The Mystery of the Danish Emeralds
In which Katie and Emily Bland, brave private detectives in the murky World of Victorian London,
Help Sherlock Holmes to solve the greatest puzzle of his life.
Written on the Holland America ms Prinsendam
By Old Grandad.
Chapter 1: The Briefcase in the Lyons Tea Shop
Emily always wondered afterwards what would have happened if it had been a fine day that afternoon instead of the dismal, unrelenting rain such as only a November day in London can produce. The girls had been planning to go to the park and had planned a modest picnic with cheese sandwiches and red apples. They had hoped for thin sunshine at least and the chance to walk about and keep warm. It had been showery through the morning but by lunchtime, the rain was pelting down. There could no picnic that afternoon.
“I hate this weather,” said Emily for the third time that afternoon as the girls stood in a doorway looking towards the park. “And I hate this place. I want to go home.”
There. Emily had been the first to say it, but Katie had thought it often enough since they had arrived in London six weeks earlier. They had left their parents in the sunshine of Hong Kong to come to London for their studies. Katie was going to attend a famous college for teachers; Emily was going to study to be a doctor at the world renowned Royal Free Hospital- the only hospital in the whole of England which would accept women students. Their classes began in two weeks; they had come early to find a place to stay - and to have a holiday together before all their hard work started.
They were young students by English standards. The fact is that they had completed all their studies at home and without normal classroom boundaries around the things they studied. When they found something interesting in their studies, they simply read everything they could about it. Because there were no slow students in the class, they flashed ahead and were ready for university at an age when most girls were just beginning to think about this. Katie loved reading and her mother taught her to love books and ideas. Their father, the doctor, had taught them science and mathematics and as soon as they were able, both girls came to help their father in his surgery at the Jardine Matheson company in Hong Kong. This was much more interesting than lessons from books.
They began doing simple things - changing dressings, cleaning up cuts, washing and sterilizing Father’s surgical equipment. Soon, however, Emily was wanting to do all sorts of complicated things. She learned how to manage a temperature, how to set a broken leg and how to treat burns and abrasions. On one dramatic afternoon, she even helped to deliver a baby when Father was called away at the crucial moment to help a sailor who had fallen from the rigging of a ship. You might think that a little girl would be terrified of doing some of these things - and this was almost true of Katie, perhaps. Katie loved to help her father and was delighted to be able to help the Chinese patients who were so brave and trusting when they came to father’s surgery. But as gentle and as good as she was, the blood and bodies often left her feeling green and weak.
But Emily? Never! She loved doing all these things and knew from the moment she could first think about her life that she wanted to be a doctor like her father. There was nowhere to train in Hong Kong and the time came when both the girls needed to leave to get the kind of qualifications that would open doors for them everywhere.
Of course, they had read about London in books for many years. They knew the names of many famous buildings and they knew some of the sad stories about the Kings and Queens who had lived in that great city. Katie in particular had read stories about London and about the exciting things that happened there. She knew about brave Oliver Twist and gentle Little Dorrit and mean Mr Scrooge. And yes, the famous streets and buildings were there and when they had arrived after the long voyage from Hong Kong they had excitedly gone to see the places they had heard about. But after just a little while, all they seemed to encounter was dismal weather; that was when they began to miss the place that they loved best.
They had found a little flat in Bloomsbury - just a couple of rooms with a tiny corner kitchen, a tin bath and a little fireplace. There was a rack for clothes, two shabby beds, a couple of mismatched chairs and some frowsy curtains in front of grimy windows. It improved- a little- after a thorough clean up. New curtains and rugs were brought from Hong Kong in big boxes which Mother had packed for them. Crates of china and linen and books were unpacked and some photographs of Monteith put on the mantelpiece. They put up all their Chinese things to make it look cheerful but they couldn’t help but think - as they ate their toast for tea or boiled an egg for breakfast - of their lovely home on the hill overlooking the harbour in Hong Kong. Emily missed the servants who kept everything so tidy; Katie missed everyone and everything. One photograph now standing on the mantelpiece showed the whole family at breakfast. This was the picture that always brought a tear to Katie’s eye because it showed [sneaking into the picture from the side of the verandah] the family of monkeys who often came down at breakfast looking for a banana or mango as a treat. Katie always made sure that she had something for them. Who would be giving them treats now, she wondered?
This particular afternoon they felt so homesick that they had gone out -despite the weather. If they couldn’t have a picnic, at least they might find a decent cup of Oolong tea. The girls would share a pot, talk to one another in Chinese and remember all the happy times they had had on the Hollywood Road where the tea shops poured the best tea and served the most scrumptious little cakes. They hadn’t been able to find anywhere in London half as good as the most ordinary teashops on the Hollywood Road. This afternoon, they had to settle for a Lyons Corner House tea shop near Russell Square. There were many posh restaurants and cafes in this expensive part of town, of course, but the girls couldn’t afford to go to any of them. [They were students, after all, and not grand ladies.] The Lyons House, at least, was cosy and warm and dry. Katie noticed, as they struggled with their wet coats at the door, two gentlemen under umbrellas on the opposite corner of the street looking at them intently and talking in a way that made Katie very uncomfortable indeed. By their looks and glances, they were obviously talking about the girls.
Such cheek and bad manners, Emily thought. Of course both Father and Mother had warned them about gentlemen in London streets and the girls were very alert - until they were settled with their tea pot and two enormous cream buns. Emily would have loved to have ordered a second cream bun but as she looked at the silver in her purse she knew that this would have been a terrible extravagance. The tea from the china pot was hot and strong and bitter- so unlike the delicious, light brew they had enjoyed in Hong Kong.
They sat at a table in the window of the tea shop with a view out into the rain swept street. The two gentlemen seemed to have disappeared and the girls could give all their attention to the cream buns which were indeed excellent. “It seems to be the only thing the English can cook!” said Emily sourly, remembering the delicious Chinese yum-cha they had enjoyed in Hong Kong.
And then there was a bustle at the door and the two gentlemen were there, dripping with wet and trying, Katie was sure, not to look at them - although really looking at them all the time. It was making her most uncomfortable. The gentlemen chose a table on the other side of the tea room. By the best of good luck, Emily found, she could look at the men by looking at their reflection in the big glass windows fronting the street. Even though it were only four o’clock, the night was drawing in and the gas lights of the street were being lit.
The two men ordered their tea and chatted quietly - although obviously still in some kind of dispute. Katie and Emily both remarked on how different they were from each other. The older man was shorter and seemed to walk with a little limp. Once his coat and hat were off and hanging on the rack at the door he looked kind and gentle but very serious. He also seemed to have a sadness about him. Emily noticed this because she had learned at her father’s surgery to be alert for things in a patient’s soul or spirit that might be just as important in their treatment as any wound or illness. Katie noticed it at once because she was, of course, the kindest person you might ever meet and she had a heart that reached out to people in trouble. This gentleman was perhaps a little older than their father - and actually rather a lot like Father in his kind ways. Katie felt she liked him straight away.
It took a little while to notice this man, unfortunately, because the other person seemed to suck up all your attention as soon as he came through the door. This man was tall and thin, in the comfortable, well cut clothes of a city gentleman - although he wore a heavy tweed overcoat and a deerstalker cap that was pulled down to keep the rain out of his collar. These were, of course, now hanging on the rack at the door. His face was thin and sharp but he was, both the girls realised immediately, sharp in every other way. His dark eyes took in the whole shop at a glance in a sneering, superior sort of way. Here was someone used to having his own way, Emily thought immediately. He seemed to take more of the table than his companion and appeared to be very much the boss of everyone he surveyed - from the gentle, Irish girl who came to take his order to the friend sitting beside him at the back booth.
The men ordered tea and drank it quickly. Interesting though they were, the girls were at that moment even more interested in their excellent cream buns. And then they were gone, stealthily and without fuss - so differently from their entrance.
“Here, Katie,” said Emily excitedly. “One of the gentlemen has left behind a briefcase. See if you can catch them!”
Katie struggled out of her seat, rushed to the door and into the road - which meant, of course, venturing out into the rain. She was quick but not quick enough, unfortunately. She was out the door just in time to see the gentlemen get into a hansom cab pulled by a tired looking grey horse. Katie could have sworn that the gentlemen looked her way - and even waved. But they were gone and Katie went back to her sister feeling that she had somehow missed an opportunity for excitement in the great, dreary city. If only she had known what was to happen in the next half an hour, this would have been the last thing she might have imagined!
Emily was holding the old, weather beaten briefcase when Katie returned. Her face was white and she looked as if she had seen a ghost. She gestured for Katie to sit back down at the table in the window and Katie was clever enough to tell from Emily’s face that she shouldn’t make a fuss. Almost no one had seen what had happened and no one seemed to care about the gentlemen coming and going. [One was likely to meet any number of strange gentlemen in London tea shops on rainy days, I suppose.]
“Katie,” said Emily breathlessly. “I opened the briefcase to see whether there was any way of identifying the owner so it could be returned to them. Look at what is inside. Don’t make a fuss - no matter what you find.”
Katie did as she was told. She found a name and address inscribed on a little silver label fixed inside the briefcase on the rough leather of the flap. This made her gasp, certainly, but that surprise was quickly succeeded by another surprise. Katie reached in and took from one side the briefcase a handful of banknotes. There were important looking files and documents in folders and beside these at least one hundred £5 notes neatly tied into bundles with the red ribbon of the Bank of England. It was a fortune - and no one seemed to realise what had happened. The Irish waitress was clearing tables; new customers were coming through the door from the street; a little girl was pleading with her mother for a jam tart. The girls, for one moment, suddenly had more money than they had ever seen in their lives.
“Do you think this means we could have another cream bun? asked Emily with a twinkle in her eye.
“I think that would not be a very good idea,” said Katie, “considering whose briefcase this must be. Look at the address here.” It read:
Sherlock Holmes Esq
221B The Albany
The girls had heard of Sherlock Holmes - even in Hong Kong they had read the stories about the famous detective written by his friend and associate, Dr John Watson in The Strand Magazine. Father sometimes wondered when he had finished reading them to the girls after dinner if the stories could be true. Well, this seemed to settle it.
“Are you finished your tea?” Katie asked. Emily had indeed [and was just thinking how nice it would be to have a second cup] but Katie was up and at the cash register to pay.
“I think we’ve got just enough for a taxi,” said Katie.
“But surely we can walk!” said Emily.
“Not all the way to Baker St in the rain,” said Katie cheerfully. “The day began so dismally for us but now I feel the sun coming out!”
The taxi to Baker St took all their silver and neither girl could say how they were going to get home. The Albany was an imposing set of buildings with a porter in a smart uniform at the door who looked quite ferocious until Emily held up the brief case and told the gentleman that she had an appointment with Mr Sherlock Holmes. The girls climbed the elegant wooden staircase to the top floor - only to find that the door to Apartment 221B was open and the flat in darkness.
“What can be happening here?” whispered Katie. “It hardly seems to be the kind of place where a famous detective might live.” The afternoon was already dark and a light in the corridor cast an eerie glow and formed deep, sinister shadows.
Katie knocked, the sound echoing through the dark flat and stairwell. “Mr Holmes?” she called. “Doctor Watson?” There was no reply. Katie took a single step into the flat and called again.
“I don’t think that anyone can be here,” said Emily, turning back. “Perhaps we should take the briefcase to the police. If only we hadn’t spent all our money on the taxi....”
Before she could say another word there was a cry from the hall of the flat and the lights went on. Sherlock Holmes stepped out of the darkness with a cane and pointed it at the girls as if it were a sword. In the sudden light, he looked frightening but triumphant. Katie and Emily were frightened for a moment - it was, after all, a very dramatic thing to happen even for a famous detective - but the silliness of the situation soon made the girls angry. Before they could say anything, however, there was a bustle at the door of the sitting room and a distinguished looking lady in a black dress with a crisp white pinafore apron and white lace hat was pushing forward a tea trolley laden with all the makings of a very posh afternoon tea.
“Mr Holmes,” said the lady in a rich, Scottish voice,” the young ladies have arrived just as you said they would. Now put your cane away and be a gentleman for once. Can I trust you to pour or must I stay and do that for you?”
Before Sherlock Holmes could answer, there was another bustle on the stairs and the gentleman whom the girls knew must be Doctor John Watson came striding in. To the girls’ great astonishment, he came up to them as if he were a favourite uncle and put his arms around them.
“Didn’t I tell you they were the right stuff, Holmes? Didn’t I say that these were just the kind of girls you were looking for? They won’t let us down. Despite the terrible dangers ahead, these are the very girls we need!” He was leading the girls to the elegant little wooden table where the housekeeper [whom the girls knew of course, from Dr Watson’s stories, to be the famous Mrs Hudson] was assembling the tea things.
Sherlock Holmes put down his cane and looked very relaxed and very pleased with himself as he swaggered about. He picked up the briefcase and quickly checked that nothing was missing before flopping down in the most comfortable of the chairs at the table. “Five hundred pounds, Watson! That’s what these two little girls carried about with them through the streets of London to return to me! And they have come all the way from Hong Kong to serve me, Her Majesty’s Government and Her Royal Highness, the Princess of Wales! Now Mrs Hudson, I do hope you’ve put out the best Oolong for our guests?”
“I did just as you said, Mr Holmes,” said Mrs Hudson, crisply, as if she were talking to a restless child. “It’s the Hollywood Road Oolong just as you like. And I have the cream buns you asked me to make for your tea.”
Until this moment, I think that the girls would have run down the stairs as quickly as they could. Arriving at the darkened flat was sinister and too much like one of Dr Watson’s scary Sherlock Holmes stories for the girls to be comfortable. [Father sometimes read them late at night - and used all the voices to make the stories even more frightening.] More than anything, however, Katie was feeling very grumpy with both the men who had ignored the girls in a very rude way - and so far Sherlock Holmes had not even thanked them for returning the money. If the girls had behaved like that to strangers back in Hong Kong their Mother would have put them to bed without their dinner!
Katie drew herself up to her full height and was just about to tell these gentlemen how very bad mannered they were when two things happened almost at once. Mrs Hudson, guessing at how Katie must be feeling, took her gently by the arm and guided her to a seat at the table by the window. “I am sorry, my dear. You will have to forgive Mr Holmes who has the most terrible manners. He has tricked you and your sister into coming here to Baker Street through the rain and he hasn’t even said a word of thanks for what you have done. He is shocking! You can’t blame him, I’m afraid. He’s been like this ever since he was a boy. But I do blame Dr Watson: he knows much better and should be ashamed of himself!”
And while Mrs Hudson was reaching for the teapot, Emily gasped and seized her sister’s hand. “Do you smell that, Katie? It smells just like home!”
And she was right. The fragrant scent of the most beautiful Oolong tea filled the little sitting room and Katie found herself in tears as she remembered the joy of afternoons on the Hollywood Road, the monkeys at Monteith, her friends at the Jardine Matheson surgery and her loving, kind Mother and Father at home.
“I say, Holmes,” said Doctor Watson turning a very bright red at this rebuke - because he knew that what she had said was very true indeed. “Mrs Hudson is right, you know.” Then, turning to Katie with a little bow, he said, “Thank you so much for returning the briefcase, Miss - and Miss” [Here he bowed to Emily.] “You are wonderfully good, honest girls and I am much obliged to you. You have passed a very big test!”
“A test?” said Emily. “What sort of test? And how do you know we come to London from Hong Kong? Have you been spying on us?”
Here, Sherlock Holmes stirred himself and he replied languidly, “That much is very easy Miss. I would say from your accent that you have spent some years in the colony; it has almost obliterated your original Scottish accent. Oh, and your clothes are almost new. You’ve come from a warmer place - probably in the last six weeks- so you needed to buy warm things. Your suntan is fading but still just a little visible. I would say that you, Miss, have an interest in Science - unusual in a girl so young - so it stands to reason that you have a father or mother who is a scientist - probably a doctor. And you, Miss [here he turned to Katie] , are more the reading type - you squint just a little when you concentrate - so you’ll probably soon be wanting glasses like your sister. I would say you would be here in London to train as a teacher. And neither of you is very happy with the place, as I can see. But you are honest, good girls. You didn’t think for a moment that you might keep the money in the briefcase - you didn’t even count the banknotes to see how much there was. I happen to need two, honest good girls just now - and here you are.”
Emily gasped; Katie grinned in the broadest smile. She looked at Dr Watson and he smiled back; of course, she had read Dr Watson’s stories and so she knew that this is what the famous Sherlock Holmes could do. He could discern the most fascinating things about a person just by carefully looking at their clothes and listening to their voice. It’s what made him such a great detective. It was one thing, of course, to read about this in The Strand Magazine - and quite a different matter to be the subject of Sherlock Holmes’s deductive powers. It sent a delicious shiver down Katie’s back.
“The money in the briefcase was a trick then,” said Emily. “You left it to see if we were honest and would return it. But what if we hadn’t? What if we had pocketed the money and run off into the rain?”
“Well”, said Dr Watson with a grin, “Holmes here came straight home and told Mrs Hudson to put on the Oolong tea. I got out of the cab just around the corner and watched as you checked the briefcase, found the name and address and then caught your own cab here. I would have called a policeman if you had done anything else.”
“You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Mr Holmes,” said Mrs Hudson hotly, “putting temptation in front of decent , good girls. I can imagine that many good boys - and even some good girls - would have been tempted if presented with a briefcase full of banknotes. It would be easy enough to want to take it home, perhaps, and count it at least. And how foolish you are to travel about with so much money on your person! One day it really will be lost or stolen.” Mrs Hudson was liking the girls very much; the girls liked her too. With her plain good sense and loving smile she was very like the grandmother they missed terribly.
“Nonsense!” said Holmes with a snort. “The money was my fee: I’ve just been paid for recovering a tranche of incriminating documents stolen from a Brazilian diplomat by a dangerous lady spy who was an Italian opera singer! That’s why I happened to have them with me. It was just luck that I had them to hand when I needed them. Anyway, where’s your faith, Mrs Hudson? From the moment I saw them I had not the slightest doubt that these were good girls - and as I said, just the sort of girls I need for secret business. So if you’ll excuse us, Mrs Hudson...”
“Oh, secret business is it, sir?” said Mrs Hudson. She gave a snort and swept out, closing the door behind her. Despite the delicious Oolong tea and the scrumptious cream buns [Emily was by this time eating her second one and her fingers were quite sticky] both the girls were growing very interested. It all sounded like a most wonderful adventure - and suddenly, despite the dismal weather and the awful food, London didn’t seem to be such a bad place after all.
Chapter 2: Servant Girls at Marlborough House
While the Oolong tea was drunk and the last of the cream buns despatched, the girls formally introduced themselves, spoke about their parents and their home in Hong Kong, shook hands and slowly heard the whole story of the Italian opera singer from Sherlock Holmes. And what a story it was!
Before he would say anything more, however, Sherlock Holmes fixed the girls with a terrible stare and demanded, “Are you girls prepared to serve your country and your Queen, despite danger and discomfort - for be assured, your lives must be in danger if you accept this challenge? And are you prepared to swear to secrecy and never tell another soul what you have done?”
Katie and Emily might normally have sought the views of their Mother and Father before they made such a promise. It was Emily who found a tiny crack in the commitment: “Of course we will serve the Queen - and we’re not afraid of any danger. And we will keep what we do a secret - until Dr Watson writes about it in The Strand Magazine!”
“Clever as well as brave,” said Sherlock Holmes with a grim laugh. “Very well then. Now, there is a person whose name begins with M who is terrible and whom sooner or later you must confront. I plan to arrange that for tomorrow. Are you free?”
“We begin our classes in two weeks, Sir,” said Katie, “so we would be free tomorrow. And would that terrible person we must confront be your great enemy, Professor James Moriarty?”
Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson both gave a laugh now. “No, my dear. I’m referring to my awful brother, Mycroft Holmes. In this great matter, touching as it does the Prince of Wales himself, I must deal with my brother, damn him!”
“Language, Holmes, old boy!” said Dr Watson. “These girls are decently brought up young ladies. They’re not used to strong language! And you can’t expect them to be mind readers - you do that well enough for everyone! Just start at the beginning. But you are right, Miss Katie: that black hearted villain, Professor James Moriarty, is at the heart of all this danger. We have reason to believe that next weekend, Professor Moriarty’s gang is planning to make an attempt on the famous emerald and diamond tiara and necklace belonging to Her Royal Highness, the Princess of Wales. “
The girls gasped. Even in Hong Kong, the girls had heard of the famous Danish jewels that the princess’s mother, the Queen of Denmark, had given to her daughter when she married the Prince.
