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Jane and the Hidden Hoard 10-12

June 24, 2015 08:35AM
Chapter 10

It was not an unusual matter for the master of the house to call the new butler and housekeeper to his study to ask how they were settling in, so no comment was made when Sir Colin sent word that he wished to see them both.
“Are you making any progress?” he asked.
“Only in the negative sense of knowing where the jewellery is not hidden,” said Caleb. “One cannot search both quickly and surreptitiously.”
“I have already encountered questions about spring cleaning, when Mrs. Ebden apparently had already done so,” said Jane. “Fortunately I have been able to counter that with comments about her idea of cleaning not being the same as mine. She wasn’t a very good housekeeper, although I have to say it doesn’t help, if a woman is not of decided personality, to have less than no support from the lady of the house.”
Sir Colin sighed.
“My sister is very selfish, I fear, and not very practical. She was a sickly child, and we all spoiled her. It has become habit.”
“Ah, I understand,” said Jane. “Have you ever considered remarriage? I doubt Mrs. Whitby would mind, so long as she was secure and was not asked to leave the house.”
Sir Colin shot Jane a shrewd look.
“I suspect you of matchmaking,” he said.
“I thought the match already obvious,” said Jane.
“It is improper for a man to force his attentions on an underling,” said Sir Colin.
“The word in question in that sentence is ‘force’,” said Jane. “You might want to ascertain how Catherine feels about it.”
“Catherine? That is Pippy’s name? how pretty!” said Sir Colin.
“Never Kate,” advised Jane.
“No, quite, she could never be a Kate. Do you think ….”
“I think she might not be entirely indifferent,” said Jane. Catherine’s blushes whenever she mentioned Sir Colin seemed suggestive to her.
“Then I must make an effort to court her … have you any suggestions, Mrs. Armitage?”
“I suggest that you should offer to escort her and the children to the fair, tomorrow, Sir Colin. The children will not take much encouragement to run off on their own, and Amy is young enough to be in no real danger from lecherous men. Then you may show Catherine around the fair, and treat her, and have fun. Find out what she wants to do. May all the servants have the day off for the fair after the morning chores are complete, and a cold collation be left for both luncheon and dinner?”
“I suppose so,” said Sir Colin, dubiously. “May I ask why?”
“Because if we can turn everyone out of the house we may get on better with a more obvious search without someone wanting to know what we are about, poking and prying into cupboards and above archetraves and up unused chimneys,” said Caleb, bluntly.
“Ah! I see!” enlightenment dawned on Sir Colin’s face. “I wondered if it was merely compassion since you have been making them hop rather!”
“Well, they will work better if shown some leniency from time to time and a bit of time off,” said Jane. “They have got into some very lax ways, and have had to be chivvied rather. The Ebdens were no sort of butler and housekeeper really.”
“Well, I had not really noticed before, but I have to say, I don’t know what you have been doing, but my bed has been more comfortable since you took over, and I cannot thing why,” said Sir Colin.
“Having the mattress turned and pummelled every day,” said Jane. “Mattie has tried to pummel them, but a girl on her own can’t turn a mattress, and Mrs. Ebden never sent two girls to do the bedrooms. And I doubt Catherine Phipps had time to do more than sort out the accounts, for they had been left in something of a confusion, and her responsibilities to Amy meant she could not really indulge in the full duties of a housekeeper.”
Jane did wonder if Catherine even knew all the duties of a housemaid, that a housekeeper must oversee. It was only through reading ‘The New London Family Cook, or Town and Country Housekeeper’s guide’ that Jane had learned some of the hints and tips on cleaning. She had learned much more from Mrs. Ketch, the housekeeper in her London house, who was, with much regret, left in that house while it was let. Basics of course she had learned at the knee of Miss Bates, but the running of a big country house was not something either had needed to know about. Jane and Miss Bates, aided by the little maid-of-all-work, Patty, had done most of the chores in Mrs. Bates’ house that were assigned by the better off to housemaids!
“Well, well! There is more to the task of being a housekeeper than I thought; I thought she just oversaw the maids and saw to buying the food to eat,” said Sir Colin.
“Overseeing the maids requires knowing all their tasks and being able to show them if necessary,” said Jane, “and making sure they do not skimp, by checking for dust on tops of doorframes, fluff under beds and so on. As to buying food, that has to be planned so as to leave least waste, so that if one makes marchpane with egg yolks, one uses up the whites to make royal icing, or meringues. Waste should not be permitted. And also knowing how to choose food so as not to be fobbed off with poor butter or fish that is less than fresh. And it is not just food that must be bought.”
“I thought the butler was in charge of liquor?” said Sir Colin.
“He is; but have you never considered that you would find life very uncomfortable if your boots were never blacked, your breeches never cleaned with buffball, if there was no hard soap to wash your hands, if stains remained on furniture for the want of one of a number of household substances required to remove them, if there was no light after sunset because there were no candles, or no oil in the lamps, and how hard it would be to continue your business if ink and pens were not replenished regularly?” said Jane. “A housekeeper must keep a supply too of such ingredients as are needed for sundry nostrums and cures even if she is not skilled in the still room, and I am not especially knowledgeable, I confess. I can manage the more common herbal cures, but no more! And it is profligate to purchase commercial cleaning and polishing products when the ingredients to make one might also be found in another, even if the extravagant claims made by the sellers of such things were not quite unbelievable!”
“I am amazed,” said Sir Colin, who indeed looked startled. “My dear Mrs. Armitage, had I known the degree of hard work this would involve you in, I should never have dared to ask a lady to undertake this task!”
Jane smiled her prim smile.
“But you see, Sir Colin, a true lady is equal to the task of being her own housekeeper, and though your house and household are larger than any I have been used to, the tasks are still much the same.”
He shook his head.
“I am sorry that Annabelle is not equal to the task of being a true lady of the house,” he said.
“I am sure, however, that Catherine will rise to the occasion admirably,” said Jane.

All the soap in the household was bought in for the purpose, as the fires were coal fires, so there was no wood ash to make lye. Jane was glad; she had never made soap and though she had read how to do it was not certain that she would manage to make a good job of it. Shaving the hard bar soap to make a froth was Lottie’s job, and Jane left the maids to the task, complaining heartily that the house had no laundrymaid, whilst she instructed Mattie and Tibby on the care of the more delicate fabrics that would not go through the copper to be washed. If Tibby wished to be more than just a mender of clothes she would not learn any younger how to launder any delicate fabrics that came her way, and Mattie needed to know if she was to train up to become a housekeeper. The other girls might have been jealous, had not Julia laughed her loud laugh and declared that she had no desire to be messing about with things that could get you turned off for using the wrong smelly substance on them. At least the laundering of most of the fabrics was quite straightforward, though Jane had to remind them that they would not need to boil the water as one had to for linen, and nor would the bed coverings and curtains need pounding. This heartened the other maids mightily, since one hard and back-breaking chore was not required. There was not the level of grime to be removed as might be found in underlinen, and these fabrics had to have little more done to them than be shown the hot, soapy water, and be wrung and well rinsed. It would kill any fleas in them and remove what was mostly merely dust.
The velvet curtains would be beaten once the others were hung to dry, and beaten where their dust would not settle on the cotton ones; and Jane herself dealt with the few brocade and painted cloth ones, sending Mattie to help the others when she had seen what must be done. And Jane must be ready to oversee the beating of curtains and carpets, because Julia was the sort of girl to begin horseplay with a carpet beater.

