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Authors: E.V Thompson

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BOOK: The Lost Years
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Maude looked at him enquiringly. ‘What are you suggesting?’

‘Well, as I see it, the thing he wants more than anything in the world right now is to become a pilot with the Royal Flying Corps. He should have no difficulty in achieving such an ambition, but there is a way his acceptance can be virtually guaranteed . . .’

‘How?’

‘By ensuring he is in possession of a flying licence before he applies to join. Brooklands is where many pilots have qualified in the past. It is in the process of being taken over by our people, but there are still a number of instructors and examiners there. I know one particularly well. He is acknowledged as the best flying instructor in the country. I would be more than happy to arrange for Perys to take a flying course with him. With a pilot’s licence a commission in the Royal Flying Corps is assured. Cousin Edward’s father may have influence here in Cornwall, but it does not extend to the RFC. Besides, we are finding that those who march to the beat of their own drum make the best pilots.’

‘This flying course ... is it expensive?’

‘Seventy-five pounds. But I will be happy to foot the bill and make the necessary arrangements for accommodation for Perys while he’s under instruction at Brooklands.’

‘How long will it take?’

‘If he’s lucky enough to have a spell of good weather he could easily pick up his licence in no more than a week or so.’

‘As speedily as that?’ Maude was incredulous. ‘In that case, I will be happy to accommodate him at my home in Knightsbridge, although that might pose problems for him in reaching Brooklands each day.’

‘I think I can solve that problem,’ Rupert declared. ‘I own a Sunbeam motor-cycle that my father bought me when I first began flying. It has hardly had any use because I have developed a taste for driving his motor-car. Perys can have the use of it.’ He hesitated before adding, ‘Although I have said that Perys should be able to complete his flying course in little more than a week, if the weather is not fine it might take a great deal longer. Is that likely to pose you any problems in view of Arabella’s infatuation with him?’ ’

‘It might - if Arabella had nothing else to think about. But I intend taking the girls back to London in a couple of days’ time. Casualties from our army in France are arriving at hospitals in the city. There will be work for Morwenna - and for me too. I have arranged for Arabella to commence her nursing training immediately upon our return. She will be far too busy to think of anything else for quite some time.’

Rupert smiled. ‘I can see you have everything in hand, Aunt Maude. Now, I think it is time I prepared myself for the morning. I wish to make an early start. We will tell Perys of our plans for him over breakfast and see if he approves.’

* * *

The proposals put to Perys the next morning rendered him almost speechless. Unused to such thoughtfulness and generosity, he could only stammer out his thanks. Suddenly, all he wanted in life had become possible.

‘When will I be able to begin my lessons?’ he asked. ‘And what shall I do until then?’

‘You will remain at Heligan,’ Maude said, with her usual authority. ‘I will send a telegrams to your great-uncle Hugh explaining what is happening and follow it up with a lengthy letter. He has no plans to return here in the near future so he is certain to agree.’

‘Then it would seem that all is settled.’ declared Rupert. ‘I will have the motor-cycle sent here right away, Perys. It should give you plenty of time to practise on it. Then you can either ride it to London, or take it on the train with you, whichever you prefer.’

‘You are all being so kind, I just don’t know how to thank you.’ Perys felt foolishly close to tears.

‘I should be thanking you,’ declared Rupert ‘So too should their Lordships at the Admiralty. They were unaware that a German heavy cruiser like the Dortmund was on the loose. They thought they had it bottled up in one of the North Sea ports with the rest of the German navy. It could have proved very embarrassing and not a little costly had you not spotted it. When I reach the Central Flying School I will find out what happened as a result of your keen-sightedness and accurate drawing and let you know.’ Leaning back in his chair, he glanced around the table, his gaze resting on Morwenna for slightly longer than on the others. ‘Now, regrettably, I must be on my way. It has been a most enjoyable and exciting visit to Cornwall, but I have much to do. I hope you young people are coming to see me off?’

The reply was instant and unanimous. A few minutes later the four were making their way to where the aeroplane had been left overnight.

The sleepy guards had performed their duties well and were rewarded by Rupert with a guinea each. The sum represented almost a full week’s wages for the men and was gratefully received.

