It must have been about a week after the Bishop of Reims had made his pronouncement that Simon invited Cathy to dinner at his flat in Pimlico. "A little celebration," he added, explaining he had asked all those who had been directly involved with the Italian sale.
Cathy arrived that night to find several of the staff from the Old Masters department already enjoying a glass of wine, and by the time they sat down to dinner only Rebecca Trumper was not present. Once again Cathy felt aware of the family atmosphere the Trumpers created even in their absence. The guests all enjoyed a sumptuous meal of avocado soup followed by wild duck which they learned Simon had spent the whole afternoon preparing. She and a young man called Julian, who worked in the rare books department, stayed on after the others had left to help clear up.
"Don't bother with the washing up," said Simon. "My lady who 'does' can deal with it all in the morning."
"Typical male attitude," said Cathy as she continued to wash the dishes. "However, I admit that I remained behind with an ulterior motive."
"And what might that be?" he asked as he picked up a dish cloth and made a token attempt to help Julian with the drying.
"Who is Mrs. Trentham?" Cathy asked abruptly. Simon swung round to face her, so she added awkwardly, "I heard Becky mention her name to you a few minutes after the sale was over and that man in the tweed jacket who made such a fuss had disappeared."
Simon didn't answer her question for some time, as if he were weighing up what he should say. Two dry dishes later he began.
"It goes back a long way, even before my time. And don't forget I was at Sotheby's with Becky for five years before she asked me to join her at Trumper's. To be honest, I'm not sure why she and Mrs. Trentham loathe each other quite so much, but what I do know is that Mrs. Trentham's son Guy and Sir Charles served in the same regiment during the First World War, and that Guy Trentham was somehow involved with that painting of the Virgin Mary and Child that had to be withdrawn from the sale. The only other piece of information that I've picked up over the years is that Guy Trentham disappeared off to Australia soon after . . . Hey, that was one of my finest coffee cups."
"I'm so sorry," said Cathy. "How clumsy of me." She bent down and started picking up the little pieces of china that were scattered over the kitchen floor. "Where can I find another one?"
"In the china department of Trumper's," said Simon. "They're about two shillings each." Cathy laughed. "Just take my advice," he added. "Remember that the older staff have a golden rule about Mrs. Trentham."
Cathy stopped gathering up the pieces.
"They don't mention her name in front of Becky unless she raises the subject. And never refer to the name of 'Trentham' in the presence of Sir Charles. If you did, I think he'd sack you on the spot."
"I'm not likely to be given the chance," Cathy said. "I've never even met him. In fact, the nearest I've been to the man was watching him in the seventh row at the Italian sale."
"Well, at least we can do something about that," said Simon. "How would you like to accompany me to a housewarming party the Trumpers are giving next Monday at their new home in Eaton Square?"
"Are you serious?"
"I certainly am," replied Simon. "Anyway, I don't think Sir Charles would altogether approve of my taking Julian."
"Mightn't they consider it somewhat presumptuous for such a junior member of staff to turn up on the arm of the head of the department?"
"Not Sir Charles. He doesn't know what the word 'presumptuous' means."
Cathy spent many hours during her lunch breaks poking around the dress shops in Chelsea before she selected what she considered was the appropriate outfit for Trumpers' housewarming party. Her final choice was a sunflower-yellow dress with a large sash around the waist which the assistant who served her described as suitable for a cocktail party. Cathy became fearful at the last minute that its length, or lack of length, might be a little too daring for such a grand occasion. However, when Simon came to pick her up at 135 his immediate comment was "You'll be a sensation, I promise you." His unreserved assurance made her feel more confident at least until they arrived on the top step of the Trumpers' home in Eaton Square.
As Simon knocked on the door of his employers' residence, Cathy only hoped that it wasn't too obvious that she had never been invited to such a beautiful house before. However, she lost all her inhibitions the moment the butler invited them inside. Her eyes immediately settled on the feast that awaited her. While others drank from the seemingly endless bottles of champagne and helped themselves from the passing trays of canapes, she turned her attention elsewhere and even began to climb the staircase, savoring each of the rare delicacies one by one.
First came a Courbet, a still life of magnificent rich reds, oranges and greens; then a Picasso of two doves surrounded by pink blossoms, their beaks almost touching; after a further step her eyes fell on a Pissarro of an old woman carrying a bundle of hay, dominated by different shades of green. But she gasped when she first saw the Sisley, a stretch of the Seine with every touch of pastel shading being made to count.
"That's my favorite," said a voice from behind her. Cathy turned to see a tall, tousle-haired young man give her a grin that must have made many people return his smile. His dinner jacket didn't quite fit, his bow tie needed adjusting and he lounged on the banisters as if without their support he might collapse completely.
"Quite beautiful," she admitted. "When I was younger I used to try and paint a little myself, and it was Sisley who finally convinced me I shouldn't bother."
Cathy sighed. "Sisley completed that picture when he was seventeen and still at school."
"Good heavens," the young man said. "An expert in our presence." Cathy smiled at her new companion. "Perhaps we should sneak a look at some more works on the upper corridor?"
"Do you think Sir Charles would mind?"
"Wouldn't have thought so," the young man replied. "After all, what's the point of being a collector if other people are never given the chance to admire what you've acquired?"
Buoyed up by his confidence Cathy mounted another step. "Magnificent," she said. "An early Sickert. They hardly ever come on the market."
"You obviously work in an art gallery."
"I work at Trumper's," Cathy said proudly. "Number 1 Chelsea Terrace. And you?"
"I sort of work for Trumper's myself," he admitted. Out of the corner of her eye, Cathy saw Sir Charles appearing from a room on the upstairs landing—her first close encounter with the chairman. Like Alice, she wanted to disappear through a keyhole, but her companion remained unperturbed, seemingly quite at home.
Her host smiled at Cathy as he came down the stairs. "Hello," he said once he'd reached them. "I'm Charlie Trumper and I've already heard all about you, young lady. I saw you at the Italian sale, of course, and Becky tells me that you're doing a superb job. By the way, congratulations on the catalogue."
"Thank you, sir," said Cathy, unsure what else she should say as the chairman continued on down the stairs, delivering a rat-a-tat-tat of sentences while ignoring her companion.
"I see you've already met my son," Sir Charles added as he looked back towards her. "Don't be taken in by his donnish facade; he's every bit as much of a rogue as his father. Show her the Bonnard, Daniel." With this Sir Charles disappeared into the drawing room.
"Ah yes, the Bonnard. Father's pride and joy," said Daniel. "I can think of no better way of luring a girl into the bedroom."
"You're Daniel Tramper?"
"No. Raffles, the well-known art thief," Daniel said as he took Cathy's hand and guided her up the stairs and on into his parents' room.
"Well—what about that?" he asked.