Summary: A crushed Mary-Lou meets up with the Bettanys again. Set three years or so after Prefects.
Categories: Ste Therese's House Characters: David Russell, Jack Maynard, Mary-Lou Trelawney, OC, Rix Bettany
School Period: Future
School Name: Chalet School
Genre: Family, Friendship, Het, Romance
Series: A Bettany Saga
Chapters: 12 Completed: Yes
Word count: 33877 Read: 34013
Published: 20 Feb 2014 Updated: 21 Feb 2014
This was my first ever piece of CS fanfic from 2005. I am polishing it a little as I post. It is complete and I just need to post the chapters which I will try to do as quickly as possible!
It is in the CBB archives but the formatting has made it difficult to read there.
1. Chapter 1 by Mia
2. Chapter 2 by Mia
3. Chapter 3 by Mia
4. Chapter 4 by Mia
5. Chapter 5 by Mia
6. Chapter 6 by Mia
7. Chapter 7 by Mia
8. Chapter 8 by Mia
9. Chapter 9 by Mia
10. Chapter 10 by Mia
11. Chapter 11 by Mia
12. Chapter 12 by Mia
“I am sorry, Mary-Lou, but I just don’t think it’s working out.”
Mary-Lou Trelawney stared at Gerard, frozen with disbelief. When he’d telephoned her at the museum to suggest lunch at the Savoy, she’d wondered if he was going to ask her to marry him. Now he was going to end their relationship? And in the most public place possible?
“I-I don’t understand,” she said, placing her gin and tonic carefully back onto the table and staring at him, her blue eyes wide open with disbelief.
He winced, “I am sorry, honestly. We’ve had some great times… I don’t want you to think I’m not grateful and that I don’t love you. You know I do. But – well, it’s Louise. She’s threatened to take the children away to France if I carry on seeing you.”
“I see.” Mary-Lou said, quietly. Inside she felt anything but calm.
Their waiter arrived to take away the plates from their first course. The wine waiter refilled Mary-Lou’s wine glass and she practically snatched it from his hands.
“Steady on, old thing,” Gerard said in alarm, as she drained the glass and slammed it so hard onto the table that it cracked. The restaurant was full and people at nearby tables were starting to stare.
“It’s been two years, Gerard. You told me that you'd left your wife. You told me you were already separated! I thought you were going to ask me to marry you.”
“Mary-Lou, please. I never said –“
“Do you know how stupid I feel?” Mary-Lou, to her horror, felt tears sliding down her cheeks.
Gerard glared at the other diners, then turned back to her. His expression softened. She was beautiful, even with her mascara running. Ever since the Director of the British Museum had introduced her to him during her first week of work there, he’d been smitten. But one of the most attractive things about her was her independence, the fact that she had made no demands on him. She had her own flat, a comparatively well-paid job as a curator of Amazonian artefacts with frequent leaves of absence for her archaeological exploits. He felt bad that he’d fibbed a bit about Louise, never really confirmed Mary-Lou’s impressions that he was separated, in fact – he paused – he probably had mentioned something about a divorce, but that was a long time ago and they’d never discussed it since. It just hadn’t come up during their glamorous life in London.
He hardened his heart. He couldn’t bear never to see his children again. They were only young. No, he had to give Mary-Lou up.
He sighed and handed her his handkerchief. She threw it back at him and stood up, knocking her chair over. The whole restaurant was now aware of the argument and the Maitre d’ was heading towards them.
Mary-Lou rubbed her eyes with her napkin and stood up, trying to summon up some dignity. She took a last long look at Gerard, who looked faintly surprised by all the drama, as was his way, and decided not to even waste another word on him.
“Is Madam ill?” The Maitre d’ asked, an expression of concern on his face.
“I have to leave. I’m sorry. I’ve had some bad news. Ex–excuse me.” Mary-Lou left the restaurant, breaking into a run in the hotel foyer, now openly sobbing, concerned only with getting out of this awful place where Gerard, whom she had loved so much, had dumped her in such a casual fashion.
She couldn’t see where she was going and the foyer was as busy as the restaurant. She crashed into someone, who reached out to steady her, but she pushed past, until she realised that she was outside and someone had followed her, called out her name. She turned round, wiping her eyes, hot with shame and embarrassment.
“Gerard, please leave me alone – “ She trailed off when she realised that the dark-haired man stood next to her wasn’t Gerard.
“I thought it was you – are you all right? What’s wrong?” he said. He looked concerned.
“I’m – I’m so sorry…”
“Here, calm down. Take deep breaths. You look like you’re going to faint.”
“I can’t stay here…”
“Come on,” He took her arm and led her back into the hotel, ignoring her protests. Once there, he pushed her into a small meeting room just off the main foyer and handed her his handkerchief.
For a few moments she just sat there, howling like a little girl. She was conscious of him speaking to someone at the door, but preventing anyone coming in.
“I won’t be a minute, Dan – yes, I do, she’s a family friend.”
Mary-Lou stopped crying and blew her nose. Rix Bettany sat down on the chair next to her and poured her a glass of water.
“Thanks for rescuing me, Rix. I was in the restaurant and, well, my – my boyfriend just ended things. I just took it badly, I suppose I over-reacted, and then suddenly everything went wrong. Was it you I smashed into?”
Rix tried to suppress a grin, “Oh no, that was Sir Robert Welles, one of the head trustees of my hospital. And also the chap who tried to stop you running out into the traffic was Mr Rayner, the chief consultant surgeon, my boss. I have to say it was funny seeing you knock them both flying… We’ve had a meeting here and were just about to grab a late lunch – David’s here too actually.”
He paused and looked at her, “I say, I am sorry. Was it a serious relationship?”
“I thought so – but I suppose I was wrong.” Mary-Lou thought of the calm way Gerard had broken the news and realised that what she had taken for cruelty was just his usual way of getting rid of any unpleasantness as quickly and efficiently as possible. He’d obviously told her in the dining room of the Savoy in the hope that she would take the news in her usual calm way and not make the scene she had made. She shuddered when she thought of how she’d run crying through the restaurant.
“I must look a sight,” she said, digging her compact out of her handbag and applying some powder.
“It must be years since I saw you – Bride’s wedding wasn’t it? Four years ago.” Rix said, reflectively.
“I know. I’ve not kept in touch with anyone – I’ve barely written to Joey.” Mary-Lou admitted. “I’ve been so busy with work and well, pretty much all my spare time was spent with Gerard. How are the family?”
“Fine, more or less - Look, I’ll have to go – Rayner’s bound to be looking thunderous as usual. Are you free sometime to catch up? I’ll bring David along as well, he’s more up to date with the Russell and Maynard news than me.” Rix looked away for a moment and frowned.
“I’d really like that,” Mary-Lou smiled.
Rix opened the door for her and she walked out, her head held high. A small group of four men of various ages, including David Russell, were stood outside and all of them looked at her with interest.
“I’m terribly sorry I delayed your lunch,” She said, smiling. Rix had been right, a man who appeared to be in his mid-thirties did look annoyed, although the others seemed relaxed, and she was anxious to avert any trouble for Rix and David.
“Not at all, my dear,” An older, blond man in expensive-looking clothes stepped forward and took her hand.
Rix introduced her to them at once, “Mary-Lou, this is Sir Robert Welles, and my colleagues Mr Rayner and Dr Lyndhurst. You know David, of course. Gentleman, Miss Trelawney, who is a close friend of the family.”
She shook hands all round. David kissed her on the cheek. “Great to see you again,” he said, giving her an appreciative look. Mary-Lou smiled at them all, noticing that Dr Lyndhurst was very handsome and that he walked with the aid of a stick and Rayner looked frightening even when he was smiling.
“Miss Trelawney, you will join us for lunch?” Sir Robert Welles invited, although it was more of a command than a question. He was obviously a man used to getting what he wanted.
The six of them adjourned to the restaurant, which Mary-Lou anxiously scanned for Gerard. He seemed to have gone. The Maitre d’ caught her eye and was about to speak, but Sir Robert Welles quailed him with a look.
“Robert, we really need to discuss the funding for the new wing,” Rayner said, impatiently. He sat down next to Sir Robert and motioned for Rix to sit with them, which he did. Mary-Lou sat down at the other end of the table, next to David and Lyndhurst, who smiled shyly at her.
“You look really well, Mary-Lou.” David said, pouring wine for her. “Did Rix tell you Maeve’s getting married in June?”
“No, is she? Who to? I was just telling Rix that I haven’t kept in touch with anyone since I came back from the Middle East. Apart from Joey I mean, she and I still write occasionally, and I saw Con Maynard about eighteen months ago.”
“Well, Maeve’s marrying Lyndhurst’s cousin, isn’t she, old man? I think she was trying to track you down actually, to invite you to the wedding.”
“I’ll write to her,” Mary-Lou said at once. “Is she still at the Quadrant?”
“Yep. Aunt Mollie’s gone to see Peggy in Canada again but she’ll be back for the wedding. Peggy’s had another daughter, my godchild. Bride’s expecting in September... Oh, and my parents have emigrated to Australia for good now that the twins are away at school. Sybil’s had a son...”
“Oh yes, I knew that.” Mary-Lou glanced at Daniel Lyndhurst who was looking at the menu in silence. She could tell he was shy and Mary-Lou had not been known during her schooldays as the champion butter-in for nothing. “Did David say she was marrying your cousin, Dr Lyndhurst?”
“Yes, I’ve met her a few times, she’s lovely. Freddie’s a lucky man,” he said.
“I’m pleased for her,” Mary-Lou thought about Maeve, they had been fairly friendly at the Chalet School, although it was Josette who had been one of the Gang.
“So what were you doing in the Middle East, Miss Trelawney?” Lyndhurst asked, looking grateful to be included in the conversation.
Mary-Lou told him and David about her archaeological dig in Jordan and then at length about her post at the British Museum. “It’s really what I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve been so lucky.” she said.
They discussed archaeology and travelling for the rest of the meal. As she finished her coffee, Mary-Lou glanced across and noticed that Welles, Rayner and Rix were still deep in serious conversation, presumably about the new wing.
“I’ve got the afternoon free - are you able to come for a drink?” David asked quietly. “We can properly catch up and I can tell you all the family news without us having to be polite and chat with this crowd.”
For a second Mary-Lou wondered if it was wise to go for yet another drink that day – after all, she had already had three glasses of wine – but in the end she agreed. David was very persuasive and anything would be better than going home to her little flat that had so many memories of Gerard and going to the Museum would also be awful. Gerard and she had attended so many events there and he was a close friend of the Director. For the first time, she wondered how many of her colleagues knew about the affair. She’d never had cause to be especially discreet. What if they thought she’d known about Louise and was a willing partner in the deceit?
Mary-Lou wished she had some real friends in London, but she had concentrated too much on her career. How dreadful it felt not to anyone to confide in.
At the end of the meal Sir Robert settled the bill and was nice to her when she thanked him.
“Not at all, my dear Miss Trelawney. It was a pleasure to meet you and I do hope we will meet again soon,” he said. Rayner shook her hand but he seemed preoccupied and barely gave her a second glance. The two men left in a taxi with quiet Dr Lyndhurst.
David turned to Rix and Mary-Lou,
“Rix, do you have to get back? Or can you come for a drink with us?” he asked.
Rix looked at his watch, then at Mary-Lou. She couldn’t read his expression.
“I suppose I can come for one,” he said.
“Good man, Come on, there’s a pub round the corner. Good of Welles to stand us lunch wasn’t it? Lyndhurst looked better than usual, I even got a sentence out of him instead of the usual two words. Rix, I was telling Mary-Lou all the family gossip. I suppose Maeve’s big party will be the next time we’ll all get together again.”
“Oh yes, did David tell you about the wedding? It’s in June and they’re having a big house party at the end of April. Maeve was full of it when I spoke to her this morning – something about Freddie Brentford’s mother not liking the decorations. I hope she’s not stressing Dad out too much. What would you like to drink?”
“Uncle Dick had a heart attack last year,” David explained while Rix was at the bar. “There was an enormous row going on at the time about whether Rix would go to join the San or not. Uncle Jack wanted him to go out to Switzerland but he refused. I don’t know the whole details, but it’s caused a bit of a rift between the Bettanys and the Maynards. I don’t think Aunt Jo and Uncle Jack will even come to the wedding but we’ll see.”
“Oh how awful,” Mary-Lou replied, “You were all such a close family.”
“Yes, well. I don’t see why Rix doesn’t want to join the San. It’d pay a lot more and there’s nothing really keeping him in London. I’m going to be running the Welsh San from July – I’m just having an extra year’s training at Guy’s - and I’ve offered him a place there, but he turned that down as well.”
Rix came back with the drinks, but he hadn’t heard their conversation. David at once started to talk about Sybil, his new nephew and the trip he planned to take to Australia next year.
Mary-Lou took the Underground back to her small but comfortable flat near Regent’s Park. David had offered to see her home after their drink – Rix had had to leave before the two of them - but she’d told him it was too far from his own rooms near London Bridge. She had felt he was flirting with her throughout the lunch and she didn’t yet feel ready to get involved with anyone else, let alone the nephew of arguably her closest friend.
Once she was home, she found her writing-pad and wrote to Maeve, congratulating her on the forthcoming wedding and apologising for losing touch. She also wrote a small amount about the break-up with Gerard, but didn’t mention the fact that he’d been married. It felt far too humiliating.
She also wrote to Joey Maynard, wondering if David had been correct and there was a rift within the Bettany-Russell-Maynard clan. She didn’t mention it in her letter, judging it to be none of her business.
The next morning she had to return to work.
‘I wish I hadn’t to go in,’ she thought as she got dressed. Her eye fell on the bag containing Gerard’s things that she’d packed up the night before. There was nothing of great importance, just a change of clothes, pyjamas and his shaving things. A teddy bear he’d won for her from the day trip they’d taken to the seaside that she’d held for a long time as she cried over Gerard.
She posted the letters on her way to the Museum and when she arrived, marched straight to her office with her head held high. Most of her colleagues were unfriendly to her, Gerard had always said it was jealousy that she’d become a curator so young, and Mary-Lou knew all too well how some of them would rejoice at the situation she now found herself in.
She had hoped she could get there without being spotted, unfortunately she found her colleague, Lily Ross, waiting outside her office door, a cup of coffee in her hand. Mary-Lou's heart sank down to her shoes.
“Mary-Lou! I was wondering if you’d come in today,” she said at once, her voice was full of fake sympathy. “Poor you. Mr Ellingham came in to see the Director today and he said that you were feeling poorly and might not be in. What’s wrong?”
“Oh, I had a headache, but I’m fine now, thank you.” Mary-Lou felt annoyed. Why was Gerard telling her colleagues she was ill? Did he think she would be too ashamed to show her face at work? What business was it of his anyway? She concentrated on Lily, who was a gossip, determined not to give her any ammunition.
“Is Gerard still with Anthony?” she asked, as casually as she could.
“Oh no, he’s gone.” Lily frowned at Mary-Lou calling the great Sir Anthony Melton, the Museum Director, by his first name. Honestly, it was so infuriating the way this girl – Lily was a good six years older – insisted on treating her senior colleagues like friends. What was even more maddening was that they seemed to like it! She opened her mouth to articulate this, but Mary-Lou just smiled, wished her goodbye in that calm way of hers and shut the door firmly in Lily’s face.
South of the river, Rix Bettany peeled off his surgical gloves and threw them into a bucket. He felt exhausted already and it was only ten o’clock. It was hard work assisting Francis Rayner, who was demanding and quick-tempered and also liked to schedule as many operations as he could in the shortest time possible, but Rix admired his dedication to the NHS and Rayner in turn appreciated Rix’s intelligence and willingness to work hard, so the two of them got on reasonably well. Certainly Rayner tolerated Rix more than any other junior doctor in the hospital, most of who loathed Rayner’s sarcasm.
Rayner finished his conversation with the anaesthetist and came over to the sink.
“That was good work, Richard. Can you write up the case notes – and those for the child with the tumour on her spine from yesterday? I can’t remember if I asked you for those or not.”
“I did them last night, sir. They’re in the office.”
“Excellent. Now, we’ve got another one at three, very similar case except for the size – would you be prepared to lead it?”
“Of course. I think you’re ready and it’s straightforward enough. I’ll be here. It’s all good experience for your MRCS. We’ve certainly put in the clinical hours.” Rayner gave a rueful laugh.
“Thank you, I’ll do my best.” Rix was inwardly ecstatic. Praise from Rayner was high praise indeed. Rayner smiled.
“Was your friend all right?” he asked.
“Who – oh, Mary-Lou? I think so.” Rix was surprised, he and Rayner never had personal conversations.
“Pretty girl, that.” Rayner said, looking at him in a direct way.
“I think David would agree with you, sir.” Rix replied, unable to meet his eye.
Rayner frowned. He spent one day a month at Guy’s Hospital and had come across David Russell, who was in his opinion, lazy and too fond of nights out drinking and partying with his friends. He opened his mouth to say something, but then remembered that David was Rix’s cousin and changed the subject back to the operation Rix would perform that afternoon.
Mary-Lou worked solidly throughout the day, clearing most of her administrative work. She was thankful that she had no tours or lectures booked and could therefore hide herself away. She had stopped herself wondering why Gerard had been in to see the Director before she drove herself mad. Gerard was a wealthy financier and he had supported a great deal of the Museum’s exhibitions and expeditions, as well as making charitable donations to many causes that interested him. Mary-Lou blinked away the threatened tears, determined not to act like a spineless jellyfish and wondered how long it would take to think of him without hurting.
A knock on her door startled her and she called for whomever it was to come in.
Billy the post boy entered grinning, carrying two enormous bouquets of flowers.
“Thank you, Billy,” she said, stunned.
“They all turned up at once, Miss Trelawney. There’s another one downstairs but I couldn’t carry ‘em all.” He said, leaving to presumably fetch the third.
Mary-Lou opened the first of the cards.
‘It was lovely to see you again and it would be great to have dinner one night next week – look forward to hearing from you, David.’
The second one was even more of a surprise.
‘Delighted to make your acquaintance yesterday and I do hope your problems have been resolved. With kind regards, Sir Robert Welles.’
She put the cards down on her desk, smiling at the loveliness of the flowers. Sir Robert Welles’s bouquet of white roses and lilies was especially exquisite. How kind of him, and of David too.
Billy brought up the third, which was a small bunch of tulips, her favourites. She knew instantly from whom they had come. She opened the card at once, leaving Billy to sort out the flowers and read the message.
‘I can’t tell you how sorry I am – I wouldn’t have hurt you for the world. All my love, always. G.L.R.E.’
“Oh my goodness! Is it someone’s birthday?” Lily asked, walking in and actually picking up one of the cards. “Who’s David? Are you going out for dinner with him?”
Mary-Lou nearly snatched the card back, “He’s an old friend, I know his family. I’ve known them for years.” she snapped, then instantly regretted it.
Lily looked offended. “How pleasant.” She said. “And are all these flowers from him? He must be very keen.” He must be mad, her tone implied.
Mary-Lou didn’t bother to reply. She scrunched up Gerard’s card and threw it into the bin.
“I’ll fetch some water, Miss Trelawney.” Billy offered, desperate to escape from the tense atmosphere.
“Sorry, Lily. I didn’t mean to shout at you. I’m a bit overwrought at the moment.” Mary-Lou apologised, “I do have an awful headache and I’m trying to finish my admin work.”
“That’s okay.” Lily sniffed. “I’m busy myself. I’ll see you later.”
“Bye.” Mary-Lou said, unable to bear it anymore. She decided to go and fetch a glass of water from the kitchen.
Lily followed her out and as soon as Mary-Lou had disappeared down the corridor she dashed back into the office and picked the card out of the wastepaper basket.
She was unable to stifle a gasp as she read the contents.
