Monty smiled at Anne as she opened the door to the Dower House. "Where's Hartley?" He asked her, referring to Lady Louisa's butler.
"He's in the cellar, taking stock. I saw you ride up from the window and so came to let you in. Are you very disappointed that I'm not Hartley?" Anne asked.
Monty stepped into the hall. "Go on with you," he said, planting a kiss upon her cheek. "You know full well how very much I like seeing you. Where's Louisa?"
"She's out on the terrace, being that it's such a beautiful day. Come on, I'll walk out there with you."
"Major Monty is here to see you," Anne called as they approached the French doors.
Lady Louisa turned round in her chair, "Monty. I didn't know you were calling today. Have I forgotten?"
Monty bent down and drew the veil of Louisa's straw bonnet from her face before placing a kiss upon her cheek."
"You've forgotten nothing. I just thought I'd go out for a ride and then decided to drop round to see my two favorite ladies."
Lady Louisa snorted. "Anne, I'm glad you're here. Would you please bring me a glass of lemonade, my dear?"
Monty sat on the wrought iron chair across the table from Louisa. "I'd like one, too, please. And make mine just exactly the way you make hers, if you don't mind, Anne. And I mean exactly."
Anne stifled a grin, while Lady Louisa said, "Cheeky monkey."
Monty crossed his legs. "I don't see why you should be the only one to enjoy a drop of gin."
Caught out, her little indulgence exposed to the light of day, Lady Louisa merely harrumped. Monty gazed out over the lawns. "A truly stunning day, what? Summer is surely on it's way." The pair sat companionably for a while until Anne returned with their drinks upon a tray. Once she'd left them alone again, each picked up their glass and sipped.
"Ah, lemons," Monty said. "Where would we be without lemons, hhhmmm?"
"Louisa . . . . "
"Yes, Monty, we get to the point at last. At long last."
"I was merely going to say . . . . "
"You are going to come to the point. Or at least I hope you are. Do you think I believe that you merely dropped by on a whim?"
Monty placed his glass upon the table. "Louisa, I am shocked!"
"I don't know why you should be," she laughed. "I've known you since you were a pup, Montague Twydall, and if you don't think that I know just exactly how your mind works by this age, you are sadly mistaken! Besides, you've got that look about you today."
"That shifty, in need of something look."
Monty's first instinct was to deny her charge, but he quickly thought better of that. "It shows, does it?"
Louisa looked at him, her voice softer now. "What is it Monty?"
"I need to raise some ready money, Louisa."
"Monty . . . . . "
"It's alright. I have a plan."
"Tell me, does your plan involve me, by any chance?"
"Look, Louisa, I've got a healthy inventory at present. If I could just sell off a sizeable portion of it, I would be back on my uppers."
"But you are always selling from your inventory. Buyers will come, as they always do."
"I can't wait for them to come to me, Louisa, I need to find buyers now."
"Are things that dire, my darling?"
Monty looked her squarely in the eyes. "They are, Louisa."
Louisa took a long pull of her lemonade. "Just what do you need from me?"
"I was thinking that you might use your influence to lure some of your circle here to see some of the pieces. We might then hint that they were destined for sale in, say, London and Paris, but of course as they were your friends, I might see my way clear to selling one or two things to them privately."
"Here? We'd have the items here for them to see?"
"That is what I was thinking."
Louisa was silent for a time. "It wouldn't work, Monty."
"But, Louisa, I . . . "
Louisa raised a hand to cut off Monty's words. "Think about it, Monty. Why ever would I coincidentally have your pieces in my home when I invite people in for some entertainment, or dinner, or what have you? Hhhmm? No. It smacks too much of commerce. And where would we put your things, in any case? I've got too much of my own furniture and geegaws as it is. Would I move all my things out and yours in? Does that make any sense, Monty?"
"Well," he conceded, "now that you put it like that . . . . "
"But I tell you what will work - I have already invited a select few people round for dinner on the nineteenth."
Monty looked at her hopefully, "Go on."
"Do you have any of those marble statues still in your possession?"
"Those hideous ones I was talked into taking from that sculptor in Belgrade? Yes, I have three left."
"Any other bits and pieces that might be construed to have an historic lineage?"
"What can you mean, Louisa?"
Louisa set her glass down and leaned conspiratorially towards Monty. "I was thinking that we should perhaps make an entertainment out of the affair. After dinner, we could pile all the guests into carriages and drive by torchlight to your Hall. There, we shall have placed all of your so called antiquities upon display in a sort of historical tableau
. Of course, we shall hint at the historical, not to say educational, aspect of the items as a reason for their being worthy of a post-dinner jaunt to the Hall. Then, I shall ask you, within hearing of everyone present, how it is that you come to have such glorious objects in Bloxley Bottom and that is when you shall make mention of the fictional sales in London and Paris. You see, Monty, we will offer the objects for sale without ever mentioning that they are
Monty gave Louisa a slow smile. "You are a genius."
"You are only now realizing that?"
"But, Louisa, the storage rooms at the Hall are not fit to be seen. They're downright grubby, in point of fact."
"Never mind that. It will be night time. Anne and I shall come down one day this week and see what can be done. A few well placed draperies and some clever lighting will make all the difference, you'll see. At worse, we shall move the pieces into the main house. In any case, we shall make it work, my boy."
"You make it all seem possible, Louisa. I'm beginning to hope that this just might be a success. And if it is, you know that I shall be eternally grateful."
"Of course you shall. And you will also give me a portion of your proceeds. But we needn't discuss those details just now. Anne! Anne, my dear, I believe we are in need of more lemonade."