For the first time in ages, Amelia slept well. After a breakfast the next morning she sent a message to Alice telling her that Cousin Rupert had been arrested, and by the morning following the one she had been told about it by Sergeant Jones the sensational story was being carried by all the newspapers. Jones arrived early afternoon looking a lot better than he had the day before, clearly himself having had a good night’s sleep. He reported that Lyle was now in a cell at Scotland Yard. He had been interviewed and would be soon transferred to a local prison. Amelia asked him to stay for a beer and he willingly agreed. “The case is pretty much complete now. With your evidence and that of the two other witnesses, we should have no difficulty in getting a conviction, although these things take time and it will be some months at least before it comes to court. How are you feeling now? Is your terrible ordeal beginning to fade into the memory or is it still fresh in your mind? I have known people who have had nightmares about an ordeal like yours for months even years. Its quite normal.” Amelia assured him that she was coping well. She had had no nightmares or flashbacks so far but she was prepared for it to happen. She had had encounters with a cobra and a tiger in India which had left her traumatised, but she had got over them, and only occasionally dreamed about them these days. Jones drank his ale and started to relax. It was very pleasant sitting drinking beer and talking to an attractive women, and almost without thinking, he leaned forward, looked at Amelia in a very serious way and said “Miss Ecclestone, please can I offer you some serious advice? You must give up this notion of being a private detective. It is no job for a woman and as you have found out, it can lead you into serious danger.”
She retorted vigorously “Cousin Rupert broke into my house looking for the treasure. That would have happened if I had not been investigating what had happened to my Guardian.”
“Be that as it may, and it is disputable, I do not think that you should become involved in such a dangerous profession as fighting crime. You should leave that to us. PJ reported to me that you had told her that you intended not to marry, as you did not want to owned by a man, but its not like that. A marriage can be based on mutual respect, as my marriage to Bronwyn is. You are very beautiful. you should have little difficulty in finding a suitable husband and giving up this detecting nonsense.”
She flushed “Am I only beautiful, Sergeant? Why not clever, intelligent and hard working as well?”
“Well those as well” he said, quite getting out of his depth
“If I didn’t know better, with all these compliments I might think you are flirting with me!”
At this he flushed “I most certainly am not. I am a happily married man and I wish you good morning.” With as much dignity as he could muster, he stood up and headed for the door. He opened the door and was just about to leave the room, when Amelia called him “Sergeant Jones, your hat!” and smiling broadly she held his hat by the rim and spun it across the room into his hands. He winked at her, turned on his heel and was gone. Amelia was relieved that he had not resented her comments for too long.
Alice turned up at the front door. She was alone, having left her son in the care of the nurse. Having had the note from Amelia she had taken some of the morning papers and was all agog to hear Amelia’s side of the story. Amelia told her of the latest news from Sergeant Jones, but refrained from mentioning their little altercation, not least because the Sergeant’s advice had been the same as Alice’s and she was sure that Alice would say “I told you so” if she brought it up. Alice was very pleased for her and gave her a big hug. “Its such a relief that all your troubles seem to be over” she said.
“According to Jones, its likely to be a long time until the case comes up in court, but now I have to get on with my life and deal with that when the time comes. Actually, there is one thing I still have to do and that is invite my rescuers to tea. When I wrote to them, I did say that once the case was brought to a successful conclusion, I would ask them to visit. Seeing them again may bring back memories. Even though it was no more than two short weeks ago, it seems like it belongs to another age. It would be good to meet and talk, because at the moment I doubt if I would recognise them. The experience was such a blur to me.”
“I have an idea.” said Alice “Why not have a party, a proper party with food, drink and music. It would be a fitting end to the case and you could invite everyone involved, Ruddock, the police. Oh please let’s. I haven’t been to a party in ages, since well before my confinement. You will be able to charm your young men .”
“Not so much of the ‘my’ young men, please.”
“I will help you with the organisation. Go on! You have not been to a party since before the sad deaths of your Guardians and think of all the things that have happened since then, and all that you can be thankful for. Please lets do it!” and she gave Amelia such a pleading look that she could not do anything but give in to her friend. “All right.” she said “We’ll do it.” And they both had a surreptitious glass of gin to seal the deal.
“I hope this does not pass into my milk and make poor Julian drunk!” and having agreed what each of them was to do to prepare the party, Alice took her leave in high spirits (in both senses of the word) and a fired up Amelia got on immediately with planning her party. ‘What a wonderful idea it was of Alice to suggest a party’ she thought, ‘it will provide a fitting end to this most tragic time of my life, and I can start to move on. I shall never forget my Guardians and the way they looked after me after my parents died, and at the end they were so generous to leave me their possessions so that I could live my life in comfort and most importantly make my own decisions. I will invite the 5 young men and give them the opportunity to bring a partner with them and I’ll invite all those who have been connected with the case. This is going to be a party which will ignore class barriers, and if it scandalises Society so be it’ Alice, on reaching home, informed Mackenzie and she sat down and began immediately to plan. She drafted up an invitation and sent it off to the printers, and then she began to make a list of her own friends. She was sure that a lot of them would be keen to come to meet Amelia Ecclestone, the heroine of the hour.
