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Fire and Fury. Do you not see this?
Ormsby snapped in fury, startling his two junior clerks, who glanced uncomfortably at their manager. Felicity peered at the balding, red- faced man, the situation sud- denly becoming abundantly clear.
She hadnt seen this particular brand of superior sneer since she was a child growing up in the wan- ing days of colonial Singapore, and she thought this kind of overt racism had ceased to exist. Sir, she said politely but rmly, this hotel came highly recommended to us by Mrs.
Mince, the wife of the Anglican Bishop of Singapore, and I clearly saw our name in your registry book.
I dont know what sort of funny business is going on, but we have traveled a very long way and our children are tired and cold.
I insist that you honor our reservation. Ormsby was indignant. How dare this Chinese woman with the Thatcheresque perm and preposterous English accent speak to him in such a manner? Im afraid we simply do not have anything available, he declared.
Are you telling me that there are no rooms left in this entire hotel? Eleanor said incredulously. Yes, he replied curtly. Where are we supposed to go at this hour? Eleanor asked.
Perhaps someplace in Chinatown? Ormsby snifed. These for- eigners had wasted enough of his time.
Felicity went back to where her younger sister Alexandra Cheng stood guarding the luggage. I cant wait to take a hot bath, Alexandra said eagerly. Actually, this odious man is refusing to give us our room!
Felicity said, making no attempt to hide her fury. Alexandra asked, completely confused. I think it has something to do with us being Chinese, Felicity said, as if she didnt quite believe her own words.
Let me talk to him. Liv- ing in Hong Kong, I have more experience dealing with these types.
Alix, dont bother. Hes a typical ang mor gau sai! Eleanor exclaimed. Even so, isnt this supposed to be one of Londons top hotels? How can they get away with that sort of behavior? Alexandra asked. Felicity raged on. The English are normally so lovely, I have never been treated like this in all my years coming here. Eleanor nodded in agreement, even though privately she felt that Felicity was partly to blame for this asco.
If Felicity wasnt so giam siap. Of course, it didnt help that her sisters- in- law always looked so dowdy, she had to dress down when- ever she traveled with them, ever since that trip to Thailand when everyone mistook them for her maids. Edison Cheng, Alexandras twelve- year- old son, approached the ladies nonchalantly, sipping soda from a tall glass. Aiyah, Eddie! Where did you get that? Alexandra exclaimed. From the bartender, of course. How did you pay for it?
I didnt I told him to charge it to our suite, Eddie replied breezily. Can we go up now? Im starving and I want to order from room service. Felicity shook her head in disapproval Hong Kong boys were notoriously pampered, but this nephew of hers was incorrigible.
Good thing they were here to put him in boarding school, where he would have some sense knocked into him cold morning show- ers and stale toast with Bovril was what he needed. No, no, were not staying here anymore. Go and watch Nicky and Astrid while we decide what to do, Felicity instructed.
A charming Hokkien colloquialism that translates to red- haired ang mor dog shit gau sai. Used in reference to all Westerners, its usually shortened to a simple ang mor. Hokkien for stingy, miserly. The vast majority of Singaporeans speak English, but it is a common practice to mash up words in Malay, Indian, and various Chinese dialects to form a local patois known as Singlish.
Of the sofa! Remember, Im the chair- man, so Im the one who gets to sit, he commanded. Here, Nicky, hold my glass while I sip from the straw. Astrid, youre my executive secretary, so you need to massage my shoulders.
I dont know why you get to be the chairman, while Nicky is the vice president and I have to be the secretary, Astrid protested. Didnt I explain this already? Im the chairman, because I am four years older than the both of you.
Youre the executive secretary, because youre the girl. I need a girl to massage my shoulders and to help choose jewelry for all my mistresses. My best friend Leos father, Ming Kah- Ching, is the third- richest man in Hong Kong, and thats what his executive secretary does.
Eddie, if you want me to be your vice president, I should be doing something more important than holding your glass, Nick argued. We still havent decided what our company makes. Ive decided we make custom limousines, like Rolls- Royces and Jags, Eddie declared.
Cant we make something cooler, like a time machine? Nick asked. Well, these are ultra- special limousines with features like Jacuzzis, secret compartments, and James Bond ejector seats, Eddie said, bouncing up from the settee so suddenly that he knocked the glass out of Nicks hand. Coca- Cola spilled everywhere, and the sound of smashing glass pierced the lobby. The bell captain, con- cierge, and front- desk clerks glared at the children.
Alexandra rushed over, shaking a nger in dismay. Look what youve done! It wasnt my fault Nicky was the one who dropped it, Eddie began. But its your glass, and you hit it out of my hand! Nick defended himself. Ormsby approached Felicity and Eleanor. Im afraid Im going to have to ask you to leave the premises. Can we just use your telephone? Eleanor pleaded. I do think the children have done quite enough damage for one night, dont you? It was still drizzling, and the group huddled under a green- and- white-striped awning on Brook Street while Felicity stood inside a phone booth frantically calling other hotels.
