The newly weds traveled north by train and alighted at Preston. From there it was quite a journey to the small villages of Pilling and Preesall and the original family seat. They crossed the wide and flat expanse of Pilling Moss and Ameila could not help noticing the huge difference between the landscape here and that in B-shire, never mind the noisy streets and muck of London. They put up at a quiet inn, and of course there were nudges and winks from everyone who had guessed their ‘secret’ in an instant. Little did they care. They were in the first raptures of love and they spent those first few days walking across the sands, the lanes and the fields, marveling at the flatness of the land and the clearness of the view in every direction. Far to the north was the outline of the hills of the Lake District and to the east the gentle Bleasdale Fells, with the brooding Pendle Hill notorious for its witches. It rained from time to time, and Charles donned his Inverness cape and deerstalker hat (which Amelia had insisted on, although she could not persuade him to smoke his pipe in public!). From one angle she thought, he looked exactly like The Great Detective himself. They spent lots of time making love. Charles gradually introduced her to the tricks and games he had been taught by the beauties of India, which greatly increased the pleasure for both of them, and incidentally, greatly extended length of the act. To the extent, Amelia began to wonder, just what Charles had really been up to in India and began to doubt whether he had managed to find the time for any fighting at all.
Before the week was up, they moved from the quiet rural landscape to the bustling seaside place called Blackpool which Charles had visited on a number of occasions in his youth. The town was full of Lancashire cotton workers and Yorkshire woollen workers from the mills determined to have a good time on their only week off in the year, which gave rise to a rumbustious atmosphere. They stayed at a prestigious hotel on the north shore, so modern that it had lifts, which greatly helped Charles. They walked along the promenade with the noisy throng, and from time to time, older men would accost Charles regarding his lost leg. An old war wound they would ask, and his regiment and where he had served, and then, he being identified as an officer, the meeting always ended with a salute. They marveled at the Tower which was in the final stages of construction and saw how it dominated the flat landscape. Doubtless when it was finished it would be visible from Pilling.
Then disaster struck. They had kept the family informed of where they were staying on their travels and one day returning from their walk, they found a message from Hortense. Louis had taken a turn for the worse and it was vital that they return immediately. Anxiously scanning their Bradshaw, they identified suitable trains, hurriedly pack, paid the bill, with many apologies for not staying the allotted time, and left.
Much disturbed and dishevelled, they arrived home and hardly waiting to take off their travelling clothes, were shown upstairs by Hortense, Louis’ wife. She told them that three days ago his illness had become much more severe and they thought he would die that night, but he held on although there was not long to go now. Hortense thought that through sheer force of will he had struggled on to see them for one last time. They entered his room, Amelia first. Fortunately, she had had a number of bedside experiences like this, and as she moved towards him she smiled a gentle smile. He opened his eyes and smiled back. “You look so beautiful” he said. “Married life is doing you good. But remember”, and here his voice became a hoarse command “you have a duty to me, to Charles to your family to produce a son and heir” She leaned close to his ear “We have been trying very hard this past week, I can assure you” He cackled, which turned into a cough, and Charles moved forward towards Louis, as Amelia moved back. When the bout of coughing had ceased, Louis fiercely roused himself onto his elbow, grabbed Charles in a strong grip and said. “I have left the estate and the title to you. Make provision for Hortense and damn well make sure you produce an heir”. He fell back in exhaustion and weakly called for his wife. Charles and Amelia left the room. They looked at each other and they knew that they would not see Louis alive again.
After the funeral in the small parish church, walking back to the house, Charles leaned over to Amelia and said “A few short days ago, you were plain Miss Amelia Ecclestone, then for a very short time became Lady de la Rochelle and now you are Baroness Pilling and Preesall. Amelia look at him with adoring eyes. All she had ever wanted was him!
So ends the first volume of the story of Ameila Ecclestone, orphan. It started with a funeral and ends with one. Amelia has gone from being a Private Consulting Detective to a Baroness in 4 short years. What will become of her now? For the answer to that you will have to wait for this scribe to return to his keyboard once again and that may not be for some time.