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Lady Collendon’s Cook

Herbert Howard Jones



Copyright © Herbert Howard Jones 2018

The right of Herbert Howard Jones to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

This is a work of fiction. Opinions expressed in this book do not necessarily reflect the author’s own views.

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favourite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

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Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight


Chapter One

Taunton 1957

Fear is an ugly emotion and not for pretty faces. It subsided slightly when Marjorie walked into Taunton Police Station with the bag of old diaries under her arm. Taking a deep breath, she went up to the enquiry desk being manned by a middle-aged duty officer. He looked at the attractive dark-haired young woman standing before him and smiled. ‘Can I help you, Miss?’

‘I would like to speak to somebody important, please?’ Marjorie asked in a tense voice.

The officer winked at her. ‘Will I do?’ He glanced at the bag she was awkwardly holding.

‘I think I might need to speak to an inspector.’

The officer considered this for a moment and then motioned for her to sit down. ‘Alright. Please have a seat. I’ll see if Inspector Burse is around. As it happens he’s retiring today, and so it won’t hurt him to have a little chat with a nice young lady. What’s it to do with?’

Marjorie smiled self-consciously as she tried to summarise the problem. ‘Well, it’s to do with what’s in these diaries in this bag. Things that the police might need to know.’

‘Right, fair enough,’ the officer replied none the wiser. He went into a rear office to get the inspector, who came out after a few minutes with a curious expression on his face. He wasn’t really a fat man, though he had a wide girth and a thin face with a wattle of flesh underneath.

‘I’m Inspector Malcolm Burse, and your name is?’

‘I’m Marjorie Moore,’ she stated.

‘Ah,’ he said. ‘Come through. That’s a strong accent you’ve got, if you don’t mind my saying so!’

‘People do say that! I’m from County Galway, but now I live just down the road in Nailsbourne!’ She followed the inspector into a nondescript but functional-looking office.

The Inspector went behind his desk and sat down, waving her into the chair opposite. ‘Nailsbourne, know it well. Sit down please and tell me why you want to disturb me on the day I’m supposed to be clearing out my desk? I’m retiring today!’

This humorously intended remark threw her for a moment. She gathered herself together and removed the diaries from the bag and placed them on the Inspector’s desk. There were eight in all, and they had the appearance of being some years old. ‘I’m here because of these,’ Marjorie began. ‘I was hoping you could help me. These are some of Mrs Green’s diaries, and she was Lady Collendon’s cook up in Lincolnshire. And there’s a lot of stuff in them. Well, people got hurt and things. People died.’

At these ominous words, the inspector’s face changed and seemed to register some undefined emotion. He reached forward to pick one of the diaries up. ‘Ah, yes, Lady Collendon’s cook! I remember. It was in all the papers, some good while ago!’

‘Just before the war,’ she replied. Her confidence was beginning to return.

‘Yes, a lot of things happened before the war, and during the war,’ the Inspector said with the wisdom of man who had himself done many things. He flicked through the diary he was holding and glanced at an entry dated 15th September. He read a few lines and then looked up. ‘Nice handwriting. Yes, Mrs Green was accused of murder as I recall, and she was sent to prison.’

‘That’s right,’ Marjorie replied. ‘They said she killed a diplomat.’

The Inspector’s face was blank. ‘Can you remember his name?’

‘It’s in the diaries,’ she answered. ‘I can’t remember. But it was good for the country.’

‘Oh really?’ he said with a wry look. ‘Sounds doubtful. Why have you come forward with these now? I mean, how can I help you?’

‘My husband reckoned I should, to clear Mrs Green’s name. You are our nearest main police station, so I thought I’d come in. She was blamed for a murder but there wasn’t much proof. She was badly treated. The diaries tell some of her story and might help to prove her innocence.’

‘And what’s that to you?’

‘Well, it’s important to me,’ she replied. ‘I’m related to her. I think she should have got compensation for what she went through.’

‘Is she still alive, this Mrs Green?’

‘Yes, but she’s very poorly and I’ve come to speak on her behalf.’

The Inspector’s eyes were mildly interested, and he sat back in his uncomfortable chair. ‘Then, well done for having the presence of mind to bring these…diaries in. But regarding compensation for a case like this, you would really need a solicitor.’

‘I know,’ she answered. ‘But we were wondering if there were any official public records about her conviction? See, we can’t find any. We thought you might be able to check.’

‘Could you give me some more details?’ he asked with a frown. ‘In what capacity are you related to her? Was she an aunt or something, or your mother?’

Marjorie licked her lips. This was a question she had anticipated and had planned to lie about. But the earnest look on the Inspector’s face broke through her resolve. She decided to come clean and admit an uncomfortable fact known to few others. ‘It’s a bit of a long story,’ she began. ‘And I’m not sure where to begin.’

Inspector Burse smiled. ‘I’m an old hand at this, let me tell you. The best place to begin is always at the beginning. Or just before!’

Marjorie nodded her head. The Inspector was right. But in this case, there were two beginnings to speak of. But which of these should she talk about first? Hers? Or Mrs Green’s? That was the question.


Chapter Two

Tennyson House late 1930s

Lady Clara Collendon’s genius for successfully pairing guests at her frequent dinner parties had markedly fallen short that evening. She realised her mistake when she sat Dr Deiter Fefferberg next to Marcia Ingrich, a rabid Theosophist. The doctor was a mercurial if naïve national socialist, who openly promoted the science of eugenics as the future of medicine. When he espoused this at the dinner table, it only found incredulity among the guests.

It particularly prompted strong moral resistance from his supper neighbour, Miss Marcia Ingrich. With all the verbosity of an outspoken suffragette, she began an assault on doctor Fefferberg’s most treasured bastion of thought. Other diners at the table found their own conversations drowned out by their heated exchange. It became an increasingly bitter dialectic fuelled by Miss Ingrich’s intolerance of chauvinistic men, of which doctor Fefferberg was most certainly one.