It was Caleb who encountered the third serious suspect, Peter Tippet, more closely. Tippet came to the butler’s pantry.
“I say, Armitage, might I borrow that boy of yours for a day?” he asked.
“What was it you wanted him for, sir? He’s a little young if you were planning on training him to the High Toby,” said Caleb.
“Training him to …” Tippet burst out laughing. “Armitage, you are a man of humour, and with such a straight face, I admit you almost caught me! He’s a bright lad, is Simon, and I’d a mind to ask if I might use him as a messenger lad for a day. He’ll miss much of the fair, but I’ll vail him well to make up for it. I wanted to use the fair to check up on certain of Sir Colin’s tenants, for I am sure that there are a couple, brothers, who are abusing their tenancy terms, and slyly manufacturing goods against the tenancy agreement, and they’ll be likely to try selling them at the fair. Not, however, if they see me, so I wanted a clever pair of eyes who could watch them when they think they are safe, and then bring me to catch them red-handed.”
“How will they think they are safe? I don’t want Simon put at any great risk if these tenants think you have sent a spy,” said Caleb.
“I planned to ride out this afternoon and ask Simon to ride up with me until I put him off, so he can sneak up and recognise them, and I will remind them that Lady Day is this month, for their rents, and drop into conversation that I have to go to London for Sir Colin on the morrow.”
Caleb nodded.
“Better if Simon rides Master Gregory’s horse behind you, and slips off it when you signal, adjusting your stirrup, say,” he said. “If anyone sees you riding with a lad on your crupper, Simon’s not indistinctive.”
“That’s an excellent idea, Armitage. Can he handle Greg’s roan?”
“He can handle any horse I’ve seen him with,” said Caleb, “and he’s known a few mettlesome beasts.”
“Then that will answer excellently,” said Tippet.
“What will you do with these tenants if you do catch them?” asked Caleb, curiously.
“It’s not up to me; that will be for Sir Colin to decide,” said Tippet. “If they want to set up a business firing pots, they will have to pay more rent for the increased risk of fire, and because it is a profitable business, and because the smuts are a nuisance. They ain’t exactly Josiah Wedgewood and son, but you can’t have people setting up crafts that are a nuisance to others willy-nilly. I suspect them of having a kiln hidden in the woods, and I haven’t run it to earth yet, but if they are caught and confronted with it, they can be made to build it somewhere safer. And to be honest, they’d probably make more profit if they were working openly, but it contravenes the tenancy, and instead of coming honestly to ask if they might negotiate the agreement, the silly fellows are operating on the sly.”
“That does sound foolish,” said Caleb. “Are their pots sound?”
“That I don’t know,” said Tippet, “and it’s something else that needs to be investigated. But one of them was a potter before his brother asked if there was a tenancy available for him. So one would assume so.”
“Well, you are welcome to Simon, if you can use him,” said Caleb. “I’m sure he’ll enjoy himself.”
Tippet laughed.
“So would Gregory, but they’d know him, and fine lad as Roger Ferrers is, he hasn’t the initiative to make a decision on when to find me,” he said.
Caleb nodded.
“Simon has ambitions to study law,” he said. “He’d probably be interested in the details of the tenancy agreement.”
“Really? Then I’ll explain to him more fully than I had intended,” said Tippet. “Much obliged to you, Armitage.”

Richard Neville was not happy to find carpets being beaten as he sallied out, and retired, coughing.
“How much longer is this dratted housecleaning going on?” he demanded.
“Until it is finished, sir,” said Jane. “It has not been done properly for years. Naturally that means there is more to do.”
“You’re more efficient than Mrs. Ebden are you?”
“I could scarcely be less, sir,” said Jane.
The long day of laundry was finally over, and because of the wet, the newly washed rugs and most of the other laundry must be hung up in the coach house, out of the rain and where it could not drip on anything that mattered. It might take more than a week to get it dry in such inclement weather. However, that was the least thing to worry about. Jane went to bed, confident of several hours to search the house on the morrow and at least rummage through those places that a housekeeper and butler might not normally be expected to interfere, like the gun room, and the study.

Chapter 11

The servants jostled and chattered too much through their breakfast and were fidgety to be at the daily work so that they might then be excused to go to the fair. Jane felt obliged to point out that anyone who skimped her work, or broke anything through carelessness would not be going to the fair, and therefore it was in their interests not to wriggle like a gaggle of infants stuck in the Mailcoach without a Jordan.
There was some improvement.
Jane was no less impatient to get rid of the household than the majority of the servants were to go; all save Gaston, who declared that he had no desire to visit some bucolic revelry, and that with everyone out of the way he would indulge his genius in creating confections such as none had seen before. Jane had never seriously intended to search the kitchens in any case; like the stables, all places of potential concealment were in use, and any servant might be expected to stumble upon anything thus hidden. At last, however, Caleb might bow Sir Colin out of the door, with two excited young people and a blushing Miss Phipps, as the servants left in little knots or pairs from the back door.
Mr. Tippet had already left with Simon, to drive him closer to where the fair was held, rather than tire his twisted foot. Simon protested that he could walk as well as anyone on his built up boot, and Peter Tippet said,
“See here, young Simon! I’m responsible to your father for you, and you might end up spending a lot of the day on your feet! How do you think I’d feel if I had to tell him I’d worn you out and hurt you?”
“Reckon you’re a right one to think of it, sir, but I … I don’t want to be treated like a cripple,” said Simon.
“You ain’t. You have a bit of a weakness. I sprained my ankle when I was a year or two younger than you, and it took several years before I could walk without tiring. So I have some idea, lad. And with all the willpower in the world, sometimes you have to let your pride take second place. I don’t doubt but that by the time you’re grown, your leg will be as strong as any man’s.”
Mens sana in corpore sano don’t always cut it, you mean,” said Simon.
Tippet’s brows rose.
“A Latin scholar, are you?” he asked.
“Well, I need to be, if I have any ambition to be a lawyer,” said Simon. “Ma taught me some, and I can work on my own.”
“Well, my own origins are moderately humble, and your mother has the air of a lady about her,” said Tippet, “So I wish you all the best and hope you might succeed!”
Simon could have kicked himself, for he had almost given the game away. Mr. Tippet was altogether too easy to talk to!

