Authors: Helen Wells
Mr. Hazard riffl ed through a catalogue with his left
AN EVENTFUL WEEK
hand. He put it aside when Pierre Selsam said the exhibit was drawing record crowds.
“Marvelous show,” Mr. Hazard said. “Finer than any I’ve seen in Paris or New York all year.”
“Very kind of you to say so,” Pierre Selsam said. “It’s quite a responsibility, having nearly a million and a half dollars’ worth of paintings on the premises. Of course the paintings are heavily insured.”
“And of course you have a watchman,” said Martha Logan.
“Oh, yes, I have a watchman patrol the alley all night, and the police make frequent rounds around the clock,” Pierre Selsam said. “During the day I am here with the gallery caretaker, a guard, and the offi ce staff.
So I feel reasonably secure.”
Mr. Hazard engaged the gallery owner in a discussion of the Renoirs, which he particularly admired.
Cherry thought Mr. Hazard was being very careful in what little he said here this afternoon. The conversation turned to high-powered art investors who bought paintings as shrewdly as they would buy stocks and bonds to sell later on at higher prices. Pierre Selsam shook his head over collectors who cared nothing for art except to make a fortune out of trading in paintings.
Then he took his guests on a tour of the several rooms of the gallery, telling them anecdotes about some of the paintings. Cherry was dazzled by the colors and patterns. In the last room, someone knocked at a rear door. The guard unlocked and opened it to 56
a deliveryman, whom he greeted by name and who handed him a carefully wrapped painting. Then the guard closed and locked the rear door again, and tried it to make sure it was locked. Pierre Selsam watched.
“I should think, sir,” Mr. Hazard said, “that you would be as much concerned about any chance of fi re as of theft.”
“Indeed, yes. We did have a bit of trouble with a fi re last year. That’s why we installed a sprinkler system.” Pierre Selsam pointed out this equipment, which was almost hidden from view. “Oh, I quite overlooked showing you this lovely Monet! Do you know how Monet came to paint this one? . . .” It was a privileged visit. Finally Mrs. Logan said they must not take up any more of Pierre’s time. When his three delighted visitors thanked him, Mr. Selsam said,
“So happy to see you. Come back for another look some morning when there’s less of a crowd here. Martha, shall I see you again this trip? You Americans are always in such a rush.”
Martha Logan grinned, “I
hurry in my present battered state. . . . Yes, do phone me.” She was limping with fatigue, Cherry noticed, as they left the art gallery. Cherry recommended that Martha take it easy the rest of the day, and on the following days space out her appointments to allow for periods of relaxation.
“What, no sightseeing?” she protested. “I always enjoy seeing the great sights over and over again. Not that I’d attempt walking through the Tower of London, or
AN EVENTFUL WEEK
Hampton Court Palace and gardens—you’ll have to go by yourself, Cherry, while I’m resting or seeing the publisher or other people.”
So, during the next few days, they followed this plan.
Cherry appreciated Martha Logan’s eagerness for her to see as much as possible, but took good care always to put her patient fi rst. She kept watch to see that no swelling occurred in the right hand; if the cast on her right arm were proving too tight, it would constrict circulation and cause her right hand to swell. So far, so good. Cherry frequently changed the dressings on her patient’s legs; the abrasions were healing slowly but satisfactorily.
On Wednesday she escorted her patient to the offi ce of Dr. Alan Bates. It was two weeks since Mrs. Logan’s accident—time to consult Dr. Bates, according to Dr. Merriam’s instructions. Cherry learned that Dr. Bates was one of the topfl ight medical men in London. He had an assistant X-ray Mrs. Logan’s arm; then the X-rays were developed, and the doctor looked at the fi lm through a lighted view box. He said the arm was healing well, but the cast must remain. He also looked at the patient’s bruised, scraped legs and was satisfi ed with their condition. Her general health seemed satisfactory.
“You’re doing a good job, Nurse Ames,” Dr. Bates said, then told both Cherry and Martha Logan, “You must have this arm X-rayed again in about two weeks.
Where will you be then?” Edinburgh, they answered.
“Capital, I shall refer you to an excellent physician there,” Dr. Bates said.
He wrote out the name, Dr. Malcolm MacKenzie, and an address, with a note about his checkup of Mrs.
