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J. R. R. TOLKIEN THERE was once a little man called Niggle, who had a long journey to make. He did not want to go, inde
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By Jean Johnson Contents ACKNOWLEDGMENTS AUTHOR'S NOTE CHAPTER ONE CHAPTER TWO CHAPTER THREE CHAPTER FOUR CHAPTER FI
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Anne Mather When her guardian and only relative, Great-Uncle Henry Farriday, died, Domine Grainger was rather daunted
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LEAF IN THE STORM Anne Hampson
Sally wouldn't forget the past! In spite of everyone's advice, she clung to her memories. Life seemed to have ended for her when her husband, Colin, died. Even Gavin Huntly's startling proposal couldn't shake her free. Though it was made without love, his offer meant a home and the prospect of children. Then Maria's confession shattered the memory of Sally's marriage. She couldn't go on cherishing an illusion but would life with the formidable, unfeeling Gavin be any better?
CHAPTER ONE THROUGH a gap in the low-lying clouds the yellow ball of the sun shed its ineffectual glow on the distant heather-ridge, dark and gaunt against the sombre Northumbrian skyline. The Border country ... Its wild bloodthirsty history written a long time ago when men, 'stout of heart and steady of hand', engaged themselves in constant predatory warfare characterised by brave and desperate exploits, their assaults on hostile neighbours resulting in barbarous devastation to which the Borderers had not merely become resigned, but had come to regard with a sort of grim approval. Castles had been built for defence, one of which was Warendyke, standing on an eminence, and today surrounded by magnificent gardens, endless pasturelands and the extensive forest through which flowed the river, fed by numerous burns tumbling down from the Cheviot Hills. Warendyke Castle ... owned by Gavin Huntly, descendant of John de Feynton, known in his day as The Torturer owing to his cruelty towards his serfs and vassals. Gavin Huntly not only had this bad blood flowing through his veins, but he also carried traits inherited from the pagan Greeks, as his maternal grandfather was George Kleanthes, millionaire shipowner whose home was on the beautiful island of Cos, situated in the middle of the Dodecanese group and birthplace of Hippocrates, 'father of medicine'. Thirty-five years of age and still a bachelor, Gavin Huntly was as formidable a character as any of his warlike or pagan ancestors. Wild, he sometimes appeared to Sally Walling whose husband had once worked for him on the home farm. He would stride along, his face to the wind, his black eyes narrowed but piercing just the same. His thick wiry hair was black, brushed away from a lined and arrogant forehead, his features were harshly etched, with the
prominent cheekbones of the Greek and the hawk-like qualities attributed to John the Torturer, qualities which, it was said, appeared only once in several generations. Gavin Huntly was a throwback, a man living out of his time. 'He ought to have lived when he could take a whip to his serfs and a club to his wife,' old Joseph Norton had said one day to Sally when they both stood, by the gate of Joseph's cottage, and watched the arrogant lord of the manor stride by on his way to one of the fields in which his cattle grazed. 'It's as well that he's never married. He'd make a woman's life a hell.' 'You'd think he'd want an heir, though.' Sally's expressive grey eyes had followed her late husband's employer. She took in the broad shoulders, the proud head, the athletic swing of his carriage. 'What is to become of this estate?' 'His Greek relatives will inherit it, just as they'll inherit his grandfather's fortune.' It was a shame, thought Sally, but she had to agree with Joseph that Gavin Huntly would make a cruel and domineering husband. It was better that he had never married. He could never love and cherish a woman; those long brown hands could never caress with gentle persuasion, or that thin harsh mouth seek a woman's lips with all the tenderness of a lover's kiss. Sally had known all these things, known them for the whole of the three years of her marriage to Colin, whom she had met a year after her parents had died within a week of one another after their car had been involved in an accident. Three years of bliss. And now Colin was dead, had been dead for a year and a half.
She stood by the window of the bungalow which had been given to them by Gavin Huntly when, on their marriage, Colin had come to work for him. To his credit Gavin Huntly had allowed Sally to retain the tenancy of the bungalow, which was one of several in which the various employees lived. She stared broodingly at the drab January scene, and thought how well it matched her mood: bleak, wind-torn landscape and naked trees, a sullen pewter-grey sky heavy with snow- flakes forming in its clouds. And even as she watched, the sun, dull amber now and so masked that it was possible to stare right into it, was fast disappearing, abandoning its effort to brighten this gloomy winter day. A deep, deep sigh issued from Sally's lips. Would there be winter always in her heart? Was it possible that spring would ever brighten her life again? Not by any stretch of imagination could she see herself happy and carefree in the way she was before her parents' death. Her marriage had been heaven, but in the beginning her grief was still with her. Colin had helped and during the last year of her marriage she had been able to laugh, the pain of her parents' death having lessened. The loss of her parents had been terrible to bear; the loss of her husband was even more terrible. At times it was a dragging weight tearing at her heartstrings, and it was then that her future frightened her. A black void of endless loneliness; the appalling inescapable routine of existing without being alive. She had gone back to her job and it helped, saving her from physical and mental collapse. But there were the dreary evenings and long empty nights, the weekends, the holidays. She turned from her contemplation of the scene outside to gaze round the room, scanning its contents. The red, deep-pile carpet over which they had taken so much time, wondering what they would put with it; the French folkweave curtains, the painting on
the white wall over the fireplace—a scene in Bangkok with the Thai silk frame. They had bought it in a junk shop from where they had also acquired the brass kettle, which had been almost black and on which Colin had spent much elbow-grease to bring it up to its present pristine condition. The furniture was modern, because they could not afford antique, but Colin's mother had bought them the fine oak corner cupboard and the pretty Victorian sofa. A snug little nest fitted out with loving care, to which they had come after their honeymoon. Each had contributed something special, and of their own individuality. The result was harmony, since their concept of home was that there should be no 'way-out' decorations or bizarre embellishments. Just cosy things, Colin had said, things they would both grow to love... And now he was dead. For Sally the idea of loving was an all-consuming emotion; there had been no one before Colin and there would be no one to come after him. Her eyes moved, to the open door and the gleaming little kitchen beyond. Through another door was the passage leading to the two bedrooms and the bathroom. A small house, very much the same as all the others on the estate—except the old cottages, of course, one of which Sally would have loved to occupy, but there was none available at the time Colin had come to work at Warendyke. As if impelled by some force she could not control Sally went into her bedroom, moving slowly, almost reluctantly, to the photograph on the cabinet by her bed. The dear, dear face ... Vivid blue eyes and clear unlined features; not strong, perhaps, but handsome—yes, extraordinarily handsome. Sally had felt herself
to be the most fortunate of young ladies to have attracted a man like Colin who could have had his pick of far more beautiful girls than she. But he had preferred golden hair, he had said—and Sally had pale gold hair which sometimes, in certain lights, seemed to be more like silver, but with rich golden tints. Her heart-shaped face had also pleased her eager lover, as had her large expressive eyes. 'What lashes!' he had exclaimed at their first meeting. 'Are they real? No, they can't be!' He had touched them later, and within a week he had kissed her, declaring her lips to be the headiest wine he had ever tasted. And now he was dead. Sometimes it did not seem possible and she would fight against acceptance, fiercely telling herself that it was only a dream—a terrible nightmare from which she would awake ... to find her husband by her side, his boyish features relaxed in sleep. 'You should be getting over it by now, Sally.' Leonora, a young married girl living in another of the bungalows, had said in her practical, commonsense way. 'You can't live with the dead.' Sally had winced, and she winced now as the words came to her on a backswitch of memory. Tears started to her eyes but were destined not to fall. 'Auntie Sally, can I come in?' The voice of the fair- haired, blueeyed little boy brought her from her agonising reflections and she turned from the photograph to gaze down at the face of the child who, despite his question, was even now standing beside her. Fairhaired and blue-eyed ... Was it because of the child's likeness to Colin that she had taken to him? Sally had often wondered, her eyes flickering once again to the photograph.
'You are in,' she smiled, taking the small, not very clean hand that the child was offering her. He grinned. 'Mummy says can you have me for about an hour? She has to do some shopping.' An hour ...? The bingo hall was four miles away and Maria would be going on the bus. 'Yes, of course. Run and tell her.' 'Can I bring my pussy cat?' 'No, darling, just yourself.' 'My gun?' 'If you like.' Sally noticed the frayed cuffs of Timothy's jersey and frowned. It was no more than a month since she had bought it. What could his mother have been doing to get it into this state? 'My teddy?' Sally smiled. She had enjoyed buying the teddy-bear; it was so like the one she herself had had as a child. 'Yes, bring Teddy.' 'I won't be a minute!' Off he went, a sturdy four-year-old of well above average intelligence. His mother had never been married; she lived with her father, who was head gardener to Gavin Huntly, in one of the picturesque little cottages where deep red roses swarmed in
untrammelled profusion up the sides of the doorway and over it. Mr Endersley took a great pride in his garden but would allow flowers to wander, if possible, along the tracks that they had made naturally for themselves. Sally liked him very much, and she felt sorry for him. It must have been a blow when his daughter had the baby. She had had to leave her work and now she was her father's housekeeper, although most people on the estate declared that she was lazy, spending her time reading magazines, smoking numerous cigarettes and spending every Saturday afternoon at the bingo hall. Many were the times Sally had seen Mr Endersley cleaning the windows after he had come from work, or polishing the ornate brass knocker on the front door of the cottage. Timothy invariably looked neglected, in spite of Sally's fitting him out periodically with clothes and shoes— and giving him a good wash whenever he came over to her bungalow. Maria on the other hand was always smartly dressed when she went out. She was pretty, too—light-brown curls and big blue eyes. She was twenty-four, the same age as Sally. 'There, I wasn't long, was I?' Breathless, Timothy bounded into the kitchen and tossed down the gun and the teddy-bear. 'I'm hungry,' he added, looking at the cupboard where he knew the biscuits were kept in a large round toffee tin. 'I like cream ones best, Auntie Sally. Have you any of those?' 'I believe I have a few.' Sally's eyes were sad. If only she had had a child ... Life would perhaps have been more bearable. At least there would have been something to live for. 'Please may I have them?' Timothy looked up at her appealingly. 'I'd like a drink of milk as well.' 'You shall have it, then.' Sally moved to the cupboard. 'Where's Granddad today?'
'Working—Mr Huntly asked him to.' A small pause and then, 'I'm glad he's working. I wanted to come to you. I like you minding me. I'd like to live with you. How many biscuits are there? I can count up to - Ooh! They're different ones! They've got cream on top as well.' 'It's icing.' 'What's icing?' 'Taste it and then you'll know.' Sally watched him take a bite before going over to the fridge to bring out a bottle of milk. 'I like it. It tastes like toffee.' 'Here's your milk. Mind you don't spill it.' 'You've given me the cream on top! I have it when Grandpa gives me milk, but not when Mummy gives it to me. She wants it in her coffee.' He went over to the low stool which Sally kept specially for him and sat down, his big eyes examining the piece of biscuit he still held in his hand. 'Can we go for a walk after I've had my milk and biscuits ?' 'If you like. Where shall we go?' Sally glanced through the window at the sky. 'We mustn't go far because it looks as if it's going to snow.' 'Mummy won't get wet, will she?' 'No, I don't think so.' She was standing close to the stool; Timothy reached up and touched her skirt. Impulsively she took his hand, biscuit and all. 'You're a little treasure,' she said softly.
'Mummy says I'm a little pest,' Timothy returned, popping the biscuit into his mouth. 'She told Mrs Kirkwood that she ought to have given me to my father. Is my father a daddy like Noel's daddy?' He reached down to the plate at his feet and took another biscuit. 'I like Noel's daddy, I wish I had one. I'd like my daddy to give me a piggyback like Noel's daddy does.' Sally frowned. Maria had never told anyone who Timothy's father was, and in fact the whole thing was a mystery, according to the scraps of gossip Sally had heard. For it was thought that Maria had not had a boyfriend at the time when Timothy would have been conceived. 'Hurry up and drink your milk, Timothy. If you want to go for a walk we must start now.' 'Okay!' He drained the beaker and handed it up to Sally. 'I can take my biscuits with me, can't I?' 'Of course. Do you want a bag to put them in?' 'No, I can carry them in my hand.' He looked up and smiled. What a pretty child he was! 'You ought to have put on a coat. We'd better go over and get one. Does Mummy still put the door key in the shed?' 'Yes, I think so.' Maria, who was used to asking Sally to mind Timothy, had once said that the key would be on the window ledge in the garden shed, and she could go into the house if ever there was anything she needed for Timothy.
The tang of cold and the presence of snow was in the air when they stepped out of the bungalow. About ten minutes later they were walking along a narrow path skirting the woods when Timothy suddenly cried, 'There's Mr Huntly! Do you think he's going for a walk as well?' His voice carried to the man and he turned his head. Then, to Sally's astonishment, he stopped, waiting for her to come up to him. 'Good afternoon, Mrs Walling,' he greeted her in his deep-toned, harsh-edged voice. How well it matched the rest of him! thought Sally. So severe his dark features, so piercing those black eyes. He was well over six feet tall with broad arrogant shoulders and an angular frame that seemed to be all muscle. 'I'm glad I've seen you. I want to discuss something with you.' His tone was impersonal ... and yet there was something unfathomable contained in it, something that was by no means impersonal. 'Can you come up to the Castle this evening? If not, perhaps you will tell me when it's convenient for you to come.' 'You have something to discuss?' she repeated bewilderedly. 'Is it important?' She had no desire to go up to the Castle. It was bleak inside, she had been told, bleak and dark and lacking in warmth. 'Just like its owner,' old Joseph had said. 'Sombre, and cold as an arctic wind.' 'If it wasn't important, Mrs Walling, I wouldn't be asking you to come and see me.' He glanced down at the child and a sudden frown flashed across his forehead. 'I assure you it's important.' Gavin Huntly's voice was taut, his jaw flexed. A formidable man indeed ! Scarcely human. Certainly he possessed no sensibility, no emotional traits that could respond to pain or grief, extending
compassion. He was hard and unfeeling, a man self-sufficient and interested only in what affected him, and his way of life. His employees were there, but his bailiff dealt with them. There was little or no personal contact between employee and employer. 'Very well,' agreed Sally, though with some reluctance. She was trying to think what he could want to see her about, and the only explanation seemed to be that he wanted the bungalow for a worker on the farm. He was not obliged to let her stay and it had surprised many people that he had done so. 'It must be because he hasn't anyone to go into it,' old Joseph had declared. 'But if ever he needs it then you can be sure he'll tell you to go, lass.' 'This evening?' queried Gavin, his black eyes moving with an odd expression from Sally to the child and back again. He seemed interested in the relationship, she thought, her hand unconsciously tightening around the small one that had been put into hers just a moment ago. 'Yes, if that's what you want,' she replied, trying to dismiss the idea of having to leave the little home which she and Colin had so happily furnished together. 'What time shall I come ?' He hesitated, as if debating an answer. 'Perhaps you would come to dinner?' he suggested at length. 'Dinner!' Tension washed over her, tightening her nerves. What possible reason could there be for his inviting her to dinner? 'Can I come as well?' piped up Timothy, obviously deciding he had been quiet far too long.
'No, dear,' murmured Sally in a soft and soothing tone. 'You'll be in bed by that time.' 'Grandpa'll let me stay up!' Sally smiled down at him, almost forgetting the presence of the man who had just made such a staggering suggestion. 'Perhaps he will, Timothy, but your mummy won't.' 'I'd like to have my dinner at the Castle.' He looked up into the harsh and hawk-like countenance, apparently undaunted by the frown he saw there. 'I'm hungry, Mr Huntly, so why can't I have my dinner at your house?' Sally had to smile at this naivety. 'It's going to snow, dear, so we'd better be hurrying back to the bungalow.' 'Are you accepting my invitation, Mrs Walling?' She shook her head, but in a gesture of indecision rather than a negative one. 'I d-don't know, Mr Huntly.. 'I shall expect you at about half-past seven,' he said abruptly, and before she had time to speak he swung round and strode briskly away, in the direction from which he had come.
Sally wondered why she should have gone to so much trouble with her appearance. Perhaps, she mused, it was owing to the respect
which she felt was due to the noble lord of the manor. After all, he was somebody! Wealthy and cultured, the last of a long line of aristocrats, he automatically commanded respect in spite of the muttered complaints that went on among the people living on the estate. He was too superior, they would maintain; he had an inflated opinion of himself; he acted as if he were a king surrounded by vassals from whom he expected total obedience and humility. Nevertheless, he was respected, since it was acknowledged that he had never been unfair with any of his employees, nor had he ever expected of them more than they could reasonably give. He paid high wages and gave more holidays than any other landowner in the region. He was the provider if illness or other misfortune affected any of his employees. Yes, mused Sally as she took up a bottle of perfume and sprayed her hair, Gavin Huntly did have some good points, and it was because of these that he commanded so much respect. The face that stared back at her from the mirror over the whitewood dressing-table was clear-skinned and pale, with a certain thinness about the features that accentuated the high cheekbones and the little pointed chin. Her eyes, grey and sad, could still at times reveal that liquid radiance that had attracted Colin the moment he met her. It was mainly when she was with the child that Sally would emerge, for a short while, from the tragic shadow of her grief. She had often amazed herself by laughing with him, by being able to throw herself into a game he wanted to play, or to take him for a walk in the woods or in some other part of the estate. She enjoyed spending her money on him, deriving a sort of pleasure-pain as, on occasions—and especially at Christmas when she had chosen toys for him—she would pretend that she was buying for a child of her own. With a final glance in the mirror she found herself poignantly recalling the last time she wore this dress of deep purple velvet...
'A queen,' Colin had breathed on seeing her standing there, before the dressing-table in their bedroom. 'My own queen whom I love and revere.' They had been going to a dinner-dance given by one of Mr Waiting's colleagues whose daughter had been married abroad but was returning to England with the husband whom none of her family had ever seen. Mr Walling had somehow managed to get invitations for his son and Sally, knowing that they had very little social life, living as they did in a tied house on the estate of a man who was like a feudal lord. 'You'll steal the whole show,' Colin had added, and indeed his words had proved to be true. The dress, long and full-skirted, with a nipped-in waist, high neckline and long, draped sleeves trimmed with gold braid, had a medieval look about it, and many were the remarks passed as Sally moved among the guests, being introduced to them before they all sat down to dinner. It was a fitting style for this evening, she mused, taking up her matching evening bag from the chair where she had placed it. Yes, a very fitting style for dinner in a castle, with its aristocratic owner, Gavin Huntly. She had a small car which she used mainly for travelling to and from her work in the town, which was five miles away. It had been Colin's before their marriage and Sally never got into it without feeling the burning pain of unshed tears behind her eyes. But, strangely, this evening was different. It was a sense of foreboding that assailed her as she slid into the seat and switched on the ignition. Her past seemed to flood into her memory for no apparent reason—the death of her parents which left her alone in the world, drifting without an anchor and with only grief for company. Then Colin had appeared and her life began to change, yet even then she had felt that she was drifting, but guided now, though not by her own power. She followed where Colin led, leaving all decisions to him. Shy by nature and never having been very sure of herself, she seemed to blossom within the love and
care he gave to her. And then she was alone again, tossed along once more like a leaf in the storm. And now, as she started up the engine and took the car on to the path, she was filled with this inexplicable premonition that she was going to be tossed even more violently than ever before. The snow had begun to fall some time ago; it settled on the windscreen after fluttering down in gentle flakes, stealing light from the car's headlamps as it did so. The far hills were almost blotted out; the road when she reached it was a ribbon of white between the nebulous shapes of the hedges bordering it. A bleak night, with a sense of remoteness stealing over her. All was silent except for the purring of the car engine. Where was she going?—and why? A bend was taken and she was again entering the estate, with the Castle looming, gaunt and grim in spite of the lights spreading out from windows and the powerful arc lamps above the courtyard. Sally felt that her every action was being controlled by some unseen hand; she mentally shied away from the idea of this visit to the dark cold home which had once been the stronghold of the barbaric barons of Warendyke. She shied away ... and yet she continued to drive her car towards the Castle, passing along an avenue of ancient yew trees whose sole object seemed to be that of shutting out light, be it on a winter evening like this or on the brightest summer afternoon when the full sun transformed the Cheviots into a glory of colour and light. Sally found herself shivering involuntarily in spite of the warmth of the dress and of the black velvet cloak she wore Over it. The cloak was hooded, loosely covering her golden hair. Little did she know what a child she looked, or that her appearance was reminiscent of a bygone age, not merely because of the clothes she wore, but because of the sheer innocence of her face and the
expression in her lovely eyes, eyes that had a soft doelike quality which made them so remarkable that people found themselves held in admiration. The car purred along in the snow, entering the courtyard after passing through an exquisite wrought-iron double gateway. It was a Viennese gate of the mid-eighteenth-century period which had been made for a castle in Bavaria but later brought to Warendyke when one of Gavin's ancestors had been carrying out some extensive renovations to the Castle. From the courtyard a flight of white stone steps led to the massive front door which, even before Sally had parked the car, was opened by a middle-aged butler, stolid of expression and thin of voice, who said, 'Good evening, Mrs Walling. It's a bad night to be out.' The snow was on her hood and on the front of her hair. She stood aside as the butler closed the door, her glance sweeping the vast hall whose walls were decorated with arms and armour of various periods in history; with antlers, and with tapestries hanging above massive oak chests and other heavy antique furniture. Sally thought of her cosy home and shivered beneath the full-length cloak she wore. The butler had turned and was about to take the cloak from her shoulders when his eyes moved and, twisting around, Sally came face to face with the formidable owner of the Castle. 'Good evening,' he greeted her in his quiet, harsh- edged voice. 'You didn't find the road too difficult, then?' 'No; the snow hasn't been falling long enough.' She felt shy, as if she were in the presence of some god, which made her recall his ancestry on his mother's side —Greek. Sally knew nothing about
the modern Greeks, but she did know about their ancient mythology—just a little. There were the numerous pagan gods which the people had worshipped, gods who, it had seemed, were powerless to prevent their supplicants from engaging in bloody battles with their neighbours, and committing brutal outrages in the process. Sally looked up into Gavin Huntly's face, teakcoloured and shiny-skinned. The black eyes, marble-hard, were fixed upon her in a searching scrutiny which seemed to be absorbing every single thing about her ... even what went on in the secret places of her mind. She was afraid she was colouring and her shyness increased. Her mouth— which Colin had asserted made manifest the rare sweetness of her nature—quivered tremulously, betraying the fact that she was very unsure of herself. The man's face did not soften, as most men's faces would have done, nor was his voice less harsh as, reaching out to take her cloak, he added that he was glad she was able to come. But he had practically ordered her to come, she recalled, slipping away from his fingers so that they would not make contact with her neck. He had not waited to hear her acceptance of his 'invitation', but had walked away after saying he would see her that evening. She had obeyed without question even while her subconscious rebelled against spending an evening in these sombre surroundings, with a man whom no one had ever seen smile. And as she tilted her head to stare at that angular countenance Sally wondered if he ever had smiled, even as a child. The cloak was handed to the butler who slipped silently away, through a doorway of Norman design above which was the coat of arms of the Huntly family. 'If you will come this way?' Gavin Huntly led her towards the grand staircase, which they ascended before entering the Cedar Drawing-Room through a richly- carved door flanked by marble pillars of the Doric order.
Sally stopped just inside the room and gave a small gasp. 'It's very beautiful,' she murmured almost to herself as her eyes scanned the contents briefly before rising to the exquisitelypainted coved ceiling with its groups representing the Arts, and Mercury on his flight to Paris. Much gold had been used, with brilliant yet pleasing effect. The walls were hung with paintings by Rubens, Vandyke, Titian and with many others of rare and exquisite beauty. The small areas of wall at the sides of the wide window were hung with crimson satin wallpaper, while another wall was hung with a priceless Brussels tapestry dated in one corner: 1614. On two tables of Buhl and marquetry were vases in ormolu; in a cabinet was a collection of Sevres porcelain, with some Chelsea and Bow occupying a lower shelf. 'You appear to be surprised?' Gavin Huntly's voice brought Sally back from her dreamlike contemplation of the treasures surrounding her and she forced a smile to her lips. 'I had heard that the Castle was sombre,' was all she offered in answer to what was obviously a question which had been put with more than a hint of curiosity. He nodded, at the same time flicking a hand to indicate a chair. 'For the most part this place is sombre, but one or two rooms are— shall we say—habitable.' 'Comfortable,' murmured Sally, taking possession of the chair but sitting perched right on the edge, her hands folded in her lap. 'This room's perfect.' 'This is your idea of perfection?' He glanced around, at the paintings and the tapestry, at the ceiling, the fine marble fireplace with its beautiful fire-dogs with their elaborately-designed bosses
worked in brass which had been fashioned into fruit and flowers. 'You could live with it, then?' She started visibly, feeling there was no sense in his question. Her answer was hesitant, and truthful. 'I wouldn't like to live with it, Mr Huntly, but I can certainly admire it.' He stood above her, his tall muscular body carrying the evening dress to perfection, the collar of his shirt startlingly white against the darkness of his skin. In spite of his dark harsh countenance there was a certain attractiveness about him that she had never noticed before. 'What do you drink, Mrs Walling?' he asked politely. She shook her head, then saw him frown. She told him what she would like; he served her the sherry in a goblet, refreshingly chilled, and dry to the palate. He had the same, she noticed, watching him as he gazed with apparent all-absorbing interest at the amber liquid, tilting the glass slightly as if wanting to see the light reflected in it. Sally felt awkward, wishing he would come to the point at once and tell her what this was all about. Better to learn the worst immediately than go on like this, with every anxious minute stretching for an hour. 'The sherry is to your taste?' he enquired in the same polite tone. 'Yes, thank you.' 'We shall talk over the meal,' he said, aware of her puzzlement and uncertainty. 'It will be served in ten minutes or so. Do you like duckling?'
'Very much,' she answered. 'Good. My cook's an expert with duck.' And with everything else, thought Sally, as that was the only way she would keep her job. Gavin Huntly, it was rumoured, was a perfectionist. They entered the dining-room, which was far smaller than she expected. Impelled by curiosity, she said, 'Is this where your father held all those dinnerparties people talk about?' Gavin shook his head. 'The main dining-room of the Castle is almost seventy feet long,' he told her. 'A vast apartment with fourteenth-century architecture. I prefer this, which in bygone days was my lady's boudoir.' Sally looked swiftly at him, certain there was the hint of a sneer as he spoke of 'my lady'. It was said that he had never had a love affair, that he despised women, considering them frivolous coquettes whose vanity was a bore. This he had been saying once when he was overheard by one of his tenants, with the result that it had been spread around. 'I can't imagine a dining-room seventy feet long,' commented Sally, faintly awed. 'It's called a banqueting chamber. You'll probably see it before you leave.' 'See it!' The exclamation left her lips before she had time to stifle it. This whole situation baffled her. She remembered vividly his
invitation for her to come to the Castle; her impression was that although he sounded impersonal, there was an undercurrent in his voice that was far from impersonal. 'Why should I see it, Mr Huntly?' He made no answer, merely pulling out her chair and indicating that she sit down, which she did, not feeling any too steady on her legs anyway. Instinctively she knew that what he intended talking to her about had nothing at all to do with the bungalow in which she lived and which, she had believed, he was wanting for one of his employees.
CHAPTER TWO THE dinner was served by the butler, whose name was Carson. Smoked salmon formed the first course, which Sally enjoyed more than she had expected to, since Gavin Huntly chatted to her in a friendly way, although the harshness contained in his voice was in evidence all the time. Soup was served next, and it was then that the question came which set Sally's nerves on edge. 'It's just about eighteen months since your husband died, I believe?' 'Yes.' Sally broke her bread roll but toyed with the pieces in her hand. There was an intentness of purpose in Gavin Huntly's hard black eyes which she strove unsuccessfully to ignore. 'Yes—that's right.' 'You should be getting over it by now?' Part question, but mostly a statement. The voice was casual in its assumption and Sally, gentle though her nature was, felt a tug of resentment against him. 'With a love as deep as ours one never gets over it, Mr Huntly,' she said, and he frowned suddenly in a way that both puzzled and intrigued her. She put the piece of bread in her mouth, picked up her spoon and tried the soup. 'You're still in love with Colin?' He seemed amazed that this could be so. But then he himself had never loved, nor would he ever love, simply because his was the kind of nature that was cold and unfeeling. It was therefore a surprise to hear him say, 'Emotions are important, but you must accept that they merely represent attitudes of mind.' A cryptic statement, but it was the first part that actually caught her attention.
'If you agree that emotions are important then you must surely be able to understand how I feel about my husband.' 'What makes you so sure that I don't understand, Mrs Walling?' Carson was opening a bottle of wine that he had taken from the ice-bucket and Gavin Huntly's eyes were on him rather than on Sally. She said in a quiet, tremulous voice, 'I don't see how you could possibly understand, never having been married yourself.' He tasted the wine; his occupation seemed to demand all his concentration and when he spoke it was automatically. 'I expect you're right, Mrs Walling. One must be able to love before one can experience the grief which you have obviously suffered.' She was still suffering, but there was no point in telling him so. Carson poured her wine; when he had left the table Gavin Huntly picked up his glass, and something in his expression was an order for Sally to do the same. They would drink to the future, he said. Her mouth curved bitterly. 'There's no future for me, Mr Huntly.' He stared penetratingly. 'The future, Mrs Walling ... yours and mine.' 'What -?'