“Yes,” said Holmes. “Next weekend, the Prince and Princess will be the guests of the Duke and Duchess of Dorset at their country house, Vaucluse Hall, in Hampshire. There will be quite a large house party; the Prime Minister will be there and so will His Royal Highness, the Maharajah of Boggley Wallah, and one of his favourite wives. Other distinguished members of the aristocracy will be in attendance. At the grand ball and dinner on the Saturday night, the Princess will wear the famous Danish emeralds. They are worth a King’s ransom. We believe that one of the guests - we cannot tell who - will be an agent of Professor Moriarty. In fact, Moriarty himself will almost certainly be there.”
“Why can’t the police simply arrest Professor Moriarty?” said Emily. “If you know he’s going to be there - and you know that he is going to strike- why do you need us to help?”
Katie jumped in here, in case Mr Holmes thought that the girls might be frightened or unwilling to help. “We’ll do anything to help the Prince and Princess,” said Katie, “Even meet your terrible brother, Mycroft. But I know what Emily means. Why are we so important to your plans?” Katie had, in fact, seen photographs of Princess Alexandra, the Princess of Wales, and knew that she was a gentle and kind lady. She was not young, however. One thinks about a princess as being young and beautiful; the Princess of Wales, however, was closer in age to her grandmother than her mother.
“Well you might ask,” said Dr Watson. “The fact is that Professor Moriarty knows us; he has read all the stories I have written about Mr Holmes in The Strand Magazine. I know because he once sent me a sneering letter saying how piddling was the mind of Sherlock Holmes compared with that of the great Professor Moriarty.”
“Impudence!” cried Sherlock Holmes.
“Steady on, Holmes,” said Watson cheerfully. “Yes, Miss Katie, that’s the sad fact. Professor Moriarty knows us - but we don’t know him. I presume it’s a him - but we don’t even know that for sure. We don’t know if he is old or young, tall or short, fat or slim. We cannot be sure that anyone who is about us is not Moriarty or in his pay. In fact, we have to treat everyone with caution. Everyone!”
“What do you want us to do?” asked Emily.
“Well, my dear Miss Emily,” said Holmes, “If you accept this challenge, you will be attached to the staff of Her Royal Highness as an additional lady’s maid. Miss Katie, you will be attached to the staff of Vaucluse Hall as a maid to Lady Maud, the daughter of the Duchess of Dorset. That way, you will be able to move right through the house without arousing suspicion. Your task, my brave girls, will be to guard the Danish emeralds with your life! You are not alone, of course; there will be other agents of Scotland Yard about you but for safety’s sake, you will not know who they are. But I would think that few people - not even the great Professor Moriarty - would suspect two little girls.”
“Will we really be in danger?” asked Katie. There was a note of timidity in her voice. Katie was brave enough - she had shown that when she fought the whole Yellow Phoenix gang in Hong Kong - but she felt she had to protect her little sister if she could. She was also worried that she was taking both of them into danger without telling her parents at home.
“I’m afraid you will, Katie,” said Dr Watson. “Holmes and I will be in the house at all times but we need to stay out of sight. If Moriarty thinks that his secret is out and that we suspect him, I don’t think that he will attack you. Instead, he will melt into the air like mist - as he has done on many other occasions. And he is such a diabolical villain that he may yet succeed - no matter what we do to try to thwart him. We must all do our best; I can’t ask anything more of anyone.”
“We’re not important, I know,” said Emily. “But does Professor Moriarty plan to hurt the Prince or Princess?”
“No, my dear,” said Sherlock Holmes. “His plan is twofold. Of course he is determined to have the Princess’s emeralds but even more delicious for him would be to snatch the jewels from under the nose of Scotland Yard and Sherlock Holmes. I understand that Professor Moriarty is a very wealthy man - or woman- and the jewels would only make his great riches more impressive. Among his friends in the world community of thieves, the emeralds would be a triumph enough for Moriarty. But to black the eye of the Prince of Wales by stealing the princess’s most precious jewels - well that would be something extraordinary - even for him.”
“Will I have to do much cleaning up?” said Emily doubtfully.
Katie put the same concern in a more gentle way: “I’ve never been a servant, Sir,” she said. “I mean, I’ve picked up after my sister when we shared a bedroom but that isn’t quite the same thing is it?”
“Yes, Miss Emily,” said Sherlock Holmes, “I can safely say that as a lady’s maid to the Princess, you would have to do some cleaning up. More importantly, however, you would have to bring the Princess her early morning cup of tea and lace her into her corsets for the day. Her Lady in Waiting will be there, of course, as well as her personal maid. At night, you help her dress for dinner and you will be present when she puts on and takes off her jewels. If you are vigilant, Miss Emily, no one will be able to steal the emeralds.”
“What about me?” asked Katie. “Does Lady Maud have another servant?
“She does, Miss Katie,” said Dr Watson - “a very respectable Scottish woman who was her nurse when she was only a little girl. I think that you can be certain that Mrs Fitzroy is not Professor Moriarty. But don’t make that assumption about another soul!”
“When will we meet Mr Mycroft Holmes?” asked Katie. Her head was spinning with all of this exciting and dangerous information: even at this stage, it was as good as one of Dr Watson’s stories in The Strand Magazine. The worst thing was that they couldn’t tell anyone about the adventure that was looming.
“The dreaded moment, to be sure!” said Sherlock Holmes. “Let me see: I will send you home in a taxi now; by the look of things, I don’t think that you would be carrying enough silver for two taxi rides about the city. Be ready at 2 pm tomorrow - but you must know that my brother is impossible to pin down and the cab to collect you to meet him may be at your door at 9 am. After you meet Mycroft, he will take you to Marlborough House to meet the Prince and Princess of Wales.”
“Goodness me!” said Emily. “I think my best dress is still waiting to be laundered!”
“There you are, Watson!” said Sherlock Holmes with a sneer. “Our girls may be brave and clever but they are as silly as all little girls after all! Miss Emily, the Princess of Wales is not going to notice what you are wearing. Just come neat and tidy - and be on your best behaviour or the Prince of Wales may send you to the Tower of London to have your head cut off!”
Holmes and Watson thought this a very good joke and laughed heartily but I think smoke was coming out of Emily’s ears by this stage. It took all the good manners her grandparents had taught her to say nothing - and indeed, she was spared the need to say anything because Mrs Hudson had just come in to clear the tea things and when she heard what Mr Holmes had said she scolded him as if he were a naughty schoolboy. A shamefaced Holmes mumbled an apology to Emily, then remembered his manners at last with a little cry of surprise. He found ten shillings in silver in his pocketbook which he gave to Katie to pay for the taxi to Baker St and another one back to Bloomsbury. She took it with a curtsey and a smile. Even Emily could smile when Mrs Hudson still looked so severe and Mr Holmes looked genuinely sorry.
Mrs Hudson took the girls by the hand, volunteered to find them a taxi and they took their leave of the gentlemen. What she really wanted, of course, was to have a few moments alone with the girls before they went away into the dark, cold and rainy night. On the big deal table in the large, airy kitchen, Mrs Hudson had put together a basket of things for the girls to take away. There were two pork pies wrapped in a white napkin, half a delicious looking seed cake, four oranges, three of the left over cream buns - and a smart looking tea caddy with Chinese writing on the label. The tin was three quarters full of the glorious Oolong tea that that they had enjoyed in Mr Holmes’s parlour. Seeing all this treasure collected in one spot made the girls gasp - and then turn to hug the good, Scottish lady who spoke so like their mother and had all of her kind ways to commend her. Though the journey home was through the same, dark, rain swept streets that had made them feel so miserable early in the afternoon, somehow their life in the city now felt as if it just might be great fun.
The next morning, the girls couldn’t be certain what to be more fearful of: the visit to meet Mycroft Holmes or the next meeting at Marlborough House. The morning dragged along terribly. Katie had library books that needed to be returned but she couldn’t leave the flat even for a moment in case they were called for. They dressed in their Sunday best clothes and fussed about for some time making sure that they looked as good as they could for the ordeal ahead.
It was still raining. The girls waited. They sat at the kitchen table and each tried to write a letter home to their parents but of course all the things they most wanted to say they couldn’t even mention. The best thing was the big China tea pot between them - now full of the steaming hot Oolong tea that had been given to them as a gift by Mrs Hudson. The girls waited. At lunch time, they ate the pork pies they had been given then they waited some more. Finally, just on 2 pm, the door bell rang and there was Dr Watson. Mr Holmes was in the cab impatiently waiting below.
Sherlock Holmes was not in a good mood. “My brother, Mycroft, was kind enough to give us an appointment at exactly the time I asked for. I wrote to him last night about you and had a reply at midnight. Mind you, Mycroft does not meet people at his home or in an office as ordinary men might,” Holmes said acidly. “He’s much too important for that. We’re going to meet him at the Diogenes Club where he seems to spend his days.”
“What does Mr Mycroft Holmes do exactly?” asked Emily. She tried to remember the stories her father had read her but of course these were mostly about Mr Sherlock Holmes because they were written by his friend and associate, Dr Watson.
“It’s a great mystery, Miss Emily,” said Sherlock Holmes with a sneer. “Mycroft, you see, loves a mystery as much as I do - but I solve mysteries and he only makes them worse. What I can say is that Mycroft is a great person in the government. He knows all the state secrets. He knows everyone who is important. They all ask him for advice. He’s consulted by the Prime Minister, the Archbishop of Canterbury, by the House of Lords and by Her Majesty the Queen herself, I would think. In his note to me, he says that he is looking forward to meeting you; in fact, he said that he had long wanted to meet you - as if he knew about you already. How he could do that I have no idea. But here we are ...”
The cab had come to a stop in front of a most imposing and impressive elegant building with white columns and a flight of stairs leading to fine doors and an even finer doorman dressed against the cold. Katie would have loved to have swept up those stone steps and through the elegant doors like a princess; instead, Sherlock Holmes led the little group up the street a little, past iron rails to a basement entrance that was much less grand and carried a brass notice that read “Servants and Tradespeople”. They were quickly admitted by a man in a dark green apron who greeted Holmes and Watson with a little bow and a smile.
“I’m sorry, girls,” said Dr Watson, “but we need to begin the secrecy thing right now. Just follow Mr Lytton here.”
The four friends [with Sherlock Holmes himself coming up the rear] walked down a long corridor past kitchens and a servants’ hall to an elegantly furnished back room that adjoined a little garden. The walls were lined with oak panels; there was a rich Turkey rug on the floor and portraits of important looking men on the walls. Mr Lytton left them standing on the rug in front of a fireplace where a cheerful fire was at work. The girls may have felt cheated at being ushered in through the side entrance but the room spoke of importance and wealth. Holmes and Watson seemed to think that there was nothing unusual or amiss. Soon enough, the door opened and two gentlemen entered. The tall, slim man carried a leather file in his hand.
The other gentleman was short, heavy and looked very distinguished in elegant clothes; a large gold watch chain was draped across his large belly. Holmes and Watson shook hands with him and nodded as if to an old school friend. You can imagine how the girls felt when presented to Lord Roseberry - the Prime Minister! He gave the girls a lovely smile. Before he could say anything, however, the other person had stepped forward and was extending his large, soft hand in greeting. He looked so much like Sherlock Holmes that there could be no doubt that this was his terrible brother, Mycroft.
Where Sherlock Holmes was slim and acute, however, Mycroft was ample and pudgy. He was dressed more formally than Sherlock with a well cut dark suit, a silver silk waistcoat and a dove grey silk tie. His hair was thinning, his body thickening and his skin had taken on the same grey pallor as his clothes – the sure sign, Emily guessed, of someone who had spent too much time indoors at his dinner. But Mycroft shared with his brother the same intense blue eyes that seemed to be everywhere at once; both men radiated an intense intelligence that made one feel that here was a really important man. The energy that flashed between them, however, was not a comfortable one and both the girls thought that it was best to say as little as possible and let the great men have the floor.1
Dr Watson greeted Mycroft politely but Mr Sherlock Holmes only grunted and did not shake hands. Mycroft hardly seemed to notice: he was too busy with the leather folder to bother.
“Yes, Prime Minister, it’s just as I remembered. “As soon as young Sherlock had written to tell me that he had engaged two girls, Miss Katie and Miss Emily Bland, to work undercover on the Moriarty case I had a recollection that I’d met those names before. Then I remembered that several years ago, my old school chum, Sir William Beauchamp, had sent me a fascinating report from Hong Kong where he was the Governor at the time. You might remember the case of the famous gold statue of the Buddha pinched from a monastery in the Kun Lun Mountains that turned up in Hong Kong? These are the very girls who did what the police in Hong Kong and Guangdong couldn’t do - defeat the wicked women in a secret gang and recover the statue for the poor monks. Old Beauchamp says that the girls were plucky, clever and determined. I found his report here in the Hong Kong file; it makes for a great read - almost as good as one of your dammed stories in The Strand Magazine, hey Watson? What a coup, Sherlock, that you managed to persuade them to sign up to help protect the Prince and Princess of Wales!”
Sherlock was shocked! His brother had come very close to saying something nice to him! Of course he couldn’t tell Mycroft and the Prime Minister that he hadn’t heard the story at all or associated the girls with it so he simply swaggered a little, “They are indeed good girls, Mycroft - I could tell that as soon as I saw them in the Lyons Corner House in Russell Square. If you ever left the comforts of the Diogenes Club you might meet some good girls too!”
Mycroft ignored this nasty sally and spoke to the girls, “I am sorry that we can’t involve your parents, girls, in this business. The house party at Vaucluse Hall is next weekend - we could send a telegraph message as far as Singapore but after that it would take another week at least to reach your parents. Has my brother told you that you may be in danger? Are you prepared to do your duty to the Queen in this great matter?”
“We’ll do our best, Sir,” said Emily.
“Indeed we will,” said Katie. Secretly, the girls were bursting with pride. In the quiet of that room, it seemed that there was nothing the girls couldn’t do if they tried.
“You know, Sherlock,” said Mycroft, “I thought I would have to give these girls a proper going over to make sure that they were made of the real stuff. The Princess of Wales isn’t expecting them until tea time. What say we have a spot of luncheon here and the girls can tell us the story of the gold Buddha in their own words?”
Lunch sounded like a great idea and when soup and sandwiches came on a grand cedar trolley with heavy silver cutlery and elegant white napkins, the girls were very excited and pleased. They told their story hesitantly at first, making sure that Jinhai and Minsheng – the little Chinese boys who had shown such great bravery- received all the credit they deserved for their part in foiling the dangerous ladies of the Yellow Phoenix gang. But everyone was interested in the story. Mycroft wanted to know all the details about the gold statue itself. Sherlock Holmes was more interested in how the villains had managed to steal the statue first from the monks in the Kun Lun Mountains and then from the Jardine Matheson dock. Dr Watson [who had served with the Indian Army and was fascinated by the religions and temples of the East] was interested in the saintly Abbot and the Man Mo Temple in Hong Kong. The Prime Minister questioned the girls closely on all the tattoos which the lady bandits of the Yellow Lotus gang carried.
Soon enough, it was time for the next great test: the visit to Marlborough House. To the girls’ surprise, Dr Watson and Mr Sherlock Holmes made their farewells at this moment. They clearly weren’t invited to Marlborough House but they did ask Mycroft to return the girls to them at Baker Street later that evening. They would hear the girls’ story over dinner. Dr Watson, clearly on his best behaviour, actually phrased all this as a request. For the very first time in their lives, the girls had been invited to dinner by gentlemen! The stay in London was becoming more and more interesting every day.
Katie and Emily had arrived at the Diogenes Club in a hansom cab but they left in a splendid carriage drawn by two beautiful grey horses. The journey wasn’t far- in fact, Katie and Emily would once have made the walk quite happily - but their hearts fairly burst with pride as they stepped into the beautiful carriage in the yard of the Diogenes Club. How grand it would be to swish through the streets of London and have everyone look at the carriage and see two little girls riding beside the Prime Minister and the distinguished Mr Mycroft Holmes. But this was exactly what did not happen. Once they were inside the carriage, the blinds were drawn so no one could look in - and the girls certainly couldn’t look out. Then Katie remembered how they must be silent and discreet about this whole process from this moment and the seriousness of what they were doing settled on them like a heavy burden.
The shades were not lifted until the carriage had passed through the gates of Marlborough House and had come to a stop in the covered drive behind the house. There were guardsmen there on duty and they smartly came to attention when they saw the Prime Minister alight from the carriage. It was a long walk then through corridors and up flights of stairs to reach the private apartments of the Prince and Princess of Wales. They were escorted by an unsmiling butler wearing a severe black suit. Katie and Emily wanted to stop at every turn and admire something or other: that enormous crystal chandelier, a gorgeous silk carpet on the floor, those bowls of exquisite orchids, some wonderful pictures in gilt frames - and two bright and energetic terrier dog being taken out for a walk by a footman wearing a silk uniform embroidered with the Prince of Wales feathers. But they were hurried past everything interesting.
Finally they came to a gold and white door; the butler knocked and opened the door at once and ushered then in. Taking their cue from Mr Mycroft Holmes, the girls went in and stood silently. Despite her nervousness, Katie and Emily took in all the details of the scene. A kindly looking lady with curly brown hair and a yellow silk gown was seated at a tea table with a tray and tea things in front of her. A long rope of the loveliest pearls were gathered at her throat; she certainly looked every inch a Princess. There was another lady seated at the table, neatly dressed with grey, twinkling eyes who smiled at them encouragingly.
“Your Royal Highness,” said the Prime Minister with a bow, “May I present Miss Bland and Miss Emily Bland, of Bloomsbury and formerly of Hong Kong Island? They are the girls I was telling you about this morning.”
The girls were very nervous but dropped a curtsey and said very simply, “Your Royal Highness.”
“You are most welcome, my dears, most welcome,” said the princess. She spoke with a lovely deep voice and with an accent. Emily remembered that the Princess had been born in Denmark and came to England to marry the Prince when she wasn’t much older than Emily was now. Perhaps, she thought, there might be some good looking young Princes around whom Emily might marry one day.
“But Prime Minister, and Mr Holmes,” she said as if very surprised, “You can see that I only have two chairs left at the tea table. Perhaps you could wait in the drawing room below while I give the girls some tea. It’s such an awfully cold afternoon- particularly for girls who have lived in Hong Kong.” At this, the men looked a little concerned but bowed and left.
Lady Airlie [the good lady with the Princess who was her Lady in Waiting] controlled her laugh until the Prime Minister and Mr Holmes were safely on the other side of the door. “This afternoon, girls, it’s just us for tea. He’s a good Prime Minister, I know, and Mr Mycroft Holmes is very clever and important, of course - but tea with them would be no fun at all. Mr Holmes did tell me, girls, that you have had some adventures in Hong Kong. Lady Airlie will pour us all a cup of tea and you can tell me about them.”
What an afternoon it was! The Princess and Lady Airlie had already heard from the Prime Minister about the great gold Buddha - that was interesting enough but it was, as Lady Airlie said simply - just what men like Mr Holmes would want to talk about. What the Princess wanted to know about was their parents, their home in Hong Kong and what they wanted to do with their lives. She was so gentle and kind - and the tea and cucumber sandwiches were so good - that it wasn’t long before it all came tumbling out. When they reached the part of their story about how they had helped their father in the surgery, Emily couldn’t help but say sadly, “I don’t know who will be helping Father now. Perhaps he misses me.” She didn’t begin to cry until she felt the kind hand of the Princess on her shoulder helping her into the gentlest of hugs.
“I know what it’s like to be a long way from home - and to miss the things and people we love,” said the Princess. Emily looked up into the kindest grey eyes she had ever seen - and they were full of tears. “Many, many times in this life we have to be braver than we think we can ever be- even in little things,” the Princess said. She took Katie’s hand and for just a little while, there was the gentlest, saddest silence. Lady Airlie - a very good lady - knew just when to ring the bell to call for the scones with jam and clotted cream.
When the tea was eaten, the Princess said, “Now Emily, I understand that you are to be my new maid when we go down to Vaucluse Hall next weekend. All the time that we are there, of course, you will have to play that role. We won’t be able to sit comfortably and have tea, I’m afraid. Don’t be offended if I am a little cold and distant. It won’t be easy sometimes and ...” here the Princess hesitated for a moment, “You must help me. Don’t tell the Prince but I’m actually a little frightened. Lady Airlie, will you please show the girls the emeralds that are the cause of all these troubles?”
Lady Airlie put down her tea cup and went to a portrait on the wall near the fireplace. She swung the picture aside to reveal a safe set into the wall and took a key from a ribbon around her neck. When the safe was opened, Lady Airlie removed a leather box and brought it to the Princess. Then the most beautiful necklace was sitting in the Princess’s soft hand.
There were ten large, exquisite oval shaped emeralds, each surrounded by a setting of diamonds. The glimmering green stones were joined with white gold links to form a necklace; Katie and Emily thought that they had never seen anything so beautiful in their lives.