Lily smiled a nasty little smile as she headed back to her own office, the card from Gerard Ellingham’s flowers safely in her pocket. So Janet had been right, Mary-Lou had been dumped.
‘I’ve got you now, Mary-Lou Trelawney,’ she thought.
She had always suspected that Mary-Lou was carrying on with Mr Ellingham – everyone had. There’d been gossip and speculation for years. But he’d been careful not to leave anything that could prove he’d been unfaithful. Until now. There had to be a way Lily could use this to her advantage.
Mary-Lou wrote to thank David and Sir Robert for their flowers, but didn’t communicate with Gerard. There was simply nothing to say.
A fortnight later, Mary-Lou was walking along the platform at Waterloo Station to get on the Penzance train. Maeve had replied to her note with a wonderful long letter, full of warmth and sympathy and had invited her to the Quadrant for a weekend.
‘Daddy’s had to take things easy since his little turn, so we’ve been rather quiet.’ Maeve had written, ‘but if you could make it for a weekend, that would be wonderful! I’d love the opportunity to see you again. The wedding is such a nightmare, and Freddie’s mother is the outside of enough! (burn this letter!) Mummy’s been in Canada for what seems like years and my only other female companion is Daphne, an eight year old! PLEASE COME SOON!’
She heard the guard blowing a warning on his whistle, so hurried into her compartment quickly.
It was fairly late in the afternoon when the train reached Sheepheys Junction. Mary-Lou gathered her things together and jumped down to the platform. Maeve had promised to collect her, due to the scarcity of trains to Channing St Mary.
Maeve was waiting on the end of the platform with Daphne, both of them were waving madly. Mary-Lou waved back at once.
“Mary-Lou! How are you? It’s so nice to see you again! This is Daphne, she insisted on coming to meet you as well, you’ve met her before haven’t you?” Maeve said at once, giving Mary-Lou a warm hug.
“Hello Maeve, hello Daphne! I last saw you when you were about three, I think,” Mary-Lou smiled.
“Hello.” Daphne replied, shyly, trying to hide behind Maeve, who laughed and started to talk to Mary-Lou about her plans for their weekend. She looked happy and very pretty, with her bronze curls tumbling over her shoulders. Daphne was a pretty child also, with a strong resemblance to Madge Russell.
“I’ve got Daddy’s car – oh, I couldn’t wait for this weekend! It’s going to be marvellous to catch up. I say, you mustn’t tell Freddie I’ve been driving, I’m supposed to get one of the men on the estate to drive me if I want to go anywhere.”
“Why on earth?” Mary-Lou asked, startled out of politeness.
“Because I’m such a rotten driver! Jackie taught me on the estate the summer I left school, but I was hopeless, he gave up on me! But I carried on with it, and I passed that stupid test – it took me eight tries but I did it. And the next day I smashed Dad’s car into a tree. Was he furious! But he calmed down eventually. I can’t wait for you to meet Freddie, he’s wonderful!”
Maeve chattered on as the three of them reached the car park. Daphne gave a squeal and pulling her hand out of Maeve’s, she dashed to the car where Rix was stood, his bag next to him. He laughed and picked the small girl up to hug her.
“Hello! I thought that was our car. I thought a minor miracle had occurred and I’d actually been met by the welcome committee instead of having to walk home like I usually do. Mary-Lou, we must’ve been on the same train. It’s nice to see you again. Hi Maeve.” He kissed his sister, and shook hands with Mary-Lou.
“You never tell us when you’re coming home, that’s why.” Maeve retorted.
“True, but then I hardly ever know in advance when I can take the time off. Are you staying for the weekend, Mary-Lou?”
“Yes, I am. I’m looking forward to seeing the dear old Quadrant again.”
“Well, I’m not looking forward to this journey – crashed into any more trees lately, Maeve?” he teased, putting Daphne down and taking Mary-Lou’s case from her.
“You’re so mean! But you can drive if you want.”
“I was joking, you’ll be fine. I suppose we should make a move.”
“Yes, or Daddy might be worried. Mary-Lou, will you sit next to Rix in the back?”
“I want to sit next to Rix.” Daphne said, glaring at Mary-Lou.
Mary-Lou looked at Daphne in surprise. The little girl tossed her long, dark curls defiantly, all traces of shyness gone. Maeve had told Mary-Lou that Daphne was eight, but she looked more like six. She was obviously a delicate child and Mary-Lou was suddenly reminded of Margot Maynard.
“I hope Daphne hasn’t got a Devil!” she thought, trying to suppress a grin.
“That’s not very polite, Daphne, Mary-Lou is our guest,” Rix said, mildly. Daphne immediately looked upset and her eyes filled with tears. It was clear she adored her eldest brother.
“Come on, Daph, get in the car.” Rix said, exasperated.
“Will you sit next to me?” Daphne asked, sniffing pathetically.
“Come on then!” Rix said, opening the front passenger door for Mary-Lou, who got in and thanked him, before jumping into the back with Daphne.
Maeve’s driving was fast and erratic, so the seven miles to the Quadrant passed quickly.
“Did you say you normally walk from the station to the Quadrant, Rix? It must be miles.” Mary-Lou commented.
“It’s about seven miles. I quite like the walk, gives me space to think. I do quite a lot of walking when I’m home.” Rix said. “On the cliffs mostly.”
“What do you think about?” Daphne asked, happy now she’d got her own way.
Rix laughed, embarrassed. “Operations, mostly. Very boring, I’m afraid, sweetheart. Anyway, what have you planned for the weekend, Maeve?”
“Well, just a quiet night tonight, and tomorrow Freddie’s taking us out for a drive and we’ll go to Brentford Hall for dinner. Other than that, we’ll just hang around the Quadrant, go for some walks, whatever you want, Mary-Lou. It’s probably too cold for swimming, but we can go for some nice walks on the beach. Oh look, there’s Daddy!”
Maeve swerved in front of the house, scattering gravel and the four of them got out.
Dick Bettany looked fine, much healthier than Mary-Lou had expected from David’s comments and the younger Bettanys’ obvious concern. He was exactly as Mary-Lou remembered and very welcoming.
Rix carried her bag up to a pretty guest bedroom with Daphne as his shadow, and Maeve took her off to the drawing room for afternoon tea and a good long chat.
Uncle Dick looks really well,” Mary-Lou said, “I thought he’d been ill?”
“Yes, did Rix tell you? He had a heart attack last Christmas when Aunt Joey and Uncle Jack came to visit. It was only a tiny one though and he’s fine now, more or less. It’ll be better when Maurice finishes national service and comes home, he’ll take over the running of the estate you see.”
“Good. And is Daphne ok? She looks quite frail.” Mary-Lou asked, carefully. In her schooldays she had gained a reputation as chief butter-in amongst her peers but on this occasion Maeve didn’t mind her questions. She knew her Mary-Lou!
“She had a bad doing of bronchitis and it’s left her with asthma. She has awful attacks sometimes and can’t breathe. That’s why we pet her a bit. I’m sorry she was rude to you in the car, but Mother and Dad have had to give into her demands, almost from the word ‘go’, otherwise she frets and gets ill. I suppose the fact that she’s so much younger as well means she’s been a bit spoilt. I remember how awful Maurice and I were when we first came over from India, but the others squashed us. I suppose it’s different for Daph, as we weren’t here except in the holidays and I’m often out and about even now. She should go to a decent school really, but she’s been too ill. I know Mother wouldn’t part with her, but Dad thinks she could go to Glendower House when she’s ten, as long as she improves as she is doing. She’s much better than she was before I came back home.”
“She should go to the Gornetz Platz.” Mary-Lou suggested, without thinking. “Jack could look after her and you know how motherly Joey can be.”
Maeve looked away, “It’s not possible at the moment. But as I said, she’s much better now than she was. Rix comes home when he can and he doesn’t take any nonsense from her even if I’m a bit soft. And she was very upset when Dad was ill. Have you – kept in touch with Aunt Jo?”
Mary-Lou shook her head, “You know me, always the world’s worst correspondent. I wrote to her a few weeks ago, but I’ve not heard back.”
Inwardly she was agog to know what was wrong between the Bettanys and the Maynards. David had spoken of a rift but it must be extremely serious to make the usually jolly Maeve look so upset.
Mary-Lou couldn’t bear it any longer, “Maeve, please tell me to mind my own business if you want to, but what’s happened? You used to be such a close family and now there’s obviously something wrong - is there anything I can do to help?”
“Oh, Mary-Lou, it's just dreadful. There was an awful row last Christmas. Uncle Jack and Aunt Joey said that Rix…” Maeve stopped speaking abruptly as they heard footsteps coming towards the drawing room.
“Is there anything left to eat? I’m absolutely starving,” Rix said cheerfully, before noticing Maeve’s expression. “What’s wrong?”
Maeve tried to appear nonchalant and failed utterly. “Oh, nothing. Just - Freddie’s mother.” She gave a little laugh. “You won’t believe what a dragon she is, Mary-Lou.”
Mary-Lou felt a little shocked at Maeve’s fib; she hoped it didn’t show on her face. Rix was looking right at her and she could feel herself starting to blush.
“Lady Brentford is an unpleasant person.” Rix agreed, sitting down and helping himself to a sandwich. “But you look really upset and she isn’t worth it really, is she? She’s just an insecure and lonely old woman. Anyway, you won’t see that much of her when you’re married, you’ll be with Freddie in London.”
“Will you be in London? Oh Maeve, that will be wonderful!” Mary-Lou said, happily. “Does Freddie work there? What does he do?”
“He works in the City, but I don’t know exactly what he does.” Maeve said, doubtfully.
Rix laughed, “He’s a financier, Maeve. You are hopeless. He invests in firms and deals on the stock market, things like that." He turned to Mary-Lou. "You know, like Geoffrey Drake and Gerard Ellingham and that lot. He’s got enough money to keep even Maeve in new clothes.”
Maeve stuck her tongue out at him, childishly, but Mary-Lou froze.
“Do you know Gerard Ellingham?” she asked, trying to keep her voice steady.
But Rix shook his head.
“Not really, I’ve only met him a few times. We don’t exactly move in the same circles in London. Rayner knows him from school and he’s trying to set up a committee to get some funding for our hospital. We want to build a new wing for children who have, well, a certain type of cancer of the brain or spine and we need some private donations. It’s an NHS hospital, so we haven’t got any money. Do you know him then?”
“He funds some of the exhibitions at the Museum.” Mary-Lou managed. She felt as if she would faint.
“Oh, I’m so glad you do know him. Freddie asked me to invite him to the wedding,” Maeve commented, starting to clear away the plates.
“How lovely.” Mary-Lou said, weakly.
“And back to the social event of the year,” Rix joked, handing his teacup over. “I think I’ll leave you to it and go to the estate office. Dad wanted me to look through the accounts with him. Are you all right, Mary-Lou? You look a bit pale.”
“Oh Mary-Lou, I’m so sorry!” Maeve wailed. “Here I am talking about the wedding when you’ve just broken up with your fiancé!”
“He wasn’t my fiancé – it wasn’t serious. Don’t be silly, Maeve, of course I want to hear all about the wedding. I think I’m just a bit tired. I didn’t sleep well last night and it was a long journey.”
Maeve looked more cheerful and started to discuss the bridesmaids' dresses. Mary-Lou fixed a smile to her face and tried to listen, but she wanted to escape to her room as soon as possible.
The next morning, Mary-Lou awoke very early. She hunted for her watch and was surprised to see it was only five.
‘I’ll get up and go for a walk,’ she thought, throwing back the covers and running some water into the basin in the pretty bedroom. She loathed her bed except when strictly necessary and especially when it promised to be a pleasant April morning.
She opened her door, expecting to be the only person awake, and saw Dick Bettany. He grinned at her.
“Good morning!” he said in low tones. “You’re up early.”
“I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep. It looks beautiful outside, so I thought I’d go out.”
“I always like to look over the animals at this time. You know we’ve got livestock, don’t you. I say, you won’t wake the others will you? Daphne’s already up but I want the other two to catch up on some sleep.”
“OK. Can I help you around the farm?”
“I’ll give you the tour if you like.”
Downstairs Mary-Lou put on borrowed Wellingtons and walked to the farm with Dick. The Quadrant’s grounds were large and the farm a good fifteen minutes’ walk away. They chattered about Mary-Lou’s work and about Dick’s grandchildren, and then Mary-Lou changed the subject to how beautiful she thought Devonshire was.
“Do you prefer it to London?” Dick asked.
“I used to love London, but now – well, I’ve recently started to realise how lonely it can be. I don’t seem to have any real friends there anymore.”
“No, it can be a lonely place.” Dick agreed. “I didn’t think Rix would stay there as long as he has. I rather hoped he’d decide to go into general practice and work around here – but still, it’s his choice, not mine.”
“Didn’t you think he’d work in the San?” Mary-Lou asked, remembering how she had resolved to help Maeve by trying to mend the quarrel in the family.
But Dick changed the subject back to the farm and the next minute they reached the henhouses and found Daphne waiting for them. The subject didn’t arise again.
“Would you like to come and feed the hens with me?” Daphne asked, slipping her hand into Mary-Lou’s own. “It’s my job on the farm.”
“I’d love to.” Mary-Lou smiled at the small girl.
“Well, I’ll leave you ladies to it and go and check with the men in the cattle yard. Breakfast is at eight today, but do get something from Cook if you’re hungry, Mary-Lou.” Dick left them together.
Daphne chattered on eagerly about her hens and about the Quadrant generally.
“Are you looking forward to going to school, Daphne?” Mary-Lou asked when she could get a word in edgeways.
“I don’t go to school, Miss Trevannion comes here on her bicycle every day. Not weekends though. I might go to school next year but I don’t know.”
“The Chalet School? Will you go to Wales or Switzerland?”
“I don’t think I’m going there.” Daphne said, uncertainly.
“Not go to the Chalet School?” Mary-Lou failed to hide her amazement, “But – why on earth not?”
Daphne coughed, then said, “I’m not going to that horrid school. Auntie Madge told Daddy I should go, but I cried and he said I didn’t have to.”
“But – it’s not a horrid school, Daphne, it’s a marvellous one. I should know, I had eight years of it myself. And wouldn’t you like to see Switzerland and have all the fun of ski-ing? Not to mention having so many other girls to play with. And you could see your Auntie Jo and Cecil and Phil…” Mary-Lou continued, thoughtlessly.
Daphne coughed again and went pink. She threw the bucket of feed down on the ground, sending the hens clucking, and stamped her foot.
“I told you! I’m not going to Switzerland! I hate it! And I hate Auntie Jo!” She cried, then seemed to choke and collapsed onto the floor, struggling for breath…
For an instant, Mary-Lou was frozen to the spot in horror. Then her innate common sense took over and she crouched next to Daphne, helping her to sit up and calling for help at the same time. Daphne could breathe, just about, but her obvious panic was making the situation worse.
“It’s OK, Daphne. Try to calm down.” Mary-Lou soothed, though inwardly she felt just as terrified. What on earth was she to do if Daphne had a full-blown attack?
Luckily, someone had heard her shout and the next minute, Dick was running towards the henhouses.
“She just – couldn’t breathe.” Mary-Lou said.
Dick nodded, “I know. Come on, Daffy, try and breathe. I’m going to take you back to the house. Do you need your medication?” He took her from Mary-Lou and swung her up in his arms, carrying her away from the hens and towards the path back to the Quadrant.
Daphne started to cry, “Don’t want - to go to Switzerland, Daddy,” she managed. Dick found her inhaler in the pocket of her coat and gave it to her.
“What are you talking about, darling? Nobody says you have to go to Switzerland.”
“She did! But I’m never going there! You promised!”
“I know I did. You aren’t going there, you’re staying with Mummy and me. Now calm down, please. You know what happens when you get upset and it worries us. Now I’ll take you back to the house and Rix can take a look at you, OK?”
“OK, Daddy.” Daphne said, wiping her eyes.
“I’m so sorry,” Mary-Lou began, “I was talking about the Chalet School – I am sorry, Daphne.”
“It’s fine.” Dick said at once. “It wasn’t a proper asthma attack, thank God. Are you all right?”
Mary-Lou nodded, but she wouldn’t forget the scare Daphne had given her easily.
Back at the Quadrant, Dick laid Daphne down on the drawing-room sofa.
“Could you watch her while I fetch Rix?” Dick asked Mary-Lou, who agreed at once. She was relieved that Dick didn’t blame her for the attack and resolved to hold her tongue in future. How could she have been so careless?
Dick left them alone and Mary-Lou sat on the floor next to Daphne’s sofa, taking hold of her hand.
“Daphne I’m terribly sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you.” She said.
Daphne looked up, listlessly. She was still making faint wheezing noises and her eyes were red. She nodded and gave Mary-Lou a faint smile.
Maeve came downstairs, followed by Rix, and took Mary-Lou off for a cup of coffee in the kitchen, leaving Rix and Dick to see to Daphne.
“Drink this – I can see you’ve had a shock. But it happens all the time. Dad took her to a specialist and he says she’ll grow out of it. What started it off this time?”
“I was just talking to her about school, and then she – well, she flew into a temper and then went all red and couldn’t breathe.”
“Oh, no wonder… She’s got it into her head that she’ll be sent away to school and never come home. Don’t worry about her any more, Mary-Lou. Oh Cook, can we have breakfast early today please? We’re all up, you see. And is there any coffee in the pot?”
Mary-Lou drank her coffee at the kitchen table, only half-listening to Maeve’s reassuring chatter. She felt dreadful.
Rix came into the kitchen and joined them, throwing himself onto a chair and yawning. He looked very tired and needed to shave.
“She’s fine. I don’t even think it was a proper attack.” he said.
“Mary-Lou says she went into one of her rages.” Maeve said, getting up from the table. “I’ll set the table for breakfast if we’re going to have it early.”
“I think it was my fault. I’m sorry.” Mary-Lou said in a quiet voice.
Rix looked at her in surprise, “Of course it wasn’t your fault, why would you think that?”
“David told me there was – well, a row between you and the Maynards. I forgot and spoke to Daphne about going to Switzerland, to the Chalet School. She said she didn’t want to go, and I asked why not – and well, she got upset.” Mary-Lou trailed off, blushing. She felt like the worst kind of busybody that ever existed.
“David told you I’d had a row with the Maynards?”
“Yes. Well, sort of. Not just you, the whole family. Look, Rix – I know it’s none of my business, but if I can help at all – if you need someone to talk to…”
“I don’t think you can help, but I probably owe you an explanation. I don’t want to go into it here because of Dad, but… if you’re free after breakfast we could go for a walk?"
Mary-Lou agreed, and after breakfast, the two of them left for a walk along the Devon cliffs, each wrapped up warmly against the bright but chilly, late April weather.
Neither spoke for the first mile or so, but the silence was companionable. Rix appeared deep in thought and Mary-Lou felt suddenly reluctant to intrude.
“Do you want to go down to the beach? It’s more sheltered.” Rix asked, making her jump. She’d been lost in her own thoughts. She nodded, and followed him down a steep path to the sandy cove beneath the cliff. The tide was out and they walked across the beach.
Mary-Lou looked around with great interest. The beach was small and secluded and must be wonderful in summer. She looked up and saw the west walls of the Quadrant high above.
Rix cleared his throat, “What did David tell you?” he asked.
“He just said that Jack asked you to join the San and you refused. And Maeve said there was a – a row last Christmas.”
“It was the Christmas before last. But that’s basically what happened. He didn’t ask me if I wanted to join, he said there was a place available and when could I go over there. I tried to explain why I couldn’t go, and he got – unpleasant and said some things.”
“What did he say?” Mary-Lou asked, sitting down next to him on the rocks.
“Oh – just how I’d always been selfish, how much of a disappointment I was to Dad and Mother, that kind of thing. I lost my temper and said some awful things back. Mother overheard us and came in, asking what was wrong. Uncle Jack was pretty riled and he started shouting at her. I told him to stop and he turned round – and well, he hit me.”
