They decided that the cove was such a nice place that would spend a whole day there, before moving on the next day. For a boy already overloaded with surprises, another came to him that day that for Daniel was even more amazing then everything that had happened to him over the past few days. Paul Steele was a man of infinite patience; it was the cold hard ruthless businessman that was his own carefully crafted creation - the one he had to nurture and develop because it was so at odds with the real Paul Steele. Very few people in the world knew the man who played in the sea with the two boys that summer. Daniel was staying very close to the shore when Paul went over to him. He started in water which only just reached Daniel's waist. Holding out his arms, Daniel lay across them, as if swimming. The saltiness of the sea gave the water much more buoyancy than freshwater. Very careful not to cause an inadvertent ducking, Paul encouraged Daniel. They spent most of the morning doing this and after a light lunch from a hamper brought ashore by the crew, Paul resumed his lesson. An hour or so passed and finally, Daniel was no longer resting on his arms, he was floating, but he hadn't yet realised the fact.
With utmost care, Paul withdrew his arms, but still Daniel had not realised what he was doing. The Paul, ready to catch him if he seemed to be going under, said, "Shall we try some strokes now". Daniel looked and saw both of Paul's hands, there just above the water, and finally understood that he was floating, not sinking as he always did. Paul was not going to let this go easily and he spent the rest of the day, patiently teaching Daniel a few easy strokes. Jonathon did not mind at all, he had donned a scuba mask and was exploring the sea bed and he hoped that if his dad could get Daniel to swim, then what great fun the two of them could have then, Daniel's first ‘doggy paddle' came just before they decided that they should really be getting back on board for dinner.
The next day Daniel could not wait to get back into the water and try again. It took him a while, but he persevered until at last he swam from one end of the short sandy beach to the other. He could not believe what he had done. After all the humiliation that he had endured because of his inability in his old school swimming pool, here he was, swimming in the sea! ‘His mum was going to be so proud', he thought. For a few more days they hopped from cove to cove around Corsica, until leaving the island and sailing to Livorno on the Italian coast. By the time they made port a week had passed by already and Daniel could not believe where the days had gone. All four of them were well on the way to the golden brown tan that they would eventually take home. Paul then decided that it would be nice for Daniel to see Rome and so they set off to sea, once more.
"You are such a sly so and so", said Daniel to Jonathon.
He grinned, "well you never actually asked me".
"If I had and you had told me all about this I probably wouldn't have believed you anyway".
"I would have asked my dad if you could come in any case. You're by best friend."
"Do you think he would have let me, you if...well you know."
"Yes, I am sure of it, but what does it matter now? Hey, I bet you never thought you would end up swimming."
"I know, and now that I can its so easy!"
"Well the salt water helps. Maybe next week you can have a go with a mask and flippers."
Daniel looked doubtful at that idea, because it would mean going underwater, "I am not too sure about that yet."
When they were cruising from one anchorage to the next the boys did tend to get a bit restless, after all, there are only so many things that two inquisitive ten or eleven year olds can do on a boat at sea - even when aboard a 100 foot luxury motor yacht. Their course south hugged the coastline again and they made several stops along the way, eventually reaching Rome, or more correctly the mouth of the River Tiber since Rome lies a few miles inland, on the tenth day of the holiday. When they had boarded the boat at Nice, two reporters had levelled their cameras at the small party and for the first time in his life, Daniel experienced, fleetingly, a feeling of fame. It was no accident that one of the crew, a big muscular man who was always nearby whenever the family were ashore, manoeuvred himself discreetly to block the photographer's shots. The shouted requests for an interview with Lord Steele along with shouted questions about his young guest were firmly, but charmingly, rejected. This scene had been repeated several times so far and already Daniel had become accustomed to it. Secretly he rather liked the attention because it made him feel like he was a film star. Mischievous as only small boys can be, Jonathon and Daniel soon devised a game that was driving the bodyguard (which was the real function of the burly crew member) to distraction. Whenever the two boys spotted a waiting reporter they would dodge around to tease the photographer into thinking he might get a picture, and to see if they could outwit the bodyguard. Since he was alone in his task he was always having to move quickly to cover both his principal (Lord Steele), and the two boys. Had they split up giving him three possible fields to cover he would have been in real trouble. As far as the boys were concerned it was just a prank but one or two times Jonathon's father had to talk to the boys and explain what a dangerous game it was that they were playing.
The media knew all about the family's summer break since they took August off every year. Sometimes, especially when Jonathon had only been a toddler, they would go off to a Pacific Island and just stay there for a month, or maybe to the USA or Australia. AS their son grew older they began to take a more mobile kind of break and sooner or later, the news media got wind of where they were and began to track them. This particular year was very much a wander around the Mediterranean with the decision as to where they might go next made almost on a daily basis but still there would be a clutch of reporters waiting whenever they reached land. It was all very unfair really because Lord Steele was not unreasonable in granting interviews in connection with his business, when that is what he was engaged upon. It was his family that he held sacrosanct and when on holiday with them the press had no place to intrude. The unexplained appearance of Daniel was leading to all kind of rumours with one of the more garish tabloids suggesting an adoption had taken place. The lack of any photographs was proving very frustrating to the press. A few shots had been captured using powerful lenses aimed at the boat when it was at sea but fortunately the resulting prints showed no clear detail, although in one shot the red hatband of Daniel's Fedora was quite distinctive.
They anchored at a Marina that was just past the mouth of the river. Like so many before, it was full of different sized craft, although the 100 foot yacht was one of the biggest, this time. Even as they drew alongside their berth, photographers were firing off their cameras and shouting up at the side of the boat.
"Lord Steele! Would you please give us a few words about your holiday?"
"Is there any truth in the rumour that your company is bidding for Draco-Parks Industries?"
"Would you like to comment on the speculation that you and Lady Steele have adopted a son?"
"Who is the boy wearing the Fedora ?"
"Can you tell us where you are going to next "?
"Lord Steele, would you like to comment on the suggestion that the other little boy is your illegitimate son ?", this from a tabloid that spent a large part of its budget defending libel actions.
And so they went on with each shouted question more outrageous than the last. Some of them visibly annoyed Paul and Alexandra but they refused to surrender and remained silent, keeping their dignity and privacy. This time everybody remained in the master cabin. Paul and his wife were drinking a glass of wine and the two boys were happy with a Coke, poured bubbling and fizzing into a very tall glass that was half filled with crushed ice. It was a tiny detail but another small thing that Daniel now accepted as quite ordinary. Like most small boys he drank lemonade and Coca-Cola at home (and at the School too), but at home it was in an ordinary tumbler, never with ice, and if he was reaching the end of the bottle it would be flat and syrupy. A sleek silver limousine made its way through the pressmen to the side of the boat. The bodyguard then escorted the family down to the car, he got into the front with the driver, and they sped away. Once again the waiting press had been foiled.
In the back of the limousine there was a wide bench seat on which sat Alexandra and Paul Steele. Jonathon and Daniel (still wearing his beloved Fedora) sat on two seats opposite them. A dark glass partition separated the passengers from the driver. Although she had visited Rome many times, it was one of the few cities that Alexandra never tired of seeing. Jonathon too had visited Rome a number of times and found it all rather boring now. Daniel, who had only ever been as far from home as England's south coast before, was craning his head around to see everything at once as the driver wove his way through the manic Italian traffic. When they passed the Coliseum Daniel recognised it from his history lessons and imagined the Gladiators fighting to the death inside. He saw the domed roof of the Basilica over the Vatican and knew that it was the home of The Pope and he saw many other ancient buildings whose purpose he knew nothing about. The limousine pulled up at the Hotel de Russie, right in the heart of the city, near to the Spanish Steps, and there were no pressmen waiting, just a doorman, resplendent in his gold braided maroon uniform. The doorman held open the door of the limousine for the party to get out while the bodyguard was already standing by. They walked up the steps into the hotel foyer and Daniel tugged Jonathon's shirt, pulling him to one side so that he could whisper. "I've never been in a hotel before, I don't know what to do".
"Don't worry Daniel, we always stay here and they know us now. Just stay with me, there's nothing to it, honestly".
The only time that Daniel had slept away from home (apart from staying as Ashwood that is) was that holiday on Hayling Island. When it had rained, which was frequently, the ran hammered down on the thin tin roof of the caravan like a shower of glass marbles and the inside of the caravan became damp and musty from the condensation that ran down the metal walls. On the days that the sun shone it turned the inside to an oven making it difficult to sleep because it seemed to retain the heat for so long. The toilet had been a tiny cubicle with a very feeble flush that drained into a foul smelling container at the back of the caravan. There was no bath, just another tiny cubicle that concealed a shower. Tepid water dribbled from the shower head. Everything was smaller inside the holiday home. There was a four ring cooker that was powered from a huge red tank of gas that was standing right outside one window, blocking most of the view, and a diminutive refrigerator that was filled when it contained two pints of milk, a tub of margarine and two or three other perishables. His mother had stayed in the ‘bedroom', which was simply a partitioned section that contained a small-size double bed which almost filled the area from wall to wall. Daniel slept on a bed that was created by opening one of the bench seats that were in a living area, around a plastic topped table that could be hinged up out of the way. For all its shortcomings, Daniel had still loved that holiday and the whole adventure of staying in the caravan, but it was a world away from the building he was now entering.
He noticed two or three people who were standing behind smart looking counters and wearing what looked to Daniel like some kind of a black uniform. If it was a uniform it was cut discreetly, giving the wearers a stylish appearance but at the same time making it obvious that they were employees. Another man approached Jonathon's father, smiling and extending his had in a greeting. This man wore a very smart dark suit that was immaculately pressed with razor sharp creases down each leg that flowed down to a pair of polished black shoes, handmade as only Italians know how to make footwear. He wore a dazzling white shirt with a pale blue silk tie that was matched by a small piece of blue silk protruding from the breast pocket of his jacket. In his buttonhole there was a red carnation. Clipped neatly to the front of his breast pocket was a small badge that identified this man as the Hotel Manager. He exchanged some words in Italian with Jonathon's father and then snapped his fingers at two young men who were standing by with their suitcases, all stacked on funny looking trolleys that had a big bar like and inverted ‘U' in the middle for moving them. The manager himself, his smile still fixed firmly in place, led the way to the lifts and then to their rooms.
Jonathon's parents were shown to the biggest suite in the Hotel that had fabulous views out over Rome and the two boys were shown to another suite in which two single beds had been placed, in accordance with Lord Steele's instructions. To young Daniel it was jaw droppingly awesome. A sea of polished marble and luxurious fabrics. One of the bellhops who had brought their cases on those strange looking trolleys was already unpacking them and putting the contents into the cupboards and drawer chests. Boys will be boys, and Jonathon took a running dive at his bed, landing in the middle for the best possible bounce and encouraged Daniel to do the same thing. The bellhop cast them a discreet look of distaste at their antics as the boys bounced up and down, laughing, and left the room.
"This is like I dreamed a Palace would be", said Daniel.
"We have our own bar here too, over there in the cabinet", said Jonathon pointing.
Daniel went to investigate and found the large mini-bar stocked with soft drinks, sweets and chocolate, "its like being a king!" he exclaimed.
"I am afraid it might be a bit boring when we go out because Mum and Dad like to see all the old buildings and stuff like that."
"Oh I don't mind. I've never seen any place like this! You are so lucky. Honestly, why did you never say anything about it? Is it because I am poor ?", asked Daniel with the openness and innocence that only a young child can.
"Sort of - oh I don't mean that because you are poorer than I am it makes any difference. You will always be my best friend. I thought that if you knew where I came from then you might not want to be friends with me anymore."
"I do wish I was rich like you and I wish I had a dad too, but you will always be my best friend too, Jonathon. What does you dad do ?"
"I don't know exactly. I know that my family goes back a lot of generations and that some time a long time ago, the very first Lord Steele did something very brave which was why he became a Lord and stuff. I think my dad is in charge of lots of companies. Anyway, that's boring too."
"I think my mum might want to marry Ralph and then I'll have a dad. One day I am going to be in charge of a company", said Daniel turning serious for a moment.
"I like Ralph. He is a kind man".
"But he's not rich like your dad".
"It doesn't matter and I don't want to talk about it anymore. Shall we go for a swim ?"
"A swim ?", asked Daniel puzzled, "where ?"
A few minutes later Daniel was discovering what a Jacuzzi was and then both boys were splashing about in the hotel pool to the obvious annoyance of the other guests.
