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The Adventure of the Venetian Pearls (part 6)

2.) We met a gentleman who's staying at Granny's. He says he works for an insurance company, but he's got such a military air that Chris and I call him "the Major".

"Good day, young man... Young lady," he greeted them in a loud, crisp voice. The words were accompanied by a military nod. Chris had the strange feeling that there was only the heel-tapping missing to make that man look like a German officer in an old film.

With an awkward feeling the two children shook the man's outstretched hand and said hello. At that moment, their grandmother entered the room, carrying a tray with cups of tea and biscuits.

"Ah, there you are!" she exclaimed, putting the tray on the table.

She gave Chris a warm hug and kissed him on the cheek (highly embarrassing in front of a stranger).

"Did you have a good trip?"

Chris nodded and duly delivered his parent's good wishes and love. Neither he nor Nicky thought it necessary to say anything about the incident at the heliport.

"So you've already met Mr Stevenson?" Granny asked after a while. "He's stayed here two or three times before. These are my grandchildren, by the way. Nicole and Christian." She pronounced Chris's name the way he had taught her it was done in Switzerland. The hard
consonants caused a frown on Mr Stevenson's forehead.

"Is that a Swedish name?" he asked.

"No, Swiss. I come from Berne."

"Really? I couldn't discern much of an accent there."

"Mother is very particular about talking and writing 'proper English'. She's a journalist. We usually speak English at home."

"And your father? He probably works for a bank."

Chris grinned at the stereotype. Incredible how many people thought a Swiss must either be a banker or a watchmaker. "No, he's a historian."

A disappointed "Oh," was the answer.

"My father works for a bank if it's a comfort to you," Nicky said, her arms akimbo.

"He's with London Bank International Inc."

Mr Stevenson's moustache twitched as a smile flashed over his face. "Is that so? Then I might know him. What's his name?"

"Richards, of course. Like Granny. But I don't think you'll have met him. He isn't in customer relations. He organises exhibitions and such things the bank sponsors. Talking about jobs, what do you do?"

"Nicky! Don't be so cheeky!" Granny intervened.

"It's all right, Mrs Richards. Having interrogated them in such a way it's only fair I told them about my occupation, too. I work for an insurance company."

"Insurance? I would have bet you are with the army or something."

"Don't bore Mr Stevenson with your curiosity. Our tea will get cold," Granny interrupted. 

Later, Nicky showed Chris up to his room while Granny went on talking to her guest. The guesthouse was fully booked. There were two couples in addition to the Major, as the children soon came to call Mr Stevenson. The others were on a daytrip to Tresco, the flower
island, and wouldn't be back before dinner. Nicky helped Chris carry his backpack up the
narrow stairs.

"You're lucky to have a room on your own," Nicky said. "I have to sleep in one bed with Granny, and she snores."

"Why didn't you say anything about that man who attacked you?" Chris asked after a while.

(To be continued)