Their host, the beautiful Lady Clara Collendon was an impeccably turned out socialite who deplored insensitivity and never indulged extremists. Her green eyes blazed as she recoiled with barely concealed embarrassment at what she regarded as Fefferberg’s unsuitable conversation. She didn’t mind discussions of politics at her late-night dinner parties, as long as they were elegant and offended no one. The choice of medical terminology used by Fefferberg, which he mixed liberally with quasi-scientific racial humbug, left an abhorrent taste in her mouth. It was radically at odds with her British Christian values. Certainly, this graphic politico-Speke was completely incompatible with the evening’s menu of several courses of rich food.

But as it transpired, the present company was rather enjoying the exchange. They were glad to have a strutting pro-Nazi with the grating voice put in his place by the clear-thinking Miss Ingrich. As a conversational tennis match, Miss Ingrich had more than won every set and had the full support of everyone around the table. The present company was most esteemed, being peppered with lords, ladies, gentry and wealthy common folk.

‘Eugenics has no moral or factual basis,’ Miss Ingrich was saying. She was a slim bespectacled woman with fair hair.

No factual basis!’ the doctor spluttered, his sapphire coloured eyes glittering with rage. ‘Are you in the medical profession? Have you ever read a medical textbook?’

‘A person doesn’t have to go to the moon to know that it isn’t made of camembert,’ she commented.

‘That is a poor analogy!’ the doctor asserted, running a finger through his bushy white moustache. ‘Camembert is not green. If the moon is supposedly made of green cheese then Sage Derby would have been a better analogy, don’t you think?’

There was muted laughter at this.

Miss Ingrich bowed to Fefferberg’s point. ‘I’m impressed with your knowledge of our cheeses. But the colour of the moon is grey even creamy sometimes! It doesn’t alter the fact that to compare a race of people to rodents, as you did earlier, is vile. It is also ridiculous, repugnant, ignorant, facile, politically biased beyond belief and not worthy of a man of medicine!’

Fefferberg sat back in his chair and smiled self-consciously at the eager faces around the table staring at him. ‘And here was I thinking that I was in enlightened company! In the Berlin universities, learned men are propounding a new basis of human understanding. They believe the superman can be birthed almost as a by-product, when we eradicate the accidents of nature…’

‘Accidents of nature?’ Miss Ingrich interrupted.

‘Let me finish my point,’ Fefferberg said. ‘When Friedrich Nietzsche coined the term Ubermensch - superman, he believed it justified the existence of the human race! Read ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’! Even your Bernard Shaw is in favour of eugenics! It is selective breeding, no more no less, and is exactly the same as a gardener trying to improve the characteristics of a genus of primrose.’

Miss Ingrich nodded. ‘But who is the ultimate arbiter of what is desirable in human beings? It is surely superficial to try and beautify everything, which would make the world a very bland place.’

Before the doctor could reply, the young handsome earl sitting opposite him said, ‘Sorry to butt in old man, but tell me doctor, is Mr Hitler planning to go to war with us?’

Lady Collendon glanced at her tubby drunk husband sitting at the other end of the table. Lord Felix Collendon nodded at her with a wink. She understood this to mean that hopefully, the conversation would now move in a more constructive direction.

Dr Fefferberg shook his head with emphatic vehemence. The white Romanesque curls at his forehead waved briefly about and then almost perfectly reformed themselves. ‘War? No, no, no. Obviously, this is a fear reflex on the part of the English undergraduate classes. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our leader has a natural affinity for your country. This is after all the birthplace of Shakespeare, Byron, Elgar, men with great minds who are universally respected…’

‘Yes, all well and good,’ the earl replied. ‘But there is a translation of Mr Hitler’s book in my old college which pretty much spells out his intentions. Book’s virtually unreadable, but your leader wants to take over the world. He seems to think he’s the Messiah.’

There was a murmur around the table.

‘The Fuhrer is a progressive thinker,’ the doctor observed. ‘He likes to play with ideas like an intellectual. That is why he has such a following in our country and in the academic community.’

Suddenly Lord Collendon stood up. ‘I would like to propose a toast to countries and alliances,’ he said. ‘And the academic community!’

‘I’ll second that,’ said a retired schoolteacher sitting nearby.

Gordon Westcott, a thickly set Yorkshire businessman raised his flute of champagne. ‘Me too. And to greater trading cooperation everywhere.’

Dr Fefferberg looked slightly bewildered at this digression, and then he smiled. ‘Yes, alliances will be the basis of the relationship between our two great countries. Now and in the future!’ He raised his glass. The response to this around the table was lukewarm, with only a few glasses chinking in unison. ‘And, I also propose a toast to the cook for preparing such a splendid meal. I really must congratulate her in person! What’s her name?’

‘Mrs Green,’ Lady Collendon replied.

The diners were beginning to get restless. It was time for the men to retire to the Smoking room, and the women to the Drawing room. Here, drinks and tasty sweet and savoury canapes would be served.

***

Lady Collendon’s cook, Alice Green, had come into service when she was still young. She had remained attached to one stately house or another all her life. Now at the age of forty-three, she was contemplating a life of remaining in service, with the prospect of independence being dashed years ago. Not to say that she hadn’t been a popular young woman with the footman and at least two butlers. Unfortunately, circumstances had contrived to block the three marriage prospects which were available at that time. She did eventually secretly marry a butler by the name of Stuart Clawe, though it was not a happy union. Years later she dropped his surname and adopted the title of ‘Mrs Green,’ rather than ‘Mrs Clawe’, substituting her maiden name for her actual married name. It stuck with her throughout the rest of her life.

Her dalliance with Lord Fenwicke’s butler, Stuart Clawe, at Stukely Manor back in the twenties was the high point as far as romantic involvement was concerned. In fact, Clawe’s persona was forever burned into her mind and soul and still impacted on her to this day. Certainly, there were strong possessive elements in the way Stuart Clawe had manipulated her for his own satisfaction. Somehow this had drawn her to him rather than repel her. And as affairs of the heart were concerned, it had been completely overpowering. In fact, it was so intense, whatever had followed afterwards seemed quite impuissant by comparison.

