|Geoff was in luck as he went to the letters slab after a hearty breakfast, he had four. His mother’s, one stamped from Portsmouth, a postcard from Charles, and something postmarked London with his name and address scrawled on it in writing that his form-master wouldn’t pass. He opened John’s first, which wasn’t very long, but decent anyway, with descriptions of naval life. Geoff often thought that if it weren’t for Mike (who of course would end up on the same ship and boss him around as he did at home), he would enjoy a career in the Service. |
Charles’s postcard was really quite dull; he glanced at it only briefly. The picture was of a cathedral, not even good enough to swap. The mystery letter was interesting of course, and he opened it carefully. A ten shilling note fluttered out, and Geoff put it carefully into his letter case, with the considerable sum of paper money that already lived there. Officially, boys were supposed to hand over any money to Matron, who kept all of the boys’ money and doled it out dutifully every Saturday, but Geoff didn’t think much of this rule.
The letter was from Frank, his brother-in-law, (Geoff always found this funny, as he was so much older) apologising that he and Con couldn’t come for the next exeat.
“Oh, blow!” Geoff was disappointed.
“What’s wrong, Maynard?” Garrick, a boy in his dormitory who Geoff rather admired, although they were not strictly friends, was looking at him curiously.
“My people aren’t coming after all.”
“Bad luck,” Charlie Garrick was duly sympathetic. It was a bore not to have anyone visit for an exeat. “I thought your people were abroad?”
“They are – in Switzerland. My sister and her husband were coming. Never mind,” Geoff covered quickly; school was not a place where one wore one’s heart on one’s sleeve. He feigned an air of nonchalance.
“You could come out with us,” Garrick offered, with an offhand shrug, in case Geoff refused.
“Darling!” Garrick’s mother was young, and rather beautiful. Geoff stared at her, he recognised her from somewhere. “And who’s this?”
“Geoff Maynard, how do you do,” Geoff gabbled, holding out his hand, but she ignored it and kissed him as she had her son.
“You’re Charlie’s friend, are you? How adorable. You’re coming out with us, yes? What fun!” She adjusted her hat and looked around. “Charlie, do I have to tell one of your fearsome monks that we’re going?”
“No, we can just leave.”
Geoff suddenly realised he’d seen Mrs Garrick on the television, in a film he’d watched at the Quadrant. She hadn’t had very many clothes on. He blushed as she smiled at him as they headed over to a large car.
“It’s very kind of you to invite me, Mrs Garrick…” he began, suddenly tongue-tied. He knew that wasn’t her name, but couldn’t remember what it was.
“Oh dear, do call me Cynthia. I didn’t introduce myself, did I? How awful of me. Thank you, Andrews!” she smiled delightfully at the uniformed chauffeur who held the door for them as they climbed in to the Bentley. “Right, where shall we go?”
“Where’s Gerard?” Charlie asked, as Andrews pulled away down the elegant drive.
“Working, but he sends all his love. Geoff, do you have any ideas?”
Geoff admitted he hadn’t, lost in admiration of a parent who was so young and gorgeous and who hadn’t made rigid plans for the exeat. The Rayners always took him to a tea shop in the village, then to the cinema.
“Well, I propose we go to my hotel for lunch, then we can discuss what we want to do,” Cynthia stretched out her long legs and demanded an account of their school doings.
“She’s marvellous,” Geoff whispered, full of admiration, as they followed her into the restaurant.
“She’s not too bad,” Charlie said, proudly. “She lets me do whatever I like.”
“My stepfather. He will be, I mean. They’re engaged. I only see him during the Easter hols really, we always spend summer and Christmas in the States. Mother’s an actress.”
“Mummy, tell Geoff that funny story about the Oscars, and what Paul Newman said to you.”
“Oh, Charlie, Geoff wouldn’t be interested,” Cynthia recounted the anecdote, which was amusing, and made Geoff laugh. He listened fascinated, hastily filing it all away to recount to his brothers for the terrific boast he could have when he saw them next.
“Would you like some more tea, Miss Hope?” Daniel Lyndhurst asked. Emerence acquiesced with a brief smile. She liked what she had seen of him so far, which admittedly wasn’t very much; he and Maurice had mostly been discussing business in the library, leaving Susie and Emerence to explore the house in the company of Mrs Collins, the housekeeper.
It was a beautiful house, Emerence reflected as she sipped her tea. Mollie had been correct and it did need work, but it was still lovely.
“Have you lived here all your life? It’s such a marvellous house,” she said, impulsively.
“Thank you,” he frowned slightly, but quickly covered it with a dazzling smile. “Most of my life, yes.”
“Don’t you get lonely?” Susie asked, leaning forward from her seat beside Maurice to join in the conversation. “It’s such a big house for one.”
Emerence quite liked the glint of amusement in Daniel’s eyes at Susie’s blatant flirting, though he answered her seriously. Yes, it was a lonely location, but he spent most of his time in London where he had a flat. A discussion about London ensued; then Maurice announced that they had better think about going back to the Quadrant. Emerence could tell he was annoyed.
“What type of medicine do you specialise in, Dr Lyndhurst?” she asked, somewhat ungrammatically, remembering Maurice’s periodic fits of blindness. He still hadn’t visited the doctor, though it had now been five days since Emerence had discovered his secret. He hadn’t told her if it had happened again.
“I’m a psychiatrist. I mainly specialise in paediatrics, child psychiatry, though I have one or two adult patients. Maurice – are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” Maurice said gruffly, sitting back down. “I think I stood up too quickly, felt a bit dizzy, you know.”
“Please, take your time,” Daniel looked at Maurice, then at Emerence’s face of concern and felt something wasn’t quite right.
“Oh, Maurice, darling, are you all right?” Susie fussed at once.
“I said I was fine.” Maurice snapped, “No, look, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to shout. I’ll be fine in a minute, honestly.”
“Miss Rollins – Susie - could you please fetch Maurice a glass of water? I’m afraid it’ll mean going to the kitchen, which is quite a distance,” Daniel said, charming and apologetic and successful. He waited until the door closed after her before continuing, “What’s wrong? Can I help?”
“You can’t see again, can you? Maurice, why won’t you just go to a doctor?” Emerence exclaimed, her worry making her forget her promise to keep it secret. “It’s happened before, Dr Lyndhurst. It doesn’t last very long…”
“Miss Hope – why don’t you see if Miss Rollins has found the kitchen?” Daniel said, calmly, taking a seat next to Maurice, who sat there, motionless and frightened. He nodded to her as she hesitated at the door. “I’m sure everything will be fine.”
John leaned back in his chair, not able to look at Sub-Lieutenant Dean in case he laughed aloud. The cat was curled up on his secretary’s knee, purring as Dean murmured love-nonsense to it. The sailor, to whom it belonged, stood in front of John’s desk, looking worried. He couldn’t have been more than seventeen, John thought, thinking of the early days of his own career. He’d done worse than smuggle a cat aboard.
“What’s your name?” he asked, indicating the empty chair opposite him, to the sailor’s momentary confusion. He sat, clasping his hands together in his lap, biting his lower lip.
“Harper, sir. Daniel Harper.”
Lewis would have torn a strip off him, John thought, as he made a mental note of the name for when he saw Daniel Harper next. Probably make it official, as well. He sighed. Daniel.
“You may keep the cat until your next leave. Commander Keeler has given permission. I am not happy about this whole affair, but I expect Petty Officer Andrews has spoken to you, so we’ll leave it at that.”
“Thank you, sir,” Daniel Harper said in tones of great relief. “I am sorry.”
“What’s her name?” Dean asked, from the other side of the room. He had cat hair on his uniform.
“We’ve cats at home, so I know it’s pretty pointless asking you to keep her to quarters. However I’d prefer it if you could shut her away when Commander Keeler in on board, please.” John thought of the dinner he would have in Valetta with a sinking feeling. Not long to go now.
“So Frank’s taking over as surgeon at the San? Why not you?” Mary-Lou asked, frowning into the soup she was preparing. “Did I salt this or not?”
“I don’t know and yes, he is. You know I didn’t want it,” Rix cleared the children’s colouring things from the kitchen table where they would eat. “I might do an extra half-day, maybe.”
“So they’re moving here? Well, nearer to the San then. That’s interesting. I wonder where they’ll live?”
“At the Russells’ for a while, or so David said. I know Frank’s selling up in Hampstead.”
“Is he?” Mary-Lou flipped over the pages of her cookery book, only half-listening. “Did you decide about Christmas?”
“I think we’ll have to go to the Quadrant. Mother was on the phone again this morning. Do you mind?”
“No, of course not, I was going to that archaeology lecture though, on the twenty-third. I could follow you down to Devon?”
“Fine with me. I’ll take the kids down a day or so before then.” Rix said, easily, before calling the children in to eat.
“Daphne?” Cecil enquired tentatively, as she pushed open the door to her cousin’s room in Freudesheim. It had originally been Steve’s and wasn’t very large, but Daphne had decorated it with large Indian scarves – Cecil wondered where on the Platz Daphne had gotten hold of those - and her own drawings. Cecil examined one of the Quadrant, moodily, thinking that she much preferred Daphne’s to her own bedroom, with its boring rose-printed eiderdown and matching curtains. She noticed Daphne had a collection of make-up on her dressing table and picked up a small pot of eye shadow.
“Hello!” Daphne breezed in, wearing jeans and a paisley smock, not at all bothered about Cecil going through her possessions. “Want to borrow that?”
“No,” Cecil, annoyed at being caught snooping, shook her head vehemently. “Don’t be a moke, what would Matey say if she caught me?”
Daphne shrugged, not caring in the slightest, threw herself onto her bed and began flicking through a magazine.
“Anyway!” Cecil remembered her purpose. “Mamma sent me with a message for you. She’s going to phone Auntie Mollie tonight, at nineteen, and mind you’re here when she does.”
Daphne had enough brains to realise this wasn’t the message her aunt had given Cecil, but bristled anyway at her superior manner. “I shan’t be here, and Auntie Joey knows that. I’m going over to St Mildred’s, to see Fliss and Lucy Peters and everyone.”
Cecil bit her lip; Felicity had not extended the invitation to her. For a brief moment, she was so jealous of Daphne that she couldn’t speak.
“I’d better be heading over there now.” Daphne knew she had ages, having cadged a lift from her fond Uncle Jack, but she couldn’t bear Cecil standing there, gaping at her, any longer. “Do tell Auntie to give Mummy my love.”
“I’m thrilled to have you on board,” David leant over her desk and shook Francis Rayner by the hand. They had just finished their negotiations over his new appointment as the San’s Surgeon-in-Chief and both felt it had gone satisfactorily.
“Thank you,” Rayner was keen to leave, having left Con in the house, with all three small children, and a great deal of the unpacking left to do. When David suggested a celebration lunch, he declined, explaining.
“Good grief, why didn’t you say? I’ll come back with you and lend a hand, of course.” David said, easily.
“If you’re sure…”
“I’d be delighted. Shall we take your car, and I can walk back.” David pulled the door of his office closed behind them.
Mary-Lou laid her book aside as her husband returned to their cosy sitting room, looking worried. She had heard bits and pieces of his telephone conversation, but nothing to explain his expression. “What’s wrong?” she asked, motioning for him to sit down.
He shook his dark head, and paced around, on edge. “That was Dad. Maurice is in hospital. Oh, nothing serious, he says, just some tests and things. Dan Lyndhurst was there when something happened; it was all a bit garbled.”
“Is he all right?”
“I think so. I tried to get through to Dan, but it’s ringing off. I might phone the hospital – I expect he’s been taken to Bideford. The thing is, it might be a good few weeks before he’s well enough to work. I’ll have to go down there and take over,” he finished, glumly. “I’ll get that new practice in Haylings to cover my patients.”
“That’s fine. Poor Maurice… We’ll be fine. I’ll follow you down for Christmas – gosh, it’s just two weeks away! – with the boys. Or will you take the car?”
“No, I can use Dad’s. I’ll have to keep close to the farm anyway. Do you know, sometimes I wish I wasn’t going to inherit. John would have made a good fist of it.”
“John would have had to give up the Navy.” Mary-Lou pointed out. “Anyway, there’s no use grousing over things you can’t change. Shall I pour tea?”
“Please,” but Rix was far from mollified; and it was in a bad mood that he took the London train the next morning, changing at Paddington for a long journey to the South West.
“Evening,” he said, marching in to dinner, and giving them all a shock.
“Rix! We didn’t expect you, darling,” Mollie kissed him. “Where are the children and Mary-Lou?”
“Howells, of course. I thought I’d lend a hand with the farm.”
“Oh, we can manage,” said Dick, his evident relief disproving his words. “Emerence has been helping out.”
“Oh?” Rix looked over at Emerence, who returned it with interest. “Thank you, I mean,” he finished, awkwardly. “What’s wrong with Maurice? Is he all right?”
“He’s having tests. We don’t know, darling,” Mollie said, worriedly. “If we drive to see him tomorrow, would you speak to the doctor?”
“Of course. What did Dan Lyndhurst say?”
“Not much, he said not to worry, but it’s difficult not to…”
“What exactly is wrong with him? What tests is he having?” Rix cut across Mollie in his impatience. There was a terse, offended silence, before Emerence detailed his symptoms and recounted what the doctor at the hospital had told them.
“Hello! I haven’t booked; I thought we could just wander until we found somewhere decent. Is that OK?”
John started at Keeler’s words; he’d been deep in thought on the quayside, a cigarette burning itself to ash in his fingers. Keeler laughed, but not unkindly.
“Wake up, Johnnie. Shall we head up to there and see if we can get a taxi?”
“Yes, good idea.” John flicked his cigarette end away, and shoved his hands into his pockets, forgetting he was in uniform.
“Everything all right?” Keeler asked, neutrally, as they sat squashed next to each other in the back of a taxi. John nodded. The taxi driver, like most Maltese drivers, seemed determined to get them to their destination in a crazily short time, sounding his horn continually as he took corners at speed and swerved across the roads. John held on to the edge of his seat to avoid contact with Keeler’s arm, which was casually thrown over the back of the seat. Keeler, if he noticed, made no further comment until they arrived in the city and he paid the driver with cash from his back pocket.
“Drink first? Or are you hungry?” Keeler looked discomforted by John’s continued silence.
“Let me get them. Beer?” John dug out his wallet, but Keeler had already gone into the little café and ordered. John sat down at a table. He knew he was being rude, but he was torn; Lewis’s betrayal had hit hard.