Lord Hilary Evenshot heard the rumble long before he saw the flash of red. The smile on his face widened with anticipation for that unique roar could only mean that Evie was on her way. Lady Evangeline Wrentham was Hermione’s “bestie” as the new jargon had it, and in the time that he and Hermione had been together, he had come to appreciate Evie’s personality; a personality as unique as the scarlet roadster she drove.
“Drove” was not exactly the word for Evie’s operation of a motor vehicle. Thinking about her novel approach to the internal combustion engine immediately propelled Lord Hilary into the train of thought that had him considering chariot racing, particularly Ben Hur.
Evie hurtled down the lanes, the top down, her long auburn hair a pennant snapping behind her, cheerfully confident that all comers would be deferential and give way. Locals did so cheerfully, knowing the shock that the klaxon on her hood would do to their nervous systems. Unwary strangers to the countryside were soon left trembling in the shrubbery unsure of what had just happened to them and desperate to get to their psychiatrists to overcome the recurring nightmare of a large, blood-red dragon howling down upon them. The unearthly noise, once heard, was never forgotten and the local lore of the red demon kept the publicans happy trying to calm tourists’ shattered nerves.
Lord Hilary was engrossed in the chariot race when Hermione entered and cleared her throat. “Ahem, sweetheart?”
“Has Charlton Heston arrived?” Lord Hilary asked
“Yes, darling, she’s in the foyer now with Cyrus, trying to get the twigs out of her hair.”
The ever faithful Cyrus, Lord Hilary’s valet of long standing and suffering, had also heard the deep throated bay of the scarlet roadster and had greeted Evie in the drive as she swiveled to a halt in the gravel. He had come equipped with the large toothed comb and a brush, knowing that the journey over had taken her along single track lanes where the hawthorn hedges were rarely trimmed. Stray branches and the occasional wren’s nest from the prior summer would be swept up in her wake.
“Hilary! Dahling!” Evie thrilled. “Where was your train of thought just now? Racing around the Coliseum?”
Hilary smiled even more broadly, if that were possible. Evie and Hermione never had trouble following the bullet train of his thoughts and often were at the next station ahead of him. He knew he was in for an exhausting but exhilarating visit. Evie was a nonstop source of news — salacious, gossip-scandalous, and the scoop on everything from the royal family to the Higgs-Boson sightings complete with critique of how the collider could more effectively be used. Her degrees in Mediaeval History and Subatomic Particle Physics made for riveting cocktail chat. Evie could rabbit on merrily with a brick wall and, after a thoroughly enjoyable hour, leave the wall convinced it had had the best conversation of its life.
“Hermione, you’ll never guess who has just bought the old Chisington place! That harlot and her newest — you know, that woman who was just about to snag her fifth payday when she was seen with that certain Labour MP from Birmingham at Ascot. I’m sure she did that deliberately because this latest arm candy is 10 years that other’s junior and she’s just had another nip/tuck. I swear, one more facelift and she’ll be sporting a goatee!”
“And you should see that house. I was there for the Women’s Institute the other day simply because it gave me a chance to see the inside and everyone, absolutely everyone, has been dying to see how she’s decorated it, given that her taste in men and jewelry is all in her mouth. You’ve never seen such unambitious furnishings. Hermione, not a stick of it aspires to become an antique.”
Lord Hilary had lapsed into a drowse, lulled into a consideration of armchairs leaning casually against Hepplewhite side tables like so many bored youths on a train, leaving hairprints on the windows whilst ladies of a certain class try to ignore them.
He was jolted back to the morning room of Hilmione Wold when he heard Evie declare, “Her husband’s behavior is totally inappropriate. He must be house broken!”
“Lords or Commons?” Hilary inquired.
Evie shot back. “He’s a waste of a vote and I refuse to exercise the franchise that so many brave women won for me by voting for him in the coming by-election.”
“Really, Evie,” Hermione protested. “Beryl’s Bryce has been representing this district for years and he’s never once been accused of saying anything that would be taken wrong.”
“Hermione, he’s never said anything right or wrong. That’s the trouble. He’s been so silent for so long, his maiden speech is a spinster now.”
Hilary tore back down the side track of the antiques discussion and immediately contemplated the advent of zippers which so revolutionized women’s robing rituals.
“Sometimes taking longer is better. It allows an appreciation of how the pieces all come together and one can see if the whole works.”
“Well said you, if we were considering an ensemble for a tea,” Evie snapped, “but I take my politics more seriously. You should too, Hilary. Why don’t you stand?”
Thoughts of technological innovation evaporated and Hilary stared at Evie. This was the most outrageous thing she had ever uttered. His train of thought sat puffing at the station and his mouth couldn’t move.
Ever the one to take silence for assent, Evie stood up immediately and began her departure. “Good one, Hilary, that’s the chap. I knew we could count on you! The committee had been desperately seeking a candidate and you are just the ticket. I’m off!”
Cyrus had just enough time to open the front door before Lady Evangeline Wrentham leapt to her car and flew down the drive, never bothering to shift into first gear. A flying start in second was all she ever needed given her personal RPMs.
“Oh my, Hilary, what have you gotten into now!” Hermione croaked. “Beryl’s Bryce is so entrenched.”
“But who is Beryl and what’s wrong with her Bryce?” Hilary, not for the first time, regretted his penchant for ignoring other trains of thought. He had simply not heard the point in the conversation when Evie swerved from telling Hermione that Howard Clark’s new book on amino acids was well worth the time to telling her that Beryl Cunningham-Jones’ husband Bryce was not worth the powder to blow him to blazes. “A waste of good saltpetre, I say” is how she put it.
“Oh Hilary,” Hermione sighed, “do you realize you are now the opposition candidate for Parliament?”
“But I don’t oppose anything, except having to eat your great-grandmother’s blancmange.”
“Well, you’ll have to think how to espouse the platform and advance the agenda. The environment, taxes, civil rights, road paving, and hedgehog tunnels!”
The next few weeks were a whirlwind as much against his better judgment, Lord Hilary found himself meeting people in villages he’d never realized existed and speaking to societies he’d never heard of. His first speech to the East Hartington Ladies’ Association for the Preservation of Thrushes was typical of the ones that followed. Thrushes put him in mind of the equine ailment which immediately called up the consideration of ovines, causing him to launch into a stirring call for a resurgence of woolen apparel as a natural alternative to petroleum-based fabrics. Instantly, Hermione slid to the podium and salvaged the moment from collapsing into bemused chaos by assuring the good ladies of East Hartington that the Evenshot position was enthusiastic preservation of green alternatives which would, among other things, result in saving habitat for the thrushes. With this assertion the avian contingent of the county took wing in flocks, twittering house to house faster than any internet.
Lovers of plovers, nuthatches, and cuckoos rallied lovers of hedgehogs and dormice. They in turn brought in foresters, farmers and financiers who preferred the countryside to the cityscape. With each speech, the open mouthed confusion meeting Lord Hilary melted into enthusiastic endorsement as Hermione provided the trestle for Hilary’s train of thought and the name of Evenshot became ubiquitous at teas and fetes.
After what seemed ages, the polling took place while Lord Hilary was obliviously re-cataloging his collection of books on buttons. Again, he heard the roar before he saw the flash of red.
Cyrus and Hermione were in the drive when Hilary appeared at the door. Evie was clear of the car in a trice, arms waving and laughing hysterically.
“You won! It was a landslide and the party is in shock at the turnout,” she managed to choke out.
“What? You mean Hilary is elected?” Hermione gasped. Cyrus immediately began mentally calculating the number of constituents who would have to be regaled at events at Hilminone Wold and delighting at the extreme discomfort that would impose on Mrs. Hoskins, the housekeeper and bane of his existence.
Evie clasped Hermione in a bear hug and swung her around: “No, you ninny! You are! It was a stunning write-in vote. The sample ballot read H. Evenshot and the electorate couldn’t tell who was running. So the bird ladies — those thrushes or nuthatches, whatever they were — told everyone in the county to write in “Hermione” because they loved your speeches so much!”
“But I’m not a politician!” protested Hermione. “I don’t know what to do!”
“Ah, but you do, my dearest,” beamed Lord Hilary. “You said exactly the right things every time. The bird ladies saw it first. You are my nut-Thatcher!”
Whiting is a Plainsboro resident who works by day at a large financial services firm. The story above is part of a series called “The Seven O’Clock Train of Thought,” featuring Lord Hilary, Hermione, and friends.