Authors: Carl Leckey
“Here Norm give these to your misses and congratulate her for being pregnant again.”
He blushes, accepts the flowers with thanks and enquires. “Will you be at the armistice ceremony tomorrow?”
Amazed I have forgotten such a significant date I remark.
“Bloody Hell Norman I had forgotten what date it is. Where is the ceremony?” He informs me. “It is outside the town hall in Hamilton Square. They are talking about building a cenotaph there eventually. I might see you there then?”
I assure him. “I’ll be there. I must also find time to visit Peggy and Tommy’s Mum before I leave Birkenhead.” Well this is it! Twenty odd years after my birth I am going to officially meet my Mother. I still have to visit Sandy in Acton Bridge, Colonel Sanders in Malvern Wells, and I must look Peggy up but definitely no hanky panky with her on this trip. The thought of Peggy makes me realise how much I miss Denise. I have a bath and drink the complimentary bottle of champagne while sitting in the window with a splendid view of the Mersey estuary.
All the love and longing for Denise I pour into a very long letter telling her all my news particularly regarding my possible elevation into nobility. I use the complimentary post cards to inform my friends and colleagues’ in France where I am located for a while.
What a life, I am in paradise with only one person missing to share my good fortune, my darling Wife Denise.
One more thing I have to attend to, I need my own transport. At the reception desk Mr Gillon attends to my enquiry. “Could you tell me where I am able to hire an automobile?”
He replies efficiently. “What model would you require? Will you need a chauffeur? How long will you need it for? Do you want it delivered to the hotel? We will handle all this for you Sir.”
Within minutes it is all arranged. The vehicle a 1910 Vauxhall Prince Henry is to be delivered at nine in the morning for a minimum weeks hire. It is an open touring car, but as I am used to open trucks I consider this aspect no great hardship for me although winter is rapidly approaching.
At seven forty five, dressed to the nines in my monkey suit purchased in Paris, I make my way to the cocktail bar.
On the way I notice the string quartet setting up their instruments. I have a word with their leader before making my way to the bar. Seven fifty five from my vantage point I spot her entering the dining room. She looks gorgeous in a fabulous evening dress. Her long dark hair is arranged in a style I have seen only in old oil paintings. Most unusual but it suits her beautiful face. The head waiter fusses about her as he escorts her to a table located in the bay window. I give her time to settle down then hidden behind the potted palms I observe her as she picks up the orchid.
She examines the card and looks around the crowded room presumable trying to locate the admirer that sent her the flowers.
I am still apprehensive about the meeting and dodge back as she glances my way. Right my lad time to do it. When her attention is focused on the menu I make my approach. Right on cue as agreed the quartet strikes up the French tune Clare de Lune, her favourite melody. She looks towards the quartet a smile appears on her face. She is engrossed with the menu when I stand across the table from her and cough discretely.
She looks up and gasps as if she has seen a ghost. For a moment she says nothing until she whispers. “My God you are the image of your Father.”
Tears spring to her eyes, as she stands Mother pushes back her chair. It tips over backwards and crashes to the floor. We meet in a near lovers embrace.
“Adam, my Son, at last!” I detect her quietly crying with her head pressed to my shoulder she says. “Forgive me?” I reply softly while hugging her even closer. “Mother there is nothing to forgive. We have found each other that is all that matters.”
A waiter rushes to pick up her chair. In a flash another place is set opposite her. We take our seats, she smiles and says. “The orchids are beautiful, the message? Hum! I have to admit had me guessing. When I heard the tune it took me back to my childhood in France. Fancy you knowing it is my favourite?”
I admit. “I recall you humming it when I taught you to drive.”
She compliments me. “You look so handsome Adam. I had a feeling when we met in St Margaret’s you were more that a chauffeur.
I should have guessed the similarity to your Father is uncanny. Why didn’t you tell me then who you were? We have wasted so much time apart.”
I answer. “We have both made mistakes Mother, let’s forget and forgive. Our life as a family begins now. I have lots of good news to share with you. I have a Wife in France. Denise would have accompanied me but we had a last minute problem.”
