It had rained all night and the ground was sodden, but now the sun had come out and birds were singing. Daisy looked around at the other mourners. Mostly they seemed to be members of Lord Queensly’s family and entourage but Daisy recognised Dr. Houston and Mr. Lake, the family’s solicitor.
Lady Alicia Queensly was accompanied by her two daughters, Penelope and Elaine, and held their hands.
The new vicar did his best not to lengthen the proceedings and Lord Queensly was put to rest. Daisy had met Sir Arthur Queensly some time ago on the occasion of the mysterious disappearance of one of his gardeners and thought that he was rather gruff and lacking in tact but certainly not a bad person.
An elderly man in a wheelchair, who had one of his eyes bandaged, was weeping profusely and was being comforted by a lady who seemed to be his wife, and by a young man. It was then that Daisy recognised the elderly man as Charles, the one-time butler of Lord Queensly, and thought that the young man might be Charles’ son Thomas. Soon the lady and the young man managed to persuade Charles to leave and accompanied him away.
As the ceremony finished, Daisy noticed that a tall, rather handsome, sunburned man with a beard, of about thirty something, had arrived alone and appeared to be a bit uncertain as to what he should be doing. The stranger seemed to have come to the funeral in a rush as his jacket looked creased and better suited to a warmer climate. He looked a little lost and stared at the other mourners, seeming to try and recognise someone amongst the crowd.
At the reception buffet at the manor, the housekeeper, Mrs. Maitland, handed round platefuls of sandwiches and hot sausage rolls and asked Daisy if she would like anything to drink. Daisy thanked her but replied she would have something later on. The enormous sideboard was filled with plates of sandwiches, hot Cornish pasties and slices of various delicious-looking cakes. Mrs. Maitland was giving instructions to a girl named Iris who was standing at a table pouring out soft drinks, tea and coffee. Daisy wondered why there was no alcohol visible, as was usual on these occasions.
Lady Alicia smiled at Daisy across the room but was then surrounded by people, who were probably relatives, talking away and leaving her little space.
“Hello Daisy, it’s nice of you to have come!” this was Penelope Queensly speaking, the older daughter of the late Lord Queensly. “Elaine,” she called out to her younger sister. “Do come over here and say hello to Daisy. Do you remember the gardener disappeared when you were away at boarding school? This is the private detective who helped us find him again!”
Daisy noticed that the young man who had accompanied the elderly butler in a wheelchair never remained very far from Penelope’s side and that there was a lot of eye contact between the two.
Lady Queensly seemed to have freed herself for a moment and approached the private detective, “Daisy, there will be the reading of the will shortly and you should come too. I know there’s a little surprise for you!” she said, endeavouring to smile.
Daisy was about to reply to her when Lady Queensly was swamped once again by relatives trying to talk to her.
Daisy felt like stretching her legs and wandered out into the hall where she saw the sunburned gentleman with a beard looking around at the old pictures hanging on the walls. Suddenly the lights went out which made the hall rather dark, but Daisy noticed that the bearded man turned instinctively towards a door which apparently led downstairs. He pulled a cigarette lighter out of his pocket, disappeared for a few moments and then reappeared just after the lights came back on again. Iris rushed out into the hall mumbling, “Oh, thank goodness! I’d completely run out of coffee!” and dashed downstairs.
While a lot of people were leaving, Mr. Lake, the family solicitor, made his way towards the library.
Seeing this, Lady Queensly freed herself politely and made an announcement, “Mr. Lake is going to read the will now! I think we’d better go in. Thomas, will you accompany us? Yes, you too, Mrs. Maitland, and ask Cook to come as well!”
The huge bookcases going right up to the high ceiling dominated the whole room and old family photographs adorned the mantelpiece.
Mr. Lake was seated at the table ready to read the will. After droning on through the usual formalities, he began naming the beneficiaries, “I bequeath one thousand pounds to Mrs. Ida Cooth, the cook, three thousand pounds to Mrs. Constance Ruth Maitland... And Miss Daisy Hamilton, ehm… ehm...”