Twenty minutes later, Perys, Morwenna and Arabella were waving farewell as Rupert taxied his aeroplane downwind before turning and with throttle wide open accelerating across the field. The BE2c climbed into the sky, gaining height before banking and heading eastwards towards the plains of Wiltshire.

Perys watched with mixed feelings as the aeroplane grew smaller until it was no more than a distant dot in the sky. He had a very real sense of loss. He had liked Rupert very much and, flying in the BE2c, he had felt a sense of exhilaration that was like nothing he had ever experienced before. Only one thing could have made it completely perfect to be in control of the aeroplane. To be the pilot.

‘It won’t be very long before it is you soaring away into the sky, flying your own aeroplane . . .’ Morwenna’s words broke into his thoughts.

‘Do you think you will really enjoy being a pilot?’ Arabella asked. ‘It looks terribly dangerous.’

Not wishing to reveal the true depth of his feeling for flying, Perys replied merely, ‘I want to fly very much.’

‘Arabella is right though, Perys, it is dangerous.’

Perys wondered whether Morwenna was thinking of him, or of the pilot of the aeroplane that had just disappeared in the sky. Rupert had kissed both sisters, but his embrace for Morwenna had showed considerably more warmth than that given to her sister.

Perys felt that a marriage between the two would meet with unanimous approval in the family. Yet again the thought reminded him of the fact that he was not fully accepted as a respectable Tremayne.

The feeling remained with him even after Arabella said, ‘It’s going to be fun having you stay with us in London, Perys. I do hope it takes far longer than you expect to gain your pilot’s licence.’

Chapter 15

Maude and her two daughters left Heligan in mid-September. Morwenna was pleased to be returning to London because she knew she would be doing something to help the war effort by caring for the soldiers who had been wounded in the desperate fighting taking place in France and Belgium.

Things were going seriously wrong for the Allies. A friend had telephoned Maude to say that casualties from the battle-front were swamping the London hospitals. Medical staff were finding it hard to cope with the unexpectedly high numbers and every available doctor and nurse was being called in to help. Morwenna would be kept busy.

Arabella was thrilled that she too would be following in the family tradition. However, she was tearful at the imminent parting from Perys.

‘You must come to London soon,’ she said to him after successfully getting him on his own for a few moments at St Austell station on the day of their departure. ‘Please don’t forget me, Perys. I shall be thinking of you every moment of the day, and for much of the night, too.’

‘I shall never forget any of you, Arabella. You, Morwenna and your mother have all been very kind to me.’

‘That is not what I meant, Perys, as you must know very well,’ Arabella said, petulantly. ‘You are particularly special to me.’

Perys was saved from further embarrassment by the return of Maude and Morwenna accompanied by the station master.

‘The train is on time and will be here in a few minutes, Perys.’ Maude said, choosing not to observe the tears that had welled up in Arabella’s eyes. ‘We all look forward to having you to stay with us in London very soon. In the meantime you have a new toy to play with at Heligan. The station master has informed me that the motor-cycle Rupert promised to send you arrived on the overnight train from London. You can collect it when we have gone and either ride it back to Heligan or have it secured to the carriage and learn to ride it at your leisure.’

‘I think I had better allow Martin to take it on the carriage and learn to ride it at Heligan,’ Perys replied. I have never ridden a motor-cycle before. I would hate to have an accident on my first day. It is very kind of Rupert to loan it to me.’ Changing the subject, he said, ‘You have been very kind to me too, Aunt Maude. You, Morwenna and Arabella. I can’t remember spending a happier few weeks. I shall miss you all.’

‘We are going to miss you too,’ Maude said. Stepping forward, she embraced him warmly and kissed him on the cheek. ‘I wish we had all met many years ago. Never mind, you will soon be joining us in London and will be made very welcome there.’

At that moment the train came into view along the track, a shrill blast from the locomotive’s whistle giving a warning of its approach.

It hissed to a noisy halt and for a few minutes all was bustle as Maude and the two girls were settled in their carriage, two station porters helping with their luggage. Then, with another shrill message from the whistle, the train jerked into motion.

Arabella waved from the open window of the compartment until she passed from Perys’s view. He was feeling very alone on the station when he was joined by Martin.

