Authors: Isobel Chace
SUGAR IN THE MORNING
to go out to the
West Indies to
meet her only
relatives. But it was not long before she discovered that they had
kinds of plans for helping her to spend her own money!
Nannie (Miss Eleanor Wannell) because the first time she went abroad she went to the West Indies.
travel agency where I worked was in absolute turmoil. One is always liable to make mistakes, of course, not so much in the package tours, but in the free-lance travel arrangements, especially when the international airways are so organised that the leeway for getting to one airfield from another is practically non-existent.
“We are so very sorry, sir,” Mr. Callaghan was saying to the irate customer who was the centre of this particular storm. “I really can’t think how it happened.”
“Perhaps it’s because you employ half-witted, inefficient staff,” the customer suggested nastily.
Mr. Callaghan bridled uneasily. “Can you remember who it was who served you, sir?” he asked ingratiatingly.
“Vividly,” the customer said drily.
My mouth went dry at the sound. It was peculiarly familiar. I glanced up from the sheet of figures I was pretending to add together and had my worst fears realised. Every once in a while a customer will stick in one’s mind long after he has departed and gone halfway round the world. Mr. Daniel Hendrycks was just such a man, only he had not departed at all, he was still here as large as life standing in front of the counter.
“Perhaps you could describe him?” Mr. Callaghan prompted gently.
I struggled to my feet, knowing that I would not be very difficult to describe. I was the only girl who was employed at the desk, but even so I was rather obvious,
for I am large enough to be described as statuesque by the kind—“good heavens, you’re tall!” by the not so kind. I have, too, my share of good looks, inherited from my mother. Nothing startling, you understand, but a skin which is as smooth as silk and pretty hair that looks after itself and curls up madly in the rain, even if it isn’t of any particular colour.
“Perhaps I can help Mr. Hendrycks,” I said carefully. His eyes kindled angrily when he saw me. He was a very dark man, with eyes which were almost black and a strong chin.
“I think it’s too late to be hopeful of that,” he glowered at me. “I have now managed to lose my plane back home and I want to know what you’re going to do about it.”
Mr. Callaghan hovered unhappily behind my skirts. “Very influential customer,” he muttered. “A tragedy that this should happen in your last week, Camilla.”
“Most unfortunate!” I agreed through gritted teeth. I have never been able to see why mistakes should be either more or less important in one’s last week than in one’s first.
“It’s more than unfortunate, it’s unforgivable!” Mr. Hendrycks put in, having obviously heard every word.
“It is scarcely our fault,” I reminded him bravely. “I did tell you that it would be a close thing. There was barely half an hour for you to get from the Munich arrivals to the Trinidad departures. The Munich plane was held up and you missed the connection. I’m very sorry, sir, that it’s so inconvenient, but we don’t fly the planes!”
It was obviously a novelty for him to hear such plain speaking. First of all he looked very angry indeed and then he smiled reluctantly. “What are you going to do about it?” he asked in a much more reasonable tone.
I bit my lip. My own ticket for Trinidad was in my
handbag, but it was for four days’ time and I didn’t see Mr. Hendrycks hanging about London until then.
“I will do all I can to get you a seat on the next plane.” I looked him steadily in the eyes. “Will you wait while I telephone round?”
He nodded briefly. I went back to my seat and rang all the usual companies, more in hope than in any real expectancy that they would have a vacancy. It was every bit as bad as I had feared, but there was a single seat on my own flight and I booked that for him with an unaccountable feeling of gloom. I didn’t want any connection from the life I was leaving behind to be on that magic flight to Trinidad and the brand new life I had planned for myself.
When I came back to the counter Mr. Callaghan was very busy filling him in with all the local gossip. “That’s our Miss Ironside,” he was saying unctuously. “She’s leaving us at the end of the week. Came into a fortune on the Premium Bonds, you know.”
It was a fortune to me, but looked at objectively I suppose one would call it a tidy sum and leave it at that. It still seemed incredible that of all the people living in the United Kingdom, Ernie should have selected my bond from all the rest for the weekly win of twenty-five thousand pounds. Why me? At first I hadn’t been able to believe it and then. I thought I had made a mistake because I hadn’t claimed or anything like that, but finally the confirmation of the win had come, and then the cheque itself, which
could hardly bear to pay into my meagre bank account because I had never in my whole life seen such a sum of money written on any cheque before.
“I can get you a seat in four days’ time, sir—”
days! What on earth am I expected to do meanwhile?”
For the life of me I couldn’t resist one of his own
superior, slightly sarcastic smiles. “A hotel?” I suggested.
He didn’t altogether appreciate being laughed at. “I suppose so,” he said acidly. “May I congratulate
young lady, on your good fortune. What are you going to do now you’re rich?”
I hesitated. If he had been anyone else I would have snubbed him because it really wasn’t any of his business, but there was something unsettling about the look in his dark eyes and I found myself saying awkwardly, “Actually I’m going to Trinidad myself. My uncle lives there and I thought I would visit him and meet my cousins.”
“I imagine you will be welcome if you take your fortune with you,” he commented.