“I don’t believe it.” Mary-Lou said, shocked.
“Well, he did. He apologised straight away, but Mother was mad, and so was Dad when he found out. There was a huge row and Aunt Jo said something about Mum and Dad dumping us on Aunt Madge to bring up because they couldn’t be bothered. And Dad was under a lot of stress with Daphne and with the estate finances, and he had his heart attack. Mother threw Jack and Jo and all the kids out of the house that night and nobody’s spoken since. The others know something happened, but they don’t know all the details. You won’t mention it, will you?”
“Of course not.” Mary-Lou said at once, her heart going out to Rix. He looked wretched.
"I don't even know why I've told you all this. But it's hard, knowing it's all my fault," he added.
“It’s not your fault.” Mary-Lou said automatically, intending to reassure him. She was shocked by Jack and Jo’s behaviour, it sounded completely out of character. But then again, she hadn’t seen either of them for years and people did change. She wasn’t the same girl she’d been at the Chalet School.
“I could’ve kept my temper. And I should’ve told him I wasn’t going to the San years ago. Maybe I am selfish not to want to work there?”
“It’s your choice, he can’t force you into working there, and they shouldn’t have said those things about your parents not being able to keep you in India.”
“I suppose so. Want to go a bit further along the beach or do you have to get back for your visit to the Brentfords?”
Mary-Lou realised Rix wanted to change the subject. She looked at her watch.
“It’s early still – can we go on? What’s that cave affair over there?” She pointed
“Oh that’s John’s cave – I mean, he found it years ago when we first moved here. We used to play all sorts of games there. Want to see?”
Mary-Lou jumped down from the rock at once. “I'd love to,” she grinned.
The cave was large and surprisingly light inside. Mary-Lou scrambled over the rocks at the entrance with Rix following her; and entered the main interior space. It had dark passageways leading off from the main area.
“This is fascinating – do those tunnels lead anywhere?” Mary-Lou asked at once.
“John says those two merge into one tunnel, which comes to a dead end, and that one on the left has collapsed part of the way in. I’ve never gone over this place like he has. I’m sure he said something about there being another passage that leads out on the cliffs or somewhere – he wanted us to explore it, but we never did. I can’t even remember where it was now. It seems years since we used to come here.”
“Is it dangerous?” Mary-Lou asked, wondering why Rix was hanging back.
“I don’t think so. Not when the tide’s out anyway. The current’s strong around here and even strong swimmers have had problems on the beach, but I think it’s safe enough to look round for a while. Like I said, John’s been all over it with no problems. You’ll need a torch to go through some of the tunnels. I could run back and get one?”
“Oh, no – it’s fine, don’t worry. It’s quite light in here already, isn’t it?”
“I know – chasms on the top of the cliff, I think.”
“Can we go in a little way – just to see if we can find John’s passage? I’ve got my lighter.” Mary-Lou asked, smiling.
Rix hesitated, but only for a second. He was enjoying Mary-Lou’s company and he didn’t want to disappoint her. He was thinking about the tide – he knew how fast it could come in and for once he hadn’t noticed how far out it was from the beach, due to his other concerns, but reasoned that they would hear the tide come in and could wade out if necessary.
“Of course, but we’d better keep together, and watch out for loose rocks by your feet.” he warned, taking her arm as they went deeper inside.
Rix, holding the cigarette lighter, soon discovered that it made little difference to the overpowering gloom of the cave. He turned to suggest that they made their way back to the beach, but was forestalled by Mary-Lou grabbing his arm.
“Sorry! – did you see that? There seems to be an opening there – see that overhang of rock? I just noticed it when you held the lighter there. Just beyond that – see? I wonder if that could be John’s tunnel?”
“I think you could be right. It’s a steep climb up the ledge before you get to it though. We’ve been going steadily uphill – did you notice?”
Mary-Lou suddenly froze and gripped his arm so tightly that Rix nearly dropped the lighter. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I thought I heard something – like a whistling noise? Do you hear it?”
Rix listened intently, then hastened back the way they had come, keeping Mary-Lou behind him. They didn’t have to go far before they found themselves knee-deep in seawater.
“It’s the tide… oh, how could I have been so stupid?” Rix went white.
“It’s not deep – come on, we’ll have to swim for it,” was Mary-Lou’s response, trying to get past him, but he grabbed her.
“No! You’ll be smashed against the rocks outside the cave!”
“Well we can’t stay here, we’ll drown! What if we climbed onto that ledge? Does the water go that high? It looked dry enough!”
Rix appeared to snap out of his stunned state, “Come on then,” he shouted, above the sound of the tide which was now much louder, and the two of them hurried back to where they had found the overhang of rock.
“Hold this.” Rix said, handing the hot lighter to Mary-Lou. “Careful it doesn’t burn you.”
Mary-Lou wrapped her sleeve up above her hand and took hold of it.
“Now, make sure you keep the lighter focused on the ledge so I can see what I’m doing, and I’ll get you up there, ok? Whatever you do, don’t drop it into the water.”
Rix took hold of Mary-Lou around the waist and lifted her up to the ledge, she was able to scramble securely, if not particularly elegantly, up to it and found, as she had thought, that it was bone dry and obviously above the level of the tide.
Once safe, she turned anxiously to look down at Rix, who was making preparations to climb up, waving the lighter until she saw him.
“It’s dry up here – no sign of any water marks either – I don’t think the tide comes up this far.” she said, calmly.
His voice came back to her from the gloom below.
“Well that’s one blessing. Are you ok? You aren’t going to faint or anything are you?”
“Of course not!” Mary-Lou replied indignantly. “I’ll have you know I’ve been in worse situations than this!”
“Well, this is bad enough for me. Hold that blasted thing still, will you? I can’t see where I’m supposed to climb and the water’s nearly at my waist.”
“Here – take my hand.” Mary-Lou implored, leaning over.
“Don’t be ridiculous, you’ll fall off. I’m fine, I’ll be with you in a minute…”
He stopped speaking as the roar of the water became significantly louder and Mary-Lou, leaning over the ledge as far as she could, despite his orders, was horrified to see him knocked from his feet and thrown against the cave wall, to disappear under the water and completely out of sight.
Notwithstanding her previous words, Mary-Lou came very close to fainting at that moment. She felt so dizzy that for a moment she could only sit on the ledge, trying not to panic and trembling so violently that she nearly dropped the lighter into the sea below. She pulled herself together, however, and leant over as far as she could, calling Rix’s name.
Her first call went unanswered, but then she saw he had managed to pull himself out of the sea and continue his climb up to the safety of the ledge.
“Are you all right? You’re not hurt?” she demanded, as soon as he reached her and collapsed next to her. His forehead was bleeding, but she thought the cut looked superficial.
“Cold – bashed my side.” he managed, still panting from his rapid climb. “Is the water rising?” he added, anxiously.
Mary-Lou grabbed her handkerchief and held it against his head, “I don’t think so. I think we’re safe for the moment.”
“We’ll be stuck here for hours. I’m sorry.” he said, taking the handkerchief from her, and wincing as he sat up.
"Don't worry - you should try and keep still. Everything’s fine. Let me see your side?”
He nodded, exhaustedly, and let her help remove his outer clothing. He wouldn’t have admitted it to her for worlds, but he was in a great deal of pain and shock. He was also cursing himself for his own stupidity in allowing this idiotic expedition to take place – what sort of a fool tried to explore a cave with a cigarette lighter when there was a danger from the spring tides?
Mary-Lou unbuttoned his shirt, pulling it open carefully. She gave an exclamation when she saw his side, which was grazed and bleeding.
“You’ve cut yourself – it doesn’t look too deep, but there’s a lot of blood. Give me that handkerchief. Do you think any of your ribs are broken?”
“No – I don’t think so.”
“I’ll just see – tell me if it hurts,” Mary-Lou remembered her Guide first aid training and felt down his body to see if any of his ribs were broken. He was still shivering, so she pulled off her own coat and covered him with it.
“Thanks – I think it’s just bruised. Honestly, I’ll be fine. Are you all right?”
“Absolutely. Look, I’m going to turn this off – we’ll need it later to get out.” Mary-Lou did so, leaving them in darkness. She put it down on the rock, making sure she knew where it was, and reached across and took hold of his hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze. He felt very cold indeed.
“How long do you think we’ll be stuck here until the tide goes out?” she asked, deliberately keeping her voice cheerful.
“Six hours or so? What time is it?” he replied, rousing slightly.
Mary-Lou used the lighter to look at her watch. “It’s only twenty past ten. Seems later, doesn’t it?”
He didn’t reply, and she flicked the lighter on again, holding it over his face. He was very pale. She moved closer at once, to try and keep him as warm as possible.
“How much fluid is left in that lighter?” he asked, quietly.
“Not much,” she closed it again, “I was just checking you hadn’t lost consciousness.”
“It’s only bruises, and a scratch on my head. I promise you I’m not seriously hurt, ok? I won’t pass out.”
“You should’ve let me help you up, and this wouldn’t have happened.” Mary-Lou said, trying to keep him talking.
“I told you, I’d have only pulled you down as well. Do you think you could wring my shirt out for me, please? I’ll have to wear it to get back to the Quadrant or they’ll panic. I’d do it myself, but it hurts if I move.”
“Of course.” She took it from him at once. “Don’t try to move anyway. I know it’s only bruises, but when I dished my back in that sledding accident I was laid up for months.” She told him the whole story, and followed it with another from her schooldays, about the trip to the Tiernsee during the Coming-of-Age celebrations. He asked her some questions about the Tiernsee, but he was mainly quiet and she started to worry that his injuries were more serious than he was admitting.
Rix felt down his side carefully, trying not to let Mary-Lou realise what he was doing. He hadn’t needed to lie to her; it was only bruises, but incredibly painful now the first shock was wearing off. He was astonished how calm she was being.
He was reminded of how she had been so distraught at the Savoy, after the row with her boyfriend. He thought privately that the chap must be mad to end a relationship with her. Her behaviour then seemed so out of character now that he wondered what had been said the restaurant. Could he ask without seeming too intrusive?
He cleared his throat, but before he could speak, she did, and her voice sounded as if from further away.
“I want to see if the tunnel behind us leads anywhere. It goes uphill, so it’s safe enough. If it leads back to the cliffs, like your brother thinks, then I can go and get help. You can’t lie here for six hours in wet clothes – you’ll be ill! I’ll be back shortly. Try and keep warm.”
“No – you can’t. It’s too dangerous. Don’t you dare go off on your own!” he said, angrily, feeling dizzy with pain as he struggled to stand up.
She was back beside him at once, “Oh, good! I thought that would get you to your feet. You can’t lie there, you know, you might get hypothermia. Now, put your arm around me and we can see if that tunnel leads anywhere. At the very least, you’ll be warmer moving around. Put my coat on, if you can. I’ve got your things here.”
“I’m not moving a step until you give me your word you won’t go off on your own.” he said, still furious.
“I remember Maeve saying how stubborn you could be.” she said, infuriatingly cheerful. “But so am I. Come on, or I’ll be late for the tea-party with your brother-in-law to be and Maeve will be mad.”
“Fine. But if this tunnel doesn’t lead anywhere, what then?”
“We’ll come back. We’ve got six hours before we can go anywhere, haven’t we?”
He sighed, but realised that she was right. The air coming from the tunnel was fresher and he remembered how John had often gone into the cave to reappear a short while later on top of the cliff. But how could they tell this was the right tunnel?
The tunnel did lead uphill and it was steep. It was hard work, and neither of them spoke for a while. Mary-Lou was wondering if she really had made him angry and he was regretting shouting at her.
“Sorry I snapped at you,” he said, finally. “I was worried you’d get lost or hurt.”
“It’s OK.” she replied, tolerantly. “I got us into this, and I’ll get us out of it. Look straight ahead, can you see how light it’s getting?”
She was right, and he felt the relief wash over him.
“Leave me here, and go ahead – see if you can get help.” he suggested.
“Can’t you go a little further? Just another five minutes. How strange!”
“What is it?”
“The tunnel seems to fork here – this way is getting lighter, but that tunnel’s dark. I wonder where it goes? Oh don’t say anything, I won’t explore it now, but I’d like to come back one day and see where it goes – with a proper torch and possibly John. No offence!”
This made him laugh, and he had to stop and hold his side.
“We can rest for a few minutes,” Mary-Lou said at once, “Here, I’ve got some chocolate.”
It was easier for them to see each other now the darkness was lifting. They shared the chocolate and then Mary-Lou left him to go ahead the remaining few dozen yards and investigate the source of the light. She hurried, for she did not like how he looked.
She finally reached the end of the tunnel and came to a dead stop. What on earth was she to do now?
Jack Maynard fastened his seatbelt at the request of the stewardess as the plane began the descent into London. He began to bundle up all the papers he’d spread around to look at during the journey. He was irritable and worried about his forthcoming meetings, knowing that a lot of difficult questions would be asked. He wished that Jem Russell was easily available to ask for advice. He knew that if he did write, Madge would tell Joey everything, and he wasn’t prepared for that to happen just yet. Luckily she was caught up in her new novel, otherwise she might have decided to accompany him on this trip and then the fat would be in the fire!
Thinking of Madge and Jem reminded him of David and he decided to visit his nephew while he was in London. He wondered if David was aware of the current situation and how far it affected the San in Armishire. It would be interesting – no, necessary – to hear what his plans were, if he had any. Jack rather had his doubts.
He sighed for the days when his two nephews had been in their teens and had confided all their plans and ideas to him as a matter of course, it was strange to think now of how much they had looked up to him. The row with Rix had been monumental, and Jack regretted his handling of the situation. And then there was Margot – while Jack had been pleased when she had decided to join her Order, he would be glad of her services at the San now.
“What is the point of having five sons if none of them wants to go into medicine?” he’d raged at Jo that Christmas, after their ignominious departure from the Quadrant to a nearby hotel.
Mary-Lou hauled herself up as close as she could to the wire netting that covered the tunnel opening and started to push at it, trying to loosen it. She felt it give a little at one side, but not by enough to enable them to squeeze out.
She decided to lie on her back and kick at it, this was much more successful and the netting parted way all along the left-hand side, enabling her to push it back and scramble outside.
She realised where she was at once, recognising the cliff road that led to the Quadrant. The beach was below and the Quadrant a good half-hour walk away.
She quickly considered. It had been quite a steep ascent up the last part of the tunnel and she wasn’t sure if Rix could make it unassisted. He was probably furious with her also, it had been such a stupid idea to explore the cave. When would she finally grow up and stop doing such mad things? No wonder Gerard had finished their relationship.
She felt the tears come and for a brief minute she forgot about everything but how he’d looked at her in the restaurant as she had embarrassed him.
A noise caught her attention, there was a car coming along. With a squeal, she dashed out into the road, waving her arms to stop it.
The car swerved to miss Mary-Lou, and came to a halt a little further down the road. She ran to it at once. The driver got out, and so did one of the two passengers in the back of the car, a well-dressed, tall, young man with blond hair.
“You could’ve been killed, Miss! Running in front of me like that,” the driver snapped, but his employer interrupted him at once.
“Is there something wrong? Can we help you?” he asked, urgently, taking in her wild appearance, tear-stained face and the blood on her blouse. “Are you hurt?”
“I’m sorry, but, my friend – he’s trapped in the cave, please can you help? He’s the one who is hurt.” Mary-Lou cried.
“Of course we’ll help. Where is he? Stephens, get me the torch from the car and the first-aid kit. Don’t worry, my cousin is a doctor. Now tell me where your friend is.”
Mary-Lou looked at the third man who was slowly getting out of the car and recognised him immediately; David’s friend, Dr Lyndhurst, from the Savoy.
“Miss Trelawney! What’s wrong?” he asked her at once.
The other man – who Mary-Lou realised must be Maeve’s fiancé – hastily filled him in.
“There’s a chap trapped in a cave somewhere. Stephens and I will go down and get him out. Is it on the beach?”
“No – just over here. Dr Lyndhurst, it’s Rix, we were trapped by the tide and had to find a way through a tunnel that led us out here, but he’s hurt and he got wet too. I was worried he’d get hypothermia…” Mary-Lou could hear herself starting to gabble with delayed shock.
Freddie Brentford offered her a silver flask from his coat, which turned out to be brandy. She took a grateful gulp of it. Daniel Lyndhurst was staring at her in horror.
“Richard’s trapped in this tunnel? Is he seriously hurt?”
“He scraped his head and his side, but he said his ribs weren’t broken - it’s here - please can you hurry? Shall I come with you?”
“No, you wait in the car with Daniel. Don’t fret, we’ll get him out.” Freddie reassured, jumping down into the tunnel after his chauffeur.
Daniel Lyndhurst, unable to join the rescue mission, was stood glaring at his useless leg. Mary-Lou, with her uncanny gift of insight, knew how he was feeling.
“Would you mind if I did sit in the car?” she asked, “I do feel rather dizzy.”
“Of course,” he said at once, “Did you injure yourself? What exactly happened?”
Mary-Lou told him as he settled her into the car and gave her a blanket to wrap around herself.
“I think you’ve been very lucky,” he replied, “You did the right thing in not waiting for the tide to go out. I’m surprised Richard wanted to go down there though, with his claustrophobia.”
Mary-Lou was surprised, “It was my idea - I didn’t know he had claustrophobia,” she replied.
“It was a pretty mad idea, if you don’t mind my saying so. And yes, he does, we did our training together and he told me then."
Mary-Lou felt fresh tears well up, “I didn’t know - he didn’t say,“ she choked.
“I'm sorry, I didn't mean... Please don’t cry - Look, here they are.”
Mary-Lou threw the blanket back and went to greet them, wiping away her tears on her sleeve. Freddie was laughing and she was relieved to see Rix was fine. The injuries that looked so awful in the cave now appeared to be as minor as he had deduced, and although he was obviously in pain, it looked as if the brandy was helping relieve some of it.
“Here she is - the heroine of the hour!” Freddie said, jovially. “I say, I didn’t introduce myself earlier in the drama of it all, I’m Fred Brentford.”
“Mary-Lou Trelawney,” she replied, “Are you OK, Rix? I’m terribly sorry, I didn’t know you were claustrophobic.”
Rix glared at Daniel Lyndhurst. “I’m fine - looking forward to a hot bath and a lie-down though. What are you crying for? Freddie - are you taking us to the Quadrant then?”
“We can take you to the nearest hospital,” Lyndhurst said quickly.
“There’s no need, I’m perfectly fit…”
After some argument, Stephens drove the four of them back to the Quadrant, where Mary-Lou and Rix were fortunate enough to escape to their respective bedrooms to change without being seen by the Bettanys.
Maeve insisted that Mary-Lou should have a nap while she and Daphne entertained Freddie and Daniel. Mary-Lou had protested, but was surprised to wake up and realise that she had slept for hours.
She got up and realised that she had only thirty minutes before they were due to leave for dinner with the Brentfords. With an exclamation, she grabbed her washing things and flew to the bathroom.
She was sat at the dressing table, trying to pin her hair up when Maeve slipped into the room, looking very pretty in a green evening dress.
“Oh good, I’m sorry I forgot to wake you. Freddie says not to rush, but I’m always anxious about keeping the Dragon waiting. Do you need any help with your hair?”
“Thanks, Maeve. Is Rix ok, and Daphne?”
“They’re fine – they’re downstairs in the drawing room with the others and Daphne is up and running round again. Do you know, she actually asked me about school earlier and she’s never asked before. I told her about the time the Abbess asked you if you knew what it cost to fly to Switzerland and you said, ‘Not a sausage’, do you remember?” Maeve chuckled. “And about that the time you and Hilary saved Ferry from falling down the glacier. You always were a fly-paper for adventures!”
