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of my life. And we'll leave the cottage...'
His slow smile mocked her. 'Yes? And where will
you go?'
`I'll find somewhere. I'm not a fool.'
`No, but pig-headed in the extreme. Come down
off your high horse and use some sense. What about
BETTY NEELS 151
Peter and Miss Trott? Are they to suffer a homeless
plight with you?'
He was sitting back in his chair, very much at his
ease, and she felt rage bubbling up inside her again.
She said in a cold voice with only the faintest quiver
in it, 'I am not pig-headed.'
`No, no, of course not a slip of the tongue. Let
us say rather that you are a strong-minded female
who likes her own way.'
The interview which she had planned so carefully
had now become a fiasco and it was all his fault.
Somehow she had been made to feel guilty. She sat
silent, trying to regain her composure, not helped by
him glancing at the watch he took from his waistcoat
pocket.
`You are returning this evening to Brokenwell?'
`Yes.' She got up. 'There's no point talking to
you. I'll go and see Mr Willett. I'll send you a
cheque, and perhaps you would be good enough to
tell me what rent you require?'
All he said was, 'You've missed your train. When
is the next one?'
`Eight o'clock.'
`You won't be home until nearly midnight. Sit
down, Eulalia.'
So she sat down again, quite glad to do so, for she
was hungry and her feelings had left her tired and
somewhat dispirited. Just for a moment she didn't
care what was to happen next.
Mr van Linssen lifted the receiver and dialled.
152 FATE TAKES A HAND
`Dodge, will you go to the study and look in the
phone book for the Boy and Horseshoe at
Brokenwell and let me have the number?' In a few
moments he said, 'Thank you,' and put down the
receiver, to pick it up again and dial once more. 'Mr
Wedge? Van Linssen here. Would you be good
enough to send a message to Miss Trott at Ivy
Cottage? Tell her that Miss Warburton will be stay-
ing as my guest until tomorrow morning and will
return home some time during the day. Many
thanks.'
He put the receiver down and Eulalia gasped,
`You can't do that...'
`I just have,' he pointed out in a reasonable voice,
and sat back again, watching her.
Eulalia drew a long breath. She said in a voice
that was getting rather shrill, 'I do not care for your
arrangements, Mr van Linssen, I intend to go home.'
She got to her feet again and this time he did the
same. 'Yes, yes.' He sounded impatient. 'But since
I owe it to Miss Trott and Peter to return you safely
to Brokenwell, you have no alternative but to do as
I say.'
`You are an abominable man,' said Eulalia loudly,
`and I dislike you. I dislike you even more than I do
Victor. You are high-handed and sarcastic and and
unkind, and if I had that money with me now I'd
throw it at you, and the cottage as well.'
The absurdity of this remark didn't strike her, and
whatever Mr van Linssen thought about it remained
BETTY NEELS 153
concealed by a perfectly expressionless face. He
picked up the phone once more and spoke into it.
`Geoff? I've been called away. Will you collect the
notes from Outpatients? I'll see to them later. Yes,
in an hour or two.'
That done, he took Eulalia's arm and walked her
briskly out of the room and across the hall and into
the forecourt, bidding a surprised nurse and a porter
goodnight as he went.
Eulalia went silently. There was a great deal she
wanted to say, but she was so angry that her thoughts
weren't making sense, and putting them into words
would be useless. She sat beside him in the car, as
still and stiff as a poker, her lovely nose in the air,
vexed even more by Mr van Linssen's casual man-
ner. He could have been delivering a parcel for all
the notice he took of her.
She said suddenly, 'I am doing this against my
will and I protest very strongly.'
`Don't be so silly,' observed Mr van Linssen in a
voice to dampen down even the strongest feelings.
That was the extent of their conversation until they
reached his house.
Dodge, advancing to meet them as they went in,
showed no surprise, but inclined his head gravely
and bade her good evening and stood listening to his
master telling him to take Miss Warburton to the
guest-room so that she might tidy herself.
`Miss Warburton has missed her train. She will
spend the night here and return to Brokenwell in the
154 FATE TAKES A HAND
morning. Could we have a tray of tea in ten minutes
or so, and dinner at the usual hour? See that Miss
Warburton has all she wants, will you?'
He turned to Eulalia. 'Do come down when you're
ready. I'm sure you would like a cup of tea. The
cure for all ills in this country, is it not?'
He waited until she had followed Dodge upstairs,
and then went along to his study to let his registrar
know that he would be back at Maude's in a couple
of hours.
Eulalia was ushered into a charming room at the
back of the house, overlooking the tiny garden be-
yond which there was a narrow road and on the other
side of it a row of mews cottages. She looked out of
the window and then turned to survey the room. It
was quite small but most elegantly furnished, with a
peach silk bedspread and curtains, a satinwood dress-
ing-table and two small easy chairs and a thick
cream-coloured carpet, and when she peered round
a door beside the bed she discovered a bathroom,
equipped with thick peach-coloured towels, soap,
powder, bath essence... There was even a toothbrush
and hairbrush and comb.
Perhaps Ursula comes here, thought Eulalia, un-
aware that it was Dodge's pride that unexpected
guests would find everything they could need.
She poked at her hair, powdered her nose, applied
lipstick and went downstairs, outwardly serene, in-
wardly quaking.
The drawing-room was as beautiful as she had re-
BETTY NEELS 155
membered, more so now perhaps, since there was a
bright fire in the steel grate and a small table had
been drawn up to it on which was a silver teapot and
delicate cups and saucers and a plate of fairy-cakes.
Mr van Linssen drew a chair forward for her and
asked her to pour out in a no-nonsense voice, and
sat down again in a vast wing-chair. It was all very
cosy and domestic, made more so by the presence
of Mabel, curled up before the fire. It was all so
normal, too, thought Eulalia. It seemed right that
they should be sitting there facing each other, drink-
ing their tea and eating Dodge's delicious little
cakes. She gave herself a mental shake. She mustn't
allow herself to be soothed; Mr van Linssen would
take advantage of that and make some preposterous
suggestion about the cottage and all that money...
He did no such thing, however, merely made ab-
sent-minded conversation, offered the cakes, had a
second cup of tea, and then excused himself with the
plea that he had some telephoning to do, leaving her
with Mabel for company and a pile of newspapers.
She put these down presently and got up and wan-
dered round the room, examining the pictures and
the books housed in the handsome breakfront
Georgian bookcase. They were handsomely bound,
probably first editions, she thought, and some of
them had titles in what she supposed was Dutch. She
walked to the window and stood looking out into the
already darkening evening. It was quiet, and she
thought it was almost as peaceful as Brokenwell. She
156 FