Table of Contents
¤ EPILOGUE ¤
As Steed nosed the Bentley around the corner into Queen Anne’s Court, he noticed Mrs Peel’s Elan parked at the end of the street. He glanced up and saw a light burning in the living room window of his flat, warm and inviting in the deepening winter dusk. Steed smiled to himself. Apparently the perfect homecoming awaited him.
Steed put the Bentley away and pulled his suitcase and umbrella out of the back seat. Giving the car’s fender an affectionate pat, he headed up the stairs towards home, and Mrs Peel, to whom he had as yet told nothing of his adventure, wanting to tell her the story in person. He had said only that he would be delayed in his return because his sister needed his help for a few extra days, which was, in fact, the truth.
“Hello, Steed! Good holiday?” Emma called from the living room, where she sat leafing through a magazine with her back to the stairs, her legs stretched out along the length of the sofa.
“Yes, thanks, Mrs Peel,” said Steed as he set down the suitcase and umbrella, pulled off his gloves and put them in his coat pocket, then deposited bowler and overcoat on the coat rack. “And you?”
“Lovely, but a bit dull. I do like Scotland, but in rather smaller doses.”
Steed chuckled at this.
“How are your sister and her family?” said Emma as Steed trotted down the stairs to stand next to her, where he took her hand, bowed over it gallantly, and gave it a kiss.
“They are very well, thank you, and they send their greetings,” he replied, still holding her hand gently in his.
“Thank you,” said Emma, smiling up at him. “I do suppose, though, that having to be playmate to a young niece and nephew was somewhat more invigorating than tea and interminable games of whist with a rotating company of octogenerians.”
Steed let out a bark of laughter. Mrs Peel’s wry observations about life were something he dearly loved about her.
“Would you care for something to drink?” he said.
“Yes, please,” she said. “There’s a bottle of champagne in the fridge that awaits your tender mercies. And I picked up a few things at the delicatessen; I wasn’t sure whether you’d want something to eat later or not, so it can wait if you’re not hungry.”
“Ah!” said Steed, rubbing his hands together as he headed for the kitchen. “Don’t go away.”
“So,” she called to him, as he thumped about pulling glasses out of the cupboard. “Was it?”
“Was it what?” he called back, his head in the fridge, where he noticed that not only had Mrs Peel supplied champagne, but had also laid on ingredients for a green salad, plus his favorite pâté en croute and two kinds of cheese. These were obviously intended to go with the packet of water crackers on the counter, which sat next to what promised to be an excellent pear tart. Mrs Peel thought of everything.
Mrs Peel’s voice floated through the kitchen door again. “More invigorating.”
Steed stepped back into the living room bearing the champagne and two glasses.
“Mrs Peel, you have no idea,” he said, as he handed her the glasses and commenced popping the cork. “It’s a long story, but you shall hear the entire thing in due course. Oh, and I’d very much like you to meet my sister some time.”
“Steed, I’d love to meet your family.”
Steed poured the champagne, then took his glass from Mrs Peel and held it up in a salute to her before taking a sip.
“I’m sure the both of you would get along famously,” said Steed. “I think you’ll find that you and Helen have quite a lot in common.”
Steed took another sip of his champagne, silently toasting his sister as he did so, feeling no end lucky to have not one but two such extraordinary women in his life and such a fine niece and nephew in Gracie and William. Even stolid old James was a worthy soul, bless him. Yes, the new year had begun rather splendidly after all, and Steed looked forward to stepping through whatever doors it would open to him next.
et sic fabula ficta mea facta est