Saturday, August 3, 2013
A STRANGER WILL TELL YOU MORE THAN A FRIEND
A STRANGER WILL TELL YOU MORE THAN A FRIEND
The English class system is probably no more weird than any where else in the world but from the point of view of one of the plebeians, the upper class's only purpose in the scheme of things is to spend the fortunes amassed by their forbears. However, this little tale of motives and loyalties seems resonate right across the social divides and teaches those of us with entrenched views that the human condition applies whatever part of society we occupy.
(part two to be posted next week)
Allow me to introduce myself then, like many before you, you can form an opinion about me. However, do save some prejudice that you may initially have until the end of this tale. Then there might well be more reason for any dislike you immediately find.
I’m thirty-seven, and an Honorable. That’s my official title, the opposite to my; general disposition shall I say. On the death of my father I shall inherit not only the vast estate in Harrogate, with all trimmings that goes with that, but also the Lordship that was bestowed on my family centuries ago.
My name is Harry Paterson, or HP for short. I’m the eldest son of three, and I guess to sum up myself in one word it would have to be; playboy. I have served time in the Army, seeing conflict in Bosnia and I’m a qualified chemical analyst, but I spend more time playing at life than actually contributing to it.
I have put on about a stone in weight since I stopped playing rugby four years ago, not only because of damaged knees but I also suffered a perforated kidney that finally ended my participation. Nowadays my exercise is confined to riding, swimming, socializing and I shoot. The shooting is what has brought me to the outskirts of Bath, here in the cider County of Somerset.
I am single, both for this coming weekend, and in life, never having wished to tie myself to one woman in particular, preferring to ‘play’ at relationships, and thereby simply indulge myself in them without responsibility. I steer away from being responsible in all matters.
Is your estimation so far that I’m a chauvinistic, shallow individual, lucky to be wealthy but utterly worthless to the rest of society?
If that is your opinion, then I will not disagree with most of it but apart from the car that I drive, you would never guess that I’m wealthy. I have a habit, that some find annoying, of dressing rather shabbily.
Today is no different. I’m probably too confident in myself to care much about how I look. Now you have me. Shabby, rich and couldn’t give a flying monkey’s fart about the rest of the world.
With that in mind, I will begin to tell the story of Tamy, and how the events surrounding her unraveled.
I had arrived just before lunch on the Friday, having left my London club at around ten that morning. The drive had been pleasant and without incident, enjoyed with the roof open and the sun beating down on my covered head. The invitation to the annual grouse shoot had come from an old Army and University friend of mine.
Yes, it’s the ‘Glorious Twelfth’ and I’ve enjoyed a great August up to now away from Harrogate Hall, my ancestral home at the heart of the family estate, and the work involved in the running of that mini empire. Instead, I had shared various homes with various women in variously shaped beds. I needed the break.
Viscount James Philip Bottomly, or simply Bots to me, was junior in the echelons of nobility to my eventual station of becoming an Earl, but far surpassed me in style. The least pretentious word that could be used to describe him would be flamboyant, and the most would have to be extravagant. When in the Army I outranked him again, being a major to his lieutenant, but the cut of his bespoke uniform was worn with that special degree of sophistication that those who pay constant attention to detail, seem to carry off in a natural way. Even then I was more functional than aesthetically pleasing on the eye.
There he was, on the steps of Devenish House clad in a red and brown striped suit without a hair out of place, as I rolled the Bentley to a halt.
“Well, well, HP his very self in the flesh and tatters. Nothing changes I’m so pleased to see, and delighted to remark on, from in the wilds of our northern provinces. Ever heard of Savile Row, old chap? Sell clothes there you know, for discerning loaded gents like yourself. How’s Annie’s? The old family bank still churning out cash is it? So outstandingly pleased you have honored us with your expertise this weekend. Show the rest of us what’s what, eh?” He had started his slow deliberate descent as he spoke.
“Do so hope you’ve brought a dinner jacket old boy, else it’s the kitchen for you at supper time.” He gave a very disapproving glance at my badly creased blue linen jacket and mismatched somber black trousers as I removed my weekend bag from the rear seat. My gun case was locked away in the boot. Priorities you see, cared about the Purdeys but not the clothes.
“Do believe I threw one in the bag Bots, but if not I’ll let some width into one of yours. I was sure in the knowledge that you had plenty.” Who’s here then? I asked, shaking his proffered hand and into his other, I thrust the bag. Once a subaltern always a subaltern, tradition of the Guards.
It was a buffet lunch, practical in the circumstances, as not all were arriving at the same time. I was helping myself to some cold minted new potatoes when I saw her. She was on her own, and about to pour a glass of champagne. I did try to look away, briefly, but my fascination and surprise overcame that innate deficiency. As much as I enjoyed potatoes, attractive and mysterious women took precedence. The potatoes could wait!
I didn’t wait for a formal introduction. ‘Those who wait, get left behind Harry.’ An old maxim of my late great-grandfather, who too knew a thing about women. It seemed to run in the family.
“Good afternoon to you, allow me to do that. I’m Harry Paterson.” I said as I drew alongside, taking the bottle from her hand but managing to brush my fingers against hers.
“I’m sure we’ve never met, otherwise I could never have forgotten your name. But you seem so familiar. It’s as if you’ve graced every magazine cover, every front page and every fashion advert that I’ve ever seen,” the glass was full and we were looking directly in each other's eyes. I never stopped my method of attack.
“You’re far too beautiful to pass-by without at least saying hello and offering; assistance in any manner I could.” I mustered up the most lecherous, beguiling look that was possible before delivering my normal final line.
