Due Diligence
Clorinda Cathcart's Circle
Volume 20: Settling Affairs

Due Diligence Cover

Although a number of matters were recently resolved, happily or otherwise, in the circles around Clorinda Lady Bexbury, nonetheless, there are questions that still need to be asked and business to be set in order. Matt Johnson’s investigation agency is commissioned to certain necessary enquiries. Seraphine and Euphemia are entire ecstatic at having acquired an estate suitable for fruit-growing for Roberts and Wilson’s superior jams and pickles, but further consideration of how to proceed is required. Due thought must be given to responsibilities taken on.

You might like to read the Chronology & Reading Order for these books & also the notes for this book: Due Diligence: Allusions and References. Or view all books in the Clorinda Cathcart's Circle series.

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Read Chapter 1 ...

Somewhat of a different commission

Mr Grigson looked from Leda Hacker to Solly Abrahams and back again. They were calling upon him in the offices of Grilsinger and Grigson in the City, rather than at his residence in Canonbury, but even here there was a cabinet sporting some fine pieces of Chinese porcelain, a scroll painting of mountains upon the wall, and a piece of jade upon the desk, that Leda observed Grigson picking up and caressing.

Jade indeed was a very pleasing thing to touch! Her beloved Clorinda had give her a very fine jade bangle to wear upon company occasions — la, my love, I fancy it brings out a little green colour in your eyes! — and ’twas one of her treasured possessions.

Solly was looking so relaxed might have been asleep! Had already done good service for Grigson over some queer matters in the counting-house, some months since.

Grigson seemed surprising hesitant — had been entire brisk and decisive in her previous dealings with him over securing his house and its treasures against ken-crackers, even had he been somewhat took aback to find himself confronted with a young woman in the business. That did not say, had been raised up as the pet pupil of that master-thief Laffen in Seven Dials, could still draw a cly very neat and kept up her talents in picking locks, but turned her skills — mostly! — to the right side o’the Law, these days, with Matt Johnson’s investigation agency.

Finally he cleared his throat and said, this was somewhat of a different commission from those previous matters they had undertook for him. But apprehended that it was very much in the way of things for Johnson’s agency —

’Twas, he said after a pause, a matter of possible matrimony.

Now, he went on, I am a businessman. In normal circumstances, was there a union in prospect, I would undertake due diligence to ensure all was in order and that there was no deception being practised, and I would anticipate that the intending bride’s relatives or friends would do the same —

That you will not find yourself supporting her wastrel brother that cannot keep a place — murmured Leda.

That she is not ten years older than she gives out — muttered Solly.

Quite so, said Grigson with a small smile. But this is a somewhat unusual case. I know where I am with fellow-businessmen — they understand the way of things — but I have been approached for a kind of alliance that really, I could never have dreamed of, and I am like to be cautious.

He cleared his throat again and said, the Marquess of Saythingport has indicated that he would be most agreeable to a marriage ’twixt myself and his youngest daughter, Lady Lucretia Shallock. Indeed, it has long been my desire to advance into good Society — but I hardly envisaged so elevated a match —

Lady Lucretia, thought Leda, that has been on the Marriage Market for two Seasons and not yet had an offer. Her rank may be exalted but her portion is said to be small at best. Her married sister Lady Iffling is rumoured on less than amiable terms with her husband, and a shocking flirt. Saythingport has been creating scandal over his tempestuous relationship with the opera-dancer Carlotta Delgado these some several years, that is, I have come about to discover, a masquerade to conceal a certain vice unfit to be named. There has been a deal more lately that I suspect and fancy I may come about to fathom out, am I being generously fee’d to the task!

Solly sat up and said, while he dared say Mr Grigson knew that there was a black mark against his name in the City on account of certain youthful foolishness — a very adept scheme of embezzlement that he had devised out of sheer boredom in his clerk’s place! — he still had antient acquaintance that he fancied he might go interrogate very discreet concerning the Marquess’s situation. Had His Lordship not lately sold off one of his minor estates?

Grigson nodded. Was positively beseeched by Roberts and Wilson, the jam and pickle people, for it lies in fine orchard and fruit country, and he had no great attachment to it — no remarkable shooting or hunting — no family history attaching to it —

And, said Leda, is he not marrying off his middle daughter? Lady Hermione?

Grigson nodded again. With the prospect of being Countess of Trembourne in due course —

They all considered upon the show and expense of Society matrimony! And no great wealth to the match, the Trembourne estates being encumbered with the expense of the present Earl a-quacking himself at spaws all over the Continent.

Solly grinned and said, so, he was able to look at His Lordship’s finances, but Miss Hacker had connexions in Society — why, would be spending this summer going about with Lady Bexbury as her secretary-companion —

Leda gave a small smile and said, ’twas most material useful to certain matters the agency had upon hand.

Grigson blinked, and then must have considered that there must be other enquiries into prospective matrimonial partners, and perchance questions of stolen jewelery, and mayhap evidence for crim.con. proceedings, and, turning the jade in his hands, nodded. One quite sees, he said, how Mr Johnson’s agency comes to have the fine reputation it does.

Why, said Leda, one must put down a good deal to Mr Johnson’s many years with the Bow Street Runners!

And, remarked Solly as they walked away, Frinton’s fine hand at keeping records — though I daresay she has not been keeping up with the Society columns and scurrilous scandal sheets, this is not the usual kind of enquiry into a proposed spouse!

It most certainly is not! Leda agreed. One wonders, she mused, was Lady Lucretia ever obliged to travel to the Continent for a few months for her health

Solly whistled.

—  in their station ’tis not leaving the babe at the Foundling Hospital with a token!

They scrambled onto the omnibus to make their way back to the agency offices in Marylebone.

Matt was extreme pleased with ’em — supposed that Solly would need to go about the e’en drinking with former fellow-clerks, be sure and keep a tally of his outlay in the matter!

Solly grinned and said, would do so, and might also have to offer a little sweetener or so for useful intelligence over the course of the investigation, for clerks’ remuneration was shocking poor —

Matt grinned back and said, and ’twas their employers’ look-out were there those took advantage of that fact!

Leda shook her head and made a prim face and said, la, she was shocked, shocked at what a nest of reprobates she had got among.

Talking of nests of reprobates, said Matt, had a matter to discourse of with Miss Hacker over a certain ring that had been give out lost or stolen —

Aha, said Leda, and I daresay you wish me to go convoke with Larry Hooper — that was her masquerade for going visit old acquaintance in Seven Dials — over making enquiries.

Solly stood up and said, he would be about starting his casebook for this investigation, and leave ’em to talk of rings.

Matt leaned back in his chair and smiled at Leda. ’Tis a most useful thing to have your connexions!

Leda said, indeed ’twas, and what was this ring, and was there a reward, for that would be very material to finding out where ’twas.

You will, I fancy, be apprized of the late scandal concerning Lord Fendersham’s betrothed?

Leda positively smirked. Lady Wauderkell had, she knew, made herself very obnoxious to darling Clorinda, so Leda was entire delighted to see her — that had already been a scandalous enough figure, having obtained a separation from her loathsome husband Sir Barnabas Wauderkell afore he finally expired wore out by his vices — become the centre of yet another scandal when she, affianced to the very respectable and exceedingly pious widower Baron Fendersham, had eloped to Ireland with the roguish scoundrel fortune-hunter, Miles O’Neill.

There was, said Matt, some matter of an heirloom ring that Lord Fendersham had give her, of considerable value as well as family sentiment —

Ah. And the lady has not, as would be proper, returned it on forming this new attachment?

His Lordship, said Matt with a sigh, inclines to the notion that, as it sat somewhat loose to her finger, it fell off and was snapped up by some malefactor — or stole by a servant — or —

Any tale but that she still has it, or, perchance, popped it to finance her flight?

They looked at one another with cynical expressions.

Do you, said Leda, let me have a description of the ring, and I will be about the matter.

Matt pushed a slip of paper over the desk to her. Leda gave a small whistle as she read. ’Tis very identifiable, even without there is a slight crack in one of the topazes. Cannot be two of the like!

Matt added that as Lord Fendersham was, well, the kind of fellow he was — one was a little surprized he had not put the whole matter into the hands of the police, but mayhap it had been put to him that ’twas unlikely that they had the resources to pursue such a tenuous trail — would not be a matter of no questions asked upon any discovery and return.

Leda sighed. That will make it more difficult, but la, I have what one might call goodwill in certain quarters, may serve to provide a clew or so.

I fancy can any track it down, ’tis you.

Leda blushed a little at this accolade, then got up, saying she would just see how her other cases stood, afore she went convoke with Larry.

In Ginevra Frinton’s record room, where the senior agents in the enterprize were wont to gather, Leda found Solly and Ginevra listening with openmouthed sympathy to Tess Halloran perorating about the missive she had received from the penitentiary in which her monster husband was clapped up.

Desperate, even mortal, ill, they say. Crying to have me come see him so he may beg forgiveness! O, very like! I confide ’tis some ruse.

Leda grinned slowly. La, she said, I fancy I can provide you with some very stout fellow that may give himself out a concerned relative and will be entirely up to any tricks he purposes. For it fell very useful to be on excellent terms with Nat Barron, that had his hands on a deal of criminal enterprizes in Seven Dials.

And in matters to do with Nat Barron, she saw she had letters from her agents in Stepney, that were looking into the history of Ludmilla Kaminski, that he took a notion to wed. She skimmed through ’em — aha! when just coming out of girlhood, had been sent to live with relatives in Southend for a couple of years. Hmmmm.