©With the mine back in full production and plans well advanced for the first dig that would mark out the new quay, my concentration was focused on the wedding. Elys, with much excitement, had planned a journey to London to be measured for her wedding dress. An early morning start on the train was also planned and, indeed, it was one fine morning in January that I set out with Captain Pumblewood to purchase Great Western Railway first class tickets from Penzance station for a journey to Paddington in London one week hence. It was a new through service that allowed us to travel without changing trains. The trip was also quicker since open carriages were no longer used. Second class passengers, an amalgamation of third and second, also traveled in covered carriage. This had been decided since a hundred or more poor souls were killed when their open carriages were derailed in a terrible accident a few years before.
Pumblewood was going with us, for I had arranged for him to take the company books to our solicitor, Mr. Aloysius Crumley, in order that I was prepared with what I hoped was a respectable set of production figures for the next shareholders meeting. I needed to raise another two thousand pounds to get the quay construction under way. Whatever I raised, Chairman Edwin Malby had promised the Tin Mine Association would match. I had no reason to suppose it would be hard to raise the money.
With tickets in hand, I surprised Pumblewood by ushering him into a bespoke tailor’s that I had made an advance appointment with. I needed Pumblewood to be measured as there would be little time to attend to the matter before the wedding. The Captain had agreed to be chief usher and a new suit was needed with urgency. His present wardrobe and figure did not belong to each other and what did pass as best social attire was in danger of bursting open around his middle.
“Call this a wedding present, Pumblewood,” I explained after seeing the troubled look spread across his red-cheeked face. “This suit is not only for the wedding. As manager for the mine, you will be attending more meetings in the future as the work on the quay begins. Some of those meetings you will be own your own and I want a good impression made.”
As the door closed behind us, a small brass bell jangled. With practiced ease, the counter assistant, a young blonde boy dressed in a black suit and crisp white shirt, glided before us with a worn smile.
“Good morning, sirs. What may I do to assist you?”
I removed my hat and handed it to him with my cane. “I have an appointment with Mr. Benjamin Crapstock esquire. Arthur Jeddler is the name.”
The boy sniffed loudly, his eyes darting up and down the two of us with snobbish impudence. His fingers flicked us effeminately to a chez long covered in a bright red embroidered drape with gold tassels, positioned below the bay window looking out on the street.
Pumblewood, not used to the weaker side of manliness, was quick to retreat with red face and lowered eyes. He declined to be seated, more because his corpulent figure might cause him hurt when trying to get back up rather than looking out of place.
“Oh, Mr. Jeddler, how absolutely wonderful to see you. And if Sir will permit me, my heartfelt congratulations on the impending wedding to such a beau-ti-ful bride.”
Mr. Crapstock’s voice gave me quite a shock. At first, I thought him ill with some malady but realised as he continued that his somewhat feminine shrill was as is. He came from the back room, taking petit little steps in black court shoes and with such a strange demeanor that Pumblewood and I were of mixed emotions – mine of amusement and Pumblewood’s of undisguised horror. Crapstock bowed and half-curtsied while holding out a limp hand, the wrist of which was covered in fine lace protruding from beneath a bright lilac jacket. His face was powdered, and Rouge had been colored on the cheeks. The result reminded me of a pantomime dame without the dress. Hiding the urge to burst into raucous laughter, I took the soft hand and shook it the once. It was then I noticed a strong smell of lavender he had sprinkled on his shock of white hair that curled across his forehead and down to his shoulders. Crapstock beckoned us to follow with a crooked little finger, and I pushed the hesitant Pumblewood before me into the measuring studio.
To say that the experience was altogether amusing would not be right, for poor Pumblewood it was all the man could do to stop himself from running out of the room.
“Perhaps you would like to choose the material for your suit and coat?” said Crapstock as he gave Pumblewood’s measurements to the boy.
“Morning gray,” I answered quickly as I did not want Pumblewood picking black or a dark colour. “The coat can be black as he will also need a top hat.”
We left Crapstock standing at the street door, rubbing his hands together and grinning.
After a brisk walk, we arrived at the King’s Head, a tavern I frequented for lunch and one that was of good repute where the needs of ladies were taken care of. Elys and my aunt always took lunch there when shopping. The landlord, a robust and God-fearing man by the name of John Corneys, allowed no women of easy virtue on the premises and spitting on the tavern floor was forbidden.
“Good to see you, Mr. Jeddler, and you to Captain.” He greeted us with a loud but friendly deep booming voice. With large hands spread on table as we sat, he bent low as if to whisper. “There be something afoot, I’ll be bound, Mr. Jeddler. That crooked Tomas Treleaven be in meeting with two other men of similar cloth I’m thinkin.’ They been in the snug bar these past two hour and drinkin’ heavy the porter. Whatever they are discussin’ it be in quiet tones and that to me means some dirty business be afoot. You take care, Mr. Jeddler. I heard he wants your mine.”
“Don’t worry, John, he’ll get it only over my dead body.”
Corneys stood and sighed. “And you make sure he don’t, Sir.”
I gave him our order for bread, mutton, and baked Murphy as Gaynor, his daughter, served us porter ale.
“Whatever he is up to, we should try to find out,” said Pumblewood. “We should employ a spy for the purpose.”
Never dismissing anything that Pumblewood spoke of, for his knowledge of the local people and especially those in the mining community, I gave the matter much thought. It would be to my distinct advantage if I could find out what Treleaven was up to. However, finding someone to eavesdrop for me meant finding someone who was perhaps close to Treleaven and also someone I could trust.
“How ‘bout I make discreet inquiries of acquaintances and see what they might advise?” suggested Pumblewood.
I nodded as Corneys arrived with our lunch. “I just served them more Porter,” he said, pointing at the snug bar over his shoulder. “They be talking about building a quay at Treleaven’s mine. The two listeners Treleaven has with him are from London. I’m thinkin’ they be agents for they be talkin’ about investment.”
I looked at Pumblewood and he shook his head. We waited for Corneys to leave.
“There is a plot afoot, and it sounds danger and caution to me. A warning that Treleaven is up to no good.”
“The warning, to me sir, is clear.”
“In what way?” I asked.
“There be only one investment Treleaven would be interested in, and that’s the coal quay. It sounds to me he is after building his quay no matter what and if something be going wrong for you that delays the first delivery of coal, he would grab the delivery contract from under your nose.”
I sliced the mutton and forked a slice onto my plate. “Then we must make sure we are built first without delay.”
“And that,” exclaimed Pumblewood, “is hitting the problem fair and square. We must have our wits about us and not only build with haste but guard against treachery. That swine has already tried to ruin you, and he will do so again. Wedding or no wedding, we must have double the hands for work and double more to look out for trouble. The warning is clear.” ©