Mr. Lake coughed and spluttered and asked for a glass of water to be brought in. He was just about to continue his reading when the library door opened suddenly and the sunburned gentleman with a beard walked in. “Excuse me everybody, but I think I have a right to be here,” he said nervously. Daisy noticed he had an Australian accent.
“My dear sir, I don’t think I know…” Interrupted Mr. Lake, but was interrupted in his turn.
“Er… I’ve got a letter here, it’s from my mother – Erika Lissengren Queensly – I’m Alec Queensly!” he blurted out to the astonishment of everybody. “I’m Lord Queensly’s son from his first marriage.”
This statement was met with an icy silence, then everybody started talking, standing up and asking questions and shouting. A man who seemed to be a member of the family moved towards the stranger menacingly, “Go away sir! You’re an impostor and you’ll find yourself in prison very soon if you’re not careful!”
“Oh, do shut up making such a fuss, Harold. I’d like to hear him out!” exclaimed Penelope.
Daisy thought that Harold might be a cousin or something and therefore the one who should inherit the title.
Voices broke out again and, in the midst of all the babbling, Mr. Lake tried to make himself heard and thumped on the table for silence. “Sir, you say you have a letter – may I see it?”
“Yes sir, it’s a letter my mother left for me when she died. She was Lord Queensly’s first wife. I also have my birth certificate and a photograph of her and - me as a baby.”
“He’s clearly a madman,” shouted Harold. “I’ll telephone the police!” Everybody started arguing again.
“Harold, please!” Penelope urged. “Just because you hope to inherit our father’s title and estate as the only male relative there’s no need to behave like that!”
Lady Queensly looked desperate and called Daisy to come outside the library to talk to her.
“I’m terrified there’s going to be a scandal with this man making these strange claims,” said Lady Queensly beginning to cry. “Before long the papers will get hold of the story. Daisy, help us sort this out, do anything necessary.”
“I don’t quite know what I can do, Lady Queensly. Do you want me to be your spokesperson?”
Lady Queensly nodded, “Please Daisy.”
“I’ll do my best. Let’s go back into the library.”
“Excuse me - can I have silence, please,” Daisy had to raise her voice at first but eventually managed to stop all the shouting. “Lady Queensly has appointed me as her spokesperson. You will all appreciate that something rather exceptional has arisen. In view of what has just happened, Mr. Lake, will you investigate the veracity of these new documents?”
The solicitor nodded, “Yes, I certainly will!”
“So, I invite everybody to keep calm until we have new information on the matter. Mr. Lake, shall we say that the reading must be postponed to a more appropriate moment?” suggested Daisy.
Harold was furious, “I’m going to get on to my solicitor. This is insane!” and pointed threateningly towards Lady Alicia as though she were responsible for this confusion. Thomas put himself physically between Lady Alicia and Harold.
“Sir, I think this is neither the time nor the place!” the young man said.
Penelope agreed, “Well said, Thomas.” From his bearing Daisy thought he might be a policeman.
Mr. Lake, Mrs. Maitland and Mrs. Cooth then left the room, whilst Lady Queensly invited the stranger to remain with her in the library and beckoned Daisy with her eyes. Daisy noticed that Penelope and Elaine certainly didn’t seem devastated that the title might not go to their cousin Harold, who in the meantime had sat himself down in Lord Arthur’s chair as though he intended to remain there all his life.
Lady Alicia tried to sum things up, “You say you are Alec, my husband’s son from his first marriage. But it’s always been known that my husband’s first wife, Erika, took her son away with her and committed suicide. After a number of years they were both presumed legally dead. It’s all so confusing!”
She hesitated a moment, “Will you tell me what you remember of your father?”
“Practically nothing...” admitted the stranger.
“Oh, how convenient!” butted in Harold.
The stranger continued, looking rather disconcerted, “I was six when we left and went to Australia, Lady Alicia. Look, I have no intention of making you or your daughters unhappy or uprooting you. It’s just that I’ve come back to the place where I was born!”
Daisy broke in, “If you are indeed Alec, why didn’t you come back to England before?”
