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21. THE VERDICT

Adrian stepped out of the dock feeling slightly dazed and was ushered out of the court on a wave of good-will, Sir Magnus holding him by one arm and Lord Fenneltree holding him by the other, while Mr. Filigree and Ethelbert danced about getting in everybody’s way. They all ended up on the pavement outside the court and there was Samantha. She smiled at Adrian.

“I’m delighted you got off,” she said.

“Are you really?” said Adrian.

“Yes,” she said.

Adrian stood staring at her great, green, gold-flecked eyes and felt himself going red to the roots of his hair.

“I . . . I’m very glad that you’re glad,” he said inanely.

For some reason Samantha was blushing too.

“Yes, I’m very glad,” she said.

“When you have driven that point home sufficiently,” said Sir Magnus, “I would suggest that we all repair to my place to have a celebratory drink.”

“Sir Magnus,” said Samantha, “we are really most grateful to you for having got Adrian and Rosy off like that.”

“Nonsense,” said Sir Magnus. “A mere bagatelle.”

“You know,” said Lord Fenneltree, “I cannot help feeling that I didn’t contribute very much to your defence.”

Ethelbert was convulsed with laughter to such an extent that he had to be held up by Honoria.

“I think, dear boy,” said Lord Fenneltree, “I think, if you don’t mind, I will come along with you for a few days wherever you are going. It will give my wife a little time to collect her thoughts.”

“Well, I know where I’m going,” said Adrian suddenly, with decision, “I am going back to the Unicorn and Harp— if the owners will have me.”

“And Rosy?” said Mr. Filigree anxiously. “You will bring Rosy, won’t you?”

“If I may,” said Adrian, looking at Samantha.

“I think we can find room for you,” said Samantha.

“I suppose it isn’t possible that you would have a small inglenook that I could occupy for a brief period?” said Lord Fenneltree, staring at Samantha earnestly through his monocle.

“I tell you what,” said Mr. Filigree, squeaking with excitement at the thought. “Why don’t we all go back there? There’s plenty of room for everyone and we could have a party.”

“What a very excellent idea,” said Sir Magnus.

“The Sploshport Queen is leaving soon,” said Lord Fenneltree. “We’ll cross on her and then I will take the ladies in my landau while you all go by train.”

“I don’t think a train’s going to carry Rosy,” said Adrian. “No, you all go on ahead and I’ll walk Rosy there.”

“Rubbish, my boy,” said Sir Magnus waving his cane. “I am on intimate terms with the station master. I’m quite sure we can get Rosy fitted up, if not in a first-class carriage, at least in some portion of the train.” At this point the judge, wearing to Adrian’s amazement a loud check suit and looking as though he had got into it by mistake, joined them. Adrian explained what the plan was and the judge blinked wistfully at Samantha.

“I suppose, Lord Turvey,” said Samantha tactfully, “you wouldn’t like to come to the Unicorn and Harp as well?”

“My dear child,” said the judge, “I would be absolutely enchanted. It so happens that I have not got to dispense justice for several days and a little rest in the country would do me a world of good.”

“Excellent,” said Sir Magnus. “It will give me an opportunity to discuss the next case with you!”

“I don’t know whether that would be very ethical,” said the judge.

“Well, there’s scarcely any point in your coming unless you are going to discuss the case with me,” said Sir Magnus.

“Well, in that case,” said the judge, “I suppose it will be all right.”

Reluctantly leaving Honoria, Black Nell and Samantha with Lord Fenneltree, Adrian, accompanied by Sir Magnus, Lord Turvey, Mr. Pucklehammer, Ethelbert and Mr. Filigree, went back to Sir Magnus’s house.

As soon as they arrived Adrian rushed to the stable and was greeted by a delighted squeal from Rosy.

“Well, you miserable, destructive, drunken creature,” he shouted affectionately, throwing his arms around her trunk and giving her a hug, “we’ve got off scot free.”

Rosy, who had not been particularly worried about the outcome of the case, nevertheless realised that Adrian was in good spirits and so she flapped her ears and squeaked again.

“Fascinating,” said the judge, who had followed Adrian into the stable and was standing at Rosy’s rear end gazing up at her. “Sir Magnus was quite right about that trunk never being able to reach the chandelier.”

“That’s the tail,” said Adrian. “The trunk’s this end.”

“Oh,” said the judge. He fumbled in his pocket and produced a pair of lorgnettes which he put up to his eyes and peered through them with considerable interest at Rosy’s backside.

“You’re absolutely right,” he said. “It’s got hairs on the end.”

He walked round to the front and peered at Rosy through his lorgnettes.

“Fascinating,” he said. “Absolutely fascinating.”

“Well, come along,” said Sir Magnus impatiently bustling into the stable. “If we don’t get going we’ll miss the boat.”

So Adrian grasped Rosy’s ear and, followed by his retinue, led Rosy down to the docks. The voyage was uneventful except for sea shanties sung by Sir Magnus and the judge. When they landed at the other side the ladies were left with Lord Fenneltree and the others made haste to the station.

Here, by dint of much roaring and cajoling on the part of Sir Magnus, they eventually hitched an open wagon to the three forty-five to Monkspepper. Rosy entered it without any fuss whatsoever.

“Now,” said Sir Magnus, looking at the station master, “chairs, Bert, chairs.”

“Chairs, Sir Magnus?” said the station master, bewildered. “What sort of chairs?”

“Chairs, man. Out of the waiting-room,’ said Sir Magnus. “Something to sit on.”

“But aren’t you travelling in a compartment, Sir Magnus?” asked the station master.

“Of course not,” said Sir Magnus. “If this truck is good enough for Rosy, it’s good enough for me. All I want is a chair to sit on.”

The flurried station master procured a bench and two chairs from the waiting-room and these were installed alongside Rosy in the truck. Then Ethelbert, Mr. Pucklehammer and Adrian sat themselves down on the bench and Sir Magnus perched scowling on one chair and the judge on the other. Sir Magnus took a gigantic pinch of snuff, sneezed and said to the station master, “All right, Bert, you can let her go now.”

The fact that the train was already twenty minutes overdue and most of the passengers exceedingly restive had apparently escaped his attention. The station master, mopping his brow, blew a tremulous blast on his whistle, waved his green flag and the train shuffled and clanked and swayed its way out into the countryside.

It was a beautiful hot summer’s day and everywhere was green and gold and the sky was as blue an Siamese cat’s eye. It amazed Adrian that they could, in the short space of a couple of hours, whisk themselves across the many tedious miles of countryside that he had tramped with Rosy. They got out at the little country station for the village of Parson’s Farthing, and walked a mile and a half down the dusty road to the Unicorn and Harp.

“Darling boy,” said Ethelbert, round-eyed, “I had never realised the countryside was so big, and simply hundreds of leaves.”

“The leaves are much bigger in Papua,” said Mr. Filigree. “Very much bigger.” He stretched out his fat little arms in order to show how enormous the leaves had been.

“I don’t know about you,” said Sir Magnus to Mr. Pucklehammer, “but I feel a flagon of ale would come in very handy.”

“It always does,” said Mr. Pucklehammer. “It has been my experience in life that some things are handy and some aren’t, but you can’t go wrong with a flagon of ale.”

“Do you know,” said the judge, peering at Rosy, “without my glasses I still have difficulty in telling which end I’m looking at.”

“Which end of what?” asked Sir Magnus.

“Rosy,” said the judge.

“I do hope,” fluted Mr. Filigree, dancing up the mad, pigeon-toed, “that Samantha’s got something to eat. I know we have plenty to drink.”

“Well, as long as we’ve got plenty to drink,” said Sir Magnus, “I don’t see that it really matters. You don’t by any chance keep cherry brandy, do you?”

“Oh yes,” said Mr. Filigree. “As a matter of fact we have got rather a lot of it. I ordered three barrels once, but unfortunately nobody seemed to like it.”

“Just shows,” said Sir Magnus, taking snuff and sneezing, “people nowadays are lacking in good taste.”

At last they rounded the final corner and there was the Unicorn and Harp, like a friendly black and white cat squatting under its golden hat of thatch.

