At the sight of her son Judith's eyes and mouth broke into the
loveliest smile that any member of the Herries family, there
present, had ever seen. It was Judith Paris' hundredth birthday.
The Family was making a Presentation.
Adam bent down and kissed her. Her tiny, trembling hand rested on
the velvet collar of his coat then lay against his cheek. Her
triumph was complete; her exceeding happiness overflowed so that,
laughing though she was, tears rolled down her cheeks.
Afterwards, at the luncheon downstairs, Adam was to make the
speech, but when the time came, the one that he made was very
feeble. Everyone (except of course Adam's wife, Margaret, and
Adam's young daughter, Vanessa) agreed that he was no speaker; the
speech of the occasion came, oddly enough, from Amery Herries, of
whom no one had expected very much. There were more speeches at
the dinner later in the day--Timothy, Barney Newmark, Carey
Rockage, Captain Will Herries, all spoke--but it was Amery who was
'Damned good speech, d'you remember?' years later one Herries would
say to another. 'At old Madame's Hundredth Birthday party up in
Cumberland . . . Best speech ever I heard in my life.'
Adam was a failure. He never could say anything in public, even
long ago in his Chartist days. More than that, he was thinking of
his mother, the old lady upstairs, all the time. And more than
that again, he couldn't sound the right Herries note. He was only
QUARTER Herries anyway, and he simply wasn't able to think of them
in the grand historical light that all the family, expectant round
the luncheon table, desired.
But Amery could. He thought of them all (including himself) in
precisely the grand manner.
All Adam said was:
'I am sure we are all very happy to be here today for my mother's
hundredth birthday. You'll forgive me, I know, if I don't say very
much. Not very good at expressing my feelings. Yes--well--I know
what you're all feeling. We're all very proud of my mother and we
all ought to be. She's like the Queen--nothing can beat her. I
don't need to tell you how good she is. Of course I know that
better than the rest of you--naturally I would. There's no one
like her anywhere. I ask you all to drink her health.'
And so they did--with the greatest enthusiasm. Nevertheless there
was a feeling of disappointment, for he had said nothing about the
Family--not a word. It was expected of him. After all, even
though he WAS illegitimate, his father had been of Herries blood.
They knew, they had always known, that Adam Paris failed at
anything that he tried. What could you expect of a fellow who had
once been a Chartist and approved of these Trades Unions, was
always on the wrong side, against Disraeli, in favour of tiresome
agitators like Mr Plimsoll? (They disliked any and every agitator.
They disapproved of agitation.)
But Amery made everything right again with HIS speech. He didn't
look his sixty-five years, so spare of figure and straight in the
back; he had not run to seed like poor Garth, who led, it was
feared, a most improvident and dissolute life. Amery's speech was
short but entirely to the point: