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Jane and the elephants

May 19, 2017 05:07PM
I found myself in need of some short stories to have enough with Jane and the Burning Question and Jane and the Poacher's secret, so here is the first. Jane meets her sister-in-law and her husband for the first time, and a problem follows them from India

Jane and the elephants

Jane had hastened to the side of her aunt, now Mrs. George Coate, to be with her for that lady’s confinement. Fortunately, Jane was fit and healthy in the middle trimester of her own pregnancy, and was glad to be at her Aunt Hetty’s side.
She was, however, only just in time, and assisted at the birth of a surprise package; twins!
“My goodness, Aunt Hetty!” Jane said. “Fancy managing a whole family at once!”
“Check it’s not triplets, I read in the paper of a woman who had three babies,” said Hetty.
“I think you’ve managed enough with two,” laughed Jane. “A boy and a girl; have you thought of names?”
“Yes, we were going to name them for ourselves,” said Hetty.
“George and Henrietta?”
“No, Henry and Georgiana,” said Hetty. “We discussed what names we would like for either boy or girl and that was what we came up with.”
“A much better solution,” agreed Jane. “It’s been quite a year for babies; Caleb’s sister, Sukey, wrote that she had a little girl this spring, after she had given up hope of another daughter. They are coming back to England for the sake of the children, it is so hot in India!”
“Oh, indeed, and not healthy,” said Hetty. “How many do they have?”
“Baby Priscilla is the fifth,” said Jane. John is a year older than our Simon and William a year younger, so they will be going to school with him. Phoebe, the oldest girl, is eight, then Edward is a couple of years younger. It’s a big gap to the baby.”
“Indeed, yes! I am glad they are coming home, will Sukey’s husband have a job here?”
“Yes, he has been offered a job in the London office of the East India Company, and he has also contrived to make a comfortable fortune by trading on his own account,” said Jane. “Caleb is looking for a property near to us, so we might be close to them.”
“How nice! Dear Jane, I am tired; will you leave me now?”
“Of course, dear Aunt. I’ll send in Uncle George to see his offspring.”

