Authors: Mary Burchell
Tags: #Singers, #Opera
'Of course,' she had said rather stiffly. But she had found it difficult to explain to Jeremy why it was that month succeeded month and yet her employer—in spite of the rapid rise in his own circumstances—^never suggested again that he should hear what he had referred to so slightingly as her 'singing relatives'.
The struggle to get a first foothold in the musical world can be a heartbreaking one, and Jeremy's natural good spirits were often clouded nowadays. Even when he came in that particular
evening Caroline could see at a glance that he was profoundly depressed. The audition had gone quite well—but the engagement had gone to someone else.
'That's always the way/ he said dejectedly. 'I can't help knowing I was quite a lot better than the other chap who got the job. But he was already known to them, and these smaller touring companies tend to play safe and use someone whose work they've found satisfactory before. You can't
blame them, I suppose, but ' he shrugged and
made an unsuccessful attempt to smile.
Caroline's heart ached for him and she wished passionately that she could have had some good news for him. Why had she not made another attempt to interest her employer? It was silly and cowardly to hold back just because she knew that in these recent months of tension his temper had become unpredictable. Tomorrow, she promised herself, tomorrow she would tackle him.
At that moment her aunt's voice broke in with something as near to excitement as she could achieve.
*What do you think? Caroline found a perfectly wonderful diamond ring in St James's Park! Show it to him, Caroline,' she urged, as though even Jeremy's depression must give way before the sight of the splendid ring.
He took it quite indifferently, however, and all he said was, 'That's pretty. Not real, of course.'
*It most certainly is,' retorted his mother. 'I know a diamond when I see one.'
'But—that size?' Jeremy shook his head sceptically. 'It would be worth a fortime if it were real. Where did you find it, Carrie?'
Caroline explained all over again and, unlike his mother, Jeremy immediately asked if she had hurt herself when she fell.
'Not much. I'm all right now.' She smiled gratefully, for a little sympathy was welcome after Aunt Hilda's stoical indifference. 'I'll go to the police tomorrow. Or I suppose there might be an advertisment about it in the morning paper.'
*Why not the evening paper? I've got one somewhere.'
Jeremy went out into the hall and returned with a rather crumpled newspaper in his hand. He turned over the pages absently, his thoughts quite obviously more on his own affairs.
*Here we are—"Lost and Found". Now then—
"Small fawn Peke " No, that's no good.
"Dark blue wallet " What a hope! Why—' he
sat up suddenly and his voice sharpened*—here it is, by Jove! "Single stone diamond ring, lost
between Victoria and Piccadilly " Pretty wide
field, that, but it could take in St James's Park all right. "Finder p'ease contact Didcot & Didcot, Solicitors, etc, for reward. Or telephone information 444-6723." That's your ring, Carrie! Then it is real.'
*I said it was,' declared Aunt Hilda complacently. 'I knew I couldn't be mistaken.'
*What was that phone number?' Caroline asked in a curiously breathless voice, and Jeremy repeated it.
'You could phone now,' remarked Aunt Hilda, but Caroline shook her head with sudden obstinacy, for the most extraordinary conviction had come to her that she knew that number. She had, for some reason, had to note it at the office
recently and, if she were not mistaken, it was an important number.
Aunt Hilda was saying again that she should telephone at once, and was a good deal annoyed when Caroline replied mutinously that it was too late.
*It's never too late to give news of a lost diamond ring,' stated Aunt Hilda, and it must be admitted that she had a point there.
It was Jeremy who said peaceably, 'Leave it until the morning if you'd rather, Carrie. It could be just an office number, and no one would be there at this time of night.'
'More likely to be the owner's private number,' insisted Aunt Hilda. 'Just think of that poor woman lying awake all night. Now if it were me '
'But it isn't, Aunt Hilda,' cut in Caroline crisply. 'Anyway, I'm going to bed now.' And she went.
Fortunately Aimt Hilda's delicate constitution required that she breakfasted late, so Caroline escaped to the office the next morning without further discussion. By now she had come to the conclusion that she had simply imagined the significance of that number. But, all the same, when she arrived at the office and found her employer already there, she took a slip of paper from her handbag and put it down on the desk in front of him.
