The End Of The Rainbow – Episode 35

The large mansion stood in a crescent of similar houses in the west end of Glasgow. From the moment that Kirsty alighted from the carriage and made her way up the front steps on Josh’s arm, heads turned and scraps of comment floated in their direction.“It’s that girl . . . the artist’s model . . . she was in the ‘Glasgow Herald’ . . . in the ‘Sketch’ . . . in the ‘Graphic’. Glorious hair . . . she’s different, somehow . . .”Kirsty kept a smile pasted on her face, just as Josh had instructed, but as the butler took her wrap, she hissed at her companion.“I hate this folk starin’ at me, Josh!”Josh leaned towards her and whispered in her ear.“We won’t stay long, Kirsty, I promise. And just remember, you’re helping us Adam, Constance and me getting us noticed. They won’t forget the exhibition as long as you’re around.”They made their way across to the drawing-room, where guests ebbed and flowed carrying flutes of champagne, their conversation sounding like the buzzing of a gigantic swarm of bees.Above the fireplace, lit for emphasis, was Josh’s portrait of Kirsty, her head thrown back and nibbling on a strawberry, an Abbeylands orchard in the background.“The hostess here is one of our patrons,” Josh murmured. “Here she comes.” The Lady Of The House descended on them with a little shriek.“Why, it’s the artist himself and the lovely Kirsty Gray!”Her voice was loud enough to take the form of an announcement, and every head in the room swivelled round. This was the part that Kirsty hated most of all. When people stared at her, her mind began to do cartwheels, wondering if they were finding fault, giggling behind their hands at what she was wearing, mocking the way she spoke.She fixed a bright smile on her face and let Josh do the talking.He tucked her hand into the crook of his arm as he did so, and gave it a comforting squeeze. She slanted a grateful smile at him.“You look quite stunning, my dear,” the hostess gushed. She shot a penetrating glance at Kirsty. “Rather, shall we say, different from the usual classical style found in portraits.” Josh felt Kirsty stiffen slightly, and intervened.“As an artist, I find what you call ‘classical’ rather an empty look. Kirsty has a beauty all of her own vibrant and full of life.” He smiled.Two elaborately dressed ladies bore down on the small group, bearing with them a tall girl in a dramatic red dress, her dark hair secured by a jewelled bandeau. Swan-necked and haughty, she stared down at Kirsty,“You’re much smaller than I had imagined,” she drawled.The pressure of Kirsty’s hand on Josh’s arm increased. She opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted by the girl, who turned to Josh.“I’ve been told that I ought to sit for a portrait.” She stretched her neck a little and inclined her profile. “I had ambitions to be an artist’s model, but Papa is very much against it, I’m afraid.”As Josh began a hasty description of the difficulties of modelling, Kirsty withdrew her arm and disappeared into the throng.Josh eventually found her sitting halfway up the curving staircase, her shoes in her hand. He joined her, setting the plate of sweetmeats he’d brought between them.She spoke without lifting her head.“You didnae have tae say I was beautiful, Josh. I ken I’m nae beauty.”Josh smoothed back a tendril of red hair that had escaped from her comb.“Look at me.” For once, her companion’s pleasant face was serious. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Kirsty. And to me, you are beautiful. Beautiful, alive . . . and special.”As she stared at him in disbelief, he reddened.“Have a sweetmeat.” He held out the plate, and between them, they ate all of them.Kirsty licked her fingers, dainty as a kitten.“I’m starvin’, Josh. Nae time for dinner the night, it was such a rush.”Josh grinned.“I’ll make my excuses to our hostess, and then toast you some muffins back at Mrs Dinnimont’s. Adam will be pleased to see you.”As she waited for Josh, Kirsty inspected her reflection in the big, gilt-framed mirror in the hallway. She saw a girl who might well have been a stranger. This was no figure in dark dress and voluminous apron, unruly curls making her cap sit askew. This girl was a milky-skinned young lady whose red-gold hair was piled up in a chignon, the sea-green silk of her dress set off by a delicate silver necklace borrowed from Miss Constance. Kirsty stood there, shining-eyed. Forgotten was the fact that her new shoes were pinching, and that her fur-trimmed wrap had been borrowed from Mrs Dinnimont and smelled faintly of mothballs.Long after the muffins had been consumed and Kirsty was back in her own darkened room, trying vainly to go to sleep, one memory of the evening stayed, vivid, in her mind. It was the look on Josh Glenavon’s face, when he’d announced that beauty was in the eye of the beholder.


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