn’t hide anything in the stables themselves, myself, as it’s too likely one of the grooms would find anything, and it doesn’t seem hardly likely in any case that the butler and housekeeper would think of it. Not unless their accomplice was also on the Bridle-Lay and they left it in a place he could find.”
“There was no suggestion they were associated with any highwaymen,” said Caleb, “and they were caught because they tried to sell some of the pieces for themselves, in a very amateur way. The Ebdens, so far as I can see did the actual theft, in drugging Sir Colin and taking the jewellery, but I cannot see them being behind it. If they were so good at planning a theft, they would surely also be good at planning how to keep house, and I’ve seen no evidence to support the idea that either was anything but feckless, lazy and shiftless.”
“I wouldn’t go quite that far,” said Jane, “but certainly if Mrs. Ebden was elevated from a lower position in the household, nursery maid originally, Sir Colin said, then she was plainly not properly trained to take on a housekeeper’s duties, and was certainly slapdash. Not helped, of course, by that ninny in satin upstairs,” she added.
“Poor Jane-girl,” said Caleb. “And I take it she has no knowledge of anything helpful?”
“Oh, she’s not about to converse with a lowly servant,” said Jane. “And even if she was so inclined, I have come rapidly to the conclusion that when the ivory on the keys needs replacing, it could be carved from the inside of her head. She has no more idea outside of her own comfort than a butterfly,” she added.
“It must be very trying,” said Caleb.
“I keep telling myself that it would be foolish to commit murder with a very efficient Bow Street Officer on hand to arrest me,” said Jane. “I swear, she’s sillier than Floradora, or whatever the wretched woman called herself.”
“Oh, Floradora had a native shrewdness,” said Caleb. “She missed a few points, but she was never a complete fool. Pity she was such a hard creature; I almost liked her, at times.”
“Yes, she might have been a better person, shown kindness sooner,” said Jane. “But I cannot suspect Mrs. Whitby of being in any way mixed up in this business. Amy would have a better idea of how to go about it.”
Caleb laughed.
“I wager you’re right,” he said. “I have wondered about young Gregory, though; whether he might have done it for a lark, not thinking through what it would mean to his uncle, nor even to his accomplices.”
“Oh Pa! do you really think Greg would be so full of fun if his actions had cause two people to go to gaol?” cried Simon.
“I take your point, lad,” said Caleb, his face clearing. “Young Gregory is up to any mischief he can lay his hands on, but he strikes me as being straight enough. He would be worrying at the very least. But he accepts that the Ebdens were caught stealing and thinks nothing more of it. To my mind it has to be one of three people, unless the vagueness of Mr. Silas Makepeace is all an act. It has to be Richard Neville, Neville Braxton or Peter Tippet.”
“And I searched all the horse furniture of all of them,” said Simon, “and I searched all the carriages, so if any of them hid the jewellery, with two of them being keen riders, it wasn’t around the horses.”
“I don’t think the mastermind did the hiding anyway,” said Caleb. “The way I see it, the Ebdens took the jewellery, and hid it all while the household slept. But they were sorely tempted by all those geegaws and decided to branch out on their own, and sell some of it on their own account. And that caused them to be arrested. Now, if they were selling some because they didn’t trust their principal to pay them off fairly, there would be no reason for them to remain mumchance about who persuaded them to do it; they’d squeak beef in a hurry. There is no honour amongst thieves! Unless they feared him for some reason. The only other reason that I can think of is that there is some kind of personal loyalty, but that they were just overwhelmed by the sight of all those gems and could not resist holding some back when hiding the rest.”
“Why would they hide it? Why not just pass it over?” wondered Simon.
“Think about it, lad; the theft would rapidly be discovered, and then there would be a superficial sort of search at least. And if hidden, the mastermind could collect it at his leisure and remove himself to the continent to sell it.”
“I see,” said Simon. “And we know that the thief has not yet found it because none of them has disappeared. I suppose that is logical. Though I’d stay quietly in the same place, dismembering the jewellery a piece at a time, and then not disappear until I was good and ready.”
“I’d hate to be up against you if you turned dishonest,” said Caleb. “You have altogether too cool a head, and too much forward planning to be an easy cully to catch. Now I suspect that our thief doesn’t actually know where the treasure is hidden, because the Ebdens did not have a chance to tell him before they were taken. And nobody but Sir Colin has been to see them in gaol, so they have had no way of telling their accomplice.”
“It would not be safe to visit them, as anyone who did so must be suspect,” said Jane. “And so he is as much in the dark as we are. What could make them so loyal?”
Caleb shrugged.
“Both Richard and Neville would have been nominally in the nursery when Mrs. Ebden was nursery maid; maybe a mistaken loyalty there? And as for Peter Tippet, well, that I do not know, but for all we know he might be Ebden’s son, if he had an affaire with the wife of Sir Colin’s chief clerk. Or Tippet might be adopted, if they were childless, if Mrs. Ebden had a baby before she was married. It happens,” he shrugged.
“Like Susan,” said Jane. “And some girls do not show, especially with a first pregnancy, and behind a big pinafore. Quite conceivable. Ouch, my apologies, no pun intended.”
“Well, if there was nothing hidden in the bedrooms, which I have to say, unless it was hidden in the bedroom of their own accomplice seems unlikely, then it must be hidden downstairs,” said Caleb. “I planned to check the ice house, with Mostyn’s help tomorrow. But you cannot start removing curtains and carpets and checking chair seats until after the Sabbath now.”
“I know, and I am much frustrated,” said Jane. “However, we can only move as fast as we can move, without making the search an official one, such as will alert the culprit, and give him the chance to deny all and be looking as innocent as a babe. Well, we push on, and merely be aware that if our man has found any, it is at the fair on Saturday that he might try to sell some of it, to itinerants who don’t much care where it came from.”
“And at that he’d be lucky,” said Caleb. “They have too much sense of self preservation to fence stolen goods, unless they specialise in that sort of thing! I say we sleep on it, put in another day’s work tomorrow, and then use the Saturday and Sunday to cogitate on what places are left.”
“And maybe do some serious searching while most of the family and servants are at the fair,” said Jane.
“Now that does sound a good plan!” agreed Caleb. “Off to bed, young Simon. And likewise for us, my dear,” he added.
“I fear I’m too tired to consider anything about bed except sleeping,” said Jane.
“My poor darling!” said Caleb. “Then sleep; and dream about what we can do with four hundred quid if we can earn it.”
“The operative word, I fear, is ‘if’,” said Jane. “They say that where there’s muck there’s money, but if I had a penny for every smut, cobweb, piece of fluff or stain that Mrs. Ebden left, I’d not need to find jewellery. Unfortunately there is only muck without money.”
“In Spain, the guerrillas had a saying; ‘tomorrow is also a day’,” said Caleb. “It’s true. And things will look better in the morning.”

Jane and the Hidden Hoard 7-9

Sarah WaldockJune 21, 2015 10:33AM

Re: Jane and the Hidden Hoard 7-9

ShannaGJune 22, 2015 02:31AM

Re: Jane and the Hidden Hoard 7-9

HelenaJune 21, 2015 06:26PM


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