Tag Archives: East India Company

The Swarthy Gentleman in the Panama Hat


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.

Until tomorrow…


In Search of the Bonnets


After Daisie and her friend had left, Maisie sat back and considered the situation.  The bonnets were mislaid, not lost.  The girls knew when they last had worn them and they were quite sure that they had been left in the taxi after arriving at Charlotte’s house.   It was now necessary to find the taxi in which they had been left.

Photo thanks to Sallyann at Photographic Memories.
Click on the picture to go to Sallyann’s post.

The two girls had been so worried that Maisie couldn’t bring herself to tell them just how upset she was at the loss.  And one of the bonnets didn’t belong to her.  Although she knew that Juliet, the owner of the other mislaid bonnet, would take the loss in her stride, she was determined to do all she could to find them

First a cup of tea and Jackson was summoned to produce one.  Then Maisie set to work to find the bonnets.  She thought it would be a simple matter to find the taxi company and a telephone was brought to her so that she could start.  But it wasn’t that simple.  Oh there was a central booking service that handled  requests for a taxi but most of the taxis were individually owned.  And many of the owners didn’t use the central service.  And while the girls thought they had ordered a regular London cab they couldn’t be sure.  They might have been in a minicab one of the thousands of unlicensed and unregulated cabs that operate in the city.

After an hour and seemingly endless calls, Maisie was no closer to finding the taxi or the bonnets.  She decided to enlist help.  Another call to her best friend, Juliet (after whom she had named her only daughter) brought reinforcements.  Juliet duly arrived clutching her cellphone and so they now had two phone lines to use.  And really what was becoming such a dreary exercise suddenly became so much more fun when she had a friend with whom to share it.

More tea and cakes were called for as Juliet hadn’t had her afternoon tea before being summoned to Maisie’s side.  Then suitably refreshed the two women set about their task.

Another call to central booking was made, this time by Juliet, who managed to elicit a fairly full list of possible taxi owners and indeed, a number for property left in taxis.  It seemed fairly obvious to Juliet that this latter was the place to start.  However, no luck there but the very helpful person on the other end of the line suggested that it might be a day or two before the bonnets were handed in.

Anther hour passed without success, but as she expected, it was much better now that Maisie had a chum to talk to in between the phone calls.

gin and tonic

By now it was 5 pm and the ladies decided that a little drink would be appropriate as payment for their hard work and they decided to continue their search the next day.  Again, Jackson was called into service and produced two very large G & Ts for the ladies.

And so began a very pleasant evening, starting with the drinks and ending several hours later with dinner in the company of Juliet’s husband at a nearby restaurant.  The two women couldn’t resist laughing at their exploits in a totally different establishment some years ago.**

To be continued….

**For more about this click here

“It’s a great advantage not to drink among hard drinking people.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

And some utterly useless information on gin and tonic – According to various sources, the gin and tonic was an invention of the employees of the British East India company, who were quaffing bitter tonic water as a prophylactic against malaria.  The story goes that gin—a Dutch medicinal invention of grain spirits flavored with juniper berries—was added to the tonic water to improve the taste (!?). Did they perhaps add the lime to ward off scurvy?


No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Over the years I have heard the saying that no good deed goes unpunished.  This is a sardonic commentary reflecting on good deeds that backfire on the donor. One such good deed made The Times in London when the journalist stated

“Seldom in the field of clerical administration has one woman given so much of herself to a car dealership.”

Our newspapers, television and radio are full of the story of the woman who gave a kidney to her immediate supervisor and then shortly afterwards was dismissed from her job.  This should be a lesson to all those selfless people out there who are considering offering a body part to an employer or supervisor.  Your generosity will not be appreciated and may even be thrown back in your face, as in this case where the recipient of the kidney said to the donor “Don’t expect to be treated special because of what you did for me”.

I shall be watching the outcome of the lawsuit filed against the employer.  If the plaintiff wins maybe there will be a swathe of people offering body parts and then suing the recipient.  Reasons quoted could include lack of suitable appreciation in the form of gifts; if it was an employer no extra or special favours at work eg extra vacation time or even paid vacations (3 weeks in Hawaii at their expense); no notice in the local paper as to who made this happen; no special party to celebrate coming back to full health with the donor as guest of honour.  The list could go on and on.

On this day in 1773 The British Parliament passed the Tea Act.  This Act forced Colonists to buy tea from the East India Company that controlled all tea imported into the colonies.  Direct action by a group calling itself the Sons of Liberty in Boston resulted in the tea contained in three trading ships being destroyed.  We are told by Wikipedia that “this was a key event in the growth of the American Revolution”.

On this day in 1937 the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco opened.  The American Society of Civil Engineers declared it one of the modern Wonders of the World and  Frommers travel guide considers the Golden Gate Bridge “possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed, bridge in the world.

On this day in 1989 Beijing students took over Tiananmen Square in China.  In case you are too young to know about this thousands of students and other citizens started gathering in groups large and small, protesting many issues, centered on a desire for freedom and democratic reform.  By mid May hundreds of thousands of people occupied the Square.  Chinese authorities responded with a declaration of martial law, and on June 3rd  tanks and armored personnel carriers rolled into the square, killing and wounding many, mostly civilians – estimates vary widely, from several hundred to several thousand dead.

On this day in 2011 a lashing string of tornadoes tore through Alabama smashing buildings, snapping trees and ending at least 58 lives.

And now at 12.19 am I realise that I have missed the midnight deadline and so this post will be published on the 28th.

I’m late! I’m late!
For a very important date!
No time to say “Hello”, goodbye!
I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!