Authors: Helen Wells
“The house is smaller than I’d expected,” Martha murmured to Cherry as they rang and waited at the carved double doors. “Small and elegant.”
“Does Mr. Carewe live here?” Cherry asked.
“No, this is now a museum, not a residence. I believe Mr. Carewe lives in a newer house on another part of this estate—when he’s here at all.” The door opened, and a woman in brown with her hair severely pulled back admitted them. Martha Logan introduced herself and Cherry.
“Come in. You are expected,” the woman said. Her voice was clipped and precise. “I am Miss Hayden, Mr. Carewe’s secretary. Will you wait in the library?
Mr. Carewe will see you in a few minutes.” They stepped in. Martha looked faintly surprised.
“I hadn’t known we were to have the privilege of meeting Mr. Carewe.”
“Mr. Carewe makes a point of meeting visitors to his collection,” the secretary said. Her voice held overtones, suggesting the great collector’s fondness for these particular paintings, and his critical attitude toward the few visitors he chose to let see them. Cherry felt the intimacy of the place, even as she glimpsed a guard in a room beyond.
Miss Hayden led them through a marble foyer hung with pictures and into a library. Here, at a long table littered with books and papers, another woman was working. She was plump, untidy, and jolly looking behind her heavy glasses.
“This is Mrs. Ogilvie, our librarian and scholar, who catalogued the collection,” said the secretary.
“Mrs. Logan, and her nurse, Miss Ames.” They all said, “How do you do?” The librarian invited them to sit down, regretting that there was no couch, only some antique and very hard wooden chairs.
“Are you the curator, too, Mrs. Ogilvie?” Martha Logan asked.
“Oh, dear, no,” the librarian said cheerfully. “Mr.
Carewe is his own curator. When he is away, as he often is, Mr. Patwell is in charge. Mr. Patwell doesn’t often have a holiday, I can tell you. Today is one of his rare ones. Wouldn’t you like a catalogue?” She gave them each one, and they thanked her.
Cherry could see into an adjoining offi ce, where the secretary was talking with a tall, rawboned spare man, wearing an easy-fi tting, worn tweed jacket. He turned around, and Cherry saw his face was a spider’s web of 86
wrinkles, and his hair ash white. John Carewe must be a very old man.
He came in with the secretary, and regarded the two visitors quizzically while Miss Hayden introduced them. He shook their hands.
“It’s kind of you to let us come,” Martha Logan said to him. “It’s especially kind of you to make an exception on short notice for Miss Ames.” Mr. Carewe nodded and said, “Happy to have you,” in an indifferent tone. Something about him made Cherry think of a giant whose strength was spent. He complimented Martha Logan on her work and asked a question or two about the book for which she was doing research. As she answered, his eyes grew sharp and bright.
“Then the portraits here should interest you very particularly, Mrs. Logan,” he said. “May I have the pleasure of showing you some of them?” With a slight gesture he led them out of the library, through the foyer again, and into a room hung with paintings. Apparently once a drawing room, it still held a few fi ne chairs and small rugs on the parquet fl oor.
Mr. Carewe took them around the room and Cherry saw another lovely room beyond.
Mr. Carewe said, “This is a famous Reynolds portrait, as you know.” They paused to admire it. “This Romney—which I myself think even fi ner—has a unique historical interest.” He began telling them about the lady in the portrait.
“Cherry, will you please take notes?” Martha Logan whispered. “This stupid cast—” she half apologized to Mr. Carewe.
He nodded and fi nished his story. Then he said,
“Perhaps now you would like to be free to browse by yourselves? Most visitors prefer to do that. You’ll fi nd the paintings are displayed in ten rooms, and there are two fl oors. If you have any questions, I or my staff will be happy to try to answer them.” Martha Logan started to thank him, but was cut short by voices and some confusion at the entrance door. Miss Hayden came in with a look of suppressed excitement. She said in a low voice to Mr. Carewe:
“I beg your pardon—unexpected visitors, Mr. Carewe
—the Shah and Lady Liddy. They’ve motored up from a friend’s country place, although they haven’t ever applied for admission. They’re hoping you might just receive them.” She looked overwhelmed.
