James watched Jeeves leave before raising his glass of gin and tonic and clinking it with Lady Allenby’s. This new butler certainly seemed much more capable than the last one, well worth the hours of interviewing to find him.
“To us, Anne,” he said, raising his glass in his wife’s direction. She smiled, and did the same.
“To us, Julian,” she replied.
Getting Julian to go along with swapping places with him during the party had been quite easy. It was just the kind of thing that Julian loved to do. Getting him to shave off his moustache and put in contact lenses had been a little harder when it had come to it but James had managed. Applying a false moustache himself had been no trouble. There were plenty of theatrical suppliers around from whom he had been able to try a variety of choices until he had found one he could use as the base. When they had gone around the room afterwards not one person seemed to suspect they weren’t who they claimed to be, even Hazel and Anne, who should have been able to tell if anyone could. Lady Valerie’s suggestion of individual cakes had made the delivery method for the small amount of concentrated almond flavouring that was all it took obvious, and Julian’s own adding of the two candles to one of the cakes had made identifying it even easier.
He was glad, with hindsight, that Tim West’s crash hadn’t been fatal, though it had meant that James had needed to stage a break-in so that he could destroy the record of his scar. He had had his removed in India, the purpose of his trip, but he didn’t want the absence of one on Julian’s body to raise suspicions at any autopsy. Luckily with a leg in plaster this wasn’t something that Dr West was called on to carry out. Timothy, who he was careful now to call him instead of ‘Tim’, had been there ready to comfort Hazel both on the loss of her husband and as it became plain that a relationship was developing between Anne and Julian.
He had found courting Anne as Julian had been rather fun, and easier than he had thought it would be, now that he could do it openly. When his marriage proposal had been accepted Hazel had been put out. Marrying Anne would mean that she would become the new Lady Allenby and Hazel would be pushed into a background role, as Lady Valerie had been. It was a fact that she had had to accept, even if it was one she didn’t like. It had been that which had finally pushed her into the waiting doctor’s arms and James had been pleased when she finally announced that she would be leaving the Manor to live with Timothy at the surgery.
He had had to make some accommodations to keep everyone convinced he was Julian of course. Philip was now more or less a permanent resident, and James had told both him and Lady Valerie that if they wanted to get married he would have no objection to their remaining at the Manor. He had also brought in a new maid to do those duties, so that Polly could stay on as the cook and carry on living at the Manor. Polly had been pleased to stay, even though soon after the party she had discovered Margaret’s legacy and would have had somewhere to go to if she had wanted. She was even more careful than before about preparing the ‘new’ Lord Allenby’s food, even though she was convinced that there was nothing in what she had cooked that could account for ‘the previous’ Lord Allenby’s death. She let the cottage out, and the income she got from that now funded her visits to the casino, which continued unabated.
He had also agreed to Fred’s request to hire in some permanent help, and there was now a junior gardener to assist him. The grounds were returning slowly to the immaculate condition they had been in when Joe and Fred had looked after them.
He had taken the additional 30% stake in Rob’s business in exchange for a loan to buy the new conveyor belt, but he had taken no further interest in the running of the firm. That was Rob’s area of expertise and one he was more than happy to leave him with. It would be a while before the company started to make real money again, but he was in no rush. The money he had drawn out of his secret accounts along with a large inheritance transferred to Julian from James’s will was more than ample to support whatever he wanted to do. He had even suggested that he and Anne join Rob and Sheila for their trip to Cebu, claiming that he also hadn’t seen the operation there and would be pleased to do so.
He hadn’t been sure what to do about Mark. It hadn’t taken him long to realise that the shares that Mark claimed would be difficult to realise the face value of were really non-existent. It didn’t take much power of deduction to work out why this might be. He should have gone to the police, but their enquiries might lead them into other areas that he didn’t want investigating. Besides, Mark had served him well over the years and James felt a certain amount of responsibility towards him. On the other hand he couldn’t continue to let Mark steal from him. He thought he was rather clever in how he solved the problem in the end. He told Mark that he would be taking personal responsibility for the income from the p-lock devices, which he had inherited the patent for, but that Mark should continue looking after the financial affairs of the estate. There was little spare cash there to be siphoned off so James felt quite secure in doing this. As a ‘thank you’ gift for all of Mark’s work for James, he gave him the shares. They were of course quite valueless but Mark couldn’t say so without revealing why. He heard, through other sources, that Mark had moved his wife into a much less expensive home soon afterwards. James doubted that she would know the difference.
He also hadn’t known what to do about John Giles. Now that John believed James was out of the way and Julian in charge, he seemed convinced that his scheme to create an adventure park would be given the thumbs up. James put him off the notion by saying it was something Lady Valerie was very strongly against. He hoped that by the time she was no longer around to be the excuse, John himself would have grown too old to still want to put his plans into action. Over the weeks and months that followed, he went out of his way to avoid John and Emily whenever possible.
Lord Julian Allenby could be a likeable enough character when he chose to be, and nowadays that was most of the time.
He was well liked by everyone who knew him, and generous in both time and money to the charities that he and his wife Anne chose to support. They took long and frequent holidays abroad together, leaving the running of the Manor to be supervised by the butler, Jeeves, and the estate by Mark Peters.
All in all, the life the two shared was very nice and they generally left those they met with the feeling that some of this pleasantness had rubbed off on them.