Back in the Hall, Jane and Caleb exchanged looks.
“Is everyone out?” asked Jane.
“All but the witless widow and Mr. Neville Braxton,” said Caleb. “Mr. Richard Neville has ridden into Chelmsford over a gelding, or so I heard him say to his father; Mr. Makepeace spends Saturdays over at the vicarage playing chess with the vicar, who presumably does not plan to grace the fair with his presence, and apart from Gaston, I think all the servants but Chorleigh have taken the time off as they were offered. Oh, and Sour Milk, or whatever Mrs. Whitby’s dresser is called.”
“Oh dear, will we have Chorleigh creeping around like a spy for the Spanish Inquisition?” said Jane, in dismay. “I cannot like it that Mr. Braxton is still in the house too, either.”
“I cannot say I am enamoured of it either, my love,” said Caleb, “but let us get on and search. At least we shall not be falling over people at every turn as we might otherwise do.”

Caleb searched the gun room with an oily rag, so that if asked, he might claim to be oiling the stocks of the guns, and checking the flints, which needed doing in any case from time to time on those guns which used them. As the guns were pristine, and many of them using percussion caps in any case, presumably Sir Colin undertook this task himself, and would doubtless have found anything hidden there. Caleb was just about to return a fowling piece to its proper drawer when there was a gasp behind him, and he turned.
Mrs. Whitby stood there with her hand at her throat.
“Oh Ebden, I pray you, do not shoot me!” she cried.
“Why should I wish to shoot you, Madam?” asked Caleb, perplexed, turning back to put the gun away. He turned back to face the widow, and bowed. “The name is ‘Armitage’, Madam,” he added.
“Oh! Oh dear! I quite thought you were like that other dreadful butler and planned to murder us in our beds!” cried Mrs. Whitby.
Caleb shot her a suspicious look. Surely nobody could genuinely come out with such a piece of fatuous twaddle without it being made up on the spot to humbug him? Could the widow really be the mastermind behind the Ebdens’ fall from grace, and was her insistence on forgetting names a ruse? She looked genuinely frightened, and her colour came and went, but that could also be because she feared the jewels being discovered.
“Was there anything you needed, Madam, or may I continue to oil the master’s guns?” asked Caleb.
“Oh! Nothing, I heard a noise and supposed Colin was back,” said Mrs. Whitby. “I cannot suppose he will be long, though; there can be nothing to entertain him at some tedious country fair. Why, there is nothing to see or buy, and he cannot find himself amused for long having to put up with children. They fatigue me in no time at all, they and that boring little dab who cares for them.”
Caleb reflected that Miss Phipps might not find her sister-in-law elect to be very good company. How this stupid woman might describe an educated woman as boring, though, escaped him.
“I am sure that Sir Colin will enjoy himself vicariously through the enjoyment of the children,” he said, moving on to open the next drawer.
Mrs. Whitby gave a little scream as he took out the shotgun therein, like many of the others a very modern Pauly breechloader.
“Oh! Is it loaded?” she cried.
“Extremely unlikely, Madam,” said Caleb. “No gentleman would readily put away a loaded piece, but I will break it and check.”
“Oh Armward, if you break it, it will come out of your wages!” declared Mrs. Whitby.
“It is the term used for opening the gun, bending it in half if you will, to both carry it safely when loaded, and to check it is not loaded,” said Caleb. “It is a very safe kind of gun.”
She was not interested; there was no point showing her the exciting hinged mechanism whereby the barrel was broken open and the self-contained Pauly cartridge inserted. It should make for less shooting accidents, if more gentlemen would only use it, than happened with muzzle loaders.
Mrs. Whitby was, however, plainly quite as unintelligent as she appeared, and with a sigh, Caleb shut the drawer again. It was the last one in any case. He had already looked in the cupboards that held the ammunition, and had even broken open some of the packets of shot to make sure they were shot, not diamonds. Sir Colin would be tolerant of that, he was sure.
“Would you like my wife to make you a cup of tea, Madam?” he asked.
She looked at him suspiciously.
“Why have you two not gone to the fair?” she asked.
“The chance to get on with some cleaning without a bunch of feckless, half-trained nincompoops underfoot,” said Caleb, almost without thinking. “Ebden and Mrs. Ebden have not trained the servants very well, Madam. They need to learn, but the more delicate tasks are better done without their dubious assistance. I wish to see to all the glassware as well,” he added.
“Oh,” said Mrs. Whitby, vaguely.

