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.Hannah paused, frowning.Could it have been the gardeners? They were the only people who'd any business here during the holidays.She quickened her step and set off in pursuit, coming to an abrupt halt as she rounded the corner of the building, for the couple ahead had stopped to look at a plant and were only yards in front of her.A man and a woman, they were standing hand in hand with their backs to her, and Hannah saw with a sense of disbelief that the woman was Gwen.Some sound, or possibly the intensity of her gaze, alerted them, for they turned together, disengaging their hands and regarding her in considerable embarrassment.Gwen's face had flushed as scarlet as her dress, and Hannah thought inconsequentially how pretty she looked.Since neither of them seemed capable of speech, Hannah said awkwardly, 'I'm so sorry to intrude.I came to get my fountain pen, I'd no idea –''Of course you hadn't.' Gwen gestured towards her companion.'Hannah, may I introduce Professor Cameron, whom I met in Canada? Bruce, this is Hannah James, my deputy.'Hannah dragged her eyes from Gwen to the man at her side.Slightly shorter than Gwen, he was of stocky build, with a shock of rough grey hair and a sunburnt, intelligent face.His eyes, now looking at her with interest, were the same deep blue as his sports shirt.He came forward with his hand out.'Delighted to meet you, ma'am.I've heard a lot about you.'Which was a comment she couldn't reciprocate.There was a brief pause, then Hannah said hurriedly, 'Well, I won't disturb you, I'll just collect –''No, Hannah, wait.I – think we need to talk.'The professor took charge.'You ladies would find this easier if I weren't with you.Miss James, I was just saying to Gwendoline that I hoped you would join us for dinner this evening; perhaps I might extend the invitation in person?'Hannah, completely at a loss – who was this man? – murmured confusedly, 'Well, that's very kind of you –''Shall we say seven-thirty at my hotel, the King's Head on Gloucester Circus?' He had the usual North American difficulty with the name.'I'll wait for you in the foyer.'He turned to Gwen, tongue-tied beside him.'I'll call you later, my dear.' And with an old-fashioned little bow, he left them, disappearing round the corner of the building.Hannah said forcefully, 'Gwen, what on earth's going on?''Oh Hannah, I'm sorry.I've handled everything very badly, but Bruce's arrival was totally unexpected, I swear.He rang me from Heathrow on Saturday, the day after your supper party.I did try to phone you yesterday, but there was no reply.''But who is he? You've never mentioned him.''There was no reason to.I didn't – Look, let's walk, shall we? I'm too restless to sit still, and it might make things easier.'Hannah fell into step beside her, her mind spinning.'Firstly, I really am sorry I blurted out about the headship offer on Friday.I should have told you first.Put it down to that excellent wine you gave us.''It doesn't matter.' Hannah brushed aside the subject which had loomed over her for the last few days, in her impatience to return to Bruce Cameron.'But I didn't keep this from you, honestly.There was – simply nothing to tell.I met Bruce at a drinks party soon after I arrived in Canada.He lectures at Macmillan University and is a specialist on medieval law.''That must come in handy.'Gwen smiled fleetingly.'I liked him at once.I learned that his wife had died three years ago, that he was interested in music and walking and sketching –''In fact,' Hannah interrupted drily, 'all things that interest you.''Yes, exactly.So we saw quite a lot of each other over the next months.But Hannah – I must emphasize this – it was totally platonic.''And you didn't want it to be?'She was remembering their conversation the evening after Gwen's return from Canada.Gwen had asked if she'd ever regretted not marrying, and when Hannah had handed back the question, she'd admitted to not being sure.And, Hannah remembered with embarrassment, she'd teased her about falling for a Mountie.'I don't know what I wanted,' Gwen was answering frankly.'I'd long ago given up all thoughts of marriage, convinced myself that my career fulfilled all my needs.There's never been a man in my life, Hannah, you know that.I'm aware that there is in yours; if you remember, you confided in me a few years ago, when you were having problems.But I've no idea who he is, and I don't want to know.I'm just glad for you.'Hannah took her arm and squeezed it.'So I was dismayed when I found myself thinking more and more about Bruce, and dreading the time when I'd have to leave.Then, out of the blue, came the offer of the headship at Layton High.In one sense it seemed the answer to my prayers, but in another it was impossible.Although I enjoyed Bruce's company, I was becoming increasingly nervous of betraying my feelings for him, and he'd never so much as hinted at any for me.'They came to a halt, gazing out across the playing fields to the junior school against the far wall of the grounds.'So I told them I'd consider the offer, shook hands with Bruce, said it had been nice knowing him, and came home.Since when,' she added honestly, 'I've been thoroughly miserable.''I knew something was wrong,' Hannah said softly.'So what brought the professor over?''It seems he told a close friend of his feelings for me, and as luck would have it, the wife of this friend thought she'd detected signs that I cared for him.They both persuaded him to come over and – try his luck.''He didn't waste much time; you've only been back two weeks.' She looked sideways at her friend's rapt face, gazing into the distance with eyes narrowed against the sun.'Dare I ask what happened when he arrived?'Gwen smiled.'After a certain amount of preamble, he told me that he – he loved me, and asked me to marry him.''Oh, Gwen! And of course you said yes?'Gwen turned impulsively towards her.'Was it wrong of me, Hannah? Is it selfish, at my age, to give up everything I have here and fly off without a backward glance, like a – a GI bride? You saw how delighted Mother was to be home again; how can I tell her – or Bea – that I won't be there much longer?''Of course it's not selfish,' Hannah said roundly.'And your mother was perfectly happy with Beatrice.The fact that John's a doctor is a positive advantage, with her eyesight not too good.I'm sure they wouldn't mind the arrangement being permanent.'And perhaps not too permanent, Hannah thought privately; Mrs Rutherford was in her late eighties and her health was failing.'Look,' she went on positively, 'this couldn't be more perfect.You're not even being asked to give up your career.You have a brand-new challenge out there in Canada, and you'll have a husband who's also in education to help and advise you.What could be better?'When Gwen didn't reply, she added, 'When and where are you getting married?''Here, as soon as possible.We want a quiet wedding – only a few close friends.We're hoping Bruce's will fly over.''Then what?''Well, the vacancy won't be for a year, as I told you, and in any case I have to give twelve months' notice myself [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]