“I could have done without this afternoon’s adventure,” Mary-Lou replied with a shudder. “It was awful when I thought Rix had drowned.”
“Don’t think about it – he’s fine now, isn’t he? Are you ready? You look lovely.”
“Thanks, so do you. Is it far to Brentford Hall?” Mary-Lou replied, following Maeve down the stairs and through the maze of corridors that comprised the Quadrant, to return to the main hall.
“Not too far, I think we’ll be about twenty minutes in the car. It’s the new road, you know. Oh look, they’re waiting for us… We’re ready, darling.”
“Excellent – and you both look amazing, don’t they, Dan?”
“You certainly do.” Daniel said, with conviction.
“Could I just say goodbye to the others before we leave?” Mary-Lou asked Maeve.
“Course! In the drawing room, you know where that is. We’ll meet you outside.”
Mary-Lou walked in her heels to the drawing room, and grinned as she opened the door and saw the scene before her eyes.
Rix and Daphne were both sitting on the floor, with the pieces of a jigsaw spread everywhere, and Rix was attempting to re-plait one of Daphne’s pigtails. Daphne’s eyes opened wide when she saw Mary-Lou in her blue silk dress and make-up.
“Oh Mary-Lou, you look beautiful!” she cried, wriggling away from her brother and skipping up to Mary-Lou in adulation. “You look like the princess in my story-book. Doesn’t she Rix? Doesn’t she look like a beautiful princess?”
Mary-Lou blushed, looking even prettier. Rix stood up and came over to them, “She does - I mean, you do. You look lovely,” he said. His eyes met hers and for a second or two they both were silent.
Daphne stroked the silk of Mary-Lou’s skirt, drawing her attention and Mary-Lou awoke to the fact that people were waiting for her and made her farewells.
Rix was still awake at two o’clock, unable to sleep. He sat on the window seat of his bedroom, which looked onto the drive. The dinner party must be going on late – the girls had yet to return.
He opened the window and lit a cigarette. He couldn’t stop thinking about Mary-Lou. It was torture to wonder if she was enjoying herself with Daniel Lyndhurst. She had been so fearless in the cave, she looked stunning; and he didn’t dare allow himself to think of how she had unbuttoned his shirt and run her fingers over his chest…
The noise of a car coming up the long drive awoke him from his reverie. Not wanting to be caught watching out for them from the window, he got up hastily and went back to his bed.
In London, David was also awake. He’d had an excellent night out at his Club with some of his old medical school friends and an excellent dinner in one of the best restaurants in Bloomsbury with the beautiful Lady Sophie, an old flame, who had given the strong impression that she was willing to take up with him again, despite the newly-acquired and enormous rock on her left hand. He would have to consider that very carefully indeed; the last thing David wanted was a situation that could get too complicated.
He had decided to walk home and his route took him past the British Museum. He was instantly reminded of Mary-Lou Trelawney and the fact that her brief thank-you note for the flowers hadn’t included a reply to his dinner invitation. It had been a long time since any woman had turned down David and he realised that his interest was piqued. He dismissed his half-formed plans for Lady Sophie and decided to call in and see Mary-Lou on Monday and insist on taking her out for dinner.
Jack Maynard was also awake, despite the four whiskies he’d knocked back earlier in the seedy hotel bar. The hotel was a million miles away from the ones he’d stayed in the past. It was small, dingy and not particularly clean, but it was cheap and that was what he had to think about nowadays. He tried to sleep again, but his dark thoughts wouldn’t let him. The meetings he would have with the banks on Monday morning were preying heavily on his mind. What on earth would he do if he couldn’t raise the funds he so desperately needed?
Mary-Lou was sad to leave the Quadrant on Sunday, she had enjoyed the company of the Bettanys and wasn’t really looking forward to going back to the Museum, despite of how she had loved it when she first started working there.
The dinner at Brentford Hall had been fun, even the frosty Lady Brentford had not been too overbearing. She had gone to bed early, leaving the younger people to enjoy themselves and Mary-Lou had enjoyed it immensely. Freddie was charming and obviously adored Maeve, and Daniel Lyndhurst was amiable company also.
The next morning had been spent going to church at Channing St Mary and a final walk along the cliffs with Maeve and Daphne before she had to leave for her train.
Daphne had been friendly, a completely different child from Saturday morning. She’d sat next to Mary-Lou in church and sang the hymns with a sweet, clear voice that promised to be just as beautiful as Joey Maynard’s and had chattered non-stop holding Mary-Lou’s hand as they walked across the cliffs.
Mary-Lou had noticed that the roadside entrance to the tunnel under the cliffs had once more been secured by the wire and wondered if Rix had done the work himself. She was reminded of his quiet admiration of the night before, which had rather surprised her. Although she lacked conceit, and her self-confidence had been lowered after Gerard’s casual dismissal, nonetheless she had been conscious that David Russell was interested in her. His flowers and dinner invitation had confirmed this. Rix, however, had treated her mostly in the same friendly-yet-slightly-distant way he had when they were younger. Even while confiding the details of his disagreement with the Maynards and in the cave he had maintained some reserve and Mary-Lou was sure he hadn’t told her the full story. Not that it was any of her business, she hastily told herself. But the look in his dark eyes as she had gone into the drawing room to say goodbye had confused her.
She had asked Maeve if he had a girlfriend, as discreetly as she could, even so Maeve
had been curious at the question.
“No, he did – I didn’t ever meet her, but Maurice did, he said she was really stunning – but I think they broke up. She was foreign, I think. I can’t remember her name. That was ages ago though. And anyway, he’s really shy.”
Mary-Lou had quickly changed the subject. Now, as she sat on the London train, she felt relieved that he had left hours before on the early train in order to get some work done before Monday. She needed some space to work out how she was feeling. She had no idea that things were about to get even more complicated.
Mary-Lou went into the museum early on Monday morning, she knew she’d been booked for three tour groups and also needed to finish cataloguing the new collection from South America. She was hard at work when the door to her tiny office opened and Lily Ross came in.
“Did you have a nice weekend?” she asked, sounding slightly condescending. Mary-Lou felt irritated but nodded.
“Very nice, thanks. I visited some friends in Devonshire. And you?”
“Oh, fine… I just wanted to tell you – Mr Ellingham’s visiting today to have lunch with the Director.”
“Oh? That’s nice.” Mary-Lou said, trying to be casual and failing. She remembered how Gerard used to come in on Mondays to have lunch with her. She wondered why Lily was telling her and started to frown.
“I know he was going to fund some of that new exhibition of yours – the Peruvian pottery.” Lily indicated the pieces on Mary-Lou’s desk as if Mary-Lou didn’t know about her own work, before she continued, “But I rather think he’s going to pull out. What a shame. I do hope you aren’t too disappointed?”
Mary-Lou glared at her, wanting to throw the priceless pottery at her smug face. How did she know this? From the usual eavesdropping at doors, she expected. She must be mistaken. Gerard knew the exhibition would be a major success and he wouldn’t want the bad publicity if it failed to happen. Lily was only being infuriating, as usual. She was probably making it all up.
She opened her mouth to speak, but before she could retort, her telephone extension rang. She picked up the receiver, trying not to roll her eyes. Lily made no move to leave the office at all.
“Hello? Oh, hello David, how are you? Yes, lovely, thanks. Did you? I see – lunch? Well, thank you – that would be lovely.”
Lily listened, feeling angry inside. How she’d hoped that Mary-Lou would be upset by the news that Gerard Ellingham was coming into the museum, but here she was arranging a lunch date with another man! David – the man who had sent such lovely, expensive flowers.
“I’m sorry, Lily, I really must get on with this work. Did you want anything else?”
Mary-Lou’s tone was sharp, despite her best efforts to hide her annoyance and Lily flushed red.
“Not at all. Please don’t allow me to keep you from your – work.” she said, nastily, before flouncing out.
Mary-Lou looked after her in dislike, wondering what she had done to make the older woman into such an enemy.
Rix had not had the best morning. Rayner had demanded to know about the graze on his forehead and had made some sarcastic remarks about the idiocy of impulsive cave explorations. Rix had also made some rudimentary errors during the operation they had performed which had irritated the Senior Consultant further, especially as they had occurred before six medical students.
Rayner hadn’t said much about it, but he wouldn’t in front of others. Rix dreaded what he would say during their coffee break, but Rayner was unexpectedly sympathetic.
“I know you can do better, so I’m not going to say too much. You aren’t sleeping, are you? Worried about the assessments?”
“No – not really. I don’t know. I’m not sleeping well.” Rix admitted, lighting his cigarette and passing his lighter to Rayner.
“No more problems about you not joining your uncle’s practice?” Rayner didn’t know very much about the row, but Rix had had to tell him the basics at the time.
“There’s nothing worrying me. I just couldn’t concentrate this morning. I’m sorry.”
“It’s all right. Why don’t you take the rest of the afternoon off? I’ll get Forrest to assist me this afternoon. Where did you get this thing? You’d better not leave it lying about here.”
Rix looked up at the cigarette lighter, realising that it was Mary-Lou’s and he had forgotten to give it back to her.
“It’s a friend’s.” he said, as Rayner passed it back. He looked at it more closely, realising for the first time that it looked valuable. It was hallmarked gold. He realised that he ought to return it to her and decided to walk over Westminster Bridge to the Museum before he went home. Maybe he could even take her out to lunch? He felt instantly more cheerful at the prospect of seeing her and left as soon as he could.
Jack had sat in the bank arguing his case for nearly an hour and much to his relief, it seemed to have worked. They would extend the loan, giving him another eight months to pull things around at the San. He didn’t dare think beyond that time. Phil Graves and Eugen Courvoisier had left the San already, and it looked as if Neil Sheppard would be following them soon.
Jack also knew full well that if Laurie Rosomon hadn’t been family, he would have gone months ago and even Reg, his closest ally, had been worried enough to ask him about the future the day before Jack had flown to London.
“I have to think about Len and the baby now, Jack. I just need to know if we can carry on here. They say TB’s finished…”
“It hasn’t finished.” Jack had replied, stubbornly. “Anyway, we’ll branch out. I’ve got plans, Reg. I appreciate your patience.”
Reg had left, but he hadn’t looked satisfied. Jack hoped that he hadn’t shared his worries with Len. The Maynards’ first grandchild was due very soon and the last thing he wanted was for Len to discuss the situation with her mother.
Jem would have been a good help at the bank, but he had taken retirement now and passed control of the Welsh San to David. Madge had wanted to live in Australia to be near to her two eldest daughters, so Jem and she had packed up and flown over as soon as the twins were old enough to start school.
After leaving the bank, Jack decided to phone David and offer to take him out to dinner. They could discuss their respective plans.
He found a phone box and telephoned Guy’s. He was annoyed to find that David had left for lunch, but left a message anyway. Glancing at his watch, he saw it was ten to one. He decided to go and celebrate his stay of execution with a spot of lunch, but halfway to the nearest restaurant, he paused, thinking. Would this be a good time to visit his other nephew at St Thomas’s and attempt some kind of reconciliation?
He had always wanted Rix to work in the San. Not only had he heard through the medical grapevine that Rix was a hard-worker and already a skilled doctor, he was also an oncologist; and Jack was desperate to branch out into that field. Despite his reassurances to Reg, he was aware that the era of TB was nearly over and the San had to adapt to survive. Without the money for high salaries, he was finding it difficult to recruit or even keep his current staff. If he hired his nephew, he could offer well under the going rate and it would still be more than Rix earned on the NHS. Or so Jack tried to tell himself, feeling slightly guilty. Rix wouldn’t need the money soon anyway, as Dick’s heir to the Quadrant.
He made up his mind, and headed for the Underground. Rix was at work and wouldn’t be able to argue the way he had in the Quadrant. Jack might be able to finally talk some sense into him.
David arrived early to take Mary-Lou out for lunch. She was pleased to get away from the Museum for an hour or so. She was anxious to avoid Gerard and Lily was seriously starting to annoy her. She had made it her business to be hanging around the main reception when David arrived and had accosted him officiously, asking if she could help before Mary-Lou could get to him, making sure that Mary-Lou was forced to introduce him to her.
“Oh, you’re David!” she’d squealed, giving a false-sounding laugh. “I’ve heard all about you, and seen your beautiful flowers. How nice to meet you.”
Mary-Lou had dragged him away so quickly, that he had looked surprised and Lily was offended. She’d only tried to be friendly! Who did Mary-Lou think she was? She slammed back up to the offices, fuming.
In her office, she sat down heavily on her chair and stared out of the window, wondering how she could pay Mary-Lou back for embarrassing her in front of that attractive man. Her telephone started to ring and she answered it moodily.
“Miss Ross? Mary-Lou’s hasn’t gone out, hasn’t she? There’s a gentleman to see her.” The girl on the front desk said, warily. She didn't like Lily.
“Who is he? No, wait. I suppose I can come down,” Lily sighed exaggeratedly, hanging up before the receptionist could reply.
She stomped down the stairs. Halfway down it struck her that it could be Gerard Ellingham and she smoothed her hair down. If only she could make a good impression! Some of her recent ideas for exhibitions had been turned down, but she was convinced that they were as good as Mary-Lou’s own. If it wasn’t for the favouritism that existed… Lily felt disappointed when she saw that it wasn’t Gerard Ellingham but a tall, dark-haired man who was very handsome – possibly better looking than Mary-Lou’s other friend.
He approached her, smiling, “I’m looking for Mary-Lou Trelawney…” he began.
“She’s not here. She’s gone out with her boyfriend,” Lily snapped. “Or at least one of them. Our Mary-Lou’s a popular girl. But I expect you know that already.”
His smile disappeared instantly. For a second she felt slightly guilty, he looked so completely stricken. He recovered himself, slightly.
“She’s a friend of my sister’s. I wanted to return this to her. Perhaps you could pass it on – Miss - ?”
“OK, I will,” Lily took the lighter from him, without answering his query.
“Thank you. That would be very kind of you.”
“All right.” Lily said, sullenly. “Wait, you didn’t tell me your name.”
“Bettany.” he replied, unwillingly. At least Mary-Lou would never know he had wanted to take her out. He wondered who had taken her out for lunch, but didn’t want to ask. He said goodbye to her colleague and left, heading for the bus stop, deep in thought. He didn’t notice Mary-Lou and David laughing together in a café opposite the Museum.
Jack walked around the corridors of St Thomas’s, noticing how busy and shabby it was. Nothing at all like the quiet, comfortable San in the Oberland.
A middle-aged receptionist asked politely if she could help him.
“I’m looking for a Dr Richard Bettany. Can you tell me where I might find him?”
“Bettany – I don’t suppose you know which Department?” she asked, hunting through a book printed with names and telephone extensions. Jack was amazed at how large the hospital staff seemed to be. “Oh, here we are. I’ll try his number for you.”
Jack grimaced. He had reckoned on the element of surprise. Rix might well refuse to see him. “I need to talk to him fairly urgently and I’ve come from Switzerland. My name is Maynard, Dr Maynard. Could you direct me to his office, please?” he asked, authoritatively. The receptionist blushed.
“Of course, sir. I’m sorry. If you head for the Oncology Department, he shares an office with Mr Rayner. It’s on the fifth floor, third door on the left of the lifts.”
Jack nodded his thanks and headed for the lifts.
On the fifth floor, he located the office easily. Rix’s name was etched onto the door, underneath that of his senior colleague. He knocked and waited for Rix to answer.
Inside, Rayner looked up from his paperwork and sighed. He was busy and did not welcome the interruption.
“Come in,” he called, sounding irritated.
Jack entered and frowned to see that Rix wasn’t there. “Good afternoon. My name is Maynard and I’ve come to see Richard Bettany. Do you know where he is?”
“I sent him home – he didn’t look well to me. Can I help you? I’m Francis Rayner.” Rayner was bemused. The name Maynard rang a bell, but he couldn’t place the older man’s face.
“It’s a family matter.” Jack said, coldly. In his San, the younger doctors stood up when he came into their offices and Rayner hadn’t even bothered to put his pen down.
Rayner looked up sharply. The name Maynard fell into place.
“Ah. You must be Dr John Maynard of the Gornetz Platz. Richard’s uncle.”
“Yes, that’s right. Maybe you could tell me his address so I can speak to him – if it’s not too much trouble.”
“I’m afraid it is. I don’t give out my colleagues’ addresses without their permission.” Rayner said, mildly. “Perhaps I could give him a message? Or ask him to contact you.”
Jack glared at Rayner, furiously. “I have a right to speak to my nephew. I must insist that you give me his address at once, or else I will have to speak to your Senior Consultant.”
“I’m afraid you’re speaking to the Senior Consultant already.” Rayner sounded amused. “I run this section of the Oncology Department and report directly to the Board of Trustees. And as I said, Richard has the right to privacy. If you wish to wait, I can telephone him and ask if he will return to see you. I expect he won’t have reached his home yet, however.”
Jack stared at the younger man, an expression of great fury on his face, but Rayner just raised an eyebrow. He knew that Maynard had tried to browbeat Rix into joining his Swiss Sanatorium and wasn’t prepared for his assistant to face more stress. Not when he had looked so pale and ill. He could tell that Maynard was a bully, but he had faced down many of them during his own career.
Jack knew when he was beaten. He pulled out a pen and paper and scribbled down the address of his hotel, throwing it onto Rayner’s desk. “Give this to him and tell him I want to see him.”
“Certainly. Good afternoon, Dr Maynard.” Rayner replied, returning to his paperwork. Jack hesitated for a moment, and then left the office, slamming the door.
Gerard Ellingham was feeling very pleased with himself. He had successful merged two of his newly acquired companies at a great personal profit and Louise had stopped being so cold to him after his latest indiscretion. The expensive ruby necklace had gone some way to bringing her round.
He was meeting the Museum Director, Sir Anthony Melton, for lunch at half past one, so he had time to see if Mary-Lou was in her office. She hadn’t replied to his note but he couldn’t really blame her. He felt slightly guilty about the way he had broken the bad news to her, but yet irritated that she had been so naïve. How could she not have realised he was married in two years? He sincerely hoped that she hadn’t gone around telling all and sundry about their relationship, yet feared the worst. At least Louise never came to town so the two of them would never meet. Louise had heard rumours that he was involved with a young girl from the Museum, but luckily no names had ever been passed on to her.
As he entered the Museum, a young man pushed past with a muttered apology and didn’t stop. Gerard stared after him, offended, realising that not only was his appearance familiar but also that he looked like he’d been given bad news. He wasn’t interested enough to think about it for too long, however, and decided to pop up to Mary-Lou’s office to see if she was around. Louise wouldn’t be expecting him to start up anything again so soon and Mary-Lou was young and inexperienced, despite all her independence. She would be easy to manoeuvre back into bed.
Gerard knocked on Mary-Lou’s office door but got no response. He opened the door and looked inside. A voice behind him made him turn round.
“Hello! She’s gone out for lunch.” Lily said, unable to believe her luck and wondering if she could charm him into sponsoring one of her ideas for exhibitions, which had so far all been turned down by the Director. “Can I help you, Mr Ellingham? I’m Lily Ross.”
“Hmm. I was looking for Mary-Lou to – erm – go over the opening night details for the Peruvian exhibition,” Gerard lied, smoothly. “But it doesn’t matter. How nice to meet you.” he added, smiling, using the charm he used on all the women he came across.
Lily smiled back at once, fiddling with the gold cigarette lighter. His gaze was drawn to it and he frowned.
“Where did you get that?” he asked, sharply.
“It belongs to Mary-Lou apparently. One of her friends dropped it in for her a few minutes ago. I was just going to leave it on her desk.”
Gerard took it from her. He remembered giving it to Mary-Lou as a gift and it was valuable. He didn’t like the idea of her lending it around to her friends.
Lily saw his scowl and knew he was jealous. “She’s due back in at two, I believe. Her friend David said they wouldn’t be long.”