Mummy, what are we going to do if we cant nd a place to stay tonight? Maybe we can sleep in Hyde Park. Theres an amazing weeping beech in Hyde Park called the upside- down tree, and its branches hang down so low that its almost like a cave.
We can all sleep underneath and be protected Dont talk nonsense! No one is sleeping in the park. Dai gu cheh is calling other hotels right now, Eleanor said, thinking that her son was getting far too precocious for his own good.
Oooh, I want to sleep in the park! Astrid squealed in delight. Nicky, remember how we moved that big iron bed at Ah Mas house into the garden and slept under the stars one night? Dont be ridiculous, Eddie.
When have you ever had caviar? At Leos house. Their butler always serves us caviar with little triangles of toasted bread. And its always Iranian beluga, because Leos mum says Iranian caviar is the best, Eddie declared. Connie Ming would say something like that, Alexandra mut- tered under her breath, glad her son was nally away from that fam- ilys inuence.
Inside the telephone booth, Felicity was trying to explain the predicament to her husband over a crackly connection to Singapore. What nonsense, lah! You should have demanded the room! Harry Leong fumed.
You are always too polite these service peo- ple need to be put in their place. Did you tell them who we are? Im going to call up the minister of trade and investment right now! Come on, Harry, youre not helping. Ive called more than ten hotels already. Who knew that today was Commonwealth Day? Every VIP is in town and everyone is booked solid. Poor Astrid is soaked through. We need to nd someplace for tonight before your daughter catches her death of cold. Did you try calling your cousin Leonard?
Maybe you could take a train straight to Surrey, Harry suggested. Hes not in hes grouse hunting in Scotland all week- end. What a bloody mess! Harry sighed. Let me call Tommy Toh over at the Singapore embassy.
Im sure they can sort things out. What is the name of this bloody racist hotel? The Calthorpe, Felicity answered. Alamak, is this the place owned by Rupert Calthorpe- something- something? Harry asked, suddenly perking up. I have no idea. Where is it located? Its in Mayfair, close to Bond Street. Its actually a rather beauti- ful hotel, if it wasnt for this horrible manager.
Yes, I think thats it! I played golf with Rupert whats his name and a few other Brits last month in California, and I remember him telling me all about his place.
Felicity, I have an idea. Im going to call this Rupert fellow. Just stay put and Ill call you back. Ormsby stared in disbelief when the three Chinese children burst through the front door again, barely an hour after he had evicted the whole lot of them. Eddie, Im getting myself a drink. If you want one, go get it your- self, Nick said rmly to his cousin as he walked toward the lounge. Remember what your mummy said. Its too late for us to drink Cokes, Astrid warned as she skipped through the lobby, trying to catch up with the boys.
Well then, Ill get a rum and coke, Eddie said brazenly. What on Gods green earth. Ormsby bellowed, storming across the lobby to intercept the children. Before he could reach them, he suddenly caught sight of Lord Rupert Calthorpe- Cavendish- Gore ushering the Chinese women into the lobby, seemingly in the midst of conducting a tour.
And my grandfather brought over Ren Lalique in to do the glass murals you see here in the great hall. Needless to say, Lutyens, who supervised the restoration, did not approve of these art nouveau ourishes.
The women laughed politely. The staf quickly snapped to attention, surprised to see the old lord, who hadnt set foot inside the hotel in years. Lord Rupert turned toward the hotel manager. Ah, Wormsby, isnt it? Yes, mlord, he said, too dazed to correct his boss.
Would you kindly have some rooms readied for the lovely Mrs. Young, Mrs. Leong, and Mrs. And Wormsby, Lord Rupert continued dismissively, I am entrusting you to inform the staf of a very important announce- ment: Ormsby stared at him in utter disbelief.
Mlord, surely theres some mistake No, no mistake at all. I sold the Calthorpe a short while ago, lock, stock, and barrel. May I present the new mistress, Mrs. Felicity Leong. Yes, Mrs. Leongs husband, Harry Leong a wonderful chap with a lethal right- arm swing, whom I met at Pebble Beach called me up and made me a marvelous ofer. I can now devote all my time to boneshing in Eleuthera without having to worry about this Gothic pile. Ormsby stared at the women, his mouth agape.
Ladies, why dont we join your adorable children at the Long Bar for a toast?
Lord Rupert said merrily. That would be wonderful, Eleanor replied. But rst, Felicity, isnt there something you wanted to tell this man? Felicity turned to Ormsby, now looking as if he was about to faint. Oh yes, I almost forgot, she began with a smile, Im afraid Im going to have to ask you to leave the premises. Rachel asked again, blowing softly on the surface of her steaming cup of tea.