Clawe’s personal power over her was an example of the mastery of a superior mind upon someone who had been quite immature. At the beginning, she was easily taken in by this cocky, dominant alpha male. Over the years this impression was still very much an indelible feature of her memory of him, which time had not eroded. But gradually, the attraction she had felt for him at the start had declined. Then to everyone’s disbelief, he suddenly died under apparently unusual circumstances. Unbeknown to others, his death was a secret relief to her despite her public show of grief. Rather than leaving her feeling bereft beyond words, she was jubilant, as their all-consuming love had turned into the bitterest of hatred.

Continuing work as a cook occupied the vacuum which her husband once filled, and there was also one other consideration which frequently engaged her thoughts. It was almost a justification for her existence, the most tangible reason for her being alive, for continuing humbly in servitude. It was a matter which might have been frowned upon by her employers. So, it was kept securely locked in her heart with all the diligence of an official guarding a state secret. It was a secret whose name could never be spoken or even raised in confidence with friends, and certainly not with fellow workers. It wasn’t, in the scheme of things a bad thing, just a supremely personally embarrassing one. But she knew that in time, it would surface.

Aside from that, and an occasionally returning longing for the dead man she had grown to hate, life wasn’t so bad. Life as a cook with a respectable established family in the middle of England had its compensations. Among other things, these included, board and lodging, reasonable hours, interesting work, friendship and wages to boot. They more than scratched the surface of daily satisfactions. And if fate or caprice or intention had robbed her of a husband, it had provided comfort and stability in other ways.

The staff who worked for Lord and Lady Collendon felt they were practically family in all but name, social rank and finances. These were relatively small considerations in the face of such uncharacteristic familial warmth from nobility! Nor did the Collendon family ever attempt to lord it over their staff. There was an element of basic democracy in the way they ran their household. Or rather, these values were impressed upon their butler, Mr Lawrence Kearns, and he ran the household according to the high principles of his master and mistress.

And so, what happened to Mrs Green when a German diplomat, by the name of Dr Fefferberg came to stay, was completely unexpected. The consequences for her, of their unfortunate interaction, were truly appalling. On the surface, it appeared that it was entirely outside of Lord and Lady Collendon’s frame of reference or control. For so powerful an elite as they were, their inability to protect a member of their extended family was humiliating for them. It subsequently turned out to be a watershed moment in the history of great aristocratic families, who had always triumphed over adversity and politics. It suggested perhaps, that the twenty-first century was determined to intrude itself, regardless of the fact that it was still only the late 1930s. Mrs Green, a rotund, pert, strong-limbed, able, decent, loyal woman was about to be stripped of her dignity, reputation and liberty. She was confronted with the ugliness of politics in a way which was all too common in those days.

New levels of bestiality and degradation were stalking Europe, which had not been seen since the fall of the Roman Empire. In the twentieth century, it was particularly insidious, creeping into British society in an almost choreographed fashion. An overview would reveal that it was controlled by dark European powers centered in Berlin, a black octopus with dreadful far reaching tentacles.

As it transpired, the reversal in Mrs Green’s fortunes began with a summons from the good Dr Fefferberg one sunny afternoon. He was ensconced in a guest room in Tennyson House, Lord Collendon’s fine seventeenth-century seat in Lincolnshire. Fefferberg was part of a contingent of London based diplomats at the German Embassy, who were invited by the Collendon’s to stay for a weekend. The basic idea was to butter up the Germans. This was despite the Germans being labelled by Churchill as war mongers, if the build-up of their army and munitions was anything to go by. War was an expensive enterprise, in terms of money, lives, alterations to infrastructure and the possible change of fortunes for the incumbent government. And so, if being nice to high ranking visiting Germans carried any political weight or value at all, it was felt worth pursuing. In this way the Collendons believed they were doing something good for the country.

Towards the end of Saturday afternoon, one of the footmen appeared in the kitchen, where Mrs Green was in discussion with Mr Kearns, the butler. They were debating a choice of wine for the evening’s meal, in which pheasant was the central meat offering. The Housekeeper would have been part of this conversation, but she was currently away on a break. Mr Kearns, a tall thin man with receding hair and deeply tanned skin, had rattled off his favourite choices of mature classic reds for this dish. These included Bordeaux, Burgundy and some obscure northern Rhone reds. Just as he was in the middle of his exhaustive list, the footman, Paul interrupted him.

The footman, in his early twenties, appeared quite agitated. ‘Begging your pardon Mr Kearns, but Dr Fefferberg in the guest room wants to see Mrs Green.’

The butler frowned. ‘Paul, can’t you see that Mrs Green and I are in discussions at the moment? What does he want with Mrs Green anyhow?’

The footman shrugged. ‘Don’t know Mr Kearns.’

‘Well, clearly the man doesn’t realise that it’s not appropriate for a guest to request an audience with a member of the senior domestic staff. That is, unless I am informed of the matter beforehand.’

‘Yes, Mr Kearns. What shall I tell him?’

The butler pursed his lips in his characteristic way and stared at the cook. ‘Perhaps I should go and see what he wants first.’

‘I don’t mind going to see him,’ Mrs Green said.

‘That’s not the issue, Alice,’ the butler said. ‘But he’ll probably only press his point if you don’t speak to him. And Lord Collendon did say that we should be bending over backwards for Fefferberg in particular. We’ll both go!’

The butler’s annoyance was quite palpable. On the walk to the guest room, he ironed out his features so that they appeared agreeable and pleasing to the eye.

Mrs green followed mutely behind him, her mind naturally curious to know what their guest wanted. The butler tapped politely on the door of the guestroom, where Fefferberg was, which was in the rear wing on the first floor of Tennyson House. Initially there was no response and so the butler tentatively opened the heavy dark door, and he and Alice entered the beautifully appointed room.

Dr Fefferberg was seated in the window at a small Louis XVI desk which had its sliding panels extended at both ends. He was pouring over some official papers, and he looked up and turned around to face them. ‘Ah, Mr Keen.’

The butler smiled sheepishly. ‘It’s Kearns, sir. I am the butler. And this is Mrs Green, the household’s cook. You wanted to see her?’

The doctor nodded his head, stood up and walked towards them. ‘Ah, the cook!’

Mrs Green curtsied slightly. ‘Yes sir,’

‘And Green, that is a Jewish name is it not?’ The doctor asked unexpectedly in a patronising voice.

‘Begging your pardon, sir?’ Alice replied, completely taken aback.