“These emeralds belonged to a Persian princess. She gave them to a warrior who saved her from a savage lion who attacked her hunting party,” said the Princess. “They have changed hands many times before being bought for the Danish Royal Family; my grandfather set the stones in white gold from Russia and added the diamonds when he gave the jewels to my grandmother. My mother gave them to me when I was married to the Prince of Wales forty years ago. His mother, Her Majesty the Queen, gave me a tiara of diamonds and emeralds that match this perfectly. Later, on the birth of our first son, Prince George, he gave me the bracelet. They are beautiful, aren’t they? I will wear them at the Duchess of Dorset’s ball next Saturday evening -unless Professor Moriarty and his gang steal them beforehand,” said the Princess sadly.
“Your Royal Highness,” said Katie. “Why not just leave the jewels here in the safe at Marlborough House. Do you have any other jewels you might be able to wear at the ball?”
The Princess gave a bitter laugh. “Well you might ask, Katie. Yes, I have other lovely jewels; the thing is that the Prime Minister and Mr Homes seem to think that Professor Moriarty has set his heart on stealing these jewels and no others - and he has already given proof of his wickedness. The body of Mary Clarke, one of the housemaids here at Marlborough House, was found a week ago floating in the River Thames. Mary had a new boyfriend, apparently, and the police believe that he is part of the gang. He learned what he could from the poor girl about my plans for the house party - and then killed the girl. It seems that the villain means to go on in one way or another to try to steal them. By acting as if we do not know what the gang is plotting, Professor Moriarty may be lured out into a place where the police may capture him. So I must take the emeralds to Vaucluse Hall - for Mary’s sake- so we can find the wicked men who have done this. That is why you must both be very careful. Now you know all the danger that lies ahead. Are you still willing to help me?”
“Of course we will,” said Katie. Emily took the Princess’s hand and squeezed it gently. “You can count on us, Your Royal Highness.”
Later that night at dinner, Sherlock Holmes heard the girls tell everything they could about that special time with the Princess. “Now you know, girls, exactly why you have to be brave and discreet. One young woman is already dead. The only people who know why and how you are under cover at Vaucluse Hall are the Princess and Lady Airlie, the Prime Minister, the Police Commissioner of Scotland Yard, Mycroft and ourselves. Lady Maud - your mistress, Katie, knows that you are part of the police presence in the Hall but she does not know why. The Prince and Princess of Wales always travel with police protection so that is not remarkable. You must remain silent; you must trust no one.”
This was chilling. The only other comment from the dinner which struck the girls was a chuckle from Dr Watson as he served out the apple crumble which Mrs Hudson had made for pudding: “What a piece of luck, Holmes, to find two little girls who are not only willing to help the Queen but who already have form as heroes! And fancy your brother Mycroft knowing about them from his old friend, Billy Beauchamp, the Governor of Hong Kong!”
“Damn my brother Mycroft!” said Holmes. “I found the girls yet he gets all the credit, taking them off to Marlborough House like a pair of trophies! And there was no luck in picking out these girls, Watson. As soon as I saw them I knew they were the goods. Mycroft always cruels my pitch!”
Emily was feeling very grumpy to be talked about as if she wasn’t even there and might have said something cutting but Dr Watson chimed in, “Damn it, Holmes, you said that the six other pairs of girls we approached yesterday morning were the goods too! That policeman who stopped us and wanted to know what we were up to with all the young girls was a bit of an embarrassment, eh? That took a bit of quick talking before he believed our story!”
Katie and Emily laughed but quietened quickly when Sherlock Holmes offered to play his violin for them after tea was served in the drawing room. Mrs Hudson had been clearing the table and flew in at this moment to report that the girls’ taxi was waiting below. Katie and Emily made their excuses and promised to wait for a message from the gentlemen with directions on how they were to get to Vaucluse Hall. Of course there was no taxi waiting but Mrs Hudson sensibly thought that the girls might be looking for the quiet of their own little flat after such a hectic day.
Back in Bloomsbury after that long and exciting day, everything in their little flat looked so ordinary and dull. It seemed shabby and humble after the grandeur of Baker St, the Diogenes Club and Marlborough House but the girls now felt very sure that their time in London would be a great adventure. There was mail waiting for them, too. Mother had written a long, interesting letter full of news about their friends at Monteith; she included a caddy of the girls’ favourite tea.
And first thing in the morning a large parcel for each of the girls was delivered by a special van from Scotland Yard. When it was opened, there for Emily was the black and grey uniform of girls in the service of the Princess of Wales. It had the distinctive feathers of the Prince embroidered into the pocket. A much more modest costume [in grey and green] was provided for Katie with the strawberry leaves of the Duke of Dorset embroidered into the same place. The girls tried them on, giggled, and wished that their Mother could be there to see them.
Best of all, there was a break in the weather; the grey clouds had cleared a little and a thin sunshine was trying to make Bloomsbury look fresh and welcoming. “Come on,” said Katie. “I still have to return my library book which is now overdue. If I tell the severe lady at the desk that I have been having tea with the Princess of Wales do you think I might be excused the fine?”
Chapter 3: House Party at Vaucluse Hall
Katie waited on the platform of Kings Cross Station with her straw hat on her head, her umbrella rolled and clipped and her carpet bag beside her. She wished that Emily could be with her but she had had to report to Marlborough House that morning to begin her duties. Katie looked up and down the platform, checking the clock. In a minute or two, the 3.24 service to Basingstoke would arrive and the next exciting part of the adventure would begin.
Then, to her amazement, a gentleman near the newspaper kiosk who had been buried in his copy of the Evening Standard lowered the paper and gave her a wink. It was Dr Watson. She suddenly felt a little less frightened. He remained standing there idly until the shiny red and gold engine had pulled in with a hiss of steam. He only left his place when Katie had taken her seat in the third class carriage and the train was pulling out. There were many people joining the train: Katie looked at all the faces, wondering if any of them might be Professor Moriarty. The Chinese gentleman with the spectacles and long pigtail? Katie had seen enough Chinese gentlemen not to think any of them remarkable or suspicious. This military looking gentleman with waxed moustaches? Perhaps - although he looked very much like a loyal soldier of the Queen. This imposing matron with a fox fur wrap? Surely not.
The third class cabin was crowded but it was not a long journey. At Basingstoke, Katie was met by a motherly woman who identified herself with a lovely smile as Mrs Fitzroy, the housekeeper at Vaucluse Hall. A pony and trap was waiting and Katie sat beside the lady for the five mile drive out to Vaucluse Hall.
“You’re only young, my dear,” said Mrs Fitzroy. “You can’t have been in service long!”
“No, Ma’am,” said Katie. “This is my very first place - although I have lots of experience in a big household.” This was true; there had been fifteen servants at Monteith but Katie thought it best not to say this.
“Have you now, my dear,” said Mrs Fitzroy kindly. “Only you must not call me Ma’am - keep that for her Ladyship. If you ever meet her mother, Her Grace the Duchess, you must call you Ma’am too. And goodness knows what we are to call half of the grand folk who will be there this weekend. You can call me Missus - that is grand enough.”
“Who will be in the house this weekend then?” asked Katie. This was important information for a detective to know and she listened carefully to Mrs Fitzroy’s reply.
“Why the Prince of Wales himself - and the Princess!” said the housekeeper. Any amount of detectives and such have turned up in advance of their arrival: they have parked themselves in the stables and in my kitchen calling for cups of tea and sandwiches at all hours and spoiling the stableboys and boot boys by lounging about and smoking their pipes.”
Mrs Fitzroy paused, trying to make sure that she named the visitors in order of importance. “The Duke of Buccleuch is coming with the Duchess. They are bringing their elder son, too, the Marquis of Fife. They have asked for Scottish oatmeal porridge for breakfast - and sent instructions on how they like it cooked! Oh, there’s an Indian gentleman, the Maharajah of Boggley-Wallah. He is bringing one of his wives apparently - and doesn’t want to eat any beef. The Prime Minister will be coming too, of course, but as he’s a bachelor and eats everything he’s less of a problem than the Indian gentleman. Sir Jacob Myerstein, the Governor of the Bank of England is coming with Lady Matilda Myerstein. They have asked for no pork to be served. And to top it all, there is a gentleman from Chicago in the United States - Senator Chesapeake Missouri. It seems that Senator Missouri loves fresh air and so he needs a room with a big window that opens properly. Senator Missouri is also a vegetarian and has asked for meals made with no meat. My dear, can you imagine the uproar in the house at the moment? All the guests are coming down on the 6 pm train; the Prince and Princess are coming in a special train that will arrive at 6.15. We have to have dinner ready for 8. 30. It’s a light buffet so all the picky people will have something to eat, I hope. The big event is tomorrow night when the grand dinner will be followed by a ball for half the county. I’m afraid that you’ll have not a moment to feel your way.”
Katie could see that being a detective might involve some very hard work - at least, some very long hours. When she arrived at Vaucluse Hall she was really very impressed by the acres of deer park behind high stone gates, the elegant avenue of oak trees leading up to the mansion house and the grandeur of the noble old home itself. It was still a splendid home built in the Queen Anne style in the seventeenth century; in later years additional wings had been added to make it a truly grand residence. Of course it wasn’t as fine as Marlborough House but it had the wonderful advantage of being located in acres of woods and fields so one saw it at its best as one approached from the south up the long avenue. Vaucluse Hall had been much improved of late by the addition of bathrooms, gas lights and heating. Mrs Fitzroy pointed out all of these things and Katie duly admired everything. Monteith was certainly a much more modest place - even if it did have fifteen servants.
There was a fine stone staircase leading from the drive way up to the great front doors but Mrs Fitzroy’s carriage modestly headed around the Hall to the back entrance where Katie alighted with her simple luggage. She was shown to the steep stairs that climbed right to the top floor of the Hall where there were bedrooms for the servants built under the roof. The ground floor contained the main rooms of the house: a beautiful hall with black and white marble flagstones; a grand drawing room built in the form of a double cube; a dining room of smaller proportions and a splendid ballroom adjoining. There was a morning room for the ladies, a smoking room for the gentlemen, a library full of elegant, leather bound books and [in a separate wing] an enormous kitchen, larder, cold room, laundry and accommodation for the servants. Like a good detective, Katie tried to give her attention to the physical layout of the building and not to the grandeur that was so impressive and overwhelming.
On the second floor above a beautiful oak staircase lined with portraits of earlier Dukes and Duchesses of Dorset were the bedrooms. All of them would be in use for the weekend. The Prince and Princess of Wales had separate bedrooms at one end of the long corridor; the Duke and Duchess of Dorset had separate bedrooms at the other end of the house. Katie was a little surprised that these married people still needed separate bedrooms; when she mentioned this, Mrs Fitzroy would say nothing more than that it was the way of great people. “The world seems to work a little better when they have separate rooms,” was all that she would venture. Katie remembered how difficult it occasionally was when she was sharing a bedroom with Emily and readily agreed. The Duke and Duchess of Dorset had their children in bedrooms at their end of the Hall; Katie would be sleeping in a little cot in Lady Maud’s dressing room. [The room in the roof normally occupied by the maid of Lady Maud had been taken over by the Prince of Wales’ dresser, Mr Richard Spengler - a very grand man who bossed all the other servants and seemed to think that he was almost as important as the Prince himself. When not dressing the Prince, he was at the kitchen door busy smoking. Emily, always alert to these things after her work in her father’s surgery, noticed that Mr Spengler walked with a limp.
Katie’s first job once she had shivered out of her travelling clothes into her Dorset family uniform was to go the kitchen and bring up a can of hot water for Lady Maud’s bath. There were bathrooms in the Hall, to be sure, but the Prince and Princess had taken one, Lady Maud’s parents had taken the other and that left everyone - even Senator Chesapeake Missouri- having to work from wash basins and cans of hot water from the kitchens.
Katie was excited to meet her sister in the kitchen where Mrs Fitzroy introduced them. It was part of Mycroft’s plan that no one was to know that the girls were sisters and they shook hands as if they were strangers. It amused Emily that being in the service of the Princes of Wales - while Katie was only the maid of Duke’s daughter- she could swagger a little and treat her big sister as some kind of rude country girl! Once they were alone in the tap room adjoining the boilers, however, it was a different matter.
Emily explained that she was sharing a room in the roof with another servant and so it might be a little difficult to get about freely. It may have to be Katie who did some of the detective work after dark. Just as Katie was leaving with her can of hot water, Sherlock Holmes himself came into the kitchen and asked both the girls to come to the Butler’s pantry - an area that Scotland Yard had taken over as the base for their operations. As everyone expected the police to be active in their protection of the Prince and Princess, no one thought that this was the least bit unusual.
“Anything to report?” he asked. Emily had spent the morning at Marlborough House sorting out the Princess’s smalls, matching her silk stockings into pairs and packing handkerchiefs. It was not a glamorous job. Katie laughed. She had little to report herself but Sherlock Holmes was clearly anxious.
“Suspicions have settled on this American, Senator Chesapeake Missouri,” said Mr Holmes. “It seems he hadn’t even met the Duke of Dorset before he had an invitation; the American ambassador in London -who does know the Duke well - asked if he could have an invitation to the House Party when it was learned that the Prince and Princess would be here with the Danish emeralds. Well that looks suspicious to me. Keep an eye out, both of you, for this American - and his secretary, a very intense young man named Hiram Brigham. Professor Moriarty may be either of those gentlemen - in fact, it would be a good cover on Moriarty’s part to come into the House as a servant rather than a guest.”
“We’ll do our best,” said Katie. “In fact, when I’m finished drawing this water for Lady Maude I am to report to Senator Missouri’s room with water for him. I’ll keep my eyes open.”
“Good girl, Katie,” said Emily, gloomily. “My job this afternoon is to check the chamber pots in all the guest bedrooms. That will give me the chance to look around too, I suppose.”
Both the girls went off, Katie carrying the big can of hot water. Lady Maude was very pleased to see it and quickly sent Katie off to get the water for Senator Missouri so that she could be free to help her dress for dinner. It was hard work lugging the hot water up the narrow stairs but you can imagine how pleased Katie was to find Senator Missouri’s room empty when she knocked. The whole house was quiet now as people got themselves ready for dinner which would be at 8 pm. Katie let herself in, put the can on the marble wash stand and as silently as she could, began to check the drawers of the bureau. There were the usual gentleman’s things there of course - nothing unusual perhaps although Katie did find half a bottle of whisky in the top drawer under some underwear. Shaving gear and a hairbrush and comb were on the dressing table.
It was dangerous to look through things in this way, of course. At any moment, the Senator or his secretary could return and find her there. Just as she was about to go, however, she noticed a briefcase between the bed and the bedside table - as if it had been put there quite out of sight. Katie listened for any movement in the hallway outside and then as quick as a knife, she had snapped the lock. There in the case was a pair of dark gloves, a length of light but strong rope, a black hood and a revolver. It was loaded. Katie’s heart sank - and at that moment, she heard the heavy steps of someone coming down the corridor. In a moment, the case was closed and when the door opened, Katie was at the washstand, putting down the can. It was a very near thing.
Without looking up, she dropped a curtsey. “If you need any more hot water, Senator,” said Katie, “please just ring and I’ll bring it.”
The person who had opened the door was a young man of athletic build with quick, intelligent eyes that darted straight to the briefcase now returned to its hiding place. Katie’s sensed in his manner someone who was clever, strong and determined - someone with whom it would be dangerous to tangle. The young man gave a little snort and said in an accented voice that was trying too hard to be relaxed, “Do I look old enough, young lady, to be a Senator? I am Senator Missouri’s secretary, Hiram Brigham. The Senator at this moment is with the Duke of Buccleuch in the library downstairs, talking at great length about British church music. And who might you be?” He was clearly suspicious and defensive; even as she tried to look relaxed, Katie couldn’t help but wonder why anyone would bother to tell a servant what his master was talking about with one of the other guests at the house party.
Katie dropped a curtsy and said, “Why Sir, my name is Katherine Reynolds. I am Lady Maud’s maid but because there are so many visitors to the Hall I have been asked to bring water to the ladies and gentlemen so they can wash before dinner. And I am behind hand, Sir, and need to go if I might be excused.”
Katie didn’t wait to be excused but simply curtseyed again and left. She couldn’t wait to tell Mr Holmes that one of the guests was carrying the things one might expect a burglar to have. Clearly Senator Missouri and his secretary were suspicious characters.
Later that evening when all the guests had dressed for dinner, Emily had had her own adventures. These began with her first experience of the ferocious whale bone corsets that the Princess wore; it was quite a challenge to pull and tighten the cotton laces into place so that the Princess could wear her elegant, hour glass shaped grey silk evening gown. When this was done and all the rings and brooches that completed the outfit removed from their leather cases, Lady Airlie handed the Princess the glorious rope of pink pearls that were, Emily was sure, quite as valuable as any emeralds could be. Dressed in this way, the Princess looked magnificent - every inch a Princess as she later explained to her parents when the whole adventure was over.
After this wonderful beginning came the crushing conclusion: Emily was sent to empty the chamber pots in the guest rooms. I think that if Mr Holmes and Dr Watson had told her that one of the duties she would be expected to perform as a detective was collecting and emptying chamber pots she might have passed up the chance. “I wonder whether Mr Holmes mentioned this to those other girls whom he tried to recruit before he found Katie and me,” Emily said with a sniff. “Perhaps that is why they turned him down!” She had been provided with a kind of tea trolley designed for the purpose, a stiff apron and a pair of gloves but all the same, it wasn’t a nice job.
The renovations at Vaucluse Hall had given the place some modern bathrooms and toilets. [As the guests of honour, the Prince and Princess shared a bathroom of their own.] Most of the guests -including the Prime Minister himself - had to rely on an old fashioned chamber pot that went under the bed. Ladies and gentlemen might use the pot, then at some stage when the room was not being used, a servant would come to collect it and leave an empty pot in its place. [Emily had a chamber pot in her room at Monteith in Hong Kong and it never occurred to her that one of the servants had had to manage just as she was now. Her chamber pot had always been nice and clean when she came to use it at night; she probably thought it emptied itself!]
It was 7 pm and the guests in the house party had assembled in the library below for cocktails. This was the time when rooms were tidied up by servants and one girl - usually the youngest - was sent out with the trolley. She went to the Prime Minister’s room first only to find that a detective was installed there as part of the security force. Emily had to be very quick and couldn’t help but blush at what she was obliged to do in front of the policeman who sensibly found himself very interested in a novel he was reading. The next room at which she called was that of Prince Hari Korma, the Maharajah of Boggley -Wallah and his wife. Mr Holmes had said that the lady was only one of the maharajah’s wives and that she was very shy. Emily looked curiously around the room; she had seen the Maharajah and his lady as they came down the stairs to the library and was surprised that the Maharajah was a stern looking, tall young man with a thin beard and struggling moustache. He seemed very young to have such a grand title - and to have many wives from which to choose. This particular lady was, it seemed to Emily, only a little older than herself. What must it be like, Emily thought sadly, to be just one of the wives of such a grand looking man? Were all the Maharajah’s wives so young, Emily wondered.
On the chest of drawers, Emily found the lady’s beautiful silk sari set aside for the grand dinner and ball the next night. This sari was a striking green colour and worked with gold thread. The lady had gone down to dinner wearing a sari of elegant red silk with silver thread- magnificent by any measure and worn with a superb ruby necklace. No other lady that night would have such fine jewels to wear. The Princess of Wales, Emily knew, had chosen her usual long strand of magnificent pearls to wear to dinner. Emily couldn’t resist reaching out and touching the elegant folds of the green silk; it was like trailing your hands through a mountain torrent. Then to her surprise Emily’s fingers encountered something sharp and hard - hidden in this place, folded into the fabric. It was a note on creamy white paper that said:
I will come for you at twelve o’clock on Saturday. Be at the fountain. Don’t let me down. The consequences will be terrible for everyone if you do. There isn’t anyone else I can trust.
The letter was unsigned. It was a sort of a love letter but what could it mean? Emily, realising that she had already been in the room for too long a time [and there were many bedrooms to visit] knelt beside the bed to retrieve the chamber pot. Where was the fountain the letter mentioned? She suspected that there were a number of fountains in the gardens and grounds of Vaucluse Hall. The letter also hinted at desperate deeds and terrible consequences. Surely these related to the possible theft of the Danish Emeralds. She would certainly tell Mr Holmes when she saw him later that night.
Emily had a little bundle of heavily starched napkins folded into quarters; she had been shown that these went over the chamber pots once they had been collected. Somehow with the napkin in place, one could forget what the shiny white porcelain pot might be all about. Emily covered the used pot and settled it into the bottom shelf of her trolley; she replaced it with a clean one from the top shelf. She couldn’t resist one last look at the note hidden in the silk sari, making sure that she could recall the exact words. Then it was off to the other rooms on her necessary little errand. As she pushed her trolley along the corridor, she could hear below her the merry laughter of the Princess of Wales as she joked with Her Grace, the Duchess of Dorset, as they went into dinner.