“The Shah! Indeed,” said the old collector. Cherry could not interpret his sudden change of expression.
He glanced at his watch, remarking that it was ten fi fteen and he wanted no visitors after twelve. “Well, at the very least we mustn’t keep them standing on the doorstep, must we? If you will excuse me, Mrs. Logan, Miss Ames—”
He and the secretary went into the foyer where the door stood open. Cherry and Martha frankly watched and listened. The Shah was every bit as theatrical looking as on television, and a great deal more forceful 88
when seen in person. His presence was like a strong wind blowing on all of them. His voice boomed out and his white beard waggled as he announced:
“My dear Mr. Carewe, I realize this is a frightful imposition! If time weren’t running out for us on this trip, I shouldn’t be throwing myself on your kindness in this way. But I
leave England—not knowing when either you or I shall be back again—without seeing one of the last great, privately held art collections in the world! Do, I beg you, let us see your fabled treasures!” Cherry noticed that John Carewe looked fl attered.
Lady Liddy, a delicate-looking blond young woman in a wide-brimmed hat, luxurious suit and furs, entreated him, too.
Cherry missed Mr. Carewe’s reply as Martha Logan spoke under her breath. “The world’s great personages and the leading art scholars come here—the Shah is celebrated on both counts. How can Mr. Carewe possibly refuse him?”
John Carewe hesitated only a second or two. He bowed to Lady Liddy, then extended his hand to the millionaire art patron, saying in his dry, tired way, “This is an unexpected pleasure for me—a great pleasure to meet you. Come in, come in. Miss Hayden,” he instructed the secretary, “will you kindly tell the Shah’s chauffeur to be ready for them at twelve?” Through the window Cherry saw an imposing black car and a uniformed chauffeur waiting. Miss Hayden went out to speak to him, while the Shah made a dep-recating remark about his rented car. “However, it’s
my usual practice to rent cars, so much less nuisance than dragging along one’s own car across the Continent.
But of course we bring our own reliable chauffeur.”
“Quite,” said Mr. Carewe. “Lady Liddy, would you and your husband be good enough to sign my guest book?”
At this, Martha Logan grinned at Cherry. He hadn’t asked
to sign. John Carewe called out, “Mrs. Ogilvie! We require two catalogues for our distinguished guests.” The librarian bustled out with the catalogues as Mr. Carewe had the imposing Shah and his young wife sign the register. The Shah complained that he felt the cold, being accustomed to the hot weather of the Near East.
“I hope you’ll forgive my unsightliness, Mr. Carewe, if I keep my mackintosh over my shoulders,” the Shah said.
The lightweight waterproof topcoat fl apped around his short, round fi gure like the slack sails of a ship, and Cherry held back a smile.
Then Mr. Carewe ushered them into the fi rst room where Cherry and Martha stood. Cherry realized she was staring. She turned away to study the paintings, as Martha Logan did. But she could not resist stealing glances at the short, rotund Shah with the perfect rose in his buttonhole. His young wife hovered nearby, quiet and self-effacing. He riffl ed through the catalogue, using his left hand, and remarked—arrogantly, Cherry thought—that the hanging of the paintings was
“rather well done.”
Mr. Carewe said, “I asked the advice of the curator of the National Gallery. He helped me work out how to display the collection.” It was said modestly, and was not lost on the Shah who launched into an informed comparison of the collections at London’s National and Tate galleries with this collection.
John Carewe was impressed. He asked the Shah about his own collection of paintings. The Shah charmingly declined to talk about his own treasures. “Not here, my dear Mr. Carewe, where one is in such close touch with so many masterpieces! Just let me enjoy
“I see you will not need my services as a guide,” Mr. Carewe said to the Shah. “Please feel free to look around by yourselves. I shall be interested to learn what you and Lady Liddy think.” As he had told the Americans, he told the Shah and his wife that there were ten rooms, two fl oors. He did not introduce the two sets of visitors, since there was no reason to. They politely ignored one another as Mr. Carewe left the four of them alone together.
