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Authors: Mary Stewart

Airs Above the Ground

BOOK: Airs Above the Ground
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Airs Above the Ground
Mary Stewart

Vanessa March travels to Austria on a last-minute errand of the heart, taking with her young Timothy Lacy who has his own problems to solve. But the personal becomes political when the pair find themselves entangled in a plot involving the colourful members of a travelling circus and the famous Lipizzan stallions of Vienna.

Airs Above the Ground






Author’s Note

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21


Also by Mary Stewart

About the Author

First published in Great Britain in 1965 by Hodder & Stoughton
An Hachette UK Company
Copyright © 1965 by Mary Stewart
The right of Mary Stewart to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library
Epub ISBN: 978 1 444 72053 2
Book ISBN: 978 1 444 72052 5
Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
An Hachette UK Company
338 Euston Road
London NW1 3BH

For my father, Frederick A. Rainbow

Author’s Note

Since there is only one Spanish Riding School, any story that I wished to invent about the white Lipizzan stallions of Vienna must necessarily involve it. I must put it on record here that this is not a true story. I am grateful to the Director of the Spanish Riding School, Colonel Alois Podhajsky, for generously allowing me to involve his school – and even himself – in this story. I should also like to express my gratitude to Dr H. Lehrner, Director of the Austrian National Stud at Piber, for his helpfulness and kindness to me on my visit there. Finally, and by no means least, my thanks are due to Mr and Mrs Georg Prachner, of Kärntnerstrasse, Vienna, not only for the unstinting help they gave me, but also for the pains they took to make my visits to Vienna so rewarding.

M. S.


Nor take her tea without a stratagem.

Edward Young:
Love of Fame

Carmel Lacy is the silliest woman I know, which is saying a good deal. The only reason that I was having tea with her in Harrods on that wet Thursday afternoon was that when she rang me up she had been so insistent that it had been impossible to get out of; and besides, I was so depressed anyway that even tea with Carmel Lacy was preferable to sitting alone at home in a room that still seemed to be echoing with that last quarrel with Lewis. That I had been entirely in the right, and that Lewis had been insufferably, immovably, furiously in the wrong was no particular satisfaction, since he was now in Stockholm, and I was still here in London, when by rights we should have been lying on a beach together in the Italian sunshine, enjoying the first summer holiday we had been able to plan together since our honeymoon two years ago. The fact that it had rained almost without ceasing ever since he had gone hadn’t done anything to mitigate his offence; and when, on looking up ‘Other People’s Weather’ in the
each morning, I found
Stockholm enjoying a permanent state of sunshine, and temperatures somewhere in the seventies, I was easily able to ignore the reports of a wet, thundery August in Southern Italy, and concentrate steadily on Lewis’s sins and my own grievances.

‘What are you scowling about?’ asked Carmel Lacy.

‘Was I? I’m sorry. I suppose I’m just depressed with the weather and everything. I certainly didn’t mean to glower at you! Do go on. Did you decide to buy it in the end?’

‘I haven’t made up my mind. It’s always so terribly difficult to decide . . .’ Her voice trailed away uncertainly as she contemplated the plate of cakes, her hand poised between a meringue and an éclair. ‘But you know what they’re like nowadays, they won’t keep things for you. If I wait much longer they’ll simply sell it, and when that happens, one realises one’s really wanted it like mad all along.’

And if you wait much longer, I thought, as she selected the éclair, it won’t fit you any more. But I didn’t think it unkindly; plumpness suits Carmel Lacy, who is one of those blonde, pretty women whose looks depend on the fair, soft colouring which seems to go on indestructibly into middle age, and to find a whole new range of charm when the fair hair turns white.

Carmel – whose hair was still a rather determined shade of gold – had been my mother’s contemporary at school. Her kind of prettiness had been fashionable then, and her good-tempered softness had made her popular; her nickname, according to my mother, had
been Caramel, which seemed appropriate. She had not been a close friend of mother’s at school, but the two girls were thrown together in the holidays by the nearness of their families, and by professional connections between them. Carmel’s father had owned and trained racehorses, while my grandfather, who was a veterinary surgeon, had been, so to speak, surgeon in attendance. Soon after the girls left school their ways parted: my mother married her father’s young partner and stayed in Cheshire; but Carmel left home for London, where she married ‘successfully’, that is, she acquired a wealthy London banker whose dark, florid good looks told you exactly the kind of man he would be in his forties, safely ensconced in the Jaguar belt with three carefully spaced children away at carefully chosen schools. But the marriage had not worked out. Carmel, to all appearances the kind of soft maternal creature who, you would have sworn, would make the ideal wife and mother, combined with this a possessiveness so clinging that it had threatened to drown her family like warm treacle. The eldest girl had gone first, off into the blue with a casually defiant announcement that she had got a job in Canada. The second daughter had torn herself loose at nineteen, and followed her Air Force husband to Malta without a backward look. The husband had gone next, leaving a positive embarrassment of riches in the way of evidence for the divorce. Which left the youngest child, Timothy, whom I vaguely remembered meeting around his grandfather’s stables during school holidays; a slight, darting, quicksilver boy with a habit of
sulky silences, readily forgivable in any child exposed to the full blast of his mother’s devotion.

