RUTH GREENE took the hand of her brand-new husband as they walked on to the sand.
“A whole week, Terence,” she said, turning her face to the sun. “We have a whole week of this ahead of us. A week of talking, and walking! I can scarcely believe it!”
Terence pulled her round to face him.
“Nor I. No pacing my beat, no Chief ordering me about. My Ruth, all mine.” He kissed her. “I have waited long enough, and now I want nothing to disturb us.”
They walked slowly along West Wittering beach and listened to the sea birds calling. It was a fine June morning, and visitors were beginning to make their way on to the sand.
“What do you want to do today?” Ruth asked, pushing her unruly hair from her face.
“What, apart from sit on that breakwater there,” Terence pointed, “and place you upon my knee, and kiss you, and tell anyone who cares to know that the brilliant Ruth Rutherford finally agreed to marry me?”
“We shall do that,” she said, “but of course it won’t do for every day.”
“I can’t see why. It sounds just the ticket, if the weather holds.”
Ruth and Terence had met in 1912 when Ruth was a student of St Hilda’s Incorporated College in Oxford. He had been struck by her waspish manner. She had been angry and remained angry that Oxford refused to allow women to take degrees. Ruth was the possessor of a fierce intellect and, at first, she frightened him.
But they had been forced together in the investigation of a crime, a drowning in the cold waters of the Cherwell River. The following year they had solved another, the theft of precious artefacts from a venerable Oxford library. They had quarrelled over both cases, but had also fallen in love.
Ruth had wanted to complete her studies.
“I believe it my duty to do so in the cause of female emancipation.” She smiled at Terence. “You cannot, dear, refuse me that.”
“You know that I can refuse you nothing. But in let’s say June of nineteen-fifteen, when you are done with education, I will fairly drag you up the aisle ”
“May,” Ruth interrupted. “Final examinations will finish in May.”
But that was no auspicious time for lovers. In May of 1915 the Great War dragged them apart, as it did almost every family. Terence was sent to London at the beginning of that year to supplement the Metropolitan force, as its men left in droves for the Front. The following year he was in France.
Ruth, living at her parents’ home, wept every day, regretting her stubbornness: he would surely die in some muddy battlefield and she would die a maid.
Terence was a technician in the Army, with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. Ruth knew it was dangerous work. But in 1918 Terence came home. He was altered more serious, more pessimistic. He didn’t know what the future would hold any more, but he would listen no more to Ruth Rutherford’s procrastinations. They were married within the fortnight.
Ruth’s parents gave them fifty pounds for their honeymoon.
“You two have wasted quite enough time apart,” Mrs Rutherford told her son-in-law affectionately. “Take a holiday. Terence, you need a rest and the sun on your face.” She looked at her daughter, whose face was suffused with happiness. “Never have I seen Ruthie so full of joy as when you wired that you were home from France.”
“Except, perhaps,” Terence said, “when she first held in her little hand that certificate from St Hilda’s Incorporated College.”
“But,” Mr Rutherford interrupted, “make it a holiday. Mind the two of you keep away from crimes and criminals. Take yourselves to the seaside and if you hear of wrongdoing, walk the other way!”