The Best Of Both Worlds – Episode 46

The valet was interrupted as Lord Witney burst in.

“Good morning, Inspector. I do apologise for my late arrival.” He clutched a page of newspaper. “Runciman, I will need the motor brought round at once.”

Taking the butler aside, he unfolded the sheet, revealing a photograph.

Runciman shook his head. It was those women again, making utter fools of themselves with their banners and rallies, and getting themselves arrested. But just as he was wondering why his Lordship should have found the incident a matter of such urgency, his eyes rested on a woman at the side of the picture, her arm in the firm grasp of a police officer. The pinched face was unmistakable.

So that was where Hester had gone!

Lord Witney folded the newspaper, and Mr Mott appeared.

“Beg pardon, my Lord, the crock boy said you had sent for me?”

“Good morning, Mott. Inspector, I shall leave you in the capable hands of my butler, as I have an . . . errand to do. Don’t worry about the motor, Runciman, I shall see to it myself.” Lord Witney turned and was gone.

The inspector cleared his throat.

“These gardening books. Do they belong to you?”

“Yes, sir,” Mr Mott replied, puzzled. “I lent them to Ben Hanshaw.”

“Does he work for you?”

“Not officially, sir. I met the boy by chance, and have grown to trust him. In my view he has the makings of a fine gardener, and I wanted to give him a chance. In fact, I sent him to London for a couple of days with one of my journeymen, to the Royal Horticultural Exhibition. There is one every year at this time, an exhibition of apples. The lads will return this evening.”

Jenny bit her lip. Sarah had written to her about Ben’s mysterious announcement, and her suspicion that he was hiding something under his jacket. If only he’d explained about the books, and where he was going! Sarah and Joe would have been pleased.

He’d been unable to resist telling Jenny about his work in the garden, but had told her he wanted to keep his new life secret, at least for the moment.

The inspector picked up the black box, and Jenny held her breath as he lifted the lid. But he frowned as he took out a bracelet made of scarlet beads.

Jenny gasped.

“But that’s not ”

“There has obviously been a mistake.” Runciman’s jaw twitched as he eyed Phillip, whose face had contorted into a confused scowl.

The bracelet was made of cheap coloured glass, and Jenny guessed that Ben must have bought it from a pedlar or perhaps at the market. But the beads were graceful teardrops, and the colour was bright as holly berries. It looked very pretty as it twirled from the inspector’s fingers.

She gazed at it, unaware of Dorie’s soft sobs behind her. But suddenly they exploded.

“Oh! It was me! But I didn’t mean . . .” Dorie gasped for breath and was barely understandable.

“Dorie! What in the world?” Jenny whirled round.

“Ah.” The inspector walked slowly towards the terrified girl. “A confession.”

“Please, sir,” Jenny said, “she’s very upset.”

Runciman came forward.

“I believe it would be prudent to allow Jenny to question the girl.”

It took half an hour for her to extract an explanation from the wailing Dorie. She’d been sent upstairs to help Alice bring down the washing buckets from all the extra cleaning after the electricians had finished. Seeing the countess’s necklace on the dressing-table, Dorie had been unable to resist draping it round her neck.

“It was just to see how I looked. But then I heard the countess coming!”

In a panic, Dorie had hidden it down her chemise and had slipped out. She had been waiting all morning for a moment when she could sneak back upstairs and replace it. But the moment hadn’t come.

“Please, sir,” Jenny pleaded. “I’m sure Dorie wasn’t going to keep it.”

Mr Runciman dropped his voice.

“The fact is, that girl wouldn’t know the first thing about selling a valuable piece. I believe the incident was a slip of character which will not happen again.”

Under cover of Jenny’s arm, Dorie extracted the countess’s necklace from inside her dress, and held it out in her trembling palm.


Used to make posts more anonymous, eg a criminal case where you don’t want to expose the actual journalist.