The Panama Hat Series - Volume 1: Tezzie and the Villainous Victorians

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Chapter 8

Poor Billy! As the boys watched him being carried off by Perkins the butler, they saw Billy give them a wide grin and a wink - this was the diversion they had been needing! Even if Mr Fairchild immediately rang for the butler when he saw the boys, Billy would make sure it was a while before he could respond to the summons. Good old Billy! thought Tezzie.

Tezzie and Nico only had this one chance to act. With a quick glance about them, they headed for the library door Billy had pointed out to them. While they looked about them, the boys’ mouths fell open seeing such a richly furnished house, especially after having witnessed the poverty and squalor only a couple of streets away.

They crossed to the library door. Tezzie stopped to take a deep breath and then looked at Nico. Nico nodded in encouragement. For the second time that day Billy had made up his mind to be brave and now it was time to show him that they appreciated that. Tezzie knocked tentatively on the library door.

They heard a voice from within,

“Yes, yes, enter, Perkins. Let me see, I think we would prefer the veal tonight. Please tell Cook to save the pie for tomorrow, if you don’t mind, Mrs Fairchild is still feeling a little unwell so she will be taking her dinner in her room - she is far too distressed to er, oh…!”

The boys had opened the door as Mr Fairchild had been saying all of this and they now stood in the doorway as the gentleman looked up in surprise.

“Why – Good heavens – who are you?” said the gentleman, flabbergasted and trying to take in the fact of two boys standing at the door of his library.

“Now look here, what are you doing?” asked Mr Fairchild as the boys maintained a stunned silence. Tezzie and Nico had suddenly realised how unlikely their story sounded and had become lost for words.

“I’m …er..I’m sorry I...We…” Nico began to back out of the door shaking slightly as his courage started to fail him in the face of Mr Fairchild’s obvious displeasure.

“Wait” ordered Tezzie, putting a hand on Nico’s arm, “We’re here now Nico, and we need to explain what has happened to Billy and we need to do it quickly – we’re running out of time,”

“What is this? And who are you two? How did you get in here? Billy you say? What could you possibly know about him? We are bitterly disappointed in him; Mrs Fairchild is very distressed indeed that he felt he could steal our jewels - family heirlooms - a bad business indeed,” said Mr Fairchild, looking more and more baffled by the second, as he took in Tezzie and Nico’s strange clothes.

“We can explain everything, sir” said Tezzie.

There was a pause. Tezzie knew sometimes it was better to leave a space for silence, rather than babbling and overwhelming someone. Especially in urgent matters such as this.

“Please do so,” replied Mr Fairchild curtly.

“Well…my name is Thomas and this is my cousin Nicolas. We’ve just witnessed a conversation between Mr Dallevill, and another man who goes by the name of Harry Blackhat. It was Mr Dallevill who took the jewels sir – “

“Goodness gracious me! Now really! This is outrageous! It is a very serious matter indeed for you to be accusing your elders of such a thing!” began Mr Fairchild.

“But it is true, sir! Please! I heard and saw the men myself at the Rose and Crown tavern, talking about selling the jewels and letting Billy take the blame. He doesn’t care about Billy at all, in fact he said if the police didn’t catch Billy then he would ‘deal with him.’”

He stopped to give Mr Fairchild a chance to take all of this information in.

“Well – and if this is true and Mr Dallevill is the true culprit – how do you suppose you can prove such a thing? Surely he is long gone by now?” said Mr Fairchild, the look in his eyes softening as he took in the boys’ earnest, anxious faces.

Nico, who couldn’t contain himself any longer, with the time fast running out, said,

“Sir, Mr Dallevill is going to meet this other man, Mr Blackhat at a house in Crook Avenue, they’ll be meeting there in twenty minutes. Mr Blackhat will give Mr Dallevill money for Mrs Fairchild’s jewels and then those jewels will be gone forever! We need to act now – otherwise Billy will be sent to jail for something he didn’t do!”

Nico’s outburst seemed to have finally convinced Mr Fairchild. Without another word to the boys he rose from his seat by the fire, walked purposefully over to the bell on the wall by the door and rang it twice. He then immediately turned to the boys and said,

“Give me the address where this meeting is to take place” while he took up his pen and a piece of paper from his desk. Tezzie recited the address just as he had heard it and Mr Fairchild wrote it down in his careful and beautiful script.

(Illustration: the address of the meeting in lovely old-fashioned script on note paper)

“And the name of the gentleman Mr Dallevill is meeting in Crook Ave is Mr Blackhat you say? Do you know which house on Crook Avenue?” As Mr Fairchild continued to write down the information.

Nico, gathering some confidence now that it seemed that they weren’t going to be marched straight to the police, added

“It’s Old Sarah’s place – the boarding house, number 12, that’s where they’re meeting – Billy said that everybody knows that place”

“Billy said so did he? So you have been speaking to the boy? Do you know his whereabouts?” He said looking at the boys shrewdly.

The boys looked at each other and then Tezzie blurted it out

“He’s here, sir! He’s in this house. Perkins caught him, when we were trying to see you and has locked him up somewhere!” .

Just at that moment there was a sharp rap at the door.

“Enter, Perkins.” said Mr Fairchild while still watching the boys searchingly.

The door opened and there stood the butler. He looked quite ruffled and out-of-sorts, his hair not quite lying flat on his head. Billy must have given him quite a fight Nico thought with some satisfaction. Perkins was clearly a very well trained butler because when he saw the boys, he barely reacted. His mouth twitched ever so slightly as his eyes came to rest on Tezzie’s tattered old Panama hat, giving the only indication of his shock at seeing these two tiresome boys again.

“Ah, Perkins, we have an emergency on our hands. I need you to find the Inspector immediately on a matter of great importance and give him this note. He will need his horses and at least five men with him. Get my carriage ready too, I will be following the Inspector”

“Why of course sir, right away sir” the butler bowed slightly and turned to walk out of the door.

“Oh and by the way. Please release Billy from the pantry and have him brought here post haste”

“Certainly, sir” Perkins nodded his head once, going slightly red about the ears and quickly made straight for the door to carry out Mr. Fairchild’s instructions.

Mr Fairchild turned to the boys again, shaking his head,

“Do you know boys, I have never completely felt comfortable with Mr Dallevill. There always seemed to be a hard edge to his character which he hides fairly well.” It was almost he was speaking to himself, “…I also found it hard, in truth, to believe that Billy here could have done the deed, but that man is so convincing when he wants to be.” He stood up suddenly, shaking himself out of his unpleasant reverie, “Anyway, we haven’t a moment to spare, let us go and meet the Inspector and get to this address. We need to catch Billy’s boss with those jewels”

(Illustration: Drawing of boys and Mr Fairchild in library)

Just at that moment, Billy burst into the library, looking round at the boys, his face lit up with joy, hope and excitement. He looked very different from the frightened, suspicious and downtrodden boy they had met in the garden, just a few hours before.

“Well, well, hello Billy! It seems that we have all misjudged you - and it seems I may owe you a heartfelt apology - but there will be plenty of time to make it up to you, after we have cleared up this unpleasantness”

Billy beamed back up at Mr. Fairchild. People had faith in him and believed in him, and were listening to him and that meant the world to him!

“Right now we need to capture a shameless robber red-handed” Mr Fairchild added with a wry smile, “Let us go, boys!”

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