“I only knew about all of this very recently. My mother was very ill and wasn’t going to live long, so she told me everything. She told me that my father had been abusive to her because of drink. She was terrified he’d start on me, so she got in touch with someone who had connections with the Swedish underworld and was able to provide her with false documents, and she escaped to the other side of the world.”
“If you are our half-brother I’ll be rather glad. I’ve always wanted a brother!” said Elaine.
“He’s just a confidence trickster!” Harold declared angrily.
Daisy insisted, “What happened to you both when you arrived in Australia?”
“Well, my name had been changed to Craig and my mother got a job in a school canteen where I was a pupil, then one day she met Rod Blanchettes, they got married and he adopted me, so I became Craig Blanchettes. He was really a good father to me and treated me as if I were his own son. We lived on a farm and I had a wonderful time there until I became ill and had to go into hospital. Anyway, I got well again – I became a mining engineer - and here I am!”
“How uplifting!” murmured Harold sarcastically.
“Well,” said Daisy after listening to Craig’s story, “I wonder if Mr. Lake has any medical documents about Lord Queensly’s son.”
“His father used to be our family solicitor when Alec was born,” said Penelope leaving the room. “I’ll phone him now!”
Daisy continued, “A way of establishing the truth would be if you had a DNA test - but I believe it takes quite a bit of time for the results. On the other hand, if we knew Alec’s blood group that might help us quite a bit. Craig, may I call you Craig, do you know your blood group?”
Harold couldn’t miss this opportunity to be unpleasant, “Why, has he got blood in his veins?”
Craig ignored Harold’s comment and felt for his wallet, “Yes, I’ve always got it with me - it’s O.”
He then stood up, “I’m sorry to have shocked you, Lady Alicia, and I’d better be going as you must be tired. I’m staying at The Stag’s Head in the village. You can contact me there or on my mobile. I’ll write the number down for you!”
At this point Craig gave Lady Alicia a piece of paper with his telephone number on it and said goodbye awkwardly. Harold muttered, “Good riddance!”
A few days’ later Daisy was talking to Mr. Singh, a Sikh carpenter who had just begun mending the front door of her office, when the call arrived from Mr. Lake, the family solicitor.
“Daisy, Alec Queensly’s medical file is in my hands now. It states that Alec’s blood group was A, not O.”
“So Craig can’t be Alec Queensly!” exclaimed Daisy. She couldn’t have been more surprised as she had judged Craig positively, even though his story seemed all so improbable. Daisy concluded, “I hardly think it’s worth our while to go ahead with the DNA test now.”
Daisy was perplexed and turned the kettle on, “Mr. Singh, would you like a cup of coffee?”
“Oh, thank you Ms Hamilton. Sorry I couldn’t come before, but I didn’t feel very well, I felt all weak. My wife says I’ve got to go and see Dr. Hashmi, but the trouble is he wants me to have a blood test and I’m not very keen on that. My son, who’s studying medicine, says that blood results can change from one day to another, so they are not very reliable anyway, are they?”
The talkative Mr. Singh interrupted himself realising he was wasting precious time, “So, here I am. I am putting a really safe lock on the door and I’ll plane the door down a bit at the bottom so that it opens more easily instead of scraping along the floor. Don’t worry, I’ll get the job done before evening!”
Daisy was trying to do her accounts while the carpenter kept drilling holes and making a terrible noise. She finally gave up and started surfing the internet reading the latest news. Then, suddenly, she looked up at Mr. Singh and remembered something he had said about blood results not being reliable. She quickly went back to surfing the internet to check on an idea that had come to mind. Ten minutes later she phoned Lady Alicia, asking her for two telephone numbers, and immediately jumped up from her chair, “Mr. Singh. I have to go out – if you finish the job before I get back, just lock up and I’ll come round to your place to pick up my keys!”. She then rushed out.
Daisy’s first port of call was The Stag’s Head. Craig was having lunch there and when he saw Daisy he invited her to join him.
“Craig, first of all I want to tell you that I’m a private detective and that Lady Alicia has asked me to investigate whether you are who you say you are.”
“A private detective? But you were at the funeral!” said the puzzled Craig.
