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He said with a sort of deadly calm,

‘I’m going to see her.’

‘It’s no good crashing in.’

He walked across to the window and came back again.

‘No-you’re right. I’ll see her here. Ring up and tell her to come round. Don’t say anything about me. Just get her to come.’

‘She’ll know you’re here.’


‘I told her. I tried to get her to come and meet the train.’

‘What did she say?’

‘She said it was too late.’

Lila’s voice came to her with its plaintive note-‘All the invitations… three hundred presents…’ You couldn’t say that to Bill.

He said sharply,

‘It wouldn’t be too late if she was walking up the aisle! If I don’t see her anywhere else I’ll see her there! You’ll ring her up, and you’ll tell her I’m here. If she wants a scene I’ll come round and make one. If she doesn’t want a scene she’ll come here. Tell her that!’

The telephone stood on one of Cousin Rhoda’s gimcrack tables, its utilitarian outline disguised by a simpering doll with spreading green and lavender skirts which were rather the worse for the London grime. As Ray dialled she had the feeling that the numbers which she was releasing one by one were like birds flying-the like birds which had been released from the ark, floating in turmoil and tempest. The fantastic image passed through her mind and was gone. It left her with a sense of inevitability. Bill had told her to ring up, and she had rung, and now everything that was going to happen would happen.

The click of the receiver being lifted, and Palmer saying ‘Hullo!’ Her own voice quite smooth and steady.

‘Good evening, Palmer. It’s Ray Fortescue. Can I speak to Miss Lila?’

The line was very clear. Bill, standing behind her, could hear Palmer sniff. They could both hear her say,

‘They’ve gone down into the country, Miss Lila and her ladyship. A week-end party at Vineyards.’ She hung up. Bill said,

‘What’s Vineyards? Whitall’s place?’



She told him.

He said, ‘Thanks,’ and went out of the room without another word. The door of the flat fell to behind him. Ray stood there and was afraid.


Vineyards lay in the lap of the Downs. There was woodland to the right and to the left, with the house in a clear space between and the ground falling from terrace to terrace full in the eye of the sun. The site was much older than the house. There had been a Roman villa there. It was a Roman who had planted the first vines on those sunny slopes. The bomb which struck the third terrace had brought to light a tesselated pavement deep down under the soil. There was no sign of war damage now, but the painted tiles were displayed in the County museum. After the Romans had gone and the Normans had come in there had been a religious foundation, and monks had worked on the vines with sleeves rolled up and gowns hitched out of the way. Their house had gone as the Roman villa had gone, swept away by fire after the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII. Elizabeth gave the demesne to Humphrey de Lisle, and he built on it a simple beautiful house with which he and five generations of de Lisles were vastly content. The vines languished and were done away with, all except the famous one on the house, and, sole survivor of the lower vine-yards, another giant which hung all one side of the bottom terrace with graceful leaves and clusters of pale green grapes. The de Lisles petered out like the vines. The last daughter of the house took the property into the Wootton family, who added a pillared front and ruined the Elizabethan hall with a marble staircase in the Italian style, complete with caryatids holding lamps. They also built on right and left, and presently ruined themselves. Vineyards was sold, and sold again. During the nineteenth century it changed hands four times. In 1940 it was requisitioned by the Air Ministry.

Six years later Herbert Wbitall bought it and began to set it in order. Adrian Grey, who was neither secretary, architect nor steward, but an infomal blend of all three, considered that they had made a pretty good job of it. The terraces went down in beauty, and the house had lost some of its excrescences. Only in the matter of the marble staircase had Herbert Whitall been quite intractable. He actually liked the beastly thing.

Discerning this unpalatable fact, Adrian, a peaceful soul, had sighed and put away his beautiful drawn reconstruction of the original oak stair going up nobly to the gallery which ran round three sides of the hall and served the bedroom wings. He was a tall, thin man with the scholar’s stoop which five years of military service had failed to correct. He had been wounded, a long time in hospital with a leg injury which would not heal, and finally relegated to light duty. For the rest he was forty years old, of a kindly and gentle disposition, and inclined towards peace with all men-even with Herbert Whitall, who sometimes tried him to the limit. Just lately it had once or twice occurred to him that the limit might be past. If this were to happen, he would find other interests and he was fortunate in possessing a modest private income, but he would miss Vineyards very much.

He stood on the upper terrace and looked away to a distant glimpse of the sea. The evenings were beginning to draw in. There was still sunlight, but it had a golden autumn look like the leaves which gilded the dark mass of woodland on either side. This terrace was a suntrap. He set a knee on the low marble balustrade and found it warm to the touch. There was no wind stirring. The night would be clear, and tomorrow would be fine again. This autumn weather was the best of all the year.

He went on looking away towards the sea and finding it good to be alone. House-parties were not much in his line, and he would have to entertain Lady Dryden, who always made him feel as if he had nothing to say. It did not matter of course, because she could, and did, do all the talking herself-which ought to be a relief, but in fact gave him the feeling of being out in a very high wind.

He had got as far as this in his thoughts, when a very faint sound made him turn his head. Lila Dryden had come through one of the long windows which still stood wide to the terrace. She wore a grey flannel coat and skirt and a white jumper, and she was bare-headed. Her pale gold hair was the only colour about her until the gold lashes lifted and he saw the forget-me-not blue of her eyes.

She came over and sat on the balustrade.

‘They’re talking,’ she said.


‘About me. I wish they wouldn’t.’

She had known Adrian Grey for almost as long as she could remember. He had planned and built a marvellous doll’s house for her when she was seven years old. Grown-up people generally tried to make you do something you didn’t want to do. But not Adrian. He always tried to find out what you did want to do, then he helped you to do it. It gave you a very safe, restful kind of feeling. She was twenty-two now, but she had never had cause to change that seven-year-old opinion. People wanted things and they pushed until they got them. They said it was for your own good, or that you owed it to them, or that they were in love with you, but it all came the same in the end-they pushed, and you had to give way. Only Adrian didn’t push. He listened, and he was kind.

He was being kind now. He said,

‘Never mind, my dear.’

The blue eyes were lifted. They had a wincing look.

‘It’s Aunt Sybil-why does she want to make me?’

He said very gently indeed,

‘What is she making you do?’

‘Why does she want me to marry Herbert?’

‘Don’t you want to?’

Her eyes were bright with tears. She shook her head.

‘I don’t want to marry anyone. I’m frightened.’

He sat down beside her on the parapet.

‘Look here, my dear, don’t you think you’ve just got the wind up? You know my sister Marian-the one with the jolly husband and four boys. Well, two days before her wedding she came to me and said she couldn’t go through with it, and I must tell Jack. She said she knew she was a wretch and her name would be mud, but she couldn’t marry him, and that was that. So at last I went and told him. He burst out laughing and said, “We’ll soon see about that!” Well, as soon as she saw him she flung her arms round his neck and began to cry, and said she thought she wasn’t ever going to see him again. I went away and left them to it. Afterwards, when I asked her what she meant by making a fool of herself and me, she just laughed and said it was stage fright and I oughtn’t to have taken any notice. Now don’t you think-’