“Hurrah!” yelled Ethelbert exuberantly, the country air obviously having gone to his head. “We’ve arrived.”

At the sound of Ethelbert’s shrill cry, the door of the Unicorn and Harp opened and Lord Fenneltree and Samantha appeared.

“Have a good journey?” shouted his lordship.

“Splendid,” bellowed Sir Magnus waving his stick in greeting. “I have decided that it is more comfortable to travel in an open truck with an elephant than in a first-class carriage with a lot of bores.”

“Or sows, for that matter,” said the judge, and was convulsed with laughter.

“Sam, dear,” panted Mr. Filigree anxiously, “what about food?”

“Oh, you don’t have to worry about that,” said Samantha. “Lord Fenneltree has been exceptionally kind. We stopped on the way and he insisted on buying a lot of things for us to eat.”

She led the way round to the meadow at the back of the house and there they saw a long trestle-table that had been set up and covered with a snow-white cloth. it was groaning under the weight of food. There was a small platoon of cold roast pheasants, a dish full of plovers’ eggs, piles of scaly oysters, a gigantic sugar-cured ham, whose flesh was as delicately tender and pink as a sunset cloud, and a great saddle of cold roast beef which must have come from the biggest bullock in the country.

“This is extremely kind of you, Lord Fenneltree,” said Adrian, “Considering that I won the case.”

“Dear boy,” said his lordship earnestly. “I wouldn’t have provided it if you had lost the case, but I thought a light snack would help us all to recover from the journey.”

“My joy would be complete,” said Sir Magnus indistinctly through a mouthful of oysters and plover eggs, “if I could have a tiny splash of the cherry brandy which Mr. Filigree told us about.”

“Certainly, certainly,” said Mr. Filigree, wiping pie crumbs from his mouth, and he danced into the house and reappeared with a small barrel. This was soon set up and Sir Magnus took up sentry duty beside it.

The shadows were lengthening across the emerald green grass and a sense of peace and goodwill settled over the whole company. Mr. Picklehammer, waving a large tankard of ale in time, was humming softly to himself. Black Nell, who had just recovered from an acute attack of hiccups, was reading Honoria’s palm and predicting a future career for her that even Sarah Bernhardt would have envied. Lord Fenneltree was lying on the grass apparently in a trance, staring up at the sky and listening to a long and complicated lecture on the law by the judge. Adrian sat opposite Samantha and watched the sunlight scattering itself through the leaves of the tree and dappling her copper-coloured hair. Presently the sight of her beauty was too much for him and he got up under the pretext of seeing how Rosy was doing, and went down to the barn.

Rosy had joined the party for a brief period, but when she found that the delicacies on the table did not appeal to her palate and that Adrian would not allow her to have more than three pints of beer, she, had wandered down to the barn to console herself with a pile of carrots and mangolds. Adrian marched into the barn and stood staring at bis great, grey prot'eg'ee. She flashed him a quick took from her tiny twinkling eyes, flapped her ears and gave a small squeak of greeting.

“It’s all very well for you,” said Adrian bitterly, and started to pace up and down the barn feverishly. “You’re all right as long as you get enough to eat and all the booze you want. You are quite happy. But what about me? Have you ever considered me?”

He paused dramatically and looked at Rosy. Rosy’s stomach rumbled in a musical fashion and she put out her trunk and delicately touched Adrian’s hair.

“There she is, out there,” said Adrian, “as callous as anything. She gives me no encouragement at all. I really don’t think that we can stay here after all.”

Rosy gave a long sigh. Adrian resumed his pacing.

“Well, perhaps we could stay here for a day or so,” he said, the thought of being apart from Samantha again making him feel slightly sick. “What I cannot understand is what is the matter with her? One would think I had got you into all this trouble, instead of the other way round; and anyway, we are free now, so what’s all the fuss about?”

Rosy had placed a large mangold on the floor and was delicately rolling it to and fro with her forefoot, but she gave a small squeak just to show Adrian that she was paying attention.

“No,” said Adrian, firmly, “if we stay here, there must be a clear understanding. I am not going to be hounded by that ungrateful creature.”

Rosy sensed Adrian’s annoyance, but she realised that it was not directed at her, so the was quite content.

“I shall be firm with her,” continued Adrian, drawing himself up and sticking his chin out commandingly. “I shall tell her that the is behaving like a child. That’s what I’ll do.” He glared at Rosy triumphantly and Rosy gave another small squeak by way of applause.

“You have to be firm with women,” said Adrian. “Look at Lady Fenneltree. That was the way to deal with her. They get above themselves.” Even in his distraught condition, Adrian could not see a single point of resemblance between Lady Fenneltree and Samantha.

“I shall go now, Rosy,” he said, wagging his finger at her, “and get our position quite dear. Otherwise I don’t intend to spend another night under this roof.”

This sudden determination which had overcome him was due principally to the fact that he had been so captivated watching Samantha’s face and the way she laughed and flirted with Sir Magnus, the way her teeth gleamed white as milk when she smiled, the warm colour of her hair, that he had inadvertently drunk a pint of ale belonging to Sir Magnus, which had been heavily laced with cherry brandy.

“I will,” he said, striding to the door and turning to glare at Rosy, “return with my decision soon.”

Endeavouring to look as fierce and implacable as Sir Magnus cross-examining a hostile witness, Adrian strode back to the table. Black Nell was just telling Honoria that the could see her married to a very rich man with fourteen children. Mr. Filigree was down on hands and knees conducting a whispered conversation with a stag beetle. Sir Magnus, his arm round Mr. Pucklehammer’s shoulders, was joining him in a spirited rendering of “Soldiers of the Queen”, to which Ethdbert was doing what he fondly imagined to be an oriental belly dance, and Lord Fenneltree was still lying in a trance on the grass, listening to Lord Turvey.

“Where’s Samantha?” barked Adrian. At least be had meant to bark but he had to clear his throat several times before he could articulate the words.

“Samantha,” said Honoria in surprise, looking round. “I expect she’s gone into the house.”

“Good,” snarled Adrian. He somewhat spoiled the effect of this by almost tripping over Mr. Filigree as he marched towards the Unicorn and Harp. He strode into the big stone-flagged kitchen with its dark beams and its friendly row of gleaming pots. Samantha was standing at one end looking out of the window. Adrian made his way down the length of the room and stood just behind her. He cleared his throat.

“Samantha,” he said trenchantly, “I have got to talk to you.”

“Why don’t you shut up?” said Samantha fiercely.

“Now, it’s no good adopting that high-handed attitude with me,” said Adrian, taken aback He stuck his hand inside his coat in a Napoleonic gesture.

“If you don’t shut up and go away,” said Samantha wheeling on him, her face flushed, her eyes glittering dangerously, “I won’t be responsible for my actions.”

“Come, come,” said Adrian backing away a bit, “you’re behaving like a child.”

“And you,” snapped Samantha, “are drunk.”

“I am not drunk,” said Adrian, stunned. “I am as sober as anyone else.”

“You’re drunk,” said Samantha cuttingly, “otherwise you wouldn’t have had the courage to adopt that highhanded tone with me, as though . . . as though you were speaking to a horse.”

“A horse,” said Adrian aghast, “I never spoke to you as though you were a horse.”

“Exactly,” said Samantha, “as though I was a very old and very badly trained horse.”

And to Adrian’s intense consternation she burst into tears.

“Oh, don’t do that,” said Adrian in agony. “I’m sorry . . . I apologise . . . only please don’t cry.”

“I’m not crying,” said Samantha, the tears pouring down her cheeks

“Well, what are you doing,” said Adrian with desperate joviality, “having a bath?”

Samantha looked slightly taken aback and then, astonishingly, chuckled through her tears.

“You are a fool,” she said affectionately.

Adrian felt as though somebody had driven a red hot skewer through his heart and twisted it.

“Oh, Samantha,” he said, “I do love you so.”

Samantha looked at him. “Well, that’s good,” she said at last, “it makes the feeling mutual.”

“You mean, said Adrian incredulously, feeling as though he had been lifted into the stratosphere by a balloon, “you mean that I . . . that you . . . that you and . . . I that you . . .”