Jane was having to put up with Mr. Braxton, who came to ask if she might iron his neckcloths.
“And they are not starched, either; just because Chorleigh and Summerby starch and iron Sir Colin’s and Richard’s neckcloths is no excuse for the girls to ignore mine!” he declared. Jane thought his face wore the same look her young son Joseph wore when his valiant attempts to stand were in vain.
“If you want the girls to attempt to starch and iron your neckcloths, Sir, I suggest you overestimate their abilities and take your comfort in peril” she said.
“What do you mean?”
“I have not yet attempted to teach them how to starch garments, sir, since I have every expectation that half of them would overdo the starch, leaving you with an immobile board of a neckcloth; and the other half would put in too little. And doubtless all would fail to take the starch into account, even if it were perfectly done, and would manage to scorch them,” said Jane. “We have no laundry maid, though I shall be recommending to Sir Colin that we get one. The maids should not be expected to know the niceties of a specialist skill like starching.”
“Well, will you do it?” asked Braxton. “I have a dozen here.”
“Very well, sir; they might be dry by Wednesday,” said Jane.
“Wednesday? I want them today!”
“Well, I cannot starch them and have them ready today,” said Jane. “I can iron them for you.”
“I suppose that will have to do,” said Braxton. “Mrs. Ebden always did them for me.”
Jane compressed her lips and set the iron to heat in the iron oven of the housekeeper’s fire.
“I can make sure that your neckclothes are starched and ironed in the future, sir,” she said. “It was not made clear that I was to undertake this extra duty.”
“Well, you are. Mrs. Ebden didn’t need to be asked, she’s taken care of them always,” said Braxton.
“But then, Mrs. Ebden has known you from childhood, and knows what you want,” said Jane.
By the time she had ironed the offending neck cloths, and Mr. Braxton had taken them without a word of thanks, Jane was feeling thoroughly peevish, and impatient. She set to work searching diligently, pausing only to carry a light luncheon through as a buffet for the family if anyone wished to partake of it, and to join Caleb in discussing what Gaston had prepared for them. Silvia Larson, otherwise known as ‘Sour Milk’ snatched some food and a plate and took it off on her own, scorning to eat with the other servants. Chorleigh however joined them, and insisted on a long grace.
“Mr. Chorleigh,” said Jane, “My grandfather was a vicar and he would have considered such an excess display of piety to be a form of vanity.”
She was surprised to see Chorleigh redden.
“Alas, Mrs. Armitage! You are correct,” said the valet, sadly. “I was overcome by my pride in my piety and wished to demonstrate it in front of Mr. Armitage. I am at fault, and must pray for forgiveness.”
“Do it quietly,” said Caleb. “We’ve had a trying day so far, trying to get on without any fools underfoot, but I was beset by Mrs. Whitby, and Mrs. Armitage by Mr. Braxton whining about his neckcloths.”
Chorleigh was heard to murmur something about empty vessels making most noise.

Richard Neville came storming into the house shortly after the servants had eaten, and Caleb was in the process of clearing the buffet.
“Would you like me to leave the cold collation for you, sir?” asked Caleb.
“What the devil are you doing, sneaking around here?” demanded Richard.
“At the moment, clearing the food left for those family members remaining at home, sir,” said Caleb.
“Who is at home then?” demanded Richard.
“Mrs. Whitby and Mr. Braxton have not been out today, sir,” said Caleb, wishing that he had Richard Neville as a subaltern under his command for a few days to lick the puppy into shape.
“Oh. No, I don’t suppose Aunt Annabelle would go out,” said Richard. “Uncommonly good of you to stay home.”
“My wife and I wished to get some of the more delicate cleaning done in any case,” said Caleb. “I have checked all the guns in the gun room, and was admiring the Pauly mechanism. They are kept in excellent condition.”
“Oh, yes, the guns are my responsibility, it pays to look after them,” said Richard. “You know about guns?”
“I was invalided out of the army, sir,” said Caleb.
“Oh, beg your pardon. Of course you understand guns. Sorry I was sharp,” said Richard. “It’s a great advance. Of course breech loading guns have been around since the seventeenth century, but they were hand-built in all respects, and the province of princes only.”
“Is that so, sir? I confess I did not know the history,” said Caleb. “A day when one learns something is a good day.”
“I like shooting, and I like to know about the things that are my pastimes,” said Richard. “And sometimes knowledge can save you a packet; the horse I went to see was throwing out splints. People should be shot for permitting their colts to overwork and form splints.”
“I wouldn’t disagree, sir,” said Caleb. “I’m too tall to ride any but a big mount, but my son, Simon, is very knowledgeable about horses.”
“Oh yes, the new stablehand. Good lad, that. I didn’t see him when I put my horse up.”
“He’s away with Mr. Tippet, sir,” said Caleb.
“Oh, he won’t come to any harm with Peter, though he might be subjected to the odd lecture on what some dead Roman has to say about something,” said Richard. “Yes, do leave the food, Armitage; I’ll ring when I’ve finished.”
“Very good, sir,” said Caleb.
The reason for the temper was apparently that someone had tried to cheat the young man. That was understandable.