'Do you happen to know that telephone number?' she asked casually.
'Yes, of course,' he replied without hesitation. 'It's Oscar Warrender's ex-directory number. Why?'
*It was given in a "Lost and Found" advertisment in the evening paper—about a diamond ring.'
*Really?' He looked mildly interested. 'Something of Anthea Warrender's, I suppose.'
*I suppose so—I found it. There it is.' And this time it was the ring which she laid on the desk in front of him.
'Well, I'll be—Where did you find it?'
'On the grass beside a path in St James's Park. I fell down, and just as I was scrambling up again—there it was, looking like a drop of rain, only more valuable.'
'I'll say it was!' With an intrigued smile he turned the ring in his hand, watching the way the diamond flashed in the sunlight. 'Could be her engagement ring, I suppose. Even Warrender wouldn't give a ring like that except for a special occasion, I imagine. Are you going to return it in person?'
'I—I thought of doing so—^yes.'
There was a slight pause, and then she added rather shortly, 'Have you any objection?'
'I? No, not in principle. Just remember that you're not only a private person. You represent this firm. Be tactful—about the reward, for instance.'
Caroline tilted her chin angrily and said almost disdainfully, 'I do know how to behave, you know. And I didn't learn that in this office, I might add.'
Then, as she stalked to the door, she heard him laugh as he called after her, 'I'm sorry—I apologise. But, above all, don't try to foist that cousin of yours on Warrender, of all people.'
She checked very slightly in her lofty exit, then walked on, out of his office and across the passage to her own room. There she sat down at her desk and stared in front of her, her chaotic thoughts of the previous night suddenly falling into a clear and almost inevitable pattern.
It was his own fault, she told herself afterwards. It was he himself who had put the idea into words, wasn't it? She might not have thought of it on her own. At least
She took the cover from her typewriter and rather deliberately started on the morning's work. Only when she heard her employer leaving his office and then slamming the main door behind him did she pause in her typing. She gave him ten minutes longer, then, when he had not returned, she reached for the telephone and deliberately dialled the Warrenders' number. ^ Almost immediately a woman's charmingly pitched voice answered. And when Caroline asked if she might speak to Lady Warrender she was not really surprised to receive the reply, *Yes, I'm speaking.'
*Oh, Lady Warrender ' Caroline was
suddenly breathless*—my name's Caroline Bagshot, and I think I've found your ring. It was '
'You have} Oh, how wonderful!' The voice at the other end broke slightly and then Caroline heard her call to someone else, *Oscar! Some darling girl has found my ring!—^Where?—I
don't know ' and then to Caroline, *Where
did you find it, dear?'
Caroline explained yet again about finding the ring when she fell down and, to her surprise, the
celebrated Anthea Warrender (a prima donna in her own right, after all!) asked, just like kind Jeremy, if she had hurt herself.
'Not much, really. Anyway, I don't mind, because if I hadn't fallen I wouldn't have seen the ring. Lady Warrender, could I—could I bring your ring to you? It sounds silly, but I'd like to see your face when I hand it back.'
*Why, of course. And I don't think it's silly at all. I think it's very sweet of you to be so concerned. Shall I send the car for you?'
*Oh, no thank you! You're at Killigrew Mansions, aren't you? If I might come on my way home from the office ?'
*Yes. What time?'
'I'd be there between half past five and six.'
'Then your office can't be very far away.'
'No, it isn't,' said Caroline. And only when she had rung off did she admit to herself that—by accident or intent?—she had not mentioned where she worked.
To her relief, Kennedy Marshall was out of the office for most of the day. Then he came in late in the afternoon and she was kept busy until the last minute typing some urgent letters. She hoped and thought that perhaps he had forgotten all about the diamond ring, but just as she was leaving he said rather provocatively, 'Going to collect your reward?'
'Just so,' she replied with a cool little smile, and she took herself off to Killigrew Mansions, where her timid knock at the Warrenders' door was answered almost immediately by Anthea Warrender herself.
Caroline recognised her at once, not only from
photographs but from having seen and heard her as soloist at several concerts conducted by her famous husband.