'Drink,' he commanded softly, and she obeyed without further question, compelled in a way she had never experienced before. The man was too forceful, too much the master of this strange unfathomable situation into which she had been plunged almost against her will. 'I'm hoping that you'll be interested in marrying again, Mrs Walling.' So casual the manner in which this was spoken! Stunned by .his words, and intelligent enough to grasp their meaning, Sally stared at him dazedly, the glass in her hand jerking dangerously until, reaching across, he took it from her just in time. One little spot had splashed on to the tablecloth and she looked at it, as if it was the only thing that was real in this fantastic situation. 'You surely can't be serious,' she said when at last she could think connectedly. 'You know I'm serious. It's desirable that I marry very soon. I want an heir—but there's more to it than that. You are alone in the world -' 'Mr Huntly -!' Sally raised a protesting hand, shaking her head at the same time. 'You can't want to marry me! You don't even know me very well! I'm not your equal, and also, I'm in love with my husband. I always shall be in love with him -' She broke off, throwing out both hands this time, but more in a gesture of helplessness than angry protestation. 'I shall never marry—never!' 'You say you're in love with your husband.' His voice was totally without emotion. 'You haven't a husband,' he reminded her, watching unmoved as the tears welled up in her eyes. 'If as you say you're still in love with Colin then it's his image only, since he no longer exists -'
'Please !' Sally cried, flicking away a tear that had fallen in spite of her attempts to retain her control. 'It's unkind—you have no idea how unkind! It—it hurts— here...' She no longer tried to stem her tears. They fell unrestrainedly even while she apologised over again. Gavin Huntly watched, to all outward appearances still unmoved, his eyes resting on the hand that trembled against her heart. At last he spoke, and it did seem that the harshness of his tone was not quite so pronounced, v nor the black eyes quite so hard as before. 'It's good to relieve your feelings, Mrs Walling. Don't apologise. But dry your eyes if you can; my butler will be here directly to serve the next course.' She took out a tiny lace handkerchief and dabbed at her eyes. It was totally inadequate and unconsciously she screwed it up into a little ball and held it in her hand. To her amazement he passed her his, which she accepted without hesitation, so anxious was she to remove all traces of her weakness before the butler returned to the room. 'Thank you,' she quivered as she handed it back. 'I'm very sorry, Mr Huntly.' Her eyes, still moist, looked into his. How could he feel the depth of her loss?—or know that she had once thrilled with the sheer joy of living, anticipating each new day with the excitement born of being in love? 'You shouldn't have spoken about my husband. You see, it's impossible for you to understand how deeply I'm affected by Colin's memory. We were so very devoted ...' Sally allowed her voice to trail away, profoundly conscious of the fact that this man, dispassionate as he was, must be secretly contemptuous of the words she was uttering.
'I'm not completely lacking in understanding,' returned Gavin Huntly, tersely but without rancour. 'For instance, I do understand one very important thing: you can't go on like this for the rest of your life, paying homage to a memory. It's both unnatural and destructive.' His hand was raised in an arrogant dismissive gesture as Sally tried to interrupt. 'Do you not realise that you're dying a slow and agonising death, alone there, in that bungalow?' 'I want to die!' 'At present, yes, I believe you would welcome death.' The rockhard eyes held a trace of scorn. 'Have you not considered that such an attitude is cowardly?' She became angry, yet was alert to the fact that she was living in his property, that to antagonise him could result in her being turned out of her home. 'How I feel is my own affair, Mr Huntly,' she said, quietly, but firmly for all that. 'If you don't mind, we'll not talk about it any more.' The butler returned, but Gavin Huntly waved him away; neither he nor Sally had finished their soup. 'As I said a few moments ago, Mrs Walling, I was quite serious when I suggested that you and I should marry. For some time I've been considering the step, but a clinging woman who would demand my attention would not only bore me but would probably drive me to taking measures which she would resent and which I would come to regret.' He paused a moment as if giving her time to work this out for herself, which she did, picturing him using violence on his wife— perhaps nothing more than a slap but which, as he had admitted, his wife would resent. Whether his statement that he would regret his action was correct or not was to
Sally a debatable point. Personally, she felt that the chastisement was more likely to be repeated, should his wife not respond instantly to his commands. 'So you can see the advantage to me of having a wife whose role would be nothing more than that of the mistress of my home and the mother of my children.' Sally gasped at the sheer coolness with which the words were uttered. What impressed her more was the indisputable fact that he was in deadly earnest in his desire to make her his wife. Her dazed mind fumbled for some damping comment, but she merely found herself saying, 'I can't marry you, Mr Huntly. Your suggestion's v preposterous!' 'It seems so, because you haven't even considered it. Think about it for the next couple of days. Meanwhile, let's enjoy our dinner.' His tone was firm, his expression imperious. Sally swallowed hard, wondering why she did not rise at once, demand her cloak, and leave. Instead, she watched him as he picked up his spoon. He was so calm about it all ... and so confident. Yes, there was confidence plainly written on that grim forbidding face opposite to her. He lifted his glass and took a drink; Sally's glance moved upwards, to that crisp black hair, shining and thick. The Greeks had hair like that, hair which you felt would be like wire if you touched it. And that forehead—there was a classical quality about it that made you think of the statues you saw in museums, statues stolen from Greece initially and now scattered all over the world. Did he ever feel like a Greek? she wondered. He was only part Greek, of course,' but in appearance his ancestry had starkly emerged. He glanced at her reprovingly and she took up her spoon again, continuing to drink her soup. And it was as if she were in a dream
when, with the appearance on a silver salver of the duckling, looking crisp and tender and garnished with apricot halves and olives, she allowed herself to be helped to a generous portion. To eat at a time like this when her mind was in such a turmoil! How could she? But it was like a repetition of an earlier experience and she was being led, this time against her will—so very different from when she was being led by Colin, whom she loved with all her heart and desired only to please him. Had she been weak? Sally wondered, for the very first time. No, not weak, but certainly apathetic, dragged down by a grief as she was by the loss of her parents. And she was apathetic again now... With Colin her apathy had not mattered, because of their deep, deep love for one another. She had wanted to marry him, and so when he rushed her a little it did not matter in the least. 'Is the duckling to your liking?' Gavin Huntly's harsh voice broke into her thoughts like the nerve- scraping sound of a rasp. 'Yes, thank you, Mr Huntly.' 'I think you can call me Gavin.' Again that tone of authority which made her feel she was being given an order. Her chin lifted as she told him firmly that she could not possibly call him Gavin. 'I've said I'm not your equal,' she added finally. 'Who, might I ask, determines human equality?' Sally blinked at him. 'Surely,' she said without really thinking, 'you consider yourself far above me?'
The black eyes, expressionless and, therefore, unfathomable, were fixed intently upon her.. 'Had I considered myself far above you I most certainly shouldn't have asked you to marry me.' He glanced at her plate. 'Your dinner's getting cold,' he said abruptly, taking up his own knife and fork. Sally gave a small sigh and concentrated on her food. She would not even think about the man's absurd proposal, she decided—then promptly found pictures flitting through her mind. She saw herself living in this grim castle with its numerous cold rooms, most of them smelling of must and wearing the sad air of disuse. She saw herself like this, sitting each evening opposite to this stern-faced man, this haughty aristocrat who by his own admission would not stop at punishment if she dared to oppose his will—or, to put it more correctly, if she tried to impose her will by demanding a little of his attention. She saw the long weary years, when her thoughts would still be with Colin. And what of the physical relationship? Involuntarily she shuddered. The ordeal would surely stretch her nerves to breaking point! To be made love to without love; to be used for the purpose of providing an heir to this gaunt castle with its history of torture and death. To suffer the dominance and mastery of a man whose very ancestry proved that he would be more like a savage than a lover. Unknowingly she had paled; Gavin glanced at her and frowned questioningly. Sally cut herself a piece of duck and put it into her mouth. She was trembling, because of her thoughts, and because of the fear that had risen within her ... and because of the idea that had come to her ... if she had a child to love ... No! No! Not his
child! She did not want a child whose ancestors were all barbarians! 'What's wrong?' Gavin's voice came as a blessed release and she looked at him gratefully. 'It's nothing, Mr Huntly.' Somehow a smile was produced. 'This duckling's really delicious.' 'You're enjoying the meal, then?' 'Very much.' This was the truth as regards the food, but as for the company ... The sooner this evening came to an end the better as far as she was concerned.
'Auntie Sally, are you there?' 'Yes, darling. Come on in.' Again it was Saturday and, as Sally had expected, Maria was off to town. Her father was working; Sally had seen him a few moments ago in the oak field talking to one of Gavin Huntly's farmhands. 'Mummy says can I stay for an hour. She's got to go to the shops for some meat for our dinner tomorrow. Grandpa cooks our dinner on Sunday and it's lovely!' 'Yes, you can stay.' 'Can we play snowballs? There's some snow left in the wood over there.'
The bleak wood of dark conifers. Sally had never been particularly attracted to that part of the estate; it seemed almost evil, with its lack of ground vegetation, its bogs and slimy pools which at present were frozen over. 'Let's go for a walk instead,' she suggested. 'All right.' Timothy sat down on the stool, lifting his innocent blue eyes to hers. A tug of pain shot right through her; the child was so like Colin—was resembling him more with every month that passed. 'I like those biscuits with the nicing on top. Have you got any more of those biscuits with the nicing on top, Auntie Sally?' 'Icing, pet. Yes, I have some for you.' 'And a beaker full of milk, please. 1 told Mummy I was thirsty, but she had no time and said I could have some milk when I came for you to mind me.' Sally gave him the biscuits, then the milk. He drank thirstily and she watched him with a brooding expression in her soft grey eyes. As always at times like this she became intense over Timothy, feeling that, had she had a child, he would have been very much like this dear little boy, a boy who gave affection in abundance, yet seemed to receive little in return from his mother. Fortunately his grandfather adored him, and he had an aunt as well who thought a great deal about him, an aunt who visited the Endersleys about once a month. 'As usual you've come without a coat, Timothy. Didn't you remember it?'
'Mummy said to run along. She was in a hurry, you see.' Timothy crunched his biscuit for a moment. 'She's putting some cream on her face. It smells nice, but you can't eat it.' 'No, I don't expect you can,' smiled Sally. 'I think I'd better go and get you a jersey as well as the coat. Sit there like a good boy and eat your biscuits.' He grinned. 'You mean I mustn't go in the sitting-room and touch that nice horse because I might break it, don't you?' Sally stood in the open doorway, her cardigan draped over her shoulders. 'Yes, Timothy, that's exactly what I mean.' 'Because your daddy bought it for you on your birthday—you told me. I like the picture of your daddy. Why isn't he here? I've never seen your daddy because he's gone away. You said he'd gone away, didn't you?' She nodded. 'Yes, dear, I did.' 'I told Mummy he's gone away, but she said he was dead.' Sally turned. 'I'm closing the door, Timothy, because it's cold. I shan't be many minutes.'
Maria was just about to leave as Sally arrived at the front door of the cottage. The rambler roses looked exceedingly sorry for themselves, the flowers all having gone and the leaves too. Come spring, though, the shiny foliage would brighten the pretty, oldworld cottage and a month or two later the roses would appear in their hundreds, the pride of their owner and the envy of his friends. 'Oh!' exclaimed Maria, her face falling. 'Have you come to tell me you can't have him?' 'No, of course not. I've come for his coat, and a jersey of some kind. We're going out and it's very cold.' Sally's eyes wandered from the pretty oval face with its big blue eyes and rosy lips, to the fur-trimmed collar of Maria's fashionable coat. Her shoes and handbag matched the smart little suede hat she wore. An attractive girl; it was a shame that some man had spoiled her life. 'He's quite hardy, you know. He'll not need a jersey.' Obviously Maria was in a hurry, but Sally was intending to be insistent about the jersey. 'I'll get the things myself if you want to go, Maria,' she offered. Maria looked at her, in a strange manner which was by no means new to Sally. 'His coat's hanging in the cupboard under the stairs -' 'Yes, I know that. Where's the jersey?' 'He hasn't really got one—at least, not one fit to wear. I'll get down to darning one or two some time, but for now -' Maria shrugged her shoulders carelessly, 'he'll just have to do without.'
Sally's eyes narrowed. She glanced again at Maria's chic beige and brown outfit. 'I bought him a jersey a few weeks' ago, Maria,' she began. 'It's frayed at the cuffs, I've noticed, but there's little else wrong with it. If you'll let me have it I'll mend the cuffs ...' She stopped slowly as Maria shook her head. 'It got burned when I was drying it by the fire.' 'Burned?' repeated Sally with a frown. 'How did that come about?' Suddenly Maria's face twisted with anger. 'I don't happen to have every modern convenience like you! I've to dry our clothes on a rack in front of the fire! If you're so concerned about Tim then go out and buy him another jersey! You've got your car; it won't take you more than ten minutes to get to town. I have to use the bus, because I haven't a job and money of my own -' She broke off, looked at her watch and then, without another word, she ran down the short pathway to the little lane and was soon lost to sight as she skirted a wooded area on her way to the road. Sally could only stare, bewildered by the girl's unusual behaviour. Maria had actually spoken as though she, Sally, ought to be buying clothes for the child! Slowly and thoughtfully Sally entered the house by the door which Maria had left open. The tiny living- room was as cosy as ever, with a fire burning in the high black grate in front of which was a guard. A large ginger tom-cat stirred lazily, opening one eye and then closing it again. It was lying on the rug in front of the fire. A piece of hot coal fell and the cat shot away into the kitchen at the back. Sally collected the coat, took the key from the inside of the
door and, putting it into the lock on the outside, closed the door and secured it. The key was put in the garden shed and the door pulled to. Sally was still thoughtful and every act had been mechanical. Why had Maria adopted that unfriendly attitude with her? Thinking about it as she made her way back to the bungalow, Sally found herself with the impression that Maria had been bottling up her antagonism for some time—in fact, for a considerable time—and this afternoon her restraint had broken. Pity was suddenly blotting out all else, pity for the girl who, at only twenty years of age, had become an unmarried mother with the responsibility of bringing up her child as best she could. It was to her credit that she had kept Timothy, as she could have had him adopted had she felt so inclined. It was only to be expected that she would be discontented at times, conceded Sally, but that did not excuse her rudeness just now. 'You've been a long time,' said Timothy as Sally entered by the back door of the bungalow. 'I've been good, though.' He was sitting on the stool, but looked far from comfortable. Sally glanced at the door leading to the living-room. The lovely porcelain pony that Colin had bought her had always fascinated Timothy and many were the times he had attempted to take it from the low occasional table on which Sally kept it. He was watching as she went to the door and opened it. 'It fell all by itself!' he cried urgently even before she entered the room. 'I never touched it, Auntie Sally! It fell all by itself!' It was on the floor; as it fell it had knocked against the corner of the tiled hearth ... Tears started to her eyes as she bent to pick up the pieces. The first thing Colin had bought her... and the first item in their home ever to have been broken.
'Timothy ...' She turned to look at him. He had risen from the stool and was standing in the doorway, looking just as downcast as she. 'You once promised me you'd never touch it if I wasn't here, remember?' 'Yes, but it fell all by itself -' 'Did it, Timothy?' Sally looked directly into his eyes. His lip quivered. 'I only picked it up to stroke it.' She looked down at the pieces in her hands. What was done was done. She herself was to blame but, quite unreasonably, she knew a bitter resentment against Maria for not putting Timothy's coat on before sending him along to the bungalow. 'Are you very angry, Auntie Sally?' The child was almost crying, and impulsively she bent to kiss away his fears. 'No, Timothy, I'm not angry. But you won't do anything like that again, will you?' 'No, I won't touch anything! Are we going for a walk?' She put the broken ornament on to the draining- board, vaguely aware that she was contemplating a repair yet knowing full well that no repair was possible. Yet she could not bring herself to toss the pieces into the tidy-bin. Suddenly she was hearing Gavin Huntly's words about paying homage to a memory, and she was overwhelmingly relieved that she had not been angry with the child. To hurt the living because of the dead was wrong—very wrong indeed. And in any case, it was not what Colin would have
wished, for her to hurt this dear little boy simply because he had broken an ornament which Colin had bought for her birthday. 'Come along, put your coat on,' she said, holding it out so that Timothy could slip his arms into it. 'Oh, are we going for a walk now?' 'We're going into town to do some shopping.' 'Ooh... Are you going to buy me some sweeties?' 'I'll think about it.' 'I like jelly babies, and I'll have a bar of chocolate.' He was buttoning up his coat. His face and hands were clean for a change and so Sally had not wasted time in washing him. 'Are we going on the bus?' 'No, in my car.' His eyes sparkled. 'Can I sit by you, Auntie Sally?' 'Of course.' She had fetched her coat and handbag from the hall. 'You must sit still, though.' 'Yes, because if I don't we'll have a crash and be in hospital, won't we?' She merely smiled down at him; for some reason she felt lighter in spirit than for some considerable time. Timothy was company for her, a ray of warmth in the chill darkness of her life. She felt she could have had him much more often than she did.
An hour later she was paying for the two sweaters she had bought for the child. She had bought shoes already, and a little suit consisting of velvet trousers and a jacket with bright brass buttons. Timothy was in high glee, wanting to wear it at once. Instead, he had carried the brown paper bag to the car. 'You haven't bought my sweeties yet,' he was reminding her later as they walked along the street towards the small cafe where Sally usually had her lunch. 'I like jelly babies best of all - Oh, there's my mummy—with a gentleman!' Timothy pointed excitedly and Sally, following where he directed, was just in time to see Maria going into the cinema. There was certainly a young man by her side, but it was impossible to say for sure that he was with her. The cinema ... Everyone thought Maria went off to play bingo every Saturday afternoon, but obviously they were wrong. So much for village gossip. 'Come on, we're going to have a nice cup of tea and a cake.' Sally was holding the child's hand; he twisted his head as they walked away, plainly looking for his mother. 'Are we having cream cakes, Auntie Sally?' 'If you want a cream cake then you shall have one, my pet.' Strange it was, she mused, that she had the care of Timothy, taking him shopping, and giving him afternoon tea, and there was his mother, in the cinema, perhaps with a boy-friend. The cafe was full to the door, with people standing about waiting for tables to become vacant. Timothy was disappointed when Sally said they couldn't have tea and cakes after all.
'Can't we go to another cafe?' he asked almost tearfully. 'There isn't another ...' She glanced towards the imposing hotel on the opposite side of the road. The Harthorpe was expensive, but if she went there it would save the child from disappointment. The restaurant was closed, but afternoon tea was being served in the lounge. Sally was conducted to a table with a couch on one side and a large armchair on the other. Timothy, in his element, sat in the chair and swung his legs rhythmically as if in time to the soft music coming from a tape recorder. Sally gave the order, then stared about her. She and Colin had been here several times when out shopping, but the lounge had been decorated recently and she hardly recognised it. She thought: everything that was here when Colin was alive is gone—the painted wallpaper with flying birds and insects, the blue figured carpet, the velvet chairs faded and comfortable. Even the china was different, and most of the waiters were no longer familiar. Such a change in just over eighteen months! Timothy, waiting patiently, was also glancing around. And, as on that occasion just a fortnight ago today, he suddenly cried, 'There's Mr Huntly!' Sally stiffened, and the colour fused her cheeks. She would have escaped if she could, but he was already approaching the table, having seen her sitting there, with the child. 'Good afternoon, Mrs Walling.' Cool politeness was in his voice, and an odd expression in his eyes as he looked from her to the child. 'Do you mind if I join you?' He could see that she had not yet had her tea, could see too that there was plenty of room at the table. She told Timothy to come and sit beside her, saw the
sardonic uplift of Gavin's straight black brows and her colour increased. He knew that she would rather have him opposite to her than beside her. 'Have you ordered?' he asked, sinking his tall muscular body into the soft upholstery. 'Yes, thank you.' Her tone was stiff because of her awkwardness. The man unnerved her; she thought it was his strength, his inherent dominance—an attribute of the Greeks, no doubt. He seemed so superior, and she felt inadequate. Besides, she was embarrassed by the memory of that evening. After dinner he had tried his best to convince her that marriage to him would be her salvation, that her life would change, that she would have interests which would in time take precedence over memories that were at present causing her such distress. Time, he had asserted, was the most effective healer; this had been proved and no matter how much she wanted to remember, she would eventually find that Colin's image had faded, and with it the pain. She had argued, had in the end almost quarrelled with him.' He had lost patience and she knew instinctively that nothing would have given him greater satisfaction than to shake her. She had seen him very close to the temper which, rumour had it, was something to drive fear into the bravest heart. In the end, however, he had allowed the matter to drop, but she saw that her resistance was a blow to him, not only to his pride but for some other reason. He had admitted quite frankly that he wanted an heir, but had also said that there was more to it than that. 'Mr Huntly, will you please buy me some sweeties? I like jelly babies -'
'Darling, you mustn't ask Mr Huntly to buy you sweets; have patience and I'll get your jelly babies for you.' 'And my bar of chocolate?' 'Yes, and your bar of chocolate.' She glanced away from the curious stare to which Gavin was subjecting her. 'Can I show Mr Huntly my jerseys?' Sally bit her lip. For no reason she could explain she was reluctant to let Gavin know that she had been buying clothes for Maria's child. 'I'm sure he doesn't want to see them, dear.' 'But you're wrong, Mrs Walling.' Gavin turned to the child. 'Are they in that bag there?' 'Yes, and there's a lovely suit in the car as well. And some shoes and socks and -' 'Timothy -' 'Yes,' interrupted Gavin. 'Shoes and socks and what else?' 'A shirt with pockets!' Timothy slid down, grabbed the bag containing the sweaters and, opening it, pulled out one of them. 'It's blue. Do you like it?' He held it up in front of him, totally oblivious of the amused stares of the people sitting around, drinking their tea. 'The other's green! I wanted a white one, but Auntie Sally said Mummy had enough to do without washing white jerseys every day!' Timothy thrust the sweater at Gavin. 'Feel! It's lovely and warm! Do you like it?' he asked again.
'Very much. You're going to look very smart indeed in this.' A rippling laugh brought more attention to the little boy. 'The lady in the shop said that as well!' He was trying to put the sweater back; Sally took the bag from him, folded the sweater, and put it inside. 'Oh, dear,' sighed Timothy, climbing up on to the couch again, 'I'm hungry! Do you think I've been waiting patiently, Auntie Sally?' A smile came involuntarily to her lips; it brought that lovely radiance to her eyes, and she would have been surprised to be told that she actually looked happy. 'Yes, Timothy, you've been very patient indeed,' she said. He chuckled. 'Mummy says I can't keep still a minute!' Sally glanced at Gavin, noticing the strange way in which he was looking at Timothy. Then his black eyes slid to her face, to examine it so intently that she had to look away. To her relief the waiter appeared, bringing both her order and Gavin's. Before she could even reach for her handbag Gavin had paid her bill. She heard herself murmur, 'Thank you very much, Mr Huntly,' and then busied herself with pouring the tea, and cutting Timothy's cream cake into quarters for him. And all the time she was aware of Gavin's eyes fixed upon her, taking in her every action. 'You must be quick,' she told Timothy. 'We've been out too long already.'
'Okay! But Mummy's gone to that place with that gentleman, so she might not be home yet! I'll be quick, though, if you want me to!'
CHAPTER THREE GAVIN said quietly, 'What gentleman is this?' putting the question to Sally while he looked at Timothy, whose mouth and the area around it was covered with cream. 'I don't know.' Sally spoke guardedly, reaching out for the sugar. Gavin pursed his lips thoughtfully. 'You're very fond of this child,' he said unexpectedly. 'Yes, I am.' 'You take him regularly, I'm told.' Sally blinked. 'How do you know that?' she queried. 'I'm not altogether cut off, Mrs Walling.' The sarcasm was veiled, but there. Sally stole a glance at him, saw the flexed jawline, the thin cruel mouth and out-thrust chin and wondered that he could have been so patient with the child. Not a sign that he disapproved of anything that Timothy did or said. Perhaps he was one of those exceptional people who really understood a child's mind, and if this were so then he would obviously make an exceptional father. 'Can I have some more milk in my tea, please?' After taking one sip Timothy had put the cup down on the saucer with a little bang. 'It's too hot!' It was Gavin who picked up the cream jug and poured cold milk into Timothy's cup.
'You spend both time and money on him,' observed Gavin, reverting to what he had been saying before the interruption. 'His mother has to go out on Saturday afternoons and so I take him. He's no trouble, and he's company for me.' 'You'd be better with a child of your own.' Gavin picked up his cup and took a drink. 'I'm satisfied with things as they are,' began Sally, then stopped, her words brought to a halt by Gavin's reproving glance. 'You lie,' he told her softly. 'Nothing would give you greater satisfaction than to have a child—or children— of your own. To become a mother is a woman's destiny, her complete fulfilment.' Although she coloured at this Sally was able to say. 'A woman has to be loved before she's completely fulfilled. Most men don't understand this. To have a loving husband, and children as well, is the ultimate; there are many women who are lucky enough to be in this state of happiness.' Her voice broke a little, but Gavin was unaffected by the pain it betrayed. 'If a woman can't have both love and children, is she then to have neither?' 'I had love; I would have had children had Colin lived.' She looked at him, bewildered that they could be speaking to one another like this. He was the exalted lord of the manor for whom her husband had worked on the home farm; she was a nobody, a girl without background, wealth or stability. 'You can have children,' said Gavin quietly. 'You obviously love this little chap, so how much more would you love your own?
You're different today, because you're with him, doing things for him. You've spent a great deal of money on buying clothes and plainly you've enjoyed your afternoon.' He paused to let her comment, but she had nothing to say. 'Your mind has been taken off your grief because you've had someone else to think about.' She lowered her eyes under the challenge in his. He had spoken the truth. Her mind had been taken off her grief. 'If you're referring to your proposal, Mr Huntly,' she said defensively, 'then please forget it. I can't marry without love.' 'But you've said that you'll never love again,' Gavin reminded her gently. 'That's true, I won't—I can't!' 'An absurd statement spoken under stress,' was Gavin's calm rejoinder. 'However, be that as it may, if you're so sure you'll never love again then why not accept second best? Take what life has to offer. Have children of your own to care for. You'd make an excellent mother, so why not bring some lucky children into the world?' It was a question to leave unanswered, and she turned from him, embarrassed and inexplicably afraid. He was overpowering, this man in whose veins ran the blood of pagans and barbarians. He possessed a magnetism that drew her in some way, which kept her on the defensive all the time; she had felt this on that first evening when he had so calmly put his proposition to her, and she felt it now. Some inner warning urged her to get right away from his influence, to leave the bungalow while there was still time to escape.
Escape from what? He could not force her to marry him and bear his children. The very worst he could do to her was to make her leave her home, to tell her that the bungalow was required for someone else. Timothy had finished his cake and was asking for another. 'No, dear,' she began, when Gavin interrupted with, 'If he can take it, then let me get him another. But if in your opinion he's had enough then obviously he can't have any more.' 'I've not had enough, Mr Huntly,' piped up Timothy, his big blue eyes pleading as they rested on Gavin's face. 'I would like another cream cake, please,' he added in a wheedling tone of voice, and to her own surprise Sally actually laughed. Gavin stared at her, shaking his head as if impatient with her. She thought she understood. He had seen her laugh and so was wondering why she should carry her grief. So much for the insight of the male sex! Sally could not have begun to explain even if she had had the desire to do so. 'I don't mind if he has another cake, Mr Huntly,' she said. 'This has been a treat for him, so I mustn't spoil it.' 'And has it not been a treat for you?' enquired Gavin in a voice so soft that the familiar harshness failed to come through. Sally admitted frankly, 'Yes, Mr Huntly, it has.'
It seemed that he smiled to himself ... as if he had scored a victory of some kind. He lifted a hand to fetch the white-coated waiter to the table. 'Can I have two cream cakes, please?' from Timothy before Gavin could speak. 'One,' he corrected. 'And another pot of tea—for two.' Gavin looked at Timothy. 'Would you like another drink?' 'Yes, please. I'd like some pop!' Gavin nodded his head. 'And a glass of orange juice,' he told the waiter. 'You're very kind, Mr Huntly.' Sally was showing politeness. He was not being kind at all, but calculatingly subtle in that he was hoping to gain something from all this. Marriage. It amazed Sally that she had so easily arrived at the conclusion that he was still hoping to win her round to his way of thinking. Timothy, eagerly watching the waiter as he went off to disappear between two swinging doors, was humming to himself, his big eyes bright, his little baby mouth half-smiling. Gavin was staring at him, and frowning slightly as if at some secret thought or memory. He said, transferring his attention to Sally, 'You have a problem, Mrs Walling, and I have the solution. If you could transmute your despair to reason you'd give some serious thought to my proposition. The present will pass—it must. Then you'll have the future before you to enjoy. Two years from now you could be a proud and happy mother, with a little fellow something like this in your care, and perhaps another child on its way -'
'Please!' she broke in, a flush mounting her cheeks. 'I've given you my answer, Mr Huntly. How could I marry you when I feel the way I do?' There was pleading in her voice and a quest for understanding in her eyes as they looked squarely into his. She saw no change in his expression; even his silence seemed to be a mask for his feelings. The waiter returned, to give Timothy his cake and orange juice. Gavin had just a few moments previously taken out his handkerchief and wiped the cream off the child's face; there was cream on it again now and Sally had to smile because even as she looked a little dab of the cream appeared on the end of Timothy's nose. Her eyes flickered, to meet the interested stare of Gavin who had moved his body to one side, allowing the waiter to put down the teapot and some extra milk. Without asking if she wanted more tea Gavin poured Sally a cup, helping her to milk first. This was not his normal way with women, surely? His behaviour could almost be described as gallant—a circumstance that would certainly amaze those of his tenants and employees who knew him well. 'You should have waited until I cut your cake for you.' Sally shook her head at Timothy, who only grinned as he took another bite out of his cake. Gavin surprised her even yet again by wiping the cream from Timothy's nose. Was this all an act? she wondered— this easy way in which he adopted the role of family man? She glanced around, to observe people looking at them now and then, Timothy being the attraction with his lovely golden curls, his chubby face and enormous eyes. Sally thought: we look like a family; these people probably take it for granted that we are a family. It was strange, but the idea made her feel less awkward, less shy with Gavin. Until now she had adopted a slightly deferential
manner towards him, conscious all the time of his superior position and of the fact that she lived in the bungalow only by his favour. She was seeing him in a different light, discovering human qualities which made her forget his lawless and pagan ancestry. Even his appearance seemed altered in some indefinable way... perhaps those marble-hard eyes had softened slightly and those thin lips taken on a less cruel aspect. He became aware of her interest and turned from his contemplation of the small fountain that played among some green drapery at the far end of the lounge to one side of the couch on which Sally and Timothy were sitting. 'You're very quiet, Mrs Walling.' His glance wandered to her face and her shining hair, long and silky with a delectable little halffringe falling on to her high intelligent forehead. 'I was thinking,' she murmured in reply. 'About what?' Gavin took up his cup, regarding her speculatively over the rim of it before taking a drink of his tea. She wondered what he would think if she were to tell him the truth. Instead she merely shrugged her shoulders and said, 'It was nothing important,' and she glanced at her watch before adding, 'I think we ought to be going. It was beginning to get dark when we came in here.' Gavin nodded. 'The nights are drawing in rapidly, we're coming to the worst time of the year.'
