Castle Wemyss and Its Private Yacht Jetty

LORD INVERCLYDE'S MARRIAGE to ACTRESS JUNE HOWARD - TRIPP

A Brief Introduction June Tripp, sometimes known just by her screen name, June, was an actress, Blackpool on June 11, 1901, she died on January 14, 1985 in New York City. born in

June worked mainly on stage, in revues and made a handful of films, mostly in the silent era, The Yellow Claw (1920) and Riding for a King (1926). Her most notable screen role was in the silent Alfred Hitchcock thriller The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927) where she played opposite Ivor Novello. 1

In 1929, she married Lord Inverclyde, and left theatre and film to become a socialite, living at Lord Inverclyde's seat, Castle Wemyss, overlooking Wemyss Bay on The Firth of Clyde. Divorced in 1933, she returned to the stage, married her second husband, American businessman Edward Hillman Jr. in Cannes on August 30, 1937, settled in the USA and later appeared in a cameo role in Forever and a Day (1943). After providing the narration on the Jean Renoir film The River (1951) and appearing in Les Miserables (1952), she retired from acting in the 1950s and published her biography, The Glass Ladder (London : Heinemann) in 1960.

John Alan Burns, 4th Baron Inverclyde of Castle Wemyss, born on December 12, 1897, the son of James Cleland Burns, 3rd Baron Inverclyde of Castle Wemyss and Charlotte Mary Emily Nugent-Dunbar, was educated at Eton College, Eton, Berkshire and The Royal Military College, Sandhurst, Berkshire. Joining The Scots Guards, he was wounded and gained the rank of Lieutenant in WWI and served as a Captain with The Scots Guards in WWII. John Alan Burns succeeded to the title of 4th Baron Inverclyde of Castle Wemyss on August 16, 1919 and was invested as a Knight, Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (K.St.J.) and was admitted to The Royal Company of Archers. He married, firstly, Olivia Sylvia Sainsbury, daughter of Arthur Sainsbury, on November 23, 1926, they divorcing in Scotland in 1928. As a consequence her marriage, Olivia Sylvia Sainsbury became Baroness Inverclyde of Castle Wemyss on November 23, 1926, her married name becoming Burns. Secondly he married June Howard-Tripp, daughter of Walter Howard-Tripp, on March 21, 1929, they then divorced in Scotland in 1933. As a consequence her marriage, she in turn became Baroness Inverclyde of Castle Wemyss on March 21, 1929, her married name becoming Burns.

Inverclyde was on board the Lancastria when she was sunk off St. Nazaire on June 17, 1940 and was rescued by the crew of HMS Cambridgeshire, a 443-ton anti-submarine trawler, 2

which had been requisitioned by the navy in August 1939, she then given a 4 inch gun, machine guns and depth chargers, she herself surviving the war and, after returning to peacetime trawling in 1945 as the Kingstone Sapphire, was scrapped in 1954. After returning to England, Lord Inverclyde presented each of his rescuers with a round rosewood box full of cigarettes, each box with an engraved silver plaque, each individually named and then given the wording " . . . HMS Cambridgeshire St. Nazaire to Plymouth 17th to 19th June 1940 from a grateful passenger Inverclyde/Scots Guards". Lord Inverclyde died on June 17, 1957, at the age of 59, without issue, the title becoming extinct on his death. Castle Wemyss itself stood high on Wemyss Point, overlooking The Firth of Clyde where it heads south towards The North Channel of The Irish Sea. It was built around 1850 for Charles Wilsone Brown, a property developer who had plans to develop the land around Wemyss Bay, and who by 1855 had increased the number of villas from four to thirty six. These villas earned the nickname 'Little Glasgow' because they were let to wealthy Glasgow merchants. Wilsone Brown sold the mansion to Sir John Burns (later Baron Inverclyde) in 1860. Burns commissioned the architect Robert William Billings to remodel the house in the Scottish baronial style, expanding the original structure by adding a new floor, new wings and a clock tower to the south-east corner. Castle Wemyss became a fashionable destination for many well-known visitors, including Lord Shaftesbury, Anthony Trollope, General Sherman, Henry Morton Stanley, Peter II of Yugoslavia, Emperor Haile Selassie and members of the British Royal Family. It is reputed that Trollope wrote part of Barchester Towers whilst at Wemyss Bay and that 'Portray Castle' in The Eustace Diamonds was based on Castle Wemyss. Whether this is true or not, Trollope places Portray in a similar geographical location, with a description of the castle and its vicinity which is very like that of Castle Wemyss. The house remained in the Burns family until the death of Alan, 4th Baron Inverclyde in 1957. None of his family were able to afford the cost of maintaining such a large property and it was sold to a developer. Greenfield legislation meant that whilst much of the larger estate was developed as Wemyss Bay grew in the 1960's and 1970's, the house itself was left untouched.

Gradually falling into decay (and subsequently de-roofed to avoid payment of housing rates) it was not until 1984 that it was finally demolished.

3

In the 1990's the grounds themselves were finally redeveloped, and all that now remains of the house is a broken flight of stone steps and a flagpole marking the entrance to the drive. However, the locally formed Woodlands Trust have started to reclaim the Victorian fernery from the rhododendrons. Formal paths have now been established in the woods which are immediately adjacent to the site of the former castle. What now follows is in the words of Inverclyde's second wife, June Tripp, the tale extracted from her own book, "The Glass Ladder", tells of her early years before WWI and then of her brief marriage to Inverclyde, that seemingly foundering because SHE TALKED IN FRONT OF THE SERVANTS ! The machinations of the ensuing divorce made headlines in all the papers of the day, divorce proceedings then a matter for the courts, the press and the prurient. Her descriptions of life in Castle Wemyss and on board Inverclyde's steam yacht, the "Beryl", are important because, that is all we have left of the forgotten era of the villages of Skelmorlie and Wemyss Bay and their BIG HOUSES. Necessarily, to make events a little clearer in their progression, June begins her story in childhood and, for those who are impatient, they should know here that Inverclyde does not not make his entrance for another 'half dozen pages or so' ! I was never poor, never hungry, and my parents never beat me; but I was not welcome. There were already three sons in the Howard-Tripp family, yet Mother wanted another, and when a daughter was announced she turned her face to the wall and moaned, 'What have I done to deserve this ?' I can only hazard a guess that Daddy (Walter) had been off on one of his extramarital jaunts and she was feeling sorry for herself. Eighteen months later the fourth boy arrived, making five children to be fed, clothed and educated on Daddy's increasingly erratic stage salary. A fine Shakespearean actor, he was also a beautiful man cast in the Byronic mould, full-lipped, wide of brow, romantic in looks and temperament; but he was somewhat ill-at-ease in any but classical roles and when drawingroom comedy and drama became the vogue in the Edwardian era he found himself less and less in demand by London managers. Mother was a talented and skilful actress, trained in the school of Henry Irving and Beerbohm Tree, and could have made the transition from Shakespeare to Pinero, Rosalind to Kliza Doolittle with consummate ease. But the growing menage cut short her promising career. Once upon a time there had been enough money to maintain a large house on the verdant heights of Hampstead Heath and a nurse and nursemaid for the children, because in a day when ladies were presumed to know nothing of world finance our maternal grandmother had played the stock market to advantage. However, having captured his pretty little heiress, Kitty Sutherland-Walker, Daddy proceeded to dissipate her tidy fortune on ill-starred theatrical 4

ventures and by the time I was old enough to observe my surroundings we were crammed into a tiny villa in a garden-suburb of London. From the outside it was a replica of all the other houses along the street; a small red-brick-andstucco affair with a small garden at the back, a pocket-handkerchief of a lawn in front, a privethedge and a green painted iron gate that always squeaked - but the emotional and financial crises within its walls set it worlds apart from its neighbours. Something exciting or unsettling was always happening. Daddy landing a fine role in a successful play; Mother finding a love-letter and screaming for divorce; well-to-do aunts bustling in and out with congratulations, tongue-clucking sympathy or bust-heaving indignation, according to the demands of the current situation; always a hue-and-cry over something or somebody. Except, me. A pale, quiet little girl, I supplied the only negative element. A syringa bush grew just outside the little conservatory which served as my playroom and its fragrant and tender shade was my refuge whenever tempers flared. Mother, very much the actress, although long retired, seldom missed a cue for a scene. I shall never forget her high-handed banishment of my oldest brother, Sutherland, for some misdemeanour. Pointing dramatically to the front door she said, 'Leave this house at once ! Pack your trunk and go !' Suthie, a lean, good-looking, rather sullen lad, answered quietly, 'Very well, Mother. But where ?' 'To your Aunt Maud.' I had no idea of the nature of his crime but felt it could not deserve such dire punishment. Aunt Maud was a stingy, irritable woman whose large and gloomy Bayswater house was filled with stuffed birds, plush furniture, crocheted antimacassars and faded daguerreotypes of defunct relatives. She attended the neighbouring Anglican church and read a chapter of the Bible every night, but charity of mind or action seemed sadly absent. Once a week I was taken to her house for my piano lesson given by her tall, nervous daughter, Eva, whose only escape was marriage to a bearded gentleman twice her age. The lesson took place in a chilly basement room so that my faulty scales and arpeggios could not disturb my aunt's nap. And afterwards I was given a glass of watered milk and stale rock-cakes. I felt sorry for Suthie, and snivelled in a corner of his room while he packed a battered tin trunk and bound it with cord. I wondered how it would feel, not to see him at the breakfast table, reading a detective yarn propped against the milk-jug. As far as I could remember my brothers had always been around, in and out of the house and garden, making model airplanes, doing homework at the dining-room table, arguing and tussling and plotting. Suthie was about to shoulder the trunk when Daddy appeared in the doorway. 'Try not to be angry with your mother,' he said, 'She has been through a lot, you know . . . and I am afraid I have not been much of a help.' Suthie passed him without a word. Being a bit of a snob, Mother was irked by the social descent from Hampstead to West Ealing. She despised what she termed 'the obnoxious gentility' of our neighbours and refused to budge an inch past nodding-acquaintance with any but a gay and garrulous family named Ives, who were theatre-crazy; and I was not permitted to consort with any other children. 5

I cannot recall that this bothered me; I had my brothers and I had my syringa tree, my dolls, my fairy books. As for Daddy, coming and going like a gentle 'shade', he barely touched my existence except on Sundays when his theatrical cronies iwarmed into the house for two o'clock lunch and stayed for cold supper. Then I would be brought downstairs to sit on his knee and be fed almonds and raisins dipped into his glass of port. Apart from an embossed silver toilet-set, six Crown Derby coffee-cups and a Georgian silver tray, all that remained of our diluent days was Emily Wakefield, a chirpy, snub-nosed little woman who had come into the family as second-in-command to the formidable Maggie, a female in the tradition of the fast-dying race of English nannies. Now Emily was what she described in her more harassed moments as 'maid, cook and bottlewasher'. In times of acute financial distress she was also our banker, dipping willingly in her little nest-egg. Wages or no wages, she refused to leave her five 'bairns', and with a familiarity born of long and faithful service she alternately pampered and bullied Mother. I was attending the local school near by and was always in hot water, it seemed. My hand was slapped with a ruler because I 'showed off" with an embroidered handkerchief. My hand was whacked even harder because in painting class I asked the teacher for a darker green with which to shade the leaves. I ran out of the room and home to Mother. 'Leaves aren't all the same colour. Mama, and I wanted to do them properly.' Furious, Mother removed me from the school and thenceforth undertook my education at home. On Wednesdays and Saturdays I went to Lila Field's academy for my dancing lesson. The Russian Ballet invasion was on, with Anna Pavlova, Nijinsky, Karsavina and Mordkin in the dazzling vanguard. Their tremendous success had produced a mushroom-growth of English ballet schools, and Miss Field's was considered one of the best. Her studio was large, with a barre running along three sides, and a dais at the end of the room. On the dais, in addition to spindly little chairs for the mothers and nannies, stood a carved, high-backed chair in which Miss Field, a thin, erect lady with liighly-rouged cheeks and a devastatingly refined accent ruled like a rather cadaverous queen. I did not enjoy my lessons; the exercises bore no resemblance to dancing as I envisaged it. When I practised at home and heard carefree {children playing in neighbouring gardens I grumbled and grizzled. But to no avail. Mother, who had been heard to swear that only over her dead body would any of her children go on the stage, was already plotting my career. At Lila Field's school I met three children destined for fame; Ninette de Valois, who became one of the founders of Sadler's Wells Ballet; Micheal MacLiamonoir, the author of an enchanting book of theatrical memoirs entitled All for Hecuba', and last, but obviously not least, a boy with elfin ears and a foul temper, named Noel Coward . . . My aversion to Noel, with his black suits, horse-laughter and fiendish grimaces, was expressed in haughty head-tossings. Many years later, at one of Ivor Novello's glamorous parties, Noel explained our juvenile antipathy with Cowardian conciseness and clipped diction. 'Brrrattish rrreaction to each other's brrrilliance, darling !' Early Summer 1911 and something of unusual moment was a-foot. As soon as Daddy was out of the way, Mother and Emily had their heads together like a couple of witches over a cauldron, and I heard my name repeated so often that excitement welled up inside me. 6

My ninth birthday was just around the corner and in some yearning reach of my mind was born the wildly splendid notion that I was to be given a fancy-dress party. What heaven, to be Titania with a star on my head and a star on my wand ! I let a hint fall here and there. Mother took me shopping. We visited Gamba's, the theatrical shoeshop, where I fitted my first pair of pink satin ballet slippers. This in itself was fraught with significance, because I had always worn black satin; they did not soil so quickly. Then we took a bus along the Strand and walked up the shady side of the street to Burners. Burners was aglow with rich-coloured satins, brocades, velvets; gold and silver lame, and billows of gauze sprinkled with stardust. I filled my eyes with the glories of scarlet, turquoise, rose-pink, emerald, magenta; and when Mother paused to finger white tulle sparkling with dewdrops I held my breath. 'What can I do for you, Madam ?' inquired the woman behind the counter. 'A pair of pink spunsilk tights for my little girl,' Mother replied. My head positively reeled ! Was my party really to come true ? My legs were carefully measured from crotch to heel. 'Anything else, Madam ?' I watched Mother eagerly and it seemed as if her glance lingered on the lovely shimmering tulle. But she said, 'Not today, thank you.' While my tights were being wrapped we stood near the open doorway to catch a breath of air. I stared into the sun-bright street and hoped I was not going to cry. Mother took the package and said, 'Now we will have lunch at Lyons Corner House.' Halfway down the street my disappointment burst its hounds. Mother stood stockstill and flushed with anger and embarrassment. 'How dare you make a scene in public ! Blow your nose and come along.' Not another word passed between us until poached eggs on toast were set before us and I found I could not eat. 'I ... I thought I was going to have a ... a fancy-dress party !' I choked. 'Heavens above !' cried Mother. 'So that is what you have been hinting at !' But the expression in her eyes belied the sharp tone. She took my hand. 'Well, you might as well know now,' she said, and proceeded to tell me that Anna Pavlova, the great Russian ballerina, was searching for twenty-four children to appear with her in a new ballet, Snowflakes, to be presented at matinees during her forthcoming season at the Palace Theatre. 'And tomorrow,' she said, 'Madame Pavlova is coming to Miss Field's studio ! If you dance well, you may be chosen.Now !' she smiled. 'Isn't that much more eixciting than a fancy-dress party ?' I swallowed the lump in my throat, and nodded obediently. Everything appeared much as usual in the studio except that Miss Field was dressed to kill in a frilly lace jabot, a plumed hat and long white kid gloves. Mrs Popper, the stout little pianist, looked festive, too. A pancake of scarlet poppies sat on top of her head and the silver chain of her pince-nez was fastened to her bosom by a blue enamel butterfly brooch. For some unknown reason, since only girls were needed, Noel Coward was beetling about, grinning and strutting and up to no good, I suspected; and sure enough, he tripped Ninette as 7

she came out of the dressing-room in pink tulle and ostrich feathers. She sat flat on her little bottom, staring ahead like a beautiful doll, with her legs sticking straight out in front of her. As her nannie rushed to pick her up, I saw Noel sidling to where I was rubbing the soles of my slippers in the resin-box. 'You can't dance in Madame Pavlova's ballet,' he hissed. 'You're not old enough. You have to be ten, to get a stage licence. Ha-ha-ha.' I climbed on the dais to tell Mother. She stroked my hair. 'Darling child,' she cooed, 'you will be ten years old next week.." 'No, I won't. Mother,' I said. 'I'll be nine.' She cast a hasty glance at the woman sitting next to her, then patted my cheek. 'You will be ten, darling. Now run along.' I went back to Noel. 'I shall be ten next week,' I informed him haughtily; and before he could retort we heard a slight commotion outside the door, the door opened, and Pavlova entered. Small, slender, with ivory skin and large sombre eyes, she wore a clinging gown of ivory lace and a colossal black hat smothered with creamy osprey. Miss Field was thrown into a dither by the presence of the world's 'ballerina assoluta', she fumbled her curtsy, dropped her ebony cane and turned scarlet under a generous coating of heliotrope rouge. Cool as a water-lily, Anna Pavlova accepted the seat of honour and signalled for the audition to commence. Out of about thirty children only three were selected. Ninette and I were passed over, and I did not dare look at Mother. But the gods were on my side. As she was preparing to depart, Pavlova suddenly pointed to me and her interpreter said, 'Madame will also take the little one.' On our way to Bow Street Police Station, where stage licences were obtained, Mother deprived me of my glasses. 'If the magistrate sees that you are short-sighted he may refuse the licence. Remember, now, even if you cannot see, don't squint. Keep your eyes wide open.' When our turn came, Mother stepped up daintily and with a pretty gesture she explained why I had no birth certificate ! I had been prematurely born (in Blackpool) while she was accompanying her husband on a provincial tour, and somehow my registration had been overlooked. From the dusty skylight to the tall bobby guarding the door of the courtroom everything was uncomfortably blurred, but I pinned back my eyelids until they ached. The magistrate peered at me over the top of his spectacles. He was hawk-nosed und grumpy. 'Would you like to go on the stage ?' he rumbled. 'Oh, yes,' I whispered. 'Speak up, child.' 'Oh, yes,' I squeaked. He pushed his glasses back to the bridge of his nose. 'Licence granted,' he barked. Years later, I teased Mother. 'I suppose you realise that you committed perjury ?' Mother chuckled. 'What was a teeeny-weeny case of perjury against the chance of a lifetime ? Besides,' she added softly, 'when I said my prayers that night I asked God to understand.' Rehearsals on the stage of the Palace Theatre were a revelation of the arduous and unceasing work that goes into the making of a ballerina. 8

Until then I had imagined that the dull daily routine of exercises would soon become a thing of the past; therefore, I was astonished when Pavlova joined us at our practice which was supervised by a member of her corps de ballet. She was clad in a brief 'tutu' of white tarlatan and wore a little knitted jacket and long woollen leggings which she did not discard until her muscles had warmed up. Having looked upon her as a goddess, I was astonished to see her perspiring as freely as we ordinary mortals. I soon became her pet, perhaps because I was the smallest and youngest of the troupe of children, and her open favouritism must have encouraged me to show off a bit, for one morning she laughed and said, 'I t'ink you like to dance solo, no ?' This was all Mother needed ! She promptly commanded me to ask when I was to learn my solo. In an agony of shyness I approached Pavlova several times before she called me out of the ranks and taught me a pas seui which lasted exactly twenty-five seconds. At the end of the first performance of Snowflakes Pavlova took me by the hand and led me to the footlights where I acknowledged applause for the first time in my life. Tongue in cheek, a dramatic critic writing about the new ballet, said, 'And there was little June Tripp, who pirouettes like the great ballerinas of Russia.' Always on the alert to combat conceit in her children Mother was cross when she caught me gloating over my first critique. But I knew she was secretly gratified, because she took me to Harrods and bought me a plaid coat and a little cap to match. Her triumphant season over, Pavlova announced her willingness to undertake the training of about half a dozen English children of her own selection, myself among them. Mother was frantic because Daddy was not working and the fees for four lessons a week were beyond our means. She ranted and raved until Daddy, who never answered her at such times, picked up his pipe and strolled out of the room. I crouched in a chair, knowing at last that above all else I wanted to be a ballerina. Dudley, home from Paris for the summer holiday, was painting at his easel in the conservatory, and small Edgar was peering closely at a shining multi-coloured top spinning in the sunshine. 'Your father has just broken my heart," Mother announced. Nobody answered. Then, always volatile, she straightened her shoulders, called to Emily to fetch writing-paper, pen and ink, sat down and wrote rapidly. 'There,' she said, handing the letter to Emily. 'Read it aloud.' The brief letter thanked Pavlova for the compliment she had bestowed upon me and explained without false pride the reason it had to be refused. A few days later Mother was standing in the hall, waving A letter and calling, 'Emily ! My wish has come true !' Pavlova had sent word that, if a vow of secrecy were given and kept, she would teach me for nothing. This was a fact carefully screened from me for years, and wliich I feel justified in recording with pride.

