at once she came to a door open onto thin air. No steps led up to it and only an iron bar discouraged one from stepping into the courtyard some fifteen feet below. She stood looking down at the cobbles; then turned, on hearing a nearby door open.
Geoffrey Thornton was coming out of his room. He greeted her, then said, ‘Excuse me a moment,’ went to the next door room, knocked on the door and called, ‘Hurry up, girls,’ then came back to Jill. She commented on the open door she was standing by and he told her it dated from the days when luggage from the bedrooms would be loaded through it onto the tops of stage coaches.
‘Fascinating,’ said Jill, gazing round the sunny courtyard.
‘If you’re looking for a bathroom there’s a gem on the next floor, with a huge porcelain bath surrounded by mahogany. Most of the bathrooms are new, or modernized.’ Church bells began to ring. ‘If my daughters don’t get a move on, we shall be late. It’s the done thing here to walk to church, so as not to litter the Close with cars; one’s entitled to park there but it’s highly unpopular with the residents.’
‘Oh, not as bad as that. The inhabitants of the Close would vote Conservative even if the candidate was a double murderer.’
Out of their room came Robin and Kit, rather conspicuously holding Prayer Books. They greeted Jill enthusiastically and she remembered to wish Kit many happy returns of the day. Then Robin said, ‘Do we look all right? Meek enough for church but smart enough for church parade? I’ve forgone my white boots.’
‘Good,’ said Thornton. ‘I find those white boots a bit much.’
‘But they give Robin such confidence,’ said Kit. ‘I’m sure white boots have a psychological effect.’
Jill said, ‘An elderly actress once told me much the same thing. She was showing me a photograph of herself during the First World War, with white boots up to her knees, and she said, “My dear, when I’d me white boots on I could have kicked God’s throne from under him.” But perhaps I shouldn’t have told you that, especially when you’re on your way to church.’
‘We only go to church to help Father make a good impression,’ said Kit. ‘And none of us believe in a God who would have a throne. Anyway, it was a lovely remark. I didn’t know white boots had been in before. I must do some research.’
Robin said, ‘I think I can risk my white satin boots at the Civic Reception, don’t you, Mrs Quentin?’
‘Valuable as Mrs Quentin’s views on boots would be, we must now go,’ said Thornton. He steered his daughters along the passage, then called back to Jill, ‘Do try that vintage bathroom on the second floor.’
‘But make sure the water’s really hot,’ Kit shouted.‘That bath can be chilly to sit on.’
Jill settled for the first bathroom she came to; she was anxious not to keep Miles waiting. He was fully dressed when she got back to their room, so she told him to go on without her – ‘While I organize food to get you through the day. I suppose there’s no hope you’ll come back for an early lunch?’
‘No, thanks, I’ve a lot to do. And I want to be around to help Cyril with his make-up.’
‘Peter said he’d do that.’
‘Peter may be a brilliant director but he’s never been an actor. He knows practically nothing about make-up. I’m not having him turning the boy into a freak.’
Which wouldn’t be too hard, thought Jill. Poor Cyril! If Miles and Peter started arguing about how he was to look, it would be enough to make any boy embarrassed. Well, she’d plenty to do, as she would undoubtedly have to feed others besides Miles. Few members of a company ever organized food for themselves during a dress rehearsal. After seven or eight hours they would be existing on chocolate – if they’d even brought that – and sending out for cups of tea carried in by none too willing dressers.
The hotel, having supplied a hamper of food and