‘I believe that Green is a name adopted by some Jews as a substitute for Greenberg,’ Fefferberg said. ‘I also have the suffix ‘berg’ attached to my own name, but I am not of Hebrew extraction.’

Alice paused and looked at the butler quizzically. ‘If you’re asking if I’m Jewish sir, well yes and no.’

‘Well, either you are or you’re not,’ Fefferberg said.

Mr Kearns smiled again. ‘May I ask what this concerns, sir?’

The doctor shrugged. ‘To be or not to be, that is what your bard famously asked. But my question is not existential, it is about identity, and in any case, it was directed at Mrs Green. In fact, Mr Kearns, you can leave the room if you want.’

Mr Kearns looked uncomfortable at this suggestion. ‘Perhaps I can be of some assistance in this matter, sir?’

Dr Fefferberg suddenly laughed and wagged a well-manicured pale finger at the butler. ‘You’re very good, do you know that? We could do with someone like you at our embassy. But actually, I was hoping to speak to Mrs Green, alone.’

‘It’s alright Mr Kearns,’ Alice said with a smile. ‘I’m quite happy to have a word with our honoured guest.’

‘Why don’t we put it to a vote,’ Fefferberg said with heavy sarcasm. ‘Better still why don’t you leave the room now Mr Kearns, because those are my wishes?’

The butler hesitated for one more long second before he bowed graciously. ‘As you wish, sir.’ He left the room quietly closing the door behind him.

Dr Fefferberg smiled, although this time, in a broad ingratiating way. ‘You must forgive me Mrs Green. I am not normally this forceful, except when I am being confronted by obstinate butlers. But what I really want to know is, have you ever been to Germany?’

‘No, sir, never,’ Alice replied staring hard at the doctor’s professorial features.

‘Well, the reason I ask is because it might be useful if you had,’ he said walking back to the desk in the window. ‘And I only asked if you were Jewish because then I might be able to do something for you, in return for a favour.’

‘I’m not following you, sir,’ she said with growing nervousness.

‘Let me ask you a question. Do you have any relatives in Germany?’ he asked.

‘Relatives? I couldn’t say, sir,’ she answered. ‘See, my father was Jewish, and my mother wasn’t, so I think that means I’m not. I know his father, my grandfather, was from Poland.’

Fefferberg nodded his head. ‘I see. The point is, I haven’t been back home for nearly a year now, and frankly I miss the food. Do you know what weisswurst is? Also known as wurst.’

Alice smiled. ‘I haven’t heard that word for years, sir. Yes, that’s German sausage. My mother used to buy it when she lived in east London.’

‘Precisely, and here we are in Lincolnshire,’ the doctor said making an exasperated gesture. ‘My question to you is, can you obtain some for me? I don’t mean get it from London, I mean, make it? Could you make me a couple of pounds in weight of German sausage? As a cook I presume that is theoretically possible.’

‘Wurst is something I’ve never made before,’ Alice said. ‘But we do have our own pigs here, and Mr Jode, our farm manager, does make an English sausage using pig’s intestine. We sell them to the butchers in Horncastle. But for wurst, you would need veal and certain spices like mace and, well, they might not turn out how you would like them.’

Dr Fefferberg stared at her and then cast his eyes down. ‘Are you saying that because you couldn’t be bothered to do it perhaps? As I say, I could put a good word in for any relatives you might have in Germany.’

Alice shrugged her shoulders. ‘Well sir, I’m not sure if I have any relatives in Germany…’

‘I can tell from your replies that you don’t want to tell me,’ he said.

‘Honestly sir,’ she answered. ‘If I had any, I’d tell you.’

‘Would you now?’ The doctor’s voice had become more sinister. ‘Obviously we have well-to-do people in Germany and they have servants. Perhaps you have relatives in service over there and you are trying to protect them? Sometimes they change their names to escape detection. It’s understandable.’

Alice was so unused to this form of questioning, she was stumped for an answer.

‘Well, are you?’ he demanded. ‘Are you trying to protect them?’

‘Am I trying to protect them? I’m sorry, sir, I don’t get your meaning, could you say that again?’

The doctor’s face suddenly became almost diabolical. ‘For heaven’s sake woman, can’t you understand simple English? I am asking you whether you are refusing to tell me what I want to know? Are you trying to protect your Jewish relatives in Germany?’

Alice was bewildered. ‘No, sir, honest sir, and I don’t think I have any.’

The doctor laughed wryly. ‘See, that’s what I mean. You use the word ‘honest’ at the drop of a hat, but do you really know the meaning of the word? Okay, but you can cook, so that’s one saving grace. So, putting all moral considerations to one side, please, Mrs Green, make me a handful of sausages. I don’t care if they don’t have any veal in them. Can you do that? Get hold of a good cookbook and get the recipe and make some wurst for me?’

‘I will try sir, but…’

‘No buts,’ the doctor said holding up his hands. ‘Just make the damned sausages! Thank you! You’re dismissed!’

Alice blinked at the man’s rudeness, half curtsied and left the room.

***

Mr Kearns was standing at the other end of the long dark corridor staring out of a window, when Alice exited the guest room. She was dabbing her eyes with the back of her yellow cotton sleeve; clearly upset by the exchange she’d had with the doctor. Mr Kearns walked solicitously over to her. ‘Are you alright, Alice?

Alice gave him a haunted look. ‘I suppose so.’

They walked together along the corridor to the top of the stairs overlooking the house’s impressive central vestibule.

‘What did he want?’ the butler enquired.

‘He thinks I’ve got relatives in Germany,’ she replied. ‘But honest I don’t, well, I don’t think I have.’

‘Don’t let it bother you,’ he said. ‘Was that all?’

She shook her head. ‘He wants me to make some stupid German sausages for him.’

Mr Kearns scratched his perfectly shaven chin. ‘Well, can you?’

‘I’ll ask Mr Jode if he’ll cut me a bit of pork shoulder from the cold smoking shed, and I’ll have a go. But he’ll have to put the skins on the mixture, because I can’t do it very well! Not as well as him, anyway. And I’m not sure if we’ve got any fresh parsley or dried for that matter.’

Mr Kearns nodded his head. ‘Do what you can. Not that you’ll have much time. I will, however, report this to his lordship.’

‘Yes, Mr Kearns,’ she replied taking a deep breath. ‘The doctor was horrible. Practically called me a liar and everything.’

‘He’s not the nicest guest we’ve had,’ the butler replied.

‘No, Mr Kearns.’

‘Ok, Alice, best get to it!’

***

Robert Jode had been with the Collendon household since the turn of the century, and there wasn’t a job he couldn’t do or didn’t know about. That included making wine, beer, gin and vinegar, producing cheese, rearing pigs, butchering carcasses, growing herbs and rare flowers, repairing upholstery, and doing carpentry and basic electrical work. In fact, he had built an electrical generator using compost as its power source. It kept the hot and cold smoking sheds powered, and the greenhouses warm in winter. He had been reading Popular Mechanics since it first came out in 1902. He had used the knowledge he had gleaned to virtually revolutionise the way the Collendons ran their farm. This, along with rented cottages, and rents from properties in Horncastle, provided the Collendons with a fair income.

But Jode was now, by virtue of his experience and long-standing association with the household, a manager in his own right. He was only answerable to Mr Kearns the butler, and of course the Collendons. Unfortunately, as Jode’s stature within the household grew over the decades, so did his girth and general attitude. Also, his unfettered access to alcohol and to the dairy products of the farm, and the home-grown pork had taken its toll. It had turned him into a grotesque parody of his former self. This was accompanied by increasingly bad manners, although he was still able to lay on the charm if and when required.

Mostly, his portly overfed figure could be found in the little wooden shed he had built for himself at the periphery of the herb garden. He could be found endlessly frying pork chops in a small iron pan over his charcoal oven and drinking his own lethal ethanol-based concoctions. Recently, he had been experimenting with the production of a form of sloe gin made from the wild plums of the estate’s blackthorn hedges. These just happened to populate the farm along the western boundaries.

Putting all ingenious improvisations to one side, in personal terms, the man had become more and more self-serving. Kearns viewed him as a vulgar, if self-educated, drunken, overweight boor, who had lost sight of the point of his existence.

After thirty years with the household, he had evolved into a sort of independent island of activity within the mainland of the estate. Whenever he declared war, the house, purely out of self-survival, would send an emissary, and usually this was Mr Kearns. For a member of the lower ranks of domestic staff to actually ask him anything, or request assistance, was truly taking their lives into their hands. Of course, Mr Kearns recognised this maverick behaviour for what it was, and dealt with it accordingly. It resulted in a form of partial estrangement from the household, not that anyone really cared. But Jode’s consumption of alcohol was a compensation that blurred his perception of the error of his inebriated ways. It gave him an arrogance, which even Lord Collendon shied away from.

However, the responsibility of salting, curing and butchering the endless cuts of meat, whether they be white or red was Mr Jode’s. Someone else very often was obliged to bring it into the kitchen for use by the cook. The cook, in this case, Mrs Green, would then put the cuts of meat either in the pantry or Frigidaire unit, for use within a certain time frame, usually three days. But such was the dread that Jode’s presence created, it would fall to either the cook or the butler to make any requests for meat.

On this occasion, Alice was in no mood for the man’s nonsense, which was likely to be accentuated on the Sunday, which he regarded as his day of rest.

Paul, the footman, refused to go and see Mr Jode with the request for a cut of shoulder of cold smoked pork. This was despite Mr Kearns giving him a ticking off, and so Alice went instead.

She had to rap on the small shed door three times before a bleary eyed Jode condescended to open it. ‘No peace for the blamed wicked!’ he said in his characteristic Cornish accent at the sight of the cook. ‘But you can come in any time my dear Alice. Come and have a seat and wet your beak, as they say in America.’

‘Faring well then, I see Mr Jode,’ she answered, reluctant to enter the shed because of the fug of alcoholic fumes, smoke, sweat and dank unchanged clothes which hung about the place.

‘Faring well? What kind of talk is that?’ he said in mock seriousness. ‘One day you’ll call me Robert, but no doubt, by then I’ll be dead! Sit down for heaven’s sake and have a little drinkie poo, it’s a Sunday. It’s one I made myself. Got a kick like a horse.’

‘I haven’t got the time, Mr Jode,’ she answered. ‘There’s a big dinner being laid on this evening, and all hands will be needed on deck.’

‘My sentiments exactly,’ he said. ‘The house is a bit like a ship, isn’t it? And if it wasn’t for you and me and Mr Kearns, God bless him, it would sink! So, what can I do you for?’

‘I need a nice bit of pork shoulder, cold smoked,’ she explained.

‘What’s that for then?’ he asked.

‘Dr Fefferberg, one of the guests, wants me to make him some wurst,’ she replied.

‘Ah yes, German sausage!’ he said knowingly.

‘That’s right,’ she said. ‘He’s staying the weekend, and he’s a bit of a git!’

‘Show me one who aint!’ Jode replied. ‘One of Hitler’s little friends, I dare say. Well, I don’t know if I want to put myself out for him. Haven’t you read the papers? They reckon they’ll be war.’

Alice’s eyes swivelled skywards. ‘I don’t really read them, Mr Jode. Look, I need the meat straight away.’

Jode gave her an unpleasant glance and went and sat heavily down at his little makeshift bureau. ‘Well, you’ll have to get it yourself, Alice. My gout’s playing up. That’s why I have to keep drinking, see. It helps with the twinges!’

‘Well I’ve heard it’s the drink that causes the twinges in the first place,’ she said in an informed voice.

‘Don’t talk soft!’ he replied with a disingenuousness which was typical of him. ‘Look, there are four shoulders hanging up in the cold shed just in the doorway. Don’t bother with those, they haven’t been cured yet. They are only there for a couple of days, ‘cos there’s a leak in the other shed. Use one of the shoulders at the far end of the rack. Get that lazy Paul to help you!’

‘Can’t you just cut me half a pound off a shoulder?’ she asked. ‘I only need to make eight sausages.’