Logan today. He handed these to Cherry.
“Dr. MacKenzie probably will remove the cast,” he said. “In the meantime, Mrs. Logan, take care of yourself. See that she eats well, Nurse Ames, and rests suffi ciently.”
They thanked Dr. Bates and left his offi ce.
Their week’s stay in London was all too short. Martha Logan insisted she felt strong enough to take the peaceful boat ride along the Thames to Windsor Castle. Erected by William the Conqueror, and added to by other kings, the castle stood in the greenest countryside Cherry had ever seen. Once, while watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, they were caught in a sudden rain shower—but on the whole, the weather was perfect. By Friday, their last day in London, neither wanted to leave. They decided at breakfast to make the most of the day. Returning to Martha Logan’s room for coats, they turned on the radio for a weather report. A news broadcast came on:
“—robbery at the Selsam Gallery last night,” the announcer was saying. “The thieves stole thirty-fi ve contemporary paintings valued at three hundred and fi fty thousand pounds.”
That was more than a million dollars. Mrs. Logan dropped her umbrella. She and Cherry stood motionless, listening.
“Police believe the thieves scaled the fl at roofs of the area, bypassing the street and alley where a night
AN EVENTFUL WEEK
watchman was on duty. The thieves forced open a rear door of the gallery, a fi re-escape door, apparently using a small crowbar. They cut the paintings out of their frames, and left the empty frames on walls and fl oor.
“The robbery was discovered at seven o’clock this morning by the gallery caretaker, who comes in early to clean.
“The caretaker immediately called the police, and Scotland Yard is throwing out a massive dragnet for the thieves. Detectives are making an intensive search in the Mayfair area for clues. Ports and airports are being closely watched for the paintings, which, gallery owner Pierre Selsam believes, the thieves may try to smuggle immediately out of England to Russia or South America, to sell there. Interpol has been notifi ed—”
“Poor Pierre!” Martha exclaimed.
The radio announcer went on. “The theft is one of the biggest and most daring ever staged in Britain.
Mr. Selsam, interviewed within the hour, said the paintings were insured, but stressed that works of art are unique and irreplaceable. Mr. Selsam, profoundly shocked, pointed out that the theft was apparently masterminded by someone with a keen knowledge of art, who had selected only the fi nest works. Among the paintings stolen were—”
Martha Logan turned the radio off. “I don’t want to hear any more,” she said, and sat down, looking mis-erable. “My poor friend!” In a moment she remarked,
“Well, I’m at least going to call Pierre.” 60
She telephoned and told the gallery owner how shocked and sorry she was. After a short conversation she hung up.
“Pierre Selsam says,” she told Cherry, “that the police do not suspect anyone in particular, so far. You know, hundreds of persons freely walk into an art gallery—the thieves could be anyone.”
“No clues at all?” Cherry asked.
“None,” Martha replied. “Can you imagine how shocked Mr. Hazard must be at this news? He greatly admired those Renoirs. . . . That reminds me, I promised to call him up once more before we left. Would you mind putting the call through for me?”
“Not at all,” Cherry said. She telephoned the Ritz, only to learn Archibald Hazard had checked out an hour ago. “Aren’t you a little surprised he didn’t phone you to say goodbye?” Cherry asked Mrs. Logan.
“No, the last time we saw him, Mr. Hazard told me he was rather busy,” Martha replied. “It would have been a nice courtesy if he had phoned, but not necessary. We’re just casual acquaintances.” The Selsam robbery left them feeling glum, but they went ahead with a morning of leisurely sightseeing. When they returned to their hotel, Cherry found she had again missed a telephone call from Peter Holt.
This time he had left a message:
“Positively will see you in Stratford-upon-Avon next week!”
c h a p t e r v
Cherry Meets Peter Again
cherry felt encouraged. her patient seemed much better on Saturday. She did not tire during the morning bus ride from London through rolling country to Oxford.
In fact, she struck up lively conversations among the other American tourists who fi lled the bus. They said goodbye to their new acquaintances on reaching the ancient university town. Martha Logan had an appointment that afternoon with a scholar of English history, and research to do in the incomparable libraries.
Cherry escorted her from one medieval, formidable gray-stone building to another, and took notes for her.
