- 27. The Wedding Quilt – Episode 27
- 28. The Wedding Quilt – Episode 28
- 29. The Wedding Quilt – Episode 29
- 30. The Wedding Quilt – Episode 30
- 31. The Wedding Quilt – Episode 31
- 32. The Wedding Quilt – Episode 32
- 33. The Wedding Quilt – Episode 33
“What are you talking about?”
“Surely you knew, Stella. I thought you two were as thick as thieves!”
Stella stared at the girl, dumbfounded. She had never really liked Natalie Hurst, and now she knew why.
She ran the tip of her tongue over her lips, which suddenly felt dry. Pride dictated that she should pretend to know all about this fantastic tale.
She ought to suddenly recall a missed appointment and hurry off, leaving Natalie with nothing to crow over, but she couldn’t manage it. She had to know.
“You must be mistaken, Natalie. You know how gossip flies around this town, and half the time it’s all wrong.”
“Oh, there’s no mistake, Stella. I was at Union Station last evening with my mother. We were there to meet her old school friend who is visiting from Vancouver.
“While we were waiting I saw Russell with his parents and some old boy who turned out to be Mrs Parker-Murchison’s brother. I went over to say hello.
“It turned out that Russell and his uncle were catching the train to Quebec City, where they were to board the Numidian. Russell looked a bit shifty to me, but his mother seemed quite willing to talk.”
“She would!” Stella muttered.
“Oh, yes. The brother had a son – Russell’s cousin Lucas – who was killed in the war. His uncle wants to visit the battlefields to pay his respects at his son’s grave.
“Apparently the poor man hasn’t been the same since he lost his boy, and the family are worried that going over there and seeing all those rows of white crosses will be too much for him. So Mrs Parker-Murchison decided he’d better have an escort, in the shape of Russell.”
“Nice of her,” Stella managed to say.
Somehow she was able to keep a straight face while Natalie chattered on about all the places Russell intended to visit after the pair landed in England.
How they would cross the Channel to France – or was it Belgium? Geography had never been Natalie’s strong point and she wasn’t quite sure.
It came as a blessed relief when Natalie said she had to leave. Stella stared after her, unable to believe what she had just heard.
She knew she had to leave the store, but somehow she seemed to be rooted to the spot.
After a while she became aware that an assistant in a black dress was standing at her side, wearing an anxious expression.
“Are you all right, madam? Can I be of assistance?”
“I’m sorry. I don’t feel very well.”
“Shall I fetch you a glass of water, madam?”
“No, thank you. I’ll be all right in a minute.”
Blinded by tears, Stella tottered towards the lift.
At home in her bedroom Stella tried to make sense of what she had heard.
She had no doubt that Natalie had spoken the truth, though it was hard to believe that Russell would behave so churlishly. Could the girl have got it wrong?
Perhaps Russell had been on the platform to see his uncle off, not to accompany him on the journey? But no. His mother seemed to have explained it all quite carefully, probably in the expectation that Natalie would carry the news straight to Stella Foster.
The beastly woman must have been planning this all along! You couldn’t get a passage to England at a moment’s notice. People usually arranged sea voyages months in advance.
Oh, she might have some genuine concern for her bereaved brother, but how convenient it was that the man meant to make this pilgrimage just as his nephew was about to make a misalliance!
There was no getting away from it that the villain of the piece was Russell himself. If he hadn’t been able to pluck up the courage to break up with her face-to-face he might at least have written to her.
“You’re not worth shedding tears over,” she said aloud, as if he might be able to hear. “Goodbye and good riddance!”
But still the tears flowed, until at last she slept.