9

Ivy House, Golders Green - airy and rambling and light, with white swans gliding on a lake at the foot of the sloping lawn. Once it had belonged to Turner, the celebrated landscape artist; but for years Pavlova had called it 'home', and always returned to it from her exhausting worldtravels. Four times a week her seven pupils assembled in the white ballroom at nine-thirty in the morning. My place at the barre was immediately beneath a full-length portrait of Pavlova as the wraith of Giselle. Magically, the artist had captured the marvellously ethereal quality which set her apart from her contemporaries. During the final month of her 1913 season at The Palace, Pavlova presented us to the London public at a special matinée. The blow was delivered by letter. Its unusual brevity revealed my mother's emotion. Emily said, 'Well, that was short and sweet ! There's no more money. Your father is ill again. His chest. Either you must get an engagement here, or we must go home. Now, Pavlova and Clustine had impressed upon me the importance of making no professional appearances before reaching the age of sixteen; until then, all my strength must be reserved for my lessons. But, faced with the choice of risking my career or abandoning it altogether, there seemed but one answer. I must get a job. Through the good offices of a Parisian lawyer named Rudolph Mayer, the brother of Daniel Mayer, a well-known theatrical agent in London and a friend of my family, I danced for the manager of the Folios Bergere and left the theatre with a contract for the forthcoming 'Revue Galante' starring the voluptuous Mado Minty. The Folies Bergere was hardly the right atmosphere for a child, but 'needs must when the Devil drives'. Then, out of the blue, Mother summoned us home. The air was clotting with rumours of war. The Hotel de Londres et Milan began to lose its clientele. Anxious groups gathered daily in the foyer to compare train-and-boat schedules and with each passing hour the panic grew. We managed to secure passage on the night-boat from Dieppe to Newhaven. The English Channel was blanketed with a warm sticky fog and all night long the horn blew mournfully. The boat was so crowded that Emily and I had to sleep on deck. It was a strange homecoming. Mother was not at the station and, when I heard Emily directing the cab-driver to an unfamiliar address, my disappointment turned into distress. 'Where are we going ?' I asked. She gave me a slight shove into the taxi. 'Ask no questions and you'll hear no lies," she snapped. I squeezed myself into a corner of the vehicle. A dreadful thought had occurred to me, so dreadful that for a while I could not bring myself to voice it. "Is ... is Mother dead ?' I whispered. Emily looked profoundly shocked. 'Whatever will the child think of next ! No, of course she isn't dead !' 'Then why didn't she meet me ?' 'Oh, do stop whining !' Emily sighed. And she straightened her hat and set her shoulders in a tell-tale way. 10

We turned down a dusty street and drew up before a tall shabby house. In silence we watched the driver dump our luggage in the hall, and followed a dour-faced woman into a dreary room. She jerked up the blinds, whisked a soiled tea-cloth from the table and closed the door behind her. Emily removed her hat and fluffed her meagre pompadour with a hat-pin. Her nose was suspiciously pink and I saw her fumbling for her handkerchief in her skirt pocket. Then I knew that our bright little villa had gone and, with it, my syringa tree, the fields of long grass, the Latin chants in little Perivale Church, the family games around the fire. Gone, too, the tangy scent of woodsmoke drifting down from Horsenden Hill, the green gate I loved to swing on and I choked. 'There, there, my lamb,' Emily crooned. 'Mother will be here in a minute.' The door opened and Mother appeared. As usual, she made 'an entrance', and I shall never forget how fresh and pretty she looked in her grey silk dress with rows of tiny pleated frills at the hem of her 'hobble-skirt', and buttercups nestling against her dark hair under the brim of her grey Dolly Varden hat. She held out her arms and I ran to her and clung there, determined not to cry, loving the feel of her slender waist and the faint breath of perfume drifting down to me. Emily was saying, 'Where is your amethyst brooch, Madam ? You always wore it with grey.' Mother's fingers were smoothing my hair. 'I left it at Uncle's this morning. That is why I couldn't meet you.' Long ago I had learnt that 'Uncle' meant pawnbroker. In times of stress Uncle had taken care of Daddy's gold hunter watch, Mother's turquoise and diamond engagement ring and other articles of intrinsic value. Childishly, now that I understood why Mother had not been at the station, I felt comforted. I stood back and smiled at her. She studied me from head to foot. 'She's very pale. Hasn't she been eating properly ?' Emily bridled at the implied rebuke. 'The poor lamb has been worked to death. A dray-horse couldn't have stood it !' Mother's left eyebrow shot up and she regarded me with a sort of puzzled distaste. Then she sighed, drew off her long grey gloves and said, 'Well, as soon as Boy and Edgar are home from school, we'll pack them off to Brighton.' I could hardly believe my ears. Brighton ! Brighton-by-the-Sea ! Lively little streets leading down to the sparkling waves, shops that sold shrimping-nets and wooden spades and coloured tin buckets. On the beach there would be merry pierrot shows to watch, a military band on the esplanade, ice-cream and 'hokey-pokey' wagons. At night the Palace Pier would be a fairyland of lights, and for days and days there would be nothing to do but play. As the whole incredibly lovely picture burst upon me, I dissolved into tears. 'There !' cried Emily, triumphantly. 'I told you so. The child is a bundle of nerves.' 'Nonsense !' Mother retorted. 'Children have no nerves !' 11

One of their old, familiar battles began, during which I heard myself discussed as if I were not present. It occurred to me that I had a rather odd mother. While I was in Paris she had written regularly once a week. To Emily. Never to me. Emily would digest the contents, then read aloud. This kind of thing: 'Is June growing ? I do hope she will not be short, like her father.' (This was amusing, because Mother herself was a tiny woman.) 'Please remember to massage June's legs after each lesson. It will keep them slim.' . . . 'Do not forget to bathe her face with slices of cucumber soaked in milk' . . . If June goes out in the sun, see that she wears a brim. Freckles are so unbecoming.' I did not love my mother in my childhood and adolescent years, for she gave me no warmth, no physical demonstration of affection. I felt I was a creation of her own which constantly fell short of expectations. Beauty was her obsession; and her fanatical supervision of my skin, hair, nails and deportment made me feel like an ugly duckling whom only artifices could transform into a swan. Only on the stage, safe in a wonderland of motion and music and thrilling shafts of light, was I truly myself. This was my realm. But away from the theatre my small ego, struggling to assert itself, was frustrated at every turn, rebuffed until I believed myself inferior in every way. I began to suspect the faintest hint of praise and read into it a trap I had not the wits to avoid. It seems a marvel that I did not become a hopeless neurotic. In later years, thank God, I came to know my mother and to love her deeply. Womanhood was to bring me my own quota of suffering and with it an understanding and appreciation of her integrity and true beauty of spirit. But at the time of which I am writing all of my capacity for affection focused itself on Emily Emily who had lullabied me to sleep, bound up a cut knee and kissed the place to "make it well'. Emily who had covered my eyes in the wings of the Folies Bergere so that I did not see the nude showgirls. Emily, who, in preparing me for the first alarming sign of maturity, had made me feel like a sacred chalice. . . . We were having a grand time at Brighton, wading, building sand-castles at low tide, gorging ice-cream and peppermint sticks, when Germany invaded Belgium and, true to her pledge, England declared war on the invader. A few days later Mother broke the news that (my brothers) Suthie and Dudley had enlisted in the London Irish Rifles. Our holiday over, we 'settled' (as Emily described our new move) on the top floor of my Aunt Lucy Pattison Tucker's large house close to Kensington Gardens. Recently she had transformed it into a 'private hotel', a snobbish pseudonym for boarding-house. With remarkable tenacity Mother had preserved a few personal treasures when compelled to sell our goods and chattels at West Ealing; these she arranged here and there in her bedroom; and she made chintz curtains, upholstered a wicker armchair, hung a few of Dudley's paintings. By the time it was done she had created a cosy bed-sitting-room. Aunt Lucy's clientele consisted largely of retired Indian Army officers and their faded wives, whose chief topic of conversation was 'the good old days' in India. They persisted in referring to tea as 'tiffin', several of the men favoured a drink called 'shandy-gaff' composed of beer and ginger-beer, and of course a 'gentleman' was always 'pukka sahib'. 12

Mother had a nickname for this sad little coterie. She called it 'The Twilight of The Gods' and made us howl with laughter at her impersonations of its manners, voices and dialogue. Planting herself with her back to our shilling-in-the-slot gas-fire she tucked her hands under imaginary coat-tails, puffed out her chest and roared, 'D'you remembah, Ma-jah, when that young upstart, DigsbyFrothingham, put red peppah in General Clyde-Oppington's shandy-gaff ? Damme, it was a lark, what ?" To her, the 'gods' in the drawing-room were as dreary as the denizens of our garden-suburb, and she wanted no part of them. Immediately after dinner we used to climb the four flights of stairs to her room, pick up our sewing and talk about my future. She had it all worked out. I was going to be a famous dancer. 'That, of course, goes without saying,' she shrugged. 'But I do hope that you will be able to leave the stage before the public grows tired of you. The stage is like a ladder made of glass. Step too heavily on a weak rung and it splinters under your feet." She paused, looking rather pleased with this apt simile. Then she went on: 'I would like to see you work until you are, let us say, twenty-five. Then make a brilliant marriage. A title . . . wealth . . . ' Mother darling, had you been peeking into a crystal ball ? At Aunt Lucy's hotel, I had acquired my first girl-friend. Her name was Alison Leggatt, but her family called her Dickie.She was a short, sturdily built child of about my own age,with cheeks like rosy apples, bright, inquisitive, blue eyes, and a passion for the theatre. Every Saturday she went to a matinee of one or another of the musical shows playing in London, and on and off through the week she played records of her favourite songs. As 'permanent residents' the Leggatts occupied one entire floor of Aunt Lucy's house and into those three or four rooms they moved some fine old furniture. My heirlooms,' Mrs Leggatt would say with pride. She was a stout woman who bore a strong resemblance to Queen Wilhelmina of Holland. Mr Leggatt was tall, thin, with grey hair and moustache and what is commonly called 'a distinguished air'. He was rarely without a neatly folded copy of The Times or Morning Post under his arm. Those ultra-conservative journals seemed to be his Bible, and his contributions occasionally appeared among 'Letters to the Editor'. I am sure that the Leggatts were a most worthy couple, but they lived in a world all their own, a circumscribed domain inhabited only by themselves, their two sons, and their daughter. The eldest boy, Logie, was a second lieutenant in the Scots Guards, and by a strange coincidence he was killed in France while 'going over the top' next to a friend and fellow officer, Lieutenant The Hon. John Alan Burns who, as Lord Inverclyde, was destined to become my first husband. The Leggatts' younger son, Peter, was a midshipman in the Royal Navy and came safely through the first war only to give his life in the second. 13

Dickie used to track me around like a puppy, peering at me with her lively blue eyes and asking questions pertaining to the theatre; could we see the audience or did the lights blind us ? How could I see the conductor's baton without actually looking at it ? Did I paint my own face or did someone paint it for me ? And so on. One day, shortly after my marriage to Lord Inverclyde, I paused in The Savoy Grill to congratulate her (Anita Elson, playing a soubretter in 'Little Nellie Kelly' ) on her latest success. As I passed on to my table I overheard her say, 'Ho-hum. From steerage to peerage'. Lillian Lage (1927) had a passion for having her fortune told and possessed a number of addresses where for fifty or a hundred francs one was given the privilege of climbing crooked stairs, sitting in hermetically-sealed parlours and letting malodorous old witches paw one's palm and mutter over greasy cards. One of Lillian's crones predicted that I would make a brilliant marriage, wear a coronet and live in a 'palace' almost completely surrounded by water. 'Yes', she repeated, nodding emphatically, 'I see the palace through a mist but it seems dark red. I see jewels, too, but they bring you no happiness. I wish to tell you not to marry this man, but it would do no good. The marriage is in your stars'. Less than two years later I became the wife of a Scottish peer and went to live at Castle Wemyss which stands on a point on the foggy west coast of Scotland, where the river Clyde flows into the Firth and on to the sea. Anita and Nick Prinsep were in Antibes and I was invited to a picnic on the lie de Ste Margherite. Speed-boats were to transport the guests from the Cap to the island; but on the morning of the jaunt Anita telephoned to say that the choppy sea had caused a slight change in plans. We were to cruise across from Cannes Harbour in Lord Inverclyde's steam-yacht. 'Remember, duckie,' she said, 'yachts wait for no one. So please be there at eleven o'clock sharp.' 'What's the name of the yacht ?' 'The "Beryl"," she replied. Lord Inverclyde was the grandson of one of the founders of The Cunard Steamship Line. We had met several years earlier; he had invited me to lunch; I had accepted and then cancelled the engagement, and we had not met again. However, I had vaguely followed his betrothal and marriage to the attractive, dashing eighteen-year-old daughter of Arthur Sainsbury, millionaire owner of a large chain of grocery shops. A lot of gossip had attended the engagement and wedding. And from Inverclyde's own lips I was to hear that she had kept him waiting for an hour at St Margaret's, Westminster. Eighteen months later a divorce was on the agenda. Reputedly heart-broken, Lord Inverclyde, a rather good-looking man of thirty-one or two with thick fair hair brushed smoothly over his well-shaped head, a short straight nose and blue eyes with lids that slanted down at the outer corners, was all alone on his large, luxurious yacht. There seemed to be a division of opinion regarding the forthcoming divorce; some persons considering Inverclyde's attitude 'unbecoming an officer and a gentleman', while others expressed pity for a young man who 'having everything, yet possessed nothing'. But none of 14

this either concerned or interested me as I went up the gangway, greeted Anita and Nick, and was reintroduced to our host. I cannot recall talking to Alan Inverclyde en route to the island or during the picnic, but on the way back to port late that afternoon it occurred to me that we, his more or less self-invited guests, were not behaving very well towards him. There we were, gathered in intimate little groups on the deck, drinking his cocktails and making our own happy talk, while he sat all alone smoking his pipe in the wind-break. Disentangling myself, I got up and went over to him, pretending to be bored with all the yakkety-yak and to welcome this quiet corner. My simple gesture led to courtship, and a few days later he invited me on a cruise to Corsica with a small party of mutual friends. Off we went to Calvi, an ancient citadel on the historic island that had seen the birth of Napoleon Bonaparte; and when, next morning, I looked out of my porthole and saw the yellow rocks rising out of dear shining water, I pinched myself to make sure I was not dreaming. Inverclyde was a good host, quiet but attentive. I noticed that he did more listening than talking. He rarely smiled, but sometimes his eyes twinkled as he puffed on his pipe or cigar, and occasionaly the corners of his lips lifted in an amused smile. He is sad but courageous, I said to myself, and I felt immensely sorry for him. In the cool of the first evening at Calvi we went ashore, and while the rest of the party bought picture postcards and did a little shopping, Alan Inverclyde, who seemed to be familiar with the island, took me into a little church inside whose crumbling walls we found intriguing models of ships. Some were exquisitely wrought out of ivory; others were roughly hewn out of wood and painted in crude colours. An old priest, pausing on his way into the blue dusk, explained to me that they were the gifts of fisherfolk, sometimes as prayers for the living and sometimes for the souls of those who had lost their lives at sea. Next evening we went to a party high up in the citadel. Before leaving the yacht Inverclyde explained in his slow, thoughtful manner that Calvi had neither water nor electricity. Water had to be transported by mules, and candles or oil-lamps supplied the only illumination. And since the streets were too narrow and precipitous for cars to negotiate, we had to climb our way on foot, wearing sandals and carrying our evening shoes. By early moonlight he led us through the ancient gateway. Accustomed to swift transition from high heels to flat ballet slippers my Achilles tendons gave me no trouble, but the other women in the party were moaning and groaning long before we reached our destination. In evening gowns and dinner-jackets we must have presented an incongruous sight as we struggled past secretive-looking doorways in the deep shadows of which lurked motionless figures. My heart began to pound, not from exertion, but fear - fear that one of those anonymous creatures might dart forth and flash a Corsican bandit's knife across our throats. At last, to everyone's relief, we stopped before a crooked vermilion-painted door set in a high white wall. The door swung open and we trooped imo a hallway blazing with lighted candles in wrought-iron sconces all the way up a twisting staircase of polished, dark wood. Guitar music floated down through the scent of some exotic flower. At the top of the stairs we found ourselves in a long, low-ceilinged room, candle-lit, with rough white walls and many waxy-white flowers, and filled with people helping themselves to vodka 15

and caviar. Two effeminately handsome young men dressed as Cossacks were conversing cosily in a corner. In a high-backed chair near the fireplace sat an elderly woman whose bluetinted hair matched her lame gown. Her raddled cheeks sported heliotrope rouge, a palpably imitation diamond 'dog-collar' circled her scrawny neck, and with an air of an empress she wafted a fan of bedraggled pale-blue ostrich feathers. On one window-ledge overlooking the moonlit Mediterranean a swarthy man in a red-andwhite striped jersey, white trousers and sandals, was hugging his knees and gazing at the sky. Throughout the party he never spoke to a soul. Our host was immaculate in a white dinner-jacket, but his wife, a tiny wild-looking pixie with bright-red hair, was clad in a paint-stained smock and greeted us by screaming, 'Don't look at me ! I adore to paint by candlelight ! My pictures look absolutely ghastly in daylight; but then, as I tell my friends, they are only supposed to be looked at by candlelight !' The woman with the pale-blue hair gushed over me until she discovered that I was not Lady Inverclyde; whereupon she dismissed me with a flick of her shabby fan and murmured audibly to the cosy Cossacks. 'A mere actress, my dears.' It was indeed a weird and wonderful evening, and Alan Inverclyde and I chuckled over it all the way down the tortuous and rocky road to the yacht. Anita greeted my return to Cannes with rage. According to her, my trip to Corsica had created a storm of gossip. Nobody, it seemed, had taken the trouble to ascertain that I was not Lord Inverclyde's only guest and that I had been adequately chaperoned. The story going the rounds was that I had boarded the yacht alone. This was perfectly true. A telephone call from my agent in London had detained me; the "Beryl" was steaming-up when I stepped on board. 'Really, Annie !' I protested, 'nothing could have been more circumspect ! And for all I care the tattlers can go and drown themselves ! It probably boils down to envy, a most unattractive emotion,' I added, loftily quoting Prince Aage of Denmark. During the remainder of my holiday in the South of France, Alan Inverclyde told me a great deal about his unhappy marriage. He depicted himself as a man who wanted nothing from life except a loving wife, children, a peaceful existence. Yet there he was, alone and miserable. Very little of his version of his marriage was true, but I had no way of knowing this at the time, so my heart ached for him. And perhaps he did not mean to distort the truth; perhaps all he told me was actually the way he saw things in retrospect. The tendency to whitewash oneself, to lay the blame on someone else, is only human. Proof of my lack of any special interest in Inverclyde lies in the fact that it did not occur to me to pay him the compliment of crossing the Atlantic in one of his famous ships but chose the "Majestic" which belonged to Cunard's rival steamship company, White Star. With my sights trained on my American adventure I had no time for romance. As for matrimony, it was as far from my mind as Aldebaran ! (June Tripp was en route to New York's Broadway to act in Arthur Hammerstein's musical version of Guy Bolton's play 'Polly With A Past', she was released from her contract after a 16

nine-month run of 'Clowns In Clover' in London and after her daliance with Alan Inverclyde, as in pages 180 - 183). Hammerstein was conspicuous for his absence and Guy Bolton, temporarily enamoured of me, played vanishing tricks too, returning with little to offer except additional scenes for me, which I neither wanted nor required. Besides, desperate, he had changed my role from a demure little parlourmaid into a glittering chorus-girl adorned in pink tulle, spangles, and rosy ostrich plumes, and my leading man from a college graduate into an elegant stage-door Johnny in white tie and tails. My ballet, too, had undergone several metamorphoses. First it had, if I remember right, a kind of Swan Lake theme; next I abandoned ballet slippers and tutu and ran barefoot in rose petals through a Sylvan glade'. Now, it seemed, I was to be a Persian princess ! It was all simply dreadful, and I told myself more than once that, if I had any sense, I would forgo the balance of salary and sail for England. But the streak of obstinacy that has sometimes been my downfall made me hold firm and go on hoping. By traipsing to theatres in and around New York I discovered a young man named John Hundley, who acted and danced better than Cary and had a melodious, well-trained voice. He was not as good-looking as Cary, but I felt he would more than pass muster on Broadway. Since those days Johnny Hundley has become quite an important radio and television executive; and last year in New York his delightful wife, Elite, invited me to have cocktails in their apartment, and Johnny brought out an old scrapbook containing Polly's notices. Sitting with our heads together in the lamplight we re-read a lot of critiques, and I was surprised to find that for me they were almost unanimously good, though one described me as "a perfectly trained little circus pony caparisoned in sequins and feathers'; and T. V. Garland yawningly misquoted, 'O, to be in England now that June is here !' I laughed and Johnny said, 'Remember when Inverclyde turned up suddenly in New York and you told him to go away ?' 'Heavens !' I exclaimed, 'so I did. How awful of me !' Throughout my first harassing months in New York Alan had written long letters in his tiny meticulous longhand; he had been granted his divorce, he was grouse-shooting in Scotland, and now the fox-hunting season was beginning. But I cannot have read his last few letters very carefully, for his arrival, heralded by a radiogram from the ship, caught me off-balance. Evidently I had omitted to inform him that the New York opening of Polly had been postponed, and we were heading for another try-out in Pittsburgh and Detroit, because the radio-gram asked me to make sure of a seat for him at the premiere ! So, when he turned up, pink-nosed from the icy winds sweeping the city, I told him to go away. My suite was in chaos: trunks were being packed, two magazine writers were waiting to interview me, a new scene had to be memorised, new costumes fitted, a new number, 'Sing a Song in the Rain', written specially by Harry Rosenthal, had to be staged. And although Polly was taking on more brightness and speed, I was in no mood to cope with a suitor ignorant of the exigencies of the theatre and the variable emotions they engender.

17

Seeing Alan's face fall, I repented, saying, 'Why not come and see the opening in Pittsburgh ?' never dreaming he would take the invitation seriously. A few days later the Polly company was on its way again in a special section of the train and I had hardly settled myself in my compartment when I heard a familiar voice. Peering into the corridor I saw Inverclyde, wrapped to the chin in a thick overcoat, with the neck of a whisky bottle sticking out of one pocket. Behind him, clapping him on the shoulder, came Hammerstein, saying, 'Say, Lord, this is a surprise !' I'll say it was ! Fortunately I had invited a woman friend, Elaine Ertz, sister-in-law of Susan Ertz, the wellknown novelist, to keep me company during the two weeks' tryout. Ebe, as all her friends called her, was chic, amusing; she could entertain Alan while I was occupied at the theatre and rehearsals. With this momentary worry swept from my mind, I became more amiable. Pittsburgh, America's answer to Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle combined, was overhung by a choking pall of coal-dust. The theatre and hotel were absurdly overheated, but the wings were full of cutting draughts. I caught cold immediately and sniffled and coughed throughout the week; but each day's end was cheered by the sight of Alan and Ebe waiting for me with a pint of champagne and a good hot supper ready to be served. In the daytime Alan attended rehearsals, sitting in his overcoat in the stalls with Hammerstein, Guy Bolton and Irving Caesar, while I worked on stage. He brought milk, sandwiches, cartons of steaming coffee to my dressing-room. During breaks in rehearsals he went with Hammerstein's gang to a nearby speak-easy for drinks. And nearly every night, after dining with Ebe, he would sit in a stage box. Sometimes while watching me at supper, demolishing chicken, fried potatoes, a green vegetable, apple pie, I would catch a twinkle in his blue eyes; and one night he said, 'Won't all that food give you a nightmare ?" I laughed. 'I'd have a nightmare if I didn't eat all this !' Afterwards, we would sit up for about an hour and, no matter what my mood, grumpy or worried, exasperated, truculent, he bore it all with equanimity and seemed intensely interested in everything I said. He was, I thought, a rare young man. Babe had always scoffed lightly at my professional anxieties, but Alan seemed to understand them completely and as the days went by, I found myself growing fond of him. He came with us to Detroit where, on the opening night, I took my temperature and found it registering 101 degrees. Hammerstein posted a doctor in my dressing-room and every time I ran off stage to change my costume the doctor gave me a teaspoonful of nauseous medicine that made me vomit. How I got through that performance I do not know; and with a fever of 103 degrees. I was literally carried from the theatre to the car and from the car to my hotel bedroom. At 104 degrees, the fever broke. But for the rest of the week, the theatre was 'dark'. I never saw the criticisms of Polly (they could not have been much worse than those Pittsburgh had treated us to !). Hammerstein came to my suite with a small delegation to try to persuade me not to open in New York. The public and the critics, he said, liked me, but the show was no good. I refused to listen. I had come too far and gone through too much to allow myself to be cheated out of seeing what New Yorkers had to say about me. If they, too, liked me, I could always return in a better vehicle. Besides, someone close to Hammerstein had whispered that, if I were the one to make the decision, I would forfeit the balance of six weeks salary. 18

So far, I had received twelve hundred pounds, but my hotel and other expenses had more than exceeded that. So, away went Hammerstein and his cohorts, with frowns and shrugs and morose mutters, and Alan Inverclyde came and held my hand and said, 'Good for you, Topsy ! Never say die !' The New York premiere was set for 7 January at the Lyric Theatre. Alan, Ebe and I remained in Detroit until I was well enough to travel and, in the meantime, Christmas came. From a couch I watched my friends trimming a little tree, hanging coloured lights among the branches and at midnight on Christmas Eve they brought me their gifts and I pointed out theirs to them. From Ebe came a pair of little white kid bedroom slippers trimmed with ermine tails; and from Alan, a cigarette-and-vanity case of dark-blue enamel encrusted with diamonds and sapphires. On New Year's Eve in New York, Alan presented me with a diamond brooch, specially designed by Chaumet in the shape of a three-masted schooner. 'I wanted it to be the "Beryl", he said, 'but, as you know, she isn't a very graceful ship. So I decided on this, in memory of our cruise to Corsica.' Touched by his sentiment and longing to possess the exquisite thing, nevertheless I handed it back, saying, 'I cannot accept such a valuable present.' 'Why not ? We are going to be married, aren't we ?' 'Are we ?' I countered lightly. 'It's the first I heard of it !' He pinned the lovely bauble on my shoulder and kissed me on the cheek. 'Think it over,' he said. The New York premiere - The ovation which greeted my first entrance 'caparisoned in sequins and feathers' was staggering in volume and duration; and the longer it lasted the more scared I became. How could I possibly live up to it ? Instinctively I sought for my mother in her customary place in the centre of the front row, but, of course, she was not there. No doubt she was pacing her pretty drawing-room at Meadway Gate, clasping her hands and praying for my success. However, in her place was Gertie Lawrence, 'Sweet Gee', leaning forward, smiling, applauding, understanding my ordeal, and as our eyes met she nodded and gave me a broad wink, meaning, 'Go to it ! Show them what you can do !' Hammerstein way-laid me in the wings as I dashed towards my dressing-room. They love you, kid ! Keep it up !' And in the interval he popped his head round my door to join his thumb and forefinger in the sign that means 'okay'. But the second half of the show bogged down, and the few segments of brightness did not compensate for the dull passages. Towards the end, things went better. At the final curtain I received another burst of enthusiasm as I stepped forward to take my bows, and I went to my room elated by the impression that, even if the show had failed, I had not. Hammerstein waylaid me in the wings as I dashed towards with his dimpled ex-movie-star wife, Dorothy Dalton. I stood, as always, with my back to the lighted mirror on my dressingtable to receive the surge of visitors amid a bower of flowers. On my négligé was Alan's brooch and on my left wrist his opening night gift, a bracelet of baguette diamonds from Cartier. 19

But, oh, what the morning papers had to say about Polly ! A few critics had liked me, but all deplored the show. Three nights later I arrived at the theatre to find a week's notice pinned on the call-board. It was only as I was being driven away from the Lyric Theatre after the final performance that I saw for the first time my name in huge letters above the portico and remembered that I had intended to have those blazing lights photographed. Now it was too late. The lights had been extinguished. Following the death of Polly I received several lucrative offers to remain in New York but I hadn't the courage. I was tired, dispirited. Friends tried to revive me by pointing out that Gertie Lawrence's latest offering, Treasure Girl, in which Clifton Webb and Mary Hay had appeared, had failed, too; but this was of no consolation to me because Gertie was so firmly entrenched in American hearts that her reputation could have survived three or four flops in a row; but Polly had been my first attempt to storm these foreign bastions and, like Humpty Dumpty, I had had a great fall. To have flopped in London would not have mattered very much but to have been repudiated by a foreign country was quite another kettle of fish. So, when Harry Foster, the theatrical agent, telephoned to say that I was wanted for the title role in Five O'clock Girl at the London Hippodrome, I accepted with alacrity. England had never been so dear to me ! With about a month of leisure before me I allowed Inverclyde and Ebe to persuade me to spend two weeks longer in New York. 'After all,' Ebe whispered, 'Alan has been tremendously patient and understanding and has had very little fun. Besides, it would do you good to relax, and have some fun, too.' With time in which to think of other people and other matters than the theatre, I realised how attached I had become to this quiet, rather unsmiling, slow-speaking man; and I found myself riding beside him on a merry-go-round on which the music did not emanate from an old steam calliope but from clarinets, trumpets, saxophones, wood-winds and harps pouring forth the wonderful tunes of Gershwin, Berlin, Porter, McHugh, in theatres and night-clubs - where, if I chose, I need never again be anything but a spectator. Again and again Alan spoke of marriage; and enticing vistas opened before my mind's eye as he described his home in Scotland with a view of the green hills across The Firth of Clyde : the outline of The Isle of Arran, the peace and quietness, riding out in the fresh early morning, long evenings by the fireside, leisure in which to write and paint (I must have spoken of those ambitions), and, when tired of country life, there would be the maisonette in Mayfair and a whole roster of new friends. The maisonette, Alan told me, had not yet been furnished. If I would marry him, this would be our London home and I could do with it as I pleased. Impossible to describe how infinitely attractive he made it all sound; the castle on the rocks, the house in London, cruises in the "Beryl", leisurely travelling to far-away places - Egypt, India, Hawaii, China, Japan. Before saying yes, I made sure that Alan knew all about my long romance with Babe Barnato, my frustrated but still latently smouldering love for Ben Finney; and I told him that, although I doubted my ability to fall deeply in love again, I felt for him a tenderness and a great desire to make up to him for the unhappiness of his first marriage. If, in his estimation, this would suffice, I would marry him. 20

"Love will come later,' he promised. And I believed him. Mother's cabled response to the news of my forthcoming marriage was: 'My darling and only girl you have brought me one more of my dreams come true;' my old Nannie, Emily Wakefield, cabled: 'Congratulations my pet lamb'. Alan's mother, The Dowager Lady Inverclyde, wrote a charming letter of welcome and so did his two sisters, Emily and Muriel. The reaction of my eldest brother, the only complete realist in my family, struck an unwelcomely sober note. Suthie wondered if I had acted too precipitately. Impulsiveness, he reminded me, had always been one of my major faults. Did I realise the heavy responsibilities incumbent on me as chatelaine of a castle, and the wife of a peer of the realm ? Was I not simply exchanging one burden for another ? For a minute or two the merry-go-round slowed down; but it did not pause long enough for me to jump off.

On 21 March 1929, in The Church of St Columba, Pont Street, London, I became the bride of The Right Honourable John Alan Burns, fourth Baron Inverclyde, of Castle Wemyss in the County of Renfrew, Scotland. Two years ago (in 1957), while I was in New York having painting lessons, a member of the Sunday Express staff telephoned from London to break the news that Inverclyde had died in his sleep at Castle Wemyss. In spite of the unhappiness and bitter aftermath of my first marriage I was truly saddened because it seemed that poor Alan had died as he had lived - alone. With my mind's eye I saw the huge bedroom overlooking the grey waters of the Clyde where the river flows on to the sea, the misted outline of the opposite shore and the blurred silhouette of the Isle of Arran to the south. With my mind's ear I heard the lashing of waves against the dark-red rocks below the castle, the mewing of gulls, the moan of the fog-horn sending out its warning from Cloch Lighthouse. I remembered we had called it 'The Sick Cow'. 21

I thought of the countless nights when I had fallen into a restless sleep to that sound and awakened to yet another round of duties which would have brought me joy if, at the day's end, we could have reached true rapport; if, when concerned over some question of protocol, I had not always been answered by raised eyebrows and a 'Don't you know ?'; and if we could have laughed over my small errors; if I had known then, as I would later, the psychological reason for his withering reserve. If ... if ... if ! Surely the saddest word in any language. Standing at the sunny window of my hotel suite, thirty-nine floors above the bright stream of traffic serpentining through Central Park, I recalled the stranger whose outward life I had shared for fifteen months before despair had driven me away. I recalled the abrupt change that had taken place in Alan within a few hours of our wedding. Gone was the amiable young man who had not hesitated to lend his yacht to Anita and her light-hearted friends in Cannes, and had taken in his stride the exotic bohemianism of the party in the citadel of Calvi. Gone was the hail-fellow-well-met attitude he had evinced toward Hammerstein and his motley of composers, lyricists and comedians on board The Greasepaint Express' from New York to Pittsburgh. I could find no sign of the solicitous suitor who had brought milk and sandwiches to my dressing-room during the long dreary rehearsals, trimmed the Christmas tree and helped to nurse me through pneumonia. Vanished, too, was the fiance who, at at the dinner party Gertie Lawrence had given us on the night we sailed for England, said, 'Gertie, the next time you play in Glasgow you must stay with us. Wemyss is only thirty miles away, you know.' That was the man I thought I had married; but in his place was a quiet but effective dictator who, during the first week of our honeymoon in Paris, skilfully kept my Parisian friends at bay by signing the register 'Lord Inverclyde and party', so that, when Laura Gould, Lillian Lage, Michael Farmer and others telephoned, they were informed that I was not registered. And on the boat-train carrying us from Dover to London at the end of the honeymoon he said, out of the blue, that I was to have nothing more to do with my theatrical friends. 'You are no longer June, the actress. You are Lady Inverclyde.' With that slash of his scythe he severed me from the only world I had ever really known.

Castle Wemyss was a manifestation of the old saying, 'A Scotsman's home is his castle,' for, in truth, it did not belong historically or even architecturally in the castle category. It was 22

simply a very large, very rambling house of weathered red brick and grey stone, somewhat overgrown with ivy and standing in the midst of an estate that marched nearly a mile along the rocky shore and about a quarter of a mile inland. Below my windows was a terrace and, below that, a long narrow field where Alan schooled his hunters over jumps. To the right, our granite (red-sandstone) pier jutted into water deep enough for the yacht to anchor in when waiting to take us up through the lochs to our grouse moor or through the beautiful Kyles of Bute. Behind the castle were lawns, fine old trees, a flower garden protected from the salt wind by a high brick wall, hot-houses where grapes and figs hung in mouth-watering clusters. We had a kitchen garden, too, and a home-farm with a large pasture where I took riding lessons from our head groom.

Opposite the high, wrought-iron gates leading to the castle proper stood the big square Dower House, long untenanted, its heavy Victorian furniture shrouded in dust-sheets. This was where Alan had been born and had lived until the death of his bachelor uncle, the second Baron Inverclyde, when the title and land passed to his married brother, Alan's father.

"Lusitania" running speed trials off Skelmorlie In 1918, the third Lord Inverclyde died, presumably of a broken heart caused by persistent accusations that one of his ships, the "Lusitania", had been carrying arms when torpedoed and sunk by the Germans during World War I. Prostrated by grief over the appalling loss of civilian life, he slowly declined in health. 23

Alan told me that on his death-bed his father said, 'I am about to meet my Maker, and once again I swear by everything holy that the "Lusitania"carried no arms, no ammunition.' Thus, at the age of twenty-one, after serving in the Scots Guards and being wounded by a German bullet while going 'over the top' in France, Alan became the fourth baron in three generations, a multi-millionaire and seigneur of Wemyss in one fell swoop. Very heady stuff for so young a man. Not having inherited any business acumen from his immediate forebears he eschewed the idea of taking an active role in the running of The Cunard Steamship Company and preferred instead the pleasant job of aide-de-camp to the Governor of Gibraltar. After leaving his regiment he retired into private life as master of Wemyss and man-abouttown with a bachelor flat in Mayfair. He acquired hunters, a yacht, a grouse moor. During the winter he rode with the Eglinton in Ayrshire; in the early summer months he cruised the Mediterranean; in the late summer and early autumn he shot grouse. His civic duties were not obligatory and he never took more than cursory interest in local matters.

Beyond the Dower House on the shore road was a little church where in June, July and August a succession of vacationing clergymen conducted Sunday morning service in exchange for a small house below the castle where they could live with their family free of rent, and with gas, coal and electric light supplied. They would be entertained twice at the castle, once for tea, once for dinner.

24

Between the church and the main gates of the estate were stables and a garage for the RollsRoyce-engined horse box which transported the horses to the hunt thirty miles away. Just outside the gates was the tiny post office which served us and the village. There were about sixteen servants in the castle, few of whom I ever set eyes on. Occasionally I managed a brief chat with Marian, the sweet-faced head-housemaid, but the moment any of her six underlings saw or heard me approaching, they scuttled out of sight like scared rabbits. I hated this. I wanted to know them by name, smile a good morning. I had rather looked forward to learning how to run a large household, but Alan said stiffly. That is Miss Thompson's province. She was Mother's secretary-housekeeper for many years and when I married Olive I kept her on. Of course, if you wish, you may make changes in the menus she will submit to you daily; but please do not interfere with the established routine of the castle. Miss Thompson is highly efficient and I do not want her to be upset." Miss Thompson was about forty years of age, stocky, with blue hands and chronic sniffles. She was a fresh-air fiend. Morning after morning I would find every window along the winding corridor wide open to the raw Scottish elements, thereby cancelling the benefit of steamheating pipes running beneath them. I would close them one by one, but five minutes later they were open again. Finally I gave up and took to wearing woollen underwear. There was always a bright little fire burning in Miss Thompson's sitting-room but this too was rendered ineffective because the open window admitted the cold damp wind from the sea. On the first of April, rain or shine, fog or drizzle, Miss Thompson donned an old-fashioned bathing suit and dived off the end of the pier into the icy waters of the Firth. That she died of rheumatic fever was a pity but not surprising. Although there was nothing sinister about Miss Thompson, I was reminded of her upon seeing the American actress, Judith Anderson, in the role of the housekeeper in the film version of Daphne du Maurier's novel, Rebecca, because, like Miss du Maurier's fictional character. Miss Thompson worshipped her former mistress, Alan's mother, and resented her successors, first Olive Sainsbury and then me. She was continually saying things like, 'Lady Lottie never breakfasted in bed,' 'Lady Lottie attended to her correspondence every day, not once a week," "Lady Lottie believed that flowers inside a house are unhealthy" and she nearly threw a fit when I wanted all the nondescript bric-a-brac removed from the mantelpieces in the guest bed-rooms. 'Och I But they are Lady Lottie's wee treasures !' she protested. I felt inclined to ask why, if Lady Lottie valued them so much, she had not taken them with her to her house in Berkeley Square. Followed by two footmen carrying large trays, I systematically disposed of imitation Dresden china shepherds and shepherdesses, dreadful little brass bowls from India, bulbous vases containing dried grasses, horrid little painted animals, marble clocks ornamented with flatulent gilded cupids, while Miss Thompson hovered like a mourning dove, blowing her nose and emitting a low 'keening' sound that got on my nerves. When the servants had departed with the last load I turned and said gently but firmly, 'Miss Thompson, I think it is high time you realised that Lady Lottie is no longer the mistress here. I am. And in certain matters I insist upon having my own way.' 25

The poor woman looked so stricken that I could have bitten my tongue. I mustered a smile, tucked my arm through hers and said, 'Now, how about a wee cup of tea in your sitting-room? I am freezing.' From then on we were friends; and although when my mother-in-law came to visit us I found all her 'wee treasures' returned to their places, I knew that as soon as her car turned out of the gates they would be lovingly stored away again until her next visit. To me, money is to be spent in giving pleasure to oneself and others; and after inspecting the servants' quarters I went to Glasgow on a splendid shopping spree. Alan had given me carte blanche to renovate the guest bedrooms and had not balked at the expense of having my bedroom entirely refurnished by Frankie Leveson, who had renounced professional dancing to become Syrie Maugham's right hand in her interior-decorating business in London. So I was astonished when he raised Cain over the servants' bill. 'Look at this ! Linoleum for the Servants' Hall, electric heaters, sheets, blankets, a phonograph, two dozen records. Do you imagine I am made of money ?' The tension between us crackled like summer lightning and I snapped for the first time. 'Have you ever seen their quarters ? They are a disgrace ! The linoleum is so cracked and full of holes that one of the housemaids broke her toe last week. The bedroms are like ice-boxes and the sheets and blankets are threadbare. When the second footman had bronchitis, there wasn't an extra blanket to put over the poor boy. As for the phonograph; the one they had was antediluvian and the records were worn out. My God, servants are people, aren't they ? They're human beings like you and me, aren't they ? Well, they should be treated as such. Feudalism is dead, or it should be. I am no Socialist but I bet I would be if I were one of your servants !' I was standing in front of his huge roll-top desk in a corner of the smaller of the two chilly drawing-rooms and, as he fixed me with a hard stare, I began to tremble like a school-girl who has dared to defy the head-mistress. But I kept my chin up and returned his look, and to my amazement he picked up his pen and signed the cheque. Never again did he question any of my expenditures for the comfort of the staff. I made little improvements in our part of the castle, too. For no reason I could think of, the dining-room was situated on the third floor. Food was always lukewarm by the time it had travelled by dumb-waiter from the kitchen. So I installed electric hot-plates in the service pantry and, when Alan's sister Emily and her jovial husband, Commander Gerald McKenna, came to stay with us, Gerald stared at the steaming soup and roared, 'By God ! Hot at last !' Having resigned myself, though not without tearful protest, to cutting my old friends, my life at Wemyss settled into a pleasant enough routine, and there were times when I was grateful not to have to watch the clock and go through teeming rain to the theatre. If I had a cold or a tummy-ache I could stay at home and cosset myself. The very monotony of my existence had a soothing effect on my highly-strung constitution and, having won his battle, Alan's silences shortened. On days that contained no public duties I usually rode before breakfast, sometimes with him but more often with the head groom because, when not hunting or shooting, my husband was a late riser. After a hearty breakfast alone in the dining-room, I would tackle correspondence, 26

discuss small household details, practise the piano, read the morning paper. On the stroke of noon Nichols would set a tray of cocktail ingredients in the Boudoir (as Lady Lottie always called the long, low-ceilinged sitting-room where we spent most of our time) and I would mix dry martinis or sidecars for Alan and pour myself a glass of dry sherry. Promptly at twelve-fifteen Alan would appear, mumble 'Good morning' and apply himself to the cocktails until one o'clock, when Nichols would announce lunch. Alan sat at one end of the long table and I at the other, almost totally obscured from each other by epergnes of flowers or fruit, and we were so far apart that, without my glasses on, his pink face was a blur and he always spoke so softly and with such slight movement of his lips that most of the time I could hardly hear what he said. The constant presence of one or the other of the servants prevented intimate conversation and, when I ran out of small talk, silence reigned. One day I said, 'When we are alone, why can't we sit opposite to each other half-way down the table. Wouldn't that be much cosier ?' Up went the eyebrows and down went the slanting lids. It isn't done,' he said. After lunch I would take my cocker spaniel, Dart, for a walk through the woods or along the shore road of the estate and during those walks I would talk to him as if he understood my loneliness. Sometimes when I sat down to rest on a rock he would lean against me, gazing up at me with his limpid brown eyes and making little sympathetic sounds, and I had the feeling that if I were to weep he would set up a howl. But most times when we took our walks I would put on quite an act, saying aloud, "Isn't this fun, Dart ? Don't you love the seaweedy smells, the salty air, the feel of rain on your face ? Look, here's a lovely stick I am going to throw and you can chase after it and bring it back to me and then I'll throw it again. And look, the daffodils and crocus and narcissi will soon be sprouting through the long grass, but if you dare dig up one of those bulbs, I'll thrash you within an inch of your doggy little life !' And he would leap and bark and nuzzle me and stick his nose down a rabbit-hole and frisk his tail and chase leaves, and I would run him all the way home to tea. Sometimes Dart and I would visit an aged or ailing villager or pay a call on Bartholomew, our 'oldest inhabitant', in his neat little cottage near the stables. The walls were covered with faded photographs of Alan's grandparents and his father and mother, and of himself and his two sturdy yiylcrs when they were children. In Bartholomew's befuddled mind Alan was still a little boy. 'And how is the child ?' he would croak. 'Offly sick he is, the puir wee lad! And his lordship so fine and strong ! Verra verra sad for his lordship !' Half the time I had no idea which lordship he was referring to and I am sure he often confused me with Alan's first wife or his mother. But whoever he assumed I was, my visits seemed to please him and the light in his watery old eyes did my heart good. After tea, with or without Alan, I would read, sketch, try my hand at writing short stories or fairy tales with which to amuse the three little daughters of Alan's youngest sister, who was married to the Maclean of Ardgour, the sixteenth Laird of Ardgour in direct descent. After dinner I would sew or play solitaire while Alan took a nap in the armchair opposite to mine in front of the fire or retreated to his roll-top desk in the little drawing-room over my bedroom. Often, long after I retired, I would hear the typewriter going steadily, and one morning I said, 'Good heavens, one might think you are writing a book !' He smiled faintly but did not answer, and almost a year would pass before I discovered that this was precisely what he was doing. 27