“Well, you’ve taken long enough about telling me,” said Samantha.

“Do you mean to say,” said Adrian, “that I . . . that you . . .”

“You know,” said Samantha, looking up at him, “if you go on stammering like that, we are never even going to get to the honeymoon.”

Adrian pulled her into his arms and kissed her warm mouth. Then he kissed the tears (which were surely the largest and finest tears that any woman had ever shed) from her cheeks, and then he kissed her mouth again because he couldn’t really believe that it had felt and tasted like rose petals.

“You mean to say that you’ll marry me?” he said huskily.

“Well, it may be new information to you,” said Samantha, “but I made up my mind to marry you the moment I saw you lying on that sofa the night you arrived after the train accident.”

Adrian looked at her incredulously—then he kissed her again.

“I must tell somebody,” he said.

He rushed through the kitchen and out of the back door of the Unicorn and Harp.

“Hoy!” he bellowed.

The tranquil and slightly inebriated scene under the oak trees was galvanised. Even Lord Fenneltree sat up.

“I am going to many Samantha!” shouted Adrian.

“Do you mean to say you’ve only just discovered that,” said Sir Magnus, with disgust.

“But . . . how did you know?” said Adrian puzzled.

“I’m not going to divulge,” said Sir Magnus. “There are some trade secrets which one doesn’t bruit about.”

“You’re going to marry Sam?” said Mr. Filigree, getting to his feet with a start, and completely forgetting about his conversation with the stag beetle.

“If you approve,” said Adrian.

“Approve,” said Mr. Filigree. “Why, it’s simply marvellous news. It means that Rosy will be an in-law.”

“You don’t by any chance have any champagne, do you?” said Adrian, light-headedly.

“An excellent thing,” said Sir Magma “Champagne and cherry brandy are the perfect things for a toast.”

They all trooped into the big kitchen and, while Mr. Filigree got out the champagne, which was slightly warm but none the less welcome for that, Honoria and Black Nell kissed Samantha enthusiastically and then Honoria burst into tears.

“What are you crying about?” asked Ethelbert.

“I always cry at weddings,” sobbed Honoria with dignity.

“But this isn’t a wedding,” Ethelbert pointed out.

“It’s almost a wedding,” she said.

The glasses were filled and Sir Magnus proposed a toast to the happy couple, which was drunk with great enthusiasm. Adrian was just about to kiss Samantha for the fortieth time when he suddenly remembered Rosy.

“Good heavens,” he said. “I’ve completely forgotten about Rosy. She must have a celebratory drink.”

“I’ll get her,” fluted Mr. Filigree, “the poor dear.”

He billowed his way out of the room.

“I hope,” said Lord Fenneltree to Samantha, “that you will allow me the privilege of calling here occasionally when you are married?”

“You will always be one of our most welcome guests,” said Samantha. “In fact, all of you will be.”

“Yes, of course,” said Adrian.

It was at this point that Mr. Filigree reappeared, running as fast as his bulk would allow him. He was pink, panting and perspiring.

“Adrian,” he shrilled, “Adrian, come quickly.”

“Whatever’s the matter?” said Adrian startled.

“It’s Rosy,” squeaked Mr. Filigree. “When we weren’t looking she pinched the barrel of cherry brandy and she’s gone running off with it.”

Oh God, thought Adrian, it’s starting all over again.

“Quick,” said Sir Magnus organising things, “we must surround her before she gets too far away. Forward!”

And he rushed out, the tails of his coat flapping behind him, closely pursued by Honoria, Black Nell, Ethelbert, Mr. Pucklehammer and the judge, with Mr. Filigree wobbling in their wake.

Adrian turned and looked at Samantha “Are you sure you want to marry me?” he said.

Quite sure,” she said.

“Even in spite of Rosy?” he asked.

“Principally because of Rosy,” she said smiling.

Adrian kissed her swiftly.

“Well then, excuse me a minute,” he said, “I must go and catch my only living relative.”

And he ran out into the sunlight in the wake of the others.


20. FINAL SETTLEMENT | Rosy Is My Relative | A special appeal by Gerald Durrell



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