Martha Logan had fi nished viewing the fi rst room, and now moved into the second room. Cherry followed her. For a while they took notes on the paintings of the famous Henry and the two sisters. Lady Mary did wear the fabled ring for her portrait, Mrs. Logan was glad to see. The Shah came in, gave the Americans a pleasant glance, and planted himself before a great canvas with his back to them. Young Lady Liddy drifted through the second room, and went into the third by herself.
The minutes slowly went by as the visitors sometimes passed one another, sometimes missed one another in various rooms. The mansion, though relatively small, had a number of stairways, landings, and passageways in which it was easy to lose sight of one another. For a few minutes during their tour of the rooms Cherry
“lost” Martha. She hunted up one of the two indoor guards who directed her to her patient.
By the time Cherry and Martha Logan had seen most of the paintings on the second fl oor, Cherry felt concerned that her patient was growing overtired.
Standing and walking in a gallery was very tiring, and Martha drooped.
“Don’t you think you’ve done enough?” Cherry asked.
“You mustn’t let yourself become exhausted.”
tired, but it’s only a little after eleven,” Martha protested. “I don’t want to cut our visit short.”
“Well, if you’d sit down and rest for a few minutes—” A guard hurried in, “Is one of you ladies a nurse?” he asked.
“I’m a nurse,” said Cherry. “What happened?”
“If you could come downstairs directly, miss—” the guard said. “Lady Liddy has been taken bad. She’s having an attack, miss. I don’t know exactly what—If you could come quickly—”
“Coming,” said Cherry.
Martha Logan said, “I’m coming with you.” They went downstairs, the guard leading the way, explaining. Lady Liddy had come downstairs to ask Mr. Carewe a question, and to answer it, he had 92
escorted her to the library. While consulting some books together, Lady Liddy had had a dizzy spell, grown faint, and collapsed, the guard said. “We all rushed to help her, miss, but we can’t bring her around—”
He led them to the library. There the other guard, on his knees, was supporting the woman who was sitting, slumped forward, in a chair. Mr. Carewe was awkwardly holding a glass half fi lled with brandy, while the secretary rubbed the young woman’s wrists. The librarian was pressing a dampened handkerchief to the back of the young woman’s neck. Someone had removed her hat, exposing her frightened face.
“Eh, nurse?” Mr. Carewe said. “Will you see what you can do for her? We have telephoned a doctor, but he is many miles from here.”
“I’ll try, Mr. Carewe,” said Cherry. She signaled Martha to sit down.
Then Cherry knelt, replacing the second guard. She held the young woman’s thin wrist between her own thumb and forefi nger. Her pulse count was normal—
a little rapid, but normal. Her hands felt warm, which was normal. Cherry watched her breathing and counted her respiration rate—a little quickened, but not much and not shallow. Cherry placed her hand on Lady Liddy’s forehead for a guess at her temperature. Her forehead was cool and dry—normal.
Cherry felt puzzled. If this were a fainting spell or a mild attack of some kind, where were the symptoms?
The woman was trembling, but that could be from
nervousness or fright, as much as from any faintness.
“Careful,” she thought, “I’m not a doctor. Perhaps I’m overlooking some symptoms.”
“Lady Liddy,” she said softly, “do you feel nauseated?
Or are you in pain?”
The young woman shook her blond head, but murmured, “Headache.”
Migraine? No, she showed no tension. Was she weak from hunger? Cherry asked, “Did you have an adequate breakfast this morning?” Lady Liddy nodded.
Miss Hayden asked, “Could it possibly be food poi-soning?” But that would have produced a cold sweat and nausea, as well as faintness, Cherry explained.
She bent and looked closely into the young woman’s face and clear eyes. Lady Liddy self-consciously averted her head.
John Carewe said irritably, “Why don’t you give her fi rst aid?”
“I see nothing to give her fi rst aid
Mr. Carewe,” Cherry said. She glanced at Martha Logan, who was looking as puzzled as Cherry felt.
“The best I can suggest, Mr. Carewe,” Cherry said,
“is that Lady Liddy see a doctor as soon as possible.”
“Here, give her this.” John Carewe thrust out the glass of brandy. “Revive her. Do her good.” The young woman refused the brandy. “I’m terribly sorry to be a nuisance.” She sighed. “I often have these fainting spells. I’m—I’m simply not very strong, you see. It’s nothing, really.”