He was so cross that he found an excuse not to turn up to a very small party Jane gave after her finals. Here my suspicions were confirmed. We had not seen her during her exams, but clearly a lot had gone on in that time: Jeremy behaved very much as though he were the host at the party. I found this rather touching, since I still thought of him as absurdly young. I was glad Charles was not present, since he might have responded facetiously.
Apart from being rude, that might also have deprived us of one of the most delightful experiences ever, for it was at that very party that Jeremy first broached the project of a trip to Tolouse for lunch. The mind boggled, but it transpired that the project was quite a practical one. Twice a week, it appeared, an eight-seater jet left Jeremy’s father’s factory in Bristol for Toulouse, to take people across for consultations with regard to some joint project. At this stage consultations were few and far between, so that the jet was frequently empty and never more than half full; since nevertheless it always went, Jeremy was at liberty to take a few select friends across for the day.
The idea was breathtaking. Charles of course thought so too. Since some preparation was required, it was decided that in about a month’s time Jeremy would drive down to Oxford to pick Charles and Jane and myself up and drive us to Bristol to take off for Toulouse on the next morning. This would be well into the vacation, but as Charles and I spent most of our vacation in Oxford anyway this presented no problem to us; Jane lived far away in the north of England, but I agreed to book a guest room for her at my college. However, a week before the scheduled date, I received a postcard from her saying that no room was required as she would be staying overnight with Jeremy. We wondered; but decided that there was no point in speculating since all would doubtless be clear fairly soon.
They picked us up as arranged and speeded off to Bristol. As Charles had anticipated, Jeremy drove into a modern motel in the outskirts of the city, rather than one of the cheap and cheerful hotels with which the place is littered. As we went up to the desk, underlings in uniform surrounded us. Jeremy seemed very much the efficient young executive. He asked for four single rooms.
‘Ahem.’ The clerk turned at once. Charles was adept at getting attention whenever he required it. ‘I presume a double room costs less than two singles?’
Jeremy’s face fell. He was clearly not meant to belong to a class to which money mattered. I felt sorry for him. On the other hand, though I had stopped Charles from insisting on going to another hotel, I was not especially well off and saw no reason to spend money unnecessarily.
‘We have no single rooms here,’ the clerk intoned. Somehow his tone still managed to be respectful. ‘All rooms are twin-bedded. The charge for single occupancy is twenty percent less than for full occupancy.’
‘Which means that double occupancy is twenty five percent more than single occupancy.’ Charles said rapidly. He was good at that sort of thing. He looked at me and I nodded. The clerk looked bewildered. ‘In other words, if we occupy a double room we pay only sixty two and a half percent each of what we would if we had two singles. There isn’t really a choice, is there? We’ll have a double for both of us – I mean, a twin-bedded room.’
Naturally I was looking out at this point for any signs that Jeremy and Jane too might want to change their minds, but I saw none. Charles told me later that night that he had nearly suggested it, but then decided that he had no obligation to help them along. He had gathered from Jeremy that the pair had discussed the problem at length, but decided that it would be making an unnecessary exhibition of themselves to share. Jeremy had added that, having seen the prices, he was sorry about this decision since they were intending to use the same room anyway.
Charles had an opportunity for this private chat because Jeremy had to drive him all the way back to Oxford to fetch his passport. After lunch we had gone over the factory, and there the man deputed to look after us had casually remarked at the end that he hoped we had our passports: they were not always checked, but one could never be sure and the French had been known to turn difficult. Jeremy’s essential decency came out at this juncture. Though Charles managed to convey, as only he could, the impression that it was obviously the fault of everyone else, especially Jeremy’s, that he had not been told a passport might be required, he was driven back to Oxford without any recriminations from anyone else – except, that is, from me, for I had been looking forward to driving round the Regency quarters of Bath during the evening,
Instead I talked to Jane: and received a very different impression from the one Charles revealed that night he had got from Jeremy. Mine was of parents who had found Jeremy absolutely charming when he had visited, and who thought Jane extremely lucky to be going on this expedition. Charles had gathered that Jeremy had only had a hasty and awkward tea with Jane’s parents, that they had no idea that she would be staying overnight at his house, and that permission for the expedition had been grudging and in the end granted only because Jane insisted that she had to go back to Oxford in case she had to face a viva. The question of the room I had not of course discussed with Jane. That her parents were Catholic and very conservative, I knew, and I had hitherto thought that she took after them to a great extent. Which version of the present situation sounded more plausible I did not think could easily be worked out. Charles of course believed absolutely whatever he had been told; just because, I told him, he adored intrigue. He assured me that I was merely naïve and romantic.