“David?” Gerard questioned at once, picking up Lily’s bait.
“Oh yes. He sent her the most gorgeous flowers last week. And did you know, she actually had another gentleman caller this lunchtime as well? I believe his name was Bettany.”
“Oh yes?” Gerard remembered the young man who had pushed past him in the reception. Now he could place him, Frank Rayner’s young colleague. So he was interested in Mary-Lou was he? He wouldn’t be once Gerard had spoken to him - and to a few of his superiors at the hospital.
“Yes. Well, she’s so pretty, why wouldn’t she have gentlemen callers?” Lily said, with an unpleasant edge, looking at Gerard in a way that left him in no doubt of her knowledge of his relationship with Mary-Lou.
Gerard felt himself getting angry. How many of her friends had Mary-Lou told? Did the whole Museum staff know? Did the trustees know? Louise’s brother was on the board of trustees. He had conveniently forgotten that he had told Mary-Lou that he was separated from Louise and given her the impression that their relationship had a future. He also didn’t think of the humiliation she had gone through when he ended things.
Gerard put the gold lighter into his pocket.
“You must excuse me, Miss Ross. I have to go to lunch with Anthony now. If you wouldn’t mind, please tell Mary-Lou that I wish to see her at three.” he said, as he turned and headed for the Director’s office. “Regarding the new exhibition, naturally.”
“Naturally.” Lily echoed, smiling a secret little smile and humming a cheerful little tune as she headed to her own office.
Francis Rayner put his pen down and sighed. He couldn’t concentrate for thinking about the visit from Jack Maynard; running it over and over again in his mind and wishing he had handled the situation differently. Rayner knew how cutting he could be when his temper was roused but still, it had been incredibly galling to be spoken to like that. He knew Maynard and Rix had had some kind of disagreement; now he hoped he hadn’t made the situation worse for Rix. He rubbed his eyes, and then looked at the note Maynard had left for his nephew on the corner of his desk.
He picked up his telephone and used the automatic exchange to telephone Rix, who answered.
“Is something wrong?” Rix asked bluntly, after they had exchanged greetings.
“Not at all. I apologise for telephoning you at home, but your uncle, Dr Maynard, came to the office looking for you, and asked me to pass on the address of his hotel.”
Rix was silent for a moment or two “My uncle? He’s in London?” he asked.
“Yes. He wanted your address but I wouldn’t give it to him without your permission.” Rayner paused, “He didn’t seem very happy about that.”
“I’m glad you didn’t… I couldn’t face him today.” Rix admitted. “We aren’t on speaking terms at the moment. Did you say he left an address, sir?”
Rayner read it aloud. “Are you going to go there?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I want to explain things properly to him – but he just won’t listen. Maybe I should apologise for some of the things I said to him... It’s complicated.”
“And none of my business, of course.” Rayner said, kindly. “But I would recommend you sort it out before it starts to affect your work here. No, I’m not reproaching you, but it was very clear this morning that you’ve got something on your mind. Probably best to get things sorted out, don’t you think?”
That’s not the only thing that affected my concentration this morning, Rix thought uncomfortably, but he only made his farewells and hung up the receiver, frowning at the piece of paper he’d scrawled Jack’s details on. Maybe he should go and see him and try to sort things out once and for all.
He had made up his mind and was just pulling on his coat when he heard his doorbell ring.
At half past two Mary-Lou said goodbye to David at the Museum gates and headed back to her office. She felt much better for the break and David had been very charming company. She had hinted to him that she would prefer to be friends rather than anything else and he had seemed to respect her wishes, much to her relief. His kiss on her cheek as they parted had been pally rather than amorous.
In her office, she resumed her work on classifying the pieces of pottery. She was anxious to get it all finished before the end of the week. A knock on her door made her groan.
Lily poked her head around the door but unusually for her she didn’t come in.
“Oh you’re finally back! Mr Ellingham – Gerard – came by and he asked me to let you know he wants to meet with you at three. About the new exhibition. I am sorry, Mary-Lou.”
“Thanks for the message.” Mary-Lou said, trying to hide her thoughts but feeling completely dropped on.
“Oh, and a Mr Bettany called to see you – he must’ve just missed you actually. I told him you’d gone out but I didn’t say it was with David.” Lily continued, dropping her voice as if she and Mary-Lou had a great secret. “He was rather rude to me actually, but then I suppose he was disappointed you weren’t here.”
Mary-Lou bit back an exclamation. She could just imagine the conversation Lily would have had with Rix. “Did he leave a message?”
“No, he didn’t. As I said, he was rather rude.” Lily repeated.
“Well, I’m sorry he was rude.” Mary-Lou said, uncertainly, but Lily had gone.
Mary-Lou buried her face in her hands, trying to stop the tears from falling onto the pieces of pottery on her desk. She sniffed and hunted for her handkerchief and was blowing her nose when Gerard entered her office without knocking.
“Darling,” he said at once, “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. Hayfever.” Mary-Lou lied at once, hoping he didn’t think she was crying over him. She wasn’t, she told herself, well, only partly.
He came right up to her desk and took hold of her hand. “Listen darling, I meant it when I sent you that note with the flowers. I do still love you and if it weren’t for the girls I’d leave Louise for you. You must know how I feel. Maybe we could try again? You’d have to be more discreet this time of course.”
“I don’t believe this.” Mary-Lou pulled away from him and stood up. “Who do you think you are?”
He scowled. “Your friend Lily told me about all these boys hanging around you. What are you trying to prove? I’ve told you I still love you. You don’t need to make me jealous.”
“What are you talking about? Why would I try to make you jealous? You don’t mean anything to me anymore. And what on earth are you talking about, boys hanging around for me? I went to lunch with the brother of a friend, whom I’ve known since I was eleven years old! Hardly a romantic liaison.” Mary-Lou said scathingly. She was very much on her dignity and it infuriated him. No woman had ever turned him down before!
He tried to grab her arm to draw her closer, but she pulled away, her blue eyes flashing with anger. “Don’t touch me, Gerard.” She said.
“I realise I upset you, but I do love you! If it makes you happy, I will leave Louise for you. Just say the word and I’ll start divorce proceedings.”
“I don’t want you to, Gerard. I can’t – you’re married! I’m not interested anymore. You deliberately deceived me. Just leave me alone.”
She saw the anger flare across his face and felt afraid. She had never seen him so out of control before. He reached into his pocket and threw something onto her desk, not caring about the precious pottery.
“What’s going on between you and the Bettany boy from St Thomas’s?” he snarled. “Remember when I gave you that lighter? How you said you’d treasure it?”
Mary-Lou stared at it. She hadn’t missed it since she’d left it with Rix in the tunnel while she went for help. That had only been the day before yesterday, even though it seemed like weeks ago. Rix must have brought it to the Museum for her and she dreaded to think of what had happened if he had run into Gerard in that mood.
“Nothing! He’s a friend and I was at his family’s house at the weekend. I must’ve left it behind.” She replied, moving further away from him. “I’m sorry. You can have it back. I know it was expensive.”
“That’s not the point!” he hissed, but he was starting to cool down. Her obvious fear of him was not pleasant to see.
“Gerard, I’m sorry you feel this way – but I don’t want to go back to what we had. I need to move on,” she said briskly. “I’m not involved with anyone else. I just want to concentrate on my career and spend time with my friends.”
"You'll be sorry for this," Gerard growled, storming out of the room and slamming the door behind him. She picked up the lighter sadly. Rix had obviously had it refilled for her and this little bit of kindness made the tears well up in her eyes again. She hoped Lily hadn’t told him about Gerard, but she feared the worst. What would he say if he knew she had been in a relationship with a married man?
She suddenly wanted to see him. She scrubbed fiercely at her eyes and stood up, picking up her handbag. She would go to St Thomas’s and if he wasn’t there, she would go to Guy’s and get his address from David.
Rix went downstairs and opened the heavy front door, wondering who could be calling to see him. He was rarely home during the day. He hoped it wasn’t Jack; he wanted to think about what he could say on the way to the hotel.
A pair of arms was immediately thrown around his neck and he was kissed and greeted by a familiar voice.
“Gina – how are you?” he grinned at his former girlfriend, who was chattering away in her native Italian, and bent down to kiss her. She was a nurse at the hospital and although the relationship – his longest relationship, lasting three years – had been over for nearly two years, they were still friendly. “How did you know I was home?”
“Sylvia told me she saw you leave and you look unhappy! I have early shift, so I thought I come and cheer you up. We could go for a walk and coffee, and go to the meeting later? They say you have not been to any of the meetings for a long time.”
“No, I’ve been busy. I can come tonight though.” Rix pushed the piece of paper into the pocket of his coat. “And coffee sounds great.”
“But you are going out already? You have your coat?” Gina asked, taking his arm companionably.
“It can wait till tomorrow morning. Where do you fancy going? West End maybe?”
“Fine. I’m glad you are coming to the meeting, Rix, we missed you.”
Rix was touched. He put his arm around Gina as they headed to the bridge, listening to her chatter about their mutual friends and about her new boyfriend, even though she seemed to have conveniently forgotten she had cheated on Rix with him. Rix didn’t care; it was water under the bridge. They were just walking past the hospital when they ran into Mary-Lou, getting out of a taxi.
Mary-Lou saw Rix with his arm around such a beautiful girl and felt shocked, her thoughts were swirling around her head; a mad jumble of confusion and hurt. She suddenly wished she hadn’t come to see him. What on earth was she doing?
In desperation, she got back into the taxi, but the driver glared at her.
“Are you getting out, luv? I’ve not got all day yer know!” he said, indignantly.
“I need to go back to Bloomsbury.” She said, urgently, aware that Rix was waving, and obviously about to cross the road and come over to her. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m starting the meter again.” The cabbie said, grumpily. He clearly thought she was insane. Maybe I am, Mary-Lou thought, but Rix having a girlfriend was something she didn’t want to deal with right now. She would write and thank him for returning the lighter, care of the hospital.
As the taxi pulled away, her eyes met his and he looked confused and hurt.
Later that evening - while Rix was sitting glumly with Gina at the meeting and refusing to answer her interested questions - Mary-Lou sat at home in her flat. She had told herself firmly that she had finished wasting her time crying over men and that in future she wasn’t going to bother with them at all.
She still blushed thinking about what a fool she had made of herself in front of Rix, imagining that he was interested in her that way when he so clearly wasn’t, and as for Gerard – she felt nothing but shame. She could imagine what her Gran would have said about her carrying on with a married man. And the fact that he had told her he was separated would have been no excuse!
Don’t think of it anymore, you moke, She told herself firmly. She made a cup of tea and picked up her post.
A letter with a Swiss stamp caught her eye and she remembered her letter to Joey Maynard telling her an edited version of the break up with Gerard. At last, the reply! She tore it open eagerly and scanned the contents.
Joey had written reams about the Maynard family’s latest news, and about Len expecting her first grandchild. She had written some kind words about Mary-Lou’s ‘troubles’ and invited her to visit Freudesheim with a warmth that was delightful.
‘You know I’ve always wanted you to consider it your second home – no, your first! As long as Jack and I are around you needn’t be lonely. Margot is still studying in Edinburgh, of course, and spends her holidays in a retreat there, but Con is at home now, writing away like anything, and Len only a few miles away on the Rosleinalpe, and of course I’m here. I’ve nearly finished my latest novel and after that I’ll have oceans of time to catch up.' She had written. 'Do try to come if you can. Hilda, Nell and Rosalie were here for English tea when your letter came, and of course they demanded your address and will write in due course. You have neglected us, my child!’
Mary-Lou read to the end and sighed, wishing she could visit. She turned the paper over and saw that Joey had scrawled a PS.
‘Jack is coming over on a flying visit on 16 April – I’ve given him your address and he says he will try to pop round to see you, either at home or more likely at the Museum. I think he’s attending a Medical Conference so he mightn’t be able to manage it, but hopefully he will! Much love, J’
Mary-Lou folded the letter and put it back into its envelope, with a rueful smile. She could just imagine Lily’s face if she had yet another man visiting her at work! And the mention of Jack had reminded her of his row with Rix, though Joey hadn’t mentioned that once in her letter.
Mary-Lou wrote a note to Rix at the hospital, thanking him for bringing the lighter back. She didn’t mention anything about seeing him outside the hospital or about the weekend at the Quadrant. She read it through once, hoping it wasn’t too cold – after all she had never asked him if he was in a relationship or not - and sealed and stamped the envelope. Tomorrow she would post it and then that would be that. The next time she would see him presumably would be at Maeve's wedding in June, but she expected he would be attending with his girlfriend.
David met Jack for dinner at the restaurant that Jack had chosen, feeling slightly apprehensive. He hoped that Jack wasn’t going to go on too much about the San; it was all he ever heard from his father who still maintained a large financial interest in it and would be straight on the telephone if the quarterly reports weren’t healthy. But he had at least listened to David’s plans and given him the go-ahead to bring them into practice. David was feeling very pleased with himself indeed. His father’s approval meant a great deal after his rather shaky start as a medical student.
He gave himself a mental shake and fixed a smile to his face as he saw his uncle sat at a far table. He reminded himself that although both sans still maintained close links, the financial aspects were now completely separate, so technically Jack couldn’t interfere with his plans even if he wanted to. David grinned at his speculation, what was there to worry about? He was certain Jack would be impressed.
Jack was not in the best of moods, his initial elation about the loans from the bank had been replaced by the ever-present anxiety about how he was going to repay them and he was still annoyed about not being able to contact Rix. He knew he should apologise and he hated to be in the wrong. Also, Joey was continually asking him to make his peace with Rix. She hated not being in touch with Dick and Mollie and the quarrel had upset her badly. He hadn’t reminded her that it had been her own tactless comment about the Bettany children being left with Jem and Madge that had, in her own words, put the tin lid on things.
He sighed over the menu and looked up to see David enter the restaurant. He came over, greeted Jack and sat down, immediately plunging into an anecdote about his training hospital.
It was not until they had finished their starters that Jack asked David if he had spoken to his cousin recently.
“I saw him about two weeks ago. We ran into Mary-Lou Trelawney and went out for a drink. As a matter of fact, I had lunch with her this afternoon. She’s a lovely girl.”
“Mmm. Your Aunt Jo asked me to call on her if I could, but I don’t think I’ll be able to fit it in. You’ll have to give her my regards. Do you know Rix’s address?”
“I’ve got it somewhere – he’s always at work though or out with those lot from – ." David hesitated. He had his faults, but he was loyal enough. “Have you tried St Thomas’s?”
“Yes – and I have to say, I wasn’t very happy at being spoken to by an incredibly rude consultant – Rayner I believe he was called. Practically threw me out of his office. If that’s the best the NHS can do I wonder how long it can continue. Ridiculous notion.” Jack complained, bitterly, “Making doctors work such long hours for such low wages. Totally unsustainable.”
“Mr Rayner? He is pretty fierce.” David said, ignoring most of this, having heard it all before. “He comes over to Guy’s once a week and yells at us. Typical surgeon. Rix seems to get on OK with him, though.”
“I can’t for the life of me think why he wants to continue in the NHS when the San can offer him so much more.” Jack muttered.
“It’s completely different these days,” David began, unwisely. “We specialise more. Rix hasn’t trained as a thoracic surgeon so why would he want to start again from the bottom in a sanatorium for lung diseases? Anyway, last time he and I discussed it he was still thinking of having a year or two in Africa or Asia with Médicins sans Frontières. He might come around to working in the San – not in Switzerland but with me…”
Jack looked horrified, “Médicins sans Frontières? What is this obsession with going miles away to dangerous places? Margot is exactly the same… And anyway, I may well change the direction of the San. TB isn’t over completely, despite these claims of latest miracle medicines. I still have my patients. But what I’ll do is focus more on cancer patients and more general illnesses.”
“Really?” David said, eagerly, although he was thinking privately that Jack still had TB patients precisely because he wasn’t treating them with the latest medicines. In his opinion, the Gornetz Platz was stuck in the past. “I’m changing the direction of the Welsh san too. In fact, I was going to write to you before I knew you were in London. I’ve got plans to expand and completely change the way it’s run. I’ve managed to recruit a few of the men I trained with and they’re really keen to start.”
“What are your plans?” Jack asked, instinctively feeling that he was not going to like them.
Well,” David began, “I’ve closed the TB wards, there was no point in keeping them open as we found we didn’t have any patients who couldn’t be treated with strong drugs. Haven’t you discovered that? I don’t know about you, but since we started using them, our success rate was nearly 100% - not counting the really hopeless cases of course. I’m going to concentrate on the administration myself and we’ll also start some training programmes for medical students – basically I’ve got a man looking into it and the NHS would pay us to give research places to some of their students. There’s a bloke I know called Sir Robert Welles and he’s interested in this, so that would be a definite income to replace the loss from the TB patients. But basically, I was thinking about it and discussing it with a few of the fellows from Guy’s and I thought – .”
“What?” Jack interrupted him. “Why have you closed your TB wards? Does your father know?”
“Of course he does – he agrees with me that we need to change our focus…”
“It seems a drastic step to me. What if these drugs don’t work?” Jack persisted, stubbornly.
David was confused. Was Jack serious? Didn’t he read the medical journals or latest research? TB was nearly wiped out now, except for the Third World.
“I want to turn the San into a children’s hospital. I’ve done some research and I think – “
“Fine.” Jack cut him off, abruptly. If Jem agreed with David’s plans then he didn’t care. He no longer had any financial interest in the Welsh san anyway and none of David’s ideas appealed to him as ones he could adapt for his own institution. Research and paediatrics didn’t sound very profitable to him and he could no longer be bothered with medical students. Jack wanted to recruit established doctors and surgeons, knowing he couldn’t give junior doctors the time he once was able to.
Why did you ask if you didn’t want to know? David thought, annoyed, pushing the food around on his plate. His Uncle Jack had once been a great ally, now he was becoming unbearable.
“How many TB cases do you have in Switzerland?” he asked, trying to keep his voice neutral.
Jack changed the subject abruptly, leaving David to correctly deduce that the answers was few, if any, and certainly no referrals from England as had happened in the past. For a moment, he felt sorry for his uncle, obviously he was finding it hard to adapt to a world without the white man’s plague that had been his life’s work to fight.
“A lot of thoracic specialists are moving into cardiology now,” he tried to hint. “I know a chap who used to specialise in TB and lung cancers who’s now doing really interesting research into treating congenital heart defects.”
“I thought about that,” Jack admitted, wondering if he could confide his money problems to David without the news being relayed to Jem. “But I want to develop a centre for cancer treatments. That’s part of the reason why I want Rix to join the San. I expect you know all about this from him.” He continued, frowning.
“He hasn’t said much to me,” David said, noncommittally.
“I offered him a job at the San – I expected he’d jump at the chance but apparently not. He said he wasn’t interested in working in private practice or in Switzerland. He was very vague why he wouldn’t. I offered him a lot of money.” Jack complained. “And reminded him that his first loyalty should be to the family.”
Oh not this again, thought David. “How much – do you mind me asking – did you offer him?” he asked.
Jack named a sum and David had to bite his lip to keep from laughing. Jack was years behind the times!
“I see. I think you’d need to offer a bit more than that – even though he’s in the NHS, he’s still a surgeon! He must get – let me think -” David named a very high figure indeed, much to Jack’s astonishment.
“I didn’t think the NHS paid that much.” he replied. “But I do think he could take a cut in salary to help me implement some changes in the San.”
“I have to dash off, Uncle Jack, but thanks for dinner.” David said, getting up, unable to take any more of Jack’s moaning. He also had a date with one of the nurses and her shift would be finished soon, “Safe journey back to the Platz and give Aunt Joey my love.”
Before Jack could say anything, he had gone, leaving Jack almost incandescent with anger.
Rix woke early the next morning. After the meeting, which had been filled with impassioned debates as usual, he had gone to a party in someone’s flat with Gina and the others. They had drunk a large quantity of cheap wine and talked and argued into the early hours. Rix had only had two glasses, and now he was glad. He needed a clear head for his discussions with Jack.
At ten, he took a taxi to the hotel and was amazed to see how shabby it was. He had to double-check it was the correct address. The receptionist phoned Jack’s room for him and Rix waited by the large and grubby window in the small sitting room for him to come down.
It took ten minutes and Jack looked as if he had dressed in a hurry.
“Rix.” he said in greeting, sounding surprised. “I’m pleased to see you – thank you for coming.”
Rix nodded. He could smell the whisky on his uncle from the night before and hoped they wouldn’t argue again.
“Sit down, sit down.” Jack urged. “I’ll get us some coffee, I’ll ask the receptionist. How are you?”
“I’m fine, and you?” Rix had known it was going to be awkward, but this was awful. Jack looked dreadful - tired, grey and old. It wasn’t just a hangover, Rix realised that Jack looked like someone who’d been living under a great strain for a long time.
“I wanted to apologise for striking you, that time. I should have kept my temper. And I had no right to say those things to you, or to your parents, especially as they weren’t true.”
Rix looked at him, amazed, “Well, we can draw a line under it, can’t we? I’m sorry too.”
“I’m glad about that, glad you feel that way. I had dinner with David last night. He explained that I was offering you too little money – but we don’t need to discuss that now.” Jack said, hurriedly, noticing Rix starting to frown. “How are things going at work? I saw your hospital yesterday.”
“It’s fine. Thank you. Dad’s fine.” Rix added, trying his hardest not to sound too critical. “How is Aunt Jo?”
“Very well, finishing her latest novel, otherwise she’d be here with me.” Jack fibbed, sitting down next to his nephew. “Well, we’d be in the little hotel she prefers in Kensington, probably, but this is handier for my – my meetings.” He had said medical conference to Joey, but Rix would know that as an untruth. “That’s good news about Dick. I’m very pleased. Do you think I could - I’d like to write to him, to apologise. And Jo will write to your mother.”
“Mother’s in Canada, visiting Peg and my new little niece.” Rix replied, relaxing a little. Jack did seem anxious to make amends.
“So I heard from Len. Her baby’s due any day now – due last week, actually, but first babies are often late. Isn’t that three children young Peggy has now? Bride’s expecting too, isn’t she?” Jack asked.
“Yes, due in October. I think Dad would be pleased if you wrote to him. And Mother would too, I expect.”
“Good. And Rix, I am sorry. For everything I said. I’d be grateful for the chance to be friends again.”
Rix nodded, wishing he knew what to say. He had expected further argument after Rayner’s report but he was glad of the chance to heal the rift. He knew how pleased his parents would be. And if things did get better, the Maynards could come to the wedding, which would make Maeve happy.
Jack was similarly pleased it was going so well. Rix seemed quiet, but no more so than usual. He still wanted his nephew to work in the San, but had decided to change tack. He started to discuss David’s plans for the San, as the receptionist brought them some coffee.
Rix was annoyed at the thought of David poaching NHS staff, but kept his feelings to himself. The truce was so fragile that a cross word could break it down again.
Jack offered to take Rix out for lunch, but Rix said he had to go into work. He took the bus and walked to the hospital, where he found Rayner in their office, in an unexpectedly good mood.
“We’ve had a significant donation to build the new wing,” he said, offering Rix a cigarette. “Come on, I’ll take you out to lunch to celebrate. What’s that?”
Rix screwed up Mary-Lou’s note and tossed it into the wastepaper basket. “Nothing.” he said, tersely. “Who gave us the cash?”
“Gerard Ellingham. He telephoned me first thing this morning. He’s giving us a great deal of money.” Rayner named an astronomical sum.
“Why is he giving that much money?” Rix asked, doubtfully.
“Why so suspicious? It’s small change to him and he does give to charitable causes sometimes.”
“Well, it’s very decent of him.” Rix said, pulling his coat on. “I won’t say no to lunch. Thank you.”
Over lunch, after they had discussed the donation and the workload for the forthcoming week, Rayner told Rix that Gerard Ellingham had requested a meeting with him.
“Just with me? Why?” Rix asked.
“I think just to introduce himself. He’ll be involved with the financial aspects of the new wing so working fairly closely with us. Robert and I know him already, but you don’t, do you? Do you mind? He’s given me a couple of dates for next week and he said you could choose which restaurant you want for a lunch. He was quite persistent, actually. I expect he wants to get to know the whole team.”
“No, it’s fine.” Rix said – he couldn’t say anything else, really – but he did think it strange that Ellingham would want to introduce himself to a junior surgeon so badly. He had never acknowledged Rix’s presence at previous meetings, except for once when he had snarled at Rix to get out of his way.
David was waiting outside the hospital as Rix left.
“Do you fancy coming for a drink? I need your advice,” he asked, mysteriously.
“Sure. Where do you want to go?” Rix replied, easily. David asked him for advice, favours and loans often, but this time David did look rather bothered.
“Oh, anywhere. This’ll do.” David waited until Rix had ordered their pints at the bar before he continued. “The thing is, I’m in a bit of a fix.”
“Money?” Rix asked briefly, sitting down at a table.
“No – I. No. I don’t really know how to say this,” David prevaricated, “But…”
“I think I’m in love,” he finished, dramatically.
Rix burst into laughter. “I’m sorry. From the way you were carrying on I thought it was something serious!”
“It is serious,” David said, affronted. “I think this might be it, you know, that she’s the one for me.”
“Sorry,” Rix said again, but he was amused. David had a different girlfriend every week and was a favourite of the nurses at the hospital with his good looks and easy-going charm.
“I was out last night with another girl, and while we were dancing I realised that she was the girl I wanted to marry. Not the girl, I was with, of course, but – “
“How romantic. Well, who is the lucky girl then?” Rix teased.
“It’s Mary-Lou Trelawney. I took her out for lunch yesterday.” David replied.
Rix put his glass back down on the table, slowly. It felt like the sun had gone behind a cloud. Any hope that had remained to him had gone at David’s words.
“Does she feel the same way?” he asked, trying not to let his true feelings show. He knew at that moment that whatever his budding feelings for Mary-Lou were, they were not reciprocated. Her behaviour outside the hospital had proved that, now he had to accept it.
“I don’t know. She asked if we could just be friends, but I do want more than that.” David said, sounding petulant.
“How do you think I can give you advice, Dave?” Rix asked.
“I wondered if you could talk to her at Maeve’s wedding? See if she would be interested in marrying me?” David asked. “No, hear me out. Don’t get all edgy like you usually do. You could speak to Maeve and ask her to find out how Mary-Lou feels about me.”
“I don’t get like that.” Rix said, frowning.
“You do so! All impatient and prickly like you are now. You’ve always done it. Anyway, will you?”
“I’ll speak to Maeve,” Rix said, abruptly, not liking David’s frank assessment of his personality.
“Thanks – I appreciate it. And anytime I can repay you, just let me know.” David replied.
May turned out to be a very busy month for Rix and Francis Rayner and it was nearing the end of the month before Rix could fit the lunch meeting with Gerard Ellingham into his schedule.
He hadn’t spoken to Mary-Lou or to Maeve about Mary-Lou. He was determined not to do the latter, despite all of David’s pleas. It was too difficult for him to do. He wanted to confide in someone about the situation but couldn’t think of anyone to tell and so brooded over it at intervals, unable to shake the feeling he was letting his cousin down.
Mollie Bettany had returned from Canada and the Bettanys were busy with the final preparations for Maeve’s wedding, which would take place in a fortnight’s time. Rix wasn’t looking forward to attending it and seeing Mary-Lou and David together.
He sighed as he entered the expensive restaurant Gerard Ellingham had chosen and gave his name to the Maitre d’.
Gerard was waiting for him at the table. He stood up and they shook hands.
“Good afternoon.” Gerard said, “Please, sit down.”
Rix sat and Gerard ordered wine for both of them, immediately plunging into a conversation about his shares in the stock market. Rix tried to maintain an expression of interest, but he was inwardly wondering why Gerard had requested his company. He didn’t have long to wait to find out.
“I also sponsor exhibitions at the Royal Academy and the British Museum. I have one opening tomorrow evening. Treasures of Peru. I understand you are acquainted with Mary-Lou Trelawney?”
“Mary-Lou? Yes, she went to school with my sisters.”
“It is only a family connection? I saw you once at the Museum. Were you visiting her?”
“I was returning her lighter. She left it behind one weekend when she was visiting my sister at home.” Rix wasn’t going to mention their adventure in the cave. He was baffled why Gerard Ellingham was quizzing him about Mary-Lou. “Is there a problem?”
“I’ll need you to devote a lot of your time to the project.” Gerard said, easily, “I was just checking there was nothing to distract you.”
Rix had a hot temper but he managed to choke back an angry retort. Rayner had impressed on him the need to keep Ellingham committed to the funding.
“I don’t mean to offend you, but well – this is a delicate matter. Miss Trelawney has a great many gentlemen – friends. We’re going to working closely together and well, I’m sure you know what some women are like.” Gerard smirked, “Just thought I’d pass on some friendly advice.”
This was the same thing that Mary-Lou’s colleague had hinted to Rix and he frowned. She hadn’t seemed that way to him, but apart from their time in the cave, they hadn’t spent any time alone together to really talk.
Gerard noticed Rix’s unease and continued his poisonous dialogue. He was sure that it was working. Mary-Lou would soon be exactly where he wanted her with no allies and no choice but to go back to him.
Two weeks later, Mary-Lou took the train to the Quadrant for Maeve’s wedding. While most of the guests would attend for the day only, the vast majority of the family and certain friends would stay for the whole weekend and she knew the Bettanys had lots of plans for entertainments. She had passed the last few weeks feeling rather lonely and the prospect of a whole weekend with other people was one she was looking forward to.
David had invited her out for dinner twice, but she had made her excuses. She liked David, but still did not want a relationship with him. Gerard had also made some attempts to contact her, but she hadn’t returned his calls and even left the launch reception for the Treasures of Peru exhibition early so she wouldn’t have to see him.
She sighed to herself and rested her forehead against the train window, gazing out at the passing fields with eyes that saw nothing. She knew deep down that she only wanted a relationship with one man – and it wasn’t Gerard.
Maeve was waiting for her at Sheepheys Junction. She looked radiant with happiness, despite her first words.
“Mary-Lou, thank goodness you’re here! There’ll all driving me mad! Daphne’s decided she doesn’t want to wear her dress and Lady Brentford’s took over the whole of the South Wing!”
Mary-Lou laughed as she threw her case into the back of the car. “Hello Maeve! Are you picking anyone else up? I didn’t see anyone on the train.”
“No, just you. Guess who I’m picking up tomorrow morning though? You never will.”
“Rix?” Mary-Lou said, trying to keep her voice casual.
“No, he’s already home.” Maeve said, looking at her oddly. “Aunt Jo and Uncle Jack! Apparently Rix met him in London and they’ve made up. Auntie Jo phoned Mummy and they had a really long chat and now everything’s fine. Daddy’s really happy about it, he did miss Aunt Jo, you know. Isn’t it just miraculous? Oh, and Daphne’s probably going to go to the Chalet School in September. Apparently she was thrilled with all your adventures and Bride and I are deaved answering all her questions! She actually asked Mummy and Daddy if she could go.”
“She’s going to Switzerland?” Mary-Lou asked, as they sped back to the Quadrant.
“Well, that’s where she wants to go, but I expect she’ll go to Glendower House for a year or so first. It’ll be a huge step for her to go to boarding school and be with crowds of other girls after being just one with a governess.”
“It’s good that she wants to go though, isn’t it?” Mary-Lou said, and asked about the wedding arrangements. That discussion lasted until they arrived at the Quadrant and Mary-Lou and Maeve found the other female members of the family, plus the autocratic Lady Brentford; and Lalla and Polly Winterton and their mother, in the drawing room.
Mary-Lou and Lalla fell on each with shrieks of delight and spent a good ten minutes catching up before Mary-Lou remembered her manners and spoke a few words of greeting to everyone else. Lady Brentford remembered her from the dinner party in April and was surprisingly charming to her.
“Daddy, the boys and Freddie and Daniel have gone to the village to have a drink in the Devonshire Arms.” Maeve explained. “They’ll be back later and we’ll all have dinner together. Do you want to unpack first or have a bit of a gossip?”
“Oh, gossip, definitely!” Mary-Lou laughed and the two of them settled down to a pleasant conversation with Mollie and Bride until it was time to change for dinner.
At dinner, she saw she would be sitting between Francis Rayner and Simon Carrington, which was fine. Rix was next to Lady Brentford at the other end of the large table. As the Wintertons and their mother were also staying at the Quadrant for the weekend, there were sixteen people for dinner, including Daphne, who had begged to be allowed to stay up for once.
She glanced across at Rix, who looked tired. David was sat on the other side of the formidable Lady Brentford, but he seemed to be busy talking to Lalla, who was giggling.
Rix looked at Mary-Lou, noticing she was looking in David’s direction and sighed. He hadn’t spoken to Maeve yet but David had asked him to do so again in the pub.
“How nice to meet you again, Miss Trelawney.” Rayner said to Mary-Lou, privately thinking that she was a very pretty girl. “I don’t expect you remember me, but we met at the Savoy in early April. Francis Rayner.”
“I do remember you – you work with Rix. Please call me Mary-Lou.”
“Of course, and my name is Frank. Do you know everyone here? I’m afraid to admit that apart from Richard and Lyndhurst and Russell, I don’t know a soul.”
Mary-Lou looked around the table and laughed, “Most of them! I’ll have to tell you who everyone is.”
“That would be very helpful of you. I’ve met Richard’s parents and his sister, the bride-to-be, but none of the other ladies.”
“Lady Brentford – Maeve says she’s a dragon, but she’s been sweet to me – Polly Winterton, who was at school with us – Mrs Winterton, the Wintertons live quite close by, I believe – Mollie, who you know – Lalla, Polly’s sister – Daphne, the youngest Bettany – and that’s Bride, Maeve’s sister. Her husband is opposite, Simon Carrington.”
“I see. And who is next to Richard’s mother?”
“That’s John, Rix’s brother. He’s in the Navy.” Mary-Lou replied. “It’s wonderful that he could come, from what Maeve says I think he’s away a lot.”
As the dinner progressed, Mary-Lou enjoyed talking to Rayner. For all his fearsome reputation, he was relaxed and amusing company. He opened up to her and she learnt about how his wife and small son had been killed in an accident ten years ago and how he had thrown himself into his work to get through that terrible loss. She also learnt that he was very fond of Rix and knew a great deal about the San business, although he didn’t want to discuss it.
It was a pleasant evening and despite her tiredness after the journey, Mary-Lou was sorry to leave the dining room with the rest of the ladies and as soon as she could, escaped for an early night.
“Are you worried about Uncle Jack and Auntie Jo coming this afternoon?”
Rix looked up from the newspaper he had been frowning over and shook his head.
“No, honestly. Don’t worry, Maeve, I promise I’ll be on my best behaviour when they arrive, OK?”
“Well, there must be something wrong.” Maeve persisted, squeezing herself onto the window seat next to him. “You’re moping around like anything. What’s the matter?”
“Oh, nothing really. Just – work stuff. Sorry. I’ll try to cheer up. What plans have you made for today?”
“Well, I’m picking the Maynards up from Sheepheys in ten minutes, then later we thought we could all go down to the beach – us lot anyway, I don’t think Daddy or Mummy will want to come. We could have a swim and a picnic tea. Con’s coming, I expect she’ll want to swim too, and the Wintertons and Mary-Lou. Will you join us?”
“Sure. Who else is going?”
“Everyone, even Daffy. I told her about the bathing in Lake Thun and she’s desperate to learn to swim before she goes to the Chalet School.”
“Daphne’s not going to Switzerland, Maeve. Don’t get her hopes up, it’s not fair.”
“She’s nine soon, that’s old enough for St Agnes’s.” Maeve argued, “But, anyway, Mary-Lou’s going to teach her, she used to win the Swimming cup every year when we were at school.”
“Did you ask Dan Lyndhurst?”
“Yes, he can’t play cricket, but he said he’ll umpire. And Bride’s coming, but she says she’ll just watch and paddle. It’s such a lovely day, we can’t not spend it outside. My last full day at the Quadrant…” Maeve looked wistful. “I wish Maurice was here.”
Rix put his arm around her, “I bet he wishes he was here too. He’ll be back soon though. I’ll write and tell him all about tomorrow and send him the photos, OK? I know how you feel, sometimes I wish Peg wasn’t so far away.”
“Thanks, Rix. You always know the right thing to say.” Maeve said, smiling.
“I wish I did! Come on, I’ll come with you to the station.”
Mary-Lou was pleased about the beach picnic. It had been nearly a year since she’d had time to go swimming. She walked down the steep path to the beach with John Bettany, who was pointing out all the good places from which to dive.
“The cliffs are low about three hundred yards that way – see? We’ve all dived from there before, and that big rock over there is good as well. We’ll have some races later as well.” He told her.
Mary-Lou remembered the cave. She had discussed it with John earlier that morning but forgotten to ask him where the second tunnel went.
“John – where does that other tunnel lead? It seems to fork off, with one road leading onto the cliffs. We never got chance to explore the other one. Do you know?”
“I’ll show you.” John laughed, “It’s really odd actually, it leads to the cellar of the Quadrant. I told Dad, years ago but he said not to mention it to the others in case the kids went exploring and got hurt. I’d forgotten about it actually, I think it must’ve been an old smugglers’ tunnel at one time. There’s a door made of really thick wood, but the lock was completely rotted away. I can’t believe you got Rix to go down there, you know.”
“I don’t think he ever will again!” Mary-Lou smiled.
“I don’t know. He might if you ask him,” John said, looking directly at her and grinning.
“I don’t know what you mean.” Mary-Lou said at once.
“It doesn’t matter. I’ll show you the cave properly on Sunday afternoon, if you want.” John wondered if the wild theory Maeve had told him about Mary-Lou and Rix was correct after all.
Rix drove his father’s car to the station with Maeve in the passenger seat and Freddie in the back. It would be a squash going back, but Maeve had wanted Jo to meet her fiancé as soon as possible.
It was a disappointment when they realised that Jack, Felicity and Con had come without Joey. Maeve’s face fell almost comically.
After the introductions, Jack explained that much as Jo had been longing to come to the wedding, they were now grandparents and Jo had wanted to stay with Len.
“A lovely baby girl – nine pounds and healthy. We’ve brought some snaps, haven’t we Con? Len and Reg have called her Laura Emily, to be known as Laura.” Jack explained, “She is sorry, Maeve, she was so torn between wanting to come to your wedding and wanting to stay with Len and our granddaughter. She’s given me a letter for you.”
“It’s fine, I understand.” Maeve said at once. “Can you all squish into the car? Uncle Jack, if you go into the front, I’ll sit on Freddie’s knee.”
Jack got into the car and nodded at Rix.
“Nice to see you again,” he said, trying hard to sound friendly. Rix relaxed slightly.
“You too,” he replied, and the six of them were able to discuss the new Entwistle baby all the way back to the Quadrant.
Rix walked down to the beach with Daphne running on ahead of him. She was full of excitement at having so many people to talk to and didn’t want to waste a second of the day. He heard footsteps behind him and turned round.
It was David, running to catch him up.
“Hi! Wait for me – I didn’t know you’d left until Aunt Mollie told me. Is everyone down there now?”
“I think so. Here, take this flask, will you? I can manage the rest.”
David took the coffee flask from him. “I saw Mary-Lou go down earlier with Jackie. Did you get chance to speak to her yet? Or do you know if Maeve did?”
“I think you should speak to her yourself. Things get too confused if other people get involved.” Rix said and to his relief, David seemed to accept this.