The next day was August 11th 1980. The actual date is significant because it was Daniel's tenth birthday. Nobody had said a word, not the slightest hint and Daniel assumed that when he got home, his mum would give him his birthday present then. He went to breakfast in the grand restaurant with Jonathon where the waiters served the two small boys with almost the same deference that they awarded Lord and Lady Steele. A lot later Paul and Alexandra got up and took a much lighter breakfast in their room. By this time the boys were getting bored. The telephone in the boys room rang and Jonathon answered, it was his father telling him it was time to be going out for the day.
For two ten year old boys of genius IQ it was not an exciting day. Jonathon had warned Daniel who at first had been fascinated by the long monologues that detailed the history of each building, but lost interest somewhere after the Sistine Chapel in The Vatican. By then he was totally overdosed on Romans and Michaelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci. Sometime around four ‘o' clock they arrived back at the hotel. Paul suggested afternoon tea and cakes, tipping a wink to Alexandra that she and Jonathon got, but that Daniel missed. They sat at their table, the waiter having taken their order when another waiter appeared, wheeling a small trolley upon which rested a telephone. He stopped beside Daniel, gave a beaming smile, and then left. Just as the telephone began to ring the first water approached the table carrying a huge birthday cake upon which ten candles were burning.
"You had better answer that", said Alexandra," I do believe it is for you."
Daniel picked up the telephone, "Happy Birthday", said his mum, "are you having a lovely time ?"
"Mum! Oh yes, its fantastic and you'll never guess what, I can swim now, I really can!", he shouted back, so excited to hear his mother's voice and to see that giant cake, "and Mum, there is the most huge birthday cake with lots of candles here too! I wish you could see it."
"You can swim ?", she said incredulously.
"Yes, Paul taught me. I can't get very far yet but I can float and stuff."
"Well done! I am so proud of you. I left a present for you, its not much but I hope you like it".
"Thanks mum! Oh this is the best!"
"I am going on holiday with Ralph, next Saturday".
"I hope you have a lovely time too mum".
"I am sure we will. You better blow out your candles. Don't forget to wish."
"I am going to wish that one day I am rich and I can buy you everything you ever wanted".
She wanted to end the call now in case he caught the catch in her voice, the small lump in her throat, she was so touched by what Daniel had said, "I...err... have to go now. Goodbye my little man, and well done again on learning to swim".
"Bye mum", said Daniel replacing the receiver.
"You had better blow out your candles now", said Alexandra, which Daniel did, making his wish.
"You mother gave us this for you before we left", said Paul passing a small gift-wrapped package to Daniel. He opened it excitedly and inside he found a cassette tape player. It was something he had been pestering his mother about for a while because he was beginning to discover his own taste in music and wanted to record some of the records that were in the school library. His mother had worked most of her day's off since Christmas to put by a little extra so that she could buy the present. Paul was acutely aware of the financial gulf between him and Daniel's mother and did not want to ‘upstage' her present with some expensive (for her) gift. Not sure what to buy him, the solution presented itself to Paul on their first day. It had taken some arranging and in cash terms would have cost as lot more than the tape player, but he was sure that Daniel would be thrilled by both presents.
"We have something for you too", said Paul handing a tall round box to Daniel.
He opened the box and inside there was a cream Fedora with a red hatband. It had been handmade by the Steele's milliner and flown out to Italy. Daniel tried it on and the fit was perfect. He beamed with delight.
"Thank you Mr Steele, and Mrs Steele", its great!"
"And you keep the other one too because one day you will grow into it", said Paul with a grin.
Later that evening the two boys stayed up late. They raided the mini-bar for a midnight feast and watched a film on their Television. The next day they returned to the boat which remained in the harbour for the rest of the day. There had been a minor problem with one of the engines which a mechanic was just putting right. Paul and Alexandra decided to spend another day touring their favourite city - the city in which they first met, and allowed the boys to stay onboard under the watchful eyes of another bodyguard. The poor man was almost relieved when his employers returned late in the afternoon. Two small boys that had spent a whole day trying to dodge away from the bodyguard, and twice very nearly succeeded. He was obliged to have a word with Lord Steele who in turn had to gently, but firmly remind the boys of the very real danger they could be in.