“Yes, because I’m a friend of the family’s. I must also tell you that the result of the blood test was negative. Alec’s blood group was A, not O.”
Craig stopped eating and looked astonished. “But it can’t be. I really am Alec Queensly. I don’t understand!”
“Then how do you explain this result?” she asked Craig.
“I’ve no idea, I really don’t know...” Craig looked crushed.
“Craig, er... may I ask you a couple of questions?”
Later that afternoon Daisy and Craig walked up the path to Lord Queensly’s mansion. Lady Alicia and her daughters were waiting for them in the drawing room while Harold was looking smug, probably thinking of what he was soon to inherit. When he noticed Craig had arrived, his face fell.
“Mr. Blanchettes – Craig. Oh! you’ve shaved off your beard,” Lady Queensly remarked cordially. “Do come and sit here in the sun!” indicating a comfortable chair facing the French windows. “I’ve ordered tea. Iris will be bringing it in shortly. I hear Cook has made some of her famous scones!”
Craig smiled nervously, “That’s very kind of you, Lady Queensly.”
Something stirred in Daisy’s mind when Iris came in with the tea trolley but she couldn’t place what it was immediately.
Soon there was a more relaxed atmosphere when everybody was served with cups of tea and delicious scones.
Craig seemed more at ease and happy to get to know the family better, while Harold was anxiously biting his nails.
Now Daisy had an announcement to make, “This morning Mr. Singh, the carpenter, was repairing my office door and told me he had been ill, which made me remember what Craig had said on the day of the funeral - that he had been ill as a child.”
“What you didn’t tell us at the time was that you had had a bone marrow transplant, a fact that you told me about at lunch-time today. This morning I consulted the internet and found out that one’s blood group can change after a transplant of this kind, and this could account for the fact that you have a different blood group to the boy Alec Queensly’s!”
Harold was guffawing, “Is this what you’ve come up with today? Something which happens once in a million cases! Just imagine, an Australian pretending to be an English lord!”
Lady Alicia intervened, “Wait a minute, Harold, let’s talk the matter over first.”
Everybody began discussing the startling news. Penelope and Elaine pulled out their mobiles and started looking up ‘blood group changes’ on the internet. Once Harold realised what they were doing, he too pulled out his mobile hoping to discover something which could disprove what had been said.
Suddenly the door opened and Thomas wheeled his elderly father in. He was the same man who had been in a wheelchair at the funeral.
As his eyes fell on Craig he stared at him, falteringly got up from his wheelchair and stumbled towards him. “Lord Arthur!” he exclaimed, with tears in his eyes, “you’ve come back!”
Thomas sprang after his father to prevent him from falling down.
Craig seemed bewildered, “I... I’m not Arthur – I’m his son Alec!”
“Oh, Alec... you’re the spitting image of Lord Arthur when he was young – before he had a stroke. I thought for a moment he had come back. Please forgive an old man!”
Lady Queensly intervened, “Craig – or – Alec. This is Charles, my husband’s butler. He was in service until recently when his hip let him down, and, on top of that, he had to have an operation on his eye.”
Harold scoffed, “If we are going to give credence to an old man who can’t even see very well...”
Lady Alicia glared at him.
Daisy explained, “Everyone here had known Lord Queensly only after he had had a stroke which resulted in the left side of his face being partially paralysed. Only Charles had known him from before the stroke and was therefore able to recognise Craig as Lord Queensly’s son!”
“My goodness," gasped Elaine. “What a story!”
Daisy continued, “Craig, another thing. When I saw Iris come in with the tea trolley, I remembered that when the lights went out on the day of the funeral you disappeared downstairs to turn them on again, didn’t you? You knew where the fuse box was from when you were a little boy!”
Harold shook his head. “You all seem to be very easily convinced. We can’t possibly know if the documents that this gentleman showed us are authentic. All right, he looks a bit like the young Lord Queensly, but I too look a bit like him, I believe. So there’s no conclusive proof whatsoever that he is Alec.”
Penelope looked concerned, “You all know I have nothing against finding a half-brother and Charles has told us that Craig is the spitting image of my father. But I have to admit that Harold’s got a point.”
