having cleared up the matter of what Sandy Lane is, it is necessary to deal
with the question: Who exactly is Ronald Tree?
data are presented in wallet-size form for clipping and easy reference:
Full name: Arthur
Ronald Lambert Field Tree. Age 64. Height 5 feet 11� inches. Weight 175
Well-formed, regular features, faintly ruddy complexion, neatly brushed
sandy-gray hair, tendency toward portliness but physically active, quick of
movement. Habitually courteous, amiable (eyes distinctly twinkle). Is
gregarious, considers himself an introvert but feels downcast, uneasy without
people around him—actually is a natural host. Makes friends easily: friends
quickly fall into calling him "Ron" or "Ronnie"; women have
tendency to think of him as "dear Ronnie."
condition: Assets, including those held in trust, estimated at more than $8
characteristics and interests: Well-stocked mind. Likes lively conversation,
keeps it moving, has command of a surprising range of topics. Has usual
upper-class British sense of public duty; participates in good causes—e.g.,
interested in Planned Parenthood, heads the trust to preserve Barbados'
historic and natural assets. Has passion for architecture: for beautiful and
noble structures, their grounds and gardens, interior design and
distinguishing marks: Old-school-tie accent and idiom. Guest must be prepared
to field such kippered expressions as "rather a good wicket" (meaning a
very good situation or arrangement, opposite of "rather a sticky
wicket"). Fond of budgerigars and has enormous, fancy birdcages full of
them. Widely acquainted, e.g., knows Anthony Eden well enough to call him Tony.
Is related to an astonishing number of upper-register people. Typical
far-fetched example: As father of Michael Tree (through an earlier marriage) he
is father-in-law of former Lady Anne Cavendish, sister of the present Duke of
Devonshire and niece of Lady Dorothy, the wife of Prime Minister Macmillan.
However, dislikes snobbishness and pretentiousness; likes people to like him
for himself. One friend's summary: "Ronnie is very old-shoe. But of course
the shoe was hand-stitched and cost $50 a pair."
compendium of facts about his host, a guest can feel at ease at Sandy Lane. But
to understand fully how and why Sandy Lane came to be, it is necessary to
travel into Ronald Tree's past. Starting properly at the very beginning, among
his antecedents, there are complexities: indeed, right here at the start one
confronts a somewhat sticky wicket. Although today he is obviously English,
Ronald Tree also is, in his origins, American. His parents were from Chicago.
His paternal grandfather. Judge Lambert Tree, was a Democratic political figure
there, a good judge of the law and also—happily for his descendants—an equally
good judge of real estate values. Tree's maternal grandfather was the original
Marshall Field, founder of the great department store and progenitor of a
As to how Ronald
Tree happened to become English, the story is both romantic and tragic. It
began in 1898 with a situation that might have come from a novel by Henry James
but that is told in the biography of a latter-day hero of the Royal Navy, David
Beatty, Admiral of the Fleet.
In 1898 David
Beatty was 27 years old, handsome, brilliant and already a hero, promoted to
commander over 395 other lieutenants and awarded the D.S.O. for audacious
leadership in the campaign against the Dervishes. He was a favorite of country
house society; and one day, in the hunting field, he was introduced to a young
and beautiful and (it is said) flirtatious American visitor, Ethel Tree—Mrs.