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Authors: E.V. Thompson

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BOOK: Churchyard and Hawke
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Talwyn realized that her reply was of importance to Tom and she did not have to feign pleasure at his tentative suggestion she was delighted. ‘What a lovely idea, Tom, I would like to meet her, she sounds as though she’s an extremely bright woman. Invite her to come here to Sunday dinner and I’ll cook something special for her.’

Tom had not led an easy life and had learned to hide his feelings, whatever the circumstances, but he was finding it difficult now. ‘I’ll go to Laneglos first thing in the morning and invite her . . . What I mean is, I will go there and interview her and if the opportunity arises I’ll ask her to come here to dinner on Sunday. Thank you . . . Thank you very much, Talwyn. ‘

Tom left the Hawke house early the next morning and walked to Laneglos to make inquiries about servants of ball guests who might have stayed on at the big house during the night of the burglary.

Flora seemed pleased to see him, greeting him with a warm and welcoming smile and suggesting they hold their conversation in the privacy of the housekeepers’ lounge. As they went to the room Tom explained his reason for his visit, but Flora seemed certain no servants from other houses had remained at Laneglos for a second night.

‘The house had been put straight by the time the family and the guests who stayed on came back from church. There might have been one of them hidden away in a maid’s room.’ she added, ‘It is certainly not unheard of, but it would mean instant dismissal for both of them, so it is unlikely to have happened. I will look into it thoroughly and let you know if I have any doubts. Was that your only reason for coming to Laneglos? If so you have had a very long walk for nothing.’

‘There is something else.’ Tom said, hesitantly, ‘but it’s of a more personal nature. Talwyn . . . Mrs Hawke, suggested I should ask you to come to their house for dinner one Sunday . . . This Sunday, if possible.’

The invitation took Flora by surprise. ‘Why should she ask me to her house for dinner, we have never even met?’

Trying with difficulty to make it appear that is was no more than a casual invitation, Tom said, ‘Talwyn takes a great interest in her husband’s work and he and I have mentioned you often - because you have been so helpful to us in our inquiries here, at Laneglos, so I think she would like to meet you. You’d like her, Flora, she is a very pleasant and intelligent woman.’

‘All the same . . . .’

For a moment Tom thought Flora was about to decline the invitation, but looking directly at him, she unexpectedly asked, ‘Will you be there too?’

Realizing that Flora knew very little about his personal life or circumstances, Tom said, ‘Yes. . . I am living at the Hawke house until things settle down a bit and I am able to look around for a place of my own.’

Flora thought she now understood the true reason why she was being asked to have a meal at the Hawke’s home and the knowledge gave her a thrill of pleasure. Although giving the impression of thinking about the invitation, she had already made up her mind and, eventually, she said, ‘It is a very kind invitation. Yes, I would love to visit the Hawke’s home for dinner.’

If Flora had entertained any doubts about Tom’s part in the invitation the expression on his face now would have dispelled them immediately.

‘That’s wonderful! . . . I mean, Talwyn will be delighted. Superintendent Hawke has said I can use his pony and trap to come and collect you.’

‘That will be an adventure in itself . . . but I would rather not have the servants gossiping about me - not that I have had any private life for them to gossip about, so far, but I would prefer it if you met me just up the lane from the lodge. It’s not far for me to walk and there’s a large oak where I can shelter if it’s raining, Shall we say about half-past ten?’

‘I’ll make sure I arrive early so you will have no need to wait.’ Tom said happily, ‘and you will like Talwyn, she and Amos . . . Superintendent Hawke, are a very close couple. The murder of Enid Merryn has upset her a lot. She once taught Enid when she attended her school - and then, of course, her own father was murdered too. That’s how she and Amos met. It happened before Cornwall had a police force and he was sent from Scotland Yard in London to investigate. She was able to help him catch the murderers - and she caught Amos too.’

‘It must be very satisfying to be able to help your husband, when he’s involved in such interesting and worthwhile work.’ Flora replied.

Their relationship had hardly begun, but the implications of her statement was not lost on either of them and for a few moments they each avoided meeting the eyes of the other.

