Recalled to Life

Recalled to Life by Reginald Hill Read Free Book Online

Book: Recalled to Life by Reginald Hill Read Free Book Online
Authors: Reginald Hill
Tags: Mystery
'sixty-one. After the events of that sensational weekend, he vanished from the scene and indeed the country with positively indecent speed, and the infrequency with which his name appeared in newspaper reports of the case and the trial suggests a considerable calling-in of cross-Atlantic favours.
'The Partridges were as English as Rampling was American, to the manner and manor born. The family owned a goodly proportion of the North Riding, having preferred acres to earldoms as reward for their loyalty to the Stuart cause in the seventeenth century, and to the anti-Stuart cause in the eighteenth. It was not till Thomas's retirement from active politics that a Partridge finally got a peerage, though as the noble lord says in his lively autobiography, In A Pear Tree , he would have preferred land if it had still been on offer. In nineteen fifty-five he had been elected Conservative member for the seat whose boundaries pretty well coincided with his own. By nineteen sixty-three he was a junior minister in the War Office, widely tipped for promotion in the next reshuffle. Then the sky fell in. He was too closely associated with his immediate master and long-time mentor, John Profumo, for comfort; his name kept coming up in the huge stew of rumours bubbling around Westminster all that spring and summer; and all poor Partridge wanted to do now was keep his head well below the rim of the cauldron.
'His wife, Jessica, nee Herdwick, fifth daughter of the Earl of Millom, was a formidably horsey lady with a great facility for breeding both champion chasers and handsome children. Her fifth (child, that is) was well on its way that weekend.
'The Partridge nanny, Miss Mavis Marsh, had every qualification and quality then admired in her profession. In her mid-thirties, she stood about five feet four, but looked taller in her immaculate starched uniform because of her unyielding erectness of posture, a physical trait she extended into her attitude on matters of etiquette, expression, punctuality, probity, and even diet. You never left your crusts when Miss Marsh was at table.
'The other nanny, Cecily Kohler, was quite different, more like a big sister than an agent of divine providence. She wore no uniform; indeed she even sometimes appeared in jeans, which were then not the universal garment they have since become. When she joined in our water sports, which as an expert canoer she often did, she was likely to end up as wet and tousled as the rest of us. Even her voice was a delight, for in it we heard the authentic accent of all that was most glamorous to our young imaginations. (We had no power to look ahead and see that the 'sixties were about to start swinging, with our own boring country at the very fulcrum of the mad intoxicating whirl.) We loved her because she loved us, and when I think of her, I still see the flushed and laughing face of a young woman, with russet hair blown across her brow in beautiful confusion. I have no art to link that image with the pallid skin, hollow cheeks and desperate, dark-ringed eyes of the woman I last saw being pushed into a police car outside Mickledore Hall.
'I have deliberately left her employers, the Westropps, to the end because they are the most difficult to characterize. James Westropp must have been, indeed I presume still is, the best connected commoner in the land, a distant cousin of the Queen's, and, as a magazine article on him at the time of the tragedy put it, within three deaths of a title whichever way he looked. It might have been expected that such connections would have hauled him up the diplomatic career ladder very quickly, but his apparent lowly status was explained in the same article. Westropp was no career diplomat with his sights on an ambassador's mansion. He worked for the Service that dared not speak its name, which was the coy way they put such things in those days. It could be argued that his sojourn in the States, like perhaps Rampling's in the UK, was a mark of

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