The very next day, however, all excitement about the new lighting was extinguished by the news that the countess was missing a necklace.
“Will the person who took it go to prison, Jenny?” the scullery maid asked as the staff took their places in the hall.
“The inspector is here to ask questions, Dorie. There’s nothing to worry about.”
But the tell-tale quiver in Mr Runciman’s jaw said otherwise. The morning routines had been in chaos. Not only had he neglected his cup of tea, he had delivered the morning newspaper unironed to Lord Witney!
Jenny had never seen the countess so distraught. To make matters worse, apparently she’d had an argument with her husband the night before . . .
“It’s all my fault!” Thea cried.
Jenny had turned the room upside down looking for the necklace, but it was nowhere to be found. She had reported the disappearance to Mr Runciman.
Distressing as it was, it was puzzling to Jenny that the countess had been quite so overcome by that particular loss. It was hardly the most beautiful or valuable of her collection.
The countess looked at Jenny out of swollen eyes.
“After the ceremony last night, it felt so happy, with the house full of light. Even Bert seemed as if the lights had come on inside him. Then I spoiled everything, after you helped me into my dressing-gown and Bert and I were together. ‘Tomorrow they’ll install lighting in your father’s study and the library,’ I said. But Bert refused absolutely!”
Jenny gave her a sympathetic look.
“Perhaps, my lady, he felt Lord Farrington wouldn’t ”
“I said it wouldn’t be right to leave some of the rooms in that old fuddy-duddy way, and Bert went into his dressing-room and slammed the door.” Thea sighed, her shoulders sinking.
“I felt so upset and confused, and whenever I feel that way I take out all my pretty things and look at them. I’ve always loved that necklace. It’s the only piece of real jewellery that Daddy was able to give to Mother. She never had nice things when I was a little girl. It wasn’t until just before she died that Daddy got rich. She only had the chance to wear the necklace once, and she looked so beautiful . . .”
She began to weep afresh. Jenny took the silver brush from the dressing-table and ran it soothingly through the countess’s hair.
“I laid the necklace on the dressing-table and went to sleep. This morning I went to find Bert, and when I returned to my room the necklace was gone!”
“It may turn up, my lady,” Jenny said softly. “And you’ll always have memories of your mother. They’re more precious than jewels.”
There was an ache in Jenny’s heart. She had wonderful memories of her mother, but Emily, three years older, had so many more.