We left Maisie, Juliet and Imogen wondering about the swarthy gentleman who had called upon Maisie without prior notice. Our three adventurous ladies were concerned about him and his intentions and so they called upon Juliet’s brother to make some enquiries among those of his acquaintance who might have knowledge of the gentleman. This he agreed to do and promised to report back to them at the earliest opportunity.
Sir Charles Walton (Juliet Drummond’s brother) was as good as his word. The next day he called on Maisie – having first made an appointment to do so – to tell her of his enquiries. Among his close friends was Sir Hector Ryder the head of the Metropolitan Police and so this is where he started the enquiries. And with some success.
It appeared that the swarthy gentleman was recently arrived in London from India There he had made a considerable fortune from planting and harvesting tea. Apparently, he was the son of a British Major about whom very little was known. The swarthiness noted by all, was put down to the fact that the Major had married a local woman of high standing and had set up home with her. At the time there had been quite a commotion caused by this but as the years passed, the situation became more acceptable. The children of such marriages, however, were not really accepted as quite on a par with those born to a British couple. However, because of his parentage, the swarthy gentleman was British.
He was known to his contemporaries as Billy although he had been christened in the Church of England in Lucknow (where his father had been stationed), Thomas Anthony Winston Fotheringham.
On arriving in London he had met some acquaintances of his father’s and had then been sponsored into all the right clubs. He was becoming quite well-known among that certain set in London. He was also known to frequent a particular hotel where he met a variety of young women for afternoon tea, but really nothing much was known of the man.
It was established that he wasn’t married although there had been some sort of scandal shortly before he left India. In fact it was rumoured that the decision to leave hadn’t been entirely his.
So where did this get Maisie. She thanked Sir Charles for his help and after finishing his coffee he left.
It was almost lunch time and so Maisie decided to think about all that she had learned while she ate and then she would call Juliet and Imogen to see what they thought of this information.
Just as Maisie sat down for lunch a loud knocking on the front door was heard followed by the heavy tread of Higgins the chauffeur. He appeared at the morning room door with an envelope containing a heavily embossed card with the name T A W Fotheringham, Esq on it, with various club affiliations noted and also a hand written note requesting her approval for him to call upon her the following morning around 11.30 am to discuss a matter of interest to both of them. Well, what could that be?
Obviously as soon as the card was received a telephone call was made to both Juliet and Imogen. Having been summoned once again, the two friends duly arrived and settled down to hear about “Billy” Fotheringham. They were all perplexed as to how he found Maisie and where she lived and also what connection could there possibly be.
Many ideas and thoughts were voiced as the three ladies sat in the drawing room drinking the tea that had been brought by Jackson. Was there a relative of Maisie’s who went out to India either with the army or else with the East India Company and maybe stayed on after his contract was finished. Could Major Fotheringham (Billy’s father) be a distant or long lost relative? Or could his business with Maisie be totally different, maybe even bordering on the evil?
The ladies shuddered to think this.
After much discussion it was agreed that he should be invited to attend on the next day but not at his suggested time of 11.30 am (far too early for an unknown gentleman to call upon a lady) but rather in the afternoon at which time the other two friends would be present.
With the decision made, Jackson was summoned to bring pen and paper and Maisie wrote to Fotheringham proffering the invitation. Higgins the chauffeur was despatched to the address given to deliver the note.
This having been done, Juliet and Imogen took themselves off each promising to be there well in advance of the 4pm appointment time.
Maisie then settled herself for the rest of the day not knowing whether she should be looking forward to the morrow or dreading it.
- Keeping Promises (growingyoungereachday.wordpress.com)
- Strange Death of the English Gentleman (3quarksdaily.com)