She was moaning comfortably over him now, having disposed (as far as I had been able to follow her) of her dressmaker, her doctor, her current escort, her father, my mother, two more cream cakes and for some reason which I cannot now remember, the Postmaster General . . .

‘. . . And as a matter of fact, I don’t know what to do. He’s being so difficult. He knows just how to get on my nerves. Doctor Schwapp was saying only yesterday—’

‘Timmy’s being difficult?’

‘Well, of course. Not that his father wasn’t just the same, in fact his father started the whole thing. You’d really think he’d have the decency to keep out of Timmy’s life now, wouldn’t you, after what he did?’

‘Is he coming back into Timmy’s life?’

‘My dear, that’s the whole point. It’s all just come out, and that’s why I’m so upset. He’s been writing to Timmy, quite regularly, imagine, and now apparently he wants him to go and see him.’

I said, feeling my way: ‘He’s abroad, isn’t he, your – Tim’s father?’

‘Graham? Yes, he’s living in Vienna. We don’t write.’ said Carmel with what was, for her, remarkable brevity.

‘And has he seen anything of Timothy since the divorce?’ I added awkwardly: ‘I didn’t know what the arrangements were at the time, Aunt Carmel.’

She said with an irritation momentarily more genuine
than any feeling she had shown up to now: ‘For goodness’ sake don’t call me that, it makes me feel a hundred! What do you mean, you don’t know what the arrangements were? Everybody knew. You can’t tell me your mother didn’t tell you
every single detail
at the time.’

I said, more coldly than I had meant to: ‘I wasn’t at home, if you remember: I was still in Edinburgh.’

‘Well, Graham got access, if that’s what you mean by “arrangements”. But he went abroad straight away, and Timmy’s never seen him since. I never even knew they were writing . . . And now this!’ Her voice had risen, her blue eyes stared, but I still thought that she sounded aggrieved rather than distressed.

‘I tell you, Timmy just burst it on me the other day, boys are so thoughtless, and after all I’ve been to him, father and mother both, all the poor boy has . . . And all without a word to me! Would you believe such a thing, Vanessa?

I hesitated, then said more gently: ‘I’m sorry, but it seems quite natural to me. After all, Timothy hasn’t quarrelled with his father, and it seems a pity to keep them apart. I mean, they’re bound to want to see each other now and again, and you mustn’t think you mean any the less to him because he sometimes feels the need of his father. I – it’s none of my business, Carmel, and I’m sorry if I sound a bit pompous, but you did ask me.

‘But not to tell me! So underhand! That he should have secrets from me, his mother . . .!’ Her voice throbbed. ‘I feel it, Vanessa, I feel it
.’ She groped
for where her heart presumably lay, somewhere behind the ample curve of her left breast, failed to locate it, and abandoning the gesture, poured herself another cup of tea. ‘You know what it says in the Bible about a thankless child? ‘Sharper than a something’s paw it is,’ or something like that . . .? Well, I can tell you as a mother, that’s
how it feels! Sharper than the whatever-it-is . . . But of course, I can’t
you to understand!’

The more than conscious drama which was creeping into Carmel’s conversation had dispelled any pity which I might have been feeling for her, and centred it firmly on Timothy. And I was wondering more than ever just where I came in. She had surely not telephoned me so urgently just because she needed an audience; she had her own devoted Bridge set with whom, doubtless, all this had already been gone over; moreover, she had managed to make it clear already that she didn’t expect either sympathy or understanding from anyone of my generation.

‘I’m sorry, I’m not being unsympathetic, I am trying to understand; but I can’t help seeing Timothy’s side of it too. He’s probably just wild to get a holiday abroad, and this is a marvellous chance. Most boys of his age would grab at any chance to go to Austria. Lord, if I’d had a relative abroad when I was that age, I’d have been plaguing the life out of them to invite me away! If his father really does want to see him—’

‘Graham’s even sent him the money, and without a
to me. You see? As if it wasn’t hard enough to hold them, without him
them to leave the nest.’

I managed not to wince at the phrase. ‘Well, why not just be sweet about it, and let him go? They always say that’s the way to bring them back, don’t they? I know how you feel, I do really; but Mummy used to say if you hang on to them too hard, they’ll only stay away, once they’ve managed to get free.’

BOOK: Airs Above the Ground
5.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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