“I must say that the dress you’re wearing is very stunning and compliments you brilliantly, but.” I was not allowed to finish that hackneyed opening as the centre of my attention cut me short.
“You’re just about to add that you think I would look so much better without it, aren’t you Harry?” She had twinkling eyes, blue and vibrant, not just relying on the color for the attraction that matched the wide condescending smile that now filled her face. She was tall, elegant and feminine in every way imaginable.
“Ah, you have me. Yes, I was. Has it been said to you before then, and if so, am I about to have my impish face gently tickled by a make believe slap of annoyance?” Trying my best to be as playful and appealing as I could, I asked.
Her left hand moved, but she was not concerned in admonishing me. Instead she swept a locket of red hair away from her high forehead to nestle behind her ear, exposing the full curvature and line of her delicate shapely face.
“Not to me, but James warned me of your coming, and he related - as a warning -- some tales of your; what shall we call it… promiscuity?”
“Infamy, infamy. They all have it in for me,” I laughed. “Got that line from a ‘Carry-On’ film, way before your time though. Didn’t catch the name? Yours I mean, not the actor who spoke them.” Was there more than one James here I wondered.
“Tamy, it’s short for Kymberly. I do recognize you from someway, just can’t place where.” Her petite nose curled slightly at the tip with her thick lips giving a wry grin, as she peered deep into my eyes as if they would give me away. She was dark skinned and the tan looked natural, around the early twenties I assumed, and I knew exactly where I had seen her before.
“What a thoroughly delicious and evocative name Tamy. It conjures up the vision of a sleek lioness to the mind. Perhaps you’re a forthright character, in for the early kill or, are you more the stalking tiger type? Taking time over your prey before you so sexily pounce and devour them? Sorry my mind is drifting, on other things.” I laughed, but didn’t wait for a reply. “How do you know Bots then Tamy?”
“Bots? Quizzically she asked.
“The Viscount, our host. It’s what I call him, thought everyone did.”
“Ah, he has a nickname then? From his Schooldays or Army is that?” She did know him.
“Never given a thought to that. With a surname like Bottomly he sort of got lumbered with it at birth, I guess. He never mentioned it to you?”
“I haven’t known him that long really. It’s been sort of an old fashioned whirlwind romance. We met at a party given by one of his friends. You may know him.” She looked over my shoulder to rediscover the whereabouts of the person in question, and as she leaned forward I caught a drift of her heavenly perfume.
“Over there behind you. By that huge seascape painting, bald chap, bit on the tubby side.” I turned and saw Hugh Pickering, a City financier. I nodded adding. “Yes, I know Hugh.”
“Hired the whole ballroom at the Dorchester for his birthday bash a month ago. We met there, and Bots, as you call him, proposed the following weekend. Needless to say, I accepted. Were you there, perhaps that’s where I know you from?”
We had moved on to the crowded terrace, with the warm sun beating heavily down on us both. I didn’t answer, although that was not where I had first seen her, and she had no need to confirm her acceptance. I would have expected nothing less.
“Well, well, sneaky old Bots. Never said a word on the phone when he called. Must have a word with the blighter. I’m somewhat embarrassed now, hitting on a pal's loved one as it were. I’m terribly sorry about that. Will you excuse me Tamy but I really must go and speak to someone I noticed. We’ll catch up on our conversation later no doubt. I’ll unpack my things and go find James. Give him an ear bashing about keeping such elegance and charm, secret from me. You’ll be safe with this mob, harmless the lot of them” I waved at old friends and enemies alike.
She made light of my flirting and mumbled something about forgiving me, smiling as she did. I was confused, but managed to hide it, having to get away and collect my thoughts.
Most of that afternoon I spent in my room, on the telephone. I had not sought out Bots after leaving her, not speaking to him since our greeting. Had we bumped into one another, I would not have told him what I suspected about his fiancée, it was after all; only supposition.
I was seated away from the engaged couple at dinner, but a few times I caught one, or the other, looking in my direction, once having to smile back at Bots as he called out “you cad Harry Paterson.” Fortunately he never elaborated on that remark, leaving it for the assembled to just giggle at, and then forget. I was not in an explaining frame of mind nor feeling particularly comfortable amongst the declining revelry on show. The proceedings inevitably descended into the customary bread throwing affair as the fine wines took toll of the gathered collective sanity.
You might be surprised at the way the rich and famous quickly become degenerate fools, when surrounded by their own breed, and without the distraction of having to appear superior.
There was a card game arranged for the partially sober, to satiate any remaining appetite on, as a fifth course after the sumptuous meal. I declined. I am many things, but not a gambler. The one thing that Bots and I had as a common leveler, was that neither of us was. However, the mention of blackjack only served to reinforce my concerns about Tamy who had her attention elsewhere as I left, leaving me with impression that neither she, nor James, would be staying downstairs for long.
With the raucous enjoyment about to overflow to the games room, I retired in the opposite direction to find the solitude of the library, preferring the quiet there to exercise the demons flying around in my head, and hopefully reach a decision. That choice was taken from me as the door clicked open like a rifle shot. My only defense is that I have never been blessed with foresight.
“Bless my cotton socks if it isn’t the Honorable Harry Paterson in the flesh and spirit. How’s life with you old sport, still floating the good ship Isle of Jura are we?” He nodded at the decanter and the glass of my favorite whiskey at my side. “How the bloody hell are you?” It was Gerald Neil, part owner of Crockett’s, the famous London gaming club. He had just arrived!
(Part Two to be posted next week)