At that moment a diversion came in the form of Lady Hogg’s personal maid. After knocking and being told to ‘Come in’, she entered the room looking distraught. ‘I am sorry to trouble you Miss Wicks but I am very concerned about Lady Hogg, she doesn’t seem at all well this morning. I think it might be something to do with all the business of moving to the dower-house. Coming on top of losing Lord Hogg it has all been a great strain for her. You know how strong and determined she usually is, but this morning she says she doesn’t feel like getting up and intends staying in bed today.’

‘That is certainly not like her ladyship.’ Flora agreed, ‘I’ll come and see her right away. Go back and remain with her until I get there.’

When the maid had left the housekeeper’s lounge, Tom said, ‘You’re busy, I’ll leave you now . . .’

Interrupting him, Flora said, ‘I am always pleased to see you, Tom . . . I think you know that, but Lady Hogg has been off-colour for a day or two. It is hardly surprising with all that’s been going on, she ought to rest more. Unfortunately, the Honourable Charles is still at Laneglos and it is not easy for anyone to relax when he’s around . . . but I must go now. Thank Mrs Hawke for her kind invitation - and thank you for offering to come and fetch me. It is exciting to think of getting away from Laneglos for a few hours, I don’t know when I last had any time away from the house and it has been particularly busy lately with one thing after another.’

Tom was delighted that she had accepted Talwyn’s invitation. He had learned nothing new about Enid’s murder, or the Laneglos burglary, but he left the great house a happy man, remembering Flora’s obvious delight at being asked out for the day.

CHAPTER 27

Although the days until the weekend seemed to pass exceedingly slowly, Sunday eventually came around and when Tom took Amos’s pony and trap to pick up Flora, he found her waiting anxiously at the appointed place.

Helping her into the trap, he gave her an admiring look. Her dark hair, which she usually kept pinned up, was now drawn back and allowed to hang beneath the back of a dark blue spoon bonnet. She also wore a dark blue velvet cloak beneath which he caught a glimpse of a pale blue poplin dress.

It was very different from the grey, rather austere garb she wore during her duty hours as housekeeper at Laneglos and he was aware she had dressed in her best clothes for the visit to the home of Amos and Talwyn.

It soon became evident that Flora was feeling nervous at the prospect of the meeting with her hosts but when she was seated and Tom set the pony off at a sharp trot, he said, ‘You look very, very smart, Flora.’

‘Thank you. To be honest this is the first time I have left Laneglos for the whole day and I am feeling nervous about meeting with Superintendent Hawke’s wife. What is she like?’

‘I think you will both get on very well. Talwyn is not dissimilar to you, she is intelligent, straightforward and attractive . . . you’ll like her, I’m quite sure of it.’

As he spoke Tom was guiding the pony past a farm labourer; who was leading three cart-horses along the narrow lane, the youngest of which was unused to a bridle and behaving in a skittish manner. As a result, Tom needed to maintain tight control of the pony and he was unaware he had inadvertently revealed more of his feelings for Flora than he might have done had he been thinking about what he was saying.

Flora was about to make a flippant response but stopped herself. Secretly delighted that Tom found her attractive, she was aware that by comparing her with Talwyn he had paid her a great - and sincere - compliment.

‘Where was Mrs Hawke teaching school when she taught Enid - and when she and Superintendent Hawke met?’

‘In Charlestown, on the south coast - but I know she would want you to call her Talwyn, as I do. I also call Superintendent Hawke "Amos" at home. It was in Charlestown where Talwyn met with Enid, but I don’t think she was able to teach her very much, apparently she was rather backward.’

‘She was, that’s why she would probably have never been more than a scullery-maid - or a kitchen-maid, at best, but she was a pleasant and willing girl. She certainly did not deserve what happened to her. But don’t let’s talk of dreadful things like that. . . not today. Tell me all you know about Mr and . . . about Talwyn and Amos.’

Much of the journey from Laneglos was spent in talking about the married couple with whom Flora would spend the day. For the remainder of the time Tom persuaded her to tell him of her childhood in a West Cornwall manor house where her mother had been housekeeper to an elderly relative of Lady Hogg and where, as a child, she had lessons with the relative’s grandchildren.

By the time her mother died Flora was already familiar with life in a large house and had come to work at Laneglos, where she swiftly rose through the servant ranks until she became assistant to the ailing housekeeper. When the housekeeper became too ill to continue Flora took over her duties and was still fulfilling that task.