“What on earth do you mean?” I demanded.
“I thought you said your name is Ironside,” he replied drily.
“Then I rather think I know your uncle,” he told me. He drew out his wallet with a thoughtful expression and extracted an ivory white, hand-printed card from it. “My card,” he said, dropping it from a height on to the counter before me. “Don’t take advantage of it unless you really need to, will you? But I can hardly allow you to lau
ch yourself into the unknown without a single bolt-hole should the need arise—”
“I imagine my uncle will afford me all the protection I need,” I said stiffly. I refused to pick up the card although I was curious to look at it. People of my acquaintance no longer had such things and I was curious to see what this obnoxious man did for a living that he had to fly round Europe at such speed and expense.
“I would hardly like to rely on your uncle,” he drawled. “Or anyone in that raffish family. Keep your
money in the bank, my dear, or it will all end up in their pockets—and whatever you do, don
let their peculiar brand of charm ensnare you into marriage
Thoroughly angry now, I glared at him across the counter. “I’m hardly likely to marry my own uncle!” I snapped.
He looked amused. “I was thinking rather of his sons,” he smiled. He picked up the ticket I had made out for him and put it carefully away in his overflowing wallet. “Goodbye, Miss Ironside, and good luck.”
It was dull when he had gone. Mr. Callaghan threw me long, curious glances from his desk at the other end of the counter from mine. He was an extraordinarily wet man, in his middle years, who had never summoned up enough courage to marry or to do anything else that might upset the even tenor of his days.
“Did you know you booked him on the same flight as your own
” he asked at last.
“There wasn’t any other flight available,” I retorted in businesslike tones.
“Funny that he should know your family. I thought you took his eye, Camilla! Looks a catch, wouldn
t you say?”
“Hardly,” I said fastidiously. “I don’t think he’s on visiting terms with my uncle. He’s probably a gambler, or an international playboy—”
“We’d know his name if he belonged to the Jet Set,” Mr. Callaghan objected eagerly.
wouldn’t!” I said smugly.
“You know, Camilla, money does something to people. Do you know that you’ve changed already? I remember when you were glad to get a job here—”
“So do I!” I exclaimed. “I’ve liked working here on the whole. I shall miss it.”
“Miss the Travel Bureau? Don’t be silly!”
“No, truly,” I assured him. “I’ve liked being here!”
“But then you’re easily pleased,” he remarked jealously. “You’d be happy anywhere, Camilla, and that’s the truth of the matter!”
“Perhaps,” I agreed. I thought of Trinidad and the sandy beaches and the gorgeous fruit that would be there for the picking. “Do you know anything about sugar?” I asked.
Why?” Mr. Callaghan countered cautiously.
I threw back my head and laughed. It sounded so grand and I revelled in being able to say it. “Because,” I said reverently,
it so happens that my family is in sugar.”
Well, I don
t, he said grumpily. “No more do you!”
“Not a sausage,” I agreed cheerfully. “But I shall! Before I
m through I mean to know everything about it. Just imagine it—”
Just imagine that you have a further two days in this office, Miss Ironside, and get on with your work!”
I sighed, but I saw the justice of his complaint. If I didn
t finish my side of the bookings before I went it would only be there waiting for him to do the following week. I settled down with a will and began to work out the complicated schedules that my particular customers required. It was work that I enjoyed and I did it well. It seemed no time at all before the afternoon came to an end and we were packing up our papers and putting on our coats ready to depart.
“See you in the morning, Camilla,” Mr. Callaghan said as he locked the door behind us, just as he always did every night.
I felt my eyes fill with sudden tears. “You’ll only be able to say that once more,” I said flatly.
“There’ll be someone else to say it to,” he reminded me cheerfully, and stamped off into the darkness just as he always did. I stood and watched him go for a long moment, feeling unbearably sad, and then I went home
myself, to dream of Trinidad and the bright sunny days that were to come.
It was drizzling in London. Snow had been forecast, but as Januaries go it had not been a particularly cold one. I was dressed in a new coat that had a rich fur collar. It was quite stunning, a bright cherry red and lined with a brilliant silk shot with silver. I felt very smart indeed. Actually I must have stood out like a sore finger, what with the colour and my height and everything, but I was quite unconcerned as I waited for our flight to be announced. I had even forgotten all about Mr. Daniel Hendrycks.
He looked cold when we all gathered for the bus that was to take us from Cromwell Road out to London Airport. Too late, I wished I had worn something demure and anonymous because I didn’t want to have to listen to him all the way to Port of Spain, as I feared I might have to if he had ideas of looking after me during the long flight, or worse still felt that he had to warn me all over again about my impossible family in Trinidad.
was in the hotel business, as well as exporting and importing various produce in and out of Trinidad and Tobago. He had had it all neatly inscribed on his card. I only hoped that one of the things that he didn’t export was sugar. I felt the Ironsides would manage a great deal better through some other exporter.
“Well, Miss Ironside?” His voice was an unwelcome addition to the tannoy instructions as to which gate we should go to board the bus.