Last time Ruth and John were travelling by a top secret hover boat over the English Channel at the start of John’s tour with the Finchly Fiddlers. Which is cover for his top secret mission to assasinate the fascist leaders of Germany, Spain, Italy and if he could take out Stalin too that would nice...
When the hover boat approached Calais, the captain cut the engines and the great curtain of rubber and air disappeared leaving The SS Humperdink once again looking like a worn out steam packet. Smoke began belching from the funnel and it began to chug along into the harbour. The boat had arrived long before the SS Forte and drew up alongside the wharf. Ruth carried the twins back up to the deck to watch as the sailors tied up.
“It will be good to get back on to dry land,” she said to John.
First to depart was the orchestra, they loaded the bus and drove down a gangway that looked much less rickety than the one in Dover. Ruth, Aggie and the twins climbed into John’s old Humber and then they drove off.
“Allez,” declared John as he sped through the streets of Calais and out into the French countryside.
“Where are we headed,” asked Ruth.
“To gay Paris,” said John, “to the bright lights and L’Arc de Triomphe.”
“How exciting,” said Ruth, “I’ve always wanted to see the Follies Bergere.”
“I’m sure that can be arrange,” said John.
“How romantic France is,” said Ruth and looked behind. Aggie and the twins had fallen asleep and their harmonious gentle snoring mingled with the sporty rasp of the big six-cylindered engine of the Humber. Ruth leaned into John.
“Thank you for taking us on this tour.”
“Well,” said John and slipped an arm around Ruth, “it’s a working holiday really, but what would I do without my girls.”
Ruth could imagine exactly what John would be getting up to in Paris without his girls, but she let it go. She was here with John under the wide French sky with the smell of lavender coming from the fields, it was as romantic as it got.
“Shouldn’t you be watching the road,” she said when he stole a kiss.
“I should,” admitted John, “but it’s hard to keep my eyes off you.”
Ruth giggled. It wasn’t often John was as romantic as this, it must be the French air. Still, she had to admit, it was nice to have his attention.
“You just keep your hands on the steering wheel.”
“It’ll be alright if I drive slowly. We’re not in any rush. We have plenty of time.”
Bit by bit, the bus with the orchestra pulled ahead, and soon they were alone on the road.
“This is nice,” admitted Ruth.
“Mmmm,” said John. “It certainly is.”
How long they drove along together, it could have been hours. It was so peaceful. Even Spirit, John’s devil dog, was asleep, although his foul breath still came in from the back and was a bit distracting.
“We should stop somewhere for the night,” said John. “I know a place, a charming little inn with a four-poster bed.”
“I think so.”
“How long to go?”
“Not long. We can stop and feed the children, and then…” John let the suggestion hang in the air.
“Oh, John,” said Ruth primly, “trust you to think of that.” And smiled to herself, it was after all exactly what she had been thinking.
The loving couple were unfortunately disturbed from their amour, but the sound of a motorcar coming up behind them. Ruth shifted over and John put both hands on the steering wheel.
“I wonder who this is?” said Ruth, “I thought the roads were deserted.”
“We came by a detour.” said John, “we didn’t want to be followed, but it probably just some local farmer.”
But the car was soon in the rear view mirror. It’s headlights shone brightly, dazzling Ruth a little.
“Can’t they just go past?”
John looked back at the car and swore.
“John,” said Ruth sternly, “not in front of the children.”
“I’m sorry,” said John, “but the children are asleep. I am afraid I’m going to have to step on it. We might have to cancel that night in the inn.”
“I don’t think that’s a local farmer. For one thing French farmers don’t drive Mercedes Benz 500k. And for another they don’t tend to carry machine guns.”
Just as John spoke, the gentlemen in the Mercedes started to fire at the Humber.
“Good grief, step on it John. Who are these people?”
John didn’t answer, but put his foot down hard on the accelerator. The Humber Imperial Super Sporting Straight Six Snipe surged forward smoothly.
“You’ll wake the children,” said Ruth.
But the children were already awake. John threw the Humber through the twisting lanes of Picardy and sped onwards, but the Mercedes was just behind.