Despite his earlier assurances to Flora about the welcome she would be given by Talwyn, Tom was apprehensive about their first meeting. He need not have worried, the two women took an instant liking to each other and when they discovered that Flora had read a number of the books that stood on Talwyn’s bookshelf they chatted happily about the merits and demerits of the various authors.

When Flora left the room with Talwyn to look at some chicks that had been hatched by a hen kept in a coop in the back garden Amos commented to Tom, ‘To listen to the two of them talking you would think they had known each other for years!’

‘It’s a great relief.’ Tom admitted, ‘I was concerned they might not get along - and I feel Flora needs someone she can talk to as a friend. She is in a very difficult position at Laneglos. As an employee, she could never confide in the family, yet, as housekeeper, she can’t become too friendly with any of the servants. In addition, she is exceptionally young to be a housekeeper and I sense there’s a certain amount of resentment of her among senior servants such as the butler and the cook.’

In a similar situation, being considered by some to be too young to be holding the rank of the most senior superintendent in the Cornwall constabulary, Amos gave his companion a wry smile, ‘I do know the feeling, Tom.’

‘Yes, of course, you must . . . but you have Talwyn to talk things over with. Flora has no one.’

Conceding the truth of Tom’s observation, Amos said, ‘That’s quite true, Tom, but are you hoping to rectify that situation for her?’

‘I would very much like to.’ Tom replied, ‘but I couldn’t ask her to give up the life she has at Laneglos in order to become the wife of a police sergeant.’

‘You can’t be certain of how she would feel about that until you know her well enough to ask her.’ Amos said, ‘and, of course, whether it’s what you really want. Besides, you are not going to remain a sergeant for very long, especially if we can find the murderer of Enid Merryn and get to the bottom of who is responsible for the burglary at Laneglos.’

In the garden, Talwyn and Flora were having a conversation on the same subject . . . and with equally inconclusive results.

As Flora stood by the small chicken run with a nervously cheeping three-day old chick cupped in her hand and expressing delight with the appealing little creature, Talwyn said, ‘You’ll obviously not be allowed to have pets in the big house?’

‘No . . . although the family keep two dogs and a bitch and she regularly has pups, so there is quite often something small to cuddle . . .’ Holding the chick up close to her face, she added, ‘. . . but they are far more troublesome than this little fellow . . . or is it a girl?’

‘It is still too early to tell.’ Talwyn replied, before adding, casually, ‘Do you ever wish you had a place of your own, where you could have a few pets . . . and a garden?’

Giving Talwyn an open smile that dispelled her fear that she might have offended her guest, Flora replied, ‘If you are asking whether I am ever likely to get married . . . it’s a question I sometimes ask myself.’

‘I used to do the same.’ Talwyn admitted, ‘I would spend my days teaching other people’s children and getting involved with their problems and wondering whether I would ever have a family life of my own . . . but then I met Amos.’

‘Tom has told me that Amos came to Cornwall and caught the murderers of your father but did you know right away that he was the man for you?’

Talwyn gave an amused laugh. ‘On the contrary, when we first met each other the horse he was riding was startled by a dog and knocked me on my backside on a muddy grass verge, ruining my favourite cloak and scattering my shopping over the ground. I was not amused - and told him so in no uncertain manner. What’s more, it took me a long time to forgive him.’

‘But you did eventually,’ Flora said, adding thoughtfully, ‘What’s more, you are still working at something you enjoy doing.’

‘I am - but there had to be a compromise. Fortunately, the chief constable is a very understanding man who has great faith in Amos and is not afraid to justify his decisions with considerable firmness should the police committee call them into question. He did that when Amos took on Tom, even though he was suffering from a broken wrist at the time. Fortunately, his decisions concerning both Amos and Tom have proved right and Amos says Tom has a great future in the Cornwall constabulary - if he decides to stay with us.’

‘Tom’s not thinking of leaving?’ Flora’s dismay was genuine - and Talwyn was delighted.

‘Amos wants him to stay and I think he has told Tom that if he does he will receive rapid promotion, but he knows that Tom enjoys the work he does and although he has had plenty of excitement during the time he has been here there is far more actual police work to be done in London.’

BOOK: Churchyard and Hawke
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