Monday, 25 June 2007

Chapter 111

By the time they reached the bar, Harry, Ana, Alan and Danny had all relaxed a little. Alan felt he had said enough to satisfy his honour, and didn’t feel the need to embarrass his brother in front of Danny any further. So, if Harry could just have the good sense to steer clear of any tricky areas in their discussion, all might yet be well.

Danny, meanwhile, had been stitching together in his mind the snippets Harry was feeding him as they walked along. If Stuart McFry had purchased a bond in (he guessed) 1938 for £50,000, it must have represented a considerable amount of money to the McFry family. He knew that Stuart would have been first in line – possibly already had – the McFry inheritance. But the situation must have been complicated with the two older brothers out there in Spain, fighting for the Republican cause.

As the four of them chatted over a drink in the bar, it was Ana who raised the first doubts. “I don’t really understand, Harry,” she said. “Why would Stuart McFry specify that any income from the bond should go to Lillian Blyth? What was their relationship?”

“We don’t know that there was one. Lillian wasn’t giving anything away when we met her, was she Danny?” Harry asked, turning to his colleague.

Danny took a sip from his beer, noting (again) that Alan’s attention seemed to be easily distracted by the other people in the bar.

“She told us Stuart McFry was in love with her – that’s all. But it wasn’t reciprocated, from what she said. And we know she hated Thomas, so Harry and I have all but ruled him out of the equation,” he said. Harry noticed that Danny’s thinking had moved on, since their journey back from Telford on Friday, and was pleased to see that he might be edging towards the same conclusion he himself had all but reached.

Alan seemed to re-tune himself into the conversation: “Maybe she hated him because he got her pregnant?”

Harry responded, perhaps just a little too sharply: “No. I don’t think so. If Colleen Blyth was really his daughter, he would have made at least some effort to find her in France, after the war. But from what we know that didn’t happen. I think everything we’ve got so far points towards Jonathan Harcourt…”

“The journalist?” Alan asked, interested, now, in the discussion. Danny, who had got as far as dismissing Stuart McFry as the potential father, saw that Harry might well be right.

“Yes,” Harry replied to his brother, then turned to Danny. “Try this one out. Jonathan Harcourt and Lillian McFry meet in Madrid. They’re both posted to the south of the city – to Jamara. Both of them, fighting together, in the trenches. Lillian gets pregnant, but doesn’t know it until after they’re split up. The baby’s born when she’s in Guernica. Somehow, she meets up with Stuart McFry, and between them the three of them escape out of Bilbao.”

It sounded fantastic, to Ana, who had only heard pieces of Lillian’s story up to now. She was hanging on Harry’s every word.

“So, this Jonathan Harcourt … he might never have known that Lillian was carrying his child?”

“Yes, that’s right. It’s tragic, isn’t it? She was madly in love with the guy, as well,” Harry said, directly to Ana.

“Hmmm …” Alan interjected. “Tragic, yes. But at least no one could accuse him of deserting her, if he didn’t know.”

“Lillian looked for him after the war – after both wars, in fact. But she never found him. That’s the tragedy in all of this,” Harry said.

“Maybe it was for the best, all things considered,” Ana replied, sadness wreathing her features. “After all, who's to say that Harcourt loved her as much as she obviously loved him? What if she’d found him, and he wanted nothing more to do with her? That would be worse for her, surely?”

“Perhaps,” Harry replied. “You could be right. But not according to what someone called Colin McAllistair, who interviewed Harcourt 25 years ago, has to say. He's certain Harcourt loved her.”

“And Lillian doesn’t know this, remember,” Danny said, by way of clarification for Alan and Ana.

If Harry McFry was an irony miner, he might have thought he’d uncovered a rich lode with the story of Jonathan Harcourt and Lillian Blyth. If only he’d had the sense to keep digging, he might have found a richer seam still… vast, untapped reserves of the stuff, in fact.

As it was, Alan chipped in. “I still don’t fully understand why Stuart McFry would frame the bond in such a way as to benefit Lillian’s daughter, if indeed Colleen wasn’t his. What’s the deal? Did he never have family of his own?”

Danny replied for Harry. "No. Not that we know of, anyway. He did get married, but she was left a widow after Stuart dies in the Second World War."

Alan didn't seem convinced. "Fair enough. But that's looking ahead. When he purchased the bond, surely he had no way of foreseeing that he'd die, childless?"

Harry felt that Alan had a point, and he filed away the query for his own later use, even if his response seemed to brush it aside.

“I suspect,” he said, slowly, “that he wanted to stop the money going to Thomas.”

“Why would he want to do that?” Alan asked.

“Perhaps we should consider the simple possibility that he just hated his brother?” Harry replied, rhetorically. Maybe it would have been better, in the circumstances, if he hadn’t been looking directly at Alan as he spoke those words.


Drew said...

Hi Tom, I wanted to also say thanks for participating and voting in my Soda-Club contest. I got this link from Autumn Blue.

I am sponsoring a brand new contest starting in July. It will be on my blog The BenSpark and the contest is open to anyone, no matter where they live. I hope that you can participate.

Thomas Hamburger Jnr said...

Thanks drew - your contests are great fun!

Theresa111 said...

Thomas…Another great chapter. My favorite number is …111…and so this Chapter 111 was made that more special. Wonderful day.

Thomas Hamburger Jnr said...

Thanks again, theresa. And I'm pleased I was able to publish a chapter 'with your name on it'!