It is not presumptuous to call on Peggy Clegg-Reagan without invitation—she assumes that when those in her circle are not in her immediate presence they are talking about her, or thinking about her, or aching to see her and will naturally drop in unannounced on occasion. As the family attorney and executor of her father’s estate I am granted audience anytime. This visit, however, was precipitated by a message from Charlotte, Peggy’s personal maid, who for a small pourboire keeps me apprised of all things Clegg-Reagan.
Probate concluded less than a month ago and, according to Charlotte, the daughters of the late Reginald Clegg-Reagan applied themselves assiduously to spending their inheritance as rapidly as possible. Winifred, the older sister, having exhausted several wealthy husbands, had a ways to go before depleting hers.
Some wag advised Peggy to invest in a collection, so she settled on the acquisition of Royal memorabilia. In three weeks she had become an expert on all things Windsor and with typical American cheek called the Royals by their Christian names. She purchased a riding crop that once belonged to “Anne,” a book of Byron inscribed to a Cambridge classmate by “Eddie,” and a piece of “Wills and Kate”’s wedding fruitcake.
With a nod Charlotte ushered me to the living room where Peggy hovered over a pink cell phone. “What do you think of Victoria’s silk bloomers?” she asked. She had always been small, even petite, except for a melon-sized bulge at her middle.
“I think they would be too large on you,” I said.
“No, silly,” she said, “for my collection. They’re available again. So is one of Diana’s dresses.”
“Could be a good investment.” I tread lightly. The Clegg-Reagans remit our fees on time.
“Already done. Something came up today, too. I got this from Alec this morning.” She showed me her phone. Alec Redwing was the dealer in Reading who “facilitated” some of her European acquisitions, reported Charlotte. They were fast becoming the best of friends. “Here.” She was a bit breathless. “This—”she zoomed up the image—“has just been found. Very exciting. A letter from Elizabeth—Elizabeth the first, mind you—to her sister Mary. It’s not Windsor, it’s Tudor, Alec says.” I saw a yellowed manuscript in close handwriting and could make out a date of 1554. “You went to Oxford, what do you think?”
She didn’t wait for my reply. “Alec’s note says, ‘there’s a few punctures, some wear to right margin, general light speckling.’ Zoom in on it. Look, you can’t tell the difference between the esses and the effs. And look at the swirls under her name, coming off the ‘z’ and the ‘R’.”
“What is he asking for it?”
“Five thousand pounds. To start.”
I raised an eyebrow.
“There is another interested party.”
“No, seriously. Winifred.” She sighed. The ever-present older sister. I was well acquainted with the ancient rivalry between the two daughters of a very absent father in addition to their financial status. Winifred could buy and sell Peggy a dozen times over.
“I found out she started collecting the Royals, too. After I did, of course.” Her phone trilled. “It’s Alec. He says, ‘The other party is ready’—what do you think?”
After a moment’s thought, I said, “Bid on it.”
“Go ahead. Make your bid.”
She punched her phone. After a few moments she said, “Oh, she’s gone up to seven!”
She did. “Now it’s nine!”
She tapped again.
“She’s jumped to thirteen!”
“All right, stop.”
She clicked off the phone and slumped back on the settee.
“She’ll always outbid you, Peggy. She has the resources to do it.”
Charlotte came in with tea. I poured. “Your sister is now the proud owner of a letter from Elizabeth the first to her sister Mary.”
“I know!” She snatched a scone and tore into it with sharp teeth. “Why did you take Winifred’s side of it?”
I ignored that remark. “Princess Elizabeth.”
“Princess Elizabeth. At the time.”
“Princess Elizabeth to her sister the queen.”
“I wish you would make your point.”
What is the sticking point?
See you in the Comments for the solution!