“Now you are coming round to my way of thinking!” exclaimed Harold triumphantly.
Charles sat up in his wheelchair. “Perhaps I could solve the matter now and forever,” he said.
The others looked at him in surprise.
“When he was four, Alec fell down the cellar steps onto some broken glass and injured his left leg. He was rushed to hospital and they put in quite a number of stitches. Alec got better, of course, but the scar remained. The cut was just below the knee right down to his ankle.”
Daisy interrupted, “Craig, may we see your left leg?”
Craig sat down and pulled his jeans trouser leg up to reveal a long scar running from just under his knee right down to his ankle.Everybody got up and stared at Craig’s scar. Harold looked aghast. At this point Penelope and Elaine both went over to Craig and embraced him.
Craig looked as though a heavy burden had been lifted from him. “Look everyone, I’d like to thank all of you - and tell you that I haven’t come back to take your home away from you, or anything like that. Everything will stay as it is. I came back here to see my father, first of all – but, sadly, I didn’t make it in time. I also wanted to see the house where I was brought up when I was very small – my heritage!”
“That‘s very sweet of you, Alec,” said Lady Alicia almost in tears.
“So, are you coming to live here now?" asked Elaine.
“No, I live in Australia with my family - my wife and two children - and I work with my father Rod in his company Blanchettes Copper Mines, you may have heard of it.”
Harold looked as though he had finally realised he had made an enormous blunder and didn’t quite know how to put it right.
“Craig... er... Alec, sorry old man, I really thought you were an impostor. Will you accept my apology and shake my hand?"
Craig shook Harold’s hand firmly and hugged him muttering, “It’s forgotten.”
Craig then looked at Daisy with gratitude, “If it weren’t for you... I really don’t know how to thank you enough!”
Elaine exclaimed, “Just imagine what would have happened if you hadn’t shaved your beard off by chance!”
Daisy smiled, “No, it wasn’t by chance. I had seen a photograph of Lord Arthur Queensly when he was young in the library. He didn’t have a beard, so I took the chance of arranging for Charles to see Craig without his beard to see if there was any resemblance to Lord Queensly.”
Thomas commented, “You’d make an excellent police woman, well done!”
“Thank you,” replied Daisy, “but if it weren’t for Charles we would never have solved the problem.”
Charles smiled, but there was something he felt he still had to say, “Alec, you don’t remember me, do you? But I remember you very well. Now we’ve got this far, would you like me to tell you more about your father?”
“Lady Alicia, may I continue?” asked Charles.
“Please go ahead,” she replied, “I think it’s important for him to know the truth.”
Charles cleared his throat, “I was a couple of years older than Lord Arthur and had started working for the family as the boot boy. I made my way up the ladder and eventually became the butler. Your grandfather, Lord Simon, always trusted me, and when he was worried about his son, which was often, he’d ask me to keep an eye on him. Indeed there’s many a word I said to Lord Arthur which he took objection to, but he knew I meant well.”
“He was always very fond of you, Charles,” confirmed Lady Alicia.
Charles continued, “When he married Lady Erika, your mother, everybody thought he’d leave his gambling and drinking, and settle down. Unfortunately it wasn’t so, and none of the relatives ever came to visit the manor any more. There was a lot of trouble between man and wife and eventually that suicide note was discovered but I always believed Lady Erika didn’t have it in her to harm her boy. However, the police never found them. It was then that Lord Arthur took the pledge. He had the wine cellar emptied, and no one ever dared bring a bottle of alcohol into the mansion. But it was too late. After a number of years she was presumed dead and Lord Arthur eventually married Lady Alicia. But your father and I never really gave up hope that you were still alive and now I know that you have come back, Alec, I feel at peace with myself.”
Daisy came back to heavy rain after having visited Australia for three weeks. It had been marvellous staying with Craig, his wife and children and his Australian father, touring the country and seeing the wonderful animals and scenery. She arranged the small souvenirs she had bought Down Under on the mantelpiece in the sitting-room, next to the beautiful George IV silver snuff box which had been left to her by Lord Queensly.