Mr Holmes and Dr Watson met the girls in the Butler’s Pantry as soon as these jobs were all done. The dinner party had broken up as all English dinner parties do; the ladies had moved from the dining room into the library for their coffee while the gentlemen enjoyed their port and cigars. Soon enough the girls would be needed but right now they had a moment to enjoy a cup of tea themselves and report on what they had found.
“So, the secretary has gloves, a hood, rope and a gun - does he indeed?” said Sherlock Holmes. “I don’t suppose he needs those for a fancy dress party! I’ve been thinking that the American is a natural suspect - for all his importance as a Senator.”
“It would be a damned rum thing if Professor Moriarty were an American, eh Holmes?” said Dr Watson. “Can’t see it myself! I can more imagine him as an oriental gent like the Maharajah, though.”
Sherlock Holmes said nothing; he puffed on his pipe, however, looking very thoughtful. Dr Watson continued: “And all those wives - even if he has only brought one with him. Poor girl. It looks as if she might be planning to run away, don’t you think? That certainly seems to be what the note is suggesting. Perhaps we should give her a hand, Holmes, to escape the brute!”
“What about the others then?” said Holmes to Katie and Emily. “What do you think of them?”
“There doesn’t seem to be anything really suspicious about Sir Jacob and Lady Matilda Myerstein,” said Katie. “When I took in their can of hot water I found that they had brought their own safe with them and Lady Myerstein was grumpy that Sir Jacob had filled it up with his own important papers and she had had to put her jewels under the mattress for safe keeping. That doesn’t seem to me to be a sign of a master criminal mind at work.”
“Really, Holmes!” said Dr Watson. “The Myersteins have been very respectable and very rich for a century at least. Sir Jacob advises the Prince of Wales on his investments and he must know more secrets about the Prince and Princess of Wales than anyone else alive. A less likely person to be Professor Moriarty you couldn’t meet - unless it were the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch! Now that particular family has been connected to the Royal Family itself since the seventeenth century. There have been a few villains in the family as I remember but no one remarkable for the last hundred years or so. “
“What about the son, the Marquis of Fife? Perhaps he has fallen into debt and got into the company of scoundrels who are blackmailing him into doing a wicked thing,” said Holmes. “He wouldn’t be the first English aristocrat to fall among thieves! That would be just Moriarty’s style, too.”
“Damn it, Holmes,” said Dr Watson cheerfully, “the boy is only seventeen years old! And the Buccleuchs are not English aristocrats as you must know but Scots. It’s quite a different thing, I’m sure.”
Emily could support all that Dr Watson had said. She had seen the Duke and the Marquis going down to dinner wearing their kilts. She had rather liked the look of the Marquis, actually, and meant to mention this to Katie once they were alone. Being a servant in a grand house had some few little rewards, she thought.
“Be alert!” was all that Sherlock Holmes would say. “Be very alert! Of course it’s unlikely that Moriarty would be one of the guests. Look for him among the servants and secretaries of these great ones. That’s how he will insinuate himself into the house!” Holmes intended to spend some time in the grounds that night despite the cold and the dismal misty rain that was falling. He needed to be as well aware as the detectives from Scotland Yard of where the doorways and gates to the great house were - and which of them might be left open for a stranger to enter. He suggested that the girls would be well employed to do the same thing. “I think you might find the back door to the kitchen where the lovers are to meet tomorrow night, Emily. That will be one place to watch!”
Neither of the girls could go to bed that night, of course, until their mistress had come up from the party below and been settled for sleep. For Emily, this meant struggling with Princess’s whalebone corset; the whole process had to be done in reverse before the awful contraption could be set aside and the Princess breathed a great sigh of relief. Emily decided at that moment that she would never wish to be a Princess - no matter how grand the palace. Life was much simpler as a little girl.
The princess’s diamond ear rings went into their leather box and the glorious rope of pearls into another box. Emily held the box open for just a moment, admiring them.
“Would you like some pearls for yourself, Emily?” the Princess said in her gentle, accented voice. Emily was sure that she could hear some sadness in that voice - and detect the same sadness in the Princess’s grey eyes. “Come,” she said with a twinkle, “why don’t you try them on.”
With trembling hands Emily reached out and took the pearls from their box and wrapped them, in line after line, around her own neck. The pearls were still warm from being against the Princess’s skin; Lady Airlie stepped aside so that Emily could admire herself in the looking glass.
“They are beautiful, Your Royal Highness. Are they very old?” she asked.
“The pearls themselves are old. They were given to me by the Queen; they have belonged to the Royal Family for many generations. They come from India, you know. Before they belonged to the Royal Family, they belonged to an Indian Prince and were worn in procession by his favourite elephant! They have been strung in this long rope for some years - and probably need to be strung again because the setting is getting a little tired and worn. I have to be careful not to break the linen thread.”
Here the Princess took them from a reluctant Emily and placed them in their leather box. Emily returned them to the dressing table drawer where the other jewels [including the famous emeralds] were also stored.
“Emily, my dear,” said the Princess, “Do you know I think I would actually enjoy a cup of tea now that I have that horrid corset off. Could you please go down to the kitchen and make me one?”
While all of this was happening, Katie was pouring more warm water for Lady Maud and hearing all about the dinner that night. At sixteen, Lady Maud was not much older than Katie and was very pleased to have someone like Katie to talk to. She chatted while she had a wash and then pulled on a lovely silk nightgown.
“What do you think?” said Lady Maud as Katie brushed her hair. “There are so many policemen about the house that they must be expecting some sort of trouble. It’s fun having the Prince and Princess visit but it puts Mother and Father to so much extra bother. I wonder if anyone has told the police about the secret passage?” Lady Maud laughed and looked up to see how Katie would receive this interesting news.
“Is there really a secret passage, Ma’am?” said Katie trying to sound dull and sleepy but really very interested. “Are there any ghosts in the Hall as well?”
“Now Katie, I knew you wouldn’t believe me. But it’s true. My big brother, Gervase, and I found the passage when we were playing together in the library years ago. It begins behind a portrait of the tenth Duke - the one whose head was cut off in the Tower of London. Gervase and I were playing cricket in the library on a horribly wet summer’s day during the holidays. I knocked a ball right into the portrait and it swung open like a door. The passage leads from the library up to the Duke’s bedroom - or rather what used to be the Duke’s bedroom. Goodness knows what the old Dukes used to do with the passage! After the bathrooms were put in some years ago the master bedrooms moved to the other end of the Hall so they could enjoy the good plumbing. But it’s there, all right. The other end of the secret passage is now in the bedroom being used by the Princess. Gervase and I used to sneak about; it’s a great hoot to come and go without anyone knowing. Just image, sneaking in on the Princess of Wales!”
“Did Your Ladyship happen to mention the secret passage to anyone of the guests this evening?” said Katie, trying to sound very casual and making sure that she was giving Lady Maud’s hair a really good brushing so that her mistress would want her to continue both with the brushing and with the story.
“Oh, I don’t know, Katie. Let me think: the boy Maharajah was there. And that noisy American Senator; he was there with his secretary. And Sir Jacob Myerstein, I think. His secretary had brought him some telegrams, I think - they were very important anyway - and Lady Mathilda said something about modern houses like their own being so much better than these drafty old places because the plumbing was better and the drains more reliable. I don’t think she likes Vaucluse Hall much- with or without a secret passage. Oh dear, Katie, do you think you could bring me a cup of cocoa before I turn in?”
“Yes, My Lady,” said Katie. This was very important news. An excuse to go below and tell Mr Holmes about the secret passage was just what she wanted - but then, perhaps... If she did, he would be sure to tell Katie not to look for it and not to go into it but he would do all of this himself of course...
Now in matters like this Katie was normally so sensible and good but in this case, she made a very big decision - to tell Emily about the secret passage first and see what she said before telling Mr Holmes. And Emily, of course, was in the kitchen making tea for the Princess when Katie arrived to make the cocoa for Lady Maud; she thought that not telling Mr Holmes was Katie’s best idea ever.
“Well, at least let us have a look first,” said Emily. So it was agreed - and how differently this adventure would have turned out if the girls hadn’t decided to do this part if it themselves!
It seemed to take an age before they get together, however. Even with her cup of cocoa, Lady Maud wanted to dawdle before Katie could make her excuses and slip away. Emily had much less trouble getting away: the Princess knew that she was working undercover and once they were alone, even asked her how things were going - and who might be a suspect for the terrible Professor Moriarty. Emily was very cautious about what she said, however - even to the Princess. The Princess was such a good soul, you see, that she couldn’t see evil in anyone. Emily thought it especially wise not to say anything to the Princess about the secret passage.
The last thing that the Princess did before she went to sleep was to ask Emily to bring her the leather box with the famous emeralds. Lady Airlie had locked the box [with the other jewels the Princess had brought with her] in the bottom drawer of the chest of drawers. The Princess had brought an extraordinary treasure trove of jewels for the weekend, Emily thought. There were the pearls, of course, and a lovely sapphire brooch to wear during the day. A very grand box contained the special jewels that the Princess would wear on her shoulder the next evening; these were the beautiful jewel and enamel badges that marked the Princess as a Dame of the Garter. Then finally there were the separate boxes for the necklace, the tiara and the bracelets -the fabulous emeralds and diamonds that Professor Moriarty was determined to steal. The Princess spread them out on the pillow; in the gentle light of the lamp, they looked even more beautiful. Emily could see, however, that the Princess looked at the precious things with a mixture of sadness of hope. It was so quiet in the room; the Princess seemed to want Emily to say something.
“They are very beautiful, Your Royal Highness,” said Emily at last.
“When I am the Queen, I will wear them only once and then give them to my daughter in law - the next Princess of Wales. The Queen has other jewels to wear, you see,” said the Princess.
There was a long, comfortable silence here. Emily did not know all the sadness that the Princess carried but she deeply felt her kindness and her gentleness. Emily took the Princess’s hand and squeezed it just a little. It was enough to break the spell and the Princess was all jollity again. Emily put away the boxes of jewels and turned to return the key. At that moment, Emily was sure that she saw the oak panel opposite the bed moved just a fraction - as if a door were being closed. It was impossible – a trick of the mind, she feared, caused by her exhaustion and her heated imagination. But she had seen it all right – she knew that. It sent a sudden shiver of ice water down her back and she remembered the secret passage connecting this room with the library. She knew [more or less] where the passage was hidden in the library - but where did it start here?
Emily went off to wait for Katie in the kitchen - and it was not a happy time she had there. The Prince of Wales’ dresser, Mr Richard Spengler, had installed himself in the warmest spot beside the fireplace and he was bossing the kitchen girls about as if he were the Prince himself. Mr Spengler was an odd sort of man to be a servant, Emily thought. For a start he was a big man with broad shoulders and a very weather beaten face. He was clumsy and awkward, too - not graceful and deft. His manner was bluff and hearty but Emily did not feel at all comfortable with him; it was almost as if he were trying too hard to fill this role. What happened next just confirmed for Emily what she had been thinking because the way Mr Spengler spoke and acted seemed calculated to draw down a storm on his head.
“Fetch me a nice cup of tea,” he said to Emily, “and I’ll have a corned beef sandwich, Sweetheart, while you’re at it. Waiting on the Prince of Wales as I do is hard and important work! I’m so tired! I need a bit of a pick me up and you seem to have some time to spare to wait on tired and hungry gentlemen.” All the time he was giving these orders his eyes were roaming around the kitchen looking sharply at everything - in a way that made Emily most uneasy. She didn’t feel that she could refuse this great man, however, and so she went to find a tea pot, a cup and saucer.
“And make sure, Girlie, that you put them on a nice tray, dainty like - just as if you were serving the Princesses herself! And get a wriggle on - I’m hungry and need that tea!”
Emily would have liked to have said a few words to this bossy fellow but just as she was thinking of something to say, Mrs Fitzroy appeared in the kitchen. She had been busy until this moment supervising the washing up in the scullery and had only caught the last of Mr Spengler’s commands but it was enough. Mrs Fitzroy had had enough of this bullying gentleman who had sat about her kitchen all afternoon giving orders to the other servants - and lighting up cigarettes as often as he could and shirking his duties.
“Miss Emily, you are to do no such thing!” said Mrs Fitzroy in her own very bossy voice. “If Mr Spengler has nothing to do for the Prince of Wales he can take himself out into the stables but I won’t have him smoking in my kitchen and giving orders to servants who are much busier than he seems to be himself. Anyway, Sir,” said Mrs Fitzroy, “I happen to know that you haven’t been with the Prince for more than a week - and you won’t last another if you don’t smarten yourself up! Those who are in service are expected to serve!”
Just at that moment, another person arrived in the kitchen whom Emily didn’t know but Mrs Fitzroy, who seemed to be just warming up in her management of the men cluttering her kitchen, was quick to respond to him as well. “And good evening to you, Mr Applebaum. Don’t you be thinking that this is the kind of grand hotel that you might be visiting with Sir Jacob Myerstein!” Emily’s ears pricked up with this news and certainly the new arrival appeared to be a remarkable young man. Mr Reuben Applebaum was tall, elegant and feline with dark, intelligent features. He was still dressed for dinner; Emily learned that as the secretary to the great Sir Jacob Myerstein he had a place at the dining room table but he had been seated through the evening at the bottom of the table away from the grandest part of the company. He had been called out twice, too, to receive telegrams for Sir Jacob and once he had left the room with his employer. They returned looking anxious: it seemed that important bankers never stopped work even for dinner.
Mrs Fitzroy’s temper was, by this time, quite aroused and she was in fine form. Mr Applebaum’s handsome face and fine clothes cut no ice with her. “If you or Mr Spengler are desperate for a cup of tea, sir, the pot’s there on the end of the stove that Miss Emily made for the Princess just fifteen minutes ago. You’ll find a mug in that tray at the end of the deal table. Better still, take the whole pot and make yourself scarce!”
Emily smirked as a shame faced Mr Spenger and a furious looking Mr Applebaum poured their tea and left. It wasn’t quite so easy, however. The evening was very cold now and light snow was falling. Emily watched as the two men stood at the door, speaking in a low voice; Applebaum drank his tea quickly and then disappeared.
Chapter 4: Beyond the Secret Passage:
When Katie arrived at last, they both needed a cup of tea. Being a servant was very hard work and Katie thought that she would be a lot more respectful to their Chinese servants if she were ever able to return to Hong Kong. As they drank their tea, each of the girls had a great deal to tell the other. More than anything, Emily wanted to talk about the emeralds themselves and the sadness of the Princess of Wales who could laugh and smile so readily when she was in company but who was clearly a sensitive and shy person deep down. Katie wanted to share the story about the secret passage. Emily was a little cautious about this story to start with but then she remembered the strange business of seeing the oak panel in the Princess’s bedroom move - and the possibility that someone had been there, close to them, in the secret passage made her suddenly eager to see all this for herself.
Before they could be setting off to do that, however, it was necessary to think hard. Both of the girls were sure that is what their father would tell them to do. [It was something that he stressed to Emily again and again when he was teaching her to be a doctor in his bright little surgery in Kowloon.] So it was that the girls tried to concentrate all her imagination on the clues they had so far. Who among the company gathered at Vaucluse Hall could be the wicked Professor Moriarty? There were suspicious characters, of course, but the girls had also listened hard to Mr Holmes’s cautious words: Trust no one! Perhaps Professor Moriarty was the least likely person of all - the young wife of the Maharajah of Boggley-Wallah or the handsome young Marquis of Fife. Or perhaps Moriarty was so clever that he had spread the story about an insider planning to steal the emeralds so Scotland Yard would suspect anyone assembled for the weekend so that he could swoop in at the crucial moment - while the dinner party was on, perhaps - and then flee into the snowy night.
The note hidden in the green silk sari seemed to promise mystery and romance, perhaps - and the writer of the note had told the person who received it to bring jewels with them. Were these jewels the Royal emeralds - or the opulent rubies worn by the Maharajah’s wife? Perhaps the writer was Professor Moriarty wanting more and more jewels? Whom else to suspect? There was the American Senator -Mr Chesapeake Missouri - and his secretary. They would have ideal cover, Emily thought, because everyone would expect Americans to behave strangely- and they had been a late addition to the party. And what about the strange behaviour of the big, lubberly Mr Spengler and the silky, ambiguous Mr Applebaum? They were certainly mysterious. If Emily had had more experience of great houses and important people perhaps she might have been a little less suspicious but just at that moment it all seemed so baffling. Add to this the excitement of an international master criminal and a secret passage and anything was possible.
And behind all these suspicions were the emeralds themselves. They were beautiful and their story was so sad. They had belonged to a Persian princess, then to a brave warrior, then to Indian Emperors, a Danish King and now to the Princess of Wales. Both the girls had felt their power - and their sadness. It was a warning, Katie thought: owning great treasures might not bring great happiness - only length of misery. If he were to steal the jewels, Professor Moriarty -for all his wickedness- may only find himself even more desperate and unhappy.
The great house was almost silent now. Mrs Fitzroy was closing down the kitchen and sending the sleepy kitchen staff off to bed. The day had been long but tomorrow, with its grand dinner and ball would be even more exciting and demanding on the servants. Emily and Katie promised to put out the last candle left burning; Mrs Fitzroy’s only instruction as she checked the house for the last time was to make sure that the kitchen door was locked before they went to bed. Emily promised to do this; it wasn’t possible to do it just at that moment because she thought that Mr Spengler hadn’t yet finished his smoke. Locking up was a little less important perhaps because there were police officers stationed in the grounds of the Hall: Mr Spengler could lock up for himself. The girls made one little reconnaissance through the ground floor of the house to make sure that all was quiet before they took the candle and headed for the library to find the secret passage.
When Katie had told Emily about the secret passage beside the cheerful stove in the kitchen it had seemed like fun - and an easy thing to do to roll up and find it there behind the portrait. Now as they stood in the gloomy librarynn, it seemed as if it would be a much more difficult job to find the entrance to the passage. There was only one candle so the girls had to stick together as they went from portrait to portrait, trying to guess which one was the source of the secret opening.
The faces in the portraits looked smug and superior, gentle and kind or handsome and dashing in the winter light of day or the cheerful gaslight in the evening - they certainly were a handsome family, Katie thought. In the candlelight, however, all of the faces looked frightening- even sinister. Which picture to try? There were half a dozen large portraits of men placed as Lady Maud had described the one that had sprung open when struck by the cricket ball but everyone of the men in the pictures looked as if they might have been executed in the Tower of London. It seemed a hopeless task and both the girls were just thinking that they would have to begin prodding, pushing, tapping and shaking the portraits in some sort of order when they found that the job had been done for them. One of the portraits was hanging ajar.
It wasn’t swung open like a door might be but it had clearly been opened somehow and swung back - and not closed properly. It made both the girls shudder. Katie stepped up to the door with her candle. She slowly inched the door open, frightened that it would make a loud creaking sound. Stepping up to the widening crack, she held it up the candle try to see inside but the space behind the door was a dark cavern. “Someone has been here recently,” said Katie, “perhaps even moments ago! They were in the secret passage and heard us coming and have slipped away.”
“Katie,” said Emily in a whisper, “perhaps they are still in the passage - perhaps they have left the door open and are coming back!”
“Should we go and get Mr Holmes then,” said Katie, “or a policeman? I’ll wait here with the candle while you run to fetch him. He should still be in the stables I would think. Or I could run while you wait.”
Katie never finished the sentence because at that moment, the door swung open with a terrible bang and Katie and her candle were knocked to the ground. In the moment of light before the candle went out, Emily had a momentary glimpse of a dark, hooded figure spring out on her sister and dash past them both through the door of the library. It was closed behind them. By the time the girls had recovered themselves, lit the candle again and checked that all was well [and given each other a reassuring hug because both had been suddenly frightened by the dark figure] the room and the whole ground floor of the house was silent and desolate.
The girls had bravely gone into the dark library to look for the secret passage. Both of them had been frightened to do this but the fear they felt in having to find Mr Holmes in the next five minutes and tell him what had happened took an even greater leap of courage. For one moment I think Emily might have been happy to keep what had happened their secret but Katie wouldn’t hear of this - and felt almost ashamed that she hadn’t insisted on telling Mr Homes directly about the secret passage before they went off looking for it. The fact was that Katie couldn’t lose the sense that she had to look after Emily and think for both of them sometimes. Of course Emily resented this and it was the one time the girls ever came close to having a real argument. No one could ever say that Katie wasn’t as brave as Emily but there were times when Katie felt she had to be the more cautious of the two. So it was that when the girls found Mr Holmes standing in the garden, sheltering from the rain under a large umbrella that Katie tried to take all the blame for not coming to him first.
To their great relief, Mr Holmes seemed quite cool about the whole thing. He roused Dr Watson [who was snoozing in a corner of the tack room in the stables] and the four friends went off to look for any clues at what might have happened. Of course the girls had read in Dr Watson’s stories about the large magnifying glass that Mr Holmes carried and as soon as they reached the library, Mr Holmes had it out.