*Come in.' She smiled radiantly. 'You're Caroline Bagshot, aren't you?—and you really have my ring?'
'Yes, indeed.' Caroline held it out to her even before she had been ushered into a large, pleasant studio overlooking the Park.
'Oh, my dear—thank you!' There were actually tears in Anthea's eyes as she took the ring and slipped it on her finger. 'It's my engagement ring, and I wouldn't have lost it for the world. It had been getting a little loose; it served me right for not having it attended to. I must have pulled off my glove for some reason—though I don't remember doing so—and it wasn't until I got home that I found my ring had gone. I was shattered! My husband said he would replace it with one as near as possible to the original, but that wouldn't be the same thing, would it?'
'I suppose it wouldn't.' Caroline smiled back at her rather shyly. 'I'm so very glad I foimd it, and I'm only sorry I didn't phone you last night.'
'It doesn't matter. Nothing miatters now that I have my ring back,' Anthea assured her. 'Did we mention the amount of the reward in that particular advertisement? And would you like it as a cheque right away?'
'Lady Warrender, I don't want a reward. I mean—^not a money reward. You see '
'But of course you must have the reward! You've earned it.'
'I haven't really earned anything,' Caroline
replied very exactly. *It was just luck, really. But '
*A11 right. It was my luck that you found it, and your luck too, and you must have the reward.'
'Lady Warrender, when I said I didn't want the reward, I meant—^not money.' Caroline was speaking rather quickly now. *But I do want something which probably only you can arrange. That was my luck, if you like. I have a cousin— a very dear cousin—^and he has a splendid tenor voice and is finding it very hard to get started. Do you—do you think you could persuade your husband to hear him and—^and perhaps put in a word for him in the right quarter?'
Anthea Warrender looked slightly taken aback. Then she said slowly,
*Well, I expect he would hear your cousin, in the circumstances. But I must warn you, my dear, that nothing on earth would make him give a favourable opinion imless he felt it was deserved. Still less would he give a recommendation in any quarter unless he really thought the young man merited it. He couldn't, you know,' she said simply. *He's not that kind of person.'
'I do imderstand that,' Caroline assured her earnestly. *But if—if he would hear Jeremy and give his opinion. It would either be the most wonderful encouragement or—or save him from a lot of future disappointment.'
*Well, shall we ask Sir Oscar?' Anthea gave that quick smile and, getting up, she went to the door and called, 'Darling, would you come here a minute?'
He came inmiediately and, as he entered.
Caroline realised that he was just as overwhelming in a room as he had seemed at the Festival Hall conducting an orchestra. More so, if anything, for great personalities tend to dwarf any ordinary surroundings.
'This is Miss Bagshot,' Anthea explained. 'She's just brought back my ring.'
Warrender in his turn thanked Caroline with some charm for having restored the ring which meant so much to his wife.
'To us both, of course,' he added frankly. 'It was her engagement ring.'
'So she told me,' Caroline said shyly. 'I'm so glad it was foimd.'
'Miss Bagshot is not much interested in the offered reward,' Anthea explained. 'Though of course I shan't let it go at that. She has a favour to ask. You see '
'She has a voice and wants me to hear her,' finished Sir Oscar, a faint shade of boredom coming over his handsome face.
Caroline drew in her breath in astonishment, but Anthea went on calmly, 'Not exactly. She has a cousin with a tenor voice.'
'Same thing—by one remove,' commented her husband. 'When would you like me to hear him, Miss Bagshot?'
'You mean you wilH' Caroline's voice ran up excitedly and a sudden smile irradiated her face.
'It would be rather churlish to refuse such a modest request when you've just given my wife such pleasure,' returned Oscar Warrender, and he smiled slightly in his turn. 'But I must warn you '
'I've already warned her, dear,' cut in Anthea
equably. *She knows you can't—and would not— do anything unless the young man is really worthy.'
'To which I must add,' Warrender told Caroline bluntly, *that for every worthwhile singer I have to hear, at least two dozen are no good at all, professionally speaking. Is tomorrow evening at six-thirty all Tight?'
'Indeed, indeed it is!' Caroline clasped her hands together in joy. *And I can't thank you enough. Sir Oscar.'