MA Book 13 – Chapter 1 – The End Game (for the time being)

Amelia received an invitation from her Father’s and Guardian’s old regiment inviting her to a ball to mark the return of the regiment from India. She was very reluctant to go alone, especially as it would bring back all the heart ache of 4 years ago when her Guardians were cruelly murdered. She showed the invitation to her friend Alice, who offered to attend with husband McKenzie as their chaperon. Alice told her that really she owed it to her Father and her Guardian,  who had both served the Regiment with distinction. Eventually she was persuaded and agreed to go.

When then arrived at the ball Amelia is treated as royalty as ‘daughter of the regiment’ with both father and Guardian among the ‘Honours’, as the famous private consulting detective and as a very beautiful, unmarried woman. She is taken round the dance floor by a succession of handsome (and not so handsome), young (and not so young) men until she is exhausted. At every interval she is so besieged by suitors she has little time to take refreshment, and she lost count of the number of times she is asked ‘out onto the terrace’ or requests to visit her or take her out in the near future. Poor Alice and Mckenzie were quite neglected, although Alice is experienced enough to keep a watchful eye on Amelia from a distance, whilst still having a good time herself. Then, during a pause, Amelia had the shock of her life. Idly looking across the ballroom floor, her eyes met a stranger’s but he was not a stranger it was Samuel, Subaltern, Samuel Cooper and her heart leapt

So it was that late in the evening, a tired Amelia, tired of all the attention edged towards a corner of the room and took a cordial from a passing waiter. As she stood there observing the continuing festivities and slowly beginning to relax she heard a voice from behind her “You look worn out” the voice said “Have you enjoyed your evening?”. As she turned to look at the speaker, she saw a man sitting on a chair against the wall. “Its usual” she said in an irritable voice “when a gentleman addresses a lady he stands up to do so, may be even offering his chair for her to sit down”  “Well you are grumpy” he said, making no attempt to stand “If you are tired I will arrange for someone to bring you a chair and you can talk to me for a while” She looked at the man, slightly red of cheek and repeated “If you were a gentleman, you would offer me your seat and search out another one for yourself. I am tired and I would like to sit down. Get onto your feet and let me rest my weary legs. My feet are killing me”. She noticed that the man was a little older than her, although without giving him more attention that she wished to, she could not be sure. He said “I am sorry to disappoint you dear lady” (an address that Amelia hated because it was so condescending, and one that she had never been able to get Dr Watson out of) “But I have only one foot on account of my only having one leg. The other I am sorry to say I left behind on on the plains of India as vulture food” Amelia did not turn a hair. It was a pathetic excuse and she did not believe a word of it.  Apparently out of nowhere, appeared a chair and two glasses of rum punch. Clearly the man had influence and had communicated his needs to a waiter without Amelia being aware of it. “Have a drink of this its warm” he said “It will thaw your icy demeanour from the outside”.  I don’t need to stay to be insulted like this, said Amelia to herself but she couldn’t understand why she was taking it in the first place. After 4 years of dealing with every type of man from the landed gentry to the scum of the earth, so could think of no way to put down the man who would not stand up to give her his seat. She put it down to exhaustion and glancing round the room could see one or two potential beaus who were posed to accost her the moment she left her ‘hole in the corner’. She felt she had no option but to stay with him until Alice appeared to rescue her. He spoke “It is not etiquette for a gentleman to speak to a lady without being introduced  . . .” but before he could go on she spat out “But you are no gentleman are you?” He ignored her outburst, and the slight smile around the edge of his mouth suggested that he was quite enjoying this diversion, even if she was not. “My name is Charles de la Rochelle, late Captain in the Regiment and now a farmer in B–. Who are you?” Before she could stop herself she said “My name is Amelia Ecclestone daughter of the Regiment and for the last 4 years a private consulting detective, following in the footsteps of Mr Sherlock Holmes. I’m quite well known amongst the criminal fraternity and the detectives at Scotland Yard” It was out before she could stop sounded so patronising. Then she started to feel warm inside from the rum and life started to look quite a bit better. Its quite amazing what a glass of hot rum punch will do to a girl, especially one like Amelia, not in the habit of taking alcohol outside meal times. Pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss Ecclestone, famous detective. He offered his hand and she took it having no other option without being totally rude. It was strong and there was a rough texture to the skin which she put down to his being a farmer, but the smile. He gave her a flashing smile which was impossible to ignore and again, having no other option she smiled back.

At that instance she spotted Alice out of the corner of her eye making her way towards the corner, a minute ago she had wished her to come, now she did not want to leave that wonderful smile. Alice approached and said “Hello, Amelia, how are you? You are looking tired and I certainly am, so perhaps we can begin preparing to depart. She looked at the man and then turned expectantly to Ameila, raising her eyebrow. “This is Charles er” she started “de la Rochelle” he finished extending his hand. “I am sorry I cannot get up very easily that is because I lost a leg in service of my Queen and Country.” Alice took his had and gave him a look of sympathy. “I am sorry to hear that sir. Was that in service with the Regiment in India?” “Yes madam” he replied. Amelia turned to leave with only a perfunctory nod towards Charles who called out to her receding back. “May I call on you tomorrow?”. “No” was the reply, thrown over her shoulder.

The instance Alice reached home after dropping Amelia at her own front door, she sat down and wrote a note to Mr de la Rochelle, inviting him to call upon Miss Ecclestone at 12 0’clock on the following day. The servant delivered the note to the address of Mr de la Rochelle’s brother, where he was staying just as he arrived from the ball.


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