Jane embraced the woman she only knew through the uncertain correspondence overseas. Sukey was a tall, buxom woman with laughter lines, and hair a shade redder than that of her younger brother. Her husband was an inch or two shorter than she was, and burned as brown as if he was Indian himself, and even in the warm, late September sunshine, he and the children were shivering.
“It’s as well it’s been a warm year, you would be suffering if it had been 1816, the year without a summer,” said Jane. “Come in and we’ll have a fire, and my maids will fetch you all shawls, including the lovely one you bought me for a wedding present, Sukey!”
“Oh, I am going to like you, Jane, you are practical!” Sukey declared. “I was afraid you might be a little bit top-lofty, like the wives I have to meet now John has worked his way up in the company.”
“Oh, I can be top-lofty if I feel like it, but never with family,” laughed Jane. “Simon, find some warm clothes for your cousins, Phoebe shall be wrapped in my own shawl.”
“Come along, John, William, Edward,” said Simon.
The boys were prepared for their uncle’s adoptive son being crippled with a withered arm and short leg and twisted face, but his activity startled them.
“Why, Cousin Simon, we were expecting a cripple in a bath chair who had to be good at Latin because he was no good at anything else,” said Edward.
Simon laughed as John and William exchanged guilty looks.
“I don’t let it beat me,” he said. “I fish and shoot and ride like any other gentleman. I’ll be showing you the best streams and taking you shooting when you have adapted to the cold of England!”
“We look forward to it,” said John, earnestly. “And Papa said you might help us catch up our schoolwork too. Which we ain’t looking forward to, nowise, but it has to be done to avoid being whipped I suppose.”
“Oh Henry don’t whip you unless you’re wilfully naughty,” said Simon. “He’s a great gun, and he’ll hear your verbs while fishing, though I guess if we end up with many more chaps he may have to stop doing so.”
“He sounds a good chap,” said John.
“He is, we met him when we were solving a murder in Yorkshire, I’ll tell you all about it,” said Simon, dragging the boys off.
“Well, they appear to be getting on famously,” said Jane.
“I confess, like the boys, I was not expecting your Simon to be so active,” said Sukey. “I quite understood Caleb adopting him for pity, and it was when I warmed to you, that you should support him in that.”
“Simon is one of the cleverest people I’ve ever met,” said Jane. “And we’ve done what we can to strengthen his game leg, and he wears a built-up sole. His arm is harder to strengthen, but he wears a shoulder brace to help him shoot. We are very proud of him.”
“Yes,” put in Caleb, “And I have assured him that he is my heir, whether this child of my body is a boy or a girl. Joseph inherits his father’s property, and I will not have Simon done out of anything. And it’s all legal and in writing, with Mr. John Knightley, my lawyer. ”
“And quite right too,” said Jane. “Why, Sukey, elephants?”
“We thought they were rather splendid to use as plant stands,” said Sukey, “So John bought a pair as a gift to you. They were being brought by the ship we came on, and we could not resist. There’s nothing quite so Indian as an elephant. They are ceramic of some kind.”
“They are splendid,” said Jane. “We shall have one at the bottom of the stairs and one at the top, and I shall put on them, they will look splendid with all that red and gold painting on them.”
“And how very English that will be!” said John. “We are glad to be back, even though we are not prepared for the weather.”
“It will be healthier for Priscilla, and for Phoebe,” said Sukey. “And Edward has been ill in the heat, too.”
“We must introduce you to the Steggalls family,” said Caleb. “All adult now, but they recall moving back to England with their mother. Now, come and take tea! Mrs. Barnard has been in her element, cooking for us all.”
“You manage to keep plenty of servants,” said John. “We were told that it would be harder to get English servants than Indian, and although my man, Kumar Din, consented to come, none of the ayahs, the nurse maids, would come.”
“Priscilla can share Annie with Frances and Joseph,” said Jane. “And perhaps Henry will be flexible enough to permit Phoebe to do lessons with Edward.”
“My goodness! It is so very different,” said Sukey. “We had an ayah for the two older boys, and one each for Phoebe and Edward. But we have not permitted them to get lazy.”
“Good,” said Caleb. “Perhaps I can spare David, here, to teach the two younger ones while Henry concentrates on the older boys. We need Henry to get married, so we can have a governess for Gregory’s sister, Amy, and Aunt Hetty’s nieces, Helene and Daphne.”
“Oh, I’ll employ a governess for the school, and as to the rest, that will be up to Henry,” said Jane, equably.
“You’ll pick one he likes, I have no doubt, Jane-girl,” said Caleb.
The family were to stay until they had hired enough servants for the house Caleb had found for them, an old property he had noted when they had been investigating the burning of the Attwood property. It had half a dozen bedrooms, so that even if the older children had a room each, there would be room for one guest at least. And John might add to it if he wished, as Caleb pointed out over dinner.
John smiled, grimly.
“Yes, and at least I’ve already done well enough for myself, and still have a job, though heads are likely to roll in the mining department.”
“Why’s that?” Henry Redmayne was at dinner, and spoke up.
“There have been thefts. Thefts of emeralds, which apparently are disappearing entirely,” said John Perrin. “There’s some evidence that they are being smuggled into England, but nobody has any idea how.”
“Worrying,” said Caleb.
“Yes, and I’m glad I’m not in any way involved in the policing of the problem,” said John. “I almost volunteered my clever brother-in-law, but I didn’t think you’d thank me for dragging you out to India.”
“Thank you, no,” said Caleb. “I might have thought it a lark once, but I’m not about to drag Jane there.”
“I cannot say that I enjoy even the heat of the English summer,” said Jane. “However, if it were Caleb’s duty, I would of course follow him, even to Africa.”
“You wouldn’t enjoy India, Jane,” said Sukey. “You have fairer skin than I have, and I found the heat oppressive at times. I was glad to go north with the other wives in the hottest season.”
“And there it was open season on the subalterns sent to protect them,” said John. “predatory memsahibs hunting them for their daughters.”
“Quite as bad as a London Season,” laughed Jane.
“Not something I know about,” said Sukey.
“Nor I, really,” said Jane. “I’ve seen the periphery of it. But your daughters will make their come-out, because of the myth that Caleb is the natural son of the Duke of York, which his officer put about when he gave Caleb a commission.” Her eyes widened. “And of course, you have more right to be there, as the child of someone illustrious,” she added. Mrs. Armitage had been a maid in a wealthy household before she was raped by her master, and Sukey had been the result. Caleb’s father had married their mother, adopting Sukey, and treating her as his own.
“Pa was the best father anyone can have,” said Sukey, softly. “And I prefer to have been reared by him in a rookery than to have been reared by the Earl of Wulcombe.”
“Lud!” said Caleb, choking on his mouthful. “You’re Felix Lovell’s half-sister?”
“I don’t know,” said Sukey. “Who is Felix Lovell?”
“The current Earl of Wulcombe,” said Jane, dryly. “Famous, I must write to him; he and Honoria will certainly receive you, for he was very fond of his half-brother, Basil. I suppose it should not be surprising that his father had other side issues as well as the unspeakable Amos Sparrow.”
“Good grief, you actually move in the same circles as these people?” Sukey looked shocked.
“Caleb solved the murder of Basil Wolf, as the lad called himself,” said Jane. “And saved Wulcombe from acting rashly by shooting the murderer.”
“But … Jane, what is he like?”
“He is a man who would not turn off a maid who had got pregnant by one of his men, he wanted them to marry. He is a man of compassion. His betrothed wife is a friend of mine, a nice girl.”
“Well! I confess to being taken aback,” said Sukey. “He’ll despise me for keeping the pet name Pa gave me.”
“No he won’t,” said Jane. “Besides, when Caleb and I have a daughter, she will be Susanna, after you.”
“Thank you,” said Sukey. “Oh my! What a shock!”
“I say, he’ll either be a good brother to you, in which case it is a nice surprise, or he won’t and we shan’t be any worse off,” said John.
“A man after my own heart; sensible,” laughed Caleb. “And I would not despise Wulcombe as a member of my family; I will permit him to be your brother, Sukey.”
This raised a general laugh.
“What a coincidence!” said Jane.

