Chapter 3

Fate could not have struck Sir Angus a crueler blow than by aiming it at the one thing he cared for above all: his son. Like the majority of the people who worked for the Robertson Press, she had only seen its future owner on rare occasions, for he spent most of his life flying from one trouble spot in the world to the other, gathering information which subsequently appeared as leaders or articles in all their newspapers and magazines.

Watching the television news later that evening she saw pictures of the plane wreckage at Athens Airport. It was far worse than she had realized and, unable to wait until the morning, she telephoned the City Desk of one of their papers to learn the latest reports on the accident.

"Sir Angus has just touched down at London Airport," she was told. "Nothing official's been released about young Robertson, but there's no reason why you can't know."

"You mean he's dead?"

"Probably worse than that. At least I think Aaron would think so - if he were conscious enough to think!"

"What do you mean?"

 "That he's been so badly injured he'll never waft again."

The morning headlines confirmed the statement, and Kate was at her office well before normal time, anticipating the flood of calls that would be coming in for her employer. But it was here that the Company's organization took over, for a group of telephones had already been seconded for the purpose, leaving Kate free in case Sir Angus needed her. Not that anyone expected him to concern himself with work for the next few days, but with a man of Sir Angus's temperament it was as well never to assume anything. And indeed it was just as well that no assumption was made, for within moments of her official time of arrival at the office she was summoned to go to his London home.

This was the first occasion she had visited his house in Orem Square, though she had occasionally walked past it during her Sunday morning stroll to see the paintings along the Bays water Road. She had often wondered if the interior of the house was as elegant as its facade, and she was disappointed to find the furnishings and colors heavy and ornate, and the atmosphere to be one of a home not so much lived in as occupied. Yet perhaps this was not surprising, for Sir Angus's wife had died after only a few years of marriage, leaving her husband to bring up his son alone, albeit with the help of one of the foremost public schools and universities in the country, as every newspaper had informed her that morning.

Indeed it was this aspect - the publicity and dredging up of private affairs — which she knew Sir Angus would dislike intensely, and which would no doubt add to the anguish through which he was already going. Nervously she sat in the library and waited for him to appear, wondering how she could offer her sympathy without seeming maudlin.

But the question did not arise, for when he came in he looked and behaved in his normal manner, holding out his hand to receive the more urgent letters that needed his personal attention, and dictating replies to them. He worked at such speed that it was all she could do to keep up with him, and she was relieved when the ringing of the bell and the sound of voices in the hall sent him hurrying to the door, letters scattering from his lap as he did so.

But before he could reach it the library door was opened by the butler, closely followed by a small, chubby man in a dark suit. Kate recognized him as Mr. Jones, senior orthopedic surgeon at the hospital to which Aaron Robertson had been taken. Guessing he had come to tell Sir Angus the latest news, she stood up to leave.

"Stay where you are, Kate," Sir Angus said. It was the first time he had called her by her first name and with an agreeable sensation of pleasure she sat down again and listened while the specialist explained as lucidly as he could the injuries which Nicholas had sustained.

"But the future," Sir Angus said finally, "what are his chances?"

"He will live. I can promise you that."

"But how will he live - as a cripple tied to a wheelchair? As a log without feeling or intelligence?"

“His brain is unharmed," came the reply. "He recovered consciousness for a few moments this morning and was perfectly coherent."

"But he'll never walk again? Is that it?"

The surgeon hesitated. "I wouldn't like to be as categorical as that. Experts can be proved wrong, you know, and sometimes in cases like these one gets miraculous recoveries."

"I don't believe in miracles," Sir Angus replied shortly.

"Not miracles perhaps," the other man conceded, "but recoveries that only come about because of faith, or perhaps you might prefer to call it obstinacy - a determination to overcome every obstacle. In my personal opinion that may well happen with your son. That's why I hope you'll hide your own pessimism."

"Good heavens, man!" Sir Angus said angrily, "do you think I'm going to rush in and tell him he'll never walk again? Of course I'll encourage him. I'll do everything in my power to help him."

"Good. That's what I wanted to hear."

 For several moments after the surgeon had left, Sir Angus remained silent at his desk, his eyes closed but his fingers restlessly moving one against the other. "The only person I've ever cared about,” he said finally. "Without Nicholas there's no rhyme or reason for anything I've done. It's all been a waste - the empire I've built, the power, the money… all a waste."

"You mustn't say that!" Kate pleaded. "Your son will live! You heard what Mr, -"

"Words are cheap," Sir Angus interrupted. "What else do you think he could have said? That my son's life was still hanging by a thread?"

"I'm sure Mr. Jones wasn't lying. You're strong enough to accept the truth and he knows it. Your son will live, but he might not walk again. Surely that's better man not having him alive at all!"

"For me, maybe," came the husky reply, "but I'm not sure what Nicholas would say. The life he led, the places he went to… and now tied for the rest of his days to a wheelchair!"

"How can you be so sure? As long as he's alive there's always the chance he'll recover completely."

"Spare me the maudlin platitudes!"

Kate reddened but persevered. "You heard what the specialist said. The one thing that might help your son walk again is having the guts to try. And you're the only person who can give him that sort of courage."

 There was a tense pause, and then slowly the anger left Sir Angus's face. "You're a kind girl, Kate. Kind but foolish." He walked to the door. "I won't do any more work today, so you might as well go."

"Would you like me to come back this evening?"

"I don't think so. Tomorrow evening, perhaps. Then at least I can be with Nicholas during the day."

"Of course. I can change my working time completely if you wish."

"Not for the moment. But thank you for suggesting it. I'll call you at the office tomorrow."

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