Robin Darcy, with seemingly genuine interest, then asked me politely when I'd first become interested in the weather, and I told him, as I'd explained a hundred times before, that I'd watched the clouds since I was six, and had never wanted a different life.
His amiability, I thought, was built on his certainty of his own mental superiority. I had long ago learned to leave that sort of belief unchallenged, and had received a couple of advancements in consequence. Only to myself could I admit my reprehensible cynicism. And to myself, often enough, I could also, with humility, admit that I'd more than met my match. I smiled weakly at Robin Darcy and couldn't decide where his cleverness ended-or began.
Evelyn asked, "Where did you go to learn meteorology? Is there a special school for it?"
I said, "It's called standing out in the rain."
Kris, on the move back to the buffet, overheard both question and answer and replied to her over his shoulder, "Don't listen to him. He's a physicist. Dr. Perry Stuart, no less."
Robin yawned and closed his myopic eyes, but somewhere in that sharp brain there had been a quickening. I had seen it and could feel it, and didn't know why he wanted to hide it.
Oliver Quigley hastened to assure me with many a quiver that he hadn't meant to insult me by considering an outside firm better, when we both knew he had come darned near to it. The difference was that although he appeared vastly disturbed by it, I didn't care at all. If Oliver Quigley would only take his shivery nerves and dump them on someone else's doorstep, I would be delighted. Caspar Harvey played the genial host faultlessly to give his guests good memories, collecting me from table, taking me in tow and introducing me to everyone in turn, persuading them to let me take their photo. Those who disliked the idea were overridden: Caspar offered refilled glasses, and got his way. I snapped Quigley and Loricroft together, the pair of racehorse trainers topping up on crisp roast potatoes and pausing briefly in passing to discuss their trade. I heard snatches of Quigley-"He never pays on time"-and then Loricroft- "My runner at Baden-Baden got bumped at the start."
Loricroft's bosomy wife confided proudly to others at the table, "George goes to Germany often and wins races there, don't you, George?" But Loricroft, coldly undermining her enthusiasm, cut the "often" to "only once" during the past season. "I win far more races in France, but I can't expect my dear wife to get things right."
He looked around to gather sympathetic responses and smiled with superiority down his nose. I thought Glenda a pain but her dear George an agony.
The splendid lunch narrowed down to coffee and worthwhile port and eventually, with regret, the guests began to leave. Kris and I needed transport back to the Cherokee, though, and Bell was nowhere to be seen.
Caspar Harvey himself put an end to my hovering on one foot by halting in front of me and saying decisively, "While you're here in Newmarket you may as well take a peek at my filly. Take her photo too. Then you'll know what's at stake when you're looking at Friday."
He put a tugging hand on my arm and made it downright rude for me to pull away: but I had no reason not to see the filly, if that was what he wanted, and felt it a small enough courtesy after such a lunch, if Kris were not pressed for time for flying home before dark.
It wasn't time that upset Kris, but the realization that he was expected to travel in the Land Rover again with Bell. There seemed no logical reason for four of us to travel in two cars to see the filly, but that was clearly what Caspar Harvey wanted; and when he'd cordially waved a temporary adieu to Oliver Quigley, his last departing guest, that was what Caspar Harvey got.
He drove out through the front gates, following Quigley's pale blue Volvo, and leaving Kris behind for his daughter to bring in the Land Rover.
From Second Wind by Dick Francis. Uused by permission of the publisher - Putnam.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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