The night was not to be peaceful.
Jane and Caleb were drifting off to sleep when there was a loud crash downstairs. Caleb was out of bed in an instant, grabbing his pistols and rapidly kindling a flame from a taper to the fire to light his dark lantern. Jane grabbed her pistol too. She would not follow Caleb this time, but there was no harm in being prepared.
Caleb met Fowler on the landing, as Ella slipped in to be with Jane and the lighted candles..
“Someone fell over the elephant, if you ask me,” muttered Fowler. “So they know the house, but do not know that we have new ornaments.”
Caleb muttered agreement, and opened the door of the dark lantern, sweeping the bottom of the stairs.
The white faces of two men, kneeling by the wreckage of the elephant, looked up, startled. One of them pulled a pistol and fired, and Caleb fired back, hoping to wound. There was a cry, and another shot from downstairs hit the lantern. Caleb swore; it stung his hand to have the lantern jerked from it.
There was the sound of running feet, and the bang of a door.
Jane came out with a candle, and there was the sound of a female scream, in Mrs. Barnard’s voice.
“Ella, bring the master’s banyan; he’s frightening our burglars with his nakedness,” said Jane.
“Didn’t want the fellows frightening the ladies by getting upstairs, which they might have done if I stopped to put on trousers,” said Caleb, flushing. “There’s one wounded and the other got away and probably little use pursuing him. Fowler, put on some trousers and tie the fellow up.”
Fowler chuckled, being as well-dressed for the occasion as his master.
Shortly, man and master, more decorously clad in shirts, trousers and banyans, were examining their catch, who had expired before he could receive medical assistance.
“No great loss, he looks like a hired burglar in any case,” growled Caleb. “But I wonder why they took a hammer to our elephant?”
“Somehow, my dear, I doubt it was aesthetic outrage,” said Jane. “Poor Elephant! Will he mend?”
Caleb studied the pieces.
“I’ll get David to look at it and see,” he said. “Where is the dratted boy?”
“I’m sorry, sir, I slept through it,” David’s voice descended the stairs. “Simon just woke me up.”
“Henry is after the other one,” Simon’s young voice sounded. “He hadn’t gone to bed, and was in the library when the noise started.”
“How do you know that?” asked Caleb.
“Because I was in the library too, looking for a book to read because the cheese fricasee of cauliflower disagreed with me,” said Simon.
“I’m not surprised, the amount you ate,” said Jane, severely. “Didn’t the elephant have a hole in its belly?”
“Yes, it’s common with large porcelain pieces, or they’d explode when being fired,” said Caleb.
“Good; then I believe we need to carefully eviscerate the other elephant,” said Jane.
“Jane? Caleb? What is going on?” Sukey and John stepped from the further wing. “What do you mean, eviscerate the elephant?”
“Someone went to the trouble to break in, and break open one elephant,” said Jane. “I would like to see whether what they were looking for was in the other.” She carefully laid the big china elephant on his side, removed the label which was pasted over the hole to keep dust out, and wriggled a slender finger into the aperture.
She pulled out a sparkling web of silk, and as she pulled, there were sounds of something like stones falling onto the wooden floor. Jane picked one of the stones up.
“I believe this is an emerald, John,” she said.
“Good G-d!” said John. “My clever in-laws can solve the problem which has been driving the East India Company insane without even stirring from their house!”
“Not quite,” said Jane. “It was the thieves who solved it by smashing one elephant.”
“Be damned to that, it’ll make a better story the other way,” said John. “Good G-d, however much is in there?”
“Plenty,” said Jane. “And the silk is worth a bit too.”
“I didn’t hear of silk going astray,” admitted John, “But it doesn’t surprise me. I’ll need to take this into the office.”
“You won’t go alone,” said Caleb, grimly. “The door! Henry?”
Henry Redmayne came in, clutching his arm.
“He got a lucky shot off,” said he. “I’m sorry, Caleb, he got away. It’s not a serious wound, just a graze, but it’s sore and the b … fellow tore my shirt.”
Caleb shrugged.
“He’s a hired man, a local crook,” he said. “He’ll be caught another time. You want the organisers and you can bet that these two would not have known exactly what they were handling. They are not educated, and they would not recognise greenish gravel as emeralds. They will not have been told what they are, perhaps there might have been some story that these were special stones used in the making of silk gowns, so to bring them all along. That would make them take all the stones and not think of stealing any.”
John nodded.
“I see. You understand the criminal mind.”
“It’s my job. It’s your job to understand the market. We are both highly skilled in our own way.”
John nodded.
“Yes, I see,” he said. “The other elephants …”
“They were being sold on the wharf,” said John.
“If they know one was missing, they have already collected them,” said John.
“And there will be bills of sale which can be checked,” said Caleb. “I’m sorry, Jane, I’m going in to London to raise the Thames police, and get the records of the sales. John, go back to bed. In the morning, Fowler, David and Henry will escort you, and Will and Daniel. I’ll take Jackie. You roused them, Henry?”
“Our assailant roused them,” said Henry, who was having his arm bound up by Jane. “The three soldiers are on guard outside.”
“Simon, tell Jackie to saddle three horses. You may as well come, as a messenger. I’ll have a secure coach sent back to take you into London tomorrow, John.”
“Thank you!”
“Oh, don’t thank me; the East India Company will be paying for it, I reckon they can manage that,” said Caleb. “I’ll send them the bill.””
“They’ll be glad to pay it, especially if this theft stops, and they can get back any of the emeralds,” said John. “Dear me! Is your life always so busy, my dear sister, Jane?”
“Only intermittently,” said Jane.
“Is it safe for Caleb to take Simon?” asked Sukey. “Why, he’s younger than my Johnny, and barely older than Will!”
“He’s also been helping his father any time over the last two years, and Caleb would tell you he’s more useful than many a full-grown constable,” said Jane. “Simon will come to no harm, and I wager will manage to break and enter into any offices which need to have their records looked at.”
“Oh my goodness!” said Sukey, glad that her John was in a safe job which would not require her sons to undertake anything so risky.