At some time during the night, the boast left the harbour and sailed across to the island of Sardinia, anchoring in another sheltered cove. Daniel slept in late the next morning. Paul and Alexandra had gone ashore to sit on the deserted beach and Jonathon had donned his mask and flippers to snorkel dive around the mooring. When Daniel did wake up he made his way to the galley where the chef prepared him a breakfast. Since he had only been swimming for a week now he still had to wear his life jacket when he was on deck, so he slipped that on and went looking for everybody. He could see Paul and Alex on the beach and waved to them. From the side of the boat he hear some splashing so he went to the side and looked down into the water. Jonathon was there but he was splashing around and then he shouted "Help!", disappearing under the surface. Daniel laughed because he thought his friend was playing and then Jonathon broke the surface again. He had torn off his mask and snorkel which floated a few feet away. He shouted again, "Help! I've got cramp", before sinking again.
Somehow, Daniel knew that this was no joke. He then did four things at once. Throwing off his life jacket and yelling "HELP!" at the top of his voice he took a deep breath and jumped over the side. He had no idea yet of how to dive and went into the water feet first. Because of the height that he had jumped from he had enough inertia to sink several feet beneath the surface. He was in his worst possible nightmare, beneath the waves, but he opened his eyes and was amazed to find that in the sparkling clear water he could see quite clearly. Up on deck his shout had been heard - in fact Paul had also heard it on the beach and was already making powerful strokes towards the boat. A crewman, a young Australian named Steve who was crewing for the summer, threw a life-ring over the side seconds before, fully clothed, he followed it in.
It was easy for Daniel to find Jonathon who was sinking slowly beneath him, making no movements now. Daniel put and arm around his friend and with a superhuman effort, was able to claw his way back up. His head broke the surface first and he gasped in some air whilst trying to somehow pull Jonathon out of the water too. Seeing the life ring Daniel hooked his free arm into it and dragged Jonathon with the other. In two strokes, Steve was there and took charge. He took hold of Jonathon and swam back to a low platform at the side of the boat. To Steve, Jonathon was little more than a sack of potatoes and he slung him easily over his shoulder as he climbed back on board. Although Jonathon had swallowed a lot of water, he had been pulled out so quickly that Steve's expert attention soon had him coughing and spluttering water, then opening his eyes. By this time Paul had reached Daniel and had brought him back on deck too.
"You seem to be making a habit of saving my son's life", he said to Daniel., "that was one of the most courageous things I have ever seen", he added.
Again, Daniel was embarrassed and shuffled his feet self-consciously, "it was nothing. Steve saved him", he said.
"If you had not gained those few seconds at the start...", said Paul who then turned to Steve, "and thank you Steve, thank god you heard Daniel shout."
"Doing my job Sir", said Steve, "just glad your boy is okay", and then he went below.
Paul and Alex were astounded by Daniel's actions. It seemed to him so cruel in some respects that here he was with his millions, not one of which could have saved his son's life had he drowned, and now for the second time, his son's chum who came from a family that struggled just to buy a joint of meat for a Sunday, had saved his life.Well okay, he knew that Daniel's mother was a very proud woman and if he could not help her directly, make some kind of gesture for the debt he felt he owed her son, then it would have to be another way - but she must never, ever know. He had to make a few calls to get the information that he needed, but then he knew everybody to call anyway. His fourth call was to the Managing Director of the shop chain in which Daniel's mother worked. The result of the call was that a few minor changes took place in which the manager of the branch Mary worked in was moved to a slightly larger branch, and Mary became branch Manager. She had started her holiday when this all happened, taking a few days at home before going away with Ralph, so she would not know about the change in her fortune until she returned to work. She would never know that she had a guardian angel in the form of Lord Steele who himself felt that it was such a small thing to do for the mother of Daniel.
They left Sardinia the next day, sailing on south towards Africa. It was much more difficult to anchor safely along the North African coast and frequently they could only do so when some kind of customs inspector had been onboard first. Neither of the boys were around when the small payments were made under the guise of ‘harbour taxes' that eased the way. The boys soon forgot the swimming accident and it was whilst moored of the African coast that Daniel learned to use a snorkel and flippers. From then on, as a precaution, a crew member was always on deck if anybody was in the water around the boat. Daniel found the African ports so very different that is was like another exciting new world. They made their way along the coast to Tangier, and then across to Gibraltar, which they reached at the end of the third week of August.
The final week had come far too soon for Daniel. Both boys now tanned as brown as the teak decking they were standing on (Daniel without his life jacket now), as the sleek craft cruised back into Nice harbour. When they boarded the Lear Jet again for the flight home it felt to Daniel almost, as if it were a perfectly ordinary thing to do.