“Whit is going on,” asked Aggie as she woke, and started to hush the twins who were now crying in a strange high pitched whine.
“We’re being followed,” said John, “by German spies.”
“Och, John,” said Aggie, “You’ve no got us aw’ caught up in some carry on now have you?”
“I’m afraid so Mother,” said John.
A hail of bullets came from the other car.
“Dearie me whit wull we dae.”
“Don’t worry Mother, everything is under control.”
But it didn’t seem under control, not one bit. As the two cars sped on, it became clear that John could not shake off the Mercedes with its five-litre inline eight-cylinder engine. Neither could the Mercedes catch the Humber with its all-aluminium four-litre straight-six engine with twin overhead camshafts, and triple carburettors.
Regardless of which car was faster or more nimble, the twisting roads meant that neither the Mercedes could overtake, nor could the Humber escape. Periodically, the German spies would fire of rounds at John and the family.
“What will we do John?” asked Ruth.
“Why don’t you open that violin case,” said John. So Ruth opened the case and there was John’s beautiful violin.
“Ah, I meant the other violin case,” said John.
“That’s in the trunk. I don’t think we can reach it.”
“Oh, that’s awkward. How inconvenient.”
“Would pressing any of these buttons help?” asked Ruth and pointed at the row of shiny buttons on the dashboard. “What does this one do?”
John recalling his earlier adventure with ejector seat, reached over and took Ruth’s hand from the buttons just before she pressed one.
“That was rude.” But before Ruth had the chance to scold John further, a volley of bullets flew overhead.
“I think we should try those out another time,” said John, “they did tell me what they do, but I wasn’t paying much attention. We don’t want to press the ejector seat again.”
“I suppose not,” said Ruth, “perhaps we could throw Spirit out of the car. The reduction in weight might be enough for us to get away. And it would slow them down driving over him. Who knows, perhaps old Spirit would get a few nips in on their tyres.”
Spirit glared at Ruth, as if he understood exactly what she had said.
“It’s a good idea,” said Aggie.
“I am not throwing my dear dog Spirit under a speeding Mercedes,” said John. “I won that dog playing cards, and I’ll never get another one like him.”
Ruth had to agree with that. There was no way there could be two dogs in this world as smelly, foul, objectionable and downright evil as Spirit.
“I suppose,” sighed Ruth. “I guess we just have to drive on until either one of us runs out of fuel or perhaps a stray bullet hits and kills one of us.”
“I dinnae see whit else we can do dearie,” said Aggie.
“It all seems so hopeless.”
“I’m too handsome to die this way,” said John, “and too talented. Who will take my place as first violin in the orchestra?”
“Aye,” said Aggie, “and I’m no die’n here. I need to go back tae Bonnie Scotland tae die.”
“Never mind that,” said Ruth, “what about me and the twins.”
“Aye, ‘t’will be a tragedy,” said Aggie.
“By the way how are the twins?”
Ruth looked round. The twins had stopped crying, both of them were staring at Ruth with their golden unblinking eyes. I recognise that look, thought Ruth.
“Quick Aggie,” said Ruth, “look at the twins.”
Aggie looked. “Oof, we’re no deid yet,” she declared, opened the window, and stuck the twin’s heads out facing backwards.
No sooner had she done this then, there was a noise similar to a cow mooing, or a steamboat sounding a foghorn. Two streams of corrosive vomit flew backwards covering the road, the Mercedes windscreen, and totally ruining the Mercedes’ lovely two-tone paint job. Unable to see, or to control the car as it skidded in the pools of vomit and infuriated at the damage done by the acidic spew on the body work of the car, the German spies skidded off the road and in to the ditch where further damage was done to the paint job, the polished chrome was bent and scratched, more than a few panels were damaged, the front tyres burst and worst of all the engine blew up.
“Oh dear,” said John, who hated to see such a lovely car ruined.
“Never mind,” said Ruth as John slowed the Humber back to a gentle cruising speed. “Now, have we gone past that inn?”
To Be contineued