‘The station master just showed me the motor-bike that’s arrived for you, Master Perys. It’s a beauty! I’ve had it roped on to the back of the coach. I suggest we call in at the garage and buy some petrol before we go back to Heligan.’

The motor-cycle was a two-geared Sunbeam and appeared to be new. Perys thought that once again Rupert had provided him with the means to enjoy a new and exciting experience.

There was a bag strapped to the machine’s pillion. When Perys removed and opened it he discovered it contained instructions for driving and maintaining the motor-cycle. Keeping the bag with him, he decided he would read the instructions on the journey to Heligan.

* * *

Perys took his first ride on the motor-cycle immediately after lunch. At first he had some difficulty starting the machine, but once he grasped the purpose of the ignition lever the rest was comparatively simple.

He had ridden pedal-cycles at school so balancing on the two-wheeled machine posed no particular problem. He made a noisy exit along the Heligan House driveway, pursued by the applause of the house servants and gardener who had gathered to watch his maiden ride on a machine that was still very much a novelty in the Cornish countryside.

By the time he had negotiated the long driveway to the road he was confident he would be able to maintain his balance on the machine. Half-an-hour later, after putting the motor-cycle through its paces along narrow lanes, he had mastered everything except changing gear from low to high and, even more difficult perhaps, from high to low.

However, by the time he approached the lane that led to Tregassick Farm he felt sufficiently confident of his riding skills to want to show them off to Annie. Turning off the road, he headed for the farm.

The sound of the Sunbeam’s engine sent geese and chickens fleeing in noisy complaint from the farmyard, and had calves and heifers crashing heavily against the wooden barriers of their pens.

Walter Bray was repairing a manger in the milking parlour when Perys made his unintentionally dramatic entrance. The farmer came into the yard, hammer in hand, as a sheepish Perys switched off the motor-cycle’s engine.

‘I’m sorry, Mr Bray, I seem to have caused some consternation among your livestock.’

A soft-spoken, mild-mannered man, Walter Bray said, ‘That’s a good word for it, Master Perys. I suspect ’tisn’t only the livestock you’ve mazed.’ Walter had seen Annie show herself briefly at the farmhouse door to witness the arrival of Perys. She had quickly disappeared inside. ‘Still, there’s no harm done. They’ll settle down again in a minute or two.’

‘I came to show Annie - and you, of course - the motor-bike. Isn’t it a beauty?’

‘I suppose it is if you like that sort of thing. I’d rather be sitting on something that has a leg on each corner myself. But then I’m a bit old now to want to change my ways. Go on inside the house. Our Annie is in there doing the housework for her ma, who’s down in the village washing and cleaning for a sick aunt of hers. Annie will no doubt appreciate this machine of yours more than me. She might even have a mug of something and a piece of cake for you. Meanwhile, I’ll get on with this manger. I want to finish it before milking time.’

At that moment Annie reappeared at the door of the farmhouse, noticeably tidier than before. As her father returned to his primitive carpentry, Perys called to her, ‘Come and look at the motor-bike, Annie. Rupert sent it for me to use while I’m waiting to join the Royal Flying Corps.’

Seemingly unimpressed with the motor-cycle, Annie said, ‘You’re really going to become a pilot then?’

‘Of course! I was certain even before I went up with Rupert. Since then I’ve been determined that nothing will stop me . . . but do come and look at the motor-bike, Annie. Isn’t it a beauty?’

In truth, it was the first motor-cycle Annie had ever really looked at, although she had seen one before. Edward Tremayne had owned one and had often been seen riding about the countryside, before he rode it into a ditch and caused such damage that it was never repaired. She agreed that Perys’s motor-cycle was indeed a beauty’.

‘Would you like a ride on it?’ Perys asked, unexpectedly.

‘Me? How? I mean . . . where would I sit, there’s only one seat?’

‘It has a pillion. You can sit side-saddle.’

Annie cast a meaningful glance towards the milking parlour. ‘I really shouldn’t. I’m supposed to be working in the house.’

‘We’ll make it a short ride. Just as far as the lane and back.’

BOOK: The Lost Years
2.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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