On the way they had glimpses of chapels, stone arcades, gardens, and bell towers. A few masters and students were here early, before the school term started. That evening Cherry and Martha dined on beefsteak stew, pickled walnuts, and Queen’s pudding, and slept that night in high-ceilinged old bedrooms. Next morning 61
they attended a formal Sunday church service, then lunched and boarded a bus for Stratford-upon-Avon.
Nearing Stratford they saw, at a distance, several brightly dressed young persons on bicycles. Cherry wondered if they might be Peter Holt’s students.
Cherry fell in love on sight with Shakespeare’s little town, deep in the country. Their bus drove beside the gentle River Avon, where swans glided under wil-low trees. As the bus turned onto cobblestoned High Street, Cherry exclaimed, “Why, this is just a pleasant country town!” Its rows of Tudor half-timbered brick and plaster houses, with their latticed windows and fl owering window boxes, looked inviting and homelike.
Martha smiled at Cherry’s delight. “If Will Shakespeare were to come back,” she said, “he’d fi nd his town little changed.”
They alighted from the bus at one of the two or three big inns in Stratford. Cherry registered for her patient and herself, and was seeing about their luggage when someone said:
“Oh, there you are! I fi gured that any day now you’d turn up either at the Falcon Inn or the Welcombe or here. I’ve been inquiring at all of them.” Cherry turned and saw Peter Holt, looking delighted and sunburned. He wore tennis clothes and carried a racket. He pumped Cherry’s hand, greeted Martha Logan, and invited them to have tea with him right now, all in one breath. Cherry was pleased to see him again—and knew she must be showing it; otherwise,
CHERRY MEETS PETER AGAIN
why did Martha look so amused? Martha said: “Why don’t you two have tea together? I’ll just go up to my room and work on my notes.” But Peter persuaded her to come along, and escorted them to a tearoom next door to the inn.
They had just sat down, and were deciding on orange squash instead of hot tea, when a very tall, very thin, fair young man in tennis clothes stopped at their table.
“I say, Holt, I’ve nothing against your looking for this girl, as girls go,” he said cheerfully, “but have you quite forgotten the sterling character with whom you have a tennis date? I refer, naturally, to myself.” Cherry’s mouth opened at the sight of this tall, limp young man, who reminded her of an earthworm standing on end. Martha Logan’s face said plainly:
the world is this?”
“Oh, I am sorry, Ryder,” said Peter, getting up. “You wandered off there, and then when I found my friends—” He apologized and asked Ryder to join them, signaling the waitress for a fourth orange squash.
Ryder stood jauntily before them, plucking at his tennis racket as if it were a banjo. “I was about to suggest another game, but instinct tells me you won’t bob up on the court again today. Ladies”—Ryder bowed a little to them—“I was advising Holt on his backhand drive, and he was advising me on Shakespeare.”
“Sit down, Ryder,” Peter said with a grin. “Rodney Ryder has taken a sudden interest in Shakespeare.” 64
Ryder sat down, folding his lean length to cramp himself into the chair. His eyes were like blue icicles, and Cherry noticed he had a habit of blinking.
“My dear fellow,” Ryder said, “why shouldn’t I fancy going along with your learned little band to the Shakespeare exhibit again tomorrow?” He gave the two ladies a bland smile.
Peter hid his amusement. ‘‘Certainly, come along, if you like. Mrs. Logan, Miss Cherry Ames, this is Mr. Ryder.” Rodney Ryder’s expression changed as the American made the introductions. He looked uncomfortable. Perhaps, Cherry thought, Ryder knew of Martha Logan’s reputation as a writer, and felt self-conscious at fi nding himself in the company of the well-known historical novelist. Ryder blinked rapidly, said, “How d’you do? So happy to meet you. Now I must trot along and—er—telephone.”
“Here come our refreshments—” Peter put a detain-ing hand on the other young man’s arm. But Ryder clambered to his feet, mumbling, “Tennis tomorrow, at two on the tick? And then off for more Shakespeare?”
“It’s a date,” Peter agreed. “Before you go, you’ve got to recite that toast you said for us yesterday. Please.” Rodney Ryder lifted his glass and reeled off, as fast as he could: