Authors: David Roberts
‘ ’Bye Corinth, glad to have met you,’ Sam shouted. ‘I hope you don’t mind but I’m taking Verity off to meet some friends.’
‘Won’t you introduce me?’ Amy broke in.
‘I apologize. Sam, come over here a moment, would you? May I introduce you to Amy Pageant? Amy, this is Sam Forrest. You might think he was too young but he is, in fact, a senior figure in the labour movement on this side of the Atlantic.’
‘Mr Forrest, how nice to meet you.’
‘Miss Pageant, it’s an honour to meet you.’ He took her hand and, for a moment, Edward thought he was going to kiss it. ‘I have seen several of your shows. You’re wonderful.’
‘Oh, you dear boy! How sweet of you. You must come to one of my parties. I think we’re going to be
friends. And Verity . . . is that really you? I hear you are quite famous now. Daddy’s always talking about you.’
Verity was cross. She did not like being patronized by Amy Pageant and she did not like the way she talked to Sam or the way Sam looked at her. Then she reminded herself that Sam was a married man and she wasn’t having an affair with him. She glanced at Edward but he too was looking at Amy.
‘Where are you staying?’ Amy demanded.
‘At the Algonquin.’
‘No, no. You must come and stay with me. The apartment is quite big enough. Don’t you remember?’
‘I do and I also remember that there’s only one spare bedroom. It’s very kind of you but Verity and I might as well stick to our plans.’
Verity smiled at him gratefully. For a moment it had looked as though she was going to be left quite alone and, hardened foreign correspondent though she was, she had felt a moment of panic.
‘If you won’t come and stay, then you must come and have dinner with me tonight. I’m not in a show at the moment so I’m quite free.’
Edward was fairly sure the invitation did not include Verity but he said firmly, ‘That would be lovely, Amy. We’d like that, wouldn’t we, V?’
Amy looked a little put out but she accepted defeat gracefully. ‘Good, that’s settled then. Sam – I may call you Sam, mayn’t I? – you’ll come too, won’t you?’
‘I’d be honoured,’ he said, bowing over her hand again. Verity snorted.
‘Edward, shall I drop you off at the hotel?’ Amy said. ‘Sam, Verity – where are you off to?’
‘I’m taking Verity to meet some of my union people on the way to the hotel. We’ll take a cab but thank you, Miss Pageant.’
‘And you, Edward?’
‘That would be very kind of you, Amy. Fenton, my man, has gone with Lord Benyon and, as you can see, I managed to twist my knee so I’m a cripple. By the way, my nephew, Frank, is here too. He’s acting as Lord Benyon’s secretary, or bag-carrier.’
‘Frank! I’d love to meet him. Is he as good-looking as his uncle, Verity?’ Verity opened her mouth to reply but Amy had not stopped for a response. ‘Bring him this evening as well and Lord Benyon, too, if he can make it. Bring everyone! Let’s have a party. I haven’t had an English party for absolutely ages.’
‘Amy, it’s so good to see you.’ Edward was suddenly overwhelmed by memories of the six months he had spent in New York watching her blossom into a star. ‘You’re looking wonderful – more beautiful than ever.’
In truth, she was looking beautiful but there was an air of artificiality, of strain almost, which had not been there when he had last seen her eighteen months before. He wondered if her life was quite the bed of roses she pretended. She had said she was not in a show and implied that it was by choice, but was it?
He looked at Verity. She was not cocooned in a silver fox fur, and she wore no jewellery – not even a ring. Her make-up was restricted to a slash of red on her lips. She was small and Amy was tall. She could never be called glamorous but, in making the comparison, he realized how much he loved her. There must have been something in his face which Verity recognized because she smiled back and took his hand.
‘We won’t be long,’ she said. ‘Sam’ll drop me at the hotel in an hour or two. You’re sure you don’t mind me coming tonight, Amy? I don’t want to play gooseberry.’
‘Don’t be silly,’ Amy said, sounding at once more natural and more sincere. ‘I’d love you to come. You don’t have to worry about me and Edward. The past is the past –
nostalgie de la boue
– that’s all.’
‘That doesn’t sound very complimentary,’ Edward laughed, feeling relieved. ‘I’ll just go and see about our trunks and then I assume we have to go through customs?’
‘Yes, but that won’t take long. Ronald, go with Edward and make everything happen, there’s a dear.’
A yellow cab stopped and a window was wound down. It was Mrs Roosevelt. ‘Lord Edward, I was looking for you to say goodbye.’
Edward raised his hat and looked troubled. ‘I hope you don’t think I was avoiding you. How is Perry?’
‘Didn’t you know? He’s gone with Frank. Lord Benyon has very kindly taken him with him . . . to distract him I suppose.’
‘I am so sorry . . .’ It seemed absurd having this conversation on a busy dock with Amy at his elbow, listening avidly.
‘I do understand.’ She put out a gloved hand and touched his. ‘It might have been the best thing . . . I can’t tell. Goodbye for now, Lord Edward. I am sure we will see you while you are in New York. And don’t blame yourself. Perry doesn’t, I promise you.’
When the cab had gone, Amy said, ‘I think you have a lot to tell me. I thought a few days on the
would be a rest cure but I’m beginning to suspect it was anything but.’
‘It had its moments. For one thing, there was this terrible storm . . .’ Verity stopped in mid-sentence. There was the man Edward had introduced her to as Bill Stephenson, shepherding the murderous ‘Major’ into an unmarked car. Two exhausted-looking women trailed behind them, the wives of two bullying bigots – a southern senator and a half-deranged would-be Nazi. Both, in different ways, were their husbands’ victims. The Major caught her eye and smiled . . . was it impudently? She could not be sure.
Edward returned, having arranged for his and Verity’s baggage to be sent on to their hotel. ‘Right, let’s get going. Customs seem uninterested in what we might be smuggling.’
‘As long as it isn’t Communism,’ Verity could not resist saying.
‘Verity’s been telling me you had a storm at sea. Was that when you hurt your leg?’ Amy inquired, almost jealous at having missed the excitement.
‘Not just then but it’s true – isn’t it, V? – we were almost lost on a dangerous sea.’