Neither Jane nor Caleb found themselves any further to finding any jewels by the time the first laughing party of servants returned; but at least all cupboards downstairs had now been searched, and, as Caleb said, whole battalions of spiders rompéd and put to flight. Caleb had also discovered death watch beetle in a window seat that was made of an old dower chest, and was taking steps accordingly.
“And that must have been unnerving, ticking away like an insane clock, when the Ebdens were hiding the jewels,” said Jane. “I’d have avoided that room if it was I!”
“I doubt they had the imagination to be unnerved,” said Caleb. “Well, as I am not convinced of the current sobriety of the footmen, it looks as though it is I who shall be laying out the cold collation for dinner as well. I will see you in bed, Mrs. Armitage.
“I will hope to be awake for it, Mr. Armitage,” said Jane, ruefully.

Chapter 12

The morning dawned rainy, and Jane scowled at it as she got unwillingly out of bed. She did not, as many housekeepers did, require one of the housemaids to bring her and Caleb a cup of tea in bed, since Jane felt that one could only lead by example, and was no later rising than any of her underlings. Indeed, she brewed tea for them in the housekeeper’s room and handed out any extra tasks they were to tackle whilst they drank it. She had bought her own tea for the purpose, since many employers would be scandalised at the idea of wasting expensive tea on the servants. Jane provided tea for her own servants too; an inferior blended tea, rather than the three or four types of tea she liked to blend for herself, since most of them preferred it. She had provided the same type for the girls here, and drank it herself, managing not to grimace. The mild stimulant was good for them.
Jane had scarcely put the kettle to boil when she heard scream after scream echoing through the house. She hastily moved the kettle to the trivet, and went running.
She tracked the screams to one of the parlours, where Susan was busy having hysterics, and Julia, still tricked out in the gaudy yellow dress in which she had gone to the fair, lay on the floor near the fireplace, her cheaply pretty face pretty no longer as it was quite black, and her tongue protruded and her eyes stared with that expression of unearthly knowledge so often found upon the dead.
Jane gave Susan a little shake and a hug.
“Go and get Mr. Armitage, Susan, and then ask Mattie to go and tell the Master what has happened,” she said.
Susan gulped, and sobbed, and nodded; and ran off.
Jane viewed the body. There was no point searching for signs of life, since that was long extinct. There was paper in here for writing letters, and ink, and Jane made a rapid sketch of how the body lay. She then sketched the wrinkled marks on the dead girl’s neck, suggesting some kind of scarf or cloth was used to strangle her, smooth lines across the front, so it had been thrown around her neck from behind. A necklace sparkled beside Julia’s body, at first sight emeralds in a golden setting, but it did not take more than a second glance to see that it was glass set in brass, a fairing of some kind.
She heard Caleb’s heavy, soft tread.
He whistled.
“Now that’s unexpected … is that … no, it’s a fairing, isn’t it?”
“It is, but if you wondered for a moment if it was part of the hidden hoard, did somebody else do so too?” asked Jane. “He could not have very good eyesight.”
“Oh but consider, Jane-girl,” said Caleb, “You are looking at her and at her tawdry necklace in daylight, for … Susan, was it? … came in and opened the curtains as is the custom, before turning to do the rest of her chores, and seeing the grisly sight. Look, there is a candelabra by the Venetian mirror over the mantle, and the candles have burned out and guttered, spreading wax everywhere. I wager when we examine her we shall find that rigor is well established. She was killed last night.”
“Yes, of course,” said Jane. “She is still in her holiday finery for the fair, and she probably crept down after the others were asleep to admire herself in her new necklace. I suspect it may have been a gift from an admirer. Julia was a girl who liked having plenty of admirers. Someone came in, saw the sparkling necklace and jumped to conclusions. Why didn’t Julia see him in the mirror and turn to fight off an attack?”
“Would he perhaps have exclaimed and asked where she got that?” asked Caleb.
“Yes, and Julia, being Julia, would have eyed up his reflection in the mirror and said coyly ‘wouldn’t you like to know’,” said Jane. “Because she would assume any male would be jealous of one she had accepted a gift from, poor little wanton. I suspect the only reason that it was Susan who got pregnant not Julia is because Julia knows … knew … how to take herbal precautions and make liberal use of vinegar.”
“So our assailant came over, perhaps puts his hands on her shoulders … no, it’s a ligature, not manual strangulation … gets out a silk scarf and says ‘this would look better on your pretty neck’ and then he has tightened it before she can cry out. There’s a cut on her neck where he ripped the necklace off after she was dead, and the catch is broken. He looked at it more closely, realised he had killed her for nothing, and threw it down in disgust.”
“That is even more of a tragedy,” said Jane, softly. “I could not like Julia, but she never deserved for this to happen. This has become more than a favour to Sir Colin to save his business.”
“Indeed,” Caleb agreed, soberly. “I’ll affix your sketches in my occurrence book if I may, Jane-girl; time for Bow Street to emerge from livery.”

