“Nicola!” It was the only word he trusted himself to say.
He stood up awkwardly and nearly knocked the beer glass from the table.
“Were you expecting someone else?”
“No, of course not. Where’s all your luggage?”
She’d come to tell him goodbye, that she’d left most of it in Canada for her return there . . .
“We arrange a meeting worthy of the big screen and all you can say is ‘where’s your luggage’? To answer your question, I got the taxi to leave it at the station.”
“Sensible. Would you like something to drink?”
“No, thanks. I want to go home.”
They walked out of the bar and into the street.
“You haven’t kissed me yet.”
Passers-by looked on in amusement as the two of them embraced on the pavement before walking on to the station.
Jim was surprised to see Nicola’s cases on the platform being cared for by Billy Boswell.
“Thought you were never coming. This is the last train of the day to Corton, Nicola, and we can’t wait, even for VIPs like you and Jim. Here she comes.”
Sir Galahad hissed importantly into the station and clanked to a noisy halt as though voicing its displeasure at the mere two coaches it had been allotted for the trip.
Jim frowned, bewildered.
“What’s going on, Nicola?”
“You did walk like I asked you to? You haven’t got a car somewhere?”
“No, but I thought you were going home?”
“I am. Got the tickets, Billy?”
Billy doffed his cap and produced two tickets.
“As ordered, ma’am, two tickets to Corton. One way.”
He opened a carriage door where the compartment had RESERVED marked on it, and began loading the suitcases while Jim looked on in astonishment.
Nicola climbed in and looked questioningly at him.
“Are you coming?” she asked. “By the way, now would be as good a time as any to ask that question!”
Billy looked at his watch. Timings were tight and the last train was never late. Everyone needed their tea.
Jim stood at the open carriage door.
“Nicola Renton, will you marry me?”
“I will, Jim Connaught, with all my heart.”
The whistle fell from Billy’s mouth as Jim jumped into the compartment.
He leaned out of the window.
“She’s going to marry me, Billy. Lucky you’ve got a chain on that thing!”
The engine driver looked back to see what was causing the delay as Billy quickly put the whistle back into his mouth. He waved the green flag and blew so hard that the station cat scurried away in disgust.
No. 30456 Sir Galahad, of the distinguished N-15 class, once of the London and South Western Railway company gave a warning whistle, a puff of smoke and a hiss of steam and pulled away from Abingly on its way to Corton, as it would for many years to come.