'I don't want to go yet,' from Timothy. 'It's nice in here, Auntie Sally. I like being with you and Mr Huntly.' She smiled at him, and took up his coat. 'Come along, pet, let me put this on.' 'All right. Mr Huntly, can we go to your big castle and have a look at the guns?' Timothy scanned Gavin's face hopefully as he ventured this. 'My grandpa told me there are lots of guns in your house.' 'Would you like to see them today?' he asked, and Sally felt her nerves go taut. 'Ooh ... yes!' Timothy had slid down from the couch and was being helped into his coat by Sally. 'My grandpa'll be surprised when I tell him I've been in your big castle!' 'I think, Timothy, your mother would be worried if you were out too long.' Sally was standing up, her eyes lifted to Gavin's face. 'If you don't mind -' she began, but Gavin cut her short. 'You'd disappoint the child, Mrs Walling?' 'My mummy might not be home yet!' Timothy looked up anxiously, his eyes moving from Sally to Gavin. 'I want to see the guns, please.' Unable to produce any suitable rejoinder to Gavin's question Sally felt her spirits flag. As before, she had no desire to go to the Castle, but it seemed she would have to do so or otherwise Timothy was likely to end up in tears. Was Gavin's concern really for Timothy's disappointment or had he engineered this situation in
the hope that, in strengthening his acquaintanceship with her, he would in the end achieve his goal?
She drove along behind his car, through the lighted town with its cheerful shop windows, its traffic and its people, and out into the country. The gloaming had deepened almost into night and a grey mist was falling over the spectacular landscape that characterised the hill and moorland regions which swept down eventually to a wild deserted shore where in the daytime seagulls wheeled, using the air currents in their buoyant flights. With the town left far behind the loneliness was entire, the world of people distant by a million miles. There was no shape to anything, no tangible reality in the shimmering mist enshrouding the sinuous road along which the two cars were travelling. A hint of snow became a flutter of cobweb silk glittering in the headlights' glow; the child sitting contentedly by her side gave a gurgle of delight and said something about playing snowballs. Gavin's car was well ahead, but every now and then he would slow down, forcing her to reduce the distance between them. Vaguely she was conscious of the desire to keep the distance; she felt safer that way, protected from his dominating influence. At length they had entered the high gates which were flanked by turreted lodges and ancient yew trees, gnarled and misshapen, grotesque in the misted light from the cars' headlamps. Away to the west, in one of the high ravines of the Cheviots, a pocket of snow formed a greyish-white blot in the massive bulk of the dark volcanic rocks. Mysterious and unfathomable as the beginnings of time ... It was no wonder black deeds had been done in this Border country where only the fittest survived. Burning, pillaging, murder
and rape—all springing from the blood feuds that existed in these lawless valleys. Having brought his car to a standstill in the well- lighted courtyard Gavin was easing his long body from the driver's seat when Sally pulled up alongside him. She slid out, her face pale and beautiful in its frame of shining gold. Gavin stood for a moment, his commanding upright figure unnerving her by its towering height. The chill wind caught her hair and mechanically she lifted a hand to remove several tendrils from her face. 'You ought to have something on your head,' began Gavin practically, when he was interrupted by the piping voice of Timothy, who, having come from the car on the driver's side, tucked a small hand into his. 'Are we going to see the guns now, Mr Huntly?' Gavin looked down at him without smiling. 'Of course.' 'We can't stay long,' quivered Sally, a furrow of intense nervestrain on her brow. 'Maria will wonder what's happened.' 'She'll know that Timothy is all right with you,' returned Gavin unconcernedly. 'Come along, child, and we'll look at the guns.' They entered the Great Hall, and for a moment Sally forgot her tension as she looked at Timothy, so small in this vast place, its raftered ceiling supported by a series of arches, its great store of arms and armour, one item of which was a life-size equestrian figure of one of Gavin's ancestors in full armour and wearing a mantle bearing the crest and insignia of its owner.
Timidly the child left Gavin's side to go and touch a halberd, then a shining suit of armour, his eyes wide with wonderment and a baby smile of sheer pleasure on his lips. The two adults just stood and watched, silent and thoughtful. Sally, vitally aware of Gavin's magnetic presence, knew again that frightening sensation of being led along paths she had no wish to take. Was it this great castle with its dark history, its ghosts and its deep secrets that was pressing in on her from all sides, closing every door that might lead to freedom? And the owner... tall and gaunt and paganfeatured— the man who wanted to marry her. She tried to shake off these unnerving sensations and concentrate on the child, but her mind was a throbbing whirlpool of confusion which she had no power to control. Gavin turned to her and said, in that harsh voice that was becoming familiar to her, 'He's bewildered by it all. Too young to understand.' Sally nodded, trying desperately to control the wild uneven beating of her heart. 'Yes, he is—much too young.' The child was moving further away, down to the end of the hall where the equestrian figure stood on a raised oak platform, richly carved. 'Have you given any further thought to my proposition?' Gavin's voice cut out all else—sights and sounds and atmosphere. Sally felt as if everything inside her had curled up, encysted as a protection against ... what? 'No, Mr Huntly, I haven't. I thought I'd made it quite clear to you that I shall never marry.'
Gavin frowned with thinly-veiled irritation, his eyes going deliberately to the child, a tiny figure against the massive armourclad horse and rider. 'I have an idea you'll shortly change your mind,' he said. 'No -' with the swiftness of confusion. 'No!' She turned away, looking at her watch. 'We must go,' she said insistently. 'Timothy, come on, dear. It's time to go home.' 'Oh, but -' 'Time,' she interrupted firmly. 'Come along.' Gavin's watchful eyes followed as Timothy came in obedience to Sally's call. 'Can we come again, Auntie Sally?' She shook her head without hesitation and answered quickly, jerkily, tensed by the awareness of Gavin's eyes boring into her, 'We can't Timothy. Now, come along; it's long past your tea time!'
CHAPTER FOUR MARIA was still out when Sally took Timothy to the cottage, but his grandfather was in, standing over the sink, washing a shirt. 'Ah, there you are!' He left what he was doing to come and lift his young grandson high above his head. 'I thought he would be with you, Sally. Have you been walking ...?' Mr Endersley's voice trailed off as he put the child down, his eyes lighting on the parcels which Sally held under her arm. 'We've been shopping, Grandpa!' Timothy informed him delightedly. 'I've got a lot of new clothes and some shoes and we've been to see Mr Huntly's guns in his big castle!' 'You've -!' Mr Endersley glanced enquiringly at Sally, then suddenly remembering his manners he asked her into the little kitchen and brought forward a chair for her to sit down. 'Is it right, that you've been up to the Castle?' She nodded. 'We met Mr Huntly in town -' 'In the cafe where we had tea,' interrupted Timothy who, having taken one of the parcels which Sally had placed on the table, was endeavouring to pull the string off it. 'It was a big cafe with lovely chairs! I had two cream cakes and a cup of tea and some orange juice that Mr Huntly got for me off a man with a White coat. And I said could I see Mr Huntly's guns and he said did I want to see them today and I said yes, 'and he said - Oh, dear, I can't get my new shoes out of this box!' 'Let me do it.' Sally cut the string with a knife that happened to be lying on the table, then handed the parcel back to Timothy. He
removed the paper, then the lid of the cardboard box. Mr Endersley was standing there, a curious expression on his lined and weather- beaten face. Tall and sparse, with iron-grey hair and shoulders that stooped a little, he looked much older than his fortyeight years. But then he had had a hard life, losing his wife when Maria was only five years old, and now he had Timothy to think of as well as his daughter, earning for them both. 'You're too good, Sally.' Mr Endersley's voice caught a little as he spoke these words of gratitude. 'Maria doesn't look after the things you buy, I'm afraid. I did tell her that you'd notice, but -' He shrugged dejectedly. 'She's not having a happy life, so I don't grumble too much.' Sally made no comment; she wondered if Maria really had been with that young man this afternoon, and if so, was she going steady with him; if it was her intention to keep the affair a secret then she certainly hadn't gone the right way about it. Someone from the village or the estate was bound to see her sooner or later. 'Look!' Timothy had taken out one shoe, a lace-up of brown leather with crepe soles. 'They just fit, but they're a little bit too big!' Both Sally and his grandfather laughed. 'They've cost you a lot of money,' observed Mr Endersley, taking the shoe and handling the soft, flexible leather. 'I haven't anything else to spend my money on, Mr Endersley.' 'You will have one day, lass.' She shook her head emphatically.
'I know what you're thinking, Mr Endersley—but you're wrong. I have no plans for the future.' 'A nice holiday would do you good. My sister-in- law's just been to Greece, to Rhodes. She's written to say how much she's enjoyed herself.' Automatically he reached up to take the letter from a shelf. 'Read it while I make a cup of tea.' Sally did not want a cup of tea, but she knew that he did, so she settled down to reading Minna Percival's letter. It was written in a round and rather immature hand, but the contents were newsy and bright. She talked about the island and the trips she had taken; then she mentioned Cos, and Sally's interest was well and truly caught because she, like everyone else on the estate, knew that Gavin was the grandson of a shipowner who lived there. 'It's the most delightful island,' the letter went on. 'Antiquities galore, and flowers everywhere, and it's the Italians we have to thank for both. They were in occupation and organised the excavations of the ancient ruins; they also planted trees wherever it was possible for a tree to flourish. Everybody should visit Cos ...' There was much more and then the letter ended, 'I'll be coming to spend a few days with you. Robert. Yes, I did give your suggestion some thought but, with all due respect to Maria, I couldn't get along in the same house with her. She used to be so particular, but since Timothy came she's changed. Pity she didn't marry his father but, as you know, she told us she wasn't in love with him. If ever she marries, though, I'll seriously consider marrying you, Robert. Love from Minna to you all.' Sally lowered the letter to the table; Maria hadn't been in love with Timothy's father .. .Yet she had a child, a child she loved even though at times it seemed that she neglected him a little. But he
was well-fed and for the most part clean and not too badly clothed. It was inevitable that Sally's thoughts should drift to Gavin Huntly, and his assertion that she could have a child... 'I expect it's a surprise to you that I asked Minna to marry me?' Mr Endersley had poured the boiling water into the teapot and was standing with the kettle in his hand, his grey eyes smiling as they stared into Sally's. 'It would solve many problems if Minna would come and live here. She's having a hard time of it at present, what with the rent going up and everything else as well. We've a spare room but -' He broke off and turned away, placing the electric kettle down and picking up the teapot. A knitted cosy made of several gay shades of wool was drawn over it after he had placed it on the kitchen table. 'I've heard it said often that two women never get along in one home. Each wants to be the boss.' Sally nodded her head. 'I wouldn't like anyone else in my home,' she said, her eyes far away, recapturing the vision of those idyllic days when her husband shared her home. 'I mean another woman, of course,' she added presently. 'No, I suppose not.' Mr Endersley reached up to take crockery from a shelf. 'But Minna's a widow and alone, ft seems a waste, somehow, that two homes are being kept going when one would do.' 'Look, Grandpa—my other shoe!' 'Yes; they're real smashers, aren't they?' 'I've got a new suit with shiny buttons. I'll take it out of the bag for you.'
'I don't know how to thank you, Sally.' Mr Endersley shook his head and picked up the teapot. She watched him pour the tea. 'There's no need to thank me, Mr Endersley. I thoroughly enjoyed shopping for Timothy today.' Her mind leapt back to this afternoon and the fear that had coursed through her as she stood in the Great Hall of the Castle, feeling that something immense and inescapable was closing in on her. She and Mr Endersley were drinking their tea when Maria came in. Her blue eyes took in everything in a matter of seconds—the steaming tea in the best cups, the shirt in the sink, the sweaters which Timothy had pulled from their bag and which were now on a chair, the shoes which were in their box on the floor. It seemed that she frowned first and then sighed. It was with a smile, however, that she greeted Sally, thanking her for the things she had bought for Timothy. 'You must try to take care of them,' said Mr Endersley. 'They cost a lot of money these days.' Maria went through to the living-room. 'We saw you, Mummy!' called Timothy. 'You were with a gentleman!' 'A ...?' It seemed that Mr Endersley had turned pale. It was plain that he had no wish for Maria to have a boy-friend, but Sally felt it would be a very good thing if she did have one, and eventually got married. Everybody would be happy then. 'Who is it, Maria?' he demanded, getting up and going to the door. 'I'll tell you about it later, Dad.' Sally drank up and rose to her feet.
'I must be off. Thank you for the tea, Mr Endersley.' 'And thank you!' was his fervent rejoinder. 'I feel we shall never be out of your debt.' 'I do it because I want to, so you could never be indebted to me.' 'Of course we couldn't,' from Maria who, having discarded her coat and hat, stared past her father with a sort of arrogant expression on her face. 'As Sally says, she buys things for Tim because she wants to, so why should we feel grateful?' 'Maria!' chided her father. 'That's no way to speak to Sally!' Maria only shrugged, while Sally, as puzzled as she had been earlier in the day, took her leave of them, blew Timothy a kiss, then went out and closed the door behind her. She entered the bungalow and immediately switched on several lights. Darkness was something Sally had not been able to bear since Colin's death. Her whole mind was in a turmoil; in addition to the loneliness and grief with which she lived she was bewildered by Maria's inexplicable unfriendliness towards her, and unnerved by Gavin Huntly's confidence, for he seemed completely untroubled by her stand, as if he had only to play a waiting game and he would bring her to the point of surrender. The little kitchen shone in the brilliant illumination of the striplighting. The bright orange curtains, the lime-green tiles and the white and orange breakfast set all contributed to the gay effect for which she and Colin had striven when setting up the room in which so much time was spent. She recalled with poignant intensity the way she and Colin would experiment with a cookery book, mainly on a Saturday or Sunday evening when they had plenty of time. They had been extravagant and used wine and
brandy for cooking, had 'gone to town' on the sauces, substituting an ingredient they had in stock for something they were short of, with the result that they would have a failure now and then but at other times they had a roaring success, having 'invented' a sauce of their very own concocting. Days of happiness, evenings of joy, nights of bliss ... With a kind of tortured compulsion Sally took down the cookery book. She had a chicken in the fridge, and a trout which she had brought home yesterday from the market in town where on Fridays she would do most of her week-end shopping, using her lunch hour break just as others of her colleagues did. Which should she have? The chicken might be easier; she and Colin had devised their own special way of cooking chicken. She took it from the fridge, collected together the ingredients for the sauce, switched on the oven and turned it to the right heat. The casserole - Her thoughts were cut by a ring at the doorbell. Frowning, she went into the little hallway and opened the door. 'Maria ... is something wrong with Timothy?' 'Tim? He's your first thought.' Maria shrugged, stepping into the hall as Sally stood aside, a gesture of invitation for the girl to come in. She closed the door. 'It's as it should be,' added Maria on a cryptic note. Maria moved off without being asked and Sally followed her into the living-room. The log-effect electric fire was on, infusing the room with a warm and flickering glow. Sally switched on a standard lamp, and invited Maria to sit down, but the girl shook her head.
Maria stood with her back to the window. There was no evidence of the arrogance that had been so marked earlier on; in fact, there was a certain diffidence about the girl but a hint of compassion in her lovely eyes as well. 'Please sit down, Maria.' Bewildered, Sally signalled towards a chair, but again the invitation was ignored. 'I feel it's you who ought to sit down. For myself, I'd rather stand.' She turned as if no longer able to look at Sally. The curtains had not yet been drawn across the windows and lights from the other dwellings were twinkling through the flurry of snow that had just begun to fall again. 'What is it, Maria? You're acting so strangely today.' 'I'm sorry about my rudeness -' Maria spread a hand, turning again but remaining by the window. Sally was by the couch, but she too remained standing. 'I wasn't myself. I'd things on my mind—I still have, but I hope to get one or two straightened out.' Another pause, a moment of doubt and uncertainty and then, 'You love Tim, don't you?' Sally looked at her, nonplussed. 'I think a lot about him, yes, of course I do.' 'Because he looks like Colin?' Sally swallowed convulsively; always she had resented anyone talking about her dead husband. 'Partly it's that,' she admitted, 'but Timothy happens to be the kind of child anyone could love.'
Maria nodded her head. 'I love him,' she murmured softly. 'I expect you do.' 'But you feel I don't treat him right -? Oh, don't deny it, Sally; I'm quite aware, of what people think about me. They don't know everything. It's no fun having a child when you're not married, even in these enlightened times. Also, it hampers a girl; she's lost most of her freedom. I go out on Saturdays, but the gossips think I ought not to -' 'Maria,' broke in Sally in her quiet gentle tone of voice, 'just what is this all leading up to?' 'You're saying to yourself that I've never been the confiding type, so what am I going on like this for now? Fair enough—you're puzzled. Well, I've met someone who wants to marry me—the man Tim mentioned just a short while ago. I've been going out with him on Saturday afternoons for a few weeks now. He works nights, so I couldn't see him in the evenings even if I had been able to get out. I didn't try to keep it a secret —that I was meeting him—but neither did I tell anyone, not even Dad.' Maria paused; a smile of bitterness on her lips. 'He'd have worried himself crazy, expecting me to do the same again and land him with another child. I've more sense -' 'Maria,' interrupted Sally again, her voice protesting now, 'why are you telling me all this? You're embarrassing both of us.' 'I'm not embarrassed, so I don't see why you should be. However, whether you are or not you've to hear the rest. I advised you to sit down. I'm again advising you to sit down.' Maria stopped, scanning Sally's face to see what effect this was having on her.
Apart from bewilderment there was nothing in Sally's expression except the sadness that was always present. 'My young man doesn't know about Tim,' continued Maria, and although to all outward appearances she was coolly dispassionate Sally sensed that she was distressed, and faintly bitter. 'The truth is that I'm afraid to tell him. I believed I could at first, but as we talked and discussed things and learned about one another I soon realised that, being thoroughly decent himself, he'd want a girl who was decent too.' Maria caught her underlip between her teeth. Sally felt a tug of anger against this young man and said indignantly, 'You are decent, Maria! And if he won't take Timothy then he doesn't really love you!' Maria's pretty lips curved sardonically. 'Thanks for those kind words, Sally!' 'I really mean it. If you weren't decent you'd be going out much more than you do.' Maria nodded her head. 'I met Stan at the bingo. We chatted, discovering we'd both gone there from sheer boredom and loneliness. Stan's not what you'd call the sociable type—he's shy and retiring and doesn't make friends easily. He's terrifically happy that I've fallen in love with him. We need each other, Sally, and I can't lose him because of Tim.' Another pause to note Sally's reaction, and this time there certainly was a change of expression. A startling premonition flashed through Sally's brain and she waited, incredulous and tensed, for Maria to speak. But she did not utter the words Sally expected to hear. Instead, she paused a long while, her back to Sally as she stared out of the window, into the grim darkness of the January night, where the conical hills of the Cheviots loomed in
the distance. A tenseness filled the room, because the silence was that of evasion and Sally, mystified, waited with a kind of growing apprehension for Maria to turn around and speak to her. But the silence stretched; Sally sank down on the couch and wished she could see Maria's expression. At last she herself broke the silence, venturing a cautious enquiry, 'What is it, Maria?' and when the girl merely made a restless movement, she added, 'I felt a moment ago that you were going to ask me to take Timothy—for how long I don't know. Now I feel there's something more than that ...' Sally tailed off as, at last, Maria turned around to face her. Sally noticed the puckered forehead, the tight mouth and clenched fists. 'I suppose, now that it actually faces me, I'm shirking it.' She glanced at the big armchair as if wanting to sit down. 'Shirking it?' Sally's apprehension increased. 'I think that whatever you want to say had best be said, Maria.' The other girl nodded in agreement. It was plain by the change in her expression that her mind was made up. 'Have you never stopped to wonder why Timothy is so like Colin in looks?' she asked, avoiding Sally's eyes as she sat down in the chair and with precise movements slipped her arms from her coat and draped it over the back of the chair. 'Wonder why ...' Every vestige of colour drained from Sally's face as the implication swept right into the heart of her. 'You're—you're saying th-that -' Her voice failed, reduced to a hollow, unintelligible whisper by the blockage in her throat. Maria glanced up; her eyes had a hard implacable look born of her determination to go through with what she had begun.
'Your husband was Tim's father.' So great was her control that it was impossible to guess whether or not she was affected by the shuddering exclamation of protest that issued from Sally's trembling lips. 'I—I c-can't—believe it!' 'You do believe it, Sally. You have to, because it's true.' After a long while Sally nodded, but her lovely eyes were protesting as they stared into the vivid blue ones opposite to her. 'Yes ... it's true,' she quavered. 'I can see it now.' Colin's face and Timothy's seemed to meld into one within her mental vision—the fair hair and skin, the eyes, the straight line of the nose and the round good- humoured features. 'You kept it a secret all this time.' Sally's whole body felt numbed, and glacier-cold. She scarcely knew what she was saying as she added, 'Did he refuse to marry you?' 'I didn't love him.' Ah, yes, Minna Percival had mentioned in her letter that Maria had not been in love with Timothy's father. 'When was it ...?' Sally closed her eyes, her mind struggling to compute with dates and times and Timothy's birthday but, understandably, nothing clear emerged. 'I'll begin at the beginning.' Maria settled back in the chair and crossed her shapely legs. 'Just listen quietly, Sally, and ask your questions at the end.' She paused nevertheless, giving Sally an opportunity of speaking. But Sally only shook her head, her senses numbed to the point where, for the moment, even pain and disillusionment could not affect her.
'I was barely eighteen when Colin and I met and fell madly in love—or rather, we believed we'd fallen in love. For several months it was idyllic; we lived in our own particular Garden of Eden. I'd left home a year previously to set up on my own in a nice little flat in Ridgewood, only ten miles from here. I also had a nice cushy job as receptionist to a professional photographer. It was he who introduced me to Colin, who was his friend and happened to drop into the studio one day. From that moment it seemed we were drawn to one another, and after only a fortnight of going about together Colin moved from his not very comfortable digs into my flat. After a while we both realised that this was just a beautiful interlude which could never be permanent because we had nothing to support the physical attraction. We were both sensible enough to admit that we'd need a lot more in common if we were to make a successful marriage. We decided that to go on would result in our lovely relationship becoming something sordid, because we had no intention of marrying one another. 'So we parted, the very best of friends, with regret and heartache on both sides. For almost a year we didn't see one another. I was still in my flat and Colin went back to his digs. However, we did eventually run across one another quite by chance, on a railway station, and Colin told me he had recently met a girl whom he liked a lot, but as yet there was nothing serious as he'd been out with her only a couple of times. We again said goodbye, but were destined to meet again before another week was out. This time it was in a cafe and we had lunch together. He had two tickets for a dance the following Saturday, but said that his new girl-friend had 'flu and couldn't go with him.' Maria paused, aware that Sally was recalling the circumstance. 'He asked me to go with him and as I'd nothing else on I accepted the invitation. The dance wasn't over until two in the morning. Colin brought me home and I asked him in.'
Maria stopped to give a small but expressive shrug. 'It didn't seem wrong, since we'd already had an affair. A couple of months later, when I knew I was in the family way, I wrote to Colin—don't ask me why. I still had no intention of marrying him. I suppose I felt lost and lonely and rather frightened. He was madly in love with you by this time, with the wedding only a few weeks away. He suggested I get out of the family way again, but somehow I couldn't. I wanted the child even though I saw tremendous difficulties ahead of me, since for one thing I'd have to return to my father, burdening him both with myself and the child. He'd brought me up from a toddler and it was a shame to expect him to put up with a baby in the house just when he was beginning to have things easy. I told Colin I wanted the child and he was terribly touched by my decision to have it. It was illogical to turn down his offer of marriage, but I didn't love him any more than he loved me -' 'He offered to marry you?' broke in Sally, lifting an ashen face to look at Maria across the space that separated them. 'Yes, Sally, he did.' 'He was engaged to me ...' Sally's voice was a mere whisper, the words not meant for Maria's ears. But of course she caught them and it seemed that the hardness in her eyes was not quite so pronounced. Yet she spoke with a heartlessness that caused Sally to wince, and even to make an ineffectual gesture of protest with her hand. 'Yes, he was engaged to you. But he'd have jilted you almost at the altar if I'd agreed to marry him. He was a man of honour who asserted quite firmly that his first duty was to me. And so you see, Sally, if I had accepted his offer then you'd never have been
married to him... and you wouldn't now be allowing a memory to rob you of life.' A deep silence followed, as Sally's thoughts flew to Gavin Huntly and his assertion that she was wasting her life for the sake of an image. 'I—wish you'd accepted.' Sally's eyes had filled; through the confusion of her mind there emerged the ironical fact that Maria could very well have done without Timothy, while she, Sally, would dearly have loved to have him as her own. Her reaction as regards her husband was one of pain without anger. His affair with Maria, having occurred before he even met Sally, had therefore nothing to do with her. Nor could she condemn him for the other night, later, which he had spent with Maria, since at that time he had only just met Sally and was obviously not yet contemplating marriage to her. 'What I don't understand about all this,' said Sally after once again endeavouring to put some order into the confusion of her mind, 'is how we came to be here, so close to where you're living?' Maria nodded understandingly. 'You'd have expected Colin to keep as much distance as possible between him and me? Well, it so happened that he never knew where I'd lived before I took the flat. He knew I had a father, but I never talked about him very much, and Colin never showed any curiosity.' Maria broke off and smiled, her eyes far away. 'I suppose we were too wrapped up in one another to think much about anything else. He was working in an office when I met him, but wasn't at all happy. He wanted the open air, he said, and told me he was thinking of looking for farm work. The job here was advertised, with a bungalow going with it. He applied for it not
knowing that my father worked here. Father was away at the time, spending a week with Aunt Minna. The bailiff was also away, so it was Mr Huntly himself who engaged Colin. As I was still living at the flat at the time I'd no idea that Colin had got the job here. 'You were already married when I came back to live with Dad, and it was a shock to us both when Colin and I bumped into one another. He was almost out of his mind, poor man! It was plain to see that he was visualising the break-up of his marriage after only a couple of months or so. I assured him that I had no intention of telling you—or anyone else—who the father of my child was. He was still not happy, so I made him a solemn promise and his mind was set at rest.' And when all this was going on, thought Sally, I was in blissful ignorance of it. Not by any sign at all had Colin given anything away. 'When—when he saw Timothy—which he did regularly—did he— I mean, how did Colin act with him?' Sally's voice was hollow, her mind unable to cope with the probable answer to the question she had asked. But when the answer came it was what she would have expected. 'Colin adored him, Sally. He often said how like him Tim was growing.' 'You think that Colin regretted -' Sally broke off and shook her head. 'He loved me,' she quivered piteously, as if she were trying to convince Maria of the fact. 'He did!' 'Of course he loved you. And he didn't regret not being able to acknowledge Tim as his son.' Maria seemed to stop abruptly and, glancing at her, Sally felt sure that she was thinking that had Colin lived, then one day in the future, when Timothy had grown into a
fine young man, Colin would then have very much regretted not being able to claim him as his son. Sally said, managing to put this idea out of her head for the present, 'You mentioned just now that you gave Colin your solemn promise that you'd never let me know he was Timothy's father. Why have you told me now?' The question had been expected; Sally could tell by the expression on Maria's face. But when the explanation came, Sally was convinced that something had been left out... something vital. 'I'd never have given anything away if Colin hadn't died. As it is— well, when I came here just now it was to ask if you'd have Tim for a short while. I had the idea that once I was married to Stan and we'd settled ourselves into the little house he says he can afford to buy, I'd have been able to tell him about Tim and make him understand just how it was between Colin and me. But now I'm not sure. Perhaps my mind has been cleared by the talking I've done. It's the first time I've had the opportunity to talk about myself as regards my relationships with Colin and I believe it's done me good. I feel now that I can't take the risk of Stan's refusing to have Tim. I want Tim to have a father if and when I marry. I couldn't leave him with my father—even for a short while simply because he couldn't look after him and work as well. However, that doesn't pose a problem any more simply because, in the last few minutes, I've changed my mind. I shall tell Stan about Tim on Saturday afternoon when I see him. If he doesn't want to take Tim then there'll be no marriage.' Maria felt in the pocket of her coat for cigarettes. 'Do you mind if I smoke?' she asked.
'No, of course not.' Sally watched as Maria took out the cigarette and flicked a lighter to the end. She had never been able to dislike Maria, in fact she had always felt sorry for her. Now Sally realised just how much good there was in the girl, that although she was practical and faintly hard, there was also an uprightness and integrity about her that most people would appreciate once they knew it was there. 'You were expecting me to take Timothy?' Sally looked perplexedly at her. 'Did you think I would give up my job?' 'I've some money saved and was intending to offer it to you, hoping that you'd care enough about Tim— once you knew who his father was—to stay at home for a while and look after him, just until I could take him from you again. You have your widow's pension, and I happen to know that this house is only on a nominal rent, just as ours is, and all the others on the estate.' 'You have money saved?' Sally spoke in tones of surprise, the words escaping before she could stop them. 'Yes; I've been hoarding, I'm afraid. I was troubled as to what would happen to Tim and me if Father died. As a matter of fact, seeing that I've confided so much to you, I might as well tell you that Mr Huntly helped me a lot in the beginning and he still helps me indirectly by paying Dad higher wages than he needed. It means that Dad can make me an allowance.' 'Mr Huntly helped you in the beginning?' It should have been Colin who helped, thought Sally—then wondered if he had done so. Naturally Maria would not mention it if Colin had given her money. 'Yes, he was very kind to me indeed.'
'I'm amazed that he could be kind!' 'People have the wrong ideas about him, Sally. He isn't the ogre you obviously believe he is.' You ... Sally found herself wondering why there was a slight emphasis on that one word. It was as if Maria was deliberately hoping that Gavin Huntly would find favour in her eyes. But almost instantly Sally dismissed this idea; it was absurd, simply because Maria would not care one way or the other whether Sally liked or disliked the aristocratic owner of Warendyke Castle. Maria was speaking again, her expression troubled, but there was the strength of determination in her voice for all that. 'I'm risking a lot by telling Stan about Tim. You see, we haven't known each other very long at all.' 'But long enough to know that you're genuinely in love?' 'Yes. This is different altogether from the affair which Colin and I had.' 'If Stan loves you, Maria, then he's sure to take Timothy.' Never to see the child again ... Colin's child. Sally, her emotions having been held in check up till now, knew that her unnatural restraint was about to break. 'I hope—hope th-that Stan will mmake him a g-good father ...' The tears escaped at last, in a flood of anguish deep and bitter. Maria rose quietly from the chair and got into her coat. She stood abstractedly fastening the buttons, staring at Sally as she sat there in a huddled little heap, her head in her hands, weeping as if her heart would break.