By combining two meticulously-kept diaries-one during a world cruise in Lord Fairhaven's tremendous yacht, "Sapphire" and the briefer one in the "Beryl" during the first year of our marriage he had compiled a book entitled somewhat obscurely Porpoises and People. It was now to be published and Just how he managed to complete it, give it to a professional typist, meet the publisher, correct the galley-proofs, approve of print and binding, without a single word to me, his wife, was a mystery. When I asked why he had not confided in me I expected him to say he wished to give me a surprise. Instead, he said coldly, 'I know you rather fancy you have writing talent and I did not want you to interfere.' Now more than ever was he a stranger to me, an alien character who dwelt in a dark and mysterious place to which only he had the key. Or did he seem so to me because my own spirit inclined towards light and air and, if I were happy or had a delightful or interesting plan, I had immediately to share it with someone else ? My presence at local affairs in the county and in Glasgow, for flower-shows, cattle-shows, charity bazaars, concerts, balls, was continually sought; and although I never got over a certain amount of nervousness, I was glad that the theatrical glamour I had carried from the stage into my marriage could be utilised in good causes. But two of my public appearances verged on fiascos. The first, I recall, involved the opening of Millport Mineral Well. Alan composed and typed my speech but I, who had always been a remarkably quick study, could not for the life of me memorise this brief speech. I kept confusing the name of the Mayor with that of an alderman and mixing the Colonel with the Major. By the time we had driven through teeming rain, sloshed through mud to the top of the hill, reviewed a company of Girl Guides and reached the Well concealed behind a flag, I was a dithering mass of nerves. Alan had told me to take hold of the cord attached to the flag, and having said, 'I now declare Millport Mineral Well open,' to yank the cord, and the flag would be twitched aside and that would be that. But I did it the wrong way around. Before I could open my lips the flag vanished and the Well was automatically 'open' ! I flung an agonised look at my husband and he came to my rescue. Stepping smartly forward he explained that I was suffering from laryngitis and therefore he craved permission to read my speech. Back in the car I hugged his arm and said, I can't tell you how grateful I am to you. I had stagefright ! But it won't happen again, I promise !' The other occasion could have proved far more embarrassing. A long day was before me and this time I actually did have a bad throat. Nevertheless, we sallied forth, boarded the yacht, went up through the lochs in pouring rain, entertained aldermen for lunch on board, then went ashore. I made a tour of a home for crippled children, reviewed Girl Guides, laid a wreath on the war memorial, inspected a new parochial school, then went on to the vast field where I was to review the celebrated March of The Thousand Pipers (Cowal Games at Dunoon). Afterwards, I had to receive a shield from each regiment taking part in the parade. At each one of our stops I had been offered 'a wee cup of tea', but no one asked me if I would like to "powder my nose', and what with the tea, the rain and the cold, by the time I reached the grandstand on the recreation field, Nature was threatening to catch up with me. Having 28

accepted a bouquet and 'received' a half a dozen officials I was in agony. I whispered to Alan, 'How long before this is over ?' 'About an hour, I'd say.' 'Well,' I said, 'where is it ?' He turned to me and gave me one of his bland looks. 'Where is what ?' You know perfectly well what,' I hissed. 'Oh,' he said, 'God knows if there is one !' I left him in his seat and went along the grandstand under hundreds of staring eyes. At the foot of the steps I whispered to a bystander who pointed to a wooden building away across the sodden field. As I stumbled through the wet clay I heard 'The Thousand Pipers' beginning to blow their pipes. More than once I lost a shoe in the mud, retrieved it and struggled on. But when I got there the place was jammed to the entrance with anxious-looking Scottish housewives. Desperate, I looked about for any object of shelter but there was none and I was on the verge of tears when a rosy-faced, little old lady said, 'Och, my lady, are ye in an offul hurry ?' 'Oh, yes !' I cried. 'Well,' she twinkled, 'if ye'll step outside and round the back, I'll protect ye with ma wee umbrella !' During our honeymoon we had received a Command to attend the first of two State Dinners to be held at The Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh during the two weeks' residence of His Royal Highness The Duke of York as Lord High Commissioner of The Church of Scotland. The Duke was to be accompanied by his charming and popular Duchess, the former Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. The event occurred in May, and no one in 1929 could have anticipated that within ten years from that date the abdication the uncrowned King Edward VIII would place the shy young Duke and his pretty Scottish Duchess on the throne of England. Alan was tremendously set up by the Command. He expressed the belief that it augured well for my presentation at Buckingham Palace in 1930. For myself, I was both elated and scared. It was one thing to be presented to members of The Royal Family in ante-rooms to royal boxes, or at parties, as had happened to me on several occasions, but it was quite another thing to be formally presented, especially so soon after becoming a peeress. The eternal feminine question, 'What shall I wear ?' was swiftly replaced by panic. Suppose I curtsied when I shouldn't, or did not curtsy when I should ? Suppose I tripped on my gown as I backed away ? Suppose I said the wrong thing ? Alan, all smiles and strutting a bit, came up with a solution. He would ask Lady Ailsa, who was to attend the Duchess as a lady-in-waiting, to spend a weekend at Wemyss and instruct me in correct deportment. I had met the middle-aged Marchioness and her aged Marquess briefly at the reception given in my honour by Lady Lottie shortly before my marriage; and by the time Lady Ailsa left Wemyss I felt confident of myself. Indeed, when kissing me goodbye the Marchioness whispered, "You will be one of the loveliest peeresses Holyrood has ever seen. Early on the day of the exciting event we drove across Scotland to an hotel in Edinburgh where Alan's valet and my maid were waiting to dress us. Worth had made me an exquisite gown of 29

rose-pink tulle, and Alan wore the uniform of the Royal Company of Archers. Its sole function is to attend upon visiting royalty in Scotland. The uniform is designed on the lines of an admiral's, made of bottle-green cloth with gold epaulettes and a crimson sash with gold fringe. Sword, spurs and a cocked hat with a burst of coq feathers completed the outfit and, when Alan came into my room, I whirled around from the dressing-table and said, "You look mighty snappy, my boy !' 'Thank you,' he said, 'but I am worried about the spurs. Do I keep them on, or do I leave them with my hat in the cloakroom ?' I was in such a light-hearted mood that I dared to tease him a little. I raised my eyebrows, lowered my lids, tugged at an imaginary moustache and imitating his close-lipped manner of speaking, I said, 'Don't you know ?' He gave me a startled glance. Then a smile broke around his mouth. 'I do say that, don't I ? Too often. I'm sorry, Topsy. I won't do it again.' And as we were being driven towards Holyrood he said, 'You look very beautiful.' You could have knocked me down with a feather ! In the space of a few minutes he had not only called me 'Topsy', the nickname he had given me during our engagement, but he had told me I looked beautiful ! It was such rare moments as these that encouraged me to believe that with patience and forbearance I could crack the shell in which he had hidden himself ever since the minister had pronounced us man and wife. I was more excited than nervous when we entered the ancient edifice where unhappy Mary, Queen of Scots, had resided and Rizzio (suspected of being one of her lovers) had been brutally murdered; and when we reached the Throne Room the scene that met my eyes was so theatrical that I felt completely at home. The lingering Scottish twilight dimmed the brilliance of the crystal chandeliers but not the colours of the gleaming satins and brocades, the necklaces and tiaras of the ladies, or the dazzling uniforms of the gentlemen conversing in little groups in the tapestried room. About twenty peers and peeresses were already assembled when we arrived; eventually there would be thirty in all. Standing beside Alan I took a discreet look about me. I was intrigued by the antics of the Purse-Bearer, a spindly-legged little old man in satin knee-breeches, carrying a large crimson velvet purse over one arm and clutching a parchment scroll as he tottered here and there, nervously intent on his mysterious duties. I took in the gilded throne and the tall, stem-visaged Moderator of the Church of Scotland standing against one tapestried wall, his plain black garb striking a conspicuously sombre note amid so much glittering splendour. Covertly watching his grave demeanour as he surveyed the assemblage and received the gushing attentions of duchesses, marchionesses, countesses and so on, I wondered if, like John Knox, he was regarding us as "the monstrous regiment of women'. Presently we were marshalled (there is no other word for it) into a semi-circle. Voices dropped. Silence fell. Double doors were flung wide. The Duke and Duchess, he in kilt and she in a peach-coloured brocade with an amethyst-coloured riband passing from shoulder to waist and 30

starred with jewelled orders, appeared in the entrance, and paused on the threshold while an invisible band played the national anthem. The anthem over, their Royal Highnesses passed slowly round the semi-circle, shaking hands with each guest as his or her name was pronounced. And the smile the Duchess bestowed upon me as I sank into a low curtsy remains one of my most precious memories. Soon after the presentations the names of dinner partners were called. When Alan's turn came, he stepped out of line and stood waiting, fidgeting with the hilt of his sword while agitated A.D.C.s hurried along whispering, 'Which is Lady Forteviot ?' At last the old lady was located. 'Oh, dear !' she fluttered, 'I am so deaf, you know' and merrily flourishing her tortoise-shell ear-trumpet, she trotted off with Alan to catch up with the fast-retreating cavalcade. Poor man, he had a gruelling time during dinner, what with Lady Forteviot's ear-trumpet on one side and on the other a viscountess with a new-fangled hearing-apparatus in the form of a little black box placed on the table and attached to her ear by a black cord. Every now and then he would forget whether to lift his head to speak into the horn or bend it to speak into the box. I fared much better, for the Duke's Equerry, Commander Sir Louis Greig, took me into dinner and on my left, if I remember right, was attractive Lord Kinnaird. The dinner was excellent, and a different wine accompanied each course. The atmosphere had quiet gaiety and it seemed to me thnf the bygone kings of Scotland smiled down from their tarnished gilt frames and the wraiths of an ancient court gathered about the candlelit table. As always, when something unusually wonderful happens to me, an old half-forgotten memory stirs. As I looked across the table at the sweetly-smiling Duchess of York with her flawless complexion and deep blue eyes, I recalled myself as a little girl swinging on the garden gate and hearing my father's beautiful resonant voice shouting, 'Let's run away to Sunny Cove !' I thought, in wonderment, of the long road I had travelled to reach this moment-in-time and find myself in tulle and diamonds at the royal table. The sound of bagpipes, far off in the palace, roused me from the brief reminiscence and I listened spellbound as the music came closer and closer until, as the doors swung open, the kilted pipers entered and marched round the table, blowing as if to burst their lungs. My Scottish blood thrilled to the skirl of the pipes that rose to their greatest volume as they passed the Duke and Duchess. Then they made their exit, and the music grew fainter and fainter until drowned in the rising murmur of conversation. Turning to Sir Louis Greig I said, 'Wasn't that thrilling ?' He made a wry little grimace. I think,' he confided, 'one of my eardrums is broken.' The Duke of York rose, glass in hand. We followed suit. 'The King,' he toasted. The King,' we echoed, and stood still while the national anthem was played. The Duke sat. We all sat. The Duke rose. We rose. The Church of Scotland,' he said. The Church of Scotland,' we murmured, and stood still during a long Scottish hymn. Dinner was over. Outside the doors of the dining-hall Lady Victoria Haig, one of the Duchess's younger ladies-inwaiting, whispered to me, 'Quick, if you wish to powder.' Out flew little mirrors and puffs and 31

on went a dab of powder before we entered the drawing-room where the Duchess was already seated on a high-backed chair beside the fire. One by one, in order of precedence, we were led to Her Royal Highness by a lady-in-waiting. Lady Ailsa presented me, and the Duchess indicated the chair set at an angle to her own and said, The Duke and I have always enjoyed your plays. We are sorry we shall not have the pleasure of seeing you dance again.' Then she asked how I liked Scotland and wished me happiness in my marriage. All too soon, the allotted time had elapsed. A lady-in-waiting approached with the next peeress. I rose, curtsied, backed away. In due course, the Duke entered, followed by the gentlemen, and the same procedure was repeated, the peers being taken to the Duchess, the peeresses to the Duke, who spoke to me of the theatre, naming several of my shows, then asking for my opinion of the 'talkies'. But before I could form a reply he launched into an amusing imitation of the peculiar rasping sound imparted to the human voice by early microphones. I laughed and he said, 'During silent films one could snatch a little sleep. Now even that pleasure is denied us.' The day after the State Dinner at the Palace we were off to Venice where the yacht was waiting to cruise us to the Island of Brioni, down the coast of Yugoslavia and up through the Mediterranean to Cannes. En route through London, Alan, a human time-table, gave me exactly five hours in which to lunch with his mother and have tea with mine, but skilfully absented himself from both "duties', as he called them. I liked my mother-in-law, a small fluttery Edwardian creature, so utterly feminine that it was easy to visualise the attraction she had held for Alan's father, a robust, vital man whose bachelor reputation tracked him over the threshold uf marriage and gave rise to many an amusing story. For example, at the time of his succession, Castle Wemyss had but two bathrooms, a typical Victorian inconvenience which he quickly remedied by reducing the number of bedrooms to half and turning the balance into dressing-room-bath-rooms. The innovation pleased his guests but created a scandal in the village and thereabouts. In parlours and pubs, the gossips whispered, "Have ye heerd aboot the new Lorrrd Inverrrclyde ? He has twelve bathrooms! He must be a varra immorrral mon !' Nothing seemed to delight Lady Lottie more than to seat me beside her in her sitting-room in Berkeley Square and show me snapshots and photographs of Alan when he was "a tiny' and (wittingly or unwittingly) the verbal pictures she painted of her only son served to explain in a certain degree his chilly arrogance. Through her worshipping eyes I saw a sickly little boy, younger than his two sturdy sisters, an innately timid child tormented into joining their rough games and teased unmercifully when he proved a poor competitor, a lad prone to headaches, nausea, feverish colds, insomnia, an only son, heir to a title and vast fortune, cosseted and defended by an anxious mother, scorned by a father who regarded him a poor reflection on his own unquestionable virility. At Eton, although often on the sick-list for some minor illness, he was well-enough liked to be voted into Top', a distinction which temporarily mollified his father. But when he reached military age during the first world war, he was to hear this critical parent express doubts as to his fitness for a commission in any one of the crack regiments. 32

However, Alan passed muster and as a subaltern in the Scots Guards he fought in France until wounded by a bullet through the palm of one hand. Gangrene impeded swift healing, but at last he was ready to return to the front and confided in a friend that if he had to die for it, he would try to win a decoration for gallantry in action to make his father proud of him. But instead of being sent overseas he was shunted into a "cushy' job at the War Office. "I was responsible for that,' Lady Lottie confessed to me. 'My husband was dying and I was afraid of losing my only son too, so I used influence in certain high quarters to keep him at home.' Alan's discovery of her machinations caused a breach in their hitherto close communion and he turned against her. "My dear,' she said to me, wistfully, "you must have noticed how often he avoids me ?' This was part of the story, not uncommon when one parent is too fond, too indulgent, and the other too harsh; and I suppose the child's reaction depends upon its psyche. In Alan's case, the acquisition of a title and control of more than two million pounds released his pent-up desire to be king of all he surveyed. And (this I learned from a source other than his immediate family) he seldom permitted his mother or sisters to forget who was holding the purse-strings. Simultaneously, he became a steady drinker; never completely drunk nor completely sober; always in a slight fog, shall we say. I can only suppose that alcohol helped to sublimate the inhibitions by which he had been hag-ridden since baby-hood. I felt deeply sorry for him until he made me so miserable that bitterness replaced pity and forbearance. During my lunch with Lady Lottie before starting for Italy, she presented me with a project on which she hoped I could work during our leisurely cruise. I must, she insisted in her gentle anxious manner, prevail upon Alan to attend The House of Lords more often (I gathered that since making his maiden speech he had not made more than three silent appearances); and, far more important, he must take more active and constructive interest in local Scottish affairs. It was not enough, she pointed out, to contribute money; there were urgent causes he should espouse, in particular, the appalling living conditions in the port of Glasgow where dock workers and their ilk were crowded into hovels and their children sickened and died of malnutrition and infection. Alan could and should try to promote a scheme for the demolition of the slum area around the shipyards where the great Cunarders were built, and the construction of decent, sanitary tenements. Also there should be a recreation ground to lure the children out of the filthy gutters. Having promised to do my best, I left Lady Lottie's house and went to Golders Green to have tea with my mother who after Daddy's death had found the maisonette in New Cavendish Street 'too full of memories' and expressed a wish for 'a small house with a garden and an apple-tree'. Well, since my lucrative engagements in Paris and in Clowns in Clover in London, her dream had been brought true. She had not only her pseudo-Tudor house, her garden and her appletree, but her eldest and youngest sons for company.

33

On the way to Meadway Gate, I mulled over Lady Lottie's pleas. The improvement of conditions in Glasgow would be Alan's concern, of course; but her mention of a recreation ground had given me an idea on which I could work. Why not convert the untenanted Dower House at Wemyss into a holiday-cum-convalescent home for the poor bairns of Glasgow ? There it stood, a big house surrounded by a pleasant garden adjacent to the shore; we could install at least twenty beds, make a nursery, a playroom, engage a doctor and a few nurses, and just think how wonderful it would be for those pale, undernourished children to eat wholesome food, play on fresh, green grass, sleep in clean sheets, have hot baths, breathe the air blowing smoke-less from the sea ! Think how many might be given a new lease of life and health ! As for myself, with a little training added to my love for children, I should be able to help in signing that lease. By the time I reached Mother's house I could 'see' the children climbing trees, playing on the rocks, racing each other along the shore road, eating boiled eggs and drinking rich milk, and growing stronger and happier each day; and I was so excited by this vision that when my mother greeted me with the news that the apple-tree was 'bearing at last', I scarcely heard her. Tea was served in the sunny garden and afterwards we went into the drawing-room to hear my blind brother's latest composition. He was still under the influence of Debussy, and The Boat of the Misty Lake' had a delicately fluid quality reminiscent of the Master. On and off during that brief reunion I caught my mother's dark-blue eyes regarding me narrowly in the way that always made me squirm a little and think, 'Oh dear, what now ?' and when she came to the front door to see me off she said, 'June, I am very disappointed in your looks. I expected to see you in full bloom, but you look tired, faded and not at all pretty.' 'I am tired,' I admitted. 'The last few days have been very hectic.' But everything is ... all right ?' she asked. I dodged her eyes by putting my arms around her and my cheek against hers. 'Don't worry, Mummie,' I whispered, 'when I come back from the cruise I shall be blooming, just you wait and see.' Alan had invited two guests for our eight weeks' voyage: Ebe Ertz (the only friend of mine of whom he approved) and an attractive and somewhat 'off-beat' crony of his named Wombell, an amateur artist and one-time rancher. Never having met him before, I expected him to resemble, in manner at least, the rest of my husband's friends, with the eradicable stamp of the Guards on their deportment and conversation. So it was a delightful surprise to find that Wombell had a humorous disrespect for 'society', wore a knitted tie instead of the regimental tie most of our friends affected, and completely ignored Alan's raised eyebrows when he met us for lunch at the Ritz in Paris in grey flannel 'bags' and a tweed coat. I was even more pleased when the very chic Ebe and he hit it off immediately and I hoped that the cruise would be enlivened by a touch of romance. Slapping Alan on the back, Wombell greeted him with a teasing twinkle. 'Well, ma wee mon, and how's life in that dark granite hovel in the Highlands ?'

34

I laughed. 'Wemyss isn't in the Highlands, it's in the Lowlands, and it isn't made of granite, it's made of good, solid Victorian brick !' 'I know,' he groaned comically, 'I too have suffered !' Much to my surprise, Alan took Wombell's teasing in good part, and I was to discover that this friend could insult him up hill and down dale without drawing fire, whereas the slightest criticism from anyone else signalled sulks. We arrived in Venice at four o'clock in the afternoon. A launch was waiting to take us along the Grand Canal to Punta della Salute where the "Beryl" was anchored, and when I saw her gleaming white in the sunshine I could hardly believe she had come approximately three thousand miles from the foggy west coast of Scotland to this sunny Italian port. In one respect, my husband and I were in complete accord : we both loved the "Beryl". I listened with a mixture of interest and awe as Captain McAuley, a Celtic sailor to the marrow of his bones, gave an account of the voyage. They had had a good passage out of Scotland but struck heavy seas in the Irish Channel; again in the Southern Adriatic 'it had blown strong but died with the sun'. Two stops had been made for coaling, one at Gibraltar, the other at Palermo.

