Without being the least intrusive, the Faragliones were much in evidence throughout the rest of the holiday. Together or singly, they often popped into the Villa Cercola and joined in with whatever their young guests were doing that day, whether it be sitting in the gardens watching the children play or heading off to bathe at the beach.
Since their return from their Mediterranean cruise, the Mapp-Flints had caused several stirs with what were generally disapproved of as conspicuous displays of their newly acquired wealth.
“It’s so funny!” drawled Amelia, “My brother and sister in law and their circle are so discomforted by this ostentation. It seems that those who detest the nouveau riche most are only slightly less 'nouveau' themselves. Old money - like my Cecco – or the Ardingly’s - either just don’t notice or find it killingly funny.”
“So what have the Major and Mrs Mapp-Flint been up to, Amelia?” asked Herbert, “What can they have done that’s upset so many people?”
“Quite a few things it seems, Herbert,” she replied, “Benjy grandly announced over tea and bridge at Diva’s that he intended to institute the Tilling Polo Club and acquire a string of ponies for himself. Just like the one he ran in Poona when he was a subaltern. It seems he intended to play on the Town Salts and anticipated that one day Tilling might rank alongside Smith’s Lawn.”
“And what happened?” asked Bunty.
“Susan says ‘practical issues intervened since it soon emerged that the only other potential team member was the milkman. Unfortunately after much thought, he decided his old grey mare wasn’t really suited to complete the milk round in the morning and play several energetic chukkas in the afternoon.’”
“So it appears,” answered Amelia, “But first they are undertaking an extensive search for a suitably docile - and above-all sturdy - mount for her.”
The air was warm and heady with pine, rosemary and jasmine that was now indelibly imprinted upon their senses as the scent of summer in Capri.
The evening was still and silent, save for the gentle lapping of waves on the seashore below and intermittent birdsong.
"You look lovely love," said Herbert quietly, as he pressed the bell and waited to be admitted.
"Thanks Herbert. You look very smart. I think we have scrubbed up quite well for a pair from the wrong end of Tilling!"
"That was a long time ago. I don't suppose anyone would have believed that we would end up dining with a Count and Countess in a palace in Capri. It's a long, long way from Twistevant's tenements down by the station."
Before Bunty could reply, the door opened and the Faraglione butler greeted them and led the couple to join their hosts on the terrace overlooking the formal gardens.
As they entered, Count Cecco rose and walked over to greet them, gallantly kissing Bunty's hand and shaking Herbert's. "Welcome! We are having champagne cocktails. Will you join us?"
"Delighted Count," replied Herbert and was promptly handed a long stemmed cocktail glass by a periwigged footman.
"Now, we have your first surprise of the evening," said the Count, leading them towards a sofa on which sat his Countess and what, from the back, appeared to be a young woman in a chic evening gown."Molyneux" thought Bunty...
As the Countess and her companion turned round, the Morrisons immediately recognised their fellow guest.
"Miss Coles, what a lovely surprise!" exclaimed Herbert, offering his hand, "Forgive me for not knowing you immediately, but I ...."
"You didn't recognise me in a frock? Go on admit it, you naughty constable!"
"OK, you have me Miss Coles!" laughed Herbert, "But, if you don't mind me saying. It's a very attractive innovation. You might consider doing it more often."
"I can't really promise that, I'm afraid, but I have been dressing mainly like one of Garibaldi's red shirts during most of my stay here - and smoking a meerschaum pipe, but I don't think that would have gone down too well tonight. So here you are!"
"Well, thank you Miss Coles" added Bunty, "We appreciate the gesture and you look divine!"
"When in Capri, do as the Caprese do!" laughed Irene, "Cecco and Amelia explained that this was your last evening with them and kindly invited me to join you. I could hardly turn down the opportunity to see you and to thank you again for all you did for Lucy and me in Sicily! I do hope you don't mind?"
"Of course, not," replied Bunty, "We are so pleased to see you. Only today, we were wondering how you were getting on. It will be marvellous to know before we return home to Tilling."
"Is Lucy here with you?" asked Herbert.
"I'm pleased that your tour has been productive," said Herbert, "And how did things progress with Turrido after the Count and I left?"
"Swimmingly actually," said Irene, "Turrido was thrilled with the portrait of his mother, wife and daughter and allowed me to paint him too. Once they were finished, they held a party for friends and family at which the portraits were officially unveiled and we ate, drank and danced late into the night. Mad fandangos or was it tarantellas? It was that memorable that I really can't remember!"
"How wonderful, Miss Coles. We were all so worried for you both."
"Well, it's thanks to your husband and the clever way that he handled Turrido, that Lucy and I literally lived to tell the tale," added Irene, "And this brings me to the reason I rushed to catch you before you left to go home. I do hope you will accept this painting as a small token of our thanks for saving us - and of apology for interrupting your well-earned holiday."
As Irene spoke, she removed a cover from a painting leaning on a nearby table disclosing a portrait of Herbert wearing his trade mark homburg hat with Mount Etna in the background.
"It's my pleasure, Inspector. How else could I thank you? It's what I do. All I do, really. Please say you'll accept it. It would mean the world to Lucy and me."
Cecco and Amelia joined Herbert and Bunty in admiring the portrait before Cecco arranged for it to be taken away and packed in readiness for shipping home.
As they departed, quizzical glances and polite small talk were exchanged between the remaining guests until the party reconvened.
The Count and Countess returned accompanied by a short, elderly man in evening dress, including what appeared to be the insignia of several foreign orders.
Instinctively Herbert, Bunty and Irene rose as their hosts and their final dinner guest joined them.
Count Cecco stepped forward and introduced his final guest, “Your Majesty, may I present to you Mrs Bunty Morrison of Tilling in England?”
The face on the stamps had now come to life in front of her. She was about to meet Victor Emmanuel III , by the Grace of God and the will of the Nation, King of Italy, Sardinia, Cyprus and Jerusalem, Duke of Savoy, Count of Maurienne, Prince, Marquis and Perpetual Vicar of the Holy Roman Empire, Prince of Piedmont, Carignano, Oneglia, Poirino, Trino and Armenia, Prince Bailiff of the Duchy of Aosta, Duke, Count and Baron of far too many other exotic places to mention - as well as Overlord of Monaco and Roccabruna and noble Patrician of Venice.
The King was interested to hear of Herbert and Cecco's trip to Sicily and the creative approach adopted by Herbert to secure the release of Irene and Lucy.
The King asked Cecco if he had played any tennis lately. Conversation soon moved on to the recent Wimbledon Championships and the famous victories by Helen Jacobs and Fred Perry.
"I assume Mrs Mapp-Flint was mortified?" asked Herbert.
"I don't know if etiquette allows Kings to carry their own baskets, Sir!" she replied.
"And it must be extremely complicated having two Queens, is it not?" he asked.
"At least two," muttered Irene, sotto voce, whilst beckoning a footman to pour another glass of a particularly delicious Chassagne Montrachet.
At this point the Countess rose and suggested that the ladies retire to allow the gentlemen to enjoy their port and a cigar
"I would quite like some port and a cigar too!" protested Irene.
"Don't worry, Miss Coles, I fully intend to have some brandy and a cheroot. I do hope you will join me!" adding, as she walked off with her arm around Irene's waist "Now Cecco, try not to linger too long."
Count Cecco and the gentlemen gallantly stood as the Amelia, Bunty and Irene left them and vowed to re-join the ladies shortly, "Missing you already my dear," joked the Count, as the door closed behind her. His Countess laughed.
When the gentlemen entered the terrace, Count Cecco nodded to a footman who stepped forward with a silver salver.
Unlike certain prominent houses in Tilling, the gramophone was not frowned upon in the Palazzo Faraglione.
Before long, the strains of the year's biggest hit, "The Way You Look Tonight" cascaded across the marble terrace above the inky, literally midnight blue of the sea.
To conclude a memorable evening, Count Cecco beckoned Irene to the floor, whilst Herbert invited Countess Amelia to join him.
The offer of the King of Italy was accepted with a smile by Mrs Bunty Morrison of Tilling.
Then they danced.
Once the Orcadia had pulled away from the dockside in Naples, the twins quickly made their way to see Felix and spent the rest of the afternoon playing with him and grooming with the brushes thoughtfully supplied by the Faragliones.
Before long, a steward entered with fresh towels and to check all was in order. Bunty remembered him from their outward journey and said she was pleased to see him again.
As they chatted about their stay in Capri, the steward disclosed that, after the Morrisons disembarked in Naples, the Mapp-Flints, "made a terrible fuss, complaining about their cramped dark cabin and demanding to be moved to the stateroom vacated by the Morrisons."
"And what happened?" asked Herbert.
"The Purser wouldn't hear of it," explained the steward, "Word has it that it grew quite heated when The Major tried to offer the Purser a fiver for his assistance."
"Oh dear," said Bunty wearily.
"The Purser said it was Company policy that passengers should remain in the accommodation allocated to them and that, in any event, he did not accept bribes. They then swept off shouting that they would be sending urgent telegram to their solicitor and to the Chairman of P&O."
"Nothing Madam" replied the steward, "Our telegram operator was not asked to send anything by the Mapp-Flints and nothing more was heard about it."