‘You’ll want me to eat them next!’ he said with a frown. ‘Paul’s a strong lad. Get him to take one of the shoulders off the hook, put it on the table, cut some off the ‘picnic’ not the ‘butt’, and put the shoulder back on the hook. Easy! All the knives you’ll need are there! Tell you what, I’ll get Fintan to help you as well!’ Fintan O’Brian was one of the strapping farmhands.

‘Mr Jode, I am not happy.’

He shot her an odd look. ‘Who is in this world? If I was happy I wouldn’t be drinking. I’d be happily married, perhaps to a nice girl like you. Come here you sassy thing!’

‘Mr Jode, you’re drunk and I’m going to report this to Mr Kearns!’ she said leaving quickly. Although, secretly, she was charmed that he referred to her as a ‘girl’.

He silently mouthed what she had just said and pulled a horrible face. ‘Oh blimey, alright!’

Alice didn’t reply. She closed the shed door firmly and walked swiftly back to the kitchen entrance. She was met by one of the scullery maids holding a big basket of washing which she was about to hang up to dry. ‘Ah, Shirley, have you seen Paul?’ Alice asked.

‘No, I haven’t, sorry,’ Shirley replied.

Alice acknowledged this, and without breaking her stride went looking for the footman. She found him in the cosy servant’s communal dining room having a secret cigarette, which was normally forbidden. He jumped up hiding the cigarette behind his back.

‘I need your help, now!’ she said. ‘And you can finish smoking that outside!’

‘Help you with what?’ Paul asked.

‘We’re going to the sheds. I need a cut of pork because I’m making some sausages for that blooming Dr Fefferberg. And I hope they choke him!’

***

Although Alice was not a butcher, she was no stranger to the use of butcher’s knives. Despite this, obtaining eight ounces of edible pork to convert into a Bavarian sausage proved fraught with complications. For one thing, an old Escoffier cookbook, which Alice quickly consulted, had put a spanner in the works. It stated that wurst was best made with back bacon and not ordinary pork in the absence of available veal. But Alice knew from experience, that ordinary pork was arguably more veal-like in its consistency. Using bacon would not have done her sausages justice and might have disappointed Dr Fefferberg.

Her original instinct to use smoke flavoured pork, was therefore, in her estimation, a fair substitute. Secondly, a visit to the cold smoking shed with Paul, proved to be confusing. The joints hanging up on the steel hooks along one of the walls were not as Jode had described them. Fintan, the farmhand, who had come to assist, wasn’t able to clarify the matter either.

In fact, all the joints of pork looked the same, and it was almost hard to tell shoulders from legs or loin from the belly! So, to be on the safe side and mindful that consuming pork which hadn’t been properly cured could cause fevers, Alice was cautious. She directed Paul to get down a shoulder from the middle of the rack, which she was sure had been cured. This is something which she had seen Jode do himself on a couple of occasions, and so felt she was on safe ground.

Alice also knew, from being around pigs, that their appetites knew no boundaries. They would happily eat faeces, rotten carcasses and literally anything which befell them including insects. Also, she knew pigs didn’t sweat, and so their bodies were riddled with poisons. This was one reason why Alice herself never touched bacon or pork.

After some considerable effort, a cutlet was taken from a shoulder of pork, and then Paul, helped by Fintan, hung the twenty-pound hunk of meat back on the hook. Alice, meanwhile, quickly took the meat to the kitchen where she immediately began the task of converting it into something resembling a German breakfast sausage. This involved preparing the ingredients, such as parsley, chives, ginger, all of which were grown in the garden, to name but a few. She also trimmed the cutlet of any excess gristle, tendons, blood vessels or silver skin.

Then, a couple of mixing bowls and a manual grinder with a stuffer tube was organised. It was all a bit of a palaver and employed at least two pairs of hands.

Mr Jode made his own hog casings from intestine, and these came in a variety of lengths. Paul had to run back to one of the sheds to get a sheath of the stuff which was being preserved in brine. Somewhat repulsed, and holding his nose, he carried the intestine back on a metal plate. He put it on the tiled kitchen worktop ready for the stuffing. Making wurst for Dr Fefferberg was turning into a fulltime staff activity. Understandably, Mr Kearns was not pleased.

He expressed these views to Lord Collendon who found the whole affair regrettable. He did, however, laugh at Jode’s reported exchange with Alice, when he refused to get a cutlet from the shed for the German doctor.

Then to everybody’s mortification, the Fefferberg himself appeared at the inner kitchen door with his arms behind his back like a general making an inspection. He didn’t speak and after a couple of minutes retreated back upstairs.

When Mr Kearns was informed of this, he was quite livid about it. ‘He seems to think this is some sort of baronial castle in Heidelberg or something!’ he said in a heated tone. ‘He can’t swan about here and there just whenever he wants!’

Alice was in full agreement, although of course there was little anyone could do. While political rumblings were reverberating up and down the breadth of merry England, a lobby of ‘appeasement and containment’ was brewing in Whitehall. And that was even before war was being acknowledged as a real possibility.

Although Prime Minister, Mr Neville Chamberlain was savvy enough to recognise the possible threat of war on three fronts, he was hesitant. He did propose, however, a strengthening of Britain’s armed forces. This was welcomed by other voices, one of which was the voice of Winston Churchill.

As Churchill later suggested, he planned to write a history that reflected well on the Allied actors of that time. Still, there were no reliable crystal balls in 1937, and the Collendons were committed to being ‘as nice as pie to their German friends as possible!’ So, Dr Fefferberg had the run of Tennyson House, and had even begun flirting with Lady Collendon in the pump room over afternoon drinks.

The omniscience of a household’s domestic staff is legendary. Virtually no conversation or exchange of information got passed Mr Kearns’ radar, or Paul’s auditory perception, which bordered on hyperacusis! Apparently, the doctor had been discussing Bavarian sausages with Lady Collendon. She had expressed a desire to sample some herself, which was met with disdain downstairs.

‘Well, that’s your work cut out for you now, Alice,’ Mr Kearns observed to the Alice, who was putting the final touches to her ‘Bavarian’ creations.

Alice pulled a face. ‘God help us!’ she said. ‘Wurst is best eaten the same day, if you make them yourself. But they need to be put in a very cold place for a couple of hours before they’re ready.’

Mr Kearns raised his raven wing eyebrows. ‘And I presume the doctor wants you to cook them for him as well?’

‘Well yes, Mr Kearns, I assume so.’

‘Drat! Then it will fall to me to find out for sure,’ the butler said striding off in the direction of the pump room. He returned fifteen minutes later with an aggrieved look on his face. ‘Apparently, he wants to have some cooked as soon as possible, and also to have some with his dinner tonight, and to take some away with him uncooked. He’ll be leaving on Monday, thank God!’

Alice nodded her head. ‘Right! But, wurst easily goes off, Mr Kearns, so I’ll put some in the freezer compartment then, and I’ll cook a couple for him in a little while.’

‘I’ve made you a nice cup of tea, Alice,’ Shirley the scullery maid said putting a pretty cup and saucer on the large country-style kitchen table.

Alice smiled at her gratefully. ‘Thank you, Shirl, and now, if you don’t mind, Mr Kearns, I think I’ll sit down for five minutes. If Shirley wouldn’t mind sticking these in the Frigidaire?’

***

Regardless of the fact that the main meal of the day was due to be served within the next two hours, Dr Fefferberg was impatient. He insisted on having his much-anticipated repast at the earliest opportunity. Lucy, one of the kitchen maids, nervously took the cooked ‘German’ sausages up to him, finding him in noisy conversation on the phone in his room. He smiled at her and made a friendly hand gesture, directing the plate of sausages to be put on the table where he was working.

She quickly complied and exited the room, running downstairs as fast as she could, disturbing one of Lord Collendon’s white Borzoi wolfhounds. It skidded excitedly across the polished tiled floor of the main vestibule, almost tripping her up. News, any news, had to be reported immediately and as speedily as possible!

Alice was glad to receive the information that the sausages ‘had landed,’ to quote Mr Kearns, and everyone awaited the verdict. It was not, however, incumbent upon guests to express a view either way. Besides, at this point, the whole kitchen was embarked on the main mission of the day. This was to provide a sumptuous meal of pheasant for fourteen guests, and Dr Fefferberg was, for the moment, forgotten.

***

Gout was not actually the real reason why Jode had been reluctant to help Alice with the matter of the pork shoulder. He had been genuinely incapacitated by an incident which had taken place ten days before in Horncastle. Being a market town, which had received its Royal charter in the thirteenth century, it was a natural magnet for farmers. Especially those with an interest in horses. In fact, it even had its own annual horse fair. ‘Horses from Horncastle,’ was a popular slogan which had helped put the annual horse fair on the map. The fair usually ran in August and was attended by interested parties from miles around. It was of particular interest to Jode, who was in charge of the stables belonging to Lord and Lady Collendon.

The Collendons’ use of horses on the farm had greatly declined due to automation. They had briefly toyed with the idea of establishing a stud farm as a way of expanding their business interests. Jode had reckoned that it would be a ‘doddle’.

And such was his confidence in Jode, that his Lordship had given him carte blanche to ‘look into the matter’. He had even granted him a budget of £150 to work with. This was more than Jode’s yearly wages of £120 a year, which had been commensurately increased from £90. As far as income and status was concerned, this wage now put Jode on a par with a House Steward, although the Collendons did not have one.

In fact, the Collendons had paired down their staffing levels significantly over the last decade. Over the course of several years they were obliged to dismiss the valet, under-butler, coachman, upper housemaid, upper laundrymaid and the still-room maid. Nonetheless, they were still forced to retain a skeleton staff. This consisted of butler, housekeeper, cook, three footmen, groom, stable boy, two farmhands, nurse, maid-of-all-work and two scullery maids. Finances, while not exactly being tight, had declined since the middle of the last century. The Collendons now looked to the extraordinary talents of Mr Robert Jode to set them aright.

Running a stud farm seemed just the ticket, especially as Jode had a veterinary surgeon as a drinking partner at the Goatherd Inn in Horncastle. And Jode had made a pilgrimage of attending the horse fairs, which were not off the beaten track as far as he was concerned. In fact, he also delivered Tennyson Farm produced sausages, beef and fowl to the butchers in the area. But the fair was perceived as a wonderful arena for attracting customers and horse trainers from up and down the country. The Collendons were sure that Jode would make the necessary connections, and their enterprise would flourish.

However, at the time of the current horse fair, Jode had been taken aside and publicly berated by an irate butcher for supplying him spoiled produce. The sausages that Jode had supplied him were, according to him, bitter. This, Jode hotly denied. He denied it all the more so as a crowd gathered around them. Jode and the butcher didn’t quite come to blows, but a few weeks later in the Goatherd Inn, matters were ramped up. The same butcher, now quite drunk, began to heckle Jode, who was sitting quietly in front of the inn’s fire in the inglenook.

Jode, although a very hands-on man, preferred not to mix unnecessary emotion with drink, and tended to be a loquacious though non-violent drinker. Tonight, he was in a quiet mood. Nonetheless, the butcher seemed determined to bring him out of his shell.

There you are, you thieving wretch!’ the butcher had shouted at the sight of Jode bent over his cider opposite the inglenook. ‘I think you owe me some money, and I’ve got some returns for you.’

All conversation in the inn ceased.

Jode’s body immediately tensed. ‘Oh, come on Michael, not this again. I thought you’d got it out of your system the other week!’

The butcher, a red-faced stocky man with a fierce temper wouldn’t be pacified. He strode over to him. ‘Your blamed sausages are a disgrace to the Tennyson name. You’re getting fat and lazy, that’s your problem and you’re not properly attending to business as you should! By my reckoning you owe me at least three pounds for that last batch of putrid flesh you delivered. Not to mention all the other rubbish you’ve been palming me off with!’

Jode turned around to face the man who appeared to have several supporters. ‘There is nothing wrong with the produce of the Tennyson farm. You’re probably just peeved because you’ve got some unsold stock.’

The butcher brought his face down in line with Jode’s. ‘Well that’s just the problem isn’t it! Mrs Clyde, the postman’s wife got quite ill, didn’t she, after I sold her a pound of your muck. And now some of my regular customers are keeping their distance.’