Sir Colin came into the room at a run at that point; he was dressed in a banyan of Chinese silk, and was a exotic figure with bright birds all over the garment.
“What’s this about a terrible accident? Good G-d!” as he saw Julia.
“Not an accident, Sir Colin, but deliberate murder,” said Caleb. “Your thief has just become a murderer.”
Sir Colin stared.
“But … but surely none of my household can have done this?” he demanded.
Caleb’s eyes narrowed.
“I assure you, Sir Colin, in my role of butler, I saw that all the doors and windows were secured last night. Not even your outdoor servants could have come in to kill this poor girl.”
“But … are you sure it is murder?” asked Sir Colin.
“Yes. It is impossible to strangle oneself,” said Caleb, “and the marks of her strangulation by a scarf are unmistakeable. It is not at the angle for a hanging, and moreover, it is most unusual for anyone who has hanged themselves, deliberately or by accident, to then cut themselves down and remove both the ligature and the means of suspension.”
Sir Colin flushed.
“There is no need to be sarcastic, Armitage,” he said.
“Is there not? You seemed determined to deny the facts,” said Caleb, bitterly. “You have lost your jewels and potentially your livelihood. You have assets which would permit you to survive even that. This poor girl has lost her life, and all because your thief is a hasty man.”
“Come, can you be sure it is the same man?”
“When he has plainly killed her to get hold of what he took to be jewellery she had found, throwing it disdainfully away when he saw it was but a piece of trumpery from the fair? I think the inference is obvious.”
“You go too far, Armitage.”
“No, Sir Colin. And it’s Captain Armitage. This goes beyond a commission for you, though of course I will still carry that out. This is now a matter for Bow Street to be open. And my wife and I will be moving to a guest chamber and resuming our own clothes to continue this investigation. I cannot work on a murder case and a theft and be a butler. Mostyn will just have to rise to the occasion.”
“Good G-d!” said Sir Colin. “You play a butler so well, Ar… Captain Armitage, that one forgets you are a gentleman. I apologise!”
Caleb inclined his head.
“Accepted,” he said. “And I apologise too for taking out some of my anger on you. That this should happen under my very nose I take very much amiss.”
“We think the girl crept down to admire herself, waiting for the household to go to sleep,” said Jane, “and that the thief was abroad, probably hoping to search the house on his own account whilst the servants slept off drinking too freely at the fair. He saw the necklace in the uncertain light of the candles, probably taxed her with where she got it, and Julia, being Julia, probably returned an impudent and evasive answer and was killed for her pains. Poor girl!”
“You were very fond of her, Mrs. Armitage?” asked Sir Colin.
“No, I disliked her intensely, but she was under my care, and like my husband, I take it very amiss that my care was insufficient and that she has been foully done to death. I am glad though that you are not making any comments about her being only a servant and so it can be hushed up. My husband will make arrangements for her to be taken to the church when we have finished examining her, but we shall have to then have the indoor household summoned to your dining hall, which is large enough, and tell them the truth. As Caleb says, we can no longer work undercover. And I will not be playing the spinet for your sister every afternoon from now on, which has been a great frustration.”
“I am sorry,” said Sir Colin, who had flushed guiltily when Jane praised him for not wishing to hush up the death of a servant.
“Perhaps you can break the news to your sister ahead of time,” said Caleb, dryly. “It may take several repetitions for her to understand.”
“Alas, yes,” said Sir Colin. “I will go and dress. I will send out word that all are to be in the dining room at … is noon too early, after church?”
“Noon gives me plenty of time,” said Caleb. “Jane-girl, will you apprise that protégé of yours, as I will Mostyn, ahead of time?”
“Yes; Catherine cannot be expected to leave Amy when this has happened,” said Jane. “Sir Colin, you may tell Catherine privately as well. And tell her why I do not ask her to resume the role of housekeeper. Both Caleb and I will be there to help our protégés to carry out the roles assigned to them.”
“And to take Cadell behind the stables if he makes trouble,” said Caleb, grimly. “Mostyn has had some sharp lessons, and will make a better butler for it.”
“I am not sure I can keep him, even so,” said Sir Colin. “Not as butler, in any case.”
“That’s not a problem. I was thinking of offering him a job as butler to relieve poor Fowler of the task,” said Caleb. “I don’t think he’ll err again. It was weakness and uncertainty, and good training remove both those reasons.”