"It's not unusual, Madam. It seems Major and Mrs Mapp-Flint found other things to occupy them during the rest of the voyage and forget about wanting your stateroom," he added mysteriously, adding, as he closed the door behind him, "If that's all Mr and Mrs Morrison, I will leave you to settle in. Good afternoon."
On their first evening aboard, once the twins had been put to bed, Herbert and Bunty made their way to the first class dining room where they were pleased to be shown to the Captain's table.
The party was mixed with a retired ambassador, mill owner, barrister with their respective wives and one solitary lady, a glamorous peripatetic dressage instructor, who was introduced as "Pandora la Gueriniere, the Comtesse de Baucher ."
"Delighted to meet you darlings!" exclaimed their new and exotic companion, "You must call me 'Pan' and I shall call you 'Bunty' and 'Herbert'! So much nicer to be informal on board, don't you think?"
Dinner was dominated by an entertaining monologue from Pandora outlining first her marital history, including a whirlwind romance culminating in marriage to the Comte de Baucher in Shanghai over a memorable weekend in Shanghai in 1933, "Ah dearest Henri!" she exclaimed.
Pandora went on to describe her "dazzling career in the cut-throat world of international dressage." After classical training in Spain, Portugal and Germany and qualification as a "bereiter," Pandora had accepted several lucrative posts as chef d'equipe in the Middle East, declaring proudly, "Darlings, I am renowned in the Federation d'Equitation International as 'that English woman who put the 'kur' in Kurdistan.' It was me who brought passage to India and introduced the half-pass to the Khyber Pass."
Her companions found they had little to contribute to this prolonged meditation upon such an arcane topic and continued to be mute during her detailed account of her most recent sojourn teaching the mysterious equestrian arts in Egypt, where the latest entry upon her curriculum vitae was "teaching side saddle to the mistress of King Fuad, for my sins. Darlings, you simply cannot imagine.... "
The Purser discreetly chose to omit any mention of the Mapp-Flint's aspirations regarding the stateroom vacated by the Morrisons, but found several other memorable incidents to relate.
The table was amused to hear about various of the escapades of Tilling's Mayoress and her life's partner during on their way back to England. "First there was the incident at the Fancy Dress Ball," the Purser explained, "The Major entered into the spirit of the thing and came dressed as an Arab Prince. "
"I suppose by then he had enjoyed a good few drinks?" asked Herbert perceptively.
"Was the poor horse put down?" joked Pandora.
"I believe not, but the Mapp-Flints were very put out" replied Herbert.
The Purser smiled and continued, "As you might imagine, there followed an enormous brouhaha led by the Major, who was mortified at his massive loss and called loudly for the race to be declared void and for a re-run to take place."
"And they were not quite so fortunate on this occasion?" asked Pandora, who by now had developed a deep fascination for Tilling and its deliciously entertaining Mapp-Flints.
"The entente wasn't too cordiale then?" laughed Pandora.
“So, the Mapp-Flints had quite an eventful cruise,” commented Pandora, "If I remember correctly, the more memorable incidents included dressing in white tie on the first night, being bitten by a gibbon in Gibraltar, causing an affray at the Fancy Dress Ball, destroying the Horse Racing apparatus and being arrested in Cannes after a fracas in the casino. Quite a list. More than enough for several postcards home.”
“Not quite all, I’m afraid,” sighed the Purser, “There was also the little problem with the donkey.”
"I do hope things eventually settled down and that the Major and Mrs Mapp-Flint were able to enjoy the rest of their holiday," commented Bunty.
"You mean, he was a gangster?" asked Bunty.
Day/ Time Remarks
0200 Fine and sunny. Calm sea
1231 Coasting close to Stromboli
0433 Entered Straits of Messina
1500 Passed Messina
1515 Passed Reggio
1540 Left Messina Strait
1640 Off Cape Spartivento, Italy
0654 Anchored off Patras
1200 Fine and sunny
1800 Departed Patras
2030 Passed between Zante and Cephalonia
0923 Off Lipari
1030 Off Salina
1200 Fine and sunny. Rippled sea
2300 Passed Elba
0800 Anchored off Cannes
o200 Fine and sunny
1742 Passed Port Soller
0616 Embarked Pilot off River Tagus entrance
0800 Berthed Lisbon
1200 Fine and sunny
0724 Disembarked Pilot off River Tagus
1000 Passed between Burling Is. and the mainland of Portugal
1200 Fine and sunny
2045 Rounded Cape Villano and entered the Bay of Biscay
1445 Rounded Ushant, left Bay of Biscay
0700 Arrived berth, Southampton
Herbert and Bunty usually passed their morning on deck, enjoying the sun and sea air, watching the waves and milling sea gulls over books and magazines, whilst James and Doris spent time with Felix. Somehow, they also found room for a fabulous lunch, before an afternoon around the pool or in whist drives or tea dances.