Built by Hepple and Co. Ltd. at South Shields in 1921, the "Beryl" had five state-cabins, three bathrooms, a dining-room and drawing-room, and carried twenty-three in crew. She was by no means the prettiest yacht afloat; her snub nose bereft her of that 'make-way-for-Her-Majesty' air that some ships possess by sheer virtue of line; but she was strong, she was luxurious, she had crossed the Atlantic many times and weathered many a storm. During the early days of Prohibition in America, she had been chartered by liquor racketeers, who had used her as a rum-runner between Canada and United States. I rather relished the knowledge that she had been a shady lady before becoming the property of an austere Scottish peer and entitled to fly the White Ensign, the emblem to which all ships at sea must 'dip'. The master state-room was charmingly furnished in Louis XVI style with a double bed, an ivory and gilt dressing-table, flowered curtains, armchair, chaise-longue and a graceful little escritoire. The books I had ordered for the voyage had come along with the ship and my Scottish maid had set them in the bookcase. Now in the blue Italian dusk she turned on the rosy lamps, prepared a scented bath for me and I said, 'Imagine ! Eight glorious weeks with nothing to do but lie in the sun, look at the moon and the stars, and hear nary a 'peep' out of the telephone !' 35

After dining on board we went ashore to dance at Martini's, a highly popular little night-spot and in the garden we ran straight into Michael Arlen and his beautiful Greek bride, Countess Atalanta Mercati. When I whispered that Atalanta was as lovely as her name, Michael whispered back, 'Shall I tell you a little story ? The first time I saw her I was struck with the way her ebony hair grows from that perfect widow's peak. When I learned her name I fell in love. When she disdained me I made up my mind to marry her.' 'Oh, you and your passion for beautiful names !' I teased. 'Changing your own from Dikran Kioumjian to Michael Arlen, calling your story-book heroines Iris, Shelmerdine, Lily Christine - I am sure that if I had been called Gladys or Ethel you wouldn't have given me a second thought !' 'Ah, yes, I would,' he responded gallantly, 'but I would have wished it were June, the loveliest of all English names." 'If you and Atalanta have children, what shall you name them ?" I asked. 'Michael-John and Venetia. And yours ?" 'Drogo and Deirdre. Or don't you approve ?' 'Most certainly. Drogo is strong. Deirdre is like a sigh.' I became aware of Alan squinting at us through the smoke curling up from his cigar and knew he was disapproving of my gaiety, my pleasure at seeing an old friend and erstwhile suitor, my joy at once again being in direct contact with the world I knew and loved for its elegance, its soigne, sophisticated men and women, its sustained courtesy and pleasant little artificialities. The scent of lavender blowing across a hill is all very fine, but a waft of Chanel No 5 or Guerlain's L'Heure Bleu had its own brand of magic; and for the moment I was tired of scrubbed faces, tweeds, brogues, the ammonia smell of stables, hearty sportsmen who addressed their young wives as 'Old Girl'. I wanted to see women who looked as if they had spent two hours before their dressing-tables in order to emerge faultlessly made-up, coiffed and gowned. And here they were, in short evening dresses of white pique, delicately hued flowered chiffons and organdie, their jewels flashing in the candlelight. Michael Arlen was lifting his wine glass. 'Let us drink to Drogo and Deirdre.' I touched my glass to his. 'And to Michael-John and Venetia', I whispered. Alan stared. 'Who are you talking about ?' 'Our children," Michael smiled. He looked up at the starry Italian night. 'Our children, up there, waiting to be welcomed'. Next morning we went to the glass factory and watched while a blue and white tiger was blown for Ebe and a gold-flecked dolphin for me. We fed the pigeons in St Mark's Square, drank an aperitif at one of the many cafes under the arches, lunched at a restaurant overlooking the busy canal, and in the early evening the Beryl headed for the island of Brioni. 36

The weather was so balmy that we stayed on deck after midnight, watching the moon sail through a cloudless sky and feeling the gentle rise and fall of the ship coursing through the calm waters. Ebe and Wombell were lying in deck-chairs drawn close together, but my husband had chosen a chair on the opposite side of the deck from mine and only by the intermittent glow of his pipe did I know he was there at all. I could hear Ebe and Wombell talking and laughing softly and hoped that a little romance would develop between them. Soon after midnight Alan stirred, yawned rather noisily, got up and stretched. Then he knocked out his pipe and said, 'Well. I think I'll do a bit of work.' A few minutes later the sound of the typewriter issued from the little drawing-room adjoining our cabin. Wombell peered round his chair. 'What on earth is the wee mon doing ?' 'Tapping,' I answered unnecessarily. 'It happens every night.' 'But what is he writing ? The Life and Loves of a Lowly Baron.' Ebe laughed and sprang to her feet and said, 'I'm consumed by curiosity. Let's beard him in his den !' 'Don't waste your energy,' I sighed. 'I heard him lock the outside door." 'Well,' she said, 'let's do something! Old rocking-chair hasn't got me yet ! I know, let's open a bottle of champagne and dance !' We went along to the large dining-saloon with its deep leather couches and armchairs and Ebe put a tango record on the gramophone. I drank a glass of champagne and left her dancing cheek-to-cheek with Wombell. The tapping was still going on. When I was ready for bed I tried the door connecting the cabin with the drawing-room. It was locked. Early in the cruise I reached the conclusion that I was not a sightseer in the ordinary sense of the word, whereas Alan was the indefatigable guide-book-in-hand type. While he was getting a crick in his neck from looking at peeling frescoes in ancient churches, I was observing the pleading expression of a young mother's face as she knelt and held her sick baby to The Blessed Virgin. While he climbed rocky alleyways to photograph the rooftops of Zara and Sebenico, I stayed with Ebe and Wombell at a table in front of a little bistro to watch a toothless old man dipping his bread into a glass of red wine. Wombell was never without his sketch-book and my fingers itched to snatch it from him and record, however ineptly, a face, a figure, a chance attitude. But more often than not I dutifully accompanied Alan on his exhaustive tour of crumbling churches and pretended to listen to the data he read aloud as his forefinger moved along the pages of the guide-book; but most of the time I was observing tricks of light and shadow, an inspired touch of coral or cerulean blue in the painted robes of saints and martyrs, the pathetically tawdry colours of paper flowers made by worshippers as offerings to their patron saint. While Alan reeled off historical facts I was feeling God moving beneath and around the flickering Presence Lamp. 37

Sometimes, leaving Alan to wander about the church, I would sit quietly with my hands folded in my lap and say a prayer. Its theme never varied; always I prayed that we might understand each other and a child would be born to us. A child, I whispered silently, something that would belong to me as long as I lived, even after he or she had grown up and gone away from me. Was it too much to ask of God who had given me so much already ? Perhaps it was. One day Alan said, 'Were you praying ? You looked as if you were ?" 'Yes,' I answered shyly, 'I was saying a big prayer. Why do you ask ?' 'I never pray," he said. I stood stock-still on the steps of the church and stared at him. 'Do you mean that you do not believe in God ?' "Of course not.' Then why do you go to our church every Sunday ? Why do you read the Lesson ? Why do you take Communion ?' He looked down his nose at me. 'It is expected of me." I was so shocked by this revelation that I started down the steps and half ran all the way to the harbour where the launch was waiting to take us back to the yacht, and I did not wait for Alan to catch up with me. Ebe greeted me lazily from a deck-chair. 'Where's Alan ?" she inquired. 'I don't know and I don't care,' I panted. 'Ebe, Ebe, I've just found out he's an atheist ! And it has made me feel sick. I am going to lie down for a little while.' Every day, or nearly every day, we put into another port, saw the sights and returned footsore and weary to the yacht. I recalled my remark on the day of our arrival in Venice, 'Long glorious days, with nothing to do but lie in the sun and look at the stars and the moon. . . .' Another dream shot to smithereens ! But there were times and places I enjoyed, and one was Ragusa, whose name had been changed to Dubrovnik, and the other was Lombarda. Dubrovnik was lovely withwisteria in full bloom tumbling over crumbling walls and hanging in clusters from the trellis-work, partly screening the night-sky at an open-air restaurant where we dined and danced; and at Lombarda, which had not been on our itinerary, a brown-skinned little imp stole my cocktail. The weather had been serene all the way from Brioni but suddenly the "Beryl" was trying to out-race a storm, and we had barely edged our way through a narrow passage before it broke. Once inside and anchored off the shore of the almost landlocked bay, not a whisper of the raging storm reached our ears, but clouds scudded as if pursued by a thousand witches and we were all too keyed-up to sleep until dawn broke over the surrounding mountains. We rose late, then went on deck for pre-lunch cocktails and found ourselves hemmed in by small craft carrying men, women and children intrigued by the appearance of so large a vessel. Wombell made a shaker-full of sidecars, Alan's favourite pick-me-up, and I carried my glass to the deck-rail and smiled and waved to smiling and waving natives. Presently, 38

up the mast of a tiny sailboat came a brown monkey of a boy with shaggy black hair and a joyous grin. Laughing and knowing he was beyond hands' reach I held out my cocktail glass. The little devil shouted something to his friend at the foot of the mast; his friend skilfully listed the craft inward, the glass was snatched from me and the highly potent mixture of Cointreau and brandy vanished down the small brown throat. The imp smacked his lips in patent satisfaction and amid a rousing cheer from the spectators he slithered all the way down the mast, flung himself on his back, patted his stomach and roared with laughter. The German pilot, Capain Hahn, late of the German Navy, whom we had taken aboard at Brioni to guide us down the perilously rocky Dalmatian coast, left us at Corfu and our own Captain McAuley was again in full command of his beloved "Beryl". Before leaving Greece, Alan and I went to the crest of a cypressed hill overlooking a dazzling blue bay, and I stood and thought of Ulysses and the sirens singing their songs as they combed their tresses; of Sappho enthralling her adorers with the music of her poems; of Phidias, making his poems in sculpture; and of Byron, consuming his own life-force. Click went Alan's camera. 'A very pretty view,' he said. Our next stop was Malta where we were entertained for lunch at Admiralty House. The fleet was away and only the officers' wives remained. We had crept in through a thick white mist but although the sun was now shining, Admiral and Mrs Mitchell's garrulous parrot kept screaming, 'Damn the fog . . . damn the fog." Having taken on coal, the "Beryl" carried us forward on the cruise, and in the straits of Messina all hell broke loose. The yacht bobbed about like a cork, a gale blew hard through a clear starry sky, furniture slithered about, books flew in a straight line from their shelves, and one tremendous roll tumbled me out of bed. On all fours I crawled to the chaise-longue and struggled into a dressing-gown. My stomach was heaving and my head felt as if it were going to burst. Brandy, I said aloud, that's what I need. Somehow I got to my feet and staggered on deck to make my way along to the dining-saloon. As I rolled past a sailor doing something with ropes I gasped, 'I think I am dying. Where's his Lordship ?' The sailor yelled back into the teeth of the gale, 'Och, your Ladyship, I dinna think his Lordship can help ye !' All the lights were burning in the saloon and Ebe and Wombell were sitting quite happily on the floor with their backs jammed against the shuddering wall. A bottle of champagne was firmly grasped between them. They were singing and laughing and obviously cock-eyed. 'Where's Alan ?' I groaned. Wombell jerked his head toward the couch. 'Out like a light,' he chuckled. 'He said if he had to drown he would rather not know it.' I looked, and there was my husband lying full length with an empty bottle of brandy rolling among the cushions. 'He was very funny,' Ebe giggled. 'Just before he passed out he said that as he had been slightly tight ever since his twenty-first birthday he might as well make sure St Peter will recognise him when he knocks on the Pearly Gates.' 39

Palermo . . . Naples . . . Genoa . . . Portofino . . . Monte Carlo . . . Cannes. The voyage was over. In a superficial fashion it had been fun and judging by the last page in Alan's book, Porpoises and People, he could not have suspected my sadness, for he wrote : 'For the successful completion of our holiday my heartfelt gratitude goes out to J. for her affection, her loveliness and charm and cheerfulness, and for her ever-ready co-operation in helping to make things run smoothly.' Well, perhaps if one lives in what my mother called 'a very small world', a world bounded entirely by self, other people are no more than passing shadows. Inevitably our arrival at the height of the summer season on the Cote d'Azur precipitated us into a milieu in which stage and society intermingled in light-hearted amity; and Alan greeted all my theatrical friends so affably that I ventured to hope he had had a change of heart. Nevertheless I stepped warily, mistrustful of his volte-face, his abrupt resumption of the easy camaraderie that had fooled me during courtship. And even though he took me to Anita and Nick Prinsep's parties, invited them on board for cocktails and included them in the big dinner party we gave at the Bal des Petits Lits Blancs, I forbore to invite them to Wemyss. My suspicion that Alan's friendliness had been nothing more than an expedient was confirmed within a few minutes of the departure of our train for Paris. Seating himself opposite to me in our wagon-lit he lit a cigar, took a few puffs, then said, 'Well, that's that. Down here, where social barriers hardly exist, it was impossible to avoid those people. But now we can return to a normal life. For the next six months, what with the grouse season and then the hunting, we shall not be in London for more than a few days while you supervise the furnishing of the flat. And if any of them come to Glasgow in a play we can simply stay away from the theatre." I sat in my corner and pushed my shoulders back against the wall until they hurt. For the first time in my life I came close to hating another human being. It was a dreadful feeling and I tried to thrust it aside before it wholly possessed and tainted me for ever. I sent out another big prayer on a wave of emotion: 'Please, God, take this hatred from me, let me go on loving. Give me patience, show me the way, turn this coldness to warmth. My heart has never felt like this, hard and heavy and ice-cold. I have been angry, resentful, obstreperous, mutinous; I have smashed things in temper and said terrible things I did not really mean. But never have I felt like this. So please, please take this feeling from me." That the Friend to whom I had pleaded had heard would not be revealed to me for a long time. Meanwhile I believed I was fighting my battle alone. On August 11th, the day before the official opening of the grouse season, the first of a long series of house-guests arrived. Each batch stayed for four or five days, and we allowed ourselves a day and a half between departures and arrivals. Most of the men and women were strangers to me and never became anything more than names in my address-book; but at least the dreary house was given life by their presence and, all in all, I quite enjoyed myself. The routine was simple enough: early each morning the yacht (with a skeleton crew of ten) transported the 'guns' up the loch to our moor in Dunbartonshire and returned at eleven o'clock to pick up the non-sporting members of the party who would join the rest for a huge hot lunch served picnic-fashion in a farmhouse barn, or a cold lunch amid the heather. 40

Fortified by a few glasses of port, or cherry brandy, we would accompany the sportsmen to the butts for the afternoon 'drives'. Tea was served on board the "Beryl" while she cruised us back to our pier in time to change for dinner and meet in the Boudoir for cocktails. After dinner we chatted or played mah-jong until on the stroke of eleven Nichols and a footman appeared with silver trays bearing decanters of whisky and brandy and syphons of soda for the gentlemen and cut-crystal jugs of lemonade and barley-water for the ladies. By midnight the castle was as silent as a tomb. Although I was not yet a good enough shot to take an active part in the popular Scottish sport I had made such swift progress that Alan took me on a quick trip to London to be measured for a beautiful Lancaster gun, a gift which, at the time, delighted me more than a diamond bracelet from Cartier would have done. That gun was to have a strange history. Among the players in my second husband's polo-team in California was an ex-cowboy from Texas named J. B. Gilmore. Gillie, as we called him, sometimes borrowed my Lancaster for dove-shooting and always handled it so lovingly that when he left us to become manager of the Manila Polo Club in the Philippines, I made it my farewell gift. A few months later the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour and before long the Philippine Isands were a holocaust. Gillie managed to bury the gun somewhere in his garden just before he and his wife, Billie, were dragged off to Santa Tomas concentration-camp where they suffered unspeakable horrors until liberated by the Americans. There was no chance of returning home to retrieve their personal possessions, so somewhere under Manila soil lies a Lancaster gun in a leather case bearing the inscription : 'The Lady Inverclyde of Castle Wemyss, Renfrewshire, Scotland'. When the grouse-shooting was over the fox-hunting began. Three or four days a week my husband was absent from early morning until dusk; and there is a limit to the amount of time one can spend in reading, writing letters, sewing, knitting, practising the piano and listening to the radio. If I had had friends of my own age, things might have been more tolerable, but our neighbours were middle-aged or older and we had nothing in common. Sometimes I wept with loneliness; other times I whistled for Dart, rushed out of the castle and strode at a furious pace along the shore road, letting the rain drench my hair and the cold wind strike at my chest in the hysterical hope that I would catch pneumonia and die. Once, reading in the newspaper that Phyllis Monkman would be at one of the Glasgow theatres, I drove into the city; but on the steps of the theatre I lost courage and drove home again. To have seen Phyllis dance in her blithe, lissome style, to sit in her dressing-room and have an old-fashioned 'gab' would have been a tiny slice of heaven but not quite worth the quarrel that would have ensued if I had been observed in the stalls or going through the stage door. The worst period of the day when my husband was hunting was lunch-time. With Dart snorting and snuffling at my heels, I went up the chilly stone staircase, through Alan's 'office' and the larger drawing-room, along the passage with the bay-window which gave a panoramic view of the grey Firth of Clyde, and into the dining-room. Dart would slither under a console table and lie watching me as I seated myself in a high-backed chair and was waited upon by butler and footman. At a specific moment during that silent meal I would engage Nichols in a brief conversation reminiscent of the dialogue invented by dramatists to fill the first two or three minutes of a play while the audience is settling down. It ran in this vein : 41

Lady Inverclyde : I am sorry to hear that you have a touch of lumbago, Nichols. Nichols : Thank you, my lady. Lady Inverclyde (solicitously) : Have you tried a bella-donna plaster ? I believe it relieves the pain. Nichols : Yes, my lady. Lady Inverclyde : Did you find that it helped ? Sometimes a good old-fashioned remedy is the best. Nichols : Indeed, yes, milady. This spurt of dialogue having ended, silence would fall again, broken only by the murmur of the fire, the moaning of the fog-horn, the soft panting of my dog as he anticipated the imminent arrival of his own meal. The footman brought his bowl and handed it to Nichols who placed it beside my chair and called quietly, 'Here, Dart, here.' Dart would insinuate his sleek body from under the console, sidle across the room, sniff, gobble, lick his chops and sit back with a question in his soft brown eyes, "Snooze or walk ?" One morning, waking to a day even greyer than its predecessor, I knew I could not face that lonely dining-room again and told my maid I would lunch on a card-table by the fire in the Boudoir. Two minutes later Miss Thompson appeared with deep concern written on her plain face. Was I ill ? Should she send for the doctor ? No, I said, I was perfectly well but disliked lunching alone in the dining-room. 'And I do not wish Nichols and George to wait on me. Elsie can serve me.' I could feel her back stiffening. 'Verra well' she sniffed, and marched out of the room. What a lovely time I had! I put on a pink woollen négligé, propped a novel in front of my plate and read while I ate, with Dart curled beside me in the big armchair by the fire and making approving little noises. By the time Alan returned from the hunt I was properly dressed to pour his tea. We made small talk and then he asked me how I had passed the day. When I told him he smiled but made no comment. However, the next day when I repeated my request for lunch in the Boudoir Nichols coughed discreetly and said, 'His Lordship's orders are to serve lunch in the dining-room, milady." I went to my bedroom, summoned my maid and said, 'I am going to lunch in Glasgow. Please have the car around at eleven-thirty." Inwardly seething, I lunched alone at the Central Hotel, did some unnecessary shopping and contrived to reach home later than Alan. I did not pass through the Boudoir to reach my bedroom and remained there until eight o'clock when he tapped on the door and said, dinner has been announced.' That night I, not Alan, was the silent one. Accustomed to my light chatter he kept peering at me round the towering candelabra and, as soon as the servants left us alone with coffee and liqueurs, he said, 'What is the matter ?" I exploded. 'What is the matter ! Need you ask ? I cannot endure sneakiness. If you disapproved of my lunching in the Boudoir why didn't you tell me ? How dare you countermand my orders !' 42

'Only actresses eat in their boudoirs, in négligé', he said. 'Aha ! So your spies even reported what I wore ! Well, my dear Alan, while I was in town I found a perfect solution to my problem. 'In the future, when you are not here, I shall have lunch in bed. If her Ladyship is indisposed there can be no below-stairs gossip. Though, frankly, I could not care less what the servants say or think. And if you ever countermand my orders again I shall leave you." He attempted to intercept me at the door but I rushed past. Half-way along the passage I recalled the strange expression on his face, the glisten in his eyes. I ran back. He was not weeping, but his limbs were trembling. Instantly contrite I put my arms round him. 'Im sorry,' I said, 'I didn't know what I was saying.' He did not touch me but he said over and over again, 'Bear with me, Topsy, bear with me.' So I bore seven more months empty of love, laughter, companionship. I bore his long silences, his monosyllabic replies, his unexplained absences in Glasgow, his lack of enthusiasm over our lovely flat in London when at last it was completed until I could no longer endure the strain of trying to climb the stone wall he had erected between us since this mockery of a marriage had begun. Then I left him. My precipitate departure from Wemyss was caused by an incident too trivial, in a way, to bear recounting; yet it had been 'the last straw that breaks the camel's back'. It must be told. In the early summer of 1930, the second year of our marriage, his merry sister, Emily, and her boisterous fun-loving husband, Gerald, came to spend a few days with us. They always enlivened the atmosphere and during the dinner I made them laugh by telling them the story of my failure as Gertie Lawrence's understudy while I was in Andre Chariot's chorus; of how, having made a botch of one of Gertie's songs, I had flung myself into the arms of the stage manager and sobbed, 'Don't let me do that again,' and the man had said grimly, 'Don't worry. You won't !' Alan did not laugh, but I presumed this was because he had heard the story before. But after dinner he sat in glum silence and did not come into my bedroom to say goodnight. Next day he did not utter a word and I wondered what I had done. When Emily and Gerald had gone to bed I stood with my back to the fire in the Boudoir and said, 'Alan, Alan, what is wrong ?' He walked away from me and stood beside the grand piano, smoking his cigar and staring over the top of my head. 'Please answer me, Alan,' I said. 'If I have done something wrong, tell me.' Silence, while he carefully tapped the cigar ash into a tray. My nerves were drawn taut. 'Alan, answer me, please !' I begged. He continued to gaze beyond me. 'If you don't answer me, I shall throw something at you,' I threatened. And when this brought no response I reached for a Chinese vase on the mantelpiece and flung it at him. He dodged. The vase struck and shattered the one on the piano. Flowers tumbled, water poured over the piano keys. At last he spoke in a dead-cold tone. 'Very well, I shall tell you. You talked about being a chorus girl, IN FRONT OF THE SERVANTS'. [Ed. Capitals !] 43

What I said then will not bear repetition and I doubt if I could possibly recall all the names I called him, starting with 'consummate little snob' and gradually growing worse and worse. Without uttering a word he walked out of the room and closed the door behind him. The next thing I knew I was lying on my face on my bedroom floor, beating the carpet with my clenched fists and sobbing uncontrollably until a pain shot through my heart, and, frightened, I lay there quivering, spent. From the floor above came the sound of his typewriter, and the steady staccato sound seemed to pierce my brain like a thousand knives. I let out one loud scream, dragged myself to bed and fell into a sleep of emotional exhaustion. Early in the morning while Alan was still asleep in his own room, I summoned my maid and told her I was leaving. With a few suitcases I caught the train to London. On the way I reviewed the past fifteen months. What had either of us achieved ? Nothing ! Important as he had attempted to make each of our so-called 'good works', they were trivial compared to what I had hoped to bring to fruition. He had scorned my second-hand idea of improving conditions in Glasgow; and as for turning the Dower House into a haven for poor children in need of good food and fresh air, he had tossed it aside as involving 'too much red tape'. 'Besides,' he added, 'the brats would be all over the place, tearing up the flowers, running ragged in the stables, annoying our tenants. . . .' I was a shuddering mass of nerves when I reached London; and my thinness and constant hacking cough alarmed Doctor Rogers. He put me in a pleasant convalescent home on Hampstead Heath where I underwent various medical tests. Nothing, it transpired, was organically wrong, but nervous tension had caused a functional disorder of my heart which, if allowed to continue, might develop into a chronic condition. Therefore I must be kept free of agitation and, in due couse, go to a warm sunny climate. In spite of sedatives my screaming nightmares often brought the night-nurse running. But after a few weeks in my room overlooking a pleasant garden, Doctor Rogers felt I would be able to receive my husband. My hiding place was divulged and he arrived post-haste from Scotland. He begged me to go back. I replied that I would do so, if he would permit me to return to the stage for four to six months a year. 'The rest of the time I will do whatever you wish,' I promised. He said he would think it over and let me know in a few days. That night I slept without the aid of drugs and awakened bright and early with more than a vestige of hope in my heart. But when he re-appeared, a glance at his stony face was enough to tell me he would make no compromise. My doctor happened to be present and I asked him to remain in the room. He stood with his fingers on my pulse while I asked Alan to give me a divorce. 'I want freedom to earn my own living again. Please. All you have to do is go away with a woman for a few days. Is this too much to ask ?' 'Yes,' he said. 'You will never have any reason to divorce me. I shall bide my time until I obtain grounds for divorcing you. And I do not think I shall have long to wait.' A few days later I received word that my annual allowance of five thousand pounds had been reduced to one thousand. I went to see my old friend and solicitor, Harry Abrahams, taking my marriage contract with me. Harry was waiting for me in his musty office and, as always, in spite of the warm weather, the windows were tightly closed, a small fire was burning and a 44

tea-kettle humming on the hob. On the littered desk stood a chipped brown teapot and a cup of strong tea. Harry, more bird-like than ever, read the contract, let his glasses slide to the end of his short nose and peered keenly over the top. 'You are not a very clever young lady, are you ?' he asked, 'and you do not read very carefully, do you ? The answer is no. If you were clever and if you read carefully you would have seen a small but significant word, 'voluntary'. My dear June, your husband guarantees you only one thousand pounds a year, the balance of four thousand being a voluntary allowance which he can curtail at his pleasure. At his pleasure, too, he can deduct income tax from the one thousand. How did this contract come about ?' My heart was performing its odd dance, pausing before a little gallop, an action that caused me to cough, and what with the fire at my back and the lack of oxygen in the office, I felt faint. Before answering Harry I flung open one of the windows and took several long deep breaths. My heart resumed its regularity and I said, 'I can remember exactly how that contract came about. In New York soon after we became engaged Alan said it was customary for a man of his wealth to make a settlement on his wife and he asked me what I spent annually on clothes. I said I wasn't sure but thought I spent between two and three thousand, so he said he would give me five thousand with which to dress myself, entertain my friends for lunch, pay hairdresser's bills, etc., etc. This seemed a very pleasant arrangement because so many of my married friends seemed to have monthly arguments with their husbands over their bills and —— 'I see,' Harry interposed. "And now tell me, did you engage a lawyer ?' "Alan did. In Scotland. He said I must have a Scottish lawyer. I never met him.' 'I see.' He perused the document again. 'I notice that your brother Sutherland witnessed this paper. Didn't he notice the word "voluntary" ?' 'He didn't remark on it and of course all that "party of the first part" and "party of the second part" made no sense to me. But I am sure he will be prepared to swear that the word "voluntary" was not in the first document. He would have noticed it.' Harry's swivel chair ceased its twirling. He sat up very straight. 'First document ?' he echoed sharply. 'Then this is not the first ? What happened to the first ?' I racked my brains and at last remembered. "Alan said there had been some typographical errors in the first one we signed and a new copy would be sent from Scotland.' 'I see. And when did it come ?' Two days before the wedding Alan telephoned to me at about eight o'clock in the morning and said a clerk from Scotland would be arriving at nine o'clock and I must have my brother there to witness my signature, so that the document could be taken straight back to Scotland to be registered or recorded or whatever one calls it at least twenty-four hours before the marriage or it would not be valid. My brother rushed to my flat, we signed the paper and the clerk rushed away.' Harry got out of his chair, went to the window and with his back turned to me, said, 'Well, my dear, you have been well and truly spoofed by a peer of the realm.'

45

Now, with my income reduced to a mere pittance and only a couple of thousand pounds in the bank, work loomed as a necessity instead of an indulgence. But first I had to regain my health. I borrowed five thousand pounds on my pearls and booked a passage to New York with southern California as my eventual destination. Before leaving England I followed Doctor Rogers's advice and consulted a highly-respected firm of lawyers with regard to obtaining my freedom. After hearing my story, much of which was corroborated by Rogers and Ebe Ertz (who had been closer to my problems than anyone else), the lawyers reached the conclusion that the only gateway led through annulment of the marriage. Reluctant to take such a drastic step I first persuaded a mutual friend to go to Scotland, divulge to Alan the course I had been advised to take and beg him to render unnecessary an action which would be injurious to us both; for even if, as my lawyers had promised, the case were heard 'in camera', or in other words behind closed doors, a certain amount of scandal would be inescapable. When the friend returned with Alan's emphatic 'No', I instructed the lawyers to set the annulment plea in motion and sailed for the United States. New York was enveloped in a shroud of intense humid heat, but I did not care. The Atlantic Ocean lay between me and an intolerable way of life and for a little while at least I could sublimate my troubles, do as I please with my time, and gird my loins for the legal battle ahead. Not a whisper of our separation having leaked through to the public, I was not bothered by newspaper reporters and quickly arrived at the Savoy-Plaza where I found a telephone message from Adele Astaire. For a few moments I hesitated, then realising I no longer need cut my theatrical friends, I flew to the telephone. Dellie's chirpy voice said, 'Welcome, Junie ! I read in the paper that you were due on the Aquitania. How about lunch tomorrow ? And oh, by the way, guess who will be here from Hollywood next week. Jack. Jack Buchanan! He's finished his picture with Jeanette Macdonald and I hear it's terrific. But with those two and with Ernst Lubitsch directing, how could it be otherwise ?' I wired to Jack's studio and two hours later he telephoned, saying that if I would go to California, he would spend his holiday there instead of in Scotland. So within twenty-four hours of crossing the Atlantic I was crossing nearly three thousand miles of the United States from the east to the west coast. That train journey was hell-on-wheels, for in 1930 air-conditioning did not exist and when we reached the torrid desert of New Mexico the air rushing through open windows was like blasts from a white-hot furnace, laden with dust, sand and soot from the engine. All one could do was hang wet towels in front of the inadequate electric fan, lie half-naked on one's berth and sip lemonade in which ice had melted too swiftly to have much effect. But on the fourth night as we spiralled into California the temperature dropped and in the morning I saw well-irrigated pastures, lemon ranches, orange groves, walnut orchards, wind-breaks of tall feathery trees, little houses painted white, yellow and blue, as in the South of France; and on the platform of Pasadena Station, the last stop before Los Angeles, 'The City of Angels', was Jack Buchanan, bronzed, grinning, in white flannels and an open-necked white shirt.

46

His old familiar greeting, 'Hullo, you little rat,' was like manna from heaven. I was not 'home', but it felt preciously like it. With him were his Hollywood pals, Evelyn Brent, the beautiful, sultry-eyed movie star. and her attractive husband, Harry Edwards. Tucking her arm through mine, Betty Brent said, 'We're taking you under our wings.' Nearly every day of Jack Buchanan's fast-fleeting holiday in California was spent at Betty Brent's summer cottage at Malibu, a stretch of beach where, in dwellings ranging from simple to ornate, many stars, directors, writers and movie executives beat a retreat on week-ends or in lulls between pictures. And one afternoon Jack and I were lying half asleep on our stomachs in the warm sand when a guttural voice roused us, saying, 'Goot afternoon, Mister Book.' Jack raised his head, blinked and answered with a grin, 'Goot afternoon, Mister Loob !' Lubitsch pushed open the wicket gate and came forward, followed by a man only slightly taller than he, with a long, inquisitive nose and tightly-compressed lips. Jack said, 'Hullo, Lothar', and Lubitsch introduced his companion to me, 'Mein goot friend, Lotar Mendes . . . Lady Unterclyde.' I laughed, knowing Lubitsch's love of jokes and knowing, too, that Unterkleid is the German word for 'underclothes'; but Mr Mendes did not smile, only bowed stiffly, simultaneously bringing his sandalled heels together in an almost inaudible click. Next morning I woke up with all the signs of a heavy cold, cancelled my dinner engagement with Ronnie Colman, a really delightful man, and let my Scottish maid dose me with aspirin and hot lemonade. By late afternoon the sniffles ceased. I put on a neglige and went into my sitting-room to tackle neglected correspondence. Presently the telephone rang and my maid, who was sewing in the bedroom, answered it in there and came to the doorway to announce Lothar Mendes. I picked up the telephone on the desk. 'Lady Inverclyde ?' he said in English with little trace of a German accent, 'I wish to apologise for my behaviour yesterday afternoon. I am having trouble with my picture and my mind was very much concentrated. I have thought of you on and off all day and would have liked to invite you for cocktails in my apartment which is just above yours, but one of my friends has borrowed it for a story conference and it is like bedlam ... so, I wonder, may I come to you ?" While he was speaking I noticed the clear-cut silhouette of my maid on the bedroom wall. She had not replaced the receiver and was holding it to her ear. 'O-Ho !' I thought with surprise and distaste, 'so we have a little spy from Wemyss in our midst !' To Mendes I said, 'Why, yes ... I was just going to make myself a drink and I'll be delighted if you'll come. But please give me fifteen minutes. I am not quite dressed.' 'In fifteen minutes, then,' he said. 'Auf Wiedersehen, gnddige Frau'. I replaced the receiver and saw my maid repeat the gesture. By the time I reached the bedroom she had crossed to the dressing-room and was fussing needlessly with my perfume bottles. Her fresh colour was a little higher than usual, I noticed, and wondered if I should rebuke her for eavesdropping. 47

Instead, I said, 'I am expecting Mr Mendes for a cocktail. He is a very important director but I only met him yesterday so I think you had better remain here until he leaves. I don't suppose he will stay more than an hour but if he should, and you are hungry, you can have your dinner served in here. On no account are you to leave the suite. You see, I heard a few days ago that Lord Inverclyde is having me spied on.' That evening dispelled my first impression of Lothar Mendes. He still remained somewhat gnome-like in my eyes, but there was a vital charm that broke through his ugliness. He had wit, humour and intelligence and was deeply read. My earlier regret at having cancelled my engagement with Ronnie Colman vanished as Mendes and I sat opposite to each other at dinner in my apartment and he told me of his childhood in Berlin, his boyhood friendship with Lubitsch, their early apprenticeship as actors under the banner of Max Reinhardt, their mutual pursuit of experience as motion-picture directors at UFA, Germany's most noted film company, and their almost simultaneous summons to Hollywood to work for one of the leading studios. And he made me laugh with his stories of Lubitsch's hopeless battle with the English language. For example: one of Lubitsch's first assignments was to direct Mary Pickford in a wedding scene in which, on the point of marrying a man she did not love, she suddenly saw the sweetheart whom she believed to be dead. Lubitsch wanted her to take two steps backward from the altar, scream and faint. But this is what he said, 'Miss Bickford ... vill you, from de altar, mit your backside, shtep, scram und svoon !' I was still chuckling over this story when Mendes took his leave at 10.30 and going into my bedroom I found my maid fast asleep in the armchair. I was feeling so light-hearted that I had to resist the temptation to drop a line to Inverclyde saying, 'A professional detective will serve you better than an amateur." September passed and October was drawing to a close when my lawyer summoned me to London. My husband had made a surprise move; he would not yet contest the annulment case. First, he would challenge my legal right as a person domiciled in Scotland to bring suit against him in England. God alone knows why my own lawyers had not foreseen this possibility but they had not and that was that. Neither Inverclyde nor I would be required to appear in court while the purely technical battle was joined but I had to be on hand in case the judge found in my favour and permitted the annulment suit to be heard. On the heels of this information came a telephone call from a friend in London who said he had tried to dissuade Alan from taking a course which would undoubtedly expose details I had hoped to keep secret. 'But,' said this friend, 'he is immovable. I am afraid he hates you. He has declared to more than one person that he is determined to ruin you, financially, socially and theatrically. If you take my advice, you will secure a cast-iron contract in the theatre or movies before you leave for England, because afterwards I am afraid no management will want to engage you. You should do this, June, or withdraw the annulment suit at once.' I cried all night, and in the morning I bared the situation to Lothar. He questioned the sincerity of the 'friend' I had regarded as ft fair and just mediator. 'I scent a nigger in the wood-pile,' he said. 'It sounds to me as if this "friend" has gone over to Inverclyde's camp and is trying to alarm you. Go to London, puppchen, go to London, little doll ! Let your husband's objections be 48

heard, and if the judgment is in his favour, come back here. I cannot promise you stardom in pictures; you are not sufficiently photogenique, but you are a very good actress and I can find you roles that will pay well. Forget the theatre. You are twenty-eight and your dancing years are limited. But you can act until you are an old lady. And there is your writing, too. Barney thinks you have unusual talent and is willing to help you. Go, little doll, and keep your chin up. Remember the British have never been defeated.' On Armistice Day I arrived in foggy London, took a suite at the Ritz and picked up the telephone to call a few friends. All except Ebe Ertz and Edward Marjoribanks, the brilliant young barrister and Member of Parliament in whose eyes I could do no wrong, were 'not at home' to me. Just before leaving California I had received a letter from Marjoribanks : My dearest June, I do not know if this letter will ever reach you. I hope it does. It is just to tell you that I am thinking about you a lot. I am so so sorry all this has happened. I did so wish you security and happiness. Life is really an incredibly mysterious and apparently unjust succession of incidents. I think I told you that you can always count on me as a friend. Well, you can, my dear, always. As you know, I, too, have been through abject misery. ... I found my way through somehow. Trouble gives one a precious precious independence and courage. This is the only thing that can be said in favour of it. I am going through a stormy passage of my career at the present moment but I don't mind at all because I have been so close to unhappiness that cannot be borne ... so close, and yet somehow I managed to bear it with tears and sleeplessness and solitude. 'Who ne'er with tears his bread has ate, Who ne'er through the long night hours Weeping upon his bed has sate He knows ye not, ye heavenly powers !' Don't answer, but if you want me, let me know. Love from Edward Marjoribanks. The moment he heard that Mr Justice Bateson had given judgment in favour of my husband, that the English courts had no jurisdiction to entertain my suit, he came rushing unheralded to my hotel. I had just been apprised of the disappointing result of the three-day debate and was sitting disconsolate by the fire, trying to digest the complicated account in the evening paper, when Edward came in like a tornado, his black overcoat flapping behind him. He looked angry; he was angry. Out of the torrent of words that tumbled forth I gathered that Alan's counsel had won by producing a precedent for the case. He had had to delve back into the reign of Henry VIII or thereabouts to unearth the precedent which became the deciding factor ! When Edward quietened down I told him that my lawyers had informed me that my way was clear now to bring suit in Scotland; but, in that event, Inverclyde would undoubtedly exercise his prerogative as a peer of the realm to appeal to The House of Lords. 'And,' I added with a hopeless gesture, 'what possible chance would I, a musical comedy actress, stand against his peers ?' 'About as much chance,' Ebe Ertz put in, 'as a snowball in Hell !' 'But,' I said to Edward, 'you have not heard all ! This will stagger you ! One of my lawyers had the temerity to relay a message to me from Alan. If I would "behave myself in the future," he is willing to take me back !' 'My God !' Edward ejaculated, jumping up and pacing the room. 'What impertinence ! What did you say ?' 'I was speechless, Edward. I simply looked at my lawyer and walked out of the room.' 49

'Alan thinks he has you with your back against the wall. He knows you have little or no money, no engagement, and now scarcely a hope of one,' Edward raged. 'Scarcely !' I echoed. 'None! Look at some of these anonymous letters I have received.' I pointed to the desk. 'No. don't, Edward. They're horrible. I am being sentenced without trial. All these people, reading as they run, are under the impression that the annulment case has been going on and that Alan has proved I lied ! But, as you know, even the truth has not been given a hearing ! And now it never will. Of that I am glad, however, because I've felt sullied ever since I signed the papers, and it will be a long time before I feel clean again. I went into this marriage with a pure heart, Edward.' 'I know. Poor June . . . .' 'No, don't pity me. Call me a fool, a trusting fool. I'll never be able to trust anyone again and this is perhaps the worst part of the whole mess. This is a taint I'll carry all my days. Look at my so-called "friends". Where are they now, when I need them ? All, except you, Ebe and Doctor Rogers, have dropped me as if I were a loathsome object." This is hard to believe,' Edward said. 'But true, nevertheless. I'll be able to forgive them in time, I suppose, but I shall never forget. And this hurts, too, It hurts terribly. My God, if you knew what furtive little bits of business some of those girls are up to behind their husbands' backs, you'd go out and buy a nice shining halo and set it on my head.' Ebe had been standing at a window, looking down at the rainy street. Now she let the curtain drop back in place, swung away and said, 'There's no use in going over all this, June. Alan has won and you have lost. But his is a victory with a very sour after-taste. I heard today that he may be asked to resign from more than one club. Some people, many people, may have declared themselves against you, but I'll bet that in their hearts they do not like to see a woman beaten to the dust and then kicked. Especially one who has worked hard all her life, kicked by a man with all the advantages of rank and wealth. You will be all right, Junie, but he will have to live all his days with this stigma. I feel sorrier for him than for you.' 'I don't,' Edward said, vehemently. 'Strange as it may seem,' I said, 'I do. Bitter as I am, I can find pity for him.' But when Edward left I became distraught. 'Where do I go from here ?' I asked Ebe. 'What shall I do ?' She ordered a bottle of champagne, but, in my overwrought state, two glasses were enough to make me tipsy and, when a representative of The Palladium telephoned, offering five hundred pounds for one week's appearance, I shouted, 'How vulgar !' and slammed down the receiver. Much as I needed the money, I would be no monkey in a zoo, performing antics for the rabble who would pay to see not 'the darling of the musical comedy stage' but a notorious woman. I snatched up one of the anonymous letters. I rolled the paper in a ball and tossed it into the fire, and flung after it all the other muck that had come from a public that had once applauded me. I went to the champagne bottle again and again, and by midnight I was in such a maudlin state that I sent a wild cable to Lothar Mendes: 'Case lost and so am I.' 50

When he promptly answered, 'Come back to the people who love you,' I booked passage on the Mauritania, due to sail for the United States within a few days. For the first and last time in my life I felt glad to shake the dust of my native land from my feet. My maid was in the throes of packing when another cable arrived. It was from Biarritz and signed 'Pepe de Landa'. Pepe was a charming Mexican whom I had known since 1927 and who had proposed marriage to me in New York shortly before I accepted Alan. He was slim, good-looking, fair-skinned with blue eyes. His aristocratic ancestors had followed in the wake of Cortez, the Conqueror of Mexico, and acquired vast lands in that country. Pepe's grandmother had been Lady-in-Waiting to Carlotta, the last Empress of Mexico; the revolution had all but wiped out the de Landa's fortune but left their social position intact; and now Pepe and his younger brother, Ignacio ('Nacho'), were soon to sail for New York in the entourage of the young Infantas of Spain. Pope's cable had said, 'Hear you are in trouble. Arriving London tomorrow. Please receive me.' And when he came to the Ritz he suggested that I cancel my passage on the Mauritania and travel on the Europa instead. 'We can have a week of fun in Paris, you and Ebe, Nacho and I.' Temporarily a ship without a rudder and made reckless by the course my life had taken, I agreed. I sold some jewels, paid my lawyers' bills and went to Paris, where in a whirl of superficial gaiety I passed ten days until the dense fog obstructing Channel traffic lifted and permitted the German liner, Europa, to sail from Cherbourg. Having been tipped off that Inverclyde was having me watched, I decided to give my husband and his sleuths a run for their money. Like children ringing doorbells and running away, Pepe and I would get out of a taxi at The Vendome entrance to the Ritz, scoot through the hotel and out of the Rue Cambon door. In separate vehicles we would drive to out- of-the-way inns in the country, meet for a quick aperitif, leave together, and go to one or another maison particuliere in the Avenue de la Grande Armee, and, having been admitted, peer through a crack in the high carved door until two men in a familiar black Citroen had lit cigarettes and settled back for a long wait. Then we would sally forth, hail a cruising taxi, and take a circuitous route to the Meurice, where I was stopping, and there say goodbye. After six days of this tomfoolery, the black Citroen was conspicuous by its absence. Southern California, where the sun shines most of the year round and few trees shed their leaves when autumn and winter appear on the calendar, celebrates the Christmas season with as much glitter and joy as if 'snow lay round about'. Hollywood Boulevard is transformed into Santa Claus Lane with each lamp-post disguised as a sparkling fir-tree. Santa Claus and his shimmering reindeer ride high above the stream of traffic as one enters Beverly Hills. Front gardens are strung with multi-coloured lights and window curtains left undrawn to show glistening winking trees. Christmas was just around the corner when I jumped from the train at Pasadena and ran into the arms of my three musketeers, Lothar, Lubitsch and Barney, waiting to welcome me back from England.

