Charles parked his sportscar outside St. Jeremy’s Cathedral and opened the passenger door for Lady Mabel. She stepped out of the car, no longer afraid of the scandal she was sure to face for riding with a mere footman. She didn’t care. She couldn’t resist the thrill of racing through the shire at 25 miles an hour, even to an occassion as sober as Lord Reginald’s funeral.
Sir Benjamin scoffed as she approached the cathedral doorway. “So glad you can find joy even after your brother’s death, M’LADY.”
“Ah, Sir Benjamin,” Lady Mabel replied, “I’m so glad you were able to come. I was worried you wouldn’t be able to pull yourself away from stuffing the cook’s turkey like you managed to for your wife’s funeral.”
The general tittering that befell the crowd pleased Lady Mabel for a mo’, but she knew as soon as she stepped inside the cathedral she risked an awkward meeting with Mr. Rongold. Mr. Rongold was sure she knew something about how his begonias went ruddy the night before the county garden show.
Mr. Rongold did, in fact, notice Lady Mabel’s arrival, but dared not approach her for fear he would attract the attention of Colonel Sedgwick. He had been avoiding Sedgwick for two weeks now, ever since the colonel caught him giving his best horse a right snogging.
Colonel Sedgwick had indeed spotted Mr. Rongold, but made no attempt to confront him. His expertise in covert strategy and crowd control led him to the inevitable conclusion that doing so would alert Roger Thorndyke to his presence, which would be most regrettable. Thorndyke, in his work for the London Times, had come across a memorandum in which Colonel Sedgwick approved the Jameson Raid into Johannesburg and subsequently caused the Second Boer War, and Sedgwick was in no mood to respond to a newspaperman’s inquiries only to see himself misquoted in the evening edition.
Lord Reginald was also avoiding Thorndyke, whose recent appearence in the village had become something of a nuisance. His cursed snooping around with his pencil and pad threatened to draw unwanted attention to certain members of the royal family who may be hidden in certain root cellars on property Lord Reginald maintained throughout the county.
Lord Reginald went so far as to fake his death to avoid the inkmonger. It all started out simple enough. After all, he had decades of experience when it came to sitting motionless in a chair with his eyes closed. But things escalated when that bloody peahen of Lady Mabel’s started pecking at his fingers. He tried to surreptitiously shoo it away, but it wouldn’t cease its infernal pecking. Luckily, Lady Mabel chose that moment to poke her head in the window and ask the village doctor if anyone had seen a peahen around. As she scooped the bird into her arms, she’d scolded it for pecking at the body of such an esteemed member of the gentry. Lord Reginald could have sang with delight if it wouldn’t have given away his ruse.
Lord Reginald was now lying in the coffin with similar feelings of relief. He was so close to getting away with everything, he could practically taste those crown jewels. Just then, he heard a tapping at the side of the coffin. He lifted the lid a crack and broke out in a cold sweat. There, bobbing next the coffin in time with the tapping sound, was the blasted gray crest atop the blasted head of Lady Mabel’s blasted peahen.
Lord Reginald jumped up, slamming the coffin lid open. He tried to stand but lost his balance and fell back into Father Murphy yelling, “That peahen! Lady Mabel’s peahen!”
Needless to say, the assembled villagers found this sight quite shocking. As they made their way, hurried and harried, screaming through the aisles and out of the cathedral, Lady Mabel gazed fondly at her precious peahen. “Oh, Henrietta,” she said, “you are a naughty girl. But I suppose we ought to thank you. I imagine you’ll even find an extra helping of cheese in your crickets tonight.”