Freddy Huntington-Groff casually selected one of the silver-handled screwdrivers from his breast pocket and lifted the bonnet.
“Hang on, old chap,” Tobias cried, leaping from the driving seat and vaulting over the door. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Fan belt needs tightening. Can’t you hear it when you start her up? Won’t take a jiffy. There. that should do it. Start her up again old boy. She should purr like a kitten now.”
“I’ll check later. Got some pressing business to attend to right now,” muttered Tobias savagely as he strode away.
Yes, tensions were building. Tobias had always viewed the car as his ‘Angel’ but now, with Freddy’s arrival on the scene, he appeared to have a rival.
Freddy was quietly spoken, handsome, suave – some would say oily. He knew all there was to be known about cars, and when he slipped on his driving goggles, took his place at the wheel and tossed his top hat on to the passenger seat, he looked as if he belonged there.
“Don’t mind if I take her for a spin, do you?” he’d enquire, casually, while Tobias stood by, smouldering.
It happened that the Admiral’s wife, the lovely Josephine Cholmondeley, was observing these events.
“Gentlemen,” she murmured sweetly, when Freddy returned from his drive with a barely-concealed smirk playing around his lips, “Surely there is a dignified way for you to settle your differences?”
Both men turned to look at her. It was difficult to look anywhere else when Josephine was in the vicinity.
“What are you suggesting, Madam?” asked Freddy, somewhat cautiously.
“I believe Lady Josephine is suggesting a duel,” said Tobias, his eyes glittering more dangerously than ever. “Am I correct, Your Ladyship?”
Josephine laughed softly. “It would indeed be an honourable solution, Mister Blasthorner. Shall I arrange a little tiffin party?”
“Ah, what type of weapon did you have in mind?” Freddy enquired.
“Cows, naturally,” replied Josephine.
“What else?” smiled Tobias, grimly. “Cows it is, then. Four o’clock Saturday?”
Freddy’s state of confusion and alarm was not lost on Josephine. “If you’d just accompany me on a perambulation around the grounds, Mister Huntington-Groff,” she murmured sweetly, “I’ll explain the uh, intricacies of the rules of tea-duelling as followed in these parts. I know they can sometimes vary from place to place.”
Gratefully, Freddy took his place at her side.
“Ahem, tea-duelling, Lady Chol-?” began Freddy, when they were out of Tobias’ earshot.
“It’s pronounced ‘Chumley’, dear Sir, and yes, a tea-duel is a most noble way to settle differences in an honourable manner. No one is injured, but the results are absolutely binding, you understand.”
Freddy nodded, marginally comforted.
“But – cows?” he ventured.
Josephine gave her tinkling laugh. “Malted milk biscuits. They bear the image of a cow; hence the name. Each duellist is given a keg of tea – I always use fine bone china cups. I should have mentioned that I am a certified Tiffin Mistress, qualified to preside at these events. Very basically, you both dunk your chosen weapon on the command, leave it in the tea for my count of five. You win by being the last to take a clean nom, or bite, from the biscuit.”
Josephine went on to explain more of the rules, which you, dear reader can discover by watching the cinematographic production above.
The following Monday, I was approached by Tobias.
“Madam,” he said solemnly, “It seems that Huntington-Grof is more suited to working with The Angel than I. I feel my talent lies more in creative pursuits than fumbling beneath car bonnets. I have decided to travel to the Steampunk Dolls’ House. My hope is that from there I will move on to a new home, where my talents and advice will be appreciated. I hope you understand.”
“Indeed I do, Tobias,” I told him. “I’ll miss you, but I’m sure you’ll be very happy amongst the ladies and gentlemen there.”
The Steampunk Dolls’ House can be found by clicking here. Tobias and several other members of the Steampunk – Shrunk community will be joining the others there within the next few weeks, while Freddy, Josephine and The Angel will remain with those of us who visit craft fairs, steampunk events and miniatures sales.