Holmes was deft and silent until he had surveyed the whole of the passage which was not as long as the girls had expected it might be. The passage was narrow and dusty- like a mine tunnel, perhaps, with walls of cold, cut stone. It ran some distance before meeting a set of wooden stairs which rose to the level of the bedrooms. Then the tunnel ran some distance again until it came to a dead end. “Only one set of prints here on the floor,” said Holmes in a whisper, “although it looks as if the person has been here twice.” When the passage came to an end, there was a handle to turn; everyone guessed that on the other side of the door was the Princess’s bedroom. Holmes gestured for them to return silently and once they had gathered in the kitchen, they thought that only then they could really talk above a whisper. Katie, being a very practical person, made them all a welcome cup of tea.
The four friends stood quietly for a little while, clutching their mugs of tea and thinking about the drama of the evening. All of them were lost in thought. Finally, Dr Watson broke the silence. “Whoever it was who knocked you girls down as they ran away, I think that our villain has lost a precious advantage!” said Dr Watson. “He must know that we’re on to him and he won’t be able to come this way to steal the jewels. That’s one in the eye for Professor Moriarty. It’s a good thing you girls found this - well done!”
While it was good to have Dr Watson’s approval, neither of the girls could relax until Mr Holmes had given his opinion - and when it came, it was a lot more cautious. “We don’t know that the person in the passage way was Professor Moriarty - or even that our midnight rambler is a man. The footprints are small enough to be a woman’s, perhaps. And we have to think more like Moriarty. If he can, he’ll have someone else do his dirty work for him. It’s too easy, you see. When the mystery is solved, you can be sure that we will all be surprised to learn who Professor Moriarty turns out to be.”
“What is it like having to be a servant, Katie?” Dr Watson asked. “And Emily, have you learned anything very special about the Princess of Wales while you wait on her?”
“The worst thing is the chamber pots,” said Emily emphatically. “That, and being on call at all hours. The Princess is a lovely, kind soul, however - and so is Lady Airlie. When we are alone they are very good to me; it’s only when there are other people about that they have to be cool and proper. All the same, if I ever go back to Hong Kong - or can ever afford to have servants of my own here in England- I’ll make sure that I treat them well.”
“That’s just what I think too,” said Katie. “But what’s it like living out there in the stable?” Katie asked Dr Watson.
He chuckled and Mr Holmes broke in: “Well, Dr Watson took one look at the arrangements and decided it wasn’t half genteel enough. He said he’d finished with uncomfortable digs when he left the army in Afghanistan with the leg wound.”
Dr Watson coloured a little. “It’s true. We’ve actually got a room at the Crown Inn in Basingstoke and we take it in turns to be here: that way we can have hot baths and one of us can have some sleep. What with Scotland Yard and all the servants coming and going it’s too proper busy here to get any rest. And the worst of it is the Duke of Buccleuch has brought some blessed bagpiper along and he’s forever parading up and down blowing his pipes. The man’s name is Angus McSporran of all things - it sounds like some character out of a pantomime but apparently he’s a fixture at Bow Hill, the Duke’s palace. Theoretically he’s only supposed to play while the Buccleuchs eat their oatmeal for breakfast but the Princess is quite taken with it apparently and the fellow seems to have licence to come and go whenever he pleases. The others give him a wide berth, I can tell you, when they hear him beginning to blow!”
And right on cue, a short, redheaded man with a bristly beard and full highland dress came puffing past with a skirl of bagpipes under his arms. This could only be the aforementioned Angus McSporran himself. Emily could only agree with Dr Watson’s judgement on the breakfast intrusion: it was a terrific noise.
Both the girls found it hard to settle to sleep that night. There were so many things to think about. Katie slept fitfully, her dreams taking her through dark and mysterious passages where a grim, severe face kept sneering, mocking her. Emily took some time to sleep on the cot in the princess’s dressing room. She was a little grumpy that while she was collecting chamber pots, Mr Holmes and Dr Watson were listening to bagpipes or having hot baths at Crown Inn. She fell asleep thinking of a hot bath herself and woke with a start at dawn, realising that she had to be up and about to find her mistress’s cup of tea. What a day - and a night - it threatened to be.
The next morning, the ladies slept in - although their servants [and that included Katie and Emily of course] had to be up early. Katie was sleeping on a little cot in Lady Maud’s dressing room and to have her morning wash, she had to come down to the servants’ bathrooms near the kitchen. At least it was warm and comfortable there and Katie enjoyed a hot shower before combing out her hair and slipping into the grey and green uniform. She had only half an hour to enjoy her own breakfast before she would need to take a tray up to Lady Maud’s bedroom. Katie met a very sleepy Emily in the busy kitchen and the two girls found it hard to remember that they were supposed to be strangers. Kind Mrs Fitzroy introduced them again, however, and was too busy making her best Scottish oatmeal for the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch to take any notice of the girls huddled in conversation.
Katie had decided that of all the strange characters in the house Professor Moriarty must be either Senator Missouri or his secretary, Mr Hiram Brigham. “Mr Brigham looks very shady to me,” she said. “Whatever would he be doing with a length of rope, a dark hood - and a revolver in his brief case?”
Emily was more inclined to suspect the rotund Mr Spengler, the Prince of Wales’ dresser. “He’s a rum one, Katie. He’s never where he ought to be and his eyes seem to be everywhere. He pretends to be hale and hearty like everyone’s uncle but he’s too smooth for me. He always seems to be acting a role he isn’t comfortable in.” Emily didn’t say it, of course, but Mr Brigham was an unusually good looking young man and Emily couldn’t believe evil of anyone with such a fine physique and such wonderful head of blond hair.
When the girls went to meet Mr Holmes that morning they found that he had gone from Vaucluse Hall on a mysterious mission that he wouldn’t explain- even to Dr Watson. “I don’t expect that he’s gone far,” was all Dr Watson could say. “He promised to be back in time for a late lunch. Perhaps something in London is calling him back? Perhaps he’s found someone lurking about the stables whom none of us have suspected. He always seems to see the villain before I do. ”
The girls thought that all of this was very interesting - but only for a little while. The fact was that both of the girls were as busy as you can imagine for the rest of the day helping to set up the dinner party and ball. Before she could do this, of course, Emily had to do her run with the chamber pot trolley and as unpleasant as this must always be, Emily had begun to approach this responsibility not as a chambermaid but as a detective. It was capital to have an excuse to go into every bedroom in the Hall and look about while the guests for the house party lingered over a very large old fashioned breakfast. Even in the hall upstairs, Emily could hear the sound of the bagpiper playing his melancholy tunes as he walked up and down on the terrace outside the breakfast room. It stirred her blood to hear this. The girls were born in Scotland, of course, and the pipes reminded them of a childhood they had almost forgotten.
Emily was particularly alert as she knocked and entered the bedroom of the Maharajah. The emerald green and gold sari was still carefully folded on the chest of drawers but when she touched it this time, there was no note to be found. To her great surprise she noticed that pillows and blankets had been set up in front of the fire in a kind of nest - and that even though there was a grand four poster bed in the room, only one side of the bed had been slept in. This was curious indeed but as the Prince and Princess of Wales [and the Duke and Duchess of Dorset] slept in separate bedrooms, perhaps it wasn’t so strange that the Maharajah made his young wife sleep in a nest on the floor. It would be something to tell Mr Holmes, anyway, when he returned at lunch time. When she went to retrieve the chamber pot from under the bed, there was another surprise. Two beautifully embroidered slippers [obviously belonging to the Maharajah’s lady] had been pushed there - hurriedly, perhaps, Emily thought. Like a good lady’s maid she retrieved them and placed the slippers together in the lady’s wardrobe. As she did so, her fingers touched something folded into the toe of one slipper. It was another note in the same fine, creamy paper that she had seen before. This is what it said:
We are in great danger. You must play your part; you mustn’t let me down. You know I still care so much about you. You know what will happen if you don’t succeed. Meet me as planned at 12 o’clock
Again, the letter was unsigned.
Emily read it through again and again, trying to commit it to memory and make out every last meaning in the anxiously written words. It was a strange kind of love letter, Emily thought.
In the next bedroom [the one belonging to Senator Chesapeake Missouri and his secretary] there was order and tidy method in everything. The bag with the rope, mask and gun were gone, however. “There’s nothing much that I can see here,” thought Emily. “If Senator Missouri is Professor Moriarty,” she thought, ”at least he’s a tidy villain and doesn’t make too much mess for housemaids to clean up.”
All the time that Emily was doing this unpleasant but necessary job, Katie was tidying Lady Maud’s room and putting together her things for the dinner and ball. Katie had found a ladder in Lady Maud’s best set of silk stockings and there was a scramble to find a pair of soiled ones that Katie could wash out and hang in the airing room down stairs. They would be dry just in time. Katie had never seen such beautiful clothes as the ones she put out on the bed or hung on a rack in the dressing room for Lady Maud to check. Such silk undies! Such an elegant, embroidered petticoat slip! Such a formidable corset and brassiere! And over all this there would float the fabulous green silk ball gown with its deep neckline [so shocking! Katie thought] and the train that spread out behind like a waterfall. The Princess of Wales may have grander jewels, perhaps, but Katie was certain that Lady Maud would be the most beautiful lady at the ball.
The ladies of the house party were planning to go shopping in Basingstoke later that morning while the gentlemen went out shooting on the Vaucluse Estate. Everyone would gather for luncheon and then there would be some quiet time that afternoon so that the guests could have a nap before the long night of festivities. As soon as the ladies had gone in the splendid carriages belonging to the Princess of Wales and the Duchess of Dorset, Katie reported to Mrs Fitzroy downstairs where every servant in the house was busy under her direction.
“Oh Katie,” said Mrs Fitzroy, “You’re just the girl I need! All the flowers for the arrangements on the dinner table are there on the table. Kindly make up twelve identical arrangements for me. Call me when you have put the first one together and I’ll just check that it is done properly, then you can do the rest of them. “
Katie’s heart sunk. She could honestly say that she had little experience with floral arrangements and would gladly have polished silver, beaten the rugs or done anything else except this very challenging and ladylike task. Mrs Fitzroy saw her anxiety and gave her a kindly smile. “Perhaps you would find someone to help you, Katie. It’s not easy, I know, if you’ve not done it before but just use your common sense. Ah, here comes the Princess of Wales’ maid, young Emily. She can help you, I’m sure.”
What a happy outcome for both girls! After her morning round with the chamber pots, Emily was determined to do something sweet and clean - and the flowers fitted that bill nicely. The girls would have an excuse to work together all morning and to loiter about in all sorts of places. Mrs Fitzroy took the girls to the dining room where the grand mahogany table had been spread with a big canvas cloth. On it were spread a host of beautiful flowers gathered from the splendid glass conservatory that adjoined the Hall. Even though it was winter, the hot house had yielded an abundance of lovely flowers. There were lively red tropical orchids, cool green and silver ferns, tiny white roses and fine evergreen leaves. Twelve silver bowls were assembled in a row and even though she had never done something like this before, Katie saw at once that the single biggest difficulty was going to be making sure that there were enough flowers to go round. Mrs Fitzroy suggested that the girls divide the flowers into twelve separate piles so that they wouldn’t run out before the final bowls were assembled. The flowers and ferns filled the room with the loveliest fragrance and their first effort, tweaked just a little by the critical Mrs Fitzroy, looked much more accomplished than you might expect.
The girls worked steadily: as they did so, they were able to turn over quietly all the possibilities that had presented themselves so far. Who was the villain - and how could the robbery happen when there were so many police about the Hall - to say nothing of the presence of the great Sherlock Holmes? Perhaps Professor Moriarty was having a great laugh at their expense, standing back and watching all the precautions but never intending to strike after all. Perhaps he was the kind of person who just enjoyed making rouble for everyone. Making sense of all the clues in front of them, the girls felt as if they were trying to do a big jig saw puzzle without the coloured picture on the box as a guide. Both of them felt too that many of the jigsaw pieces were missing. Emily said what both of them had begun to feel: that Mr Holmes and Dr Watson may have sent them on an adventure that might turn out to be tedious rather than exciting.
The girls took a break at 11 am when they had finished eight of the arrangements. Mrs Fitzroy had stopped checking their work every five minutes and she was now full of praise for what they had done. Katie was modest about their work, however: “The flowers are so beautiful, Mrs Fitzroy, that it would be hard not to put them together in a beautiful way.”
“That’s as may be,” she said with a laugh, “but you’re doing well. And I happen to know that cook has made a fresh batch of pikelets and you’ll have to be quick if you want to have one before all the greedy policemen in the grounds wolf them down!”
When the girls got to the kitchen, however, they found that word of the pikelets had spread rapidly through the police who did, in fact, have an unenviable job standing about in the garden in the November cold. Cook was really very pleased to have her pikelets so appreciated by gentlemen but she was noisily beating up a fresh batch, complaining loudly that she would be “pleased when all these hungry fellas had gone back to London!” She promised the girls that they would have the fluffiest ones from this batch if they would take the giant tea pot and a tray of mugs out to the men in the garden.
The girls were very happy to do that and their steaming hot tea put a sparkle in the eye of several young constables who were really needing a stiffener that cold morning. Touring the grounds was also a chance to see Mr Holmes and Dr Watson who, it turned out, had news to share. “A very profitable morning! “ Mr Holmes boasted, “Given how clever I am I’m astonished I didn’t see this beforehand; it makes everything fit. It solves every problem! I am so clever.”
The girls poured Mr Holmes a cup of tea and waited patiently for him to explain but he said nothing more - although Emily noticed that he sucked on his pipe with great satisfaction and seemed to strut about with even more confidence than usual. Finally he told them that he was going back to the Crown Inn in Basingstoke for a snooze. Now that he had solved the mystery, it was all a bit boring. “And I recommend you all get some rest,” he said airily. “It’s going to be a long and exciting night. Moriarty won’t strike until after the ball - but soon after I would say.” Then he was gone.
“It’s no good waiting for him to explain,” said Dr Watson as he took his cup of tea from Katie. “Once he’s in this mood, there’s no help for us ordinary mortals who haven’t been blessed with Mr Holmes’ famous genius. We’ll just have to wait to see what happens. He seemed very satisfied with himself when he came back from his appointment this morning although he wouldn’t even tell me where he had gone.”
Back in the kitchen, the pikelets were scrumptious and the girls enjoyed them while they sat and watched the dinner party being prepared. There were joints of meat being prepared for the oven, rich soups on the back of the stove, fragrant bread coming out and filling the kitchen with a heavenly smell. Cook was a picture of concentration as she put the finishing touches to a giant green fruit jelly being unmoulded on to a lovely porcelain dish. If you’ve never been to dinner in a grand home to honour someone like the Prince and Princess of Wales you can’t imagine how impressive everything was.
The girls would have liked to stay in the warm kitchen a little longer but there were still flowers to finish; when they returned to the dining in the room, however, there was a crisis. The Duchess of Dorset’s maid had happened to wander through the dining room and she had seen the flowers left on the table. The deep red orchids, she decided, would go perfectly with the Duchess’s white silk ball gown - so she had taken a spray to make into a corsage for her mistress. This left the last of the arrangements which the girls put together looking wan and pathetic.
Mrs Fitzroy snorted her disapproval; it seemed that the Duchess’s maid was given to little tricks like this which made things difficult sometimes for all the other servants. “Girls, we can’t leave that last arrangement as it is. If that bowl ends up opposite some grand person who is prickly about their status, we will all hear the complaints. Just take the secateurs, Emily, out to the conservatory and cut another stem of orchids. Mind you take only one: the Duke is very proud of those flowers and won’t want to see his plants pruned too much. And please be quick; we need to start setting the table soon.” Off the girls went; as they did so, Mrs Fitzroy was already moving the arrangements of flowers to the sideboard so that the big canvas sheet could be folded away. Other servants were bringing banks of silver, china and crystal so that the table could be set for dinner.
The conservatory, built by the last Duke as a separate wing behind the great house, was a glorious place at the most ordinary of times; today, in the bleak winter with bare trees and muddy gravel outside it was like heaven. The air was warm and heavy with moisture; it felt, Katie thought, like the gardens of Monteith on a summer’s day. There might even be monkeys here, Katie thought. The walls and roof of the conservatory were made of panels of thick glass covering an elegant iron frame. A marble fountain trickled in the middle of the enclosed space. Splendid blue and yellow water lilies floated in the fountain bowl and doe eyed gold fish winked placidly at the pearly sky. On a tiled part of the floor near the fountain was a small table and chairs. In midwinter, the Duchess of Dorset or Lady Maud could come here for tea in the afternoon and imagine that they were in some romantic jungle far away. There were lots of bromeliads and flowers growing in pots and big tubs with ferns of all kinds. Along one side, glossy trees offered oranges, lemons and limes out of season. The girls found banks of orchids growing in pots and on the walls in the very back of the conservatory; to get a perfect colour match with the ones already assembled took the girls a little time and the search took them right out of sight of the door.
When the job was almost done, they heard the door open and close, then open and close again. “Shh!” said Emily, “someone has come in. They’re standing on the tiles near the table and chairs.” The conservatory was eerily quiet: the only noise was the trickle of the water from the fountain. The girls were able to hear almost all of what followed.
“This is madness,” said a young male voice with a deep accent. “It isn’t wise for you to come here. “
“Sure, that’s what you say now, Sir! But once you promised you loved me - and like a fool I believed your words. Oh, I am quite undone! And you will be undone if you don’t do as I say!” The girls didn’t recognize the voice at all; it sounded like a young woman with an Irish accent. There was a cruelty in the voice that made both the girls feel fearful.
“And I’ll be undone - Angus and Parvati and I - if I do as you say. I wish there were some way to go other than this - or someone who could help me and my friends. What have I done to them! You are cruel - and to think I loved you once.”
“You made this mess - and you know the only way out,” said the lilting Irish voice which sounded cruelly triumphant. “I don’t care how you contrive it but have the jewels here before breakfast tomorrow. Leave them in the fountain - no one will look for them there. I’ll give you the letters in exchange when the jewels are safely accounted for. Don’t tell another soul - or my master will have your precious Parvati’s heart and liver. You broke my heart so it’s only fair that I break hers if you let me down.”
“But what if we are caught?” said the agonised male voice. “There are detectives from Scotland Yard all about the place and I believe that even the great Sherlock Holmes is here somewhere.” The young male voice sounded desperate with fear and grief.
“My master says that Sherlock Holmes will never recover the jewels; he has had dealings with the great man before - and bested him every time. Now be quick. If you’re right and it is so dangerous to meet here, you’d better be going. On your way!”
The girls had crouched back into the bank of orchids when they had heard the strangers come into the conservatory. They couldn’t see who was talking, but through the ferns, they had a tiny view of the gravel path leading back to the door. The first to leave was a well built young woman whose red hair was mostly hidden under a cap; Emily gasped when she recognised the black and grey uniform - identical to the one she was wearing as a servant of the Prince and Princess of Wales. The boy waited for her to go, then broke down and cried in the most terrible, wracking sobs. Katie thought that she had never heard anyone quite as broken and distraught as that young man. She had seen people in great pain in her father’s surgery but this was a pain of the heart and of the spirit. Finally, the man composed himself and walked to the door. Both the girls gasped when they saw who it was: His Royal Highness the Maharajah of Boggley-Wallah.
Chapter 5: The Ball at Vaucluse Hall
When the girls had a moment to think they were troubled and anxious. The stem of orchids which Katie had cut had seemed so important ten minutes ago; now it was listless in her hand, trivial and unimportant. Checking that no one was about to see them leave the conservatory, the girls slipped back into the Hall and made their way back to the kitchen.
“Well that explains the letters I found in the Maharajah’s room,” said Emily. “I had always thought that the 12 o’clock mentioned in the notes was midnight - that seemed to be the best time for secret meetings. But here it is midday- and what an amazing thing we’ve seen.”
“It was terrible,” said Katie whose kind heart had gone out to the young man in trouble. “I’ve never seen that girl about the Hall, Emily. Have you?”
“Well, she was wearing the same uniform as I am - but I don’t think that she is really a servant of the Prince and Princesses,” said Emily. “Anyone seeing her pass in the hallway, however, wouldn’t give her another thought. It’s just the kind of disguise that would go unremarked here. All the Vaucluse Hall people would think that she were just another servant with the Prince and Princess of Wales. She could go anywhere and not be suspected.”
“It sounds as if the jewels- once they are stolen- are going to be left in the fountain for that woman to collect. And the person who will steal them is the young Maharajah. I would never have suspected him! Just wait until we tell Mr Holmes.”
This had to wait, however, until the flowers had been finished and the final arrangements approved by Mrs Fitzroy. She smiled and told the girls that if they were still hanging about in five minutes she would give them another job to do; with this encouragement, the girls quickly made their escape to the stables. Lady Maud and the Princess of Wales were expected back from their shopping trip at any minute and when they arrive, Katie at least would be busy.