‘Well that’s got nothing to do with me,’ Jode replied unmoved.

Infuriated, the butcher knocked Jode’s glass of cider out of his hand and sent it crashing to the floor. ‘Hasn’t it?’

‘You need to pipe down now,’ Jode replied looking uncomfortable. He was feeling too tired and addled to do anything physically, and besides it was the wrong time of day. He was usually at his peak in the afternoon.

The butcher suddenly grabbed Jode by the lapels and pulled him out of the comfortable chair he was sitting in. ‘You going to give me a refund or what?

Jode gripped the butcher’s wrists, his ire slowly rising. ‘Michael, you’re making a hog of yourself! Take your hands off me and sit down and let’s discuss this like gentlemen.’

The butcher removed his grip. ‘Alright, let’s be gentlemen. Pay me!

‘Sit down sit down, let’s talk about it,’ Jode implored as he tried to limit the damage to his reputation. Practically every eye in the inn was on them.

Sit down with you?’ the butcher said, his eye wandering over to the inglenook where the fire irons were. ‘Tell you what, the only way I’ll sit down with a beggar like you is if you cough up three gold sovereigns!’

‘You know that’s not going to happen,’ Jode said glancing around at the gathering and smiling self-consciously. ‘You’ve got this all wrong, Michael. My sausages are the best in the county, and I eat them myself every day. Look, let’s go to your shop and have a nice chat. The landlord is looking a bit piqued at our little conversation.’

‘Booshwash!’ the butcher spat, determinedly going over to the fire irons in the inglenook and quickly snatching up the black poker. He waved it menacingly in Jode’s face. ‘Are you going to pay me or what?’

The landlord of the inn leaned over the bar. ‘Michael!’ he shouted. ‘Put that down before you hurt someone!’

‘The old bastard needs to be taught a lesson,’ the butcher said with a malevolent grin.

‘Calm down, Michael, please!’ Jode said. ‘This is not going to settle anything.’

‘Why don’t we see!’ the butcher said taking a reckless swing at Jode’s rheumatic legs with the poker.

The first blow landed just above the knee, and the second on the shin, which sent Jode reeling on the floor, crying out in agony. ‘Ow! You damned bloody fool!’ he moaned in an anguished voice, clutching his leg as he rolled around.

Now that’s enough Michael!’ the landlord shouted, coming from around the bar and restraining the butcher. ‘You’re as drunk as a skunk and if you don’t leave now, you’ll be banned for life. Now get out!

‘It was only a tap!’ the butcher said throwing the poker on the floor with a clatter and barging out of the inn with a nasty sneer. The landlord took Jode’s hand and with some difficulty pulled the bulky man to his feet. ‘Are you alright, Mr Jode? Tommy, get Mr Jode another drink on the house.’

‘Blasted inane fool!’ Jode said, clearly in pain. He collapsed into the chair and pulled up the leggings of his right leg and examined his injury. Two red stripes like a corporal’s insignia were fast turning into ugly welts. Jode touched them tenderly and then rolled his leggings down. ‘I’ll be lucky if I make it home on foot, damn it to hell!’

‘Do you need a doctor?’ Tommy the barman asked bringing Jode a fresh bumper of cider.

‘Nah,’ Jode shook his head, and gratefully took the drink which he gulped down like a man with a Saharan thirst. ‘Tell you what though, if I ever see that Michael again, he won’t have it so easy!’


Chapter Three

Mr Jode never did meet the butcher in public again. After that, there was a marked decline in demand for the Tennyson farm sausage in Horncastle. This became a serious cause of concern to Lord Collendon and he temporarily resolved the problem by getting Jode to market them in Lincoln instead. When his Lordship questioned Jode about the drop in local sales, the farm manager put it down to competition. Lord Collendon accepted this philosophically.

However, for the main meal that evening, sausage was not on the menu. Pheasant was the evening’s principal viand, although some wurst had also been especially prepared for Dr Fefferberg as a side dish. The beautiful grey and orange John Turner dinner set was used, and the meal was served ‘a la Russe,’ as opposed to ‘a la Francaise’. The principal difference between these two being that the dinner was presented as a sequence of dishes rather than all at once. It was a modern practice observed by aristocratic families since the late nineteenth century and was religiously kept up at Tennyson House.

First course was a soup with sherry, succeeded by fish and white wine. Then an entrée of sweetbreads with claret was served, followed by the relevé, consisting of poultry pie in a heavy red wine sauce with potatoes and vegetables. Then came the roast game, accompanied by round potato chips and claret, and this was chased by the entremets, a plum tart with devilled sardines.

Finally, everything was refreshingly rounded off with black berries, sliced pears, brazil nuts and fine old Portuguese madeira wine. Finger bowls were also laid on for the convenience of guests. Most of the wines had been distilled inhouse and did not bear labels which was not particularly observed by the guests. Some of the wines had been decanted into crystal wine bottles and carafes.

The amount of alcohol consumed had the desired effect of getting tongues wagging, which was the main point of dinner parties. The added bonus of this, was that very often secrets were divulged which otherwise would have remained undisclosed. Probably the very security of nations was compromised by alcohol in one way or another. It was one of the unseen enemies of state, working always to loosen tongues and reveal sensitive and often scandalous information.

Dr Fefferberg was particularly susceptible to the effects of wine which impacted disastrously on his general movement, speech, judgement and memory. Under its effects he would often exaggerate things, and he was inclined to engage in embarrassing buffoonery. After his eighth glass of wine he began playing with the three wurst sausages on the little plate in front of him. He pretended to smoke them, rolling them close to his ear like cigars, much to the amusement of the young woman sitting next to him.

‘In my former life I used to work as an animal doctor in the circus, and I got to know the clowns very well, and then I became assistant lion tamer,’ he said in a very drunk voice.

The young women, a countess, smiled indulgently. ‘I can tell.’

‘How can you tell?’ he asked earnestly.

‘I saw you trying to get the cat to sit on your lap, earlier,’ she replied.

Dr Fefferberg laughed at this. ‘I am also good with dogs. In Germany we had two German Shepherds, Rufi and Heini. They loved me so much, and I trained them to catch rats. Actually, they were better at it than cats!’


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