Rosie Lotteridge is a woman who, she suggests, “Adds colour to many lives.” My aunt, who was connected to her in some way, something to do with committees I understand, said of her when her name came up in conversation. “At least she is a moral person: I know for a fact that she had been married for over four years before she had her first affair, and that says a lot about character don’t you think?”
Her husband, Rosie’s that is, who she patronised dreadfully, “Do get us some bubbly Freddie” and “Oh you darling” when he brought in the bottle and glasses before she returned her full attention to her new friend of the moment, seemed unnaturally patient: he worked long hours in his attempt to keep real life from spoiling her delicate absurdities and was extraordinarily forgiving regarding her casual approach to marital or any other conventions, always placing her interests above his own, but then he was just a stockbroker while she was that beauty for whom any man would lose his reputation, or that had certainly been the case.
By the time I came to know her, her “legendary beauty,” could be best seen in old photographs as her current physical appearance owed more to the ruthless passage of time, softened in her case by a comforting friendship with cakes. This being the case, lovers had become harder to acquire and Freddie, loyal and punctilious to a fault, was left to protect her vanity without the aid of passing romance, which he apparently did regardless of his personal enjoyment: I never heard him discuss his personal circumstances. Her brother, who sometimes came to visit them was “Talented” and we all know how tiresome that can be.
It was a subtlety of the situation that, in time, he was perceived to be something of a hero: a mixture of that noble knight who protects his charge from any trace of suffering, and a discreet valet who endures the mindless posturing of that person without complaint: perhaps the greatest gift we can give another is our kindness and he always gave his without reserve. No one ever asked him why he stood for it, and nothing in his demeanour suggested he was anything but content, although a clue to the true cost of his attentions might be found in his early death. I suppose even the most unregarded of plants still require watering.
Not all heroisms are obvious and many heroes are unaware of their own bravery, but in protecting her from herself, he granted that most fragile character a period of tranquillity. Some people spend their lives pandering to the vanities of another, and some may also be paid for their endeavours, but in the case of Rosie and Freddy I think the manner in which he conducted himself became his purpose. To those of us who are puzzled by his conduct, may we employ compassion in the face of mystery? It will be interesting to see how she manages on her own?