Messages went back and forth between the friends and once the details had been thrashed out and the arrangements were underway, Amelia began to think what she would wear and all of a sudden she thought how exciting it would be to wear the beautiful ruby necklace she had taken from the treasure before she handed the rest over to the police. She was inviting Knott, Jones and Wilks to the party. How thrilling it would be to parade it in front of them! At her dressmakers , she finally settled on a dress in pale yellow, which would be striking in itself but show off the jewels to best effect. It was in the latest fashion, gone was the bustle and the layers of folds were replaced by the most beautiful embroidery with an array of flowers sewn to the skirt. The bodice of the dress was the fashionable one for evening wear, low cut showing off her firm breasts and a cleavage to make a man stare. She stared in the mirror whilst her dressmaker fussed around making detailed adjustments. Yes that would do very nicely.
It had taken time to arrange the party and she had a reply from Samuel regretting that by the time it was held, his regiment would have departed for the Sudan. Amelia was surprised just how disappointed she felt that he would not be there. She had not realised just what her feelings for him were; she still wasn’t sure about her feelings, but now he would be away for months, maybe years and her life would have moved on by then.
As the day of the party approached the two friends became excited but anxious that it would be a success. The evening finally arrived; Amelia put on her finery and admired herself in the mirror. She look every bit as striking as she had imagined. What would she say if she was asked about the necklace; she had not really thought. She left it to inspiration on the spur of the moment. She went down stairs to welcome Alice and Mackenzie who were the first to arrive. Alice was a nervous as she was, and Amelia saw the look on Alice’s face when she saw the necklace, but just as she was about to ask, there was another knock at the door, and Alice rushed away to take off her evening cloak and make last minute adjustments to her dress and make up. People then started to arrive rather quickly; many of them were Alice’s friends who Amelia did not know, but she welcomed them enthusiastically and showed them to the cloakroom. Ruddock arrived with his wife Bronwyn at the same time as Jane Wilks who had brought her uncle Bert, who was the member of the family who had encouraged her to join the police force. Amelia welcomed them all. Although Ruddock and Wilks had been in her house on numerous occasions they had only ever been upstairs to her consulting room. They brought Inspector Knott’s apologies; he had unavoidable been detained at work.
Then as far as Amelia was concerned the honoured guests in the form of her 5 young rescuers arrived together. They made an immediate impact with their boistrous behaviour, even before they had all got in through the front door. What they would be like when they had had their fill of drink, Amelia shuddered to think. There were each escorting a young lady, and she wondered what type of parent would allow their young daughters consort with young men about time without escort. Despite escorting a young lady, the first of them through the door, looked her up and down, momentarily resting his eyes on chest, whether the necklace or her cleavage she could not tell. he gave her a huge grin and said “Nice dress”.
“Thank you kindly, Sir.” she replied. The ones pushing from behind, moved him on and the conversation terminated. The forth man to arrive apologised that he was the last. “Sebastian wasn’t allowed to come to the party.” he said “He is engaged to be married and on the night we rescued you from the river, he had told his fiance that he was staying at home to read a book that she had recommended to him. When she found out she was livid. She just doesn’t like him coming out with us. She thinks we are a bad influence.
“I can well understand her thinking on that.” retorted Alice with a big smile. She leaned towards him conspiratorially so that the lady with him would not hear. “I would certainly not let any daughter of mine have anything to do with your antics nor would I let my fiance be led astray by you.” She carried on hurriedly “Not that I intend to marry. I do not want to be owned by a man.” She enjoyed the interchange, as did he and to show his pleasure he winked at her. These young men were so different from any circle of Society she moved in and she was not really sure just how to take them. It was clear that they would get into trouble and would be lucky if it did not turn out to be serious, but she had always to remember that they were the ones she had to thank for the fact that she was still alive.
for Amelia, the evening passed in a whirl. She lost count of the number of times she had to repeat her story, and as hostess spent lots of time introducing these people to those people. The music played, the wine and beer were drunk, the food was eaten, stories were told, laughter rang through the assembly. At one point she passed Alice. “I’m exhausted” confided Alice before being swept away. Mary and Joseph were kept busy making sure the temporary staff kept the guests’s needs were satisfied. Taking into account the Company, it was inevitable that they would be asked where was baby Jesus? and they had to smile and behave as though it was a joke there were hearing for the first time. Amelia drank more than she should have done without knowing it, and the ever perceptive Ruddock, on duty even when he was at a party, came close to her and asked in his most innocent manner “That is a most beautiful necklace. The rubies are very fine and the setting seems to be of Indian origin, is it?”
“Well actually ” began Amelia “playing for time. “Actually, it belonged to my mother. It was given to her as a present by an Indian Maharajah, who took a shine to her. When I met him when I was a little girl and asked Mamma afterwards, who the man in all the silks and jewelry was, she confided in me, that there was a point at which he could well have been my father, but she backed off and married my real father instead. It wasn’t until a long time afterwards that I realised what she had been hinting at and thought how wonderful it might have been to be a Maharajah’s daughter and live in a beautiful palace like Cinderella.” Ruddock smiled with a knowing look on his face “What an interesting story.” he said, but to Amelia’s relief he asked no more questions.
It was around 1 am that the guests started to drift away. As she left Jane said what wonderful evening it had been, she was sorry to have to leave, but she was on duty later in the day and had to get some sleep. as people left the general feeling seemed to be that it had been a good party, and everyone seemed very happy. The young men were the last to go, in fact Amelia had to ‘encourage’ them to leave. All of them made a pass at her as they walked though the door, totally ignoring any feelings their young ladies may have. When the last guests had gone, Amelia and Alice looked at each other. “A success” said Alice, “We must do it again.”
“Well not here” was the sharp but slurred retort. “We will have it at your house next time. The patient and loyal Mackenzie brought their coats and they left.
“A fitting end to the case” a tired by happy Amelia said to herself “We can safely leave the rest of the clearing up until morning” and she set off for bed.