The day after the arrest of Maurice and Rowena Bott was one of mixed discomfort and relief at "Grebe."
As Elizabeth Mapp-Flint's interrogation continued and Major Flint was subjected to harsh and inhumane treatment falling far outside the guidelines in the Geneva Convention, Tilling buzzed with news of the arrest of the Botts.
"Arrested, both of them in the cells," reported Diva Plaistow pithily, "On the gangway boarding the Dieppe ferry in Seaport."
Herbert and the twins joined Bunty and made an appropriate fuss of their visitor, "Auntie Pan. Come and see Felix!" shouted the twins and led the Comtesse de Baucher into the back garden.
After ten fraught minutes, Pandora returned from the garden to the kitchen and fell into a chair at the well-scrubbed table. "Tea, might be a good idea,” she gasped, inserting a pastel coloured cocktail cigarette into her holder. Lighting it, she inhaled deeply and, with a satisfied sigh, exclaimed, “Oh, that’s better! So lovely to see the babies and Felix, again; I’ve quite missed them. Oh, good, tea: nothing quite like it.”
Next morning Bunty and the twins collected Pandora from the Traders Arms and began a flying tour of Tilling.
On leaving Mrs Plaistow’s, Bunty and the twins accompanied Pandora back to the Traders Arms where her luggage awaited and said their goodbyes before the Morrisons set off for “Braemar” and their visitor to Tilling Railway Station.
Pandora was already sitting alone at a table in the crowded buffet when Major Benjy walked in and straight to the counter. He nodded to the diminutive Manageress, whom he knew well, "Good afternoon Joyce. Whiskey and soda please."
"Who'd have thought it? One simple message goes missing, we both change and suffer forever and the whole of our lives goes down a different road?"
"I just carried on. There was my duty to be done and polo and tiger hunting and mess dinners and pink gin to be drunk: all the diversions of the Raj. It was a good life for a young buck, but so different after you left. Pretty meaningless."
"In what way?"
"When I eventually plucked up the courage to see someone else, the other chaps in the regiment used to call my special lady friend, 'the Pride of Poona,' but I was grateful to her. She never judged me but always gave and helped me to recover from the pain of our parting. She was special and always meant so much more to me than that foolish name they gave her. I'm ashamed to say that even that was not enough. After all that had happened, I was still damaged goods and not man enough to stand up for her and what we had come to mean to each other. Eventually, I was posted back to Blighty and just...left her behind."
"Fortunately, she fell onto her feet, but no thanks to me," commented Benjy, "She went on to become the Maharani of Maharastra and never wanted for anything."
"Yes and no," replied Benjy, "Only this year, I found she had borne my son after I had left Poona. This year, she came to England especially to tell me this and passed away over here: a sad end for such a beautiful woman in a dismal seaside hotel room in the winter. She told me that her husband, the Maharajah raised him as his own. Damned civilised man, a gentleman, in fact."
"And did you ever meet your boy?" inquired Pandora gently.
Next morning was fine and warm. The Sussex sky was brightest blue with a few scudding clouds and seagulls wheeling and calling over "Grebe."
The house was still and calm as the under-parlour maid entered the drawing room to open the curtains and lay the fire. She was shocked to find her mistress still sleeping in the armchair beside the fireplace. An empty whiskey glass stood on the occasional table next to her.
In some ways, Diva was perhaps the last person in Tilling that morning from whom Elizabeth should have sought reassurance regarding her errant significant other.
"Go on, Diva dear. We've known each other for a long time. Just tell me what you know. I'm sure I will be able to work out what it all means," urged Elizabeth.
"Oh!" said Elizabeth, "And what happened?"
"I couldn't possibly say," said Elizabeth, more perplexed than Diva had ever seen her, "Oh, look at the time I really must be off. I'm already late for my next appointment. Thank you so much for the tea and toast : delicious. Au reservoir!"
With that, Mrs Mapp-Flint gathered up her sables and handbag, but uncharacteristically contrived to leave her umbrella behind as she hurriedly exited Ye Olde Tea Shoppe.
As she cleared the table, Diva sighed a sigh which verged upon the sympathetic. "Poor Elizabeth," she thought, "Whatever next?" Diva almost felt sorry for her....
Sitting quietly in the empty belvedere, looking out at the view, Elizabeth felt calmer. Only a stone’s throw from her beloved “Mallards,” she yearned for the happier days when she often mulled over life’s quandaries sitting on the hot water pipe in her spiritual home, the Garden Room peering occasionally from behind the curtain to monitor all comings and goings in the street below.
If truth be known, Elizabeth quite liked the idea that her Benjy had quite such a raffish past. In all honesty, it excited her and was "such a marvellous contrast to the crochet and crayoning of dear Lulu’s husband." Elizabeth could not imagine Mr Georgie breaking hearts of young ladies all around the hill stations of the Raj.
"As Mayoress?" asked Elizabeth, with a degree of pride.
The following days in Tilling were not untypical. Once the intriguing item of gossip had emerged during the daily round of marketing, it was swiftly disseminated to the fullest extent and was tested to destruction by many eminent Tillingites, who prided themselves upon being expert in the field of deductive reasoning, of which Tilling was an acknowledged centre of excellence.
For the next five days, conjecture raged and escalated in Tilling over the whereabouts of the missing Major.
Whilst the townsfolk of Tilling grew increasingly excitable, Herbert Morrison adopted a more pragmatic approach which the admirers of Mr Doyle or Mrs Christie might have considered prosaic.
Inspector Morrison left his office and walked alone to the railway station. Buying a platform ticket, he made for the first class buffet and entered.