Without a word Maria turned and went from the room, into the hall and then out into the chill of the night. Her eyes went first to the window, where the skittering of snow lay like powered diamonds. Sally had not moved. Maria's eyes went then to the Castle on its rise, its turrets like the black teeth of a prehistoric monster eating into the snow-laden sky. A moment later the deep silence was broken by the latch as it clicked back into place after Maria had pulled the gate to behind her.
CHAPTER FIVE SALLY sat there for hours, her dinner uncooked, forgotten as the ceaseless play of thought brought back all that Maria had revealed. The stark unalterable truth kept coming through: Sally would never have become Colin's wife if Maria had wanted him for herself. Expecting his child, she had a claim on him which he recognised and as a result he was willing to marry her. The fact that he loved her, Sally, seemed sadly to have lost its importance, since he would have let her down at one word from the girl who was going to bear his child. 'I wish he'd married her!' At last Sally rose from the couch, her legs stiff, her face swollen by the tears that had flowed, and stopped, then flowed again for what seemed hours and hours until she felt there was not another tear that could be shed. 'If he'd married her then by now I'd be getting over it! But for me to have had three idyllic years of marriage ...' She began a restless moving to and fro across the carpet, her hands clenched tightly at her sides. 'Maria was cruel— cruel! Why couldn't she let me go on dreaming? Instead she's shattered my ideals -!' Sally stopped abruptly, aware that if anyone happened to be passing the bungalow they would hear her talking to herself, for her voice had risen to a shrill crescendo of almost hysterical protest. 'What is there for me now?' Dry-eyed, she wandered into the kitchen and made herself a pot of tea. The snow was falling steadily, but as she stood staring out at it something drew her ... she wanted physical misery—discomfort. It was as if some inner mischievous spirit were forcing her to bring herself as low in mind and body as it was possible for her to be. The tea was forgotten as she went for her coat. A little woollen pixie hood was pulled over her head and she opened the front door. A flurry of snow deflected in to sprinkle on the carpet. How bleak
it all was! A lonely wilderness where silence held the world as if on the day of its creation. Sally stepped out, her eyes searching for the lights of the other bungalows. They were comforting—and she did not want comfort. Hurriedly she put distance between herself and any building showing a light. From the Castle, gaunt and ghostly against the dark unfathomable sky, came not a glimmer of a light anywhere. But Gavin Huntly lived at the other side, so there would be plenty of lights there. Sally walked on, without taking any particular direction, just crossing one sodden field after another. She could just see the outline of the hills, the great volcanic mass of the Cheviots, and closer to, the grim pastures, cold, infecund beneath the thickening carpet of snow. It lashed into her face as she plunged on, uncaring whether she ever got back home or not. Fiercely, in her anguish she was trying to hold on to something ... but what? Maria had robbed her; the attempt to snatch back what the girl had taken was futile, as already the revelation was altering her attitude of mind; already the searing agony of despair had begun to lessen, a dull ache taking its place. The dark shape of a figure loomed up in the near distance and Sally stopped, taut with fear. She tried to cry out, but her throat was blocked and all that came forth was a strangled little cry which was more like a moan than an urgent appeal for help. 'It's only me ...' The harsh voice of Gavin Huntly drifted into the silence; Sally felt the colour return to her face. She could have run to him without knowing why, as she had not wanted company, nor was she afraid of being out alone at night. Often since Colin's death she had walked and walked, trying to tire herself so that she could sleep at night. 'What are you doing out at this time, and in this weather?' He had reached her, covering the distance by long easy strides. His voice was angry, admonishing, almost fatherly. 'I saw something moving as I looked from one of the back windows
and -' He stopped abruptly; as if impatient with himself for offering her an explanation. 'Where are you going?' 'Nowhere,' she returned dully. He took her arm without meeting any resistance. Sally allowed herself to be guided, her mind scarcely aware of what was going on. She was like a puppet, her every move being determined by someone else who had the power to pull the strings. The snow had soaked through her coat at the front and on the shoulders; her feet were soaking wet. Here was the supreme bodily discomfort she had craved ... and suddenly nature took over and she forgot the icy wind that was piercing her clothes, or the drenching misery affecting her legs and feet. Blackness came over her and merciful oblivion coincided with her being swept up into Gavin Huntly's arms as he caught her before she had time to fall.
She opened her eyes slowly, blinking at the light even though it was subdued. Full consciousness came tardily, giving her time to feel the warmth around her, the soft comfort of a feather bed... Where was she? What -? She had been walking in the snow when a dark and sinister shape had loomed up out of the darkness. Gavin Huntly! He was here now, a giant with a harsh and saturnine countenance. Sally remembered everything —his talking to her, then taking her arm to lead her where he would. She had suddenly been overwhelmed by a coldness that pierced her very bones and she supposed this, plus the intense nerve strain, had caused her to faint. 'Where am I?' she whispered, knowing the answer she would hear. 'At the Castle, Mrs Walling.'
'But—but -' She broke off, gasping incredulously as, moving her hand beneath the bedcovers, she realised she was naked! Hot colour flooded into her cheeks and she turned from his dark and piercing gaze. 'You— you—someone undressed m-me ...' 'It was necessary,' Gavin told her calmly. 'You were soaked to the skin. I had to rid you of those clothes.' She started to cry. 'You had no right -Oh, what are you trying to do to me!' She was afraid, terribly afraid of this man and the power he seemed intent on exerting over her. 'You could have taken me home, to my bungalow.' 'And left you alone?' He shook his head, at the same time reaching down to take the hand which she had just brought from beneath the bedcovers. He felt her pulse, nodding in satisfaction. Sally tried to sit up, pulling the bedclothes with her. Gavin firmly put her back on to the pillow. 'Stay for a while. I'll get you a drink.' She blinked away a tear. 'Your servants,' she said peevishly, 'one of them could have looked after me.' She was thinking of him undressing her, and she squirmed with embarrassment. 'They're all in bed. It's after midnight.' Midnight! Had she been walking all that time?
He left the room before she could speak and she gazed around, aware that it was a massive old-fashioned bed she was in with a heavily-carved headboard and two pillars at the bottom corners. The wardrobe and dressing-table were also in heavy oak, with deep carving which gleamed with the patina of age. Heavy velvet drapes in dark red gave a certain warmth to the room, but otherwise it was sombrely chill and lacking in comfort. When Gavin returned, with a glass of warm milk on a tray, along with a plate of biscuits, Sally was again attempting to sit up. She managed it, holding the sheet right up to her neck. Gavin put down the tray, then stood looking down at her with an inscrutable expression in his eyes. It struck her quite suddenly— and forcibly—that he had not shown very much surprise at all at her being out at that time of the night, walking in the blinding snow, and not even adequately dressed for the weather. It was almost as if he was aware that she had a good reason for the way she was feeling... 'I've put your clothes into a drying cabinet,' he said. 'Meanwhile, I think perhaps you could wear something of mine.' He went off again, returning with a smart blue pyjama top, which he dropped on to the bed and again left the room. Sally felt more comfortable once she was adequately covered, and she found to her surprise that when Gavin came in again she was able to meet his gaze without blushing. He was so cool, so enigmatically without emotion. It struck her that, considering the matter of undressing her as one of urgent necessity, he had probably not taken the slightest interest in her body at all. He handed her the milk, which she drank greedily, enjoying its warmth and its rich sweet flavour. He told her to try a biscuit; she
obeyed, suspecting that he would make her eat if he decided she ought to be eating something. 'Will my clothes be dry yet?' she was asking as soon as she had finished the milk and biscuits. He would see her back to the bungalow, she supposed, for she couldn't imagine his allowing her to go alone. 'You'll be staying here for tonight,' he told her calmly. 'It's far too late for you to go out. In any case, the snow's coming down even heavier than it was -' 'I don't care,' cut in Sally hurriedly. 'I'd rather go home, if you don't mind?' 'I do mind.' The black eyes, cold and hard beneath hooded lids, flickered over her as he added, 'You're warm and dry, and very tired. It would be absurd for me to allow you to get dressed and go out into the cold.' Allow ... Fear welled up inside her. His power seemed invincible. She strove to defy him, but found herself saying, with a meekness she would never have believed possible. 'Yes, Mr Huntly, you're right, it would be silly of me to go out in the cold.'
The following morning she awoke to a sort of mystic silence which she knew was the result of a complete blanketing of sound by the snow outside. She lay there, thinking of Maria and of Tim, of this strange apathy which had taken possession of her... causing her to be vulnerable to the power and force of Gavin Huntly. He would ask her again to marry him, but she would refuse—she
must! The wisest thing would be for her to move, to put some distance between her and the man who wanted to marry her. But where would she go? She had very little money, and no one in the whole world to whom she could turn. A maid entered after tapping quietly on the door. Sally's clothes were neatly laid over the girl's arm, and had been pressed as well as dried. 'Mr Huntly has breakfast at nine o'clock, Mrs Walling.' The girl, whom Sally knew as Marguerite, smiled as she put down the clothes on a chair. 'How do you feel? Mr Huntly mentioned that you'd been taken ill late last night, so he brought you here.' Colour began to flow into Sally's cheeks, but as she noticed Marguerite's expression she realised that the girl knew nothing of the real circumstances, and therefore took it for granted that Sally had undressed herself and got into bed without any assistance from Gavin Huntly. She said, trying to be casual, 'Yes, I was ill, while I was out walking. Mr Huntly brought me here. It was kind of him.' Marguerite maintained a silence. If she thought it strange that anyone should be out walking on a night like last night, she managed without trouble to refrain from making any comment. 'There's a bathroom along the corridor to your left,' the girl informed her. 'I'll run the water for you if you'd like me to?' 'Thank you very much, Marguerite.' Half an hour later Sally was in the breakfast-room, having been conducted there by the housekeeper, who had obviously been told by Gavin to look out for her and bring her to him. He was by the
window, hands thrust into his pockets, looking out of the window to the white scene of valley and water-meadows and the mountains, majestically clad with snow. He turned as he heard her come in, his eyes flicking over her slender body. 'Good morning,' he greeted her, coming forward to pull out a chair for her. 'Did you sleep well?' 'Excellently, thank you, Mr Huntly.' Her eyes wandered around in a fleeting survey of the room. It was pleasant, cosy in a dignified kind of way, with antique furniture, a thick fitted carpet and long curtains of royal blue brocade which matched the upholstery of the dining-chairs. 'I'm not late?' Her watch had stopped, but she had guessed by Marguerite's manner that she had plenty of time. 'No,' he answered, going round to the other side of the table, 'you're not late.' The housekeeper brought in the breakfast on a silver tray. She was told to leave it and they would help themselves. 'Why were you out last night, wandering about aimlessly in the snow?' The question came unexpectedly, spoken in tones of imperious demand. Sally shrugged, trying to be casual. 'I felt like walking,' she answered briefly. 'There must have been some reason.' His black eyes were searching, yet oddly perceptive. Sally frowned to herself, wondering why she should feel that he knew the answer to the question he had asked. Yet how could he? How could he possibly know of Maria's visit, even? Much less could he know of the secret she had imparted, a secret which had shattered all Sally's ideals,
tarnishing her lovely memories and robbing her, for a time, of all rational thought, so that she had wandered out, absurdly, into the snow and the icy blast that was driving it across the desolate fields, to pile it up against the distant hills. 'Can't you tell me that reason?' persisted Gavin when Sally did not speak. She shook her head. 'It's a private matter,' she said. Gavin took up her plate and helped her to bacon and an egg. 'You're still worshipping an image.' He passed her the toast before supplying himself with bacon and eggs. An image ... Yes, Colin was only an image after all. The admission shocked her, but faintly. Hammering into her brain was the knowledge that if Maria had wanted him then she, Sally, would have been jilted. Not callously, it was true; Colin would have been just as heartbroken as she. Nevertheless, the stark truth stood out and could not be denied. Colin had honoured his promise to Sally only because the mother of his child would not let him honour his duty to her. Gavin ate in silence for a while and then, 'Take what's offered; give yourself the chance of living again. You wouldn't find me a demanding husband. .1 want a son. You would probably want a daughter. Why deny yourself the opportunity of loving and being loved—loved by those who are around you, who need you?' He stopped, but Sally guessed that in his mind he had gone on to say she was a fool to waste time on the dead when she could be giving her love to the living.
She looked at him, and somehow he did not appear quite so formidable as she had always remembered him. She recalled how he was with little Tim, and she had decided he would probably make a good father. He would never be a demanding husband, he had promised, and she firmly believed he would honour that promise. He wanted a son; he suggested she might want a daughter. Presupposing both their wishes were granted, would that be the end of any intimacy between them? He would share in the upbringing of the children, naturally, and because of this a degree of affection must inevitably grow up between the children's parents. She found herself saying, with a calmness that astounded her, 'I'd have to have time to think.' Gavin paused in the act of putting a piece of toast in his mouth. Sally noticed the slight narrowing of his eyes, as if he were reluctant for her to see their expression. She felt sure there was a hint of triumph but was in no way affected by it. 'You will think about it, then?' She nodded. 'Yes, but I'm not promising anything.' She felt dead inside. Having lived with her memories so long, she was lost now, and resentful that Maria had shattered those memories. She ought to have kept her secret, for ever. 'You're wise,' said Gavin. 'I feel sure you'll see the advantages of marriage, and make the right decision? She said after a pause,
'Why me, Mr Huntly? There are other women more suited than I am to be your wife.' 'I believe I told you I wanted a wife whose role would be nothing more than the mistress of my home and the mother of my children. I'm an unemotional man, and firmly believe that love is an attitude of mind stimulated by certain artificial situations deliberately contrived by two people with an urge to experiment. They've heard so much about love that they want to experience it, so they force themselves into an emotional situation. I want none of it.' He spoke casually, his gaze stonily impassive. Sally shivered involuntarily and wondered why it did not occur to her to tell him she had changed her mind and that she could not consider his proposal after all. 'This so-called love is temperamental nonsense which results in a woman losing all her sense of proportion and a man his strength of character.' Sally turned her head away, a drumming sensation in her heart. To marry a man with such a derisive attitude towards love ... It was not that she wanted love from him; she wanted love from no man, ever again. But Gavin's attitude seemed to freeze every single emotion within her and to leave her so drained as to be more of an automaton than a being who could think and feel... and love. Yes, she wanted to be able' to love. She must be able to love if she were going to have children. But could she hold on to her own personality if she were married to a man as hard and unfeeling as Gavin Huntly? Would some of his cold cynicism rub off on to her, making her so hard that her children would be robbed of the love that was their heritage? Yet even as these thoughts preyed on her mind she was seeing another side of him, the softer side he had shown to little Timothy. He was watching her, she knew, and some force he exerted on her made her turn and meet his dark unfathomable gaze.
'What are you thinking?' he wanted to know, his voice quietly insistent, forbidding prevarication. 'Of your late husband?' She shook her head automatically. 'No—he's not in my thoughts at all.' 'What, then?' She looked at him through eyes misty with unshed tears. 'I'm afraid,' she admitted tremulously. 'Of marriage to me?' 'Not only that. Of life -' She put down her knife and fork, and felt for a handkerchief. 'It's so—so bleak...' Did his mouth soften? she wondered. Yes, she was sure it did. 'It won't always be so. Time is still the greatest healer and always will be. Two or three years from now you could be a happy contented mother, filling your time and thoughts with things far more satisfying than these memories you're dwelling on today.' His expression changed as he spoke about her memories, changed in some strange unfathomable way. It was as if he were watching her face intently for any change of her expression. 'If only I could believe that!' Sally put the handkerchief away. She had not needed it, being able to suppress the tears that threatened to fall. 'I assure you that what I say is true. Go home today and think seriously about my proposal. Give me your answer only when you feel you've come to the right decision.'
Maria was unlatching the gate with one hand and holding Tim by the other. Sally opened the front door, and Tim came racing ahead of his mother, along the path which Sally had managed to clear of the heavy snow which still lay everywhere except on the roads and the roofs of the houses and bungalows. The Castle seemed shrouded in it, ghostly and forbidding. 'Come in, Maria.' Sally's voice was cool but not unfriendly. She could never forgive Maria, but on the other hand she could not really dislike her. 'Do you want me to have Tim?' It was Saturday, so Sally expected to have him for the afternoon. Maria walked into the hall and rubbed her shoes on the mat. 'No, I'm taking him with me. I thought I'd come and tell you.' She turned as Sally closed the door, and looked at her strangely. Sally had the impression that she knew all about what had happened a few nights previously. Perhaps Marguerite had told her, as at one time the two girls had been very friendly. 'I'm taking a chance,' continued Maria, her attention transferred to Tim as he went into the kitchen. 'Stan can make a decision one way or the other.' 'Isn't it running a risk?' returned Sally, slightly perturbed. 'To spring Tim upon him—I mean, why don't you tell him about Tim first?' Maria shrugged her shoulders. 'He'll have a shock, certainly ...' To Sally's surprise Maria's lips trembled and her eyes filled. 'But if he doesn't want Tim then he can't have me. It's as simple as that, so I might as well get it over today as prolong it. If I take Tim with me I shall have Stan's answer within a couple of hours from now.'
Sally thought about this and shook her head in protest. 'Let me have him for today, Maria,' she said persuasively. 'Tell Stan about Tim and then let him meet him. I'm sure Stan will love him and want to be a father to him, but I'm also sure it wouldn't do to spring Tim on him without some prior warning.' Maria looked at her a trifle scornfully. 'You're so sensible, and logical! Well, had I been sensible I'd never have had Tim in the first place. I've made up my mind: Stan is going to meet Tim today.' 'Auntie Sally, can I have some biscuits and a drink of milk?' Tim's voice reached the two girls from the kitchen. 'No, come along. You're going to meet a nice gentleman.' Maria went forward and beckoned to her son. He came at once, and a few moments later Sally was watching as they went back along the path, then along the lane towards the main road and the bus stop. Sally closed her eyes and prayed that Stan would take to the child. And her prayer was answered. Maria again came to the bungalow, at half-past nine that evening, to tell Sally that Stan had agreed to take Tim and had promised to treat him as his own son. 'I admit I was amazed,' Maria went on, easing herself into the chair Sally offered. 'He seemed so understanding, though, after the first shock. But Tim's an angel, really, and he took to Stan right away, so Stan was won over immediately.' Sally nodded. She was thinking of Colin, and the fact that another man was to be father to his son. She said, switching her thoughts to her own loss,
'You won't be bringing him to me again, then?' 'No. Stan wants us to be married right away. Dad's happy because now Aunt Minna will probably agree to come and live at our cottage. I hope she'll marry him before very long.' So it had all turned out satisfactorily, thought Sally. But what of her own life? There would be a void when Tim went... Sally never could recall just when her decision was made. She felt it had come to her so gradually that she had not noticed. But all at once she knew it was made, saw herself as the wife of Gavin Huntly, and mother of his children. He received her answer without a trace of emotion, merely telling her she had made a wise decision, that she would never regret it and that one day she would find that Colin no longer troubled her thoughts and she would learn to laugh again. Finally he said, 'There'll be no honeymoon, naturally.' 'I don't expect one.' Her voice was strained, not at all like her own. Honeymoons, she thought, were for lovers, not for those who entered into marriage in the cold-blooded way in which she and Gavin were entering into it. 'I don't want to waste time,' Gavin said, and Sally agreed. Having chosen her course, she saw no sense in not following it at once.
They were married within a fortnight, surprising everyone on the estate ... except Maria. Her reaction was most puzzling to Sally. She could almost have known that the marriage would take place,
so casually did she speak about it to Sally when she saw her a few days before the wedding. 'Mr Huntly ought to be married, and I'm glad it's you he's chosen, Sally.' No astonishment, as had been expressed by everyone else. Sally's mind was faintly disturbed and she would have liked to question Maria about her lack of surprise, but the right sort of question evaded her and she eventually dismissed the matter from her mind. There was no fuss about the wedding. It was conducted quietly in the chapel where so many de Feyntons and Huntlys had been married before. To Sally, the ceremony was unreal, with never a memory of that other one allowed to enter her mind. Once again she felt like an automaton, moving at the whim of the man who pulled the strings ... the master of her destiny, Gavin Huntly. They went from the chapel into the Castle, she to her bedroom and Gavin to his study, where he remained until half an hour or so before dinner, when he went to his bedroom to change. Sally had sat on the window seat for hours, unable to think clearly, unable to form any clear picture of the future. Yet through it all she was vitally conscious of the fact that the pain of her loss had eased, that it had been easing from the day Maria revealed that Tim was Colin's son, and that had Maria wanted him to marry her then Colin would never have married Sally. The movements in the next room brought Sally at last from what had been a near-stupor. She took a shower, changed into the dress she had worn on that fateful evening when Gavin had proposed to her, and went down to the dining-room. Vaguely she was aware that very soon now the final act of this day would take place, when her husband came to her -She closed her eyes against the intruding
picture of her previous wedding night when she had so eagerly come to her impatient husband, glad to be in his arms, wanting the night to go on for ever. Her nerves were stretched almost to breaking point long before the dinner was finished, and so when later she heard Gavin in his bedroom, moving about, she felt she would scream the moment he opened the communicating door between their rooms. What were his thoughts? Was he clinically going over the next hour or so -? 'Oh, God, I can't stand it!' Why had she married him? She would have given all she possessed to be back in the safety of her bungalow, away from this sombre castle and its formidable, unnatural owner. She had undressed, and she stood, her heart beating unevenly, her nerves taut to snapping point. The door handle turned and she stared, fascinated, as the door swung slowly away from her. Gavin, in a blue and grey silk dressing-gown, stood there, tall and forbidding and harsh-faced. He came with quiet steps, his eyes on her pallid cheeks. 'I thought you'd be in bed,' he said, breaking the tense electric silence that had filled the room on his entry into it. His eyes wandered; she coloured painfully, wondering why she hadn't put on something less revealing than the transparent nightdress she wore. Gavin reached out to take her hand, but she turned from him swiftly and put both hands behind her back. Words came with difficulty through the dry blockage brought to her throat by misery and distress. 'I can't—Gavin! Please understand—I—I d-don't want -' She broke off with a helpless gesture. 'I've made a mistake—I should never have agreed to—to b-become your wife.'
Silence again filled the high, unfriendly room. For no reason at all Sally wondered how many people had died here, on that great tester bed. 'It's understandable that you should feel a little upset, Sally, but you'll get over it. Life will soon fall into a pattern which will be acceptable to us both.' He stopped, because she looked sharply at him, her thoughts revealed in her eyes. For a man to talk like this on his wedding night! Life would soon fall into a pattern which would be acceptable to them both ... Suddenly she broke into an hysterical laugh. 'It's so funny!' she cried shrilly. 'This whole situation's ludicrous! Oh, Gavin, why don't you laugh -?' Her words were cut abruptly as, striding purposefully towards her, Gavin seized her, roughly, and shook her. 'Stop it!' he ordered sternly. 'Pull yourself together. You're a grown woman who's been married before, so why this exaggerated show of fear -Yes, it's fear that I see in your eyes,' he stressed when she made to interrupt. 'You've made a bargain with me and I expect you to keep it.' She swallowed convulsively, admitting that his argument was reasonable. She had known what she was doing, had given his proposal plenty of thought, so why was it that she felt like this now? 'I'm sorry,' she heard herself saying after a long moment of silence. 'It's just—just that we're strangers still...' Pleading was in her voice and in her wide-eyed stare, but Gavin's frown of sternness remained. 'We're strangers still,' he admitted, 'but it's not my intention that we remain so.' Impersonal the tone, but in his eyes was an implacable
light which told Sally all she needed to know. He was intending to stay, in spite of the way she felt. He had a husband's rights and he meant to exert them. His hands were still on her arms, but they had become more gentle suddenly, and it did seem now that the harshness of his mouth had softened slightly. His glance wandered from her quivering mouth to the tender curves of her neck and firm enticing breasts. Sally closed her eyes, but succumbed meekly when his lips came down on hers. And to her surprise she found nothing repellent in the masterful way he kissed her, and brought her close to his flexed and sinewed body. The next moment she was lifted as easily as if she had been a doll, and carried to the great tester bed. She closed her eyes again as Gavin laid her down. Her nerves had settled miraculously, as if soothed by the nearness of him; the body lotion he had used after his shower was fresh and clean in her nostrils. He was in the bed beside her. The light went off and she felt his hand slide beneath the scanty covering of her nightgown to cup her breast within its warmth...
CHAPTER SIX A MONTH slipped by with a continuation of the inclement weather. In the Castle huge log fires filled the rooms both with warmth and brightness, but in Sally's heart a certain coldness still remained, in spite of the slow and almost imperceptible change that was taking place in her attitude towards her husband and her marriage. _ Yes, she had to admit, there was a change, and she supposed it was inevitable, really, for she was getting to know Gavin better with each day that went by. She found him a stern and masterful man, just as she had expected, of course. His was the kind of nature which would always be dominant, no matter with whom he happened to be dealing. With his wife he was the undisputed master and she was wise enough never to cross him. Not that there were many occasions when this was necessary, because on the whole they were getting along fine together. He would surprise her now and then by showing her a different aspect to his nature, one of quiet gentleness, and sometimes of warmth. Even a hint of humour in his eyes, and the faint curve of those thin lips to reveal that he really could smile, after all. Sally occupied herself in rearranging some of the furniture, or in taking the car into Alnwick to do some shopping, as Gavin had told her to supplement the scanty wardrobe she already had. When another month passed and the spring flowers began to appear Sally found herself being more and more able to find an interest in her surroundings, exploring the grounds and the shady woodlands beyond, through which a silver stream tumbled over the rocks in its bed as it careered along on its way to join the main river. And then, on a day in mid-April when full spring had arrived and the blossom was filling the air with perfume, Gavin told her
that they would be going to the island of Cos to visit his relatives there. 'Cos?' The lovely Greek island steeped in legend, its history going back into the dimness of time, its fame linked with Asclepius, son of Apollo and god of healing and medicine. 'When shall we be going?' Sally's feelings were mixed, for while the prospect of visiting the island was very pleasant, it would on the other hand mean that she would have to show some affection for her husband—some deep affection. As if reading her thoughts Gavin said mildly, 'My grandfather will expect us to act as any newly married couple would.' Sally coloured delicately. 'I'll try,' she promised. 'Try?' Gavin's eyebrow lifted as he added, with a hint of amusement, 'Your meaning isn't very clear, I'm afraid.' She knew what he meant and sought for words, while her eyes, directed towards the high wide window, took in the delightful spectacle of borders alive with daffodils, crocuses and the pretty little dog's-tooth violets. 'I'll try to act as if—as if I'm in love with you,' she managed at last. 'Good. I shall do the same.' 'Tell me about your Greek relations,' she invited, twisting around again to face him. He stood by the glowing fire, a tall, self-assured man vastly different from Colin, a man with all the arrogance of his Greek ancestors written into the lines of his face, and in the
way he held his body. An impressive figure, undoubtedly. Sally had always admitted this. She found of late that she derived a certain amount of pride when they were out together, perhaps in Alnwick on those rare occasions when he accompanied her to the shops. People invariably gave him a second glance, and a third and fourth if the beholder happened to be a woman, especially a young one. Eyes would then flicker to Sally, as if their owner were curious to see who had managed to capture the interest of such an outstanding specimen of manhood. 'Grandfather's eighty-seven; he's been a widower for over twenty years. He lives in a rather magnificent villa in Kardamena, which is the island's most beautiful village. It's near to the sea. I think you'll like it very much. I know I do.' She said curiously, 'Would you like to live there—if you hadn't this castle, I mean?' Gavin pondered for a space. 'I think it would be rather pleasant to live there,' was his surprising admission. 'One never experiences the weather we've had here this winter.' 'You have other relatives? Cousins, I imagine?' To Sally's surprise his mouth tightened. 'Yes, several,' he replied tersely. 'Shall I meet them all?' 'I expect so. They'll be curious to see the girl I've married.'
His words had an essence of mystery about them and Sally shot him a glance. But his eyes were inscrutably fixed and she could read nothing from them. 'Does your grandfather live alone?' she asked presently. 'Except for the servants, yes.' 'So he'll welcome visitors, I suppose?' 'He's always glad to see me,' returned Gavin reflectively. 'We get on very well, always have done.' Again Sally sensed a degree of mystery in his words. 'You'll need some lighter clothes,' he said, changing the subject. 'Spring in Cos is likely to be warm.' 'I'll need summer dresses?' He nodded. 'Go to the best outfitters, and don't spare the expense.' She coloured slightly. Her allowance was a large one; she would have preferred to pay for her clothes out of her own money, but knew better than to argue with him. He had previously told her that the allowance was for her to spend as she liked, but had gone on to say that any expensive items of clothing would be paid for by him. 'Shall I need evening dresses?' she asked. 'Many.' 'Many?' she echoed, her glance interrogating. 'We'll be staying on Cos for two or three weeks.' He paused a moment, as if undecided about his next words. But eventually he
said, very softly, his eyes never leaving her face, 'I want it to be known by my grandfather that you're expecting a child.' 'That I'm -!' Sally's colour heightened as the blood rushed into her cheeks. 'But... why?' 'Because it's my wish,' returned Gavin non-committally. Sally shook her head in protest. 'I wouldn't like that.' The words trembled on her lips, betraying her distress. 'You will do as I say.' The mastery in his tones warned her that argument would be futile. Yet she voiced another protest, bracing herself against whatever he would subject her to. 'I'd feel embarrassed, Gavin. I'd rather not -' 'It's my wish that you allow my grandfather to think you're expecting a child -' Gavin raised an imperious hand to stem even yet another protest from his wife. 'It's important; that's explanation enough!' The forceful tone, the flexed jaw and uncompromising line of his mouth ... all these were more than enough to crush any further resistance from Sally. She accepted with resignation, suddenly aware that pretence might not be necessary, for she might in fact be expecting a child.
The light was growing golden and the shadows of the palms lengthening across the garden as the car which had met Gavin and his wife at the airport wheeled from the end of the long avenue on to the soft gravel of the wide, imposing forecourt of the villa. The chauffeur, whom Gavin had introduced as Dimitri, got out and
opened the door on Gavin's side. He flicked a hand to indicate the opposite door and Dimitri immediately went round to open the door for Sally. 'Sorry about that,' said Gavin with a hint of annoyance. 'You'll find that the men are always attended to first here, in Greece.' She said nothing. She knew of the status of women in the East. They were never treated as equals, but as inferiors, chattels, even, in the remote villages where Western influence was slow to penetrate. Gavin took her arm as they went to the door; it was opened immediately by a smiling maid in black. Gavin greeted her in the austere manner he used towards all his servants at home, but now he spoke in Greek. 'Kalispera, Astera,' and then, in English, which the girl spoke fluently, 'Meet my wife.' Astera smiled warmly, extending a hand. 'I am very happy to meet you, Mrs Gavin. Welcome to Greece!' Sally replied graciously, but looked askance at her husband. 'A married woman is usually addressed by her husband's Christian name,' he explained. 'It's another thing you'll get used to.' A few moments later she was meeting Gavin's grandfather, whom he called by his Christian name, telling Sally she must do the same. George Kleanthes was a tall thin man with white hair and bushy grey eyebrows. He had black eyes like his grandson and an olive
skin, wrinkled and dry. There was an impenetrable air about him, but he greeted Sally with a ready smile and words of welcome. He was delighted that his grandson had got married at last and he hoped that already they had 'made a baby'. At the expression Sally blushed. The old man laughed, embarrassing her still further. 'I shall be gratified if this is so,' he ended, glancing at his grandson. Gavin said quietly, almost casually, 'We're hoping for a boy, George.' 'Of course,' rejoined the old man, just as if no one in his right mind could wish for a girl. Sally knew a stab of anger suddenly. She was conscious of her alien status here, for even her husband seemed no longer to be of her nationality. George spoke again, this time in Greek and for a while a conversation went on between the two men. Sally was amazed at Gavin's easy use of the language; he spoke it as fluently as his grandfather. George spoke quickly, and with a frown appearing to knit his brows. He seemed angry with someone, Sally thought. She was dwelling on the word 'gratified' used by George and wondered if there was some significance attached to it. From the beautifully furnished salon Sally was taken by Astera to a bedroom with a view to the sea, the placid Aegean, and beyond it, shrouded in a violet mist, the mountains of Turkey. 'Shall I unpack for you, Mrs Gavin?' The luggage had been brought up and the Greek maid glanced towards it. 'Not just yet, thank you.' Sally was glad to see her go; she wanted to be alone for a while. Ever since Gavin mentioned the trip to Cos, Sally had thought about the sleeping arrangements and felt
sure she and her husband would be given only one room. At the Castle they had adjoining rooms, and Sally had had some privacy as a result, with Gavin often occupying his own room for several nights at a time. Sally had wanted to mention the matter of accommodation, but quite naturally she had difficulty in broaching a subject like that and in the end she evaded it altogether. The room to which she had been shown was luxuriously furnished, with all the embellishments having the same distinctive attributes of quality and good taste. Lilac satin of a quilted design draped the bed and the windows, two of which were on the side of the villa and one at the front. Over the satin bedspread was another cover of exquisite white lace, hand-made. As she stood looking around after the maid had gone, Sally found herself accepting the situation without any trouble at all. Wonderingly she asked herself if she was beginning to want her husband with her more often. It was an indisputable fact that on no occasion recently had she resented his coming to her ... on the contrary, she had been happy for him to do so. She turned, hearing his step. The door swung inwards as he entered, and Sally saw his dark eyes move slowly round the room as he came into the middle of it. 'You like our room?' he said casually. He crossed to the window and looked out. 'The sunsets here are very spectacular. They're never quite the same from one evening to the next. The twilight is short—but perhaps you already know that?' Turning as he spoke, he transferred his attention from the scenery to his wife, his eyes flicking over her slender figure to her face, pale and lovely in the slanting rays of a lowering sun.
'I did know that you don't have the long evenings that we have in England,' she responded, aware all at once that she was talking as though he lived here permanently, as though it was his country while England was hers. It certainly reflected the fact that he seemed suddenly to have become more Greek than English even in the brief time he had been here. 'Even in summer we don't have long evenings. However, I believe you will find something attractive in the change from what's familiar. We dine after dark always, which to me seems far more civilised than dining in daylight.' Sally noticed his use of the word 'we', which had come so naturally, associating himself with the Greeks, just as she had done a moment ago. Once again she became conscious of her foreign status. 'Astera wanted to unpack my suitcases.' Sally glanced at him as she spoke. 'I'd like to do my own unpacking, but I dare say it wouldn't be right?' Gavin shook his head. 'Astera will expect to do it,' he said. Crossing to another door, he opened it. 'You've seen the dressing- room? There are two extra wardrobes in here.' 'No, I didn't see it. The other door leads to the bathroom?' 'Yes.' He paused a moment, looking at her. And then he said quietly, 'Come here, Sally.' She obeyed, just as she had obeyed several times before when he had commanded her to come to him. She thought fleetingly of Colin, who had never shown mastery or dominance in any way at
all. Gavin was so different, giving an order quietly but firmly and expecting his wife to obey it meekly. He took her in his arms and bent to kiss her lips. She could not help wondering at his action— for he had never acted like this other than at night, after he had come to her. For some reason she could not explain she resented his behaviour and instinctively she twisted away, just as his lips began to touch hers. A glint came to his eyes; Sally felt her chin taken in a firm grasp which forced her head round until her quivering lips were beneath his. She stared into his black eyes, every nerve fluttering. Gavin's mouth sought hers, a hard mouth and demanding. The kiss was a deliberate demonstration of his arrogant dominance over her. She submitted, giving reciprocation when he demanded it. Somehow, Colin's face seemed to intrude, and the gentleness of his lovemaking became intensely real, so that she could have cried out in anguish for all she had lost. But instead she continued to submit to her husband's mastery, to lean meekly against his outstretched arm as his other hand came round to take her breast and caress it while he kissed her again. At last he released her, faintly smiling at her blushes. 'We must go down,' he said, and it did seem that a sigh of regret came with the words. Sally looked up into his face, saw the movement of a nerve in his cheek. That he could be passionate she had soon learned; she felt somehow that he would be more passionate than ever, revealing those essential Greek traits that had given his people the reputation of being the most passionate race in the world. 'I'm wanting to have a wash, and change my dress,' she told him. 'You can go down without me.' 'I'll wait.' He watched her make for the bathroom, and continued to watch her every movement as she later unpacked a sleeveless
cotton dress and put it on. 'George wants to get to know you,' he remarked conversationally as Sally began to brush her hair. 'He's spoken admiringly of your beauty, and congratulated me on my choice of bride.' Gavin's tones were cool in comparison to the expression in his eyes, for they had not yet lost the fire that his recent ardour had ignited. Sally said, laying the hairbrush down on the glass-topped dressing-table, 'It's kind of him to talk like that about me.' 'He's a sincere man, as you'll find. He'd never say anything he didn't mean.' 'Is it important that your grandfather likes me?' Sally could not have said what prompted the question, but once it was uttered she found herself waiting with interest for her husband's reply. 'Very important, Sally.' She stared at him. 'Very important?' He made no answer and she added, recalling something she had heard—a scrap of gossip from someone on Gavin's estate, 'You're his heir, I think?' For a while there was silence in the room; she wondered if she had said the wrong thing. However, there was no anger or even censure in Gavin's voice as he said, 'George is eccentric. He was only willing to make me his heir if I was married and had a son.' Sally froze. Without thinking she said,
'You've merely used me, then?' His eyes glinted in the same dangerous way they had glinted a short while previously. He was definitely more Greek than English and she shivered involuntarily. 'I told you I wanted a son. I also said there was more to it than that. I suppose, though, that the two tie up ...' He spoke reflectively, almost to himself. 'I desired an heir to my estate in England. I'm not particularly interested in my grandfather's fortune, but he's been anxious lately about his money. His present heir is a spendthrift, but George would not change his will in my favour because he could see the money eventually passing to strangers, as I have no relatives on my mother's side.' 'He could have left it to these other cousins you spoke of,' she pointed out, forgetting her anger of a few moments ago. 'He could, as I myself advised some time ago. But, as I've said, George is eccentric. He wants to leave the entire fortune intact, not to split it up -' Gavin spread his hands and a shade of asperity entered his voice as he went on, 'Heaven knows, there's enough to go round a dozen legatees!' Sally looked at him in a puzzled way. 'You just said you're not particularly interested in this fortune of your grandfather's.' 'I'm not, but on the other hand, I think a great deal of him and want to make him happy in his old age. The Greeks are like that,' he went on to explain, 'and I feel very Greek at times. I found that George was extremely worried about the man—a cousin of mine— whom he had made his heir. This cousin has squandered more than one fortune already on gambling. George knows that he'll
eventually squander the Kleanthes fortune in the same way and naturally he doesn't want that to happen. Hence his intimation to me that I'd become his heir if I married and had a son.' Sally became thoughtful. She recalled how Gavin's mouth had tightened when she asked if he had cousins. It was clear now that he had been thinking of this particular one. Another thing that struck her was Gavin's sincerity when he said he wasn't interested in his grandfather's fortune. But it was plain that he was interested in saving the family fortune from the hands of an inveterate gambler. This interest reacted on George, bringing him peace of mind. Sally thought of the deception and wondered what George would say if the child he hoped to see did not appear. They went downstairs again, to where George was sitting in a cane chair on a flower-draped patio, a glass in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Opulence seemed to emanate from him and it was plain that he had had a good life. 'Ah, there you are, Sally my dear. Sit down -' He clapped his hands to fetch Spiros, a manservant. 'Coffee,' he ordered, 'and cakes.' Sally would rather have waited until dinner time, but she resignedly made no protest. Gavin spoke to his grandfather and Sally was content to listen, and to cast her eyes around in appreciation of the beauty of the landscape and the sunset that was beginning to spread its flamboyant colour everywhere.. The pink blossom of the Judas trees took on an added hue of deep rose; the gaudy opulent hibiscus blossoms seemed to be a deeper crimson than when Sally had first seen them, little more than half an hour ago, on her arrival. The hillsides were dazzling yellow under the radiation of the lowering sun's brittle rays and even the cerulean sea was spangled with amber and soft warm saffron.
Perfumes drifted over the garden to assail Sally's nostrils—the roses in a sunken border, the sweet perfume of the oleanders and the alien, musky smell of carobs. Then sounds... bouzouki music, sad and sweet, hovered on the air from a radio somewhere on a hillside where lay a few scattered villas, flat-roofed and white, looking like dolls' houses in a child's picture book. Cicadas trilled in the olive trees over in the perivoli, and a donkey brayed, sad and complaining. Even as Sally watched, the sun sank into the sea in a flourish of gold and flame and vivid bronze, leaving an arc in the sky which went through every shade from deep crimson to palest peach and pink. Sally turned from this incredible spectacle as she heard her name spoken. She was brought into the conversation and to her surprise enjoyed it immensely. George could be aloof when he felt like it, but there was a depth about him nevertheless which attracted Sally and she knew they would be friends. It was later, at the dinner table, that George said he was expecting two of his grandchildren the following day. 'You'll like Maroula,' he asserted, and then there was a slight hesitation before he added, 'I'm not so sure about Adonis. He's very handsome and most women find him attractive.' So this was the man of whom Gavin had spoken, the man who was at present the heir to George's fortune. Sally asked about Maroula and was told she was nineteen years old, very dark and pretty. She was engaged to an Athens businessman several years her senior. It was an arranged marriage, and Sally was left with the impression that the girl had not entered into the engagement willingly. An enormous dowry had been provided by George, Sally was later to learn from her husband. The dowry consisted of a magnificent villa above the enchanting site of Sounion, a large sum of money,
and a vast expanse of citrus groves. Such was the extent of a dowry where a wealthy couple married. Sally was disgusted with the whole idea of arranged marriages and dowries. Gavin agreed with her, but said it would be a long while before the custom was changed. 'You'd let them marry for love?' she asked when he had voiced his opinion. They were in their bedroom, having come up to it a few minutes previously after staying with George until after midnight, talking on the patio. 'Love?' he lifted an eyebrow and the ghost of a smile touched the hard outline of his mouth. 'I'd certainly allow them a free choice, but love ...?' He considered a moment. 'I have given you my opinion about love. It's been overrated since the time of Adam and Eve.' 'I feel sorry for anyone who hasn't been in love.' 'You've no need to feel sorry for me,' he assured her off-handedly. 'I haven't missed it up till now and I certainly won't miss it in the future. I have all I want —a wife who understands me and who will never make demands upon me which I would not be willing to meet.' He came towards her, but she stepped back. His hand came out to take hers. She moved unresistingly to him as he caught her slender frame and pressed it against his. She felt his kiss, passionately possessive, and again heard him voice the words that she felt very Greek. Yes, he was very Greek ... all Greek, she decided as, with a new and sensuous ardency, he held her, his warm hands caressing her body, his lips exploring her throat and her shoulder, and the tempting curves outlined beneath the evening dress she wore.
He moved at last, to hold her at arms' length and regard her with an unfathomable gaze. 'My dear, it's very late...' He went into the dressing-room presently and instead of undressing Sally went over to the window and drew back the curtains. She stood looking up into the infinity of the heavens where the stars were like powdered diamonds and the moon was clear-cut and bright against a background of deepest purple. The moonlight of Greece, Gavin had told her, was unique. She opened the window and stepped out on to the balcony, almost forgetting about her husband as she savoured the silence and the peace that lay all around her, soft and fragrant and balmy—truly Greek, timeless, and pagan in its sheer remoteness from reality. This was the land of the gods, gods who slumbered now but who had left their influence, not only in the ancient temples that still survived, but even in the very atmosphere of the land itself. Moving towards a support, she leaned against it, and suddenly she became conscious of a sublime sense of peace gently seeping into both mind and body. She was totally relaxed, with even her thoughts lazy, discarding all the problems and uncertainties which had inevitably been with her since her marriage to Gavin. For although she had found some measure of optimism regarding the future, there lingered in her subconscious the conviction that Colin would never be out of her thoughts for very long. But in this moment Colin was forgotten and only the present existed. And a smile fluttered unhesitatingly to her lips as her husband came from the room behind and stood beside her. He was in dressing-gown and pyjamas, and he had used the' fresh-smelling body lotion which he had used before. 'It's a beautiful night,' she breathed. 'So quiet...'
Gavin said nothing. A strange new intimacy seemed to have come to them—perhaps out of the magic of the Grecian night—and neither was inclined to speak. Sally felt shy, as she often did, not only with Gavin but with other people too, as shyness was one of the traits of her nature, a trait that Colin had found delightfully enchanting, but which, oddly, Gavin had never appeared to notice. 'Come, Sally,' he murmured at length, 'it's after one o'clock.' He took her hand in his and led her back into the bedroom. And all at once she wanted to be close ... very close. But her shyness prevented any approach on her part and after a moment she left him and went into the dressing-room. Emerging a short while later, she went into the bathroom, noticing that Gavin was at the window, gazing out into the night. He turned when she came from the bathroom, and a smile touched his lips as he looked her over, undisguised appreciation in his eyes. How different he was, thought Sally, recalling the unemotional way he had treated her up till now. It seemed that Greece was affecting him as much as it was affecting her... She was in his arms a moment later, his hard and sensuous body close to hers, his hands and mouth exploring... forcefully demanding her surrender...
The following morning Gavin took her down to the beach where the sea, warm and inviting, drew them into it. There were few visitors at this time of the year, but a number of the locals were swimming in the clear blue water, their bronzed bodies gleaming in the sunshine. The great sphere had risen above the horizon over three hours previously and all the landscape was bathed in the warmth of its rays. Sally lay on her back, floating as she gazed up at the sky, cloudless but for a thread or two of fair-weather cirrus
through which the brilliant blue quite easily filtered. As last night, she knew a blissful lassitude, found herself giving thanks for the ability to cease dwelling on the past and to admit that there was a future, just as Gavin had asserted right at the start. Eventually she turned and swam for the shore; reaching it, she sat down on the gay towel which Gavin had spread on the smooth white sand. Her thoughts wandered—to Tim and the new life which he and his mother had entered into, then she was thinking of Maria's father, who also faced a new life, a far better one than he had had for some considerable time. For Minna had agreed to join him at his cottage and had intimated that she would marry him now that Maria had left home. Suddenly Sally was thinking of her pretty bungalow, which was still without a tenant because her carpets and curtains and a few other items were still in it. Tastefully decorated, and so much more modern and convenient than Mr Endersley's old cottage, it would perhaps be attractive to the couple ... The idea remained with Sally and she put it to her husband immediately he came out of the water. 'Gavin, could you give my bungalow to Mr Endersley?' She spoke impulsively and saw that Gavin was a little startled by the unexpected request. 'What made you suddenly get that idea?' he wanted to know, his eyes roving her figure before settling on her face. 'I was thinking about him, and the inconvenience of that cottage in comparison to my bungalow. He might be getting married soon,' she added, looking up at him with a hint of pleading in her expressive grey eyes.
Gavin picked up a towel and began to rub himself down. His glance was speculative and his voice held a curious inflection as he said, 'So you don't mind someone else having your bungalow, then?' Inevitably her thoughts flew to those idyllically happy days when she and Colin were decorating, laying carpets, fitting curtains, and furnishing the cosy little nest which they hoped would be theirs for many years to come. She shook her head, hoping that Mr Endersley and Minna could have the bungalow. They would be happy there, she felt sure. 'No, I don't mind—especially if it's Maria's father and her aunt. They're such nice people.' Gavin continued to rub himself down, saying nothing for the moment. Two Greek girls sauntered by, both casting admiring glances at Gavin which he failed to notice. They looked from him to Sally, envy replacing the admiration in their very dark brown eyes. It was no wonder people gave him a second glance, though, thought Sally, watching as he threw down the towel he had been using. Tall and lithe and with a brown skin inherited from his Greek mother, he was undoubtedly a perfect specimen of manhood. It was a pity that his features were so harsh, his mouth so thin as to give the impression of ruthlessness ... and yet... Somehow, decided Sally, there was an attraction even in those hard implacable lines of his face. They were part of the man and had they been missing then the impression of strength and superiority would also have been missing. 'Can Mr Endersley have the bungalow?' persisted Sally after a while.
Gavin sat down on the sand, relaxing his body as he stretched out his legs and leant back casually on his hands. 'If that's what you want, Sally, then yes, he can have it.' 'Thank you, Gavin.' She fluttered him a smile. 'My carpets are still down,' she went on. 'And the curtains are there.' The furniture had been taken to the Castle along with the kitchen utensils and most of the small items. Sally knew that Gavin would have had everything sent to the saleroom, but he understood how she felt and suggested she have it all stored at the Castle for the time being. 'I could leave him what's in the bungalow, couldn't I?' 'As you wish, Sally. He must pay you for them, though.' But Sally shook her head. 'I would give them to him. He hasn't much money— Maria and Tim must have been a drain on his wages.' Sally recalled Maria's telling her that Gavin had increased her father's wages on account of his having to keep Maria and her child. Well, whether he could afford it or not Sally meant to give him and Minna the carpets and curtains as a gift. It would be a good start, making it relatively simple for them to move in—if they wanted the bungalow, that was, for while there was no denying it was more convenient than the cottage it was far less picturesque, not possessing the mellowness of age. 'It's kind of you to make them a gift of such expensive items.' Gavin's black eyes were on her profile and probably for the first time in his life he was becoming interested in a woman's beauty. She turned, conscious of his concentrated stare, and again offered him a smile. To her surprise he laughed, as if he were amused by her manner. Certainly he was happy, far happier than he had been before his marriage.
They both rose when Gavin intimated that it was time to go in for breakfast, which was always late in the Kleanthes household. For a moment Gavin looked down at his wife, from her small bare feet to her slim ankles, from the slender legs to the tiny waist and the beautiful curves above it, tender and alluring beneath their scanty covering of a bikini top. He seemed unable to hold back the impulse to reach out and take her by the shoulders, in spite of any onlookers who might be interested. Sally looked at him, wondering if it was her imagination or if he really were looking for something there, deep in her eyes, something he hoped to find. Vitally aware of the touch of his hands on her shoulders, she actually quivered under their warmth ... and wondered if it were something more than just the excitement of the contact, an excitement which she had already admitted to, since there was no questioning the fact that her husband's caresses affected her in a way far different from anything she had known with Colin. 'Come,' he said at last, breaking the spell in which they had both been caught. 'Grandfather will be up by now and ready for his breakfast. Are you ready for yours?' 'Yes, I am! That swim was lovely, and it gave me an appetite!' 'We must do this every morning,' he decided, stooping to take up the towels from the sand. He gave them a shake, tossed them over his arm, and together he and Sally strolled in companionable silence from the beach to the imposing villa with its shining white walls and pale blue shutters. Flowers abounded—the lovely pink and white oleanders and the showy hibiscus whose brilliant crimson blooms grew to over five inches in diameter. Swathing the various ornamental walls and pillars that formed part of the formal gardens were glorious pink and cerise bougainvillaea vines, and in beds below them roses and allamandas flaunted their colour and attracted bright butterflies and insects.
As they drew closer to the house the side garden came into view, a garden of flowering shrubs and herbaceous borders flourishing beneath Judas trees and tamarisks. Poinsettias flared in the sunshine and the silver leaves of the olive trees fluttered in the breeze sweeping through the orchard from the sea. The hills were lush and green, with pure white villas nestling on the quiet little plateaus. The island had everything, decided Sally, remembering that it had been described as a little piece of Paradise. She found herself agreeing wholeheartedly with the person who had penned words like those.
CHAPTER SEVEN SALLY stood by the swimming-pool, staring out over the gardens to the palm-fringed shore and the wine- dark sea beyond. It was over a week since she and Gavin had come over to Greece, and the island of Cos. It had been a pleasant week for Sally, and no day now dawned but that she was reminded of Gavin's words about her living for a memory, and telling her quite firmly that she could not go on like that for the rest of her days. She now knew that life could hold something for her, that Colin need not be forever in her mind, torturing her by the memories which his image conjured up. But she knew also that the information imparted by Maria had had a lot to do with her change of attitude towards the past and her marriage. Always she was reminded that, had Maria wanted Colin to marry her, then he would have given Sally up. George was obviously delighted with his grandson's wife, but had disconcerted her on one occasion by asking when her child was expected. Blushing hotly, she said she was not sure, and to her relief he let the matter drop. But he was a typical Greek in that he cast eyes towards her stomach almost every time he and she met. Adonis had noticed this and laughed later as he said to Sally, 'Greek men are interested only in sex and money. Aren't you angry when George looks you over the way he does?' Sally felt this was a question to be pointedly ignored. She changed the subject and cared not at all that Adonis might feel he'd been snubbed. When first she had met him she felt that he had something attractive about him, but later she was revising her opinion and deciding that apart from his good looks he had very little to recommend him. He was an affable, light-hearted bachelor with an
immaturity that could easily become boring to anyone who had to be in his company too long. He was totally irresponsible and it was not surprising that George had been troubled that he would squander the Kleanthes fortune. He had several pillow friends, Gavin had told Sally, and these merely followed the numerous ones that had come and gone before. He worked in the head office in Athens, but not in the post he felt he should have been in. It was plain that George did not trust him to work conscientiously and in fact Gavin had been to Athens and stayed overnight—to examine, Sally felt sure, the books and other documents, and to make a report to George. Adonis lived in Athens in a luxury flat with a view to the Acropolis and beyond to the heights of Lykabettus. He seemed to think that he was entitled to spend lavishly, being the grandson of a millionaire. He would have been wealthy in his own right if he had not squandered his father's fortune within four years of its being left to him. It was no wonder that George had decided to make Gavin his heir. Sally turned her head as she heard footsteps on the gravel path behind her. Gavin came up to her slowly, his expression unreadable. But she thought he was thinking about his recent visit to Athens and for the first time she felt she would have liked to be in his confidence, as she would have been, had their marriage been more intimate than it was. 'All alone?' He looked her over with approval, as if he liked the sleeveless flowered dress she wore. 'I thought Maroula would have been with you.' 'She's gone for a walk,' returned Sally. 'I felt she preferred to be alone, so I didn't suggest I go with her.'
'You get along very well together, I notice.' Gavin, dressed in brown linen slacks and a white shirt that most attractively accentuated the bronzed, clear- textured skin of his face and arms, stood in an attitude of careless languor, staring into the swimmingpool. He looked very Greek, thought Sally. In fact, no one would take him for anything else, not in this environment, and his being able to speak the language so fluently. 'Yes, we do get along well. Maroula's a charming girl.' Sally hesitated a moment, undecided. 'I feel,' she said at last, 'that she's not altogether happy.' 'Not happy?' Gavin looked at her with a slight frown. 'In what way?' 'The arranged marriage ..Sally tailed off slowly. 'It's nothing to do with me, I know, so I shouldn't concern myself with it.' 'But you do?' 'I suppose I'm worried,' Sally admitted. 'She's such a sweet girl; it would be a shame to make her marry someone she isn't in love with.' No response from her husband and Sally added presently, 'You wouldn't understand, Gavin, not ever having been in love, and not believing in its importance in marriage.' Her tone was wistful... and yet it was not Colin's memory that was the cause of her wistfulness. She lifted her face and stared into his. His eyes held the most odd expression; nothing she could read was there, yet she felt that if she could have read the expression it would have been most revealing in a way that was totally unexpected. 'In Greece,' said Gavin at last, 'arranged marriages are accepted. The parties abide by the decision of their parents or guardians.' Sally frowned over this.
'Maroula has parents, yet it would appear that it's her grandfather who has full control of her destiny.' 'You put it rather dramatically,' he returned. 'Maroula's parents are poor and so she depends on George for the provision of a dowry, without which she couldn't possibly expect to find a husband, much less a husband as well off as Petrakis. Maroula is fortunate, so don't waste your time on extending sympathy which she doesn't need.' 'I still feel she would rather have chosen her own husband.' 'She's mentioned something of this to you?' Sally shook her head. 'No, it's not that she's said anything; it's what she hasn't said, I suppose.' 'You'll have to be a little more explicit, Sally.' 'She never talks about her fiancé. An engaged girl usually wants to talk about him. She hasn't even described him to me.' 'Where is she now?' asked Gavin abruptly. 'On the shore, I think. She said she was going for a stroll along by the sea.' Gavin was frowning. Sally wondered if he, like she, was suddenly wondering if Maroula was meeting someone else. She certainly had not wanted Sally's company ... nor had she wanted it yesterday and the day before.
'A girl doesn't go off on her own. You should have insisted on going with her.' His voice had become stern-edged and censorious. 'I think you ought to go and see if you can find her.' A protesting light entered Sally's eyes. 'What do you mean, a girl doesn't go off on her own? And what would she say if I went after her?' She shook her head emphatically. 'I wouldn't want anyone to come looking for me if I'd expressed a wish to be alone.' 'She expressed a wish to be alone?' 'No, but it was clear that she didn't want me with her.' A small silence ensued before Gavin spoke. 'When I said that a girl doesn't go off on her own, I meant a Greek girl. It just isn't done. She could be disgraced for life if—for instance—she happened to be seen with a man.' Sally gave an audible little gasp. She knew that many Eastern countries still held on to ideas that were long outdated, but she would never have dreamed that anything so primitive as this could have survived. 'Disgraced for life?' she repeated. 'That sounds rather far-fetched, Gavin.' 'If she were to be seen talking to a man, and her fiancé heard about it, he would immediately break off the engagement.' 'So he doesn't trust her? It's incredible!'
'It isn't a question of trust, but custom. Custom, Sally, can often mean far more than actual law.' 'Do you agree with these customs?' she enquired curiously. 'I suppose I've enough Greek in me to agree, yes.' 'You astound me!' The ghost of a smile hovered on his thin lips. 'You're learning about me, Sally,' he said, and there was no mistaking the strange inflection that edged his voice. 'And I'm learning about you at the same time.' She flashed him a glance, aware that the colour was tinting her cheeks. What was he learning? And did he like it? Why should she care whether he liked it or not...? 'Are you going to Athens again?' she asked after a while when the subject of Maroula seemed to have been dropped. 'Not this week. Next week, maybe.' His voice and eyes were grim, but only momentarily. 'I shall take you with me this time. I think you'll like the capital.' 'You'll take me?' She felt light-hearted all at once. 'That'll be a lovely change. Thank you, Gavin.' 'Change?' with a lift of one eyebrow in a gesture of interrogation. 'You're not becoming bored, I hope?' 'Not at all,' she replied promptly. 'I love it here. There's plenty to do, swimming and walking and exploring.'
'George will expect me to take you to Athens,' he said after a pause. 'I shall be busy on and off, but I dare say you'll find plenty to occupy your time.' 'Shall we be staying overnight?' 'Probably two or even three nights.' Sally smiled up at him. Her lips were parted in a smile, her golden hair tousled by the breeze. A muscle moved in Gavin's cheeks, but his eyes were fixed, hard and unfathomable ... but holding a degree of interest that did something strange to Sally's emotions. She was floundering suddenly ... searching within her heart for something, without even knowing what she might be searching for. 'I think,' her husband was saying, 'you'd better go and see if you can find Maroula.' He flicked a hand towards the beach, where the clear turquoise sea lapped the shore and the hills rising behind it were clothed with pine trees swaying in the breeze. 'She must have been gone some considerable time.' Sally wanted to protest, but changed her mind, deterred by his expression. To her surprise she came upon Maroula soon after she began to walk along the shore. Striding out, the breeze whipping her dark hair so that it floated behind her, Maroula waved as she saw Sally in the distance. How young she looked, thought Sally—young and small and vulnerable. But she was modern both in her dress and in her outlook, and despite the fact that her parents were comparatively poor, she always wore beautiful clothes, expertly styled, and expensive. Sally surmised that her grandfather provided these for her. She was smiling as she came up to Sally.