“I hope it is nothing serious?” She queries with concern. “No nothing she won’t be able to sort out. Denise insisted I came on my own as the arrangements were already made. She reckons I have left it too long anyway. Mother I want you to meet her as soon as possible.
I am sure you two will get on well together.” She asks. “Have you any children?” Sadly I reply. “Unfortunately we have no children and there never will be.
I will tell you about that some other time. Let us for the moment enjoy each other’s company and our dinner.”
We order our meal and Mother selects the wine to accompany the meal. The wine waiter pours the wine, waits for us to approve, then slips away after filling our glasses. Mother holds her glass across the table for me to touch with mine she makes a toast.
“Here’s to our future together as a
Hanging directly over the table is a crystal chandelier I steal glances at Mother, she is certainly a very beautiful Lady. I notice she turned many a male head when she entered the dining room. She also suffered many female looks of envy. The light flashes on her long drop diamond ear rings as she moves her head during our conversation. The ear rings match the elaborate diamond necklace that encircles her neck and the bracelet on her wrist. She sees me looking and unconsciously touches the necklace. “These were my Mothers. They are the only things I have to remember her by. I also had a lovely tiara.” She looks slightly embarrassed. She then reveals. “Adam I guessed you were coming. I wasn’t sure when, but I knew it wouldn’t be long before we met.”
I reply with a smile. “And I thought I would surprise you?”
She confesses. “It was not anything as magic as Mother’s intuition. Today I visited Mr Pinketon. Wonder of wonders his bill had been paid.” She pauses gives me a lovely smile then questions. “So you handle my finances do you?”
Ha, she has already spoken to the hotel manager.
What could I say in reply but remain silent as she continues?
“I next visited the wonderful Mrs Jones you were only a short while ahead of me. Did you meet her very pretty companion Pamela? Oh that reminds me, I believe you have a note from a certain stone mason for me?” I admit I have it and disclose. “As a matter of fact it was Pamela that gave it to me. Yes she is a lovely girl. Pity she doesn’t like men. She would make some lucky man a good Wife”
I am not quite sure if my remark annoyed her. An odd look passed over her face I continue. “It’s in my other suit. You needn’t bother with it I have settled that bill as well. Incidentally thank you for what you have done to Millie’s grave.” She replies. “Millie was my dear friend. I should have done more for her while she was alive but we lost touch. I will regret that to my dying day. If we had stayed in contact maybe I would have found you a long time ago.
Adam I appreciate what you did by settling my debts, but I do have money myself you know?”
I reply. “I only used the money I owed you to settle the bills.”
She looks puzzled. I remind her. “I don’t suppose you remember but I owe you twenty sovereigns?”
She repeats. “
? Oh yes! The gold coins in the music box? They were my insurance against total poverty. I am glad they were of use to you.”
I admit. “Without them I was near penniless. They enabled me to travel to St Margaret’s to find you Mother.” She replies thoughtfully. “For the one and only time in my life I stole something. They were part of my Father’s collection. He forgave me though when I returned home. If they helped you to find me then they were meant to be left for you.”
I enquire. “There is a great deal about my ancestors I will have to find out. You refer to General Carstairs as your Father. I understood you were adopted by him, have I got that right?”
She replies. “I appreciate there are many things you need to know.
I will reveal them all as we get to know each other better it is far too complicated to explain everything right now, be patient.”
Not entirely satisfied with her elusive replies I feel the need to ask.
“I understand why you had the coins, but why the pistol?”
In a near whisper she replies. “I carried the pistol for protection against a scoundrel my dear. There was another reason but I discarded that. I will explain everything eventually but not now, do you mind?”
I change the subject. She appears distressed as she recalls the past events.
I enquire. “Is that why you are not wearing your Mother’s tiara? Have you sold it to pay your way?” She doesn’t answer my question leaving me to make my own conclusions. I make a mental note to investigate that further. I have a feeling if I pursue the subject now it might cause her more grief.
The next course arrives there is a pause in our conversation as we enjoy the excellent food. The plates are cleared more wine is poured by the attentive wine waiter. “Your friend Toot is very loyal to you isn’t he?” She remarks. I inform her. “I owe him a lot. He got me through the war comparatively unscathed and taught me so much more, I certainly do have a lot to thank him for.”
Mother remarks, “He wouldn’t disclose where you were living you know?” I answer proudly. “That’s Toot. He was the first one there when I was arrested.”
Mother enquires. “When was that?” Embarrassed I reply. “Oh! I shouldn’t have mentioned that little episode it’s over and done with now.” She remarks. “So you have a criminal record?” She adds in a mocking voice. “My Son! A criminal?”
I hurriedly explain. “It wasn’t like that. I have no criminal record it was all a mistake. Lady Emily believed she did it to protect you. If you must know it was my own fault I take responsibility for it. I was stupid when I left those items at your home. When I returned the diary to you without explanation? That was completely idiotic.”
She replies angrily. “So it was my Sister that reported you to the police? I should have known she would do something stupid like that, she was so angry the last time I saw her.”
I point out. “She will be very worried about you. Does she know where you are now?”
Mother assures me. “I have written her a long letter explaining progress in my search to locate you. I have also informed her in no uncertain manner if she doesn’t agree to me helping her to sort out the financial mess she has created I won’t be coming home. She should get the letter by tomorrow. I love her dearly but sometimes I despair of her. I am hoping my letter shocks her and she will finally realise we have to get a grip on things. Ha! Adam I have just had a thought.” With a delightful little laugh she informs me. “We share the problem of Lady Emily now she is your Aunt you know?” Her disclosure throws me for a moment prompting me to ask. “Er, if you are not returning home what do you intend doing?” She gives me a funny look and replies. “Why I shall accompany you to France of course.” Her mood changes when she says. “You must have hated me for abandoning you as a baby? If only you had read my diary you would have known the truth, at least the events leading up to the day when I ended up in hospital. I recorded nothing after that.” I confess. “Mother at the time I was confused. I wanted desperately to be reunited since I found you. You have no idea what it felt like to find out that I wasn’t an orphan after all. At the same time I blamed you for leaving me in that horrible orphanage with those awful hypocrites. I was angry with you when I found out I did have a real family. Out of the blue my life was turned upside down. Then! When I found you living in splendour while I was left to live my life as bastard and pauper? Can you imagine my anger?
It was only after Millie adopted me that I had the love of a Mother I craved. You know Millie didn’t have much money; she worked so hard to give me a decent life.
I don’t think I made it easy for her either. I rarely attended school and joined the army when I was sixteen without her approval. I am ashamed to say I never attempted to contact her once during my time in France. I didn’t come home on leave either. Poor Millie she must have worried about me constantly.”
It is the first time I realized and admitted the disservices I did to a very kind Lady.
Maybe to cover my own failings I spring a question on my Mother.
“I need to know about my Father? Why did he abandon you? I am aware he went to India serving in the army. I also know he died there but what happened between you? There are so many gaps I need to fill. We should spend some time getting to know each other before I go back to France.” She looks down cast as she replies. “But of course I realise you want to return to your Wife. But! I hoped we would travel back to St Margaret’s together? Lady Emily will want to meet you. That could be difficult. I will have to prepare the ground before you two actually meet as family.” She thinks for a moment before adding. “Then there is the estate? You have a responsibility in the running of that now. You are the only male Carstairs left after all? I have no idea what your status is legally, we shall have to consult lawyers I suppose? I will tell you about your Father, but not here and now. Did you know Millie left a record about us with Mrs Jones?”
I reply. “Mrs Jones told me. Maybe you will let me see the diary sometime? As for my status as you call it. I haven’t decided yet whether I will be claiming my right to be a member of the Carstairs family.
I have a good life in France do I need more problems? I have recently shed many of my business worries over there. It has taken nearly two years before I was able to get away and travel to the UK to sort things out between us?” Mother looks crestfallen when I state this. We retire to the lounge for coffee and brandy.