To their great surprise [and to Emily’s considerable annoyance] Mr Holmes didn’t receive their startling news with anything much more than a snort. “Well that’s just what I expected,” was all that he would say - although he did make the girls describe the red haired woman as closely as they could. This was not easy; the girls had seen her for only a moment and for all that time she was walking away from them.
“You know what this means, girls,” he said at last, “It’s just as we feared: the thieves are operating from inside Vaucluse Hall. I can’t be inside without tipping them off that we are on to them. It’s all up to you. Just promise me that if anything really dangerous happens, you won’t try to manage it on your own. Just shout and someone will come. Can you scream, Emily?”
Actually, Emily was quite a famous screamer in her youth and thought that she had probably not lost the knack since she had grown a little. “I promise I’ll raise the roof if I am in any sort of danger. You’ll probably be able to hear me from the Crown Inn in Basingstoke.”
The shadow of a smile flickered across Mr Homes’ serious face. He was thinking more and more that these were the best girls he could have recruited for this kind of business.
“You see what these people are capable of, girls,” said Dr Watson kindly. “Blackmail, robbery - impersonating a servant of Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales! They won’t stop at anything - and they wouldn’t hesitate to hurt two young women like yourselves if that’s what it took to get away with the jewels. “
“We knew there might be danger when we accepted your invitation,” said Katie. “We said we’d do it for Scotland and the Queen, as you said. But now...” she struggled to put the next part into words. “Now I feel as if we’re doing it for people we care about - like the good Princess and Lady Maud. If you could have heard the cry of that young man after the woman had gone, Sir, you would want to do anything to help him, I’m sure.”
All four of the friends were silent. Finally Dr Watson spoke: “Well said, young lady! The trouble is that Holmes and I have been kicking around wicked men and women for so long we’ve lost the sense of what good people can do - and how good people might feel when confronted with the kind of evil we see every day. But be careful, girls - because it is real evil. Real evil!” Just at that moment, there was a clatter of hooves on the cobblestones of the mews yard and the two elegant carriages carrying the ladies made their return. The girls were needed elsewhere.
The whole house above the elegant oak staircase was silent that afternoon as the guests had a snooze before the demands of the big night. The ball was expected to go until 2 am and every one of the guests wanted to be able to dance the night away. The gentlemen came home from their hunting party muddy and red from the cold wind, calling for hot drinks and soup for lunch. Once they were satisfied, the afternoon quiet would be undisturbed until tea time.
There was even a break for the servants above and below stairs once the dining room table had been set and the supper for the ball had been prepared. Katie and Emily stood back to admire the spectacle of the table: for two little girls from Hong Kong, it was stunning. Their flowers looked lovely in the silver bowls: six arrangements on the table and the rest on sideboards and supper tables in the ballroom. Each setting at the table had a bank of silver cutlery, elegant porcelain plates and Irish crystal glasses for wine and water. There were finger bowls, starched napkins arranged in astonishing designs and cruets for salt and pepper and condiments of all kinds. It would be something, Emily thought, to be the lady of this house and enjoy all these beautiful things. She must look about later in life, she thought, to find a gentleman with a title and a fortune who could give her all of this. How much fun it would be to welcome her parents and Katie to enjoy all this elegance.
Emily decided as she laced the Princess into her corset that this was one element of upper class life she would not be adopting, however. The Princess was very brave and submitted as the whalebone contraption was first applied and then tightened. With every tug of the cotton lacing, the Princess became a tiny bit thinner and her bosom, pushed up by the whalebone stays, became a fraction larger. The Princess did her best to breathe but Emily was absolutely astonished at how awful the business was. Applying the corset made Emily realise how little she knew about the lives of great people and she timidly asked, “Does His Royal Highness. Ma’am, have to wear something like this perhaps?”
The Princess laughed as heartily as she could without being able to breathe deeply. “Why no, my dear. Although I think it would be a jolly good thing if I tried it out on him. He has been becoming uncommonly stout of late and needing all new clothes. The only thing that fits him easily anymore is his nightgown!”
After the corset came the Princess’s exquisite silk gown in grey watered silk. It was embroidered all over with silver passionfruit flowers. Then came the splendid sash and jewel encrusted orders which the Princess wore on her left shoulder; then there were court shoes in silver and long, silver white gloves. The Princess stood to check her appearance in the looking glass. She turned around and asked Emily to check that everything was right.
Emily could only smile her biggest, happiest smile. She loved the way the silk gown shimmered in a train from the waist; it formed a kind of waterfall as the Princess walked. Emily loved the way the clothes had transformed a kind and gentle middle aged lady like her grandmother into a real princess. It was stunning.
It was almost time for dinner - they could hear the gong being beaten below summoning the guests to the dining room. Even though they had begun dressing long ago, Emily knew from the gong that they would be late. [Emily learned afterwards that the Princess always seemed to be late and not even the Prince’s grumpiest faces could cure her!] The Princess ignored the anxious looks all around her and asked Lady Airlie to bring the emeralds.
Once again, Emily was dazzled as the jewels emerged from their packing boxes. The whole evening seemed a dream for Emily but there was one last treat in store for her. “Why don’t you help the Princess with these,” Lady Airlie said kindly, handing Emily the necklace. Emily felt the wonderful weight of the stones in her hand and then fixed the simple clasp at the back; the bracelets fitted in the same way. She had to stand on a stool, however, to set the tiara on the princess’s head. Lady Airlie helped pin it in place with long, elegant silver hairpins.
Just at this moment, there was a knock at the door. The Prince had sent a footman to see where the Princess might be and roused at last, the Princess and Lady Airlie took their leave of Emily and made their way to the staircase. All the guests were arranged in order in the hall waiting for her. Emily followed behind and found Kate and some of the other servants there as well. They were treated to a glimpse of the Prince looking rather grumpy until the Princess had kissed him gently on the cheek. The Prince stood tall, offered his arm to the Duchess of Dorset and the doors to the dining room swung open. The Princess followed with the Duke of Dorset, then the Duke of Buccleuch with Lady Airlie, the Duchess of Buccleuch with the Prime Minister, then the other guests right down to Senator Chesapeake Missouri and the wife [one of them, at least] of the Maharajah and the Maharajah himself with Lady Maude. Everyone seemed gay and excited - but how much sadness and fear and pain that laughter covered, Emily thought.
Two hours after the dinner began, the guests who were coming for the ball were beginning to arrive in a cavalcade of carriages drawn through the cold November night. These were the friends of the Duke and Duchess - all of them excited to be invited to meet the Prince and Princess and all of them dressed in beautiful formal clothes. The Duke and Duchess stood with the Prince and Princess at the door of the ballroom and a footman in the Dorset colours announced each new arrival in a booming voice.
The girls had been given simple jobs to do that night. Mr Holmes had spoken to the Prime Minister about this who had spoken to the Duchess. She was not told exactly what was afoot - the fewer people who knew that a terrible crime might take place that night the better. The Prime Minister hinted that he had particular reasons to want these two servants able to move about as freely as possible. Mrs Fitzroy [who was much cleverer than most people suspected] had guessed on Friday evening that these two girls were most likely some part of the police presence at the Hall. She gave the girls an ideal job: they were to take around a big bowl of sugared almonds and offer them to everyone between the dances. Emily and Katie found that if one were quiet and looked confident, one could move pretty much all around the ballroom and dining room checking on things with this simple disguise. [They also found that you could eat quite a few of the sugared almonds at the same time and no one would notice.] They saw much to interest them: beautiful clothes, sparkling jewels, handsome young naval officers and elegant ladies - but nothing to indicate a potential jewel thief. The Princess’s emeralds appeared quite safe.
An elegant supper was served. Emily was intrigued that Lady Maud seemed to dance only with the young Marquis of Fife - and then to disappear with him for about twenty minutes. The Maharajah and his wife made polite conversation with the Prime Minister for some while and then sat in silence for the rest of the night, watching the dancers and looking very uncomfortable. Katie noticed with surprise that the Prince of Wales [who had earlier eaten a large and heavy dinner] lined up for very large helpings of cake and pudding at supper. Emily [who had been warned already by the Princess about the Prince’s growing waistline] was less surprised. More dancing followed and slowly - very slowly - the happy guests began to disperse. By 2.30 am, the last guests [a distinguished bishop and an admiral of the fleet - both of whom had drunk large quantities of claret wine through the night] were finally persuaded by the Duchess to leave. The servants had already cleared away the dinner and done the washing up but there but there was still a lot to put to rights before the last servants could go to bed.
Lady Maud seemed sad as Katie helped her out of her beautiful gown and poured out for her the can of hot water left sitting on the washstand. Katie brushed her hair but Lady Maud was quiet and quickly turned in. Katie was sure that she were deeply troubled and looked older and sadder than she had appeared on Friday evening. Emily had a harder job to do in dismantling all the Princess’s finery; it had taken so long to put on and now it must all come off. The gloves and shoes came off first, then the emeralds and finally the grey silk gown. Lady Airlie packed the emeralds into their leather boxes and locked them in the bottom of the chest of drawers. Then Emily went to work on the corset and after much effort with the laces and stays the awful contraption came off with a grunt from Emily and a mighty sigh of relief from the Princess. Soon after, with the Princess in her lace night gown she took Emily’s hand and thanked her for her care that night. “I couldn’t ask for a better maid, Emily,” she said simply. “You can come to live at Marlborough House after all this is over if you would like.”
“Your Royal Highness,” was Emily in a whisper. “If I didn’t want to be a doctor so much, I would certainly come to serve you.” There was some silence and then Emily went on,”You must know that if there is an attempt to steal the emeralds it will be some time tonight or tomorrow morning. I have to go now, as Mr Holmes has said. I can’t sit and wait here with you. But I will stay if you want me to.”
“You’re a brave, good girl,” said the princess, “but I think that Mr Holmes is right. We’ll never catch this criminal if we don’t somehow give him the chance to come to us. I think myself that the man will strike while we are all in church in the morning. We’re all out of the way then; it seems the logical time to me. But we can only wait and see.”
She squeezed Emily’s hand and put the light out as Emily closed the door. In the adjoining room, Emily could hear the dramatic snoring of the Prince of Wales. Perhaps there were advantages, Emily thought, for husband and wife to have separate bedrooms.
Emily met Katie in the darkened kitchen. Both of them knew that the attack on the Princess would come sooner than later - and that the person who would make the attempt would be the young Maharajah. They also knew that the most likely way in which the jewels would be taken was through the secret passage. They would do what they could within the Hall, trusting that Mr Holmes and the detectives from Scotland Yard would manage things from outside. Together, the girls developed a simple plan.
Katie would station herself in the shadows outside the Maharajah’s bedroom, hidden as best she could be behind a suit of armour. From that position, she would have the best view of anyone coming out to find the secret passage in the library. When the Maharajah emerged, she would follow him and watch what he did when he left the passage. Emily would station herself downstairs in the kitchen landing, looking into the conservatory to see when the thief took the emeralds to the fountain. All that they had to do now was to wait.
Of the two girls, Katie certainly had the better position that night. It was dismal, certainly, standing behind the suit of armour so that she was out of sight of anyone checking the hallway, but at least she was warm. Emily, on the other hand, was standing outdoors on a cold November night. The drizzling rain that had dampened the hunters that afternoon had cleared away and the night was colder but clearer. Half a moon lit up the back garden, the stables and the terrace of Vaucluse Hall. Katie noticed a policeman on his solitary beat; he seemed to take ten minutes to make a full circuit of the grounds. It was cold. Although she could walk about and stamp her feet, there was no escaping the glacial iciness that seemed to seep into her bones. For a girl from Hong Kong, this was a trial indeed and Emily was almost going to go inside to see if she could find a tea pot when the terrace door adjoining the library opened quietly and a dark, hooded figure emerged. It was cold but the night was clear and Emily could see the person - slim and of middle height and build - standing expectantly - anxiously - and looking to the window above. It seemed an age that the person stood, then a parcel dropped from a window above, then another and then a third parcel. The theft was taking place in front of Emily’s eyes and her heart was thumping so loudly she was surprised that the dark stranger could not hear it.
The figure was quick as a knife and Emily was puzzled at first at what was happening. Then she realised that the figure had opened the boxes and was quickly scooping their contents into a canvas bag. The boxes were stacked tidily on a stone bench and then the figure was gone - slipped into the conservatory itself - only to emerge a moment later without the bag. Then, with the boxes under his arm, the figure had gone as quietly as he had emerged - through the library door.
Emily waited a very long beat before she moved. The figure had clearly been observing the policeman’s beat and had timed his appearance just as the man had passed that way. Emily would have only moments before he would return. Struggling to control her beating heart, Emily paced to the conservatory, was embraced by its lush warmth and in a moment she was at the fountain. She had to take off her coat and peel back her sleeve to sink her arm into the warm water of the fountain. The bag, surely, must be somewhere here under the waterlilies. At last, in the mud at the bottom of the fountain, her fingers touched on the rough canvas of the bag and traced the hard outlines of the jewels within. Fighting the impulse to shout her joy, Emily hoisted the bag out and spilled the jewels into her coat. Two bracelets, a necklace and the tiara - everything just as she had put them on the Princess that evening which now seemed so long ago.
Now Emily showed just what a good judge of character Mr Holmes and Dr Watson had been when they had picked out Katie and Emily at the Lyons Corner House. Most little girls, I’m sure, would have gone running to show Mr Holmes and the Prime Minister and the Princess of Wales that she had rescued the jewels from certain loss. As exciting as this might be, however, Emily knew that it would not identify the thief. That would take a cool head as well as a brave heart - and Emily knew well that she was up against Professor Moriarty - the greatest criminal mind in the world. Emily searched quickly for something hard and heavy - and found it in a loose rock from the edge of the gravel path. She slipped this into the bag and sent it back to the bottom of the fountain. Then as coolly as she could manage it, she returned to the kitchen carrying her coat. Here she quickly put her hands on a large tea towel, wrapped the jewels securely in the towel and put it into the deep, inside pocket of her coat. Then she returned to the door, took a very deep breath and did what she had so often wanted to do while all this drama with the stolen emeralds was happening about her. She screamed - and didn’t stop until the lights were coming on in the house and the stable and the whole house was in an uproar.
To her absolute astonishment, her cries were soon joined by others - by the anxious shouting of men roused from sleep, the frightened whickering of horses and above the noise, a constant cry: “Fire! “ The stables were ablaze - and everyone coming and going in the confusion turned all their attention to bringing the horses and men in the stables to safety in the mews yard. It was not for another hour- until the danger was passed and the straw extinguished and every horse accounted for that another cry went up - this time from the Hall itself: the Princess’s emeralds were gone.
Chapter 6: In the Library.
As the girls tried to recall every detail of that amazing morning to tell their parents later, each of them could recall vivid details that would never leave them - no matter how long they lived. For Katie, the most terrible moment was Emily’s scream. She had watched from the shelter of the suit of armour but nothing stirred from the Maharajah’s door. When she was giving up hope that anything were going to happen that night, she noticed two other figures moving in the corridor. She had a glimpse of one of them entering the library but no idea where they had come from. The second figure slipped past her in the darkness to the oak staircase.
After an agonising wait, she saw this figure return, then the two figures left the library - and to her amazement, go in a direction that Katie simply could not credit. She was so excited that she couldn’t concentrate on how long any of this might have taken. Then there was another agonising wait. Katie didn’t know what to do; none of this was going to the plan that the girls had devised that evening as they waited for the ball to finish. And just when she thought that nothing more was going to happen and she might slip downstairs to find her sister, there came the terrible scream - and then the cries of fire. Katie’s heart didn’t stop pounding until she found her sister safe outside the kitchen door.
In the grounds of the Hall, the girls came upon Mr Holmes looking ashen and perplexed. The fire was clearly not part of his plan either but he remarked bitterly, “Of course! The perfect cover. No one will notice anything unusual around the conservatory in all this confusion. You can be sure that the jewels- if they have been retrieved from the fountain - will be long gone by now. We cannot do anything about the jewels anyway until the horses and men are safe.”
The part about the confusion and chaos, however, worked both ways. Emily had a little job to do, then the girls set off to do a spot of detective work for themselves. They took advantage of the uproar to check everything that they could in the guest rooms - and to check the secret passage as well. The disturbed dust on the floor certainly showed that there had been at least one other recent visitor. The girls arrived at the Princess’s bedroom just as Lady Airlie made the dreadful discovery that the precious emeralds were gone. In the initial distress, she had checked the drawer which was safely locked. Once all was accounted for outside, she had taken the trouble to open the drawer; the boxes were there in place. And they were quite empty! Emily’s most awful memory of that tumultuous morning was the look of pain on the face of the Princess when she learned that her emeralds had been stolen.
Two other things happened that morning that impressed the girls. One of these was the very proper way that everyone tried to behave - as if no disaster had struck them down. Breakfast was served as usual -although a little later perhaps after the excitement of the ball and the tumult of the robbery and fire. Katie marvelled as the guests came down for breakfast and talked politely about the weather. The Duchess of Buccleuch lamented the fact that her bagpiper had not reported for duty; Lady Maud said jokingly that perhaps he or his pipes had perished in the flames of the stable fire: “And no loss if they have!” The young people laughed at this sally but the Princess said quietly that she missed the pipes too and perhaps it was not good form to joke about anyone being injured by the fire. Besides, the Princess said with a gentle smile, the pipes seemed to give extra spirit to her oatmeal porridge. After breakfast, The Princess of Wales insisted on going to the local parish church for Morning Prayers and Divine Service. Her heart might have been breaking but nothing came between her and the schedule she had followed all her life.
The second thing that happened was more extraordinary: Mr Holmes and Dr Watson joined them in the Hall. Now that the robbery had taken place there was no need for them to lurk about in the stables and when Emily came down to breakfast with the Princess, Mr Holmes, Dr Watson, the Prime Minister and the Dukes of Buccleuch and Dorset were huddled over their toast and marmalade discussing political events in Germany and Russia as if there was nothing to say about emeralds and international villains. After his initial distress, Mr Holmes was curiously upbeat. Once he had drunk his tea, however, he called the Prime Minister aside and the two men talked for some little while in the library. Then a secretary of the Prime Minister was busy taking dictation and a special messenger was despatched at top speed.
As breakfast finished, Mr Holmes himself stood to speak. He thanked the Duke and Duchess of Dorset for their hospitality and asked if he might trespass on their kindness for just a little while. Although some of the guests had been planning to leave the Hall later that morning, he asked if everyone - without exception- could be in the library at 11 am. He had, he explained, some very particular business with the members of the House Party. He also warned the party that detectives from Scotland Yard would be searching the whole house that morning before their meeting at 11.
It was then only 8.50; most of the company walked to Holy Trinity Church in the Vaucluse village. Sir Jacob and Lady Myerstein and their secretary did not attend; instead, Emily saw them huddled in conversation over a second cup of tea in the library. True to Mr Holmes’s promise, about twenty detectives from Scotland Yard arrived just as the princess was setting out for church. They were polite and respectful but very thorough. It took them a whole hour to turn over everything in the Hall and in the stables and out buildings. As Holmes expected, however, there was nothing to show for the search. There were no finger prints to be found anywhere associated with the jewels - and not a trace of an emerald anywhere.
At 11 am, everyone was ready and waiting for Mr Holmes and Prime Minister. The Duke and Duchess of Dorset were mortified that the robbery of the emeralds had happened in their home when the Princess was the guest of honour. The Dorsets had served the Crown for centuries and nothing like this had happened before- well, not since the tenth Duke had been executed in the Tower of London for treason. Lady Maud was one of the last to come in; she was looking, Emily thought, very anxious and sad. The Duke of Buccleuch and his teenage son, the Marquis of Fife, had come down in their kilts; they sat with the Duchess who was wearing a lovely green tweed dress and coat. The young Maharajah and his wife [both dressed today in comfortable English clothes] took chairs near the fire; they were obviously feeling the cold. Sir Jacob and Lady Matilda Myerstein sat near them, looking severe and uncomfortable. Their secretary, Mr Reuben Applebaum, stood behind them, holding an important looking leather writing compendium. Senator Missouri and Mr Brigham were also there: both of them looked crestfallen and disappointed. The Prime Minister was in busy, quiet conversation with Mr Homes and Dr Watson; they were reading through a letter that had just come by special delivery. The person who delivered the letter had also joined them in the library; it was, Katie realised with a gasp, none other than Mr Mycroft Holmes himself. Finally they were joined by the Prince of Wales, accompanied by, of all people, his dresser, the rotund and avuncular Mr Spengler. Katie and Emily stood together at the back Mrs Fitzroy, well behind Mr Holmes. The last to arrive [and only minutes late this time] was the Princess of Wales who entered with Lady Airlie. Everyone stood as she entered the library; the Princess calmly acknowledged the bows and curtseys of everyone present. Although her dignity was intact, the princess looked he looked deeply troubled. Finally, like some actor in a play or a minister in a Baptist church, Mr Holmes stood stiffly, silenced the murmur with a frown to everyone and began to speak. The whole room was silent and tense as he began.