'Did you enjoy your walk?' asked Sally, relieved that she had found the girl so soon. 'It was lovely!' Maroula's dark eyes glowed in a dreamy sort of way that convinced Sally she had not been walking alone. 'What have you been doing, Sally?' 'Just wandering about the gardens.' 'You love them, don't you?' 'Very much. I love everything about this place,' she added enthusiastically. 'You've not seen anything of the island yet. You must make Gavin take you to the Asclepion. It's absolutely marvellous!' 'I expect he will take me eventually.' They were walking back in the direction of the villa, two girls who had already become firm friends in such an incredibly short space of time. Both were silent, deep in thought. Sally was debating on the possibility of Maroula's having another boy-friend; surely major difficulties would result if Maroula decided to follow the dictates of her heart. Even Gavin would be against her, since he had admitted to having enough Greek in him to agree with the outdated customs that still existed in the country. Sally slanted the Greek girl a look, deciding that if Maroula was in love with someone other than her fiancé she would very soon make a confidante of her newfound friend. And Sally was right. Maroula sought her out that evening after dinner and asked her to walk with her in the garden. 'I've something to tell you, Sally.' Although Maroula seemed hesitant, there was determination in her voice. 'I just have to talk to someone. I hope you won't mind being let into a secret.'
'No, of course not.' Sally's smile was forced. She saw difficulties for herself, since she would have to keep what she knew both from her husband and from George. They wandered away from the lights of the villa, into the mothy darkness and the pure scented air of the grounds. The night was heady, the fresh lucid atmosphere intoxicating as a potent wine. 'I'm engaged, as you know,' began Maroula by way of introduction. 'But it was an arranged engagement.' 'Arranged by your grandfather?' 'Yes, mainly. He appears benign to you, probably, but he likes to run people's lives, Sally.' The lightness usually found in Maroula's voice was lacking, and her footsteps were gradually slowing down. The shrubbery lay ahead and they wandered towards it. 'I had no say at all in my engagement. It was all arranged even before I'd met Petrakis -' 'Before you'd met him!' Sally stopped abruptly, her glance one of stupefied disbelief. 'Are you serious, Maroula?' 'Didn't you know about this custom?' Maroula spoke bitterly. 'I knew that marriages were arranged, but I certainly didn't know they could make you marry someone you'd never even met!' Maroula began to move on and Sally fell in beside her. 'I must be honest. I am not forced to marry Petrakis. But if I don't I shall be in disgrace for the rest of my life, not only with George but with all my relations. I dislike him intensely, Sally -' Maroula broke off, her last few words carrying a stronger accent than was
usual, as she spoke English almost as fluently as Gavin spoke Greek. 'You're in love with someone else?' Half question, half statement. Maroula turned her dark head to stare at Sally in the moonlight. 'How did you guess?' she asked, her tone a mingling of apprehension and defiance. 'I suppose it was instinct. I wondered why you didn't want me with you when you went walking these past few days. And today you came along looking so happy -It seemed to me that you were in love.' 'But not with my fiancé?' 'No, not with your fiancé, Maroula. You see, you never talk about him, and it isn't natural.' 'I was with Davos this morning. He's come to Cos because I'm here, visiting my grandfather.' 'He doesn't live here, then?' 'No, he lives in Athens. We see each other regularly.' 'Aren't you afraid, Maroula?' Sally asked. 'Sometimes; at other times I feel like defying them all.' 'Would it be possible for you to marry Davos?' 'Of course. But I'd be in disgrace for breaking my engagement to Petrakis. Besides, I am supposed to make a good marriage, because of my grandfather being who he is. I feel hopeless
sometimes, Sally! I don't know why I've confided in you, but I had to talk. You see, Davos is impatient, and no one can blame him. He'd go to my grandfather tomorrow if I would let him, and ask if he can marry me.' 'It's an awkward situation,' frowned Sally. Maroula stopped to look at her. 'If it were you—what would you do?' Sally felt cornered. She knew without any doubt that she would follow where her heart led, but she had no intention of being instrumental in Maroula's doing the same. The decision must be Maroula's alone, uninfluenced by anyone else. 'I can't answer that, Maroula,' she returned apologetically. 'You're afraid of answering?' Faintly the girl smiled. 'You have answered, Sally. You'd marry for love, I can see it in your eyes.' A bitter smile curved Sally's lips. She was wondering what Maroula would say were she to tell her that she had not married Gavin for love, that no mention of love had ever entered into their conversation at the time the marriage was discussed. 'You mustn't act hastily,' was all Sally could find to say in response to the Greek girl's forthright statement. There was a moment's pause before Maroula spoke, the silence broken only by the shrill drilling notes of the cicadas in the olives and pines. 'I suppose, in the end,' said Maroula bleakly, 'I shall do as all the rest and obey the commands of my elders.'
Sally's eyes shadowed at the despair in her friend's sweet young voice. 'If there's anything I can do -' She broke off with a little helpless gesture. 'I don't know what to say, Maroula.' 'There is nothing you can do or say that will help.' Maroula snatched at a small branch of a Judas tree close by and began twisting it distractedly in her fingers, at the same time making restless movements with her feet. 'What are we to do?' she cried eventually, her control breaking. 'To marry someone you don't love... it will be hell, Sally P The word hell made Sally give a start. It was not what she would have expected to hear from Maroula. 'I feel you should tell your grandfather about this other young man,' advised Sally after a long moment of deep thought. 'That's what I would do were I in your position. Do it, Maroula, before it's too late.' She asked when the wedding was to be and frowned when Maroula said it was arranged for the tenth of June. 'There isn't much time to waste,' she added warningly. 'After all, no real harm can come from an admission that you've met someone else.' 'I would be asked how I'd come to meet someone else.' 'Yes, there is that. You ought not to have been meeting him -Oh, but it's all so absurd!' 'I feel like running away.' Maroula's words trembled on her lips. 'I did toy with the idea at one time that I would appeal to Gavin for help, because he's half English and they have enlightened ideas. But Gavin becomes very Greek when he's here, with my grandfather. I feel he won't be sympathetic to my situation.' 'No, I don't think it's any use depending on him to help you.'
'He's hard, but ...' Maroula appeared to be considering. 'Yet there are times when he's actually soft -' She stopped, then added deprecatingly, 'What am I saying? You, his wife, must have seen this softness—many, many times.' Softness... Yes, she had seen a softness about Gavin, thought Sally. She was also remembering what he had done both for Maria and her father. Also, he had never once intimated that he would like Sally to look for somewhere else to live. She had been allowed to remain in the bungalow to which she had no right once , her husband was no longer working on Gavin's estate. 'I think we ought to be going back,' she suggested. 'We've been out here a long time.' The moon was high in the sky, sailing through wispy skeins of cloud and weaving a web of silver light into patterns on the still water of the swimming-pool. 'Yes ... I haven't done any good, have I, in confiding in you?' 'It's probably done you good mentally.' Such an inadequate statement! What could be done? wondered Sally, feeling she ought to make some attempt to help her friend. They were almost at the courtyard which lay at the rear of the villa when they observed the dark shape of Sally's husband coming from the open french window of the drawing-room. He stopped, waiting for them to come up to him; Sally noticed the narrowed expression with which he looked at his cousin. 'We've had a lovely stroll, Gavin.' Maroula spoke quickly as if intent on preventing any question from him that would embarrass her. She failed. 'What have you been out so long for?' His eyes slid to his wife's face but, determined that he should read nothing from it, she
averted her head. 'You must have had a long talk together; I wonder what it was about?' Maroula's eyes widened in sudden panic. 'It was nothing very important,' she said. 'No?' 'It was only—only ...' Her voice hung suspended as she sought for words that would cover up the truth. She found none and merely said, 'I'm going in. Goodnight, Sally. Goodnight, Gavin.' And she was gone even before either of them could reply. It left Sally in an uneasy position, since she knew without any doubt that her husband would question her. With his keen perception he had realised that Maroula had been acting strangely. 'It's a lovely night. Shall we walk?' Gavin's voice was low and insistent. Sally knew he wanted to talk and, resignedly she said yes, it would be pleasant to walk. She searched her brain for answers to the questions she surmised might come, and suddenly she was wishing Maroula had not confided in her. Yet this was a cowardly way to regard the girl's trust. Evasion had never been a failing of Sally's and she began to contemplate the possibility of enlisting her husband's help on Maroula's behalf, remembering Maroula's assertion that there was a certain softness about Gavin at times, and her own admission that this was true. They strolled in silence for a while, the breeze cool and fresh on their faces. Sally, still in her long evening dress, felt the skirt billowing out from her legs. She had not needed a wrap and even with the coming of the breeze from the sea the clear crystal atmosphere was still warm and soft.
Eventually the question came, spoken with a quiet inflection but yet with the harshness that was so characteristic of Gavin's voice. 'Why did Maroula want you to come out here with her, Sally?' 'Just for a stroll,' answered Sally without hesitation, but playing for time. 'Let's both stop prevaricating, shall we?' Gavin stopped as they reached a little arbour, its trellised walls dripping with sweetscented honeysuckle and purple bougainvillaea. He stood motionless, his manner causing Sally's every nerve to become tensed. 'I shall ask you outright if Maroula spoke about her engagement, and you will answer me in an equally straightforward manner.' Silence. Sally knew instinctively now that Gavin was aware that Maroula had another boy-friend. 'She did speak of her engagement, yes.' 'And...?' 'She isn't happy about it. But I did tell you, Gavin, that I'd already suspected that.' 'She has someone else?' Sally had to say that this was true, but went on to add, with an urgency that she hoped would be effective, 'You won't give her away, Gavin? Please say you'll keep her secret?' He was frowning heavily in the moonlight.
'It won't do, Sally. She must marry Petrakis. She's been seeing this other man, obviously, and she'll be in dire disgrace if it comes to light.' 'I know, and that's why you mustn't say anything.' Sally stopped, half fearing that her husband would take exception to her use of words like 'mustn't'. However, he was lost in thought to the point where he had not even noticed. 'I must speak to her,' he said decisively at last. 'She'll ruin her whole life if she isn't careful.' 'She'll ruin it if she marries the wrong man!' Anger suddenly welled up within Sally. How like a man to consider every aspect but the most important one of emotions! Gavin might have entered into his own marriage without love, or even affection, but that was no reason why he should think he held the power to make someone else do the same. He looked down at her and said darkly, 'This situation is not one that you can understand. Please also remember that you don't use that tone of voice to me.' 'I'm sorry.' 'Your voice is more stiff than contrite,' he admonished. Sally held a cautious silence, having no wish to incur Gavin's anger, or even his displeasure. 'Did Maroula tell you who this other man is?'
Sally hesitated a long while before saying, a little plea edging her voice, 'I can't answer that, Gavin—what I mean is, Maroula confided in me, and if I could I would have kept everything to myself. But it was plain that you knew—or guessed—a great deal, so it was no use my prevaricating, as you said. But I can't tell you more. You do understand?' She stared up at him, a warm sweet simplicity in her manner that brought an odd expression to her husband's eyes. 'I understand,' he admitted after a pause. 'On the other hand, Sally, it's my duty to use my power and authority to see that my cousin doesn't make a mistake which she'll regret for the rest of her life.' 'You have authority over her?' Sally's expression was one of surprise. 'As her cousin, yes.' 'But her parents, surely...?' 'In a way they're fully responsible for her, but owing to the fact that George is making himself fully responsible for Maroula's dowry, most of the authority has been passed to him. He chose Maroula's husband, without any interference from her parents. George is passing most of his responsibilities over to me—it was for this that he asked me to come over at the present time. He feels he's ready to release his hold on the business and on everything else.' Gavin paused. Sally felt happy that he should confide in her like this. It seemed to bring him closer. 'As George's right-hand man, as it were,' continued Gavin presently, 'I take over the responsibility for Maroula's future. She must marry Petrakis,' he declared finally.
A moment of silence and then Sally ventured to ask if in his opinion Petrakis would make Maroula a good husband, and to her surprise she heard Gavin say, 'I've never met the man.' 'Never met him? Then how do you know what he's like?' 'I have George's word that he's an upright man. He's wealthy and respected -' 'How old is he?' broke in Sally. 'Nearly forty, I believe.' 'He's too old for her!' Gavin looked down at her for a long moment. 'Your concern is most commendable, Sally, but if you take my advice you'll try to put Maroula's troubles out of your mind.' 'You admit she has troubles, then? Well, I do think, Gavin, that you ought at least to see this Petrakis before you make Maroula marry him.' Something in her tone seemed to affect him, for he frowned and seemed at last to be a little less implacable. Sally, realising that she might have an- advantage, pressed her point home, saying that as he had control of Maroula's future he should surely satisfy himself that his cousin's fiancé was a desirable sort of person.
'George is old, remember,' she went on. 'He might not be as capable as you of assessing a man's character ...' Her voice trailed away to a questioning silence as she noted her husband's expression change. 'Flattery, my dear,' he told her in some amusement, 'won't get you anywhere, I'm afraid.' She coloured daintily, wondering why the words 'my dear' were so very nice to hear. Gavin's amused expression, too, was something that had rarely come her way before. She was learning things about him that she liked. 'I wasn't deliberately flattering you,' she denied. 'I was merely stating a fact, Gavin.' The appeal in her eyes and voice, the way her small hands were twisting at the front of her dress in nervous and unconscious movements ... all compounded to affect her husband in a way he had never been affected before, and Sally was soon hearing him say, with a sort of amused resignation this time, 'If it will please you, Sally, I'll make it my business to call on Petrakis when we go to Athens next week.' 'You will! Oh, Gavin, thank you! Thank you very much!' 'I'm promising nothing,' he warned her. 'Don't think for one moment that I shall agree to the engagement being broken. Here in Greece there is a religious ceremony for the engagement, just as there is for the marriage. So you'll realise that engagements are not easily broken. In fact, it would cause a great stir if this one was broken.' 'Because of who Maroula is—George's granddaughter, I mean?' 'Exactly. However, I've made you a promise, and I shall keep it.'
'I'll be with you in Athens. Can I—would you let me—I mean, could I come with you when you go to see him?' A small hesitation and then, to her surprise, 'I think we shall ask him to dine with us at our hotel. You'll then have a full evening to vet the poor man.' Sally ignored the humour in her husband's voice, for her mind was on what he had said rather than on the way he had said it. She felt sure that Gavin would listen to her if she told him she did not think that Petrakis was a suitable person to be a husband to Maroula. 'Come on,' she heard Gavin say after a while, 'let's take a little stroll before turning in. George will expect us to stay out for at least a quarter of an hour or so.' The implication was plain. George believed they were in love; the garden in the moonlight was the very place for lovers ... Undoubtedly it was, thought Sally as she and Gavin strolled down its shadowed paths, their nostrils assailed by the heady perfumes from masses of spring flowers that flourished in the wide decorative borders. The sea was dark but silvered from the moonlight; on the horizon a ship's lanterns vied with the stars and in the sky itself all was sheer magic. Sally moved closer to her husband's side. It was an instinctive movement, made unconsciously. She looked up at his profile, clear-cut in the quivering pulsation of light from a moon floating among a filmy web of cloud. She sighed contentedly; a new and tender emotion stirred to life within her—warm and exciting and vague. It was nothing violent or sweeping, just a quivering of a pulse, a heightened emotion ... a gentle awareness of her husband as a man...
He turned his head, as if impelled to do so by her interest. As their eyes met he smiled; Sally fluttered him a smile in response. He allowed his eyes to wander, to the delicate curves of her figure, accentuated by the expert cut of her dress, to the gentle swell of her throat, to the quivering lips and higher, to where her golden hair made a halo for her lovely face. 'It's time we were going in,' he said, breaking a silence that held a sort of electric current affecting them both. He took her arm, guiding her away from the arbour on to the path. The night was silent but for the hushed murmur of the trees as their foliage fluttered in the breeze, and the distant music of goat-bells on the hillside above the drowsy village.
CHAPTER EIGHT THEY flew into Athens then Gavin ordered a taxi to take them to the hotel. Sally had her first glimpse of the Acropolis, with the magnificent Temple of Athena, the Parthenon, silhouetted against the background of Mount Hymettus. 'It looks wonderful!' she breathed. 'I've always imagined it, and there's a sort of magic attached to the Acropolis which you always seem to know about even though you haven't seen it.' She paused to take it all in. 'I never expected ever to come to Athens,' she ended. 'You've never travelled at all, I think you told me.' 'No, I haven't.' 'Travel is a wonderful educator,' Gavin said. 'In addition to the pleasure it gives.' Sally wondered why she should be thinking only of the present and the future—no longer of the past. It seemed impossible that her mind had cleared so much, that she was able to appreciate such things as sunshine and flowers, scenery and a sight like this, the Acropolis with its beautiful entrance and its temples. The hotel was the last thing in luxury, as was to be expected. Gavin would always have the very best available. 'I have to go out this afternoon,' he told her when they were in their suite. 'Take taxis if you want. I hope to be back with you around six this evening.' He glanced at his watch. 'It's only half past twelve. We'll have lunch and then I must be off.' He was taking a white tropical suit from his case and hanging it in one of the wardrobes. 'You'll be all right?'
'Yes, of course. I shall take a taxi to the Acropolis first, and after that I'll probably walk about, looking at other antiquities, and perhaps the shops.' 'The shops are good here. Plenty of fashionable clothes and other luxuries.' She nodded. She did not think of buying any clothes. Her wardrobe had grown almost alarmingly in the few months she had been married to Gavin. For this visit to Greece especially she had bought numerous dresses and beach wear. Gavin had insisted on this, and when at first she had practised economy he had ordered her not to think of the expense but to buy all that was necessary. When lunch was over they parted company, Gavin to go in one taxi and Sally in another. She was soon being dropped at her destination, with the smiling taxi- driver wanting to wait for her, but she shook her head. He went off reluctantly. She stood for a while on the terrace just below the Propylaea, which in ancient times was the ceremonial entrance to the sacred hill upon which the temples were built. Pedlars were badgering the tourists to buy plaster models of the temples, or Aphrodite or Hermes or some other sacred deity whom the pagan Greeks had worshipped. Sponges abounded, and local handicrafts by the score. Sally was tempted but refrained, aware that these things were cheap and not at all the kind that would go into a home like Gavin's. At length she left the interesting spectacle of so much bargaining activity to make her way up the steps of the Propylaea, along with a solid mass of tourists. If it was like this early in the year, what must it be like in the midst of the season? Cameras snapped incessantly. The Parthenon must be the most photographed building in the world, decided Sally.
Passing eventually through the impressive gateway of the Propylaea, she gasped at the sheer beauty of the Parthenon, mighty temple dedicated to the powerful goddess Athena, daughter of the king of all the pagan gods, Zeus. The atmosphere was fascinating despite the crowds. The air had a special clarity that was different even from the crystal air of Cos; the site itself possessed all the magic which Sally had expected, and more. The marble, from the Pentelicon mountain, had acquired a rich golden patina, the result of oxidation, but Sally could easily imagine it in its original state, when it was quarried as the gleaming white, finegrained marble used extensively by Pericles when he was building the glorious temples of the Acropolis. The mountain was only eighteen miles from Athens, its gentler slopes facing the city. Sally found herself wishing they had more time, so that Gavin could take her to see the quarry from where originated so many lovely architectural structures. One day, perhaps, when they had a longer stay in Athens. From the Parthenon she strolled across many fallen columns and much debris—sad relics of beautiful sculptures, probably—to the exquisite Erechtheum, with its world-famed Porch of the Maidens. Listening to the guide nearest to her she learned that one of the caryatids was a copy, the original having been stolen by Lord Elgin, who thought it would look far better in the British Museum. And so, from the original six lovely maidens holding up the porch, five only remained, with a copy that was very realistic—so realistic that Sally had to have it pointed out to her, at her request, by the guide. From there she strolled aimlessly for a while, standing by the wall eventually to appreciate the breathtaking view of the city. The delightful little Temple of Athena Nike came next, in excellent order, the smaller jewel of the Acropolis. It was to the credit of the Turks, Sally learned later from her husband, that the exquisite little temple—the Temple of the Wingless Victory, as it was known in very ancient times —had not been totally destroyed
by Lord Elgin, though many of its embellishments had been torn from it and shipped to London. Standing close to the Temple, Sally was again able to appreciate a panoramic view—this time over the city to a low plain, and then the sea, and the outline of the mountainous peninsula of the Peloponnese. The hours had flown and she had little time for anything else after she had visited the Acropolis Museum. Gavin had arrived at the hotel before her; she was conscious of her appearance, which was dusty and dishevelled after her many hours spent among the ruins of the ancient temples. 'Have you had a good time?' Gavin was sitting by the window, dressed casually in a checked shirt and off- white linen slacks. He was handsome, she thought, despite those harsh features and the coldness of his eyes. She fell to wondering if any woman had ever fallen in love with him. It would not have been surprising, she admitted, revising her opinion of him as she had been doing lately, for he certainly possessed a magnetic quality that was rather more than ordinarily attractive. 'I've had a wonderful time,' she answered enthusiastically, brushing a few of the unruly strands of hair from her forehead. 'I loved the Acropolis! It's all I thought it was and a lot more besides.' 'I'm glad you weren't disappointed. You didn't mind that there were crowds of tourists about, apparently.' 'I would like to visit it very early in the morning when there's no one about,' she owned. 'But I thoroughly enjoyed it just the same.' She was happy, and this could not escape Gavin, for her eyes shone, her whole attitude was one of contentment, and interest in what she had seen. She might be living in a fool's paradise, of
course, affected by the magic of Greece and all it had to offer. Once back in the grim atmosphere of the Castle it was possible that she would again begin to dwell on the past. Her eyes went to Gavin's face, and she found her thoughts changing. She did not think that she would ever brood again. For one thing, Gavin was so charming towards her—so different from what she had expected. And yet hadn't Maria asserted that he was by no means the ogre he was reputed to be? As for Sally herself and her entry into the totally different environment of a stately home—instead of being out of her depth, as she fully expected to be for a time, she had been completely at her ease almost from the first, and in this adaptation Gavin had done his part admirably. Never had he made her feel inferior, not by the smallest word or act. He seemed grateful to her for marrying him, and because of these things Sally's aversion towards him had evaporated with a swiftness she would never have believed possible. 'I've invited Petrakis here tomorrow evening,' she heard Gavin say. 'This evening we shall dine out, at a Greek restaurant I know of. You'll get some local colour—the dancing and bouzouki music and the Greek food.' 'I'll enjoy that.' The familiar shyness descended upon her. She was unsure of herself. She supposed it was natural, though, as they had never been on their own in this kind of situation before. At the Castle there were always the servants hovering about at meal times, and it was only at meal times that Sally and her husband were together. At the villa on Cos the only times they had been alone for any length of time was in their bedroom. But with this visit to Athens they were to have a little more time together, it would seem. 'Is the restaurant far from here?'
'A taxi ride—about a quarter of an hour, or perhaps twenty minutes, depending on the traffic.' 'What shall I wear -?' She stopped abruptly and rephrased her question. 'Do I wear a long dress?' 'Of course. The restaurant is exclusive, though it specialises in providing local colour for the tourists. If you want to go to an ordinary taverna we can do that for lunch tomorrow.' 'You won't be out tomorrow, then?' 'Only for a few hours after lunch. My business will be done then and we can spend a little time sightseeing.' Sally's eyes brightened. 'We won't be returning to Cos straight away, then?' 'No, I've decided to give you a little of my time, to take you about a bit. There's Delphi we could visit, and there's Sounion and Marathon.' 'It sounds exciting.' Gavin nodded. He seemed absorbed with her, as if he were seeing things he had never seen before. At length he said, an odd inflection in his voice, 'You're different, Sally. Tell me, are you finding that I was right when I said you'd learn to live again?' 'Yes, Gavin, you were right. I am able to appreciate beauty, which I wasn't before, because everything seemed bleak, somehow.'
'You didn't want to see beauty,' he returned gravely. 'You would have resented it if beauty had come between you and the memory.' She considered a moment before speaking. 'I believe you're right. Yes, I would have resented it if beauty—or anything, for that matter—had come between me and the memory.' She was rather dazed by her admission but honest enough to admit its truth. Gavin nodded, as if satisfied about something. But he made no further comment on the matter, and in any case they were soon getting ready for the evening out that he had planned.
The restaurant to which he took her was on a terrace overlooking the city. Its sides were open to the night, its 'roof' was interwoven vines supported by a trellis. Hidden among the foliage were coloured lights which gave a gentle glow, and this, plus the mournful but sweet rhythm of the bouzouki music, gave a romantic air to the restaurant. Flowers and candles adorned every table where on snow-white cloths, coloured napkins were formed into intricate shapes, and silver and glass sparkled in the soft light from above and the amber light from the candles. Sally and her husband were shown to a secluded table by a waiter in a light blue linen coat trimmed with navy blue on the lapels and pockets of his jacket. His smile showed a flash of white and gold against the very dark colour of his skin. He brought them drinks to have while their order was being seen to by the kitchen staff. The music was quiet, the decor quiet too. Sally said, speaking her thoughts aloud after she had had a good look around, 'This is a lovely place, Gavin. Have you been here often?'
'No, only once or twice. I've brought Maroula here on a couple of occasions.' Maroula... It suddenly occurred to Sally that it was a wonder George had not tried to arrange a marriage between his grandson and his niece. Wealthy Greek families often arranged marriages between cousins, just so that their wealth would not go to strangers. Still,, she mused as she sipped her drink, even George, powerful as he was, could not have used Gavin as a pawn in any game he liked to play. The meal arrived. It consisted of melon to start with, followed by a large variety of meats cooked over a charcoal fire and garnished with delicious salads and mouthwatering sauces. Wine was a rose, then with the dessert course of peaches flambeau Gavin ordered a sweet champagne. Coffee and cognac came finally, with a dish of sticky sweetmeats that Sally could not touch. 'I've had enough,' she told Gavin when he passed the dish to her across the table. 'Thank you, Gavin, for a wonderful evening.' He said nothing, but smiled at her in a way that brought a lovely warmth to her heart. She was happy. How long it would last she did not know, nor was she interested. The evening was not over yet and she was intending to enjoy it. Dancers came on in a small group. They were joined by knotted handkerchiefs and leaped and gyrated through the Zorba syrtaki, then several other Greek dances, their costumes bright and colourful, their olive-skinned faces animated. Plainly they were deriving as much pleasure from the dances as the people whom they were entertaining. After the dancers came a singer, rendering a lament in Greek which Gavin softly translated for Sally's benefit.
'They are often sad songs they sing,' he added when the girl had left the little dais to make her exit to a round of enthusiastic applause. 'As I explained just now, this was a particularly sad song, all about the pathos of a lost love, when two devoted lovers had to part because the girl's relatives had decided that she must marry the man of their choice.' Sally's thoughts were with Maroula, and she wondered sadly if she would be forced to accept what her grandfather had arranged for her. Sally would have liked to broach the subject of Maroula, but decided to postpone it until after she had met Petrakis. Not that she believed for one moment that the meeting with him would change her views. Maroula should be allowed to marry the man of her own choice. To Sally's logical, and Western, way of thinking, it was the very height of presumption that parents and other relatives should say whom a girl should or should not marry. The dowry system was the ruination of the small landowners, since their estates had to be cut up if they had daughters, so that each one had land to offer to a prospective bridegroom. 'You're very quiet,' Gavin said, breaking into her thoughts. 'What is it?' She smiled, aware that he was probably assuming her to be dwelling on Colin, and her own lost love. For some unfathomable reason she did not want him to feel that her thoughts were with the past, and she said quickly, 'I was thinking of the dowry system, Gavin, and the terrible heartaches which must inevitably result from it' 'I agree,' was his surprising response. 'It ought to be stamped out by law.'
Was Gavin changing his ideas about love being a necessity in marriage? Certainly there was some subtle change in him these days. She said, deciding to divert away from the subject in case it should lead to Maroula, 'The bouzouki music often sounds Asiatic in the mournful strains.' 'It's thought that it came originally from Asia. Most forms of music have a history, which can be very interesting if one goes into it.' Gavin stopped as the waiter came to fill up their wine glasses, but his eyes remained on her face, as if his thoughts had switched to her alone, and she fell to debating on what went on in his mind. He seemed to be lost in appreciation; she was happy that she had taken so much care over her appearance, that she could be sure that her husband would find nothing to criticise or to find fault with. It was time to leave at last. Sally, tired and several times having to suppress a yawn, was actually teased by her husband when, in the taxi, she leant her head against his shoulder for one unguarded moment. 'I don't know whether I ought to bring you out again,' he said in some amusement. 'You look as if you should have been in bed hours ago.' Life was still going on in the city as they drove back to the hotel. From the tavernas in the Plaka bouzouki music drifted forth through the open windows of the car. Laughter and chatter mingled with it as people sat at the pavement tables eating kebabs straight from the charcoal stoves, or playing tavli and smoking endless cigarettes. Men stood around, watching the play, one hand occupied in playing with a string of worry beads. It was all exciting for Sally, giving her a real picture of Greek night life in
the capital, and especially the Plaka. Here there was an atmosphere of the medieval in the way the clubs and tavernas—houses at one time in the past—were clustered into a hodgepodge of disorder in which it seemed there never had been any sort of uniformity. Garlands of coloured lights were strung up along the facades of these night clubs, while bright posters advertised entertainments of all kinds from floor shows to dancing, and dining on the delicious foods that only the Greeks know how to produce properly. Above the Plaka the lovely temples of the Acropolis were illuminated, and the caryatids with their Mona Lisa expressions looked down on the city as they have looked down for countless ages in the past. 'Have you had a good time?' Gavin put the question to Sally when at last they were in their room at the hotel—which was the Grande Bretagne, one of the most elegant hotels in Athens. He was taking her cloak from her shoulders as he spoke, and she smiled up into his dark face, thinking how well he fitted in here, in Greece. He was a Greek, no doubt of that at all. 'I've loved every moment of it, Gavin,' she answered sincerely. 'Thank you so much for taking me.' 'Thank you, my dear, for being such good company.' The words came softly, Gavin's voice totally lacking the familiar harsh notes to which Sally had become used. Her smile deepened, and a soft flush came to her cheeks. 'I'm glad you enjoyed it too,' she said, shyness creeping over her as she realised that she would have liked to move closer to her husband, so that he would automatically know that she wanted to feel his arms around her. What was happening to her that she could feel like this—experiencing a yearning that was entirely different from anything she had ever known before?
She moved away, because in spite of the dramatic change that had taken place in his attitude towards her since coming to Greece, she felt he might not welcome the kind of affectionate demonstration which she instinctively wanted to display. He shrugged incomprehensibly, went to the wardrobe to hang up her cloak, and the next moment he was opening the bathroom door and saying casually, 'I'm taking a shower. I won't be long.'
The following evening they were in the lounge of the hotel when Gavin said, 'Here's Petrakis now, unless I'm very much mistaken.' 'You know him?' Sally was remembering that Gavin had admitted that he had never met Maroula's fiancé. 'I recognise him from his photograph. He's an extremely goodlooking man.' The man in question was glancing around. Gavin approached him and a moment later Sally was shaking hands with him. The three of them sat down and Gavin ordered drinks. For Sally it was a strange situation. She found herself quite dazed by the handsome face of Petrakis, but at the same time embarrassed by the way he was looking at her. She felt stripped almost. Used as she was by now to the way the Greek men stared at every woman that came within their vision, she was, nevertheless, a trifle angry at the stares of this particular man. She thought that her reaction might be due to the fact that in her opinion Petrakis ought to have eyes only for the girl he was going to marry.
It never occurred to her at this stage that her husband might also be taking offence at the manner in which Petrakis was looking at her. The menu was brought and they ordered. Petrakis had a charm of manner about him that was, even to Sally's critical mind, most attractive. He was suave; his smile seemed to counteract the superficiality of the words he uttered; he was conceited but at the same time a little diffident, as if he were not quite sure of himself. Sally soon decided he would be a bore to live with. But she was also logical enough to admit that what pleased her would not automatically please another person. However, she; decided that as Maroula did not like Petrakis, she ought not to be forced into marriage with him. During dinner they all chatted, with a friendliness and lack of awkwardness which to Sally was unexpected. There was no doubt at all that Petrakis had a way with him. 'You are not contemplating staying in Greece for the wedding?' Petrakis addressed Gavin, but his dark eyes were on Sally, moving about all the time, taking in the delicate lines of her face one second and of her figure the next. 'We shall return for it.' Gavin's words were slow and strangely lacking any firm promise. 'June,' he murmured almost to himself. 'That's right. Not too long now.' Petrakis could not keep his eyes off Sally ... at least, not until a ravishing blonde came and sat at a table opposite. She was with a fair-haired man in his late twenties. Sally decided they were Danish, and she thought they were either engaged or married. She found herself looking for a chance to see the girl's finger, to see if she wore a wedding or engagement ring. Petrakis, having transferred his interest, seemed unable to bring it back to the couple with whom he was dining. Looking at Gavin,
Sally saw the frown that was knitting his brows, bringing them together in a stern and most formidable way. She felt a sort of exultation in the knowledge that Gavin was not in the least enamoured of his cousin's fiancé. Whether his opinion of the man would be instrumental in his interfering in the engagement was another point. From what she knew of her husband, and from what he had said when he and she were discussing the engagement of Maroula and Petrakis, Gavin had not seemed in any way concerned about his cousin's personal feelings of her ultimate happiness. However, there was this subtle change that had taken place in Gavin ... Petrakis at last brought his attention from the blonde back to Sally, and conversation began to flow again. The food was delicious—charcoal-grilled red mullet with a wine called Minos Rose. The variety of side dishes seemed endless; the bread rolls were the un- salted wheatmeal variety so popular in Greece. Fresh fruit followed a sweet course of mouth-watering pastries. There was cheese and biscuits, coffee made Turkish fashion, served with a glass of iced water, which was usual. 'Well,' declared Petrakis, leaning back contentedly in his chair, 'that was an excellent meal.' 'Glad you enjoyed it.' Gavin's narrowed glance seemed in every way to match his tone of voice. He was grim and austere, and it showed. 'Shall we dance, Sally?' Petrakis was on his feet. Sally glanced uncertainly at her husband. He was still grim-faced, but she did not think she could refuse to dance with Petrakis, and she rose from her chair.
'You like dancing?' His tones were smooth, his eyes intense as he looked down into hers. 'Yes, usually.' She had not danced since Colin's death. 'It's good exercise.' To her surprise her partner laughed. 'Is that the way you look at it?' His accent was very marked now. She thought he was emotionally affected in some way and soon discovered that she was correct in her suspicions. 'Dancing, Sally, is not for exercise, but for holding close, like this!' Before she could even realise his intention she was drawn so close that she could feel the sensuous hardness of his body pressing fiercely against hers. Nauseated, she tried to break away, to pull from the almost possessive strength of his arms. The pose was, to her mind, disgusting, but on glancing around she saw that most of the Greek couples were close like this. 'Intimate, no?' 'Please may we return to the table?' she asked stiffly. 'Return?' He sounded surprised. 'What for?' 'I find I don't want to dance, that's all.' But he ignored her request and continued to hold her pressed closely against him. His mouth came to her cheek; his breath was hot and not too clean. She shuddered inwardly and thought of poor Maroula. 'You dance excellently.' 'Thank you.' Sally's voice was still stiff, unfriendly. But Petrakis was immune.
'Does Gavin dance much with you? I have never met him until tonight, as he probably told you, but I think he is a cold man, no?' A question to ignore, decided Sally, and for a few moments they danced in silence, Petrakis's face touching hers. 'It is warm in here, and I see that Gavin is talking to someone he knows. Shall we go outside for a few minutes?' Soft, inviting words which made Sally's blood boil. 'Your husband does not mind that we go outside, I think.' 'It so happens,' returned Sally frigidly, 'that I do not want to go outside.' 'You are offended with me, no? Girls like me to take them outside after we dance.' The handsome face was wreathed in smiles. The dark eyes were still intense. 'You are English. Sometimes English girls come to Athens for a holiday. They like the Greek boys to be friends with them.' Sally said nothing; she was waiting impatiently for the music to stop, which it did eventually. Petrakis looked at her, then across at Gavin, who was in conversation with a stocky Greek who was standing by the table. 'We go outside, no?'' 'No.' He was persistent, though, and all the way back to the table he was saying that it was hot and that they ought to go out on to the balcony. Gavin's acquaintance was moving away. He looked at his wife as she sat down ... and her heart seemed to give a great lurch. Gavin appeared to be having some difficulty in controlling his temper. Obviously he had seen the way Petrakis was holding her, but he must know that no blame was to be attached to her. However, once in their bedroom an hour or so later he clicked the door to with his foot and turned his furious attention upon her.
'What do you mean by letting Petrakis hold you like that?' he demanded wrathfully. 'I didn't...' Sally backed away as Gavin took a step towards her. 'I couldn't help it, Gavin -' 'Couldn't help it!' he cut in, his eyes dark with anger. 'Don't stand there talking such nonsense! You could have come away, back to the table!' 'I told him I wanted to.' Sally's voice faltered at the expression on her husband's face. She writhed under the disdain and accusation she saw there. Her own anger threatened to rise; she was feeling guilty and she blamed Gavin for it, since no guilt attached to her in any way that she could see. 'You're being grossly unfair to blame me for what wasn't my fault!' Gavin gave a smothered exclamation of surprise. 'Not your fault? Whose was it, then? You had no need to reciprocate in that disgusting attitude -' 'Reciprocate!' she flashed indignantly. 'What an unjust thing to say to me! I tried to pull away from him, but he was determined to hold me like—like that.' She was hot with embarrassment and quivering with anger. 'I had no idea that he'd be so—so—rude. But I couldn't very well insult him, could I?' 'Why not?' demanded her husband unreasonably. 'Because he was your guest, for one thing. For another, he's engaged to Maroula.' 'Neither of which gives you an excuse for allowing him to hold you like that!' Gavin's anger was subsiding, to be replaced by an
aloof frigidity that was even more unpleasant than his wrath. 'You were a disgrace -' 'I was not! Oh, you shan't say such things to me! I wanted to come off the floor—and you can ask him if you don't believe me!' What was happening? she wondered. She supposed it was natural that Gavin should have been annoyed at the way Petrakis had held her, but this attitude he was taking was totally out of proportion. He might have been jealous ... Jealous? An absurd idea which Sally dismissed at once. Gavin was speaking again, telling her in no uncertain terms that if ever anything like that happened again he'd walk on to the floor and bring her off. 'And not gently, either,' he added through his teeth. 'So watch your behaviour in future!'
CHAPTER NINE IT was inevitable that Sally should dwell on Gavin's reaction to the incident of Petrakis's behaviour on the dance floor. Each time she thought about it the same conclusion was reached: Gavin had acted exactly as a jealous husband would have done. But how could there be jealousy without love? He was silent and even morose the following morning, but he did suggest that he take Sally to Delphi. 'It'll be a wonderful experience,' he assured her. 'Delphi's not like any other site in Greece.' They went by taxi, and after a while Gavin's mood began to change as he pointed out various landmarks to her as they went along. They drove north-west, following the coast, with Salamis and Aegina floating like jewels in the calm aquamarine sea, the former steep and rocky, the latter growing vines and olives on its more gentle slopes. Gavin drew Sally's attention to the varied scenery as they began to climb into the mountains, and into Parnassus country. To Sally it was breathtaking, not only the savage grandeur of the scenery, but the sort of melancholy aspect of the deserted landscape. Only occasionally was a lonely goatherd to be seen, a speck in a world of rugged heights and silent valleys. 'It's the most magnificent country I've ever seen!' Sally exclaimed as, having left the Plain of Thebes behind and driven on through spectacular mountain fastnesses, they began to spiral through great ravines of naked rock, grey and harsh even in the sunlight.
'I knew you'd be impressed.' Gavin himself was interested in the scenery, even though he had been to Delphi several times before. 'It does something to you ...' He slanted her a glance as if questioning her ability to feel the presence of ancient gods and heroes, of the pagan worshippers who had come from all over the known world to pay homage at what was then the most famous and sacred of all the shrines in Greece. 'That's Mount Parnassus -' He pointed to the towering peaks—the Shining Ones, as they were called by the ancients. 'We're almost at the site now.' But he took her to an hotel first, where they had a delicious lunch of steak and onions marinated in spices and wine. It was called stifado, Gavin told her. They then had cheeses and olives and salads, all washed down with a dark red wine. They ate on a balcony overlooking the Pleistos Gorge, with a panoramic view beyond to the Sacred Plain of Amphissa where a 'sea of olives' fluttered their silvery foliage to catch the sun's fierce, brittle rays. Mountains capped by snow added to the magnificence of the view, as did the lovely Bay of Itea in the Gulf of Corinth. They entered the archaeological site along the Sacred Way, with their ears alert to the information being imparted to a group of American tourists by a husky-voiced guide, a woman in her late forties whose English was impeccable but carrying the hint of an accent which added a certain charm to her voice. She was telling her audience that on one particular base there had stood no fewer than sixteen bronze statues. They were the Athenians' offering for favours received from the Oracle —predictions which had benefited the Athenians in some special way. 'Three of the statues,' said the guide, 'were exceptionally large and brilliant, with Miltiades standing between Apollo and his sister Athena.'
A massive bronze bull had occupied a base on the other side of the Sacred Way; another base had held thirty-seven statues in bronze. Other statues had been in shining gold or marble. Altogether there had been thousands of statues standing in the holy precincts. 'Shall we go up those steps?' Sally pointed to the steps of the theatre. 'I'd like to go to the top; there must be a magnificent view.' Gavin was agreeable; he took her hand as they ascended. It was an automatic gesture, but Sally found herself deriving a pleasure from it that gave a warmth to her senses. She was glad that Gavin had brought her to Greece, for something had happened to her since coming, and as she had already admitted she felt she would never again find herself brooding unprofitably on the past as she had been doing for so long. Grief had eaten into her heart, but even more destructive had been the protest within her, the refusal to accept her fate. Now she was living again, seeing brightness and beauty around her, feeling a warmth in her heart, an anticipation of the future instead of that desolate resignation to a dark path of loneliness. Gavin's moodiness of the morning had disappeared, and as they reached the top of the amphitheatre and sat down, she decided it would probably be a propitious time to bring up the matter of Maroula's engagement. He listened as she said, 'I don't think that Petrakis is suitable for Maroula, Gavin, and I'm sure you don't either.' The mention of Petrakis brought a frown to Gavin's brow, but no real anger was apparent. 'What are you suggesting, Sally?'
'That you at least see this other young man.' 'Maroula hasn't mentioned any young man to me,' he was quick to remind her. 'No ... It'll be awkward.' Sally became thoughtful. 'She will probably be hesitant of mentioning him even if you were to steer the conversation in such a way as to give her the right kind of opening.' It was Gavin's turn to become thoughtful. Sally watched his expression, feeling optimistic about Maroula's future. Gavin was certainly undecided about the present engagement's being continued. This attitude had changed from the one he had adopted before, when he seemed indifferent to his cousin's unhappiness. Pushing her point, Sally ventured to say that she herself might be able to persuade Maroula to go to Gavin, or to her grandfather, and confess that she loved another man. 'The trouble is,' said Gavin thoughtfully, 'that if she does go to George he's immediately going to want to know how she came to meet this young man, and he'll ask her if she's been seeing him.' Sally frowned impatiently. 'It's all so stupid!' she exclaimed. 'What has it got to do with George, or anyone else for that matter, if Maroula sees a young man?' 'We needn't go into that. You know by now that Maroula has committed an indiscretion that could bring dire disgrace not only on herself but on her parents. Do you know that in some villages a girl's mother has to go about hanging her head in shame if her daughter has committed an indiscretion?'
'Her mother!' gasped Sally disbelievingly. 'No, it couldn't be!' 'There are customs in the East, Sally, which are far worse than that. Maroula is in a precarious position. She knows very well that she can be severely punished for seeing this boy alone.' 'Alone? She isn't to be trusted, then?' Sally's voice held the deepest scorn. 'I'm disgusted to think that a mother can't trust her daughter—especially when that daughter's a girl like Maroula. Why, she could be trusted anywhere!' Slanting his head, Gavin smiled faintly at his wife's flushed countenance. 'You're rather pretty when you're angry,' he observed unexpectedly. 'However, leaving the compliments for the present,' he went on quickly, seeing her colour increase at his flattery, 'let's get back to the question of Maroula -' 'You're not happy to leave things as they are, then?' A small silence ensued before Gavin spoke. 'I certainly don't like Petrakis,' he admitted. 'However, I'm not promising anything, so you needn't look so optimistic. After all, this is really George's affair, not mine.' 'You said you'd taken over a lot of your grandfather's responsibilities,' Sally reminded him, and he nodded in agreement. Nevertheless, there was nothing about his manner to denote any firm decisions being formed in his mind. Sally gave a small sigh of disappointment. She had believed that the battle was won, and that Gavin would agree to Maroula's engagement being broken. It was by no means so simple, though, as Sally was beginning to realise.
Meanwhile, they descended the steps of the amphitheatre again and strolled towards the Temple of Apollo, in the centre of which was the spot where the Pythia used to sit, inhaling the vapours which enabled her to speak me words which, when translated by the priest, would become the prophecy which would be given to the person asking for it. 'You wouldn't believe people could be so gullible, would you?' Sally looked up into her husband's face as she asked the question. 'In those days, my dear, they all believed in these prophecies. The Delphic Oracle was the most revered in the whole of Greece.' 'I think the priests were wily.' 'I agree with you wholeheartedly but, as I've said, in those days they really believed in the Oracle. In fact,' Gavin went on to add, 'some of the prophecies—a great many of them—turned out to be true.' 'The law of averages,' returned Sally promptly, and her husband laughed unexpectedly and accused her of being cynical. 'You obviously believe that the priests were rogues, making up everything. Well, the law of averages it might have been, but the gifts of grateful clients—if we can call them that—brought so much wealth to Delphi that it became the richest place in Greece. Treasuries had to be built to house all the treasure that poured in almost continuously.' 'And yet it declined.' There was a sadness in Sally's voice as she stood looking at the beautiful Treasury of the Athenians, which was in a very good state of preservation, having been renovated, no doubt, in recent times. 'What happened to all the wonderful statues and other trophies, I wonder?'
'Envious attackers like Sulla and Nero plundered Delphi and carried off thousands of statues; likewise plunderers came from Constantinople and took away priceless treasures. And of course the end came finally with Theodosius forbidding pagan worship. Apollo's power died and Delphi fell into ruin.' 'It doesn't seem possible ...' Sally's voice was still sad. She heard Gavin saying that the worship of pagan gods would have come to an end anyway, because of the rapid spread of Christianity, but she remained a little sad for all that, murmuring almost to herself, 'I wish I could have seen it then.' 'Come on.' Gavin reached down for her hand. 'We've spent our quota of time here. We'll come again in the not-too-distant future.' Something in his tone made Sally look up quickly and repeat, 'In the not-too-distant future?' Gavin paused a moment. 'We might be living on Cos permanently,' he said, turning towards the Sacred Way along which they had entered the site. 'Permanently? But the Castle ... and the estate?' 'Could be sold.' His voice was unemotional yet with a hint of determination which convinced Sally that he was seriously considering selling up everything he owned in England. 'Other people let their homes go.' 'But not their stately homes, Gavin.' To live in Greece... and on the delightful island of Cos, an island of flowers and sunshine and happy people. Sally, with no ties in England, found that her heart was beating a little more rapidly than usual. She was excited by the
prospect which would, if nothing else, take her right away from memories which she no longer wanted to recall. And as this knowledge was borne in upon her Sally realised that she was in love with her husband.
They returned to Cos two days later to find that both Adonis and Maroula. had left, and that George had been unwell but was all right now. However, Sally overheard him telling Gavin that he had sent for his lawyer and that Gavin was now his heir. The two went off then, to converse in private, and when Gavin emerged from his grandfather's study a couple of hours later he told Sally that his mind was made up and they would be moving to Greece before the year was out. She naturally guessed at what had transpired. George wanted Gavin to take over the running of the business; this being impossible from England, Gavin had decided to live permanently in Greece. 'Are you happy with this arrangement?' Gavin asked the following day when he had talked a Utile more about it to her. They were in George's huge car, Gavin at the wheel, on their way to the Asclepion, complete with a guide book, and a luncheon basket in the back of the car. 'I'm very happy,' Sally answered, and she not only meant that it was owing to the prospect of living in Greece. She knew she could be happy anywhere with her husband. 'I'm glad.' His reply was brief, because he was in a thoughtful mood. Sally leant back in her seat and relaxed, vaguely wondering
about the change which had come over her since her arrival in Greece. The past, and Colin, and her happy marriage ... they were fading fast from her conscious thoughts. She supposed they would remain in her memory, and be brought out at times, but, strangely, she found herself frowning at this idea. For the present and the future seemed all that mattered. Gavin had changed, too, and she cherished the hope that, one day, he would fall in love with her despite his unorthodox views about love not being a necessity of a successful marriage. Her reflections brought into focus the plight of Maroula, and when Gavin emerged from his thoughtful mood she brought the subject up. 'I'll do something,' was his surprising rejoinder. 'My cousin will be here again at the week-end. I asked George to invite her.' 'You did?' That looked hopeful! 'You're going to try and get her to talk about Davos?' 'Davos?' Gavin slanted her a glance. She had let the name slip out, but at this stage it was no longer important to be completely secretive about what Maroula had confided. 'So that's his name? I expect he's almost penniless, and if so the difficulties will be even greater than you imagine, Sally. You see, it will be taken for granted that he's interested only in the dowry, which will be substantial no matter who Maroula marries. Naturally it has to be larger if she marries a wealthy man like Petrakis, as he wouldn't accept her without a very large settlement. George won't make the dowry so attractive if she marries a poor man; nevertheless, he has to think of her position as his granddaughter.' 'You mean, it wouldn't do for her to live in a small house?'
'Exactly. Everybody knows she's the granddaughter of the millionaire Georgios Kleanthes, so it will be taken for granted that her standard of living will be reasonably high.' Sally frowned. But she said nothing. In any case, Gavin was pulling up, on a wide square sheltered by enormous cypress trees, and a short while later they were wandering towards the Sanctuary of Asclepius, Greek god of medicine and healing, situated on a site of unsurpassed beauty, being built in the Sacred Forest of the sungod Apollo, over two thousand five hundred years ago. Palms and cypresses and oleanders grew all about the actual site, while far beyond lay the vast plain that swept down to the Strait of Halicarnassus. Gavin consulted the guide book and came up with the information that the site had three levels, each having had a different purpose. 'We shall have to climb all those steps to get to the Temple,' he went on. 'Are you fit?' She smiled and moved a little closer to him. He took her hand in his; she felt its strength and its warmth ... and wondered that he could have such strange ideas about love. He seemed in this moment just as capable as any other man of showing emotions; his smile was almost tender, his eyes softer than she had ever seen them before. Sally felt a little ache in her throat, an ache of near despair at not being able to reveal that she loved him. She felt that he might repel any advances, and that would mar her happiness, not only for today but for a long time to come. 'You know,' mused Gavin after they had climbed to the top of the steps and were looking out over the tree- clothed plain, 'Hippocrates was certainly a man before his time. Look what he prescribed: exercise and fresh air, good unadulterated food, plenty
of rest. He was also the first man to denounce and overcome witchcraft and all related superstitions. He must have been a remarkable man for his time.' 'He was human, of course?' 'Human?' Gavin frowned at her in puzzlement. 'What do you mean?' Sally laughed a little self-deprecatingly. 'I get all mixed up with the Greek ancients, not knowing which were gods and which were mortals. I mean, if Hippocrates was a descendant of the god Asclepius who was a descendant of Apollo and, therefore, Zeus, then how could he have been a mortal?' 'The ancient Greeks were themselves a little muddled, from what I can see. They liked to believe that the great doctor Hippocrates was an offshoot of the god of medicine, so they put this in their mythology.' Sally shook her head, perplexed. 'They were so highly civilised and intelligent, and yet they really believed in these gods.' 'Are they much different from any others who, even today, believe in gods? Look at the Balinese peoples— they worship their stone images, which represent the numerous gods of their religion.' Sally considered this. 'It's all very fascinating,' was all she said, and for a quiet, companionable interlude they strolled about without speaking. The sun was hot on their faces and arms, the breeze wafted perfumes
lavishly tossed into the air by oleanders, jasmine and roses growing among the ruins of the ancient temples through which Sally and her husband were walking, hand in hand ... like true lovers, she thought. Eventually they returned to the car and after a short drive Gavin pulled up on a deserted road, and they picnicked in a field where flowers bloomed among the lush grass and where pomegranate trees grew wild. 'I shall love living here,' Sally murmured when, their lunch finished and the crockery cleared away, she and Gavin were sitting beneath a tree, enjoying the shade, and the breeze coming up from the sea., 'It's still so unspoiled, isn't it?' 'Parts of it are geared to tourism,' he answered, 'but on the whole Cos is, as you say, unspoiled.' As they sat there the sun began to sink, turning the sky into a tract of flame, and sending smouldering shadows over the hills and into the valley. The sea was a calm mirror of rose-coloured light, and over everything there was a sort of tranquil grandeur beautiful beyond the power of words to describe. Sally gave a tiny sigh when eventually Gavin decided it was time to go. 'What is it?' His voice was gentle and low in tone. Sally wondered if she were losing an opportunity, for it did seem that he might be in a frame of mind to receive a spontaneous expression of her love. But no! He was the one who must make the first advance. If he had changed in his attitude then obviously he would find some way of letting her know, of sending out a hint for her to take. No, she must never make the first approach, she decided firmly, squirming
inwardly at the picture of her own humiliation and his embarrassment should he not be ready to accept her love. And after all, she had nothing concrete from which to draw the conclusion that his attitude towards love had undergone any dramatic change. 'Nothing.' She sighed again, though, and then admitted that she was so comfortable and contented here that she could have stayed all night. 'We shall do it again,' he assured her, 'many times. There'll be plenty of opportunity of exploring the island once we're living here.' They got into the car and drove through the sunset lanes where sweet-smelling herbs and bushes filled the air with a timeless fragrance; it drifted in through the open windows of the car as if put there by a gentle spraying mechanism. 'Where shall we live?' Sally asked the prosaic question after a long moment of hesitancy. Having fallen in love with her husband she naturally wanted to be alone with him, in the intimacy of their own home, but she strongly suspected that Gavin was planning to move in with his grandfather. It came as a pleasant surprise when she heard him say, 'That's for us to decide, Sally. I thought that while we're here this time we might take a look at any villas that are on the market. If we don't find anything, and you'd rather we build our own, then we'll look for land.' 'I'd love to build our own,' returned Sally, quite unable to keep the excitement out of her voice. 'But where should we live in the meantime?'
'It might have to be with George. However, if we did find a suitable plot of land, then we could get the plans drawn up very quickly by an architect whom Grandfather knows, and the building could be going on while we're in England, preparing for the move.' 'It will take some months—the preparation for the move, I mean?' Gavin nodded. 'If everything's to be sold, yes, it will take months— probably three or four.' 'You'd sell everything?' 'Not all the furniture, but most of it.' He slanted her a glance. 'I've an idea you don't care much for it?' 'I have to admit,' she returned frankly, .'that it seems bulky, and some of it's not very attractive—not to me, that is.' 'Nor to me,' he admitted. 'It's been in the family for generation after generation and fits the Castle. That's about all that can be said for it. I feel I shall enjoy lighter, brighter things around me. Some of the silver and other antiques will come with us, and a little of the furniture.' Sally thought: we're talking together like any normal married couple who are planning a new home. There was nothing about Gavin that made her feel she ought not to offer an opinion, nothing of the arrogant master of the situation which, a short while ago, would have characterised his behaviour in all this planning. He said after a while,
'Have you any idea which part of the island you would like to live in? You've not seen a great deal, I know, but you have seen some of it.' 'I like the sea,' she told him. 'If there was a site on a hillside with a view down to the sea that would be heavenly.' He sent her an indulgent smile. 'We'll see what we can do,' he promised. 'And come to think of it, George owns land in various parts of the island. We'll ask him if he happens to have any with the advantages you mention.' 'His villa's beautiful. Can we have ours built on that plan, Gavin?' 'A good idea. I agree with you that his house is exceptional. You like the arches, I suppose, and the large high rooms?' 'Yes, and the patios and the shady courtyard with the fountain.' 'All can be done,' he told her gallantly, sending her a sidelong glance to see how she was taking it. 'Happy?' She had to swallow hard before replying; she so very much wanted to confess the real reason for her happiness. Instead, she said lightly, 'Very happy, Gavin. Who wouldn't be at the prospect of living in a lovely new house on a beautiful Greek island in the sun?' 'We shall have a flat or a villa in Athens,' he told her. 'There'll be some entertaining to do as regards the business. However, we can think about finding something in Athens later. For the present, it's important to get ourselves settled here, in Cos.'
George was delighted at the idea of having their own villa built, and he at once produced several maps which showed large plots of land marked in red. These were his, and to Sally's delight there was one which had just about everything she wanted—the flat plateau on a hillside lush with trees, the view to the sea—and in fact the land went right down to the beach, so that steps could be cut from the garden to the shore. 'This seems to be the one,' said Gavin, as pleased as Sally at finding just what they required. 'It's amazing that you happened to have exactly the right plot, George.' 'And it's not too far away from me, while at the same time we're not on top of one another.' 'Can we get planning permission without too much trouble?' Gavin wanted to know. 'Leave that to me.' The very way he said it seemed to give George's words a measure of authority. 'I know all the right people. Have your plans drawn up as soon as you like, Gavin, and leave me to get them passed. Your house might just be built by the time you've done all you have to do in England.' It was later, after dinner when Sally and Gavin were sitting alone on the patio, that she said in a troubled voice, 'Maroula, Gavin—what are you going to do? There isn't much time, remember.' 'I've said I'll do all I can. She'll be here tomorrow and I shall see that we have a little talk together.' 'Thank you very much.'
Gavin looked at her strangely. 'Don't bank on my being able to break the engagement,' he warned. 'I'm afraid you're going to be very upset if Maroula has to marry Petrakis in the end.' 'I am,' returned Sally promptly. 'She's far too nice to be condemned to a life of unhappiness.' 'Most Greek girls are resigned to the fact that they won't find happiness in marriage.' Sally's lip caught. She shook her head in protest. 'It's tragic!' she exclaimed angrily. 'Please, Gavin, don't let Maroula's life be spoiled.' The pleading in her voice seemed to touch him far more deeply than she would have expected. He frowned for a moment, and gave a small sigh. 'It's obvious that you have no idea just what a broken engagement means.' There was a hint of impatience in his tone, but Sally knew instinctively that his impatience was with the system of arranged marriages and not with her. The matter was dropped, but another brought up a few minutes later, with Gavin saying in a faintly troubled voice, 'As things have turned out—with our coming here to live shortly— I feel I ought not to have led George to believe that we're expecting a child. He's going to be very disappointed when it doesn't arrive, I'm afraid.' Sally said nothing for a space and then, averting her head, so that he would not see the colour that had risen to her face,
'It—it m-might arrive ...' 'What?' A small silence ensued as Gavin took this in. 'You mean that, Sally?' She nodded. 'I think so,' she whispered. 'But it's early yet to be— to be sure.' He rose from his chair and, coming to her, reached down to take her hand. She came up beside him, lifting her face. He bent his head and kissed her, more tenderly than ever before. 'Is it what you wanted, my dear?' he asked, holding her from him and looking into her face. 'Yes—of course.' 'Then we shall all be happy... very happy indeed.'
Maroula arrived before lunch the following day, and immediately after the meal she sought Sally out and asked her to walk with her in the garden. They went out, under the eyes of Gavin and the old man, into the sunlit grounds of the villa. 'Sally... I must have some help!' They had reached the privacy of a shrubbery and the Greek- girl stopped and swung round to face Sally. 'Davos and I are going to elope!', 'Elope!' Sally shook her head vigorously. 'No, you can't, Maroula! What about your grandfather? The shock would -'
'Why should I care about him, or anyone else for that matter? I love Davos and he loves me! We have no other course open to us but to run away! Sally -' Maroula grasped her hand with a sort of frenzied entreaty in the action. 'Will you help us? I beg of you -' 'I couldn't, Maroula,' broke in Sally gently, and in a voice husky with emotion. 'I wish I could, but it's impossible. In any case, it might not be necessary -' She stopped, biting her lip. She ought not to have made a slip like that. 'What do you mean?' Maroula, diverted, looked into Sally's face intently. 'What do you mean?' she said again. 'I—I shouldn't have -' Sally broke off, sagging with relief as Gavin came to them through the bushes. 'I didn't mean to eavesdrop,' he said sternly, his eyes on Maroula, 'but I did overhear enough to make me decide to interrupt. In any case,' he said to his wife, 'I intended to follow you when I saw you and Maroula going out. It was obvious what you were going out for. If you'd like to leave this to me now... ?' Gavin's voice trailed off as he saw Sally's expression of relief. 'I'll go,' she said quietly, aware that Maroula's face was registering a mixture of fear and puzzlement. Sally looked at Gavin as she turned, a plea in her eyes. She saw no softening in his, and she prayed that Maroula had not done herself irreparable harm by uttering that threat to elope. Such conduct would find no favour with Gavin, Sally felt sure. He had said himself that he was Greek enough to agree with the dowry system, and although Sally was convinced that his views had changed, she still thought he might
be so angry at the idea of Maroula's intended elopement that he would refuse to help her break her engagement to Petrakis. However, she was to have all her doubts swept away quite soon, for when she next saw Maroula the girl told her that Gavin had promised to have a talk with George and see what could be done about breaking the engagement. 'But George will want to see Davos first,' Maroula went on. 'I think George might consider him too poor.' 'Is he here now?' 'Yes, he came over for the week-end, to be near me. We are meeting tomorrow round by the headland. It is a lonely spot we have found many weeks ago.' And as Maroula had predicted, George wanted to see Davos. 'At least it's promising,' said Sally when Gavin told her. 'I felt sure George wouldn't even hear of a broken engagement.' 'He's far from happy. Petrakis is a good match— moneywise.' Sally made an impatient gesture but said nothing. Gavin went on to tell her that George was not quite so hard as he himself had believed. He thought a great deal about Maroula, and had showed deep concern when told by Gavin that she was unhappy. Gavin naturally omitted anything about Maroula's threat to run away with Davos, and had in fact gone out of his way to arouse his grandfather's sympathy. 'Do you think you've succeeded?' enquired Sally anxiously when he had finished speaking. 'Will he help her to marry the man of her choice?'
'We shall have to see. I've done all that's possible. The final decision must rest with George, though he knows how I feel about Petrakis.' For a fleeting moment Gavin's jaw tightened; Sally knew he was recalling the man's disgraceful conduct when he and Sally were dancing together. 'If Davos is all that he seems to be then he might make a good impression on George. We shall know by this time tomorrow.' 'Maroula is meeting him, and bringing him here?' 'Yes.' 'Wasn't George angry when he knew she had been seeing him?' 'I did my best to gloss it over.' 'You did?' If Sally expected an explanation of how Gavin managed this she was to be disappointed. 'You were very clever,' she said at length. 'I hope I was clever enough,' was all Gavin said to this. Sally smiled faintly at his reticence, and was wise enough not to ask any further questions. The following morning Maroula went off, returning about an hour later with a tall, handsome young man who was obviously ill at ease. Sally was in the garden, cutting flowers for the table, and Maroula introduced her to Davos. Sally liked him on sight— everything about him. His face was frank and open, his eyes clear and not afraid to look directly into hers. His handshake was reminiscent of Gavin's—the kind that hurt but in the nicest way. His English was impeccable, his dress without fault. Looking from him to Maroula, pale but beautiful, with her very dark hair and eyes, her youthful face and figure, Sally decided that no couple could be more suited than they.
There were a few polite exchanges of words before Maroula, looking far from optimistic, led Davos away in the direction of the front door of the villa. 'The suspense is awful,' Sally was saying to her husband an hour later. 'Why is he taking so long?' 'The fact that he's taking a long time is hopeful.' 'It is?' 'If George hadn't taken to Davos he'd have ordered him off the premises within ten minutes of his entering them.' Sally's heart leapt. If Gavin was right then Maroula's happiness was assured. 'Will there be trouble with Petrakis?' she asked. 'The greatest trouble, but I daresay George will pull something off. You see, if Maroula jilts him it will be an insult that will humiliate Petrakis, not only with his relatives but with everyone who knows him. Jilting just isn't done in Greece. However, Petrakis does suspect that I wasn't impressed with him and he might decide to retire gracefully and not make too much fuss.' Sally gave a sigh suddenly. 'We're ahead, aren't we, Gavin? George might not agree to Maroula's marrying ... Her voice trailed away as she saw Maroula and Davos coming from the house. 'They're ... smiling!' she breathed. Maroula waved, then the couple began to run towards where Sally and Gavin were standing, by the fountain.
'Davos is staying to lunch,' said Maroula simply. 'George has invited him.'
CHAPTER TEN SALLY was vitally aware of Gavin's hand at her elbow as they walked from the car to the massive front door of the Castle. So often he exhibited this care for her, this unexpected gallantry ... no, it was no longer unexpected, she corrected herself. She had become used to his little attentions and would have missed them if they were suddenly taken away. 'Well, we're home again.' Gavin looked down at her and smiled. 'I must admit that it will be a wrench when I finally leave the Castle for ever.' 'It's bound to be,' she agreed. 'Are you quite sure, Gavin, that you won't have any regrets?' They were entering the Great Hall, being welcomed by the thin smile of Carson as he waited to take their coats. 'Quite sure,' he answered, without hesitation. 'Many things have combined to make me want to leave here.' He paused as they made their way to the sitting-room. 'One reason is you, Sally. This isn't the kind of place in which you'll ever be really comfortable. I've known it from the first, but at first it didn't really matter -' He stopped abruptly and she realised that he had been talking to himself, that those last few words were not meant for her. She had caught them, nevertheless, and it seemed to her that they were vitally linked with the change that had taken place in Gavin's attitude, not only towards her, but towards life in general and their future together in particular. His whole outlook was different, yet he had never come anywhere near to falling in love with her; this was proved by the absence of any real show of affection. Sometimes this would result in her having misgivings, doubts as to whether her love would remain forever unrequited. At other times
she would be determinedly optimistic, assuring herself that it was only a matter of time before love came to him as it had come to her. The Castle looked grim and forbidding from the outside; it seemed little better inside. True, a few of the rooms were pleasantly cosy, but they represented only a small proportion of the number of rooms in the Castle. 'It's very different from George's villa, isn't it?' The question escaped her while they were having dinner that evening. The dining-room was attractive, but her thoughts were on her bedroom with its bulky furniture and its bleak lack of comfort. She looked up at Carson; even he was dull and stolid in comparison to George's smiling Greek manservants. 'There's no comparison,' agreed Gavin. 'This castle was built for defence, while George's villa was built for pleasure.' As ours will be built for pleasure, mused Sally, and hoped it would not be too long before the move was made and they had settled in Greece. The following morning she went to see Mr Endersley. Minna was with him, having moved in prior to their marriage, which was in a month's time. Minna greeted Sally effusively, wanting to know how she had enjoyed Cos. 'It was wonderful,' replied Sally, not mentioning that she and Gavin would soon be living there. 'I loved every minute of the holiday.' 'I knew you would. I want Robert to go there for our honeymoon, but he says we can't afford one. Never mind, we might make it next year.'
Sally said, 'Would you like my bungalow when you're married? Gavin says you can have it.' She stopped, feeling it was wrong to refer to her husband by his Christian name. And yet she could not refer to him as Mr Huntly. She sensed that the two older people were faintly embarrassed and was troubled by it. Everyone on the estate had been used to calling her Sally, but since her marriage she was invariably addressed by her married name of Mrs Huntly. 'I would like you to have the carpets and curtains,' she added when neither of them spoke. 'As a gift, you mean?' said Minna unbelievingly. 'Yes, as a gift. I have no need of them now.' 'But that's too generous!' Minna shook her head. 'We'd love the bungalow, but -' 'What about my roses?' cut in Mr Endersley, obviously feeling it was time he had a word to say. 'It's taken me years and years to get them growing like that, all over the house.' 'You can grow some more, love,' Minna assured him gently. 'Just think of having a modern bungalow! I do feel you ought to forget your roses and accept Mr Huntly's generous offer.' Sally wished she could tell them that she and her husband were leaving the Castle, but Gavin had not given her permission to do so, and therefore she kept silent. However, if Minna and her fiancé did decide to accept the bungalow, it would remain theirs, since whoever bought the estate would have to leave the tenancies as they were when he took over the property.
Sally had the key, which she offered to Minna. But both Minna and Mr Endersley insisted that she should accompany them to the bungalow. 'But you must have a cup of tea first, Sally -' Mr Endersley broke off, shaking his head a little ruefully. 'I feel I ought to show you some respect, but I'm so used to calling you Sally that it would be difficult for me to begin calling you Mrs Huntly.' 'I'd hate it,' responded Sally promptly. She was well aware that Gavin would not approve of her being addressed by her Christian name by his employees, but as he would never know, and as it would not be for long anyway, she preferred to leave things as they were. 'Please forget the respect,' she ended, taking a seat at the kitchen table. Minna soon produced the tea and they all sat round the table chatting as they drank it. Minna talked about Maria, who had been married a fortnight. Tim was very happy, always talking about his new daddy who, it seemed, was delighted with his ready-made son. As she talked everything came back to Sally—Maria's confession, her own acceptance of the fact that her husband would never have been hers had Maria wanted him. Then with a further backswitch of memory Sally was recalling the idyllic days of her life with Colin, and a wistful shadow settled in her soft grey eyes in spite of the fact that she no longer wanted to recapture those memories. 'Of course,' Minna was saying, cutting into Sally's reflections, 'Minna and Stan have had an excellent start. What with the house being bought for them by your husband, and him giving them money for the furnishing of it -' Minna stopped abruptly as she saw Sally's start of surprise. 'What is it, dear?'
'Nothing...' Sally's immediate response had been to say that Maria had told her that Stan had the money saved for the buying of a house, but Sally drew back the words in time, realising that they could lead to questions she was unable to answer. Why, she frowned, should Maria have lied about the money for the house? Already she had owned to being helped by Gavin, at the time she was having the baby, and since, through her father, whose wages had been increased when Tim arrived on the scene. It was exceedingly puzzling that Maria should have lied, decided Sally, feeling the presence of some mystery. It wasn't as if she, Sally, had been married to Gavin at that time, so there seemed no logical reason why Maria should not have admitted that Gavin was buying them the house. These thoughts led to another: why should Gavin give Maria all that money anyway? A house was expensive, and generous as Gavin might be towards Maria, it did seem that such a gift was out of all proportion. But not only had Gavin provided the house, he had furnished it as well! And there were other puzzling aspects to the case, Sally suddenly realised. How was it that Maria had discussed her private affairs with Gavin? She must have been seeing him, and to have told him of her association with Stan and that she was contemplating marriage. At that time, though, Gavin was the austere landlord, distant and aloof, using his bailiff as mediator all the while in his dealings with his tenant farmers and his employees. It was not feasible that some kind of intimacy had existed between Gavin and Maria ... and yet facts proved that it must have done ... Minna was ready to go to view the bungalow and for the present Sally forced her mind to concentrate on other things. She took the couple over to the house, aware of a measure of nostalgia as she inserted the key in the door. Sunshine poured in when she drew
back the curtains. Memories came too, and despite her love for her husband she found herself dwelling once again on the happy times she had spent here with Colin. 'It's lovely!' Minna was excited, and happy. 'You must agree to take it over,' she told her fiancé. 'You can bring a lot of rose cuttings and put them here, so that they'll eventually grow around the door. Oh, Sally, I think you must have had it so cosy and warm!' Sally nodded. 'We had rather nice furniture,' she admitted, but with a hint of modesty. 'We chose almost every piece separately.' 'I love the carpets and curtains.' Minna moved to finger the curtains. 'What excellent taste you must have.' Sally thought of the house which she and Gavin were planning to have in Cos, and felt she would have enormous scope for her imaginative abilities. 'I'm definitely leaving the carpets and curtains,' she said, 'so you might as well accept them—if you're having the bungalow, that is. If not, I'd still like you to have them, as it's no use my leaving them for strangers.' 'No... you're quite right.' Minna was standing at the door leading to the bright little kitchen, and her eyes were glowing. 'Come on,' she beckoned to her fiancé, 'and see this! I'll never want to be out of it!' 'Very nice,' volunteered Mr Endersley in his quiet, unemotional way. 'You'd have a splendid view from your window.' The view was to me Castle on its rise, and beyond to the sunlit heights of the Cheviots. Even in winter the view was spectacular, Sally recalled.
She had loved to see the snow on the hills, especially on those rare days when the sky was blue and the sunlight created millions of diamonds out of the snow. 'I think we shall accept this bungalow,' decided Minna, glancing at Mr Endersley. 'The cottage is cosy and all that, but there's a lot of work in it. Here we'd have all the modern conveniences we could wish for.' Although Mr Endersley muttered something about his roses, he was won over, and the couple began planning where their furniture would go. Sally heard Minna say softly, 'We'll make it a little nest to be proud of, won't we?' A little nest to be proud of... It seemed so long since Colin had said something very much like that. Sally turned away, leaving the couple planning, and went out into the sunshine, her eyes seeking the Castle, grim and gaunt even in the brilliance of the June sun. Who would want it for a home? she wondered, but she supposed someone would buy it. Certainly the agent whom Gavin had employed to conduct the auction was optimistic about the sale.
For the next few days Sally found herself dwelling on information which Minna had imparted to her so unwittingly. It seemed to tie up with certain incidents which had struck Sally forcibly in the past. For one thing, Maria had not seemed in the least surprised to learn that the lord of the manor was intending to marry Sally. Everyone else was very surprised indeed, as well they might be ... but Maria had received the news almost as if she had expected it.
At one stage Sally had toyed with the idea of asking her husband outright about his relationship with Maria, but had refrained, strongly suspecting that he would refuse to answer the kind of questions she would have to ask. And so in the end she tried to put the vexing matter from her mind, admitting that to dwell on it like this was unprofitable, to say the least.
It was a week later that she bumped into Maria and her new husband in town. Maria made the introductions; Sally was a little surprised to see Stan out in the middle of the morning, but Maria explained that he was taking a few days off work in order to decorate two of the rooms in their house. 'We're busy choosing wallpaper and paint,' Maria went on happily. 'Tim is having one of the rooms, so we're hoping to get a paper with animals and toys on it; you know the kind I mean?' 'Yes, I do. It should please Tim. How is he? Minna mentioned that he goes to play school now that you're living nearer to town. Does he like it?' 'He loves it. He's always asking about you, Sally. He misses you, but he's very happy, and so am I.' 'I'm glad for you, Maria.' They stood chatting for a few minutes and then Stan said impulsively, 'If you're going to be in town for a while, let's meet and have lunch together.' 'Yes, I'd like that,' smiled Sally. 'Where do you usually go?'
'Only to the Bridge Cafe. It's nice, though, if a bit crowded during the rush hour. We get there at twelve prompt and are able to get a table quite easily.' 'I'll meet you there at noon, then,' promised Sally, and they parted, to go their separate ways. Sally finished her shopping in good time and it was just on noon when she entered the cafe. Already it was filling up and she had to stand aside for a few minutes waiting to hang up her coat. She glanced around, but the high backs of the bench seats hid the people from her view. It was while she stood there, waiting, that she suddenly heard voices and realised that Maria and Stan were no further away than the first of the bench seats. '... yes, she does look happy. I only hope she never finds out what Gavin did in order to make her forget Colin.' Sally's mouth went dry suddenly, and her nerves became taut. What was Maria talking about? 'His action benefited us,' Stan was saying. 'He must have been very keen on marrying her to have offered you the money for a house in exchange for your telling her the truth about Colin -How did he come to know that Colin was Timothy's father?' 'I told him—I was upset at the time, and as he was offering me money I suppose I was in a confiding mood -' 'Are you hanging your coat up?' A woman's voice interrupted what Sally was hearing and automatically she turned, her coat in her hand. 'You seem to have been waiting ages,' the voice continued. 'I'll follow you now that the queue has thinned.'
Sally hung up her coat, every movement still automatic. She stood for a while staring at Maria before realising that Stan was standing too, waiting for her to take the seat they had saved for her. 'Thank you,' she murmured, her mind working slowly as it put all the bits of the jigsaw into place, and at length giving her a clear picture. Gavin had wanted something and he meant to get it no matter how much she was hurt in the process! He it was who had shattered her dreams, brought her lovely memories to nothing, made her marriage seem a mockery, her happiness stolen. He had lived up to his reputation of ruthlessness, having no more concern for her feelings than any of his bloodthirsty ancestors would have done. In this moment of disillusionment her love turned to a hatred that threatened to consume her whole being. She vaguely heard Maria say, 'What are you having, Sally? The fish is always good here.' 'Yes, I'll have the fish.' 'Is anything wrong?' 'No, nothing.' Sally picked up the menu that Maria had put down. The words meant nothing to her and she placed it on the table again. She thought: If Gavin hadn't schemed in that unscrupulous way then I would still be cherishing lovely memories of Colin... It never occurred to Sally that her mind was becoming warped, that she was allowing her anger to distort the beauty which had come into her life as a direct result of Gavin's action. All she could accept was that he had used her for his own ends, that he had stopped at nothing in order to enforce his own desires. He had used money as a tool ... and what about Maria? Sally squirmed with humiliation at the idea of the girl's being instrumental in furthering Gavin's nefarious scheme. Sally felt that she could have found an
excuse for him if he had loved her, but as things were she could find no excuse for him at all. How she managed to get through the meal she would never know, but at last she was saying goodbye to Maria and her husband outside the cafe. She went to the car park and drove herself home, her mind frozen by the knowledge that had come to her. Would she mention anything of it to Gavin? Sally decided to have a showdown with him, for she knew it would be impossible to keep her knowledge to herself.
The weeks went by with the sort of slow monotony which always accompanies the sale of a vast property. The agent and his assistants appeared from time to time; prospective purchasers, catalogues in hand, would wander about the Castle accompanied either by someone from the estate agents or by one of the servants. Many of these people had no interest other than curiosity. With no intention of buying they would for all that seize the opportunity of looking round the Castle, which was one of the more important stately homes in the county. Sally, estranged from her husband since the day she had put her knowledge before him, accusing him of making use of her to suit his ends, spent much of her time in a tiny room which she had furnished for herself from her own furniture which had been brought from the bungalow. Gavin had become more like his old self, grim, forbidding, with that harshness on his face that had seemed to disappear altogether while they were in Greece. He had made no attempt to deny having paid Maria to reveal what she knew about Colin. He had said that whatever his intention in the beginning, he was convinced that his action had been justified by
the fact of Sally's having forgotten Colin and found herself capable of enjoying what life could give. But Sally, with her mind still warped, with her obstinate resolve to try and recapture her memories, had not listened to anything Gavin had to say. She told him flatly that any intimacy between them was finished, threatening to leave him if he went against her wishes. She was having his child, she told him, and she would remain with him until it was born. After that, she did not know. She might leave him in any case, and take her child with her. Gavin had said little, and she thought he was afraid of antagonising her. But there were times when he frightened her, when she felt he would one day decide to show her who was master. He never discussed the new villa with her, but one day he had left photographs lying on a table in the hall and Sally had looked at them. The villa was half-built already, and it looked as if it was going to be an architect's dream. The gardens were being landscaped at the same time as the building was going on, and these too looked very beautiful and well planned. Sally knew that Gavin was in constant touch with his grandfather, who was supervising the building and the landscaping, and it was inevitable that she experienced deep regret that she was not being consulted in any way at all. Gavin was building the villa for himself, she decided, and wondered desolately if she would ever even go with him to Greece when the time came for him to move. At last the day of the sale of the Castle arrived and Sally went off into town, wandering about on her own and gradually becoming more and more depressed as the hours went by. On her return Gavin met her in the Great Hall. The Castle had been sold to a firm of hoteliers, he told her casually. The sale of the furniture would be in a fortnight's time.
'It's going to be an hotel?' she asked. 'Yes, I expect so.' Sally looked at him. 'You don't mind?' His face was an expressionless mask as he replied, 'Not in the least.' He seemed as depressed as she, if his voice was anything to go on, thought Sally. But from his face she could read nothing; his mouth was set, his jaw tight. 'I suppose it was far too big for anyone to keep up as a private residence,' she said, more to end the silence than anything else. The long silences that now fell between them were unbearable and invariably Sally would try to break them with something trivial. 'We shall be moving in about three weeks' time.' Gavin's voice smote her by its cold civility. 'What are you intending to do with your furniture?' She shook her head, her mouth quivering. 'I don't know -' She swallowed hard. 'I really don't know!' 'You will want to keep it, you think?' His dark eyes were as cold as his voice. Sally shook her head. 'No ... I shall have to let it go ...' 'And with it your memories?' The sneer was evident, but beneath it there was surely a hint of bitterness, she thought.
'You're being ... cruel.' 'Which is characteristic. I seem to remember that you said I'd treated you cruelly when I made that bargain with Maria.' 'About the furniture,' said Sally, wanting to get away from anything too personal. 'Perhaps I can put it in the sale—with yours.' 'It hasn't been listed. It's too late for that.' She felt like crying, but it had nothing to do with the furniture. She wondered if her deep dejection lately was the result of her condition. She hoped so, as then she could be sure that it would pass eventually. 'Wh-what can I do with it, then?' Gavin shrugged indifferently. 'You can take it with you, and furnish yourself a room, as you've done here. You'll then be able to sit and brood among it, thinking of the past -' 'Don't!' she cried fiercely. 'Do you have to torture me?' 'You're torturing yourself,' he told her contemptuously, and without giving her the chance to respond he turned on his heels and strode away. She stood for a long while, her small hands clasped together, her face white, her lovely eyes filled with tears. At last she moved, to go out into the courtyard, and then on and on, through the extensive grounds, wandering as she had on that night when Gavin had found her, soaked to the skin, and had brought her into the Castle and undressed her before putting her to
bed. How little she had known then that she would fall in love with him. But she had fallen in love with him, and no matter how she tried to change that love to hate she could never succeed. She would love him for ever, but she would never forgive him for what he had done. That it was all most illogical she had to admit; that it was bringing her unhappiness also could not be denied. She wondered how she would go on when they were living on Cos, with George not too far away, and having all the time to put on an act for his benefit. A sigh fell from her lips. Thinking about her future was too much of an effort. She wanted only to reach a state of mind where she did not have the power to think at all.
It was hours later that she realised she was lost. She had wandered aimlessly into the hills, walking for miles and not bothering to make a mental note of landmarks as she went deeper and deeper into the wild, windswept country, often coming upon crags, sheer and frightening, or dark mysterious woods where even bird-calls shot terror into her for a few seconds. Which way? Her mind refused to cope; she thought of Gavin and in her self-pity decided he would not trouble to come and look for her. The sun began to go down, but even then she was too lethargic to panic. She was vaguely aware that she was bound to get back to the Castle some time, and it did not seem to matter in the least just when that would be. She trudged on, even standing to admire a chattering burn whose waters were tongues of flame in the glow from the lowering sun. The whole sky was on fire, its dramatic flare of colour spreading-
on to the hills and even into the ravines, polishing their sides with fiery bronze. It was inevitable that she would become exhausted; she sat down at last, wondering how long this numbed feeling would survive. Surely she would come to her senses before very long and begin seriously to make an attempt to find her way home. If darkness should fall... But it was June, and the days were long... She yawned lazily and leant back against a tree. All was peaceful, with the merest zephyr of a breeze to caress her face, a scented breeze coming from the pine forest away to the west. It was dark when she awoke, and now she did experience a real feeling of urgency which mingled with the fear of being out all night on her own, so far from home. How far? She had walked for miles, but she could easily have been going around in circles. However, she knew she must be a fair distance from the Castle; she knew also that it would be a miracle if she found her way back now that it was dark. Would Gavin organise a search party? She felt her heart lurch as it was borne in upon her that, owing to her veiled threats, he might conclude that she had left him and, instead of looking for her, he might decide he would have to wait until she contacted him—if and when she had the desire to do so. She had been picking her way through a thicket of small rowans, gorse and ferns, but she stopped, terrified now and futilely telling herself that she had been a fool to wander on without a thought to getting back. She went on again, caught her foot in a tangle of twining tree roots and went headlong on to her face, crying out with pain as her arms and legs were torn by the vicious thorns of the gorse and brambles. Picking herself up, she stumbled on again, aware that a damp mist was drifting up from a ravine far below. The silence was no longer a balm; on the contrary, it added to her
terror. It was intense, unnatural, weird—like something primeval and outside the comprehension of man. She continued on her way, hoping to see a light that would lead her to habitation, but suddenly she found herself on unstable ground, with her feet slipping from beneath her as she stepped on some loose rocks, and before she could even try to grasp at a branch of a tree for support she was plunging downwards ...
The clinical smell of a hospital ward assailed her nostrils as she opened her eyes. Voices, subdued but brisk ... and a man's voice that ought to have been harsh and strong, but that was husky and deeply anxious. 'Is she coming round, Nurse?' 'Yes, at last.' 'It's a miracle that she's not received any serious injuries.' 'It is indeed.' Sally heard no more. And the next time she regained consciousness her ears caught that husky voice again, but this time it seemed a long way off and she could not distinguish the words that were being uttered. Gradually, though, her eyes began to focus, her ears to pick up sounds much easier than before. She stared up into Gavin's face, noticing the grey streaks at the sides of the mouth, the drawn lines denoting anxiety, the uncontrolled pulsation of a nerve in one sunbronzed cheek.
She said, the ache of loss in her voice, 'The baby ... I fell a long way ...' 'You did fall a long way, and our baby -' He stopped, his words cut by emotion. 'We've lost it, dear,' he managed at last. Dear ... Spoken with such tenderness that Sally could not possibly mistake what lay behind it. In any case, her husband's expression told her all she wanted to know. 'I shouldn't have gone off like that.' Tears welled up in her eyes as she thought of her loss. 'It was so stupid.' She knew now that her mind had been warped, that she had been so filled with bitter resentment towards Gavin that she had entered into a frenzy of determination to recapture her memories. She looked at him, her mouth quivering uncontrollably. 'It's a punishment,' she began, but before she could continue Gavin's fingers touched her mouth in a tender yet masterful gesture. When he withdrew it she merely asked, 'How did you find me?' 'We had search parties out -' He stopped as a nurse came into the ward, and Sally did not see him again for some time. But he was waiting outside and eventually he was sitting by her bed again. 'I've only got a few bruises,' she said. 'I've been lucky—really.' 'Incredibly lucky -' He broke off and once again seemed to be battling with his emotions. 'Sally, beloved, if anything serious had happened to you, my life wouldn't have been worth living.' How different his attitude was now from what it was when he had first proposed to her! She shone up at him, all her love revealed in her eyes.
'You love me?' It was a statement, but put as a question because she was eager for an answer. Gavin's mouth twisted with the vestige of a smile. He looked a little tired and drawn, but the harshness she had seen on his features of late was totally absent. 'Yes,' he replied simply, 'I love you.' Her mouth quivered; she tried to sit up so that she could be closer to him, but his hands pushed her back on to the pillow. She said absurdly, because she could not frame the words she really wanted to utter, 'You said you could never fall in love—or words to that effect, if you remember?' 'I remember, darling, that both you and I have said things which we've now come to regard as incredibly stupid.' What an admission from the austere and arrogant lord of the manor, the noble master of Warendyke! 'Gavin...' 'Yes, my dearest?' 'I'm sorry -' She stopped and frowned. 'It isn't adequate, is it, for what I've done? I loved you and yet I wanted to hate you for making that bargain with Maria. You see, dearest, I realised on Cos that I didn't want to recapture memories, that I had too much to live for now that I'd fallen in love with you.' 'You fell in love with me on Cos ...' It was a statement, and Gavin ignored the rest of what Sally had said. 'I guessed, of course, and yet I wouldn't allow myself to be sure. I fell in love with you on
Cos, and 1 ought to have taken a chance and told you—but I suppose it was those memories. I wasn't sure that you'd really put them aside -' He stopped and a frown knit his brows. 'Let's forget everything that's unimportant, shall we?' he went on after a pause. 'After all, my love, there are far pleasanter things to remember.' 'Like it was on Cos, for instance?' 'Like it was on Cos,' he returned. 'Do you know, Sally, that when we were on the Asclepion I—I wanted to take you in my arms and tell you I loved you.' She gave a small sigh, and murmured regretfully, 'I felt the same, Gavin. I desperately wanted you to know how I was feeling.' 'I wish you had.' 'I was afraid you might repulse me.' His eyes were tender as he said, 'I would never have repulsed you, my darling—' although he went on to admit ruefully, 'there was a time when I would have done.' 'But you've changed,' she said happily. 'More than I would ever have believed. I can't think, now, that I could ever have contemplated marriage without love.' Sally said nothing; she was feeling tired, and one large bruise on her hip was giving her pain. Gavin, swift to notice the change, brought the nurse, and, ignoring Sally's protests, he left her, this time to go home to the Castle where he worked late into the night
in his study, for he was just as anxious as Sally to move to Cos as soon as possible. And despite the accident they managed to be away in the time Gavin had specified, their furniture and other effects going on ahead by almost a week. 'It's ... sad ...' Sally stood on the forecourt and stared up at the high turrets of the Castle. 'An hotel, Gavin. After all its glory and its history, and the illustrious people who have lived and died within its walls.' He came to stand beside her, close to the well-packed car which they were taking with them, driving to Athens and then taking a ferry to Cos. 'Many people will now be able to enjoy staying in it,' he said. 'Far better for it to be an hotel than to be allowed to fall into decay, as so many castles are doing.' She looked up at him, into a face which, because of its change, seemed to be becoming more handsome every day. 'You must have some regrets,' she protested. 'None, my Sally,' he answered, and she knew he told the truth even before he went on to add, 'Do you remember, love, that I said it hadn't mattered at first that you might not like the Castle as a home?' Sally nodded and he continued, 'Didn't it strike you that the words "at first" might be significant?' 'No—er—yes, but I didn't understand what you meant.' 'I meant that it did matter now. I cared so much about you that your happiness was of paramount importance. The Castle here is
no fit setting for my lovely wife, so we would have moved anyway.' And perhaps, she mused, Gavin had also been thinking that he had better take her away from those familiar things which were so closely connected with Colin. Yet he need not have worried; he was her husband, loved and cherished above anyone she had ever known ... yes, above Colin, for Colin had never really been hers, not hers alone, as Gavin was, and always would be. 'Come, my love -' He took her hand and led her to the car. 'We've reached a bend in the road—our first. There will be others, which we shall take as we come to them, take together, without regrets for what we might be leaving behind.' His eyes lifted to the turrets, sharp against the sky. He turned his back presently, and never looked round again. Sally did not move as he expected her to, but stood waiting for his kiss. With a little laugh he read her wish and, sweeping her into his arms, sought her eager lips with his. And for a little while they stayed like that, locked in each other's arms. Then Gavin held her from him, to look tenderly into her eyes. She smiled, took one last fleeting glance at the Castle, and got into the car. Gavin got in beside her and a few moments later they were rolling along the tree-lined drive, the Castle of Warendyke grim and gaunt behind them.