Caleb had no difficulty in rousing Bow Street to send a secure carriage and to gain the co-operation of the river police. Several sleepy brokers were rousted out of their beds, or in the case of one, out of the brothel, and the ship ‘The Saucy Nancy’ was held by the river police whilst Caleb checked its manifest, and questioned the captain.
It became apparent that the captain of the ship was unaware of the use his vessel had been put to, and he started swearing, and roaring for his bo’sun and purser to help the police find out what happened to the [somewhat qualified] elephants.
The man who had bought two elephants for his own house was quite pleased when the police turned up and interrupted the robbery which was in progress. He was amazed when Caleb told Simon to get his slender hand inside, and uncover what there was. As with the elephants John had bought, one was empty, and the other full.
“I know what happened there,” said Fullerton, the purser of the Saucy Nancy. “There was heavy seas coming round the Cape, and there was one consignment of counted elephants for a party ready to buy them, and the rest, and they got a bit mixed up as you might say. And being all alike, we figured, so long as there was the right number, it didn’t matter.”
“Rather a rough wooing, as you might say, to become so commingled in such a mésalliance,” said Caleb. “And the large consignment was to go to….?”
“A Mr. Greenhalgh,” said the purser.
“Appropriate, considering he hoped for a green haul,” said Caleb. “Very well, my lads, let us seize Mr. Greenhalgh before he has a chance to hide his emeralds and silk.”

Anthony Greenhalgh was not expecting to have his house surrounded by Bow Street, hastily signed up constables from amongst the sailors on the Saucy Nancy, and be presented with a warrant to search his house. Caleb had turned out Nathanial Conant himself to obtain it, and was consequently able, with perfect urbanity, to present it to Greenhalgh.
“There must be a mistake, officer,” said Greenhalgh, who was wearing his nightshirt.
“Yes, Mr. Greenhalgh, there was,” said Caleb. “The mistake was to send two cullies to break into my house and break one of the elephants my brother-in-law gave me as a present. My wife is furious.”
Greenhalgh went a pasty white.
“Terrible, the violence there is today,” he said. “I … I was quite terrified to hear you knocking. Can you not come back in the morning?”
“Why, Mr. Greenhalgh, it is the morning; must be quite four o’clock,” said Caleb, equably. “And you hadn’t gone to bed, had you?”
“What do you mean? Can you not see that I am in my nightgown?”
“You forgot to put on your nightcap, and to remove your stockings,” said Caleb. “A man who feels the cold enough to wear stockings in bed will never be without his nightcap. And as one of my lads has just come in with a couple of bits of smashed elephant in his hand, I’m thinking he’s found out where you’ve been smashing up perfectly good elephants. Any silk, m’lad?”
“No, sir, but there’s a thread of silk caught in a bit of panelling in the room where these here hephalants has been smashed up,” said the temporary constable.
“Good man, I’ll see you get a reward for that smart piece of noticing,” said Caleb. “Show me. And bring along Macbeth there, while you’re at it,” he added.
“I thought his name was Greenhalgh?” said the sailor-constable.
“It is; but I’m going to call him Macbeth because methought ‘I heard a voice that cried “sleep no more! Macbeth hath murdered sleep”,’ and cully there woke my wife and me quite rudely by sending his hired men, and I object to my wife being disturbed. It’s from a play,” he added, kindly, by way of explanation.
“Oh, a play,” said the sailor. “I prefer opera dancers meself.”
“I’ve arrested an opera dancer once, for murder,” said Caleb. “Put me right off them.”
“Ooer,” said the sailor, subsiding.
“Are you going to show us how your secret door works or am I going to send for a sledgehammer?” asked Caleb.
“Are you mad?” demanded Greenhalgh.
“If I may use the word as I believe the Americans now use it, yes, I am furious,” said Caleb. “However, I won’t let that interfere with my professionalism.”
“Suppose I offered you some fine silks for your good wife … and a couple of hundred guineas ….”
“Suppose I don’t smash your nose across your corrupt face so you can still see to open the secret door,” said Caleb.
Greenhalgh gave in.
“Wot’s all that gravel?” asked the seaman.
“Emeralds, my lad, and if I was you, I wouldn’t nab a handfull. Any uncut emeralds are going to be hot potatoes for a while,” said Caleb. “I’ll see you get your reward.”