51

What with the gaiety of Paris, the trip across the Atlantic, a brief spurt of theatre-going in New York and the 'homeward' journey by train, my spirits had shed their gloom and I was determined to forget Inverclyde and the unhappiness he had brought me. As for his ugly threat to 'ruin me', I tried to write it off as spoken in anger. I would not allow myself to believe that anyone could sustain for a long time a desire for revenge. I would be proved wrong in the long run; but for the moment I was sustained by the belief that eventually he would relent, decide to marry again, and give me grounds for divorce. January, February, March and April. Lothar finally persuaded Paramount to give me a screen test. I acted a long scene from the play Dulcy with Alan Mowbray, a most kindly man and an excellent actor. But when I saw myself on the screen I knew I was no candidate for film success. I acted well enough, my diction was excellent, I moved gracefully; but my looks translated into black and white did not register. Had techni-colour existed, I might have fared better but, like air-conditioning, it was no more than a dream which would not come true for several more years. I wrote to Willie Edelsten, the well-known theatrical agent who was Anita Prinsep's father. Willie wired an offer to co-star with the popular comedian Bobby dark in a Shubert production. A thousand dollars a week was mighty tempting but I could not imagine myself playing opposite a cigar-twirling, slap-stick comedian, even though Mr dark was brilliantly funny. I turned it down. This news having trickled over to London, Julian Wylie asked for an option on my services if and when he found a suitable vehicle. I signed it and settled down to wait for his summons. In the meantime I was beginning to regard my hotel bills with a somewhat jaundiced eye and finally decided to take a duplex apartment at La Ronda, a charming and quite exclusive place on the fringe of Beverly Hills and Hollywood. The apartment was more like a little house, with a sitting-room, dining-room and kitchen on the ground floor, two bedrooms and a bathroom above, and a sunny balcony overlooking a flowering patio. Behind the house was a tenniscourt, and among the tenants of the other apartment bungalows were several friends and acquaintances including lovely Marilyn Miller, who was making a film of one of her greatest stage successes, Sally. There, as Lothar had pointed out, I could live for a month on what the hotel had cost me per week. 'Your maid can clean the place, take care of you, cook . . ' But when I broached the idea to my pretty Scottish maid she stared at me as if I had taken leave of my senses. She, a lady's maid, sully her hands with pots and pans and dishes and brooms ? No, thank you ! So I shipped her home to Scotland and murmured a sotto voce 'good riddance" as the taxi whisked her away to the Los Angeles station. While waiting to move to my new abode, I found myself in a continual tizzy. All my life I had been waited on, hand and foot, by my childhood nanny, by my mother, by my dresser at the theatre, by a personal maid at home. And now, suddenly, I did not know where anything was ! Taking a little frock from the wardrobe I found the collar and cuffs soiled; I forgot to replenish my store of stockings and discovered half a pair; my long nails pierced holes in my gloves and there was no one to mend them; I ran out of face-cream, tooth-paste, nail varnish. I kept beaux pacing the sitting-room while I scrambled about in search of purses, belts and other accessories.Then, one of the hotel chambermaids, a motherly Canadian creature with fuzzy dark hair, gypsy eyes and a warm heart, came to my rescue. She kept drawers tidy, laundered my lingerie, picked up after me, ordered stockings, gloves, hand-kerchiefs, filled my 52

fountain pen, dressed me for parties. Her name was Dora, but her numerologist had warned her she would never 'rise in the world' unless she changed it to Dee ! So I called her Dee and, when she asked to be taken into my employ, I said, 'If you can cook, yes !' 'Well, ma'm, I mean milady, I can cook plain things like chops and steaks, rice pudding, baked potatoes . . ' We settled down very cosily. Waking in the sunny mornings I would hear her singing snatches of opera in the kitchen; I would perch on the kitchen-stool, sip her excellent coffee and listen to her life story while she peeled potatoes, scrubbed carrots, sliced onions, marinated a leg of lamb. If I was alone in the evening I would call to her to give me a 'cut of the cards' in front of the log fire. But in the presence of my friends she never overstepped the mark. Her passion for opera amused me. One morning I overheard her telling her best friend, a scrawny little maid from across the patio, 'Tonight her Ladyship is going to hear Pelleas and Melisande ! 'What's that ?' inquired her friend. I could sense Dee floundering for a moment. Then she said brightly, 'Well, dearie, Pelleas and Melisande are two people, like they might be Sadie and Bob. . . .' One morning she came upstairs to inform me that a 'gentleman from the sheriff's office' was waiting on the doorstep. Puzzled, then alarmed, I went downstairs. An envelope was thrust into my hand and the 'gentleman' vanished. I could not make sense out of the paper which said something about Lord Inverclyde no longer being responsible for my debts. Debts ? What debts ? As far as I knew I had none. I telephoned Lothar Mendes's studio, but he was in the middle of shooting a scene and while I was waiting for him to return the call, the postman brought a letter from my lawyers informing me that from now on my husband would deduct income tax from one thousand pounds a year he contracted to pay me until the dissolution of our marriage. Weak at the knees I sat down and trembled. Now I was reduced to seven hundred and fifty pounds a year ! How could I possibly live and dress decently on that amount of money ? My rent alone came to more than my entire monthly income. True, I still had more than half the money I had received for two diamond bracelets before returning to California, but in a few months that would be gone and God alone knew when Julian Wylie would find a show for me. Dee declared that 'if it would help", she would work for me for room and board and no wages until I got "on even ground again'. But I said, 'That won't be necessary yet, Dee dear, but thank you just the same.' Lothar and Lubitsch came to dinner that night and the next day I took the paper and letter to a well-known Los Angeles attorney, an elderly and benign-looking man, who scanned the papers, tossed them aside and asked for the whole story. I recounted it as briefly as possible while an expression of disgust spread over his face. 'This cannot go on,' he said briskly. 'Why not get a divorce in Reno, Nevada ? All you have to do is establish residence there. Six weeks does the trick. Then you ask for a divorce on the grounds of "incompatibility of temperament' and you'll be free to marry again, if you wish. 'I gather from Lothar, an old friend of mine, that he is in love with you and wants to marry you. Why don't you ? He's a good fellow, a fine character, he has a big contract at Paramount. Get rid of this lord,' he flicked his finger and thumb against the papers on his desk. 'Make a new life for yourself here, in God's Own Country.' 53

'But . . . but will a Reno divorce be legal in England ?' I asked. 'If Lord Inverclyde gives his consent to the divorce, nobody can question it. If he refuses to answer, you can get the divorce by default; and, if you marry again, he can divorce you for adultery. But remember, young lady, much of the stigma will be cancelled by the fact that in the eyes of the United States you will be the legally wedded wife of another man.' I thought over his suggestion while gazing at the blue cloudless sky, the palm fronds stirring in the light wind. To marry Lothar had not occurred to me. In a way, I loved him, I loved him for his infinite kindness and understanding, his stimulating companionship, thoughtfulness, and for the courage he had given me to hold up my chin in the face of adversity. And suddenly I found myself smiling, amused that he should have proposed marriage in so quaint a way, through the lips of this stranger sitting on the other side of the desk. Then a disturbing thought occurred. 'How much will a Reno divorce cost ?' The lawyer leaned back in his swivel-chair and joined his finger-tips. 'Five thousand dollars,' he said. One thousand pounds ? 'Oh, my goodness !' I cried. 'I can't possibly afford as much as that.' He pushed out his lips and gazed at the palm fronds fluttering against the office window. 'Well, how much can you afford ?' 'Not much more than half that sum,' I confessed. He reached for the telephone, and by the time I left his office I had a Reno attorney, train reservation to Nevada, and a suite for myself and Dee in the Riverside Hotel in Reno, where I would reside for six weeks as Mrs John Burns, under my husband's family name. Blessed with the ability to make a little home, however temporary, wherever my theatrical career had set me down, I soon deprived my hotel rooms of their impersonal atmosphere by placing books here and there, finding the right spot for my phonograph and Dee's classical records, setting my sewing-basket beside the sofa. Dee folded my ermine coverlet at one end of the couch, lacy baby pillows on my bed, and on my desk I arranged the little treasures without which I had not travelled for years, a jade paper-knife, a rose quartz ash-tray with a tiny amethyst elephant trumpeting on the rim, an exquisite onyx clock studded with cabochon rubies, a Morocco leather box containing my personal writing-paper, a silver-framed snapshot of my gentle father, a Lalique bud vase for a single rose or a delicate spray of mimosa. 'There,' I smiled, 'that's done. And tomorrow. Dee, we will tour this little city, buy a typewriter for me and a cookery book for you. Much as I love and cherish you, I am, a bit tired of chops and steaks. And while I teach myself to type, you can have fun in this little kitchen.' Nearly every morning I took a golf lesson and in the afternoons we would take our our knitting or sewing or books to the little park through which ran the narrow, burbling River Truckee, into whose shallow waters gay divorcees were said to toss their discarded wedding rings before scampering around the corner to make another marital error.

54

The Riverside teemed with would-be divorcees and several of them tried to pick up an acquaintanceship with me as I paused at the reception desk; but I avoided any form of intimacy which might lead to the revelation that I was not Mrs John Burns. My only visitor was my lawyer, Mr Woodburn, who sometimes broke his walk home in the afternoon to drink a long, well-iced whisky and soda in my sitting-room and regale me with amusing stories of the Reno divorce court. There was, for example, the elderly and absent-minded judge who had formed the habit of following "Divorce granted' with a quick 'Better luck next time, lady.' However, one day he was faced by a very young, very tearful girl who declared that on her bridal night her groom had locked himself in the bathroom, climbed out of the window and vanished. The judge pounded his gavel. "Divorce granted ! Better luck next time.' Next day he proffered his resignation. Nearly five weeks passed before an astute reporter punctured my incognito. From then on for days and nights, reporters in Los Angeles, New York, London, Glasgow, Edinburgh mowed me down with questions on the telephone. Yes, I admitted, I was aware that a Reno divorce by default would not be legal in Great Britain . . . . No, I had not decided to marry Mr Mendes. . . . Yes, I had heard that a certain bishop had attacked me from the pulpit . . . . Yes, it was true that Lothar Mendes had been in Richthofen's Squadron during the war and had been shot down by the British . . . . Yes, he had been married to the lovely English Hollywood star, Dorothy Mackaill . . . . No, I had not been informed that if I married again and set foot on British soil (which includes the deck of a British ship) I would be liable to imprisonment on charges of bigamy. Over the jangling, whirring, singing telephone wires I gasped, 'Do you think Lord Inverclyde would do this to me ?' 'He has intimated as much,' said the voice. That night, the night before I had to go into court, I did not sleep until dawn. 'How far can he go ?' I moaned to Dee as she sat on the side of my bed in her red dressing-gown and her hair in pins under a blue silk net. 'Why can't he leave me alone ? Once I have divorced him, he won't even have to give me a paltry seven hundred and fifty pounds a year. Less than the amount it costs to run the yacht for a week ! That should make him happy. What is the matter with him ?' 'He is a sick man, honey,' Dee murmured soothingly. 'A sick man. You must try to feel sorry for him. Close your eyes and pray to God to help him. He is the one who needs help, honey, not you. You are strong; you will be okay. But he, poor man, really needs help.' But I was beyond praying for him. I could see him standing in front of the fire at Wemyss, sipping brandy; I could hear him saying, 'If she sets foot on British soil, I'll have her arrested.' I lay back against the pillows and the hot tears squeezed painfully between my eyelids. When I opened them, Dee had gone, but the kettle was singing in the kitchen and presently she brought me a cup of steaming tea laced with rum, the way my mother had done when I was sleepless before a first night or when I had a cold or a tummy-ache. But long before the cup was even half empty I fell into a deep slumber from which I awakened only just in time to go to the divorce court. In such a short time, not more than ten minutes-that it left me dazed, I heard the judge say, 'Divorce granted by default.' 55

In Hollywood, Lothar Mendes and I were regarded as engaged, but in my heart I knew I could never cut myself off from my family and the country in which my bones and the bones of my ancestors had been bred. I had never given much thought to my antecedents but now I reminded myself that I was descended from that intrepid fifth son of Lord Howard who, at the siege of Boulogne in the reign of Henry V of England, had 'taken ye towne and castle'. When asked by the King how he had achieved this victory, Howard answered airily, 'Sire, we placed our ladders against ye walls and tripp'd up.' Whereupon King Henry V declared, Thy name shall no longer be Howard but Tripp,' and honoured him with a scaling-ladder for his Bend. There had been other intrepid Howards before him, knights who had set forth from Somerset in search of the Holy Grail. Six swords appear on our escutcheon, divided by the scaling-ladder and surmounted by the knight's visor and falcon. In later years, members of the Howard-Tripp family had become squires, ministers of the Anglican Church, doctors, lawyers and, in one case - my father's - an actor. I had brought intrinsic, ephemeral glory to the ancient name but had inadvertently tarnished it by the worldly desire for financial security, not just for myself but for my family. But now, even if I had to scrub floors to eke out a living, I would not seek security without love; I would never marry again until I was fully prepared to take whatever came, "for better or for worse, in sickness and in health'. It was an idealistic resolution which I was still naive enough to believe I could uphold. And the way seemed to be through writing. It was, I think, shortly after we entered 1932 that out of the blue came an offer of two thousand pounds for my life story. The offer was from the Sunday Express. If I agreed, a ghost writer would be sent to Hollywood. I cabled back, 'Believe I can write it myself,' and, without waiting for a reply, I closeted myself in one of the upstairs rooms and wrote swiftly. Within a few weeks I shipped about twenty thousand words to Mr John Gordon, the Editor of the Sunday Express, and he answered, 'No ghost required.' The announcement by the Sunday Express that my life story was to be published in serial form awakened Mr Julian Wylie to the fact that he had an option on my theatrical services; and through Jack Davies, an agent, I was informed that Mr Wylie wished me to star in his forthcoming musical comedy, Out of the Bottle in the spring. "Glory be!' I cried happily. The sun was breaking through at last ! Not only were my memoirs to be published but I was to return to the London stage. Now I attacked The Whole Story with added zest. Day and night I tapped away on my typewriter to meet the deadline for its delivery. Almost total recall was a big asset and the story sped along. But time sped even faster, and at last I knew that I must find some way to escape the unavoidable interruptions of daily life. The only solution I could find was to secure a passage to England on the "Empress of Britain" which, towards the end of her first world cruise, would pause at Los Angeles.

56

From there to Southampton would take about three weeks, with brief stops at each end of the Panama Canal, at Havana and New York. 'Noel Coward,' said I to Lothar, 'usually takes refuge on a ship when he is writing a play so I shall take a page out of his book and do the same.' Considering my deep affection for Lothar Mendes, without whom I might not have been able to sustain the nervous strain of the past year and a half, I am ashamed to admit that I can recall no surge of emotion until I was en route to the ship and farewell must be said. The small crowd of friends who had come to see me off went away, and I sat alone and forlorn at a porthole in my state-room. The sun had set and dusk had given place to a sapphire sky sprinkled with early stars. Slowly the moon appeared, for all the world like a huge red Dutch cheese, music floated across the water, searchlights flickered uncertainly, then suddenly shot blue-white beams to illuminate the huge white vessel lying off-shore. I was alone and frightened. My travail is over. Yet, as the sirens sounded and the ship began to move seaward, the tears came, slowly at first then raining down my cheeks . . . Suppose the balance of my memoirs proved unsatisfactory ? Cherbourg, dreary and cold with a biting wind blowing. A knock came on my door and I braced myself to face the first barrage of questions; but it was a Sunday Express representative calling to collect as much as I had managed to write in Hollywood and during my voyage. Nobody else bothered me. Between Cherbourg and Southampton I was called to the telephone. A theatrical agent in London passed on an offer for me to star in John Murray Anderson's revue, Fanfare, at the new Prince Edward Theatre. Southampton . . . photogarphers . . . questions, customs . . . Then the boat train to London, with Jack Davies wearing a discomforted expression on his usually smiling face. At first evasive, he finally said, "Well, June, Wylie received an anonymous letter postmarked Glasgow, warning him that Inverclyde is about to sue for divorce, naming a well-known Hollywood figure as corespondent. The letter was signed, of course, "A Friend".' It took me a few minutes to assimilate this and to remember that my husband had threatened to "ruin" me, "financially, socially and theatrically'. I stared out at the grey, rain-washed countryside and presently I said, "Nevertheless, Jack, I have a contract with Julian. A run-ofthe-play contract. He will have to abide by that. Even if he does not present me in Out of the Bottle, he must pay my salary." Jack was biting his lip. 'I'm afraid not, Junie. He never actually signed the contract. ... I thought nothing of it ... we are such friends it never occured to me to demand it. You signed but Julian didn't.' "Oh, my God !' I groaned. Presently we made small talk and I asked about this person and that, among them, Edward Marjoribanks. Jack's eyes widened. "My dear, don't you know ? Haven't you heard ? Marjoribanks killed himself about a week ago. Blew his head off with a shotgun.' Another blow. A friend on whom I could have depended for loyalty was dead. "What comes next ?' I thought. Next morning in my suite at the Mayfair Hotel I signed a contract for one hundred and seventyfive pounds a week to co-star with Violet Loraine, whom London had loved since The Bing Boys on Broadway during the first world war, and Joe Cook, the great American comedian whom I had seen in Fine and Dandy in New York. When Murray, a kindly, humorous man with twinkling 57

blue eyes and a rather under-shot jaw, had gone, I kissed the contract and pirouetted around my sitting-room. "Saved !' I exulted. "Saved by the grace of God !' Within a few weeks Fanfare left the Prince Edward Theatre, underwent plastic surgery and reopened under a new title, Over the Page, at the Alhambra, where it fared better and some of the backers' money was salvaged. In the mean time my memoirs in the Sunday Express were enjoying a sustained success, and I had acquired some exciting new friends, including young Randolph Churchill, political correspondent for the Sunday Dispatch and the only son of Winston Churchill. Randolph was a firebrand of about twenty-three years, very slim, fair, good-looking, with a fearless tongue and pen and a feverish ambition to emulate his father. At seventeen or thereabouts he had toured the United States, delivering lectures entitled "Young England looks at America', an audacious undertaking which had gone off with grand eclat. Although I was nearly thirty years old when Randolph and I met and became friends, he always treated me as if I were younger than he and openly rebuked me for my abysmal ignorance of politics. 'Very well,' I said, 'teach me !' And with patience uncommon in one so young, so fiery, he fed me the ABC on which he himself had been weaned. Once I digested the 'baby-food', he served me richer and richer fare, and my avid manner of listening prompted the following bit of doggerel in a leading society magazine : Through Randolph I met Lady Eleanor Smith, the novelist-daughter of the great T. E.' Smith who, after a spectacular career at the Bar, had been raised to the peerage as The Earl of Birkenhead and had become Lord Chancellor. Immensely proud of the gypsy blood inherited from her paternal grandmother she had steeped herself in Romany lore, learnt the Romany language and travelled the country lanes of England and the plains of Spain with bands of gypsies who treated her as a kinswoman. Out of those bizarre experiences came a successful novel called The Red Wagon. Temporarily surfeited with gypsies, Eleanor became a balletomane. She worshipped at the feet of Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin, haunted their rehearsals, accompanied them on tour, watched, listened, absorbed the unique atmosphere of ballet life, with its unrelenting demands on physical and emotional stamina, and its romances and intrigues and jealousies and, at last, she published another book, Ballerina, which told the story of a great dancer who almost sacrified her art for love. At the time of our first meeting Eleanor was in the throes of adapting her dramatic story for the stage and had found a backer in the person of a big, blond, exuberant Dutchman with a wealthy American wife, a house in Paris, and a burning desire to make his name as an impresario. Over lunch in the Savoy Grill, Eleanor asked me to consider playing the leading role. To be absolutely frank with you, June,' she said, "you are not our first choice. We would like to get Elisabeth Bergner, the famous German actress. Have you seen her ?' I had, not on the stage but in a film: a wispy elfin creature, a sort of Peter Pan with feminine appeal, possessed of dramatic power surprising in one so physically frail - with a single movement of her shoulders, her hands, an expression of her huge eyes, she could make her audience shudder or weep at will. 58

'Tony Paanakker knows her slightly," Eleanor went on, 'and he is off to Berlin with a copy of my book and the first draft of the play. If she turns us down we would like you to play Varsovina. The possibility of playing Ballerina excited me, for it would combine dramatic acting and ballet. So, during Paanakker's absence in Berlin, I studied the script, postured in front of the walllength mirror in my tiny flat, practised vocal inflexions, and submitted myself to the hypersensitive ears and eyes of my mother, who expressed astonishment at my ability to project emotion. By the time Paanakker returned, disappointed by his interview with Bergner, I was living and breathing Varsovina and had already started ballet lessons again. Now Paanakker, after cooling his heels for two weeks before receiving Bergner's 'No' to Ballerina, transferred his enthusiasms to me. Once he had switched his allegiance he seldom left me alone. Every few nights he would bounce into my dressing-room at the Alhambra, wave the latest scene from Eleanor Smith's pen, rush me into his green, foreign car and drive me to my flat, talking shop all the way. After supper served by the house butler and my personal maid, we would light cigarettes, make drinks and settle down to read, discuss, and sometimes battle over the script. Now, ever since my return from Hollywood I had been under surveillance - a surveillance so transparent that if I were in a light enough mood I would pause beside a ratty-looking little man who stood beside a lamp-post reading a newspaper through dark glasses. 'Good morning, Alphonse' I would smile. 'Do go home and relax. I am going to Kit York's shop in Davies Street to fit a new hat. Then we are lunching at the Berkeley. Then I am having my hair done at Martin and Leonard's in Piccadilly and coming home to rest.' I would see his little eyes sliding towards me behind the glasses. He never answered me. I would smile and walk on. At night there was always the same nondescript dark car posted on the corner almost opposite my front door with two men in the front seat. If I was accompanied by Paanakker, the car remained there until he left. Otherwise it would leave after about half an hour. Because of the sleuthing, I never invited any of my beaux into my flat for a nightcap; and such was the nature of my sessions with Paanakker that I had no fear of them being misconstrued. If they were, I thought, their innocence could be proved by the house butler and my maid. As weeks went by, Eleanor blew hot and cold in her work; sometimes she soared sky-high with delight; at other times she threatened to abandon the project and vanish with her gypsies. Then, just as my engagement at the Alhambra ended and Eleanor announced that the play was finished, I was summoned to Harry Abrahams's office to accept service of divorce papers. Wishing to be fair with Eleanor and Paanakker, I first apprised them of the turn of events and asked them to find another actress. Then I drove to Abrahams's office. For the first time during my long association, my old lawyer greeted me sternly. 'Who's the man, you little idiot !' he snapped. 'God knows !' I answered shakily. 59

'Well,' he grunted, pressing the buzzer on his littered desk, 'we'll soon find out. A weazel is waiting ouside. The door opened to admit a pale, scrawny, frightened-looking little man in a shabby grey overcoat. Harry flung him a poisonous glance. 'Here's your victim,' he said. 'This is Lady Inverclyde. Do your dirty work and clear out.' A paper was thrust into my hind and the creature scuttled out. I sat transfixed until Harry said impatiently, 'Go on. Open it. Let's hear the bad news.' I obeyed and gasped: 'Paanakker !' 'Paanakker ?' Harry echoed. 'Who the Hell's he. Never heard of him !' As I unfolded the brief simple story I was relieved to see Harry's frown fading and, when I finished, he expressed the belief that this name could be eliminated. He suspected that Inverclyde had grown tired of paying detectives and was making a grab in the dark. 'Whatever happens,' he went on, 'you are not to divulge this Dutch fellow's name to a soul. Not even to your friend Anita, understand ? There's a nigger somewhere in the woodpile and I am going to ferret him out. In the meantime, go home and don't worry. I believe you are telling the truth, Junie. Now go away, and leave everything to your old Uncle Harry.' Paanakker and I were given copies of the detective reports and by referring to my engagement book and a diary I found that in most instances the sleuths were correct. However, there were two glaring discrepancies which if they could be proved by witnesses would throw doubts on the reliability of the 'private eyes'. For example, on a certain night in October 1932, I was reported to have had supper alone with Tony Paanakker at a restaurant, gone alone with him to his flat and spent the night there. Actually we had been accompanied by a woman friend of mine who had remained with us until after four a.m. while we were waiting for Paanakker's telephone call to Elizabeth Bergner in Berlin to come through. Finally Madge's eyes began to droop and she left. Shortly after this I, too, grew tired of waiting and Paanakker put me in a taxi and I went home. The detectives had completely ignored the presence of Miss Yorke in their report of my movements on that particular night. On another occasion cited by the detectives I was described as 'exchanging passionate kisses' with Paanakker on my doorstep, after which he was said to have driven his car into a neighbouring garage, returned to 20 Hertford Street, let himself in with a doorkey and not emerged until daylight. Now, I ask you: aware of being watched day and night, would I 'exchange passionate kisses' with anyone on my doorstep in a well-lighted street ? Would I give anyone a key to my residence ? Of course not ! On looking up the date on which this extraordinary procedure was supposed to have occurred I found the following entry: 'P to Berlin this morning. Bergner's interest in Ballerina suddenly revived, damn it. What do I do now ? My heart has been set on this play. Now I am up in the air. Wish K were in town. Her nonsense always cheers me up. We could have supper together. Perhaps S will be free.' 60