“I suppose – if you spoke to her she might think you were the one who wanted to propose!” He joked, laughing. “Hey, careful, now you’ve dropped the mugs. Good job they’re plastic.”
“Are you going to propose?” Rix asked, as he picked up the items he’d dropped. “I didn’t think – that you were that serious about her.”
“I think I might be.” David said, easily. “Come on, look, they’re all in the sea already.”
Mary-Lou, having swum quite far away from the others, squinted against the sun and saw David and Rix preparing to swim out and join the others. Daphne was waiting at the water’s edge, letting the tide wet her toes but unwilling to paddle out.
Mary-Lou watched David swim over to the group without sparing a glance at Daphne, in direct contrast to Rix who went over to the little girl at once. She was touched at how considerate Rix was.
“Mary-Lou! Fancy a race? “ David asked, surfacing right next to her.
“I’m going to teach Daphne how to swim now, but definitely later.” She replied, pleasantly.
“Oh, she’s fine. Look, Rix is dealing with her. We won’t get the chance later.” He said, frowning slightly.
“I promised her, David. She’s only little. Look, she’s waving to me. I’ll see you later.” Mary-Lou was a powerful swimmer, and faster than David. He half-heartedly tried to chase her, but considered teaching Daphne too boring and swam away to talk to Lalla and Polly.
Daphne had been persuaded to wade out so the water level was at her waist, but both her eyes were screwed tightly shut and she was clinging to Rix’s hand.
“Hi Rix.” Mary-Lou said, awkwardly. She cringed to remember how she had fled in the taxi outside the hospital. “How are you getting on, Daphne?”
“It’s cold!” Daphne squealed. “And the water keeps trying to knock me over. Will it be this cold when I go to the Chalet School?”
“We haven’t made much progress.” Rix said, laughing.
“Mary-Lou promised to teach me. Will you, please, Mary-Lou?”
“Only if you open your eyes.” Mary-Lou said, promptly, motioning for Rix to let go of Daphne’s hand. The two of them spent the next half hour or so teaching Daphne intensively, and at the end of it she could swim two or three stokes, only doggy paddle, but unaided. Her small face glowed with triumph.
“What do you say, Daph?” Rix said, splashing her. He was stood waist-deep in the sea, and Mary-Lou turned to look at him, noticing that the cuts and bruises on his side had healed to practically nothing. He caught her eye.
“Thanks, Mary-Lou.” Daphne said, before running out of the sea towards Freddie, who was waving a bucket and spade at her.
“Your side – how is it?” Mary-Lou asked, feeling awkward.
“Oh, it’s completely fine.” He replied, sensing her awkwardness and wondering why. “It hurt for a day or two, but honestly, I’m fine now.”
“I’m glad.” Mary-Lou said, “Is your girlfriend coming to the wedding?”
“I don’t have one of those.” Rix said, laughing. “No girl would ever put up with the hours I work...”
“Rix – who was that girl you were with – outside your hospital? I-I saw you, a few weeks ago. It was the day you brought that gold cigarette lighter to the Museum.” Mary-Lou asked.
He frowned, remembering how she had fled. “I was going to ask you about that – you seemed so – there’s nothing wrong, is there?”
“What do you mean, is nothing wrong? I don’t understand.”
“Well – you dashed off like that – and, it is a hospital. I didn’t – I was concerned you’d had bad news.”
“Oh, heavens, no. No, honestly! I-I, well, I’d had a bad day and I just wanted to go home. I was appallingly rude not to say hello, I am sorry.”
“It’s fine – the girl I was with, that was Gina. She’s a nurse at the hospital, and my former girlfriend. We’re just friends now.” Rix wondered if this was an opportunity to ask Mary-Lou about what her colleague and Gerard Ellingham had hinted.
“Your ex – I see.” Mary-Lou ducked under the water to hide her blushes. She knew he was telling the truth. She wondered what he would say if he knew she’d spent the last two years having an affair with a married man.
Rix swore under his breath as he saw David swimming over to them. He wasn’t in the mood to listen to David’s flirting. David always knew how to talk to women when Rix ended up tongue-tied and coming across as aloof and far too serious.
When David reached them, he made his excuses and swam back to the beach, where he joined Freddie, Daphne and Daniel, who were making a sandcastle. It was only later on, as they were all returning to the Quadrant after a picnic and a riotous game of cricket, that it occurred to him to wonder why Mary-Lou had asked her question.
Later in the Quadrant, Rix found his favourite place, the hidden little window seat in the L-shaped drawing room, drew the curtain half-closed behind him and settled down quietly with the paper he was writing for a medical journal and all his notes. Everyone else was playing cards in the dining-room or gathered in Maeve’s bedroom to admire the dress or else changing for dinner and he wanted to get his work finished before the wedding the next day.
Despite his intentions, he soon found his mind wandering and ended up gazing out of the window at the sea below, feeling drowsy. It was stuffy in the south-facing room and he had slept badly the night before. He closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.
The sound of voices woke him and he sat up, about to declare his presence, until the sound of his own name stopped him in his tracks.
“Dick, I’ve no intention to stir everything up again – you know how sorry I am that we argued, but I wanted to ask – did Rix tell you why he didn’t want to work for me? Don’t worry, I’m not going to mention it to him, but I was – I am, rather concerned. I remember when he first started his medical training, he was very enthusiastic and then – well, he’s never given me an explanation and I wondered if he had you.”
Rix despised eavesdropping. He tried to open the sash window, but it was locked and the window key missing. He didn’t want to declare his presence and discuss the San for the hundredth time, but nor did he want to be discovered in such a dishonourable situation.
He stuffed his fingers in his ears and stayed as still as he could, hoping that they would go before Daphne came looking for him. They both spoke rather loudly and unfortunately, he could still hear them both quite clearly.
“He hasn’t mentioned anything to me or Moll.” Dick was saying, “Though I rather wanted to ask. I am concerned, he does look rather pale and I know he isn’t sleeping very well.”
“I did notice. He seems very reluctant to speak to me – and – well, I know how stressful things can be when you work in a busy hospital. It would be dreadful to see all that talent go to waste through some kind of breakdown.” Jack said.
“Do you really think that could happen?” Dick sounded extremely worried, and Rix couldn’t bear it any longer. Swallowing the anger he felt welling up inside him, mindful of what had happened last time a similar discussion had taken place, he willed himself to be calm and not lose his temper. After taking a few deep breaths, he jumped down from the window seat and walked determinedly to face them.
“I’m sorry, I must’ve dozed off on the window seat – I was just doing some work.” He said, trying to sound friendly and unconcerned. “I haven’t missed dinner, have I?”
“No.” Dick looked from his son to his brother-in-law in dismay. “It’s only six and we won’t eat till eight tonight.”
“I couldn’t help overhearing. I didn’t mean to listen…”
“We really should have a proper talk.” Jack said, taking charge. “Clear the air completely.”
“All right.” Rix said, realising that it was inevitable.
“Why don’t you go into the Library? You can talk quite privately in there.” Dick said, encouragingly. “Do you want me to come with you?”
“I think it’s better if Rix and I...” Jack began.
“I was talking to my son.” Dick said, becoming annoyed with Jack’s imperious manner.
“No, it’s fine, Dad. I’ll come and have a chat with you before dinner, OK?”
“I’ll look forward to it.” Dick said, and left them.
Rix pushed open the door to the rarely used Library, and sat down at the large table. Jack sat opposite him, for a few moments they sat in silence
“I’ll tell you why I can’t join the San.” Rix said, finally. “I don’t expect you’ll understand.”
“Why don’t you try me? I might.” Jack said, for once sounding sympathetic, almost the old Uncle Jack to whom Rix remembered confiding all his childhood problems.
“All right, I’ll tell you.” Rix said, reluctantly. “You see, I’m a socialist. I don’t agree with private medicine, I don’t see why you should charge vast amounts of money to treat your patients and I don’t want to be part of it.” He spoke frankly.
Too frankly. Jack started to look annoyed. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” He replied, “No, let me speak now. There’s a simple, economic reason why I charge my patients, I have a family to provide for. Anyway,” he continued in tones of scorn, “How can you reconcile being a socialist with your public school education? Your being your father’s heir to all this? You’re talking absolute rubbish.”
“I’m not. None of that matters. I’ve been going to the Marxist Society meetings, and we - ”
“Of course it matters! That’s what your working class friends want, to pull down all of this and have us all living in slums! Are you completely ignorant of current affairs – Russia, Hungary? I’ve never heard such utter rubbish!”
“You can insult me all you like, but I am not leaving the NHS. I said I would help people and I will. I’m not working for you and that’s the end of the matter. I don’t want to fall out again over this, so please don’t ask me ever again.”
“I don’t see how you working yourself into a nervous breakdown for nothing will help anyone.”
“Don’t call my patients nothing. How many people have you turned away because they couldn’t afford treatment?”
“I’ve never turned away a patient, Richard. I’m not a complete monster, despite your charming opinion of me. The San has taken on plenty of charity cases…”
“But it shouldn’t be charity! People should be entitled to healthcare – it shouldn’t just be a privilege for those who can afford to pay for it.”
“Fine. I won’t ask you again.” Jack said, “I can’t say I’m not disappointed, but – you’ve heard it all before. I am glad you could give me a proper explanation, even if we will have to agree to disagree.”
Rix nodded, then spoke,
“Uncle Jack – can I just ask, why did you want me to join the San? I mean me, specially. I’m not a thoracic surgeon…”
Jack sighed. “I need new ideas as well as someone who will help me with the finances. I know you helped your father out of the mess he was in and - I don’t know. I suppose I always saw you running the San after me. I don’t think any of my sons will take up medicine and Margot couldn’t run it.”
“I’m sorry.” Rix said, then he looked up at Jack. “Are you in trouble financially?”
“Not yet, but we will be before long. I have less than seventy cases of TB, mostly elderly folk who left it till it was almost too late before they sought treatment. Most of them are terminal… Contrary to what you’re thinking, I have been using the latest treatments. Nevertheless, I expect they will be the last and we will have to change our focus or close. I’m not worried about myself, I have a decent pension and we have your Aunt Jo’s income, but the younger doctors – they would all lose their jobs… Promise me you won’t mention this to your Aunt Jo or any of the children.”
“I’ll come out and visit and see if there’s any way I can help, if you want.” Rix offered, reluctantly, but not liking seeing his uncle so clearly at the end of his tether. “I can’t promise I will be able to help, but if I had a clearer idea of what you needed, I could speak to a few people. Could I look at your books?”
“Of course! Thank you. When can you come?”
“August, maybe. I’ll write and let you know.”
“That would be marvellous. Look, I’m sorry I said those things. You are entitled to hold your own beliefs. But socialism… I didn’t expect that. Have you stopped going to church? What does your father say, or doesn’t he know?”
“I will tell him – and you can tell him that I’m not having a nervous breakdown. I’m not and it’s not good to worry him,” like you did last time went unsaid.
“I’ll tell him I was wrong, but you do look very pale. I can give you some sleeping tablets if you want?”
“I’m fine. Look, it’s getting late and I have to change – I’ll have to go.”
“Wait, Rix – I’m glad we straightened it out. I really am.”
“Me too.” Rix said shortly, before he left Jack in the Library. He ran his father down in his dressing room, where he was changing.
“Sit down, how did things go?” Dick asked at once.
“Come on, are you going to Switzerland or aren’t you?”
“Just for a week, to help him out. He said he’s struggling, but don’t tell anyone. Don’t tell Aunt Jo, will you?”
“I don’t want you throwing away a perfectly decent job to work for Jack Maynard if it’s financially insecure…”
“I’m not. It’ll only be a week. It’s not about the money, anyway, is it? It’s about doing the right thing.” Rix hunted in his pockets for his cigarettes. “That’s what you always told us.”
“True. But you know that your mother and I only want you to be happy. Are you happy?”
“I’m fine.” Rix said, although Mary-Lou’s face crossed his mind at once. He wanted to confide in his father, but his habitual reserve stopped him doing so.
“Only you come home at weekends and you seem exhausted, but I hear you moving around in your room until the early hours. You smoke too much and don’t eat enough… You don’t need to do any more than you’re doing, you know. Jack said something about a breakdown and - ”
“I’m just busy, I’ve just taken my final assessments for the MRCS and I’m doing a lot of research on top of my normal shifts. It won’t last forever.”
“Good. Come on, you’d better change. The dinner bell will go in a few minutes.”
“There’s something else I should tell you.” Rix repeated what he had told Jack. The bell rang for dinner before he had finished, but neither of them paid any attention.
“Why are you so late, Rix?” Daphne asked at once, in her usual loud tones.
“Ssh, Daph… “ Rix sat down in between his sisters as unobtrusively as possible while his father sat down at the head of the table, still frowning thunderously.
“Are you in trouble?” Daphne persisted, while Bride looked at him in concern.
“No, don’t be silly.” Rix said at once, pushing the food around on his plate. It had been a very trying twenty minutes’ discussion with his father who had taken the news worse than Jack had and said some very cutting things. Their lateness to dinner had aroused some notice.
Rayner was sat on the other side of Daphne. He leaned back and raised an eyebrow in inquiry but Rix ignored him.
Mary-Lou was sitting fairly near by, and she too was looking at him with a question in her eyes. He sighed, now she knew he was in yet another family row.
“What are the plans for tonight?” he asked Bride quickly, before Daphne could burst out with another question.
“Nothing, really. Most people are having early nights. We might have some singing in the drawing room, but I don’t expect it’ll go on for long. Joining us?”
“You’ve heard me sing before, you can’t want to inflict that on everyone.” Rix said, distractedly, watching his father talking to his mother.
“You could accompany.” Bride persisted.
“I’ve got work to do and I’m exhausted, please, Bride. I’m sure you can get someone else to do it.”
“Fine.” Bride snapped, snubbed, and turned to make small talk with David on her left, who looked amused at the squabble.
Rix thought the meal would never end, when at last the ladies retired to the drawing room, he made his excuses and left too.
Annoyed with himself because he’d left his notes on the window seat in the drawing-room and seeing no way of retrieving them without being asked to play the piano, he pulled off his tie and left via the kitchen door to walk along the cliffs.
He had barely reached the kitchen garden gate, when someone called his name. He cursed, the last thing he wanted now was more conversation.
“Richard! Where are you going?” Francis Rayner caught up with him and grinned. “There’s a great furore going on in your drawing-room, I never knew you were in such demand as a pianist.”
“I’m going for a walk.” Rix said, shortly.
“You’re sulking.” Rayner seemed amused. “Why? What’s wrong?” he suddenly frowned, “Is it that idiot uncle of yours going on about that blasted clinic of his?”
“No – oh no, I said I’d go out there … No, now it’s my father. I told him the real reason why I didn’t want to join the San and he – just took off. Now I’m the stupid child that didn’t have the sense to jump at Uncle Jack’s job offer and even worse, a Communist as well. He’s done a complete U-turn, 360 degrees… What?”
“You mean 180 degrees.” Rayner grinned. “Go on.”
Rix managed to smile. “No, it’s too depressing. Please tell me they didn’t send you to fetch me back?”
“No, I said we had to work matters to discuss. As we have. Where are we walking?”
“Along the cliffs and maybe to the village.” Rix said, vaguely.
“Did you say you were going out to Switzerland? Please tell me I misheard.”
“No, I said I’d go out there for a week or so, in August. He said he’s got financial difficulties, and it might mean that they’d all lose their jobs. Look, Frank – I know what you’re going to say, but some of the doctors out there are people I’ve known for years, or family – Laurie Rosomon was pretty decent to me when I was first training. And, well, Jack is my uncle isn’t he? I do owe him something.”
“A week maybe, not your whole career, wasting your time in the back of beyond, treating rich old dears wanting a holiday in the Alps with large legacies to leave your crumbling Sanatorium…”
They walked to the village pub and Rayner bought them some whisky. Rix told him the full story of the discussion with his father, knowing that Rayner himself was rather socialist in outlook. To his surprise, Rayner was not very sympathetic.
“Let me get this straight – you told your father, who spent twenty years working for the gain of the British Empire in India, who sent you to public school, who owns a great deal of land – that you are not only a socialist, but a Marxist too? No wonder he was upset with you. Can’t you see it? It’s setting yourself up as the exact opposite of him and incredibly ungrateful to boot.”
“I hadn’t thought of that. It does seem like that, but I didn’t mean to – It didn’t occur to me. I don’t see Dad like that…”
“I’m sure he’ll come round, he seems a reasonable sort. I’ll speak to him if you like. But cut down your hours, take a few weekends off to spend time with your family, won’t you? That’s probably my greatest regret, that I spent too much time at work and not enough with Elizabeth or Michael when they were alive.”
“Of course… thanks for listening. Would - you speak to Dad?”
“If you want me to. If we go head back now I expect he’ll still be around. You don’t want this sort of family tension at a wedding, you know.”
“I know. Thanks.”
They walked back to the Quadrant, mostly in silence. Mary-Lou saw them return out of the drawing-room window and found herself compelled to excuse herself and go to meet them.
She found them both smoking in a small sitting-room off the main hallway.
“Hello.” She said, self-consciously, smoothing down the skirt of her dramatic, dark red dress. “I saw you from the window. Is everything all right? You looked rather bothered at dinner. I don’t mean to pry, but… I’m sorry, I am prying.” She stopped talking, aware of Rayner looking at her with some confusion.
“Of course not.” Rix said at once, “I’m fine, thanks.”
“We had to discuss something privately, so we went to the village.” Rayner added. “Miss Trelawney – Mary-Lou, I mean, I wonder, have we met previously? I don’t mean in the Savoy, but I do seem to remember that striking dress.”
Mary-Lou looked up at him and Rix’s words came back, that Rayner was a friend of Gerard’s, that he knew him from school. She felt hot, then cold. In a second he would figure out where he had seen her, on Gerard’s arm at a dinner dance or reception and Rix would find out and he would think the worst of her.
“I-I don’t think so… These dresses must be ten-a-penny…” she managed.
“Are you all right? Here, sit down, you’re as white as a sheet.” Rix said at once. “I’ll fetch you some water.”
“I’ll be fine. I just – I’m rather tired.” Mary-Lou replied, sitting down.
Rayner looked at her and then realised where he had seen her before. Not looking so terrible as she did now, but calm, collected and really rather beautiful; so obviously with Gerard Ellingham at the Cartwrights’ last party.
Mary-Lou caught his eye and she knew that he knew. Tears welled up in her eyes, knowing that he would undoubtedly tell Rix she had had an affair with a married man.
Rayner offered her a cigarette.
“I must be mistaken,” he said, politely. “I think, as you say, I just remember a similar dress from a dinner I went to at the Royal College of Surgeons.”
“No thanks, I’d better think about going upstairs. I’m rather tired.”
Rix came back with the water. Rayner watched him and put two and two together.
“I think an early night would be a good idea,” he said, finally. “Things always look better in the morning, don’t they? If you’ll excuse me, I’ll just go and have a word with your father, Richard. Goodnight to you both.”
“Goodnight.” Rix said, watching Mary-Lou also make her farewells and escape up to her bedroom. After a few minutes, he turned off the sitting-room lights and went upstairs to his own room.
The next day was sunny, a perfect June day. Rix was up very early after quite a decent night’s sleep and he felt better than he had done for months.
The wedding ceremony would take place at St Mary’s Church in the village at midday and the large evening reception would take place in the seldom-used Quadrant ballroom. Freddie had engaged a firm to redecorate it, restoring it to its former glory and another to handle the decorations for the wedding, which had been finished yesterday. Rix thought he would go and have a look at it for something to do.
He pushed open the heavy double doors and found someone else already up and sat playing the grand piano.
“Oh, it’s only you.” Daphne said, turning around. “I was practising my song.”
“What song is that, Daph?” Rix crossed the large room to stand next to her.
