At roughly eleven o’clock he brought her back to the Radford house. Mrs Radford’s car stood in the driveway and a Rolls Royce was parked in front. Yves insisted on seeing Georgina to the door, and although she offered her hand and then turned her back on him, he pushed in behind her. From the hallway, they saw the ATS driver reading a paperback in the kitchen. The girl glanced up and sprang to her feet at the sight of Yves’ uniform. He ignored her, his eyes already focused on the open door to the sitting room. He moved swiftly and walked in, switching on the light as he entered. Sir Howard and Philippa were on the sofa together and sprang apart when the light shattered the romantic mood. Philippa had let down her hair and removed her shoes; Sir Howard had shed his dinner jacket.
“Yves! How dare you burst in here!” Philippa demanded.
“I just brought Miss Reddings home, and we thought we’d have a nightcap,” Yves lied.
While Philippa’s eyes shifted to Georgina standing helplessly behind Yves, Sir Howard indignantly spluttered, “Just who do you think—”
Philippa cut him off, unable to curb her own anger: “You beast! You’ve been using poor Georgina to spy on me!”
“I didn’t come to spy on you. I came to offer you a lift to my parent’s home tomorrow.”
“Expecting to spend the night here, no doubt! I’ve made other arrangements.”
“About the lift, or about whose bed you’ll be sharing?”
“That’s enough!” Sir Howard ordered in a voice steeped in authority. “You are out of order, young man—”
“Don’t patronise me, Sir Howard! I’m not a ‘young man’ anymore. I’m an old man. One who’s lost too many friends because you and men like you were too arrogant to negotiate with Germany in good faith in 1919, too selfish to prevent an economic collapse in 1929, and too stupid to stop Hitler before we got into this bloody war.”
“How dare you!” Sir Howard puffed himself up into dignified outrage, “I’ll have you—”
Mrs Radford swept into the room and demanded to know what was going on.
“This arrogant young man—” Sir Howard started to explain with a dismissive gesture in the direction of the RAF officer.
“Wing Commander Gorel DSO—” Gorel started to introduce himself.
“I don’t care who either of you are!” Mrs Radford forestalled further explanation. “Both of you get out of my house! Now!” She pointed to the front door, and with surprising docility both men filed outside. For a moment Georgina could hear their angry, albeit lowered, voices outside. Then Mrs Radford began lecturing her lodgers about taking advantage of her hospitality and disrupting the entire neighbourhood. She threatened that if anything like this happened again, she would throw them both out.
Outwardly subdued, Philippa apologised, assured her nothing like this would happen again, and announced that she was going to bed. Georgina followed her up the stairs to their attic room. There Philippa turned on Georgina and asked how Yves had wormed his way into the house. After she explained, Philippa drew a deep breath and declared: “You are too naïve for words, Georgina, but I know Yves can be very persuasive, so I don’t blame you. He’s a beastly man.”
They left it at that, but as Georgina climbed into bed she found herself sympathising far more with Yves than with Sir Howard. Or was she just soft on anyone wearing RAF blue? No, she concluded. Sir Howard was married. If anyone was using anyone else, it was he. Yes, he was attractive in the way a mature man can be — particularly dressed, as Sir Howard always was, in flawlessly tailored three-piece, pin-striped suits and clothed in the aura of power. But naïve as everyone seemed to think she was, even she could see that the politician was only playing with Philippa.
Georgina remembered how her father had expounded on the connection between sexual and political power in the minds of men. She hadn’t quite understood what he was talking about at the time, but it all seemed to make sense now. Sir Howard wanted the much younger and stunningly attractive WAAF officer not because he cared about her but because she was a symbol of his own virility. Based on her father’s thesis, he needed a visible symbol of sexual power in order prop up his political position. Yves, on the other hand, was desperately in love with Philippa — or so it seemed to Georgina. It seemed odd, she reflected, that someone as savvy and wise as Philippa couldn’t see both men for what they were.
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