Jane performed a closer examination on Julia’s body, and was not surprised to discover that she appeared to have been intimately involved with one or more men at some point. She was a well-built girl, but had apparently been take sufficiently by surprise by the attack that she had been unable to fight back, and her nails, cut short as a housemaid’s must be, yielded no threads to help identify a scarf. The poor girl’s body might be arranged as decently as it might be, with the onset of rigor, and two grooms summoned to take it to the church for prayers and burial. Now the practicalities of the day must be attended to.

“Mrs. Armitage and I need to give you some news and ask you both for a favour,” said Caleb to Mostyn and Mattie. “We are not here genuinely as butler and housekeeper; we have posed in those positions, since we knew we could support them, to help the Master find the jewellery stolen, that the Ebdens hid somewhere, before they were arrested.”
“There’s more?” gasped Mattie.
“There is, my girl, and enough to have the master need to sell this house from under you all if he can’t recover it, since it’s other people’s jewellery he had in his safekeeping,” said Caleb. “Which is why it hasn’t been mentioned. And I’m telling both of you because you are clever enough to see why you want that jewellery found.”
“Gawdstruth, yes,” said Mostyn, with feeling. “So you ain’t a butler? You could of fooled me.”
“I am quite good at it,” said Caleb. “An officer at Bow Street has to be rather adaptable, however, so as it was the livelihood of so many people involved, my wife and I left our own house in Romford to come here. I confess being servile has not been easy. But now that Julia has been murdered by that … by the person who mistakenly though she had found the jewellery, we can’t be hidden any more. So we need a temporary butler and housekeeper, and both of us will be ready to give you help and advice.”
“Sir Colin won’t like it,” said Mostyn.
“Sir Colin is not required to like it,” said Caleb. “I’m in charge from now on, and within the bounds of tact, he has to put up with it. And though he won’t keep you on as butler, I thought you might like to be my butler as my poor valet is doing two jobs right now.”
“Strewth he must be made of bloody iron,” said Mostyn.
“Fortunately for me, Fowler is a remarkable man,” said Caleb. “And he’ll help you out if you want the job.”
“O’ course I want it!” said Mostyn. “So, are you really Mr. Armitage?”
“I pulled rank and insisted on being Captain Armitage, but I don’t usually use it,” said Caleb. “I was that angry that Julia had been killed while I was on duty, so to speak.”
“Did she manage to ask for it?” asked Mattie.
“Well, Mattie, I don’t really believe anyone totally asks to be killed, but we do suspect that her behaviour probably made it likely,” said Caleb. “If a man came up behind her and asked where she got a necklace, what do you think she’d say?”
Mattie frowned.
“She’d laugh, and then she’d ask him if he didn’t think she was pretty enough to be given gifts, or something of that sort,” she said. “Oh, he thought someone had found the jewels and given her some?”
“That’s a possibility,” said Jane. “We wondered if she was yet more evasive and asked if he would really like to know, implying, in his mind, that she’d found them, rather than, in her mind, hinting that another man found her attractive enough to buy them.”
“Oh! Yes, that would be the sort of thing she’d say,” said Mattie. “How silly of her! But then, she couldn’t know that he wanted to take her life, not her honour.”
“Quite so. Which is why she didn’t ask for it,” said Caleb.
Matty flushed.
“I didn’t mean to be unfair to her, sir,” she said.
“No, but your assumption that her cheek was what cost her life shows that we are on the right track,” said Jane. “Can you handle the girls as housekeeper in my room?”
“I think so, Ma’am,” said Mattie. “It would be Julia who questioned my authority, Martha will sulk that you did not choose her, though.”
“I’ll sort out Martha if she becomes a problem,” said Jane, firmly. “Good. You’d better wear my cap; it’s moderately matronly and authoritative”
“Yes, Ma’am,” said Mattie.

Jane and the Hidden Hoard 10-12

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