The twins looked forward to the children's menus at tea-time and usually opted for their favourite steak and chips before apple pie or junket.
After the commotion of arriving in Southampton and disembarking, Herbert and Bunty Morrison breathed a huge sigh in unison as they fell back into their seats in their railway carriage.
At noon several days later, the kitchen at “Braemar” was hot and steamy, as Bunty returned from putting yet another load of washing out to dry. Beneath the line of clothes fluttering in the breeze that had blown straight in from the English Channel, James and Doris played with Felix who was delighting in his new surroundings and learning how to retrieve the ball. He rushed back with it, tail wagging and pranced about begging for it to be thrown again. The twins were thrilled that their puppy never tired of this game and were happy to oblige for hours at a time.
"They have each had matching summer frocks made by Miss Greele. One with huge roses and the other bright poppies."
"I suppose that offended Mrs Plaistow?" asked Herbert, remembering the bitter war of the applique chintz roses and poppies some time before between the ladies in question."
"Quite correct, dear," replied Bunty, "I never realised that you noticed all these petty squabbles amongst our ladies - let alone remembered them in such detail."
"Police training; notice everything and forget nothing," replied Herbert with a smile, "So what else have they been up to?"
"They also had Miss Greele make some huge picture hats each dressed with the flowers on their dress. They had to send away to France to find ones big enough. Mrs Plaistow said 'When I saw Mr Bott and the Major, both portly in their check tweed and pork pie hats, escorting their wives out of the saloon bar of the Traders Arms, it looked like something out of 'Alice in Wonderland', just like Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee had married identical twin sisters in matching flowery frocks and chapeaux. That, or the music hall!'"
"Quite a sight; I wish I had seen it" said Herbert.
“Thanks Bunty, that has cheered me up no-end after a trying morning,” laughed Herbert.
“Mostly routine thanks, but we have been having some disturbing information about a sudden increase in contraband in the area.”
"It's not like what we learned at school" commented Herbert, "Do you remember?
'Five and twenty ponies,
Trotting through the dark - Brandy for the Parson, 'Baccy for the Clerk.
Laces for a lady; letters for a spy,
Watch the wall my darling while the Gentlemen go by!'"
As Inspector Morrison finished his sandwich and tea and drove his Riley back into Tilling and Bunty continued with her household chores, the Mapp-Flints and their newest and best friends, the Botts were just beginning their more extravagant luncheon in the dining room at “Grebe.”
As the lunch progressed and the hock was succeeded by an agreeable claret, conversation turned to the shared dismay of all present over the desultory returns currently available from government gilts and bank deposits.
“Here come the fairies, bless ‘em!” remarked Benjy jovially as the ladies re-entered the dining room. Each man stood ceremoniously, if a little unsteadily, and bowed to each fairy as gallantly as he could manage and then fell back into his chair amidst gales of laughter.
With a velocity that would have shocked the worthies on the Bench of Tilling Magistrates and undoubtedly provoked the most severe penalty available to them, the Mapp-Flint's roadster powered its way into the venerable town on its ancient hill.
Neither Major Flint nor Maurice Bott troubled to speak to Georgie Pillson, but continued their stuttering progress along the middle of the road, “Never could stand the man, old boy,” confided Benjy, as he paused and swayed, “Just couldn’t understand how he came to marry that Lucia. Damn fine woman, you know. With all those daubs and tatting and such, I used to call him ‘Mistress Milliner Michelangelo..’”
“Such lovely bright blooms on your hats,” commented Benjy, who did not normally notice such trifles, but suspected it might be apt to top up the credit side in the ledger of his wife’s affections since he had steadfastly been ignoring her for the last hour or so.
On leaving the dressmakers, the quartet were loaded with large parcels containing the new summer dresses and impressive candy-striped hat boxes tied with extravagant silk ribbon. Their rotundity combined with the grandiosity of the hat boxes made the gentlemen’s task as their ladies’ beasts of burden both awkward and tiring.
Elizabeth was privately offended that Diva appeared to be suggesting she would prefer if her human best friend and not her dog was again lying prostrate before her. Perhaps wisely, she said nothing.
At this juncture, fate smiled upon both Diva and Paddy as PC Hopkins turned the corner on his regular beat and took in the scene of canine and human distress. He immediately took control.
Before long, Paddy had been carried to the vets and had his stomach pumped, the powdery white evidence at the scene of the crime had been swept up and sent for analysis and the Mapp-Flints were being served strong tea in the office of Inspector Morrison at Tilling Police Station
Whilst Inspector Morrison was out of his office, Elizabeth Mapp-Flint took the opportunity to interrogate her husband on what had transpired when she had been forced to circumnavigate the gardens at "Grebe," leaving him alone in the dining room with Maurice Bott.