“I’m singing this at the wedding.” Daphne flourished her music at her brother, “For all the guests. Maeve said I could if I wanted.”
“What did Dad and Mother say?” Rix asked, pointedly. Daphne had far too high an opinion of her undoubted talent for singing and the Bettanys had decided a long time ago to gently squash any kind of conceit she might show.
Daphne scowled. “Dad said no, but I don’t care!”
“What a hideous child you can be.” Rix grinned, then pushed her off the stool, sitting down himself. “Let’s hear this song then.”
Daphne usually needed no encouragement to sing, but his casual amusement confused her. “What’s hidjous?” she asked, forgetting her bad mood as he had intended.
“Completely dreadful. How long have you been thumping away on this piano? It’s only six. Listen, why don’t you sing the song for me later? I’m sure Bride and Simon would like to hear as well, and Con and Felicity. That would be better than singing for all the guests wouldn’t it?”
“OK then.” Daphne said, sweetly, trying to do a cartwheel on the well-polished floor.
“Shall we ask Cook for some breakfast?”
“OK. Rix, when you get married can I wear a blue dress like Mary-Lou’s? The princess dress?”
“Daph, if I ever get married, you can wear whatever you like.” Rix said, distractedly, thinking about Mary-Lou in her ‘Princess’ dress.
“When do you think you’ll get married? You’re lots older than Maeve.” Daphne continued, dancing across the room.
“Only six years, you little horror. And you don’t ask people questions like that anyway.”
“Why not?” Daphne asked, at once.
“Because – what if I said I wanted to get married to a beautiful girl and she didn’t want to get married to me? Then I’d feel pretty bad, wouldn’t I?” Rix said, lightly. “You shouldn’t ask questions that might make people feel unhappy.”
“Why wouldn’t the beautiful girl want to get married to you?” Daphne slipped her cold little hand into his.
“Well, she might just want to be free.” Rix said, thinking of Gina, “Or she might have another man she rather liked… I don’t know, do I?”
“If she had another man, that would be hidjous.” Daphne said, solemnly. “I think Mary-Lou is a beautiful girl, don’t you?”
“Yes, she is.” Rix replied. He played the first few bars of Daphne’s music, and then closed the lid of the piano. “Come on, we’d better go and see what we can get for breakfast. Maeve won’t want us in here messing everything up.”
They ate cornflakes at the kitchen table, talking to Cook about the wedding. Afterwards Daphne went off to find her mother and Rix to retrieve his notes from the drawing room.
At twelve, they were all dressed in their finery and sat in the church, waiting for the bride to make her entrance.
Mary-Lou sat quietly, lost in her own thoughts. She had been invited to sit with the Bettanys but had decided to sit just behind them, next to Daniel Lyndhurst who also seemed rather preoccupied. Rayner sat down on her other side and gave her an unexpectedly warm smile.
She smiled back, rather relieved. She knew beyond a doubt that he had recognised her from one of the events she had attended with Gerard and had taken in every aspect of the situation. She had expected him to be disgusted or worse, think of her as available. The fact that he obviously thought neither made her feel ever so slightly better, although she still felt ashamed of herself.
She glanced at Rix, who was acting as usher; he looked very handsome. She bit her lip as she saw to whom he was speaking; it was Gerard and his wife.
As discreetly as she could, Mary-Lou pulled her hat down slightly to cover her face and watched Gerard looking for a seat on the opposite side. His wife was a few years younger than him, very beautiful and dressed expensively, although she looked rather bored and her mouth had a discontented droop; she surveyed the proceedings with a disdainful expression.
Rayner saw her looking over and also her expression. He frowned and decided to speak to her. He was just leaning forward to speak, but at that point the organist started up and people turned to see the bride enter the church on her father’s arm.
Maeve looked very pretty in her white satin dress and her mother’s veil of delicate point d’Alencon lace. The vicar started the service and Mary-Lou forgot everything and listened to him. Freddie was unusually quiet and the guests could hardly hear his responses. All too soon they were signing the register and the ceremony was over.
They were throwing confetti and congratulating the bride and groom before Gerard noticed Mary-Lou. He froze and stared at her, then at his wife, looking wild. He then gave Mary-Look such a nasty look that she was startled. David, who was stood nearby also noticed it and looked at Mary-Lou in surprise.
“What’s the matter with him? Who is he anyway?”
“Gerard Ellingham… He’s nobody, h-he sponsors the exhibitions at the Museum sometimes.” Mary-Lou said, hesitantly.
“Oh, I know him. He’s putting up all the money for Rix’s hospital, isn’t he? I say, I wouldn’t quarrel with him, old girl. He's far from being nobody and he probably holds Rix’s whole career in his hands at the moment.” David laughed and went to kiss the new Lady Brentford, leaving Mary-Lou aghast.
Mary-Lou barely tasted her food at the meal, nor heard the speeches. She knew she would have to talk to Rix before Gerard did, if he hadn’t already. And Rayner – he knew everything, she was sure of that and he might decide to warn Rix that she was – she was - .
She stared miserably at the floor.
David tried to engage her in conversation a few times, but he soon gave up and flirted with one of Freddie’s young blonde cousins.
Mary-Lou thought the day would never end and planned to excuse herself from the evening reception as soon as she decently could, however, Lady Brentford sought out her company and it was more difficult to slip away that she had anticipated.
“Mary-Lou, Aunt Annabelle, could I fetch you some champagne?” Dan Lyndhurst asked, in his quiet way. Mary-Lou smiled and accepted, she knew by now that he hated to have any notice taken of his disability, much as she longed to ask him to sit down while she went for the drinks.
“Daniel is a good boy.” Lady Brentford said, regally. “Terribly dedicated to his work, of course. I expect that explains why he has yet to marry. Such a handsome boy, such a shame.” She added, vaguely. Mary-Lou presumed she was referring to his damaged leg, but didn’t comment although she felt indignant on his behalf.
Lady Brentford continued, however.
“My sister and her husband passed away at such a young age and of course, Daniel came to live with us. I wouldn’t hear of anything else, my sister’s boy… And he had polio when he was seven. But my dear, you don’t want to talk to me all evening. Why don’t you dance with one of those young men who wish to dance with you?”
“I don’t think...” Mary-Lou began, doubtfully, but at that point Francis Rayner approached her.
“Would you care to dance?” he asked Mary-Lou with such determination that she couldn’t refuse.
He was silent for the first few moments of the dance and then spoke with a thoughtful expression on his face.
“I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation with David Russell. I wouldn’t pay him too much attention, my dear. I think Gerard Ellingham would find it very difficult to interfere with internal staff matters, regardless of the amount of money he was prepared to donate.”
His voice was very kind, and Mary-Lou felt relieved.
“I don’t want any trouble for Rix,” she replied at once. “It’s not fair if…”
“I agree.” Rayner cut her off. “I’ll say no more about it, but rest assured that everything will be fine.”
“I didn’t – I didn’t know…”
“I can see you didn’t, believe me when I say that it is not your fault. I’ve known Ellingham for a number of years and, well, I don’t need to spell it out, do I?”
“No,” Mary-Lou blushed.
They danced the rest of the waltz in silence and then he delivered her back to Lady Brentford and Daniel with a rare smile. Mary-Lou felt as if a huge weight had lifted from her shoulders.
She glanced across at Rix, who was dancing with Maeve and she bit her lip. She knew that what she had taken as love for Gerard had been nothing compared to how she felt for Rix and the feeling was torture.
Daniel handed her a glass of champagne and she thanked him. He nodded, but she noticed he was also looking at Rix and Maeve with a strange look in his eyes, one Mary-Lou recognised as being similar to her own. She felt sorry for him, obviously he felt the same way towards Maeve as she did towards Rix and was equally – or even more so – unable to confess his feelings towards his cousin’s new bride.
“You promised me a dance.” David grinned at her, thinking again how pretty she looked and how much she had changed from the slightly officious schoolgirl she had been when he had last seen her properly.
Mary-Lou smiled and allowed him to lead her onto the floor. At that moment, Maeve and Freddie announced their farewells and the dancing was interrupted so that everyone could kiss them goodbye. As they were leaving, the orchestra struck up once more and David led Mary-Lou out onto the dance floor.
Mary-Lou was pleased he had taken the hint and stopped being so flirtatious; she felt she needed her friends. She saw Rayner talking to Dan and Lady Brentford and looked around for Rix.
“Are you looking for someone to rescue you from me?” David said, laughing, completely unable to believe that she would do such a thing.
“Of course not.” She saw Rix dancing with Daphne and resolved to speak to him before the end of the evening. She turned her attention back to David with an apologetic smile.
“I’ve got a few things on my mind, I am sorry, David. I didn’t mean to be so rude,” she added.
“I forgive you.” David said, smoothly, and leaned towards her, anticipating an embrace. Mary-Lou froze.
David stopped dancing and stared at her, confused, but was prevented from questioning her by the appearance of Gerard.
“Enjoying yourself?” he said curtly. He smelt of whisky and seemed intoxicated, nothing like the calm and composed Gerard she was used to seeing. “I expect you are, in your usual fashion.” he sneered.
“I beg your pardon?” David asked, bemused.
“Wrapped around the nearest man,” he said, loudly, regardless of people starting to stare. “I wouldn’t even go there, if I were you, old man. Too many people there before you, if you get my drift.” He gave a nasty laugh, “My god, she didn’t even care that – “
“Leave me alone.” Mary-Lou said, tears falling down her cheeks, “I didn’t know!”
“You didn’t care I was married!” Gerard shouted, as the music stopped.
Mary-Lou looked from David – so obviously not going to intervene – to Gerard, who looked threatening. She took a step backwards, and he followed her, regardless of anything but the fact that she was dancing with another man.
“What did I expect? You’re nothing but a whore!” He shouted. She heard someone – Mollie Bettany? – exclaim; the next thing she knew, Rix was at her side and he had punched Gerard full in the face.
Gerard retaliated at once, but Rayner forced them apart before either could damage each other too badly, although Gerard was already holding his nose, which was pouring with blood.
He glared horribly at Rix, “You broke my nose, you little...”
“Be quiet!” Rayner said, authoritatively and such was the force of his personality that Gerard was silenced, although only temporarily. It was enough, however, for Rayner to physically push him out of the room and slam the door behind them.
“Rix – what have you done?” David asked, an expression of complete shock upon his face.
“What you should have done!” Rix retorted, angrily, wincing as he touched his bruised cheekbone.
Dick had been on the far side of the ballroom and hadn’t heard Gerard’s words, he had only seen, as he thought, his son attacking one of the guests.
“What the – what do you think you are doing?!” he demanded, furiously, striding across the room and seizing Rix’s shoulder in a vicelike grip.
“No, it’s all my fault.” Mary-Lou sobbed. “I’m so sorry.”
Dick released Rix and looked down at her. “I think we should all go outside, don’t you? Are you all right, Mary-Lou? I’m sure we can sort this out.”
Rix took Mary-Lou into his arms at once. “Please don’t cry.” He said, gently.
Mary-Lou made a huge effort and got her sobs under control. Dick glared at the orchestra and motioned for them to continue playing, then turned to Mollie.
“Come on, Moll, try and get people dancing again.” He hissed. Mollie nodded and swiftly turned away, urging guests to dance. The majority of them had seen very little of what had occurred anyway and most happily did so.
Dick opened the ballroom doors, to see Francis Rayner attempting to remonstrate with Gerard, whose nose was undoubtedly broken. His expensive suit was blood-splattered.
“The nearest bathroom is there – can you deal with him? We’ll be in the Library.” He said to Rayner.
“Where’s my wife?” Gerard demanded, trying to push past Rayner, who stood firm. “Darn it, Frank, get out of my way! He’s broken my nose, I’m going to call the police…”
“You will not.” Rayner replied in tones of pure ice. “Go and clean yourself up, for heaven’s sake, and I’ll fetch Louise. If she’ll see you!”
Gerard shot a look of pure hatred at him, but between them Dick and Rayner managed to get him into the nearby bathroom and Rix and Mary-Lou, with David trailing along behind, went to the Library as Dick had ordered.
“I can’t believe you did that – “ David said, still shocked, “How could you do that? You’ve thrown away everything…”
“David – shut up!” Rix said, slamming the Library door closed in David’s face, then threw himself onto a chair, his head in his hands. Mary-Lou sat down next to him and took hold of his hands, scarcely realising what she was doing. He looked at her and she started crying again.
“I’m sorry – I’m so sorry.” She repeated, incoherently, into his chest; and he put his arms around her once more, forgetting everything but her presence in his arms.
“Ssh, it’s all right – it’s all right.” he soothed, stroking her hair. “I promise everything will be all right.”
They heard voices in the corridor, then the Library door was opened and Dick came in, followed by Mollie and Rayner. David sloped in reluctantly, just before the door closed again.
“Mary-Lou, mavourneen, come with me?” Mollie said, in her motherly way and Mary-Lou allowed herself to be led out of the room, still weeping.
“Are you all right, are you hurt?” Dick asked Rix, still obviously extremely annoyed with him. Rix nodded, although his cheek was sore.
“Well, I’d like an explanation.” Dick pressed on. David and Rix both looked discomforted, neither really wanted to tell him what Gerard had said. Rix couldn’t ever remember his usually laid-back father looking so angry. “I’ve never seen anything like that in my entire life. It’s a good job your sister had already left!”
“He called Mary-Lou a whore. What was I supposed to do?” Rix retorted, but his temper had gone. “I’m sorry, Dad, but – he - ”
“Ellingham won’t call the police.” Rayner said confidently but he looked rather grave.
“He called Mary-Lou what?” Dick was calming down again. “Why on earth would he call her that? Do you know why?”
Rix shook his head, “I only heard him call her that and saw her crying.”
“David? Do you?” Dick insisted.
“We were dancing – he interrupted us. He’s drunk, Uncle Dick.” David repeated Gerard’s awful comments, finishing with the one about Mary-Lou not having cared that he was married.
Rix went rather white. “He implied something similar when I met him for lunch that time. He said – about the donation…” he trailed off, looking at Rayner in dismay.
“Yes, I think we can say we no longer have the donation.” Rayner replied with a wry smile. “However, that’s probably the least of our concerns. If you are trying to say that Ellingham tried to blackmail you with the threat of withdrawing the donation, or taking away your job, then you should tell us now.”
“He didn’t actually say – it was more –"
“Implicit? I see. You should have told me.” Rayner was sympathetic however. “Anyway, it doesn’t matter. And as for this evening, I would have done exactly the same thing.”
He looked at David, meaningfully. David looked away first, flushing angrily.
Dick took charge. “David, thank you, but we no longer need you here. Go back to the dancing, will you?”
David left the room, feeling that nobody thought much of him. He puzzled over the way that Rix had been holding Mary-Lou when the door opened and he realised why his cousin had been so reluctant to enquire about Mary-Lou’s feelings towards him, David. He knew he had lost. He frowned and went to his bedroom to pack his case and find his car keys.
“Dad, I’m really sorry.” Rix said, “But can I go, please? I really need to speak to Mary-Lou. I-I need to ask her something.”
“Let me say something before you do.” Dick said, “I’m sorry for the way I spoke to you, both now and yesterday. I’m very proud of you for sticking to your principles, and yes, I have to admit that I probably would have landed that idiot one too. I am most relieved that you aren’t going to be arrested though.” He gave a short laugh.
“There would be too many questions from his wife if he called the police.” Rayner said, shortly. “Wait! Before you speak to Mary-Lou, bear in mind that he would have lied to her from the beginning…”
Rix looked at him.
“But it doesn’t matter.” he said, simply, and left in search of her.
In her pretty guest bedroom, Mary-Lou was still crying. She had always rather prided herself on her inner strength and ability to confront disaster head on, but this seemed to wound her more deeply than anything ever had before and it took a long time for her to calm down and stop sobbing.
Running continually through her mind was the awful thought that Rix would now know she was party to adultery and, if she was honest with herself, exactly what Gerard had called her.
He’ll be disgusted, she thought, full of despair. He won’t want to know me. And he’s thrown his career away for nothing.
Mollie was kind, at first she just let Mary-Lou cry, then when it became clear that she wasn’t going to stop, she spoke up.
“It’s not worth crying over any man!” she said, wisely. “Do mop up and wash your face, Mary-Lou, I promise you that nothing ever looks so bad the next morning. Come on, mavourneen.”
Mary-Lou blew her nose and sat up. “I’ll be fine.” She managed to say.
“That’s the spirit! Now give your face a good wash in the basin, and I’ll get you some cocoa… Why, Rix!”
“I need to speak to Mary-Lou, Mother.” Rix said, a determined expression on his face.
Mollie looked startled, but she left them at once. Rix sat down on the bed next to Mary-Lou. He longed to take her into his arms, but knew they needed to discuss what had happened, and eventually, the way he felt about her.
She spoke before he could, “I didn’t know he was married at first.” she began, quietly, “It was more than two years ago now. I’d started at the Museum and I loved it there. I worked really hard, Rix, and I was good at my work. I got a promotion quite quickly and the girls I worked with, that I thought I was friendly with, didn’t want to talk to me any more. I-I wasn’t involved with him then, but I knew him, he was offering to fund one of my exhibitions.”
“You don’t need to explain anything to me.” Rix said, taking hold of her hand.
“No, I want to. You deserve an explanation.” Mary-Lou said. “I can’t believe how stupid and naïve I was. He lied to me, but the signs were there. I just chose to ignore them. I was lonely – he was so nice to me. He said he was separated, getting divorced, but in March he said he had to finish things because she said she would leave him and take their daughters away… That was when I saw you in the Savoy, remember?”
“I remember.” Rix said, thoughtfully. “Look, please stop blaming yourself, he took advantage of you.”
“I got over it, but then, he came round to the Museum and said he wanted to restart things, he said he would divorce his wife if I wanted him too. I said no. Rix, please believe me when I tell you I didn’t know he was married.”
“Of course I believe you. Look, you need to forget about it, he isn’t going to bother you again, I promise. I won’t let him.”
“Oh, but what about him putting all the money up for your ward? And David said you’d lose your job…”
“I don’t care about any of that, I just care about you.” Rix said, quietly.
“Oh, Rix…” Mary-Lou replied, and the look in her blue eyes displaced the last of his hesitation. He took her in his arms, his lips met hers and they kissed.
Twenty minutes later, Daphne knocked on the door, slightly breathless from her mad dash up the stairs.
“Rix! John said someone was probably getting engaged, but he didn’t say who! What did he mean?” she demanded. “Why are you laughing? Rix, your shirt has got blood on it! And you’ve got lipstick on your face!”
“Engaged means I’m going to get married.” Rix explained, grinning and wiping his face. “And you’ve got chocolate on your dress, so the less you say the more you’ll shine!”
“You can’t get married ‘cos Maeve just did!” Daphne said, disapprovingly, then she brightened up. “Are you going to share her cake or get a new one? Who was that hideous man downstairs? John wouldn’t let me see.”
“We’ll get our own cake.” Mary-Lou reassured, smiling. “Forget about that man, he is hideous, I quite agree.”
“He’s gone now,” Daphne reported, full of self-importance at being the bearer of news. “His wife drove their car away though, he had to walk! I don’t know why though, but Uncle Frank said to Daddy he deserved it. He said I could call him Uncle Frank,” she added. She paused and looked at them, suspiciously, noticing for the first time that Rix had his arm around Mary-Lou’s shoulders. “Have you been kissing up here?”
“Talking, mostly.” Mary-Lou said, speaking the truth. The last twenty minutes had been spent revealing all their secrets, being completely honest with each other. Rix had told her everything about himself, about Gina, his politics and even about his visit to the Museum when Lily had spoken to him. Mary-Lou had been furious about that, but he had calmed her with more kisses. “Well, there was some kissing.” she laughed.
“Well, we did have something to celebrate,” agreed her future husband, before they all went downstairs.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.