People sometimes ask me what’s my fave Cambridge Fellows book. I usually say Lessons in Trust, because it features the first London Olympics, has a sweet hurt/comfort sort of storyline – and there’s the ongoing love/hate relationship between Orlando and Jonty’s car…
“Well, what did we think of it?” Richard Stewart must have been watching from the window, given the speed with which he’d opened the front door. Perhaps he’d even barged Hopkins the butler out of the way en route. The man was bouncing on his toes like a big schoolboy, just like Jonty did when excitement overcame him.
“Wonderful, Papa. Everything you said it would be and more.” Jonty took off his gloves and goggles, laying them on the little lacquered table where they might send out a siren call to his father. If Mr. Stewart wanted to convert his son to the glories of the Anglo-French exhibition, then his son wanted to reciprocate by getting him interested in motoring.
“You went on the Flip Flap?” Mr. Stewart’s eyes were aglow.
“Richard!” Mrs. Stewart’s voice cut through the air like a sabre through butter. “What are we not to mention in this house?”
“Tell me later,” Mr. Stewart whispered as his wife swept into the hall and scooped up her favourite boys.
Mrs. Stewart must have been stunning in her youth—the portraits on the stairs were evidence of it—and even in late middle age she was striking, silvery gold hair and blue eyes mirroring her son’s colouration. She and her husband still turned plenty of heads, not all of them mature.
Supper was excellent, as it always was when Jonty’s parents entertained: smoked salmon, lightly scrambled eggs, tiny tomatoes sweeter than honey, all washed down with champagne. As they ate, Orlando waxed lyrical about the sights they’d seen, allowed much more leeway to praise the exhibition than his almost-father-in-law was clearly allowed. But then he avoided all mention of a certain ride which took you up in the air and left your stomach on terra firma.
“And you’ll go back tomorrow?” Mrs. Stewart scooped up the last bit of her egg onto a piece of toast.
“Certainly. We’ve not covered the half of it, not properly, anyway.” Jonty wiped his mouth on the thick damask napkin. “Will you come with us?”
“I would love to, my dear, but there’s a meeting I must attend. My fund for unfortunate girls. Maybe another time?”
“Helena!” Mr. Stewart smote the table. “I’ve offered on four occasions to take you to the White City and every one of them you’ve refused to even consider.”
“That’s because you’re not Orlando, Papa. Mama wants him to squire her around the site so that all the other women will look and be jealous.” Jonty cast a sidelong glance at his mother, who was wearing an unusually demure expression. “Or is it the lure of the car?”
“It might be nice to be taken for a little drive…” Mrs. Stewart’s ears turned a delicate shade of pink. “It’s such a fine machine—very comfortable-looking and with such beautiful upholstery.”
“Oh, Mrs. Stewart, not you too.” Orlando would have put his head in his hands if such a gesture wouldn’t risk being told off for having his elbows on the table. “Is there no one in the world who isn’t smitten by these awful contraptions? Has everyone—” he was about to say lost their sanity but the vision of being strung up by his bootstraps from the Stewarts’ lintel forestalled him. “Has everyone got to be besotted with them?”
More excerpts at the Rainbow Snippets group.