The End Of The Rainbow – Episode 25

The evening was proving a great success. Constance had arranged the place settings so that she faced Adam across the table. Miss Letty sat next to him, and flirted quite outrageously. Josh, seated between Mrs Tarrant-Smyth and Simon’s mother, charmed the ladies, while the jocular Mr Lochan coaxed laughter from Simon and his father, and paid courtly attention to his aunt.Mrs Butchart had excelled herself with the food. There was consomm followed by a fish course, then a roast with dressed vegetables from the garden. Dessert was a savarin or rum baba, with fresh and crystallised fruit for those who wished to end the meal with a lighter and fresher taste.Constance’s artistic table-setting was highly praised.“Simple, yet so elegant,” Miss Letty enthused. As indeed it was, with one shallow silver bowl spilling over with roses, honeysuckle and ivy trails, and lit by clusters of candles.As the conversation ebbed and flowed, Adam could scarcely take his eyes off Constance. Her silk dress was palest sea-green, shot with silver; her shoulders were bare, her hair piled up in pale abundance. Her only adornment was a single string of pearls at her throat.Throughout the meal, she and Adam spoke to each other with their eyes, while conversing with their neighbours. It was a warm evening, and the doors between the dining-room and the terrace had been opened. Coffee was served, and the guests began to rise from the table, some choosing to move on to the terrace. Constance found herself wondering if she could disappear into the velvety darkness with Adam without arousing her mother’s suspicions.At that moment, Josh, chatting to Miss Letty, laughed his distinctive gurgling laugh. Andrew Lochan turned to look at him . . .“I’ve heard that laugh before,” he said thoughtfully. “A boyhood friend of mine laughed in just that way.”He studied Josh for a moment.“What’s your surname?”“Glenavon,” Josh answered, caught off guard. He reddened as he realised that his friends had always known him as Josh Glen.“You have the same laugh as Hugh Glenavon. And . . .” Andrew Lochan leaned forward and studied Josh for a moment. “Bless my soul, indeed indeed, you resemble him.”Marooned in the sudden silence, Josh spoke.“Hugh Glenavon is my father.”There was silence, then Louisa Tarrant-Smyth spoke, her voice just a little high-pitched with shock.“Sir Hugh Glenavon, the shipping magnate?”“The same.” Josh was scarlet with embarrassment, his voice now scarcely audible. Constance rushed to his rescue.“Come and see the library, Josh. I think it might be a better setting for Mama’s portrait than the drawing-room. Adam, you come, too.”Nothing more was said about Mr Lochan’s sudden discovery, but the genial, relaxed atmosphere of the evening seemed to have evaporated. Trivial conversation ebbed and flowed until the house-guests retired upstairs. Mr Lochan insisted on sharing his carriage with Josh and Adam so that they could be driven back to the village in comfort. Miss Letty seemed in no hurry to leave, but was firmly consigned to her carriage by her hostess.As the big front door thudded shut on the sound of scattering gravel and horses’ hooves, Constance turned to go upstairs.“Constance, I have a question for you.”The tone of her mama’s voice made her turn round.“Yes, Mama?”“Why was I not told about Joshua Glenavon?”Constance was taken aback.“Josh? None of us knew who his father was, Mama. Even if we had, would it have been of importance?”“Importance? Your friend is probably one of the most eligible gentlemen you are ever likely to meet, even if you were to spend a season in London!”Constance’s face flamed.“Eligible gentlemen, season in London? Is that all that matters to you, Mama? Because it matters not a jot to me. Why won’t you listen? I want to be no, l intend to be an artist. And I also intend to go back to Art School to finish my training at the end of the summer!”Her mama held up her hand, palm outwards, as if to fend off the words.“I will hear no more of this nonsense, Constance. For nonsense it is. You will not go back to Glasgow, for I will not give my permission. Your allowance will be cut off if need be!”There was a silence as the two faced each other, stony-faced. When Constance spoke at last, her voice trembled with emotion.“I will go without your permission, then. And, if I have no allowance, I will find work to support myself.” “And disgrace yourself and your mother?” Louisa’s voice rose in anger.“There is no disgrace in honest labour. But, if you see me as disgraced, you must also accept that you have caused it!”Constance turned away, fighting the tears that threatened to spill over, struggling to keep her voice level.“And when I do marry if I ever marry it will be for love.”She turned back suddenly to face her mother.“I am going back to Glasgow in the autumn, Mama, and there’s an end to it. I would prefer not to discuss it again. My mind is made up!”


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