Caleb met John, outside the offices of the Honourable East India Company, and with Jackie and Simon, they carried in a trunk filled with silk and emeralds to go with those John had brought.
Spilling them dramatically on the floor had been Simon’s idea, and Caleb had liked it. Sometimes melodrama was fun.
John spoke rapidly to the large and sweating gentleman who came out to see what was going on.
“Bless my soul! Bless my soul!” he kept saying. “My goodness, I must have a message sent, to investigate these makers of elephants! Bless my soul!”
“And there may be other consignments sent before message can get to India,” said Caleb. “We have a Mr. Anthony Greenhalgh in custody for receiving stolen goods, and I do not think he has had time to send out a warning.”
“Oh bless my soul! Anthony Greenhalgh? Bless my soul!” The large gentleman mopped his brow. “A respected man, dear me, bless my soul! Gentlemen, I am overwhelmed. And … and as well as a proper reward, you must take your pick of silk for your good ladies.”
“I wager it was hard for them to give it up,” chuckled Caleb. “If that is in order?”
“Oh certainly, certainly! Take three … no, five saris each, please!”
Caleb was nothing loath, and picked out those he thought would please Jane most, one in black and silver, for a particularly fine mourning gown for next time a member of the royal family died, knowing how Jane hated mourning, one in her favourite blues and turquoises, and one in pinks and reds which he knew would look spectacular on her. One was gossamer thin and transparent in grey, lavender and silver, and one in lavender and gold would see her with unusual and beautiful gowns. John chose carefully for Sukey as well, and they went on their way back to Essex.

A very large note of hand was brought to Caleb within a very few days, representing ten percent of the monies he had saved the Honourable East India company. As he had acted initially as a private citizen, he was, said the letter, entitled to a full reward, as essentially a temporary hireling of the Honourable East India Company under his brother-in-law, and this had been cleared with Sir Nathanial Conant.
“I’ll be splitting this with you, of course, John,” he said.
“I’ve been sent a reward,” said John, looking up from his own correspondence. “They can afford to be generous with this consignment as they got it all back, and the depredations will cease. And some could argue they should give ten percent of anything that arrives in England before the gang in India is stopped, which I wager will be at least one more load, they are greedy. The letter I have received tells me that rubies have begun to disappear too.”
“So long as they have treated you fairly, old man,” said Caleb.
“We shan’t have any trouble affording servants now,” said John. “Are you going to retire from your uncomfortable and dangerous work for Bow Street?”
Caleb caught Jane’s eye across the breakfast table and read her reply in her eyes.
“Not on your life, John; it may be uncomfortable and dangerous, but it’s a good life and I enjoy it!” he declared.
Jane smiled serenely at him.
It was so much more rewarding being a law officer’s wife than merely being a woman of leisure.

Jane and the elephants

Sarah WaldockMay 19, 2017 05:07PM

Re: Jane and the elephants

Teresa DouglasMay 20, 2017 09:32AM

Re: Jane and the elephants

Amy BethMay 21, 2017 02:34AM

Re: you're right, I keep having a brain block (nfm)

Sarah WaldockMay 21, 2017 10:50AM


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