P, of course, was Paanakker: K was Kit Yorke, who designed my hats; S was my brother Suthie who had become my private secretary and naturally had a key to my Hat. On the following day I scribbled in my diary : 'S is an angel. What a miserable character I was last night ! Moaned, groaned and belly-ached all through supper on the balcony of Cafe de Paris. An amusing night there, too. Lady Diana Cooper en grande beaute, but when is she not ? That creature is made of alabaster and gold. Duff Cooper's head is too small for his body but he looks gentle and kind. S could not keep his eyes off Lady D. A few glasses of hock raised my spirits but on my doorstep I burst into tears. That car was there again and suddenly my nerves gave way. I was awful, blubbering like an infant. S garaged P's car and I talked all night. Last memory: poor S nodding on the chaise-longue. Must apologise. Shall buy him a snappy tie. Maybe two snappy ties. Wonder what's happening in Berlin. I hate Bergner !' Recalling that night I wondered how on earth Alan Inverclyde's detectives, who had been on the same job for months, could have mistaken my lean brother, who always wears a hat, for the burly balding Dutchman who never wore one. But there it was. Seeing Tony Paanakker's distinctive green car drawing up at my door they had presumed the owner was at the wheel; and when I clung to my brother they had translated my tears into kisses, watched him garage the car around the corner and let himself into the house. If Paanakker could have furnished proof of his absence from London on that particular night the other reports might go for naught. Alas, such proof was not forthcoming. Paanakker withdrew his defence. I felt like giving up the battle. But Harry Abrahams's fighting blood was up. Convinced of my innocence he pinned me down and commanded me to assemble other witnesses. I disliked involving friends and servants but my back was against the wall; and my courage was bolstered when the housebutler of 20 Hertford Street declared himself ready to swear on oath that on two or three occasions one of Inverclyde's detectives had approached him in a local pub, plied him with beer and suggested that Inverclyde would "make it worth while' if he would testify against me. This the butler refused to do. Another sleuth paid court to one of the housemaids, perhaps with the same objective, but to quote the girl, 'I wan't 'aving any'. I managed to collect nearly a dozen witnesses including Hugh ('Binkie') Beaumont who had been connected with the production of Fanfare, the show during which I had met Paanakker. Binkie, a most charming young man, expressed his willingness to testify that whenever he had been present during Paanakker's visits to my dressing-room, the conversation had entirely concerned the producion of Lady Eleanor Smith's play Ballerina. I did not lack friends or servants anxious to help me, and as time went by my spirits began to rise. News of the Inverclyde-versus-Inverclyde case spread like a forest fire and the secrecy shrouding the identity of the corespondent caused a rash of rumours. Every man seen with me during the past few months became suspect. All, that is, except Tony Paanakker. My tattered friendship with Anita Prinsep had been patched up, but once again it sagged at the seams when I refused to confide in her the identity of my so-called 'co-respondent'. She ranted 61

at me for keeping her 'in the dark', but wild horses could not have dragged Paanakker's name through my lips, because I still clung stubbornly to the hope that Inverclyde would weaken in the face of my determination to fight him in open court, and that he would change the grounds for divorce from adultery to desertion, which I would not contest. But Christmas passed without any apparent alteration of his plans and by then it had become clear that he had achieved one victory over me; he had succeeded in unnerving every London manager and producer! Even my old friends, Charles B. Cochran and Andre Chariot, feared to present me and I could not blame them. I had survived my husband's exposure of one of the factors contributory to the failure of our marriage but it was unlikely that the public would tolerate another scandal. Inverclyde had declared to more than one person his intention of ruining me, theatrically, financially and socially. And the first threat was bearing fruit. There were one or two provincial managers willing to take a gamble and I could have made plenty of money starring in the touring companies of London successes, including Dinner at Eight; but I was not yet desperate enough to relegate myself to a second-rate bracket in my profession. The West End of London had long been my oyster and I refused to believe that time and patience would not return me to my place inside that iridescent shell. Meanwhile it was essential for me to hold my head high, to be seen in the right spots at the right moment, well-dressed, bejewelled; for it is a sad but undeniable fact that as soon as managers and agents suspect that an actor or actress is feeling the pinch, they attempt to make it a tight squeeze. Fortunately, even when my jewel-box overflowed I had never worn many jewels at one time; therefore, in due course, if I displayed only my large emerald-cut diamond, a bracelet and a pair of clips, nobody was any wiser. With one or another of my beaux I attended important first nights and went to parties and balls given by Lord and Lady Plunket, Sir Henry and Lady Mond, Oonagh and Philip Kindersley and so on; I lunched and dined with Churchills and Mitfords; I was seen at supper parties given by the Argentinian multi-millionaire, Alberto Dodero and his great friend, Panais Vergotti, a charming Greek whose family owned a shipping line. Thus in a steady whirl of superficial gaiety I went forward into the spring of 1933 with the date of the divorce trial not yet decided and my bank balance slowly but surely sinking. And by the first day of summer I was badly frightened. I sat at my dressing-table and stared bleakly into my jewel-case. The door of the pawnshop yawned again and I knew that to appear denuded of diamonds would be to court disaster. The only solution (suggested by my maid) was to arrange to pay a lengthy round of country visits until summer ended. By staying here and there I could keep the tell-tale cat securely tied in the bag. In the country I need wear only my fashionable collection of gold baubles set with semi-precious stones, such as aqua-marines, topaz and turquoise. I would stay first with the George Duller, then the Plunkets, then Eileen Idare, the famous couturiere and her wealthy South African husband, Harold Mosenthal. George Duller, the noted steeplechase jockey, had retired to train for Victor Emanuel, the American racehorse owner, and he and his attractive wife, now Mrs Walter Nightingall, welcomed me into their large, comfortable house. In the pearly mornings I would accompany George to see the thoroughbreds being groomed and worked. After a hearty breakfast I went to the village market with Bessie Duller, and in the evenings we listened to the wireless, gossiped, played cards or mah-jong in front of the fire. The rest and fresh air did me good and since my problems were never touched upon I was able to forget them for hours on end. 62

However, the day before I was to leave for the Plunkets, my brother telephoned and the agitation in his habitually calm, level voice raised an alarm. My first thought was for my mother who had been far from well, but Suthie said, 'No, mother is much better. But you must come back at once ... this morning. I will tell you everything when I see you at the station." He met me with a newspaper in his hand. The front-page headlines asserted that the name of my co-respondent had been revealed. It was, said the newspaper, Lothar Mendes ! The story gave a resume of my sojourn in California, the Reno divorce, my 'engagement' to Mendes, 'the famous German motion picture director'. The report, of course, was erroneous; and Harry Abrahams promptly sued the newspaper for libel. A complete retraction was made; Lothar received one thousand pounds and I received five thousand and costs. A few weeks later, a society magazine confused me with Inverclyde's first wife, stating that I had been divorced, had married my co-respondent and given birth to a daughter. This error put another cheque into my bank account, and I returned to Mayfair with diamonds flashing once again. In October the divorce trial began in The High Court of Justice at Edinburgh, Scotland. I think I knew from the moment I passed through those portals that I stood small chance of emerging the victor, although Harry and my legal counsel expressed the belief that my roster of witnesses might well stand up against Inverclyde's six detectives, who had obtained no "inside information" in spite of their efforts to bribe the house butler and one of the housemaids. I knew that Alan's counsel would attempt to tear me to shreds but I was totally unprepared to hear brazen lies and wicked distortions of the truth from the lips of the man who had stood beside me at the altar. And more than once, staring up at him as he stood in the witness-box, I heard myself gasp, 'Oh, no !' The worst shock came when he was asked to describe my service flat at 20 Hertford Street. In true fact, although tiny, comprising only a bed-sitting-room and dressing-room-bathroom, it had been exquisitely decorated and furnished. Walls and ceilings were painted with antiqued gold leaf, the satin curtains were gold, and one wall was covered with a pale-amber mirror to give the illusion of space. Under the window was a Louis Seize chaise-longue upholstered in Italian brocatelle, as was the day-bed, piled with petit-point cushions. There was a lovely old French chinoise writing-desk which is still one of my most precious possessions; a pair of Louis Seize slipper-chairs flanked the fireplace; and in one corner stood an antique tall-boy, the top drawers of which were faked to conceal a mirrored recess where I kept an electric 'cooler' for the milk I always drank at bedtime. As for the dressing-room-bathroom, this too was mirrored and lighted by a Venetian glass chandelier. The whole flat might have been designed by Cartier, it was so jewel-like. Yet sitting there in the court-room I was to hear my husband describe it as containing 'only a bed, a chair and a bar'. The sordidness of his description, uttered in front of row upon row of sensation-seekers who seemed to have nothing better to do with their time than sit in court-rooms and watch fellow human beings suffer, made me feel sick, and I had to be taken into the corridor for a breath of fresh air. What further iniquities my husband perpetrated during my brief absence I do not 63

know but his smug expression as he stepped down from the witness-box testified to his satisfaction. Our eyes met for a moment before he left the court-room and I saw him flush and bite his lip. On the final day of the trial it was my turn to enter the box, and as I went towards the courtroom I overheard a young barrister call out to another, 'Let's go and watch the little Inverclyde being crucified !' Those cruel words would return to me again and again as the morning passed and the afternoon wore on. Throughout those long hours I stood with my hands gripping the edge of the box and fighting to keep my composure while being examined, cross-examined, reexamined and re-cross-examined. The word 'crucified' had been aptly applied. When I had stood for about fifteen minutes, Lord Fleming, the judge, a kindly-faced man, leaned towards me and said, 'You may sit, if you wish,' but I feared that if I sat down all the strength would drain out of my spine so I answered, Thank you, my lord, but I prefer to stand.' Towards the end of the afternoon Inverclyde's counsel, who had several times revealed signs of exasperation, caused a sensation in court by announcing that if the evidence shown thus far was not conclusive of my guilt, the name of another co-respondent could be produced. This was abruptly refused. A call for "Order in The Court' brought a brief lull during which Lord Fleming spoke to me again. Perhaps I had turned white, perhaps I had swayed, I do not know. But the gentle voice said, 'It won't be long now.' Until that moment I had stood my ground, sustained by burning anger. But those soft-spoken words almost caused my undoing for they clutched at the core of my being and a lump rose in my throat. Tiease, God,' I prayed, 'don't let me cry." My counsel sprang up; Alan's counsel followed suit; I could see their lips moving but a rushing sound in my ears shut out their words. I thought for a moment I was going to faint but the roaring ceased and I heard Lord Fleming saying, 'It's all over, my dear. You may go now.' Hands assisted me from the box and out of the court-room and across the corridor to a bare little room where my maid held out her arms to me. A dam burst inside me and poured scalding tears through my eyes and mouth. In all my life, through disappointments and poignant grief, I had never cried as I cried then and as I pray I may never cry again, for it seemed as if my heart's blood was gushing forth with those tears. I journeyed back to London feeling as if a steam-roller had run over me and with only one desire in my mind, to hide and to sleep. But upon arriving home I found a stack of telegrams indicating that the consensus of opinion among my friends was that Inverclyde had not proved his case against me. And when several weeks passed without Lord Fleming announcing his decision, I began to share their optimism and be seen around town again. Presently theatrical agents started telephoning to ask my plans. Plans ? I thought, wryly; I have none. But it would not do to say so. 'Actually,' I replied 'I'm thinking of taking a house near Monte Carlo for a month or two. Or I might go to Switzerland. . .

64

Within a few days Julian Wylie, the producer who had been frightened into repudiating the contract to star me in Out of the Bottle on my return from America, offered me the title role in Cinderella at the Palace Theatre, Manchester. Jack Davies, the agent, conveyed the message, adding, 'Phyllis Neilson-Terry is playing Prince Charming. What a combination, a Shakespearean actress and you ! You'll pack 'em in. How much do you want ?' I was sitting in a big armchair in Julian Wylie's office. A rough-cut man with blunt features and a Midland accent, he was smiling affably as he alternately puffed on a cigar and popped chocolate creams from a little paper-bag into his wide mouth. There he was, the King of Pantomime, a shrewd businessman, a power to be reckoned with in the curious world of elves and fairies, goblins, witches, demons, Humpty Dumpty and Aladdin, Mother Goose, Robin Hood, Cinderella. Every year, as his fortune mounted, his productions gained in magnificence, in the quality of his stars. He was happily engaged in giving me the story of the evolution of Christmas pantomime from the ancient Roman festival of Saturn to its modern-day version. During the Roman Saturnalia, men masqueraded as women and women as men; that is why today, a comedian always played the 'dame' and a woman plays the prince or hero. 'And,' he went on, popping another chocolate into his cheek, 'do you know why the Fairy Queen always enters from the right and the Demon or Witch from the left ? You don't ? Well, it's because right means Good and left means Evil. Interesting, isn't it ?' I had always enjoyed working in this big, teeming city (of Manchester) and the Midland Hotel was bright, warm, comfortable, busy from morning till night. It gave the impression of being the hub of the world. The Midland Hotel was a huge stock-pot the flavours of which changed daily. Sometimes I managed a quick lunch or dinner in the French Restaurant presided over by Paul, the suave and expert maitre d'hotel who would hover over me with suggestions for a 'light yet nourishing' dish. My small appetite seemed to cause him deep concern. 'Milady must keep up her strength,' he would say and order a cheese souffle, foies de volatile sautes au bewre, or sole mn blanc. Whenever he mentioned the fast-approaching first night I shuddered, for it reminded me that as yet no word had come down from Edinburgh as to Lord Fleming's decision. The morning of the opening night arrived and still the axe was poised above my head. I had slept badly, of course, and when sleep had come it had brought the usual nightmares that haunt people of the theatre : I ran into the wings to make my lightning-quick change from rags to ball-gown but my dresser handed me a dog-skin ! As I was making my entrance as Princess Crystal I caught my heel in my gown and tumbled all the way down the curving staircase. In my garret I discovered I had forgotten my panties . . . ! At 8.30 I telephoned for my maid who brought tea and aspirin. The sky was still almost dark so I kept the curtains drawn and huddled near the fire, shivering with nervous apprehension. But after breakfast and a long steaming bath I felt better and got ready for the dress rehearsal. I had just reached the door of my suite when the telephone rang. For a long moment my maid and I stared at each other and I saw my own terror reflected in her eyes. She picked up the receiver. 'Yes ? Yes, her Ladyship is here. One moment, please, sir' and as I reached the telephone she whispered, "A reporter in Edinburgh, milady.' 65

A clear precise voice said, "Lady Inverclyde ? ... I have just come from the High Court. Ten minutes ago Lord Inverclyde was granted a divorce . . . adultery . . . circumstantial evidence . . .' I have no recollection of how I answered, but my maid later told me that I said, Thank you' very softly and put back the receiver. Then, she told me, I behaved as if I had lost my mind; I wandered up and down, pulling at my hair, wringing my hands and babbling that I couldn't go on that night, I couldn't face it, she must start packing, we would take the next train. ... I would go away somewhere, anywhere, and never come back. But in the end she had succeeded in calming me and, suddenly docile, I had gone to the theatre to break the news to Julian Wylie. Cornering him, I said, 'So you see, Julian, you'll have to put my understudy on because if I were to appear, God alone knows what might happen. I might ruin the show. They might hiss me !' Julian turned pale. He swung away from me, walked the length of the aisle and back again. 'What's the matter with you ?' he demanded. 'Haven't you got any guts ?' Whether he realised it or not, the word 'guts' was inspired. It rammed steel into my spine. 'I certainly have !' I flared. 'All right,' he said roughly. 'Then go and put on your make-up.' The dress rehearsal went smoothly and by three in the afternoon I was home and in bed, hoping to get an hour or two of sleep. But in spite of the cheerful fire, the hot-water bottle on my tummy and the windows tightly closed against the wind and rain, I could not relax. Had it only been a few hours since that nameless voice had said, 'Adultery . . . circumstantial evidence'? A hundred years seemed to have passed, and now in a short while I must face hundreds of staring eyes belonging to strangers to whom I would not be sweet Cinderella but a shame-less wanton, an adulteress ! Yet in spite of this torment I must have dozed off for I started violently when my maid whispered, 'Time to get up, milady. I have your broth and toast all ready.' Although my gorge rose at the mere thought of food, I obediently took a little and left for the theatre. In the lift I kept my eyes down and averted my head as I passed the girls at the reception desk with whom I usually exchanged smiling greetings. From the pavement of the semi-circular porte-cochere I watched the rain being blown in by the wind and I wished the wind would pick me up, too, and blow me away - far, far away, and let me be forgotten. A man came through the glass doors, his overcoat collar turned up and the evening paper in his hand. The headline was huge and black. I caught the word 'divorced' and turned away swiftly. Then my taxi appeared with the commissionaire riding the mud-guard. He hopped off, flung open the door, handed me in and shouted to the driver, 'Stage door Palace,' and to me he said, 'Best o' luck, milady !' I wondered if he had heard the news and wanted me to know he was on my side; or whether, trapped at his job, he had not seen the papers and late that night, over a cup of cocoa, he would say to his nice little wife, 'My Gawd, and ter think I wished 'or the best o' luck !' 66

I huddled into a corner of the cab and covered my eyes but soon the glare of rain-diffused street lamps intruded between my fingers and I knew we had turned into the busy thoroughfare leading to the Palace Theatre. Then I heard the hoarse voices of newspaper boys shouting, 'Extra ! Extra ! Read all about it ! Lord Inverclyde divorces June ! Extra . . . Extra . . . June Divorced !' The taxi skidded to a halt in front of the passage leading to the stage door and the way was barred by a queue of men and women waiting under umbrellas to gain admittance to the pit and gallery. The newsboys were doing a roaring trade along its ranks. Usually when I arrived at the stage door people would smile and I would smile back. On opening nights there were calls of 'Good luck, Miss June,' but tonight no one moved or spoke until I whispered, 'Excuse me, please.' Only then did the line break and I squeezed through, hearing a woman mutter, 'Shame-less hussy !' I did not look at the cards on the flowers banked around my room or open any of the telegrams on the dressing-table. Like a robot, I made-up, did my hair, stepped into my grey chiffon rags. A strange calmness had descended on me. Without a quiver I heard the call boy shouting, 'Curtain going up !' I spoke to my dresser for the first time since I had entered the dressing-room. 'Well,' I said, 'here I go. For better or worse.' I went into the shadowy wings. The stage was bathed in moonlight and the merry woodcutters' song was in progress, the brown-costumed men marching back and forth singing lustily. In less than half a minute they would exit and I had to enter, carrying my bundle of firewood and humming softly to the traditional 'Cinderella Music' played on muted violins. A few dim figures stood about but nobody murmured, 'Good luck,' I went up the steps to the rostrum whence I must walk slowly down the snow-covered hill. The prop-man handed me my twigs and branches and shuffled away. I clasped my hands and prayed, 'Please, God, don't let them hiss me. Please, please.' The wood-cutters made their exit to a spatter of applause and after a slight pause my music began. I watched until the pale- blue spotlights had crept to the crest of the hill and then I entered, walked slowly down the slope and to the centre of the stage. Not a sound had come from the audience. Not a single hand-clap. Not even a murmur. There I stood, alone in the middle of the stage with paper snowflakes drifting down through that terrible silence. Panic shot through me. What shall I do ? Where shall I go ? Shall I run off the stage, through the wings, out of the stage door and into the street and keep running, running, running ? I had half-turned when the miracle happened. From the gallery came a woman's voice, 'Bravo ! Good old June !' And suddenly the house went wild, clapping, shouting, whistling, stamping ! A man in the front row of the stalls stood up, applauding, and dozens of others followed suit. And looking down I saw the musical director smiling up at me and tapping applause with his baton on the music-stand. I have no idea how long the ovation lasted. I simply stood there gazing into the blinding lights and trying to smile through my tears. 67

Then a warm hand gripped mine and I heard Billy Danvers, the lovable plump little comedian, whisper, 'Hold on. Everything's all right. Just hold on tight !' At last the pandemonium died down and into the quietness Billy spoke his first line. 'Ah, Cinders, don't stop singing. I love to hear you sing !' And answering in the words of the script I said, 'It's better to sing than to cry, isn't it.' At that, the audience went wild again. And in those wondrous moments I knew with a surge of joy that even though Inverclyde had won his case, I was really and truly the victor ! An excited crowd greeted me as I left the stage door after the performance, pushing programmes and pencils at me and reaching for the roses I tore from the bouquet I was carrying and tossed to them, and my progress through the hotel to the French Restaurant could be called 'triumphal'. Strangers leaped up from tables to applaud me, to call 'bravo', and Paul, the maztre de'hotel, led me to the best table and personally opened a magnum of champagne. 'With the compliments of the management,' he smiled. At last I felt truly alive again, gay, sparkling, effervescent. My lost gaiety was back again! I ate and drank and chattered and laughed. And in the morning I grabbed the newspapers and shouted to my maid, 'Come and look ! Quickly ! They've headlined "June's Triumph as Cinderella" and "Huge Ovation for June". And oh, the darlings, they've stuck the divorce down in a corner in small print ! Isn't it all too unbelievably wonderful ? 'I'm free ! I'm a success. And now if I can only fall in love with some wonderful, wonderful man, I'll be the happiest woman alive !' I married my second husband, Edward Hillman, in Cannes on August 30, 1937.

Lord Inverclyde - At The Races - 1947

68

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful