When Maisie Benton-Smythe, more properly called the Countess of Waverley and her good friend Juliet Drummond awoke that morning, they found themselves on a deserted beach. Both clothed in their afternoon outfits complete with hats. They were very pleased to realise that they still wore their hats.
Maisie who was born Matilda Barrington-Jones had married the Hon Reginald Benton-Smythe many years ago when she thought he was the answer to a maiden’s prayer. Well, in some ways he was.
He was the heir to the Earl of Waverley and on his father’s death would become the 9th Earl of Waverley so if she married him she would then become a countess. Quite a leap for her. Her family had fallen on comparatively hard times because of her grandfather’s addiction to the gaming tables. Her father had taken what little was left and attempted, rather feebly one must say, to turn the family’s fortune around.
So it fell to Maisie to find a suitably rich, read frightfully rich, husband to elevate the family back to its original status. Maisie duly met and married Reggie, but that will be the subject of another story.
Back now to Maisie and Juliet on the beach. What were they doing there? How had they arrived there as no cars were in sight? Although as neither woman drove there would have had to be at least one chauffeur in evidence.
Neither woman had any answers to these questions.
However, in her usual practical manner, Juliet determined that first they had to find a tearoom for a cup of tea and perhaps if they were lucky, some breakfast. The tearoom would also of course, have lavatory facilities where they could wash their hands and attempt to look a little more presentable.
The two women raised themselves from their sitting positions on the sandy beach, brushed sand off each others clothes and headed in the direction where Juliet felt sure they would find some habitation and hopefully a tearoom that was opened. And what time was it? As neither woman wore a watch they were not sure. Perhaps they should be ordering luncheon rather than breakfast.
At last a suitable establishment was sighted and it did indeed have tea and food and a lavatory. So those first things attended to, the women sat down to discuss what and how.
First things first. Where had they been the day before that ended in their arrival at the beach? Both, as already noted, were wearing afternoon frocks so presumably they had been out to tea. This raised further questions; where and with whom?
As they drank their tea and feasted on scones, cream and jam (yes it was afternoon by now) they set their minds to work.
Maisie had a faint recollection of a card lying on the silver tray in the entry hall inviting her to take tea, but with whom? Since Reggie left to live in the London townhouse, these invitations were becoming fewer. Mostly they were from old friends, many of whom had yet to learn of the parting of the ways.
So with the help of Juliet, Maisie went through the names of the most likely contenders. They thought that it might have been The Hon Cecily Corkery but then remembered that she was currently in The Azores with her latest
toy boy. husband. So who else? Jane Abercrombie or Penelope Fitzherbert but then almost at the same time, they thought of Imogen Carruthers. These three were the scourge of the teachers and staff at their school Marringham Hall, where they were named The Terrible Trio, sharing a dorm and planning all sorts of mischief.
So was it Imogen? She too had recently separated from her husband, although of course, it was very hush-hush and so very proper. No word must escape of her adventures with the gardener’s son or his with his father’s accountant.
So what had happened? Maisie now recalled picking up Juliet on the way to Imogen’s house. On arrival she had dismissed Higgins the chauffeur, telling him she would telephone the house when she was ready to be picked up and taken home.
There followed tea in the usual way but then Imogen suggested that they raid Percy’s wine cellar. The three women trooped downstairs to the cellar and spent the next few hours trying the various wines that Imogen’s husband had put up. They really had a great time, reminiscing about Marringham Hall and the fun they had there. Then they began to discuss both Reggie and Percy in distinctly disparaging ways. They were really enjoying being together again when Imogen (who had always been the leader of The Trio) suggested a run to the country estate where they could be fed and get beds for the night and so refreshed after a good night’s sleep, they could return tomorrow.
No sooner planned than they were off in Imogen’s racy little Jaguar roadster. It was a squeeze but of course, this only added to the thrill of being driven by an intoxicated 30-something blonde. They set off with Maisie sitting in the dickey-seat and all three women holding onto their hats.
The country seat of the Carruthers family was sited in Surrey just outside Horley and so it took little time for them to make the journey. Mrs Amberley the housekeeper, was most surprised to see the three women and hurried about making beds and making sure that Cook had something reasonable for supper. The women by now were relatively sober but of course had nothing with them in which to change for supper. Mrs Amberley was suitably shocked by both their appearance and behaviour and determined to take it up with Sir Percy at the very first opportunity.
So after a perfunctory wash and tidy the three women sat down to supper. Imogen of course, declared that more wine should be brought from the cellar and insisted on going to choose it for herself. Unfortunately for Imogen,(who as earlier remarked was relatively sober) who had consumed a fairly large amount of wine already, she was not very steady on her feet and subsequently fell down the cellar stairs landing quite heavily on her shoulder.
Meanwhile, the other members of the Terrible Trio were unaware of what had happened and were tucking into the food prepared by Cook. But after a while Maisie realised that Imogen had not returned to the dining room and went off in search of her. Imogen’s weak cries alerted her to the cellar and when she saw what had happened she summoned Mrs Amberley who in turn summoned Mr Amberley who in turn called 999 to summon an ambulance.
The ambulance duly arrived and poor Imogen was carted off to the hospital leaving the remaining members of the Terrible Trio on their own in a strange house. Realising there was nothing else to do, they finished their meal, drank some more wine and toddled off to the beds that had been prepared for them. The next morning would be time enough to check on Imogen.
And how did they end up on the beach then? Watch this space for the next episode.
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