This week, I thought I’d share another sneaky scene from the new Dottie book that I am currently working on. I’ve already posted one scene on here a couple of months back, and so to prove that I am actually working, I thought I’d share another. ;D
So here it is…
Sir Nigel always ensured that Lady Matilda Cosgrove – one of his oldest and dearest friends – had the Ormulu Room whenever she came to stay. In fact, he rather counted on it, because otherwise he’d have to invite fewer guests or get them to share their rooms. Very few of the other guests would feel comfortable surrounded by so much ornate, gilded wood coupled with a rather dark marble. Lady Matilda liked the room. As far as Sir Nigel could tell, she was the only person in existence who did like the room.
It was a quarter to seven on a Saturday evening in June when Lady Matilda sat at the vast gold and dark brown dressing-table and allowed her maid to dress her hair in what they both deemed to be the most becoming fashion for a lady in her late sixties. They were deep in conversation about which gown Lady Matilda had worn to a certain affair in the Spring of 1881, when there came a tap on the door.
Salt, Lady Matilda’s maid, set down her comb and perfume bottle and turned to the door to state, ‘Come,’ with as much dignity as her ladyship herself.
The door opened. A timid little red-headed maid stood on the threshold looking extremely nervous.
‘Well?’ demanded Salt. She was a fierce protector of her ladyship’s privacy.
‘Begging your pardon, my lady,’ the young woman began, ‘but Sir Nigel’s compliments and would it suit your ladyship to place your jewellery into Sir Nigel’s safe for the evening? There’s been two break-ins on this square in the last week, and Sir Nigel doesn’t want to run any risks with your ladyship’s valuables. In fact, I’m to go to all the ladies – and the gentlemen – and take their valuables down to his lordship’s safe.’
She accompanied this information with a kind of bobbing curtsey, all the while nervously wringing her hands. Lady Matilda thought she was rather a sweet little thing.
‘And what is your name, my dear?’ demanded her ladyship.
‘Eliza, ma’am. Eliza Smallwood. I’m new in this establishment.’
‘Well, Eliza Smallwood, I should be most obliged if you would take my jewellery case to Sir Nigel at once and thank him for his good sense and kind thoughts. Salt, give the child the case. But make sure ot keep out what I need for this evening, obviously, won’t you.’
‘Yes, my lady.’
Salt extracted several glittering items of great value. Once Lady Matilda had nodded her approval, the case was locked up again, the tiny black key slipped into Salt’s pocket, and the case was handed to the young maid.
She gave another little bob and clutching the jewellery case to her as if her life depended on keeping it safe, she said, ‘Thank you, your ladyship. I’ll take these to Sir Nigel directly. Good evening.’
The door closed behind her, and Salt and Lady Matilda resumed their discussion relating to the precise colour and fabric of the gown worn on the evening of the Royal Gala over forty years earlier.
It was not long before the bell rang for dinner, and Lady Matilda descended the grand staircase to meet the other guests for a pre-dinner aperitif.
Sir Nigel greeted her with a beaming smile, taking both her hands in his and kissing first her left cheek then her right in his usual warm manner that Lady Matilda found delightfully Continental.
She lost no time in thanking him again for his invitation to stay for the weekend whilst George was overseas on his usual ambassadorial duties. As always, she offered her compliments on the charming Ormulu Bedroom, which had, she said, a rich glamour that one didn’t see everywhere. She asked after his health, heard with patience of his sciatica and stiff knees – she was herself a martyr to her knees, and promised to let him have Salt’s remedy for the relief of the discomfort – then she remarked,
‘It was so thoughtful of you to send up that sweet little girl to fetch my jewellery. I shall feel so much happier knowing my grandmother’s diamonds are safely locked away. These robberies are such a worry.’
He stared at her for a second or two too long, and she immediately divined that something was amiss. But before she could quiz him about it, the door was flung open and Salt ran in, tears streaming down her face, causing everyone to turn and stare, drinks halted halfway to their mouths.
She wailed, ‘Oh my dear lady, I’ve just found out. There isn’t any such maid as that Eliza girl in the house. And she’s gone off with all your valuables!’
And indeed she had. She had practically run down the back stairs with the jewellery case in her arms, knowing she had only a minute or two to make her escape. The side door was still ajar, and unseen by anyone, she slipped outside, pulling off her cap and apron and throwing them onto the grass, then she hopped into the waiting car at the end of the drive.
It sped off before anyone in the house had even realised there had been a robbery.