“Your Royal Highnesses, Your Grace, My Lords and Ladies, the Honourable Prime Minister, Sir Jacob and Lady Matilda, the distinguished Senator Missouri, ladies and gentlemen.” Holmes paused at this moment, looking a little anxiously at his brother, Mycroft; he was concerned that he might not have addressed everyone properly. Mycroft never made errors in matters like this of course but today he smiled weakly, encouraging Mr Sherlock Holmes to go on.
“Three months ago, Scotland Yard learned from a very reliable source that the world famous villain, Professor Moriarty, was back in England and planning an assault on our nation so diabolical and insolent that it would secure for ever his reputation among the criminals of the world. This was to be no ordinary or vulgar crime such as robbing a bank, piracy at sea or fraud - all of which crimes, by the way, Professor Moriarty has attempted before with considerable success. No, this time Professor Moriarty was determined to snatch away priceless jewels which are the property of Her Royal Highness, the Princess of Wales, and to do this, moreover, from under the noses of her friends who would do everything in their power to protect her. The robbery would take place here in Vaucluse Hall, at a House Party planned many months ago.” There was a murmur of concern from some present but they were silenced by a look from Holmes.
“Professor Moriarty learned a fortnight ago, I believe, that his plot had been discovered. Should he, then, abort his plan and seek another target or another venue? No. Moriarty decided, ladies and gentlemen, to press ahead with his plan. One reason for his decision, I am sure, is his inordinate vanity. Knowing that Scotland Yard and I were now involved in the case only added a piquant sauce to the stew of his intentions. It would make his triumph all the more spectacular.”
“But more importantly, this is a crime that was plotted not a few months ago; the elements in the crime were slowly assembled over a long period of time- over a period of many years.”
Holmes paused dramatically at this moment; there was another gasp from the assembled company. Katie and Emily were scrutinizing every face to see if they could discern fear or apprehension anywhere. Indeed, there was uncomfortable shifting and fiddling from some of the people assembled in the library.
“Before we go on to explain how this diabolical criminal has gone to work it is necessary to clear away some distractions. Professor Moriarty is happy to work through the weakness of others and he is delighted to have others do his evil deeds but in this case, Moriarty was determined to be on site - and present for the theft even if he wasn’t the one lifting the jewels. Let me start with a basic question. Who is Professor Moriarty and what does he look like? This man, you must know, is at work behind serious crimes all over the world but there is no photograph of him. There is no reliable description of him. There are no distinguishing scars or marks on his face or person; no one, you see, who has crossed him has lived to tell about him. His criminal associates know him in a range of disguises and by many, many names. So who among the company might be Professor Moriarty?”
The Prince of Wales snorted at this. "Mr Holmes, this sounds like the stuff of fairy tales to me! But for the fact that the Princess’s emeralds have been stolen from under your nose and from under the care of the best men in Scotland Yard, I’d say that this were all too silly and dramatic to be true. The fact is that I know almost all the people here at Vaucluse Hall - the Prime Minister, and Dorset and Buccleuch, for example. You’re not going to tell me that my old chum Dougal Buccleuch is a master criminal now, are you?”
The assembled group chuckled at the Prince’s joke but Holmes was deadly serious. “Your Royal Highness is perfectly correct. The jewels are gone despite the best that I have been able to do. And if you will forgive me, Sir, despite the best that you have been able to do.”
The Prince chuckled mirthlessly at this but Holmes went on. “Of course neither His Grace the Duke of Buccleuch nor His Grace the Duke of Dorset is Professor Moriarty. Nor the Prime Minister, I would think.” Here, Sherlock Holmes bowed to the gentlemen he had named. There was another nervous titter from the company. “But there are others here whom you do not know so well. Professor Moriarty has been known to take the character of a humble servant - someone easily overlooked and held in no suspicion because he is so ordinary and fitted to the scene. From the start, suspicion has fallen on those men. “
“And certainly,” said Holmes, “few of the servants are who they first seem to be. Your dresser, Your Royal Highness, for example, with the improbable name of Mr Richard Spengler.” Here, everyone turned and looked in the direction of the Prince’s dresser who had strangely taken up a position behind the Prince’s chair. He looked defiant and defensive.
“Dr Watson?” Holmes indicated that his colleague should speak.
“Well,” said the doctor cautiously, “At first glance, Mr Spengler seemed to be a very likely suspect for the role of Moriarty. He could come and go as he liked, seemed to have little to do but stand about and smoke and he was dangerously close to the Prince and Princess. But I happen to know this gentleman - and I can tell you that his name is not Spengler. When I met him in Chitral near the Kyber Pass - and treated him for a serious gunshot wound to the thigh- he was known as Sergeant William Burns of the Queen’s Own Norfolk Rangers. He walks with a limp after being wounded in an engagement with Pathan tribesmen in which Sergeant Burns risked his own life to rescue his Colonel from certain death in am ambush. He himself is very lucky to be alive. To my knowledge, Sergeant Burns is one of the bravest men I have ever met.”
“Six months ago,” said the Prince quietly, “I pinned the Victoria Cross on his chest- an office I performed at Buckingham Palace for my mother, Her Majesty the Queen. Sergeant Burns is, as you say, an exceptionally brave man. When the Prime Minister told me that I was bringing the Princess into danger in this house, I thought then that I needed about me a brave and determined man who could protect her in a way no police officer could. Sergeant Burns was about to be discharged from Chelsea Hospital - and he willingly accepted my offer to come as a kind of bodyguard. He’s a good man - but you see, Mr Holmes, that being a good man is no proof against the villain, Moriarty.” Here Mr Spengler -or rather Sergeant Burns- stepped forward and gently placed his comforting hand on the Prince’s shoulder. Katie was pleased to have this good news about the Prince’s dresser. She had known from the start that his bossing people about and trying to look silly was not his natural style at all. When Katie caught his eye, he gave her a little wink and she smiled broadly.
“Sergeant Burns is not the only imposter among us, is he Senator Missouri,” said Holmes turning to the American gentleman who was at the reading table.
“No Mr Holmes, he is not,” said the Senator lightly. There is no need to keep up the pretence any longer, I think, Mr Brigham.” At this, young Mr Brigham stepped forward and looked intently at the group gathered in the library. He had the cool, confident manner of a very brave man.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” said the Senator. “As the Senior Senator for New York State I have travelled here at the invitation of the President of the United States because the Treasury of the United States has, over the last five years, suffered considerably from an international gang who have been circulating counterfeit hundred dollar bills through England, Europe and Americas. The American police now believe that the operation is the work of the same arch criminal who has struck here this weekend - Professor Moriarty. Mr Brigham is a Pinkerton Detective employed by the Treasury to apprehend the villain. We’ve been on his trail for two years now; this weekend we came so close to arresting him. Mr Brigham is not my secretary - but he is a very decent, brave and incorruptible police officer. He is unlucky not to be taking back to the United States the villain who has injured both the United Kingdom and the United States.”
The girls looked at young Mr Brigham and wondered how they could ever have suspected him of being such a wicked man. Emily was always sure, however, that someone so good looking couldn’t be bad at all.
“So we come to the final imposters,” said Mr Holmes, “and these are ones of which I am very proud indeed. “Katie and Emily Bland, will you step forward?”
The girls did so very shyly, and dropped a little curtsey. “These girls have come to the Hall in disguise, Emily as a maid to the Princess and Katie as the maid to Lady Maud Dorset. They may look like common, ignorant girls but I can assure you that they have an international record for catching criminals in China and the Far East. They are here at my invitation and I am very glad that I was able to recruit them to our cause.”
Lady Maud was simply astonished and smiled weakly at Katie, who felt a tiny betrayal in having been less than honest with her mistress about what she was doing at Vaucluse Hall. Emily, on the other hand, was flattered by Mr Holmes description of them as being internationally famous; it just about made up for his earlier description of them as common, ignorant girls. Not for the first time, Emily was not surprised that Mr Holmes remained an unmarried man.
“All of this is very interesting,” said the Duke of Dorset testily. “I suppose that by all this we are to understand that the thief is not Spengler or Brigham or either of the girls. But who is the thief?”
“The answer to that question, Your Grace, is one I must now address - but I must also ask for your patience while I tell a story that is full of sadness and pain - and goodness and bravery and decency as well. It begins with an Indian Prince - the ruler of a fair state high in the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains. Boggley-Wallah is one of the grandest Princely States in the Indian Empire. The Prince of that state has several daughters but only one son whom he loved deeply and to whom he wanted to give the best kind of education and future. For the Prince believes, rightly, that if his son is well educated and well prepared, he will later make a wise and gentle ruler of his kingdom. So when the boy is twelve years old, the ruling Prince sends his only son away across the sea to the best school there is in England - to Eton in the Thames Valley not very far from here.”
Mr Holmes had left his place on the hearth rug and walked quietly as he spoke to where Hari Korma, the young Maharajah of Boggley-Wallah, was seated with his wife. Sherlock Holmes stood behind the Maharajah; everyone looked intently at Holmes as he spoke and in doing so, of course, they looked directly at the young prince as well.
“At first, Hari was hopeful and excited and he wrote often to his loving father and the younger sisters whom he loved so much. But then a dark shadow came across the prince. He was so far from home and from his friends; he missed the colour and life of the mountain kingdom, the fine food of the palace and the kindness of his family and friends. That first winter of his life at Eton, Hari was desperately lonely. And at this low and vulnerable moment in his life, he was befriended by a Music teacher at the school who was patient, and kind and encouraging.”
At this moment, with the whole room silent, Holmes reached into his pocket and found his pipe. Soon clouds of scented smoke were enveloping his face and he began to pace restlessly about the room. “Now we must leave the young prince for a moment and go back to my great enemy, Professor Moriarty. This villain has the capacity to disappear completely from view when things become too warm for him - and then bob up again in another country with another name in a completely different profession. We know that for two years he took the role of a Jewish diamond merchant in Amsterdam; then for a time he was the dragoman - the interpreter- in the British Embassy in Constantinople and selling secrets from the embassy to the highest bidder. As Senator Missouri has told us, for the last two years he has been in the United States working at counterfeiting American dollars - and all the time hiding in plain view as a stockbroker on Wall Street. But five years ago, he came close to being caught by the French police who were investigating espionage in their Foreign Service. When things became too warm for Professor Moriarty in Paris, he came back to England under cover and took a much more humble position as a Music teacher at Eton School. There, among the sons of England’s greatest families, he planned the terrible crime that has been committed this weekend.”
“Just why Professor Moriarty chose to give time and attention to the shy, lonely Indian boy I cannot say; he probably wasn’t thinking about stealing the Princess’s emeralds at that moment, but Moriarty is a particularly practical kind of criminal. He guessed that having the boy under his control would one day pay a dividend - either in England or back in India. There is a very cruel streak in Moriarty’s nature as well. I believe he enjoyed at first comforting the boy and then tormenting him. And so he went to work.”
All eyes were turned on the young Maharajah who had gone deathly pale. Holmes put an encouraging hand on his shoulder as he continued. “Some of the next part of my story is guess work, perhaps, but I spoke to the Head and Masters at Eton yesterday who could confirm some of it, at least - and I believe it to be true. The prince himself can confirm my story when I have finished.”
“Moriarty had won the trust of the young man; now it was time to make him suffer. He used his influence with two of the nastiest and cruellest boys in the prince’s House to bully and abuse the young man. Some kind of bullying happens at most schools, I am afraid, but in the Prince’s case it was sustained and devastating. These boys were named Dudley Dursley- the son of an earl- and Harry Flashman- the son of a bishop; they made it their business to threaten, to beat and insult the prince - not once or twice, but on a daily basis. The boys were fifteen years old and while thick and slow in class, each one of them was much bigger than the shy Indian prince. They kept him in a state of terror - and while this was happening, the music teacher posed as the prince’s only friend.”
“Then the bullying took a particularly nasty turn. The Music teacher had his bullies threaten to beat Hari if he would not steal for them. Dursley and Flashman sent the prince out to shops in Eton and Windsor with a list of things to steal while they waited at the gates for him to return. Worse still, they demanded that Hari steal from other boys at school. One of the bullies maintained an exercise book, carefully recording what had been stolen, from whom it was stolen and the day on which the theft occurred. The prince was required to sign and date the book at every theft; soon, the book itself became a way of forcing the prince to do more and more dangerous and outrageous things. If Hari did not do exactly as he was commanded by Dursley and Flashman, they threatened to take the book to the Headmaster of the school. The young prince would be expelled from the school and his disgrace would then be complete.
“There was no way out for the boy; no matter how much the prince submitted to the bullies and did as they commanded, the beatings and the abuse and the name calling continued. Hari’s life became a misery that he feared would never end. He wrote to his parents, pleading with them to allow him to come home to India but they had also had letters from the Music teacher, saying how well the young prince was doing - and how much the teacher were helping the boy to settle. In desperate circumstances, Hari considered the most terrible solutions - and he may have attempted these if something altogether unexpected hadn’t occurred.”
The Maharajah was crying silently now, his young, handsome faced streaked by tears of absolute misery and shame. Mr Holmes had moved to stand behind another chair, however - that of the young Maquis of Fife who looked at that moment proud, angry and defiant. “Up to Eton and into the prince’s House came a new boy - someone who had been educated until this moment in Scotland. The new boy was as open and decent and good as the bullies around the young prince were cowardly and cruel. Douglas, the Maquis of Fife, was fourteen years old; he was confident, handsome, athletic and strong and the heir to the noble house of the Duke of Buccleuch - one of the greatest families in the kingdom. Douglas Fife and Hari Korma shared a room in the same house at Eton and the new boy sensed immediately the terrible sorrow and pain that the Indian boy carried. He watched to learn its source- for the boy himself was too frightened to trust anyone other than his teacher. How terrible that the only person he trusted was the man who was creating the boy’s misery and shame. I have known Moriarty to do some wicked, wicked things in his life but I think that he never did a crueller, more terrible thing than this - to wound and break a boy’s spirit and yet pretend to be his friend.”
“Then three weeks after he came to the school, the Maquis happened to come into a games room while the rest of the school was at chapel. He came to the door just as Dursley and Flashman were taking it in turns to beat Hari. It was a game they had played many times before. The boy was on the knees pleading while the bullies stood above him smirking and laughing. The exercise book with the record of all the prince’s crimes was in Dursley’s hand; he was reading aloud from it, and using it to beat the prince about the head and face. Flashman had a hockey stick and his blows to the prince’s shoulders and arms were terrible. They paused when Douglas Fife opened the door, then they sneeringly told the new boy to make himself scarce or he would, in the words of Harry Flashman, “join the nigger on the floor for a touch of his hockey stick.”
Douglas Fife took in all of this in a moment; here was the obvious reason for the Indian boy’s misery. He hated cowardice and bullying more than anything and the sight of the two, big lubberly English boys beating the slim and frightened Indian lad made his Scottish blood boil. While the young prince looked on in astonishment, Douglas leapt forward and knocked Dursley to the ground. Then he grabbed the hockey stick from Flashman and knocked his legs from under him. Douglas grabbed Dursley by the collar and threw him out the door - and the hockey stick after them. Flashman took off in terror. Then the young Scottish Maquis returned to the astonished prince. At that wonderful moment, the whole of that young man’s life was turned upside down. If we are to make any sense of what has happened this weekend, we have to understand this moment on the games room floor - and what it meant to Hari Korma and Douglas Fife.”
“Now Hari had a real friend to help him. The first things that Douglas asked the prince to do were terrible - and for the broken, frightened boy they required astonishing courage. Firstly, Douglas asked the boy to tell him the whole story and then to take off his shirt and show him what the bullies had done. What Douglas saw then made him determined to stand by the prince until he were safe and the bullies were punished. Secondly, Douglas asked Hari to trust the Headmaster with his story. That very afternoon, Douglas went with him to see the Headmaster who listened to his story - and believed him. The fact that the boy had the exercise book setting out all that had happened - with the entries written by Flashman and Dursley - was the convincing proof that the Headmaster needed. How interesting that the document that was supposed to keep Hari a slave to the bullies now secured his liberation.”
“Dursley and Flashman were summoned to the Headmaster and being natural bullies and liars tried to tell the Head that they were the real victims. They had been bashed and assaulted by the new boy to the school - but they had resisted bravely. This story was so obviously inconsistent with the marks on bruises on the young prince’s body that the Headmaster had no difficulty deciding whom to believe. After ten terrible minutes with the Headmaster, Flashman and Dursley soon changed their tune - and told the whole story, beginning with the work of the Music teacher and his part in organising the whole sorry business. For Hari, learning the truth about his supposed friend and mentor was the only awful moment of that wonderful day.”
Mr Holmes paused again. The room was silent. Katie - who had a horror of bullying of any kind - was moved to tears. She felt the young prince’s pain so much - and the sight in the library of the prince grown to be a young man but still deeply wounded from his time at school made her sure that what she wanted most in all the world was to be a teacher who would help boys and girls like the prince at school. Emily was no less moved but she was angry. She hated bullies - and had been thrilled by the story of Douglas Fife putting things to rights. She was also puzzled; moving though the story was, how did all these pieces tie together around the emeralds?
“Once the story of the fall of Dudley Dursley and Harry Flashman became known at Eton it was as if a terrible cloud had been lifted from the school. Other boys who had suffered from their bullying now came forward to stand beside the young Indian prince. More importantly, details of other, terrible things that the Music teacher had been part of also came to light. The Headmaster determined to call in the police but before he could do this, the teacher had gone -melted away, as it were. No one knew where he had gone. And by dinner time the next day, Dursley and Flashman were also gone. Dursley’s father, the Earl of Derry, decided to send the boy out to work somewhere in the Empire. Despite his grand family, Dursley failed to qualify for service in India or Malaya. I understand that he was finally accepted as a Cadet in the West African Colonial Office. He was sent to the Sudan where he was eaten by a lion. Bishop Flashman had to endure the shame of taking the boy from Eton in disgrace. He enrolled the boy at Dr Arnold’s famous school at Rugby. The foolish old bishop still hoped - despite all the evidence- that his son would make a parson. I understand that he has also left England for the colonies to escape some pressing gambling debts”
“Now followed two very happy years, I believe, for Hari Korma and young Douglas Fife. The two boys became the very best of friends. They studied together, played cricket and football and polo together. On holidays, the prince would join Douglas and his family at Bow Hill in Scotland; there was a standing plan that when the prince went back to the kingdom of Boggley-Wallah, he would take Douglas with him on a holiday where they could go pig sticking and tiger shooting and trekking in the Himalayas. Now the prince’s letters to his family were full of the happiness of a new life in a school - and with friends- he loved. A year ago, the prince’s father died and Hari Korma became the new Maharajah. He was happy to leave governing the kingdom in the hands of his uncle until he had finished his time at school. If he had followed this plan, we would not be here today.
Last summer, you see, two things happened to change the picture. Douglas Fife met a pretty young girl at a house party at Bow Hill - a girl with whom he fell deeply in love. Their love was no ordinary teenage romance; it was deep and strong. At first it did not disturb the deep friendship and love that Douglas and the prince shared. I think that Lady Maud Dorset also grew to love the prince like a brother but her heart was quite given to Douglas Fife who had grown into a fine, handsome young man.”
“But what also happened that summer was that the Music teacher - whom we may now call by his name -Professor Moriarty- and who had been the author of the wicked misery of the prince’s first year at Eton - came back on to the scene. He had left Eton and gone off to the United States when the storm broke. We know from Senator Missouri how he entertained himself in the United States. When the police closed in there, he came back to England and found that the boy whom he had tormented had grown into a young man - and that his protector was in love with a lovely girl. It was just the moment he wanted.”
Mr Holmes now moved back to the hearth rug. Lady Maud had blushed at the mention of her name and she was clearly uncomfortable with the direction in which Mr Holmes was moving the conversation. Holmes resumed his story; the whole room was entranced: “For this was a very vulnerable moment in the life the young prince. He had but a few months of schooling left. His father was dead. His great friend now had another distraction and for a very little while, the prince was left alone - and left alone, moreover, wondering what it might be like to be in love himself. Moriarty knew his victim and put in his way a pretty young woman whom he knew to be clever and cold blooded. He used a bribe with a venal housekeeper at Eton to employ the Irish girl, Kitty O’Shea, as a scullery maid at the school. Well paid and briefed by Moriarty, the girl made the acquaintance of the prince. She flattered, she smiled, she made the young man believe that she was in love with him. She was the first girl who had ever touched his heart and he was completely taken in. That summer, the prince did not go to Bow Hill with Douglas. Instead, he went to London to meet his sister who was coming to England to be reunited with her brother. Kitty O’Shea, on instructions from Moriarty, followed the prince there.”
Here the Prime Minister himself interrupted: “So this young lady is not one of the wives of the Maharajah - she is his sister?”
Holmes made a mirthless laugh. “Yes, Prime Minister. When she arrived in London, Parvati was appalled at what she found. Her brother was clearly in love with the worthless Kitty O’Shea and she had already persuaded him to give her several gems from the collection of the royal family of Boggley Wallah. Worse still, she had persuaded the love sick prince to marry her - and with her master, Professor Moriarty disguised as a parson - had gone through a form of the service which the poor young prince believed to be a true marriage. Now Moriarty’s revenge on the boy was complete and the plan was forming to steal the fabulous emeralds.”
“Moriarty had it from Kitty that the prince’s great friend was in love with Maud Dorset - and that all of them had been invited to the house party at Vaucluse Hall in November. The “marriage” between the prince and Kitty quickly broke down; the prince immediately regretted his folly but Kitty threatened to expose him to his parents and to the world if he did not cooperate with her. She blackmailed him into paying her large amounts of money but it was never enough. The final price of her silence was to be the Danish emeralds. The Maharajah of Boggley-Wallah was to steal them early on the Sunday morning after the ball. Moriarty cynically guessed that the boy would fail in this but with Scotland Yard and the great Sherlock Holmes already involved in the case, it would be a sweet revenge on the prince, on Eton and on Douglas Fife if the prince were arrested and put in prison. But perhaps you can confirm some of this, Sir Jacob?”
Sir Jacob Myerstein had listened to the story with a calm, almost grim manner. “It is certainly correct. When I learned that the Maharajah was to be in the party this weekend, I was very keen to be here. The Bank of England is the personal banker for the Royal House of Boggley-Wallah. Applebaum, my secretary, drew to my attention the large withdrawals that the young Maharajah was making. He has been monitoring the matter closely: in fact, the last two withdrawals have been paid out in marked bills. We have sourced them to a Swiss bank account and our police are taking action to recover them. At least Moriarty won’t have the satisfaction of that part of the ill gotten gains.”
Holmes smiled and went on. “Now we come to the house party itself. Three weeks before the weekend, Moriarty, in the disguise of a gentleman from Scotland Yard, calls on the Prince of Wales and tells him that a young woman will be working undercover during their weekend. To complete her disguise, she will need a maid’s uniform; this is duly sent and Kitty O’Shea is dressed so that she can come and go on Saturday afternoon without fear. And when the Prince meets a young woman - in the person of Miss Emily Bland - who is undercover he is not alarmed at all.”
“And this is where Moriarty is helped and assisted not by other villains and criminals but by the kindness and goodness of friends. When Parvati Korma finds her brother in the chains of terrible blackmail at the hands of Kitty O’Shea - she cannot know that behind that young woman is a terrible master criminal- she turns to the only person in England who, she thinks, can help her. And this person is not in England, of course, but in Scotland. Two weeks before the house party, she writes an urgent letter to Douglas Fife. The four friends meet in London: Hari and Parvati Korma, Douglas Fife and Maud Dorset. The Maquis of Fife feels personally responsible for the predicament his much loved friend is in. If he had not neglected his friend in his new found love for Maud, Hari would not have fallen into the clutches of the wicked girl. And so they hatch their own, desperate plan to save their friend.”
“But it went terribly wrong, Mr Holmes,” said Lady Maud, her voice breaking. “Terribly, terribly wrong.”
“How were you four young innocent friends to prevail against the likes of Kitty O’Shea and Professor Moriarty?” said Holmes kindly. “Your only fault, my dear, was not understanding what was at stake. You would have done better to come straight to me at Baker Street.”
This was too much for Mycroft Holmes who spoke for the first time. “That’s rich, Sherlock! We trusted you. We came to you at Baker Street - and look what has happened. The criminals have escaped and the jewels with them!”
“Quite right,” said the Duke of Dorset. “Just where is this story taking us?”
“Well, let us come to the weekend of the house party. My agents, Miss Katie and Miss Emily Bland, make some remarkable discoveries. For example, they find the clear evidence that the Maharajah and his lady are not husband and wife as they have presented themselves to the company. I can appreciate that this is a kind of cover for the fact that Kitty O’Shea may be insisting that the Maharajah is her husband so I will let it pass. But they also find other things. They find evidence, for example, to show that Mr Hiram Brigham is less of a secretary and more of bandit. They also find notes- unsigned notes, certainly, but notes all the same - summoning Hari to a meeting with a lady who is making threats. The time of these meetings is confused - and it is really only good luck that puts the girls in the conservatory where they witness the insolence of Kitty O’Shea dressed as a servant of the Prince of Wales. Later, this becomes a crucial clue - although at the time, the value of this intelligence is less clear.”
“But they do learn a vital thing: the jewels are to be left in a bag in the fountain of the conservatory. There, Kitty will collect them before she turns them over to Professor Moriarty. The girls fully expect then that that is how the crime will be done. The Maharajah - perhaps assisted by his sister - will steal the gems and leave them for Kitty under the waterlilies in the fountain. In the confusion which must follow the discovery that the gems are gone, Kitty will retrieve the jewels and disappear - along with her master.”
“It’s diabolical!” said the Prime Minister. This good man was a bachelor - and he was always astonished at the wickedness of women. Holmes gave the aging gentleman a condescending smile; he too was a bachelor after all.
He went on: “And how will the desperate young prince gain access to the Princess’s bedroom? Lady Maud has let slip the fact that there is a secret passage here in the library.” Here, Holmes strode to the portrait on the opposite wall, found the spring and swung the picture aside to reveal the passage. It was a dramatic moment and many of the company gasped. “Lady Maud made a strange little mistake, however - and I wonder why she does this. She indicates that the passage leads to the Princess’s bedroom. If this were the case, it would give perfect access to the jewels. But the passage way does not lead to the Princess’s bedroom but to that of the Prince. She knows that there are suspicious people all about her that weekend - so she lays a false trail. Besides, the jewels are always locked, as Lady Maud must know, in the drawer of the dressing table. Anyone, even someone coming through the secret passage, must somehow open the drawer and remove the jewels while the Princess sleeps.”
“So now we are back to early Sunday morning; the house is asleep after the ball. Because of what they have seen in the conservatory - the desperate exchange between Hari and Kitty - Katie and Emily have made it up to watch the Maharajah’s bedroom and the conservatory. But things do not turn out as they expected. Yes, there are sinister figures moving about the hallway here; the secret passage is employed, certainly, and the clever thief takes the jewels still in their leather boxes. Later, the empty boxes are returned to the drawer and safely locked away. It will take some time for Lady Airlie and the Princess to realise that he theft has been made.”
“But who took the jewels?” demanded the Duke of Dorset. Katie notices that his voice was throbbing with fear.
“Your Grace, only one person in the house party - apart from you and the duchess - knew the truth about the secret passage. Lady Maud told only one half of the story; the passage leads to the Prince’s bedroom but another door, cleverly built into the panelling of that room, leads into the Princess’s room. So the thief has to know not one secret - but two. Only one person was well placed to try all of this before the party arrived - and to have a duplicate key to the dressing table drawer made in advance. With a key to the drawer and silent access from the library to the princess’s bedroom, the thief could take the jewels and return the empty boxes. That is what you did, isn’t it, Lady Maud?”
Holmes had said all of these last words directly to Lady Maud who was sobbing openly by this stage.
“You mustn’t blame her,” said the Maquis of Fife, angrily stepping forward to shelter and protect Maud. “I worked out the plan. I waited on the terrace under the library window to catch the boxes which Maud dropped down to me. I quickly removed he jewels, placed them in the bag and took them to the fountain in the conservatory. Then I took the empty boxes back upstairs and Maud replaced them. My plan was to wait in the darkness near the conservatory to see who came to take them - they were supposed to leave on the seat beside the fountain the wedding certificate, the letters that Hari had written to the wretched woman and some family jewels that he had given to her. When I returned from upstairs, however, it all went wrong. There was a terrible scream, and then the cry of “Fire!” A woman came, certainly, but she brought no papers to leave and by this time there were people coming out of the house and stables and the woman seems to have escaped from a side door in the conservatory. The plan was that I would retrieve the jewels - they would really be gone from the Princess for only a few minutes before they were returned and no one would be any the wiser. I only wanted to help Hari - who has suffered so much at the hands of bad men and women. He’s my friend.” The young lord was crying openly now and his poor parents, the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch appeared to be shattered by this terrible news that their son had assisted in a daring robbery.
The Prime Minister looked ashen and spoke with great sadness to the Maquis of Fife: “My Lord, it is my awful duty to ask the detectives from Scotland Yard to arrest you for theft - and that charge must include you, Lady Maud, and Your Royal Highness, Maharajah.” In all my years of public service I cannot remember a sadder and more terrible moment than this.”
“Can you wait just a moment, Prime Minister? Perhaps this will have a different ending from the sad one you are anticipating. Emily, this might be the right time for you to wheel in your trolley.”
It took a little time for Emily to leave and in the moments before her return, the room was full of terrible, conflicted feelings. The young people who had planned and executed the crime were shamed and gathered together to support and encourage one another. Katie noticed how beautifully Parvati Korma seemed to care for her brother. Everyone of the party seemed heavy with sadness except a curiously cheerful and smiling Sherlock Holmes. At that moment, Emily appeared at the door, pushing the trolley with which she collected the chamber pots from the bedrooms without their own bathrooms. One of the footmen in the Hall had helped her carry it down stairs that morning and it had been locked, until now, in Mrs Fitzroy’s rooms. There were twelve shiny white porcelain chamber pots on the trolley - six on each of the two shelves. Each one was covered with a heavy napkin, folded to form a kind of modest hat. All the same, the company was being presented with a trolley full of chamber pots and there was a good deal of embarrassed tittering.
Mycroft Holmes was particularly indignant, “Good Lord, Sherlock! Is this really necessary..?”
Holmes only grinned. Then, like a magician, he chose one of the pots from the bottom rung of the trolley where the used pots were collected. With a flourish, he held it aloft, then whipped the napkin off and offered it to the Princess of Wales. “Your jewels, Your Royal Highness. All present and accounted for!”
Chapter 7: The End of the Mystery
There was consternation, surprise - and joy among the company - just as Sherlock Holmes had intended. No one spluttered more than Mycroft Holmes. “How the Dickens did you do it, Holmes?” asked the Prime Minister?
“It’s really the girls’ story now, you know,” said Holmes. “On that dark cold night of the daring robbery, Emily knew that she would have to move quickly. She fully expected at any moment that the strange woman whom she had seen with the young Maharajah would appear to claim her treasure; she couldn’t be sure that the woman herself had not been watching her enter and leave the conservatory. In this, at least, Emily had been very lucky because while she was retrieving the jewels, Kitty O’Shea and Professor Moriarty were busy lighting the straw in the stable that would provide the distraction and confusion so the jewels could be lifted. Kitty did enter the conservatory as the fire spread through the barn. She found the bag under the waterlilies in the fountain and made her escape.”
“Of course it was none of her plans to ever return the letters and the incriminating papers to the Maharajah. This morning, by the way, detectives from Scotland Yard recovered them- along with the jewels the Maharajah gave to Kitty and some of the blackmail money- in the room at the Crown Inn in Basingstoke where Kitty had stayed with Professor Moriarty. When they found a stone in the bag and not the gems they had expected, they realised that the noose was very close. They had fled the scene before it was light and were on the first train to London and then on to Paris as quickly as they could travel.”
“Damn it, Holmes!” said the Prime Minister. “You talk about Moriarty doing this and that - but who was he among us?”
“Oh, didn’t I mention that?” said Holmes airily, turning not to the Prime Minister but the Duchess of Buccleuch. “I believe you will have to do without your bagpipe music, Your Grace, for some time. It was a clever disguise, certainly. Do you know, I’m constantly amazed by the sinister similarities between Moriarty and me. We’re both men of genius and whimsy - and we are both very talented musicians. I play the violin, of course. He has enough command of Music to teach it at England’s greatest school - and walk about at breakfast time with a set of bagpipes.”
The Duchess of Buccleuch was struck with the horrible realisation that she was the person who introduced the arch villain to the House Party at Vaucluse Hall! Holmes paused here and let everyone have their say.
Lady Airlie quickly retrieved the empty leather boxes in which the jewels were housed and once they were out of the chamber pot and into their regular setting, the Prince and Princess could relax - and even laugh a little. You can be sure that later that morning they would be taken off for a very good clean up before they were worn again.
One great matter remained to be resolved. The real criminals had been foiled; now the problem was what to do with the four young people who had been their fearful and unwilling accomplices. It was the Prince of Wales who solved that problem. He stood and the room was silent.
“My good friends, what an amazing resolution to our anxieties. Now I must ask a great deal of you. I know that a terrible crime has been committed and I should turn these young people over to Scotland Yard. But I am very conscious that in bringing Her Royal Highness here knowing that it was likely to become the scene of a crime I have also, in a sense, contributed to the crime. Her Royal Highness and I might simply have cancelled our visit or -even more simply- left the emeralds in the safe at Marlborough House. But we came-and brought the precious emeralds - at the request of Mr Mycroft Holmes and the Prime Minister- because they were confident that there was a fair chance that the villain, Professor Moriarty, would be flushed out and apprehended. Perhaps that may yet happen; Scotland Yard assures me that the railway stations and all the ports for Europe are being watched closely. I understand, however, that police forces in the United States and Europe have sometimes had high hopes of catching this villain, only to have him disappear into thin air. But we must hope.”
“And we have heard tonight, the Prince continued, “of a worse crime, perhaps.” Here, the Prince turned directly to the Maharajah. “Seven years ago, young man, I visited my subjects in India and at a durbar in Delhi, I met your good father, the Maharajah whose death has been a great loss to Boggley-Wallah and to my Empire. The Maharajah told me of his hopes for his kingdom as part of my Empire in India - and of his great hopes for his son. I encouraged the proud father to send his son to school in England. I thought that an education here would be a good beginning for a wise and just ruler. Can you imagine how I feel, my young prince, when I realise that my advice to your good father delivered you into the clutches of a fiend like Professor Moriarty who has abused and wounded you terribly. My only consolation is that that same advice delivered you and your lovely sister into the love of friends like young Maud Dorset and Douglas Fife.” The Prince took Maud’s lovely hands in his and turned to her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Dorset. “My good friends, you have in this young woman a fine example of a noble English girl. And Your Grace,” [and here the Prince turned to the Buccleuchs,] “the noble Scottish blood of your ancestors shines forth in this young man. They are young- and so much must be forgiven them. How proud all of you must be of them.”
The Prince seemed to finish here but the Princess still had some things to say, “Your Royal Highness, we mustn’t forget whose courage and ingenuity returned the precious emeralds to me - even if they did come in a rather strange and roundabout way. My dear girls,” [and here the Princess held out her hands to Katie and Emily], “I will be forever in your debt!” And she hugged them to herself and could not hold the tears that fell. For the first time since they had arrived in England, the girls felt very, very happy.
Late that afternoon, the girls retuned to London - travelling in great style in the royal railway carriage and in the company of the Prince and Princess of Wales. Their little flat in Bloomsbury looked very ordinary and drab that evening after the grandeur of Vaucluse Hall and the Royal Train but the girls were happy to be there.
Perhaps you are wondering what happened to some of the characters you have met in this exciting story. I wish I could report that the detectives from Scotland Yard arrested Kitty O’Shea and Professor Moriarty as they tried to board a steamer for the Continent but they were much too clever in making their escape. Although there was not a word about the theft in the newspapers, the story that Sherlock Holmes had snatched the precious jewels from the hands of Professor Moriarty quickly made the rounds among the criminals of Europe, America and England and for the first time in many years, Professor Moriarty’s stocks among the wicked actually fell. Three years later, a woman named Kitty O’Shea [and answering the description of the woman whom the girls had seen in the conservatory at Vaucluse Hall] was arrested in Singapore for trying to blackmail an elderly wealthy Chinese businessman whom she told police was actually her husband. The woman spent a year in prison before being released and taking sail for Shanghai. Whether this was the same Kitty O’Shea who blackmailed the Maharajah of Boggley-Wallah I cannot be certain; it’s a common enough Irish name and no doubt there are many such girls who get into trouble with the police in Singapore. Nothing was heard of Professor Moriarty for several years although the American police were sure that the man had taken refuge in Mexico; apparently, he was making a living driving a taxi in Acapulco. Perhaps this is true.
The guests at the house party at Vaucluse Hall were sworn by the Prince of Wales to secrecy but the story was just too good to be kept for very long. It is apparently the source of a strange legend concerning the Princess of Wales - that she kept all her jewels in a chamber pot and had once chased a thief through a secret passage. Dr Watson always complained bitterly that he had not been able to write up the story of the best Sherlock Holmes criminal case in the pages of The Strand Magazine. Dr Watson did make sure, however, that he wrote a long account of what had happened to send to Katie and Emily’s parents in Hong Kong. They received the letter from Dr Watson on the same day that they received a splendid card embossed with the three feathers of the Princess of Wales. This was a simple, heartfelt note telling Dr and Mrs Bland what fine, brave and good daughters they had. The card sat for a long time on the mantelpiece and was much admired by the servants and proudly shown to every visitor who might come to call- although all the details of the Mystery of the Danish Emeralds had to remain a secret.
The girls themselves received notes of thanks from the Prime Minister, from the Princess, from the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch and the Duke and Duchess of Dorset. Lady Maud called at their flat in Bloomsbury with the Maquis of Fife; they came to say a personal and sincere thank you to the girls who had done so much to rescue them. One of their most precious visits was from Princess Parvati. She came and her tears of thanks were so sincere and happy that the girls cried and laughed with her. Her brother, the Maharajah, was going home to Boggley-Wallah. He had learned so much from his friends in England and the girls were sure that he would make an excellent ruler of the mountain kingdom. He came with Parvati to see them the day before he left. In his hand were two small parcels addressed to Katie and Emily.
Inside each parcel, in all the elegance of jeweller’s wrapping, was a precious gift. For Katie there was a large ruby pendant set with diamonds. For Emily, there was a gold and sapphire brooch. The gorgeous things sat like pieces of sunlight on the kitchen table in the flat.
“When I was tormented by that wicked girl, I foolishly gave her these presents from the crown jewels of Boggley-Wallah,” he said. “Now, I can give them to you - the two wonderful girls who saved not just me and my sister, but my dear friends, Douglas and Maud. I asked Mr Applebaum what kind of reward I could give - and he suggested these pieces. I have only just recovered them from the police; Mr Mycroft Holmes brought them to me last night. They are a tiny return, I must tell you, for all that you have given me.” Katie and Emily went two days later to see the Maharajah and his sister off at the London station as they left to catch the boat from Southampton to India. They parted as good friends.
And then the adventure was over and it was time for Emily’s university classes to begin and for Kate to begin her teacher training. They continued to receive notes and letters from Lady Maud and on the times when they could spare an afternoon from their studies they sometimes called on her at Vaucluse Hall for tea. They saw the Maquis of Fife there too - and he treated the girls just like his sisters.
There were three simply wonderful reminders of that weekend that the girls would always cherish, however. Three years after that weekend at the Hall -when Katie had finished her studies and Emily was working hard in her last year training to be a doctor- Lady Maud wrote with a special request. She and the Maquis were going to be married in Holy Trinity Church in Vaucluse village in the autumn. Would the girls come down to be her bridesmaids? You can just imagine how excited he girls were to be part of that lovely wedding. A year after that, their parents came home from Hong Kong for a long holiday and there was the chance to introduce them to Mr Holmes and Dr Watson. They were invited to dinner at Baker Street and Dr Gordon was simply bursting with pride to be in the home of the great Mr Sherlock Holmes. After Mrs Hudson’s excellent dinner, Mr Holmes offered to play his violin but it was still a wonderful evening. Two weeks later, the little family received another invitation - one that made Mother’s eyes start with excitement. Since the house party at Vaucluse Hall, the old queen had died and the Prince and Princess of Wales had become King Edward and Queen Alexandra. The beautifully embossed invitation was to dinner at Buckingham Palace. Such an invitation required a great deal of shopping and planning but the big day finally came. Mr Mycroft Holmes was to be among the company and you can just imagine how excited the girls were to set out for the palace in Mr Holmes’s new motor car. To complete their happiness, the King and Queen had invited Maud and Douglas Fife as well. The King delighted the girls by telling their parents again and again how much the Crown owed to these two good girls.
The girls had many other exciting adventures in England, including some other top secret work for Sherlock Holmes - although Emily insisted that no further jobs involve collecting chamber pots. The girls worked at their professions in London and in later years had other adventures with Sherlock Homes and Dr Watson; all of that, interesting though it might be, will have to wait for another story.