The End Of The Rainbow – Episode 34

In the carriage on their way to dinner, Letty sneaked a glance at her goddaughter. She had half expected Constance to wear something flamboyant and bohemian to the dinner party, but she had emerged instead in an outfit so plain that she looked like a governess. Her long skirt was dark and her silk blouse scarlet, which made her even paler, while her glorious hair was swept into a severe chignon without a single ornament.As they arrived at the house, which was ablaze with lights, Letty caught at Constance’s sleeve.“Come upstairs with me. I’ve brought you some things from my special big box.”The young face lit up.“The box I used to use for dressing-up, Aunt Letty?”“Yes. You had an artistic temperament even then, dear Constance!”Letty had brought with her lengths of vivid silk plus a Chinese tunic with wide sleeves, lavishly embroidered with exotic flowers. Constance immediately used one silk-length of scarlet, ivory and peacock blue as a sash, seeming to draw vivacity from the festive atmosphere in the house. Letty was pleased with the improvement in her god-daughter’s spirits when at last Constance went down to the library in search of Aunt Emmeline, leaving her godmother free to dress for dinner. In the library, there was a surprise guest Sir Hugh Glenavon.“Sir Hugh and William had business to discuss this afternoon, so we invited him to stay for dinner,” Aunt Emmeline whispered.Josh’s father was delighted to see Constance, and there was much talk of the exhibition and enquiries after his son’s health. One of Adam’s Clydescapes hung in the library.“Now, there’s talent.” Sir Hugh jabbed a finger at it. “Real talent. A boy celebrating his heritage, his roots. No compromise there, no apology for who or what he is.”Constance glanced at the picture, with its bold brushstrokes, and looked away quickly as Sir Hugh added, “A man after my own heart.”The silvery tinkle of a bell sounded out in the hall.“Dinner,” Uncle William announced.As Constance and the menfolk emerged into the hallway to join Aunt Emmeline, Letty was making her way daintily down the curved staircase. Constance stared. Her godmother looked positively girlish in a blue silk gown, her favourite aquamarines at her throat and her silvery hair swept up in glinting waves.“One must make the effort to dress for dinner,” she had chided Constance gently earlier. And she, Letty, certainly had done that!Sir Hugh stood stock still, staring. As Letty reached the foot of the stair, he offered his arm.“May I escort you to the dining-room?”Constance smiled to herself. Such formality, when that dining-room was but a few steps away!The meal was lengthy but light. Consomm, an excellent terrine and fish were served, then two desserts. It seemed to be the conversation, rather than the accompanying fine wine, which was intoxicating, with Sir Hugh paying a lot of attention to Letty, who was seen to blush girlishly more than once.After dinner, Uncle William was persuaded to sing, so they repaired to the drawing-room where Aunt Emmeline took her place at the grand piano in the window alcove. Sir Hugh contrived to sit by Letty on the chaise longue. “I did but see her passing by,And yet I’ll love her till I die.”As William’s fine baritone soared to the end of his ballad Sir Hugh took one of Letty’s hands in his, and delivered a swift but courtly kiss.His direct gaze locked into Letty’s bright blue eyes, and she smiled. Her heart was fluttering like a trapped bird, and at that exact moment she felt eighteen again.“I have invited Sir Hugh to visit me at Abbeylands,” she whispered later, giggling, to Constance as she prepared to leave. “Whatever will your mama say?” Contance hugged her.“I don’t think Mama’s opinion will matter a scrap to you, Aunt Letty!”And Letty knew, in her heart of hearts, that Constance was right.As she waved her away, she wondered what ailed her precious god-daughter. She had a sense of foreboding, remembering that the mere mention of Adam’s name at the dinner-table had brought a sheen of unshed tears to the eyes of the girl she loved like a daughter.But, as sleep crept over her that night, Letty’s last thought was of the hazel eyes that had searched her face as she spoke the blunt, gruff man who had kissed her hand with all the charm of a courtier.“Dear Hugh,” she breathed, as sleep overtook her at last.


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