The End Of The Rainbow – Episode 40

From the moment that Letty waved a greeting to him from the porch of Avondale House, Hugh Glenavon felt relaxed and at home. Avondale was nearly a mile from the Grange, nearer to the hills. Smothered in creeper, it had mullioned windows and by the gateway stood a tiny lodge, which appeared unoccupied.Once the housekeeper had shown him his room Hugh made his way down to the drawing-room, where Letty dispensed afternoon tea. He noticed that her hand trembled slightly as she handed him his cup.“I do hope you won’t be bored at Avondale,” she said. “I’ve arranged a few things a visit to Lochan, my neighbour, whom you already know. Perhaps a supper party, as well.”She blushed scarlet as Hugh leaned over and patted her hand.“How could I be bored, Letty, dear? Just to be in your company for a few days will be the greatest of pleasures.”Her blush remained, but when she looked at Hugh there was a sparkle in her eyes.“I want you to make yourself at home here, Hugh. There should be enough to occupy you while I’m busy with household affairs. I hope you don’t find the garden a disgrace! I am without a gardener at present, or a coachman, for that matter.”Hugh laughed. “Perhaps I could apply myself to finding some help for you. I would like to make myself useful.”In the days that followed, he luxuriated in the comfort of Avondale House, content to browse through the little library next to the drawing-room where he could smoke his cigars in comfort and sample some of the writings of Sir Walter Scott, but leaving the door ajar so that he could hear Letty’s voice and her rapid footsteps as she instructed her staff on the running of the household. This was not a stiff, formal house. There was lightness and laughter here, he reflected, puffing contentedly on his cigar.In the end, Lochan had to come looking for him. A bracing walk was, it seemed, unavoidable.“The business world makes a man soft. And I hear that you have a motor car these days. That’ll make you softer still,” Lochan scolded his old friend as they tramped up through furze-clad slopes until they stood on a hillside, looking down on Avondale House. “This spring air is like wine,” he said appreciatively, scanning the view.His companion didn’t answer. Hugh was looking down at the froth of pink and white blossoms that all but obscured Letty’s house. Once before, he had tried to uproot someone he’d cared for, someone who had loved the countryside. Loved it as much as dear Letty . . .“Come on.” Lochan broke into his thoughts. “I promised you a guid long walk, and that’s what you’re going to get.”Lochan stayed for supper. After he’d left, Hugh and Letty spent the last hour of the evening talking out on the terrace as the light faded.“I took a walk to Abbeylands this morning, when you were busy with the household,” he said. “It’s just as beautiful as Josh and his friends claimed. Another world, a romantic place . . .”Letty nodded.“There certainly seemed to be romance in the air when they were here. My dear Constance was so happy then. When Adam Gray had eyes only for her . . .” Her voice tailed off. “She wrote to me, you know, and said that his departure had been something of a shock. But that was all. She did not share her feelings, which worries me.”Hugh nodded.“They run too deep, perhaps. Josh has confided that Constance has shut herself away from her friends. He is worried about her.”Letty gazed into the distance, lost in thought. There was a companionable silence for a few moments, while a blackbird sang its last song of the day. “Love is so painful when you’re young, Hugh. I remember.”“It’s much easier when you’re older and wiser. Like a fine wine, somehow it has improved with the keeping.” Hugh took her hand. “I have been happier these last few days, my dear Letty, than I have been in a very long time.”For a moment, Letty did not speak. Then, eyes shining, she placed a finger on Hugh’s lips.“Say no more than that,” she whispered. “I, too, have known that feeling recently. But happiness is such a fragile thing, like thistledown. If the wind blows too strongly, it escapes.” She cupped her hands and looked at them thoughtfully. “Yet if we treasure it, and don’t let the breeze blow on it, it will last. Being older, we are wiser about such things, Hugh, are we not?”He smiled down at her.“A philosopher, too, my dear Letty, as well as all your other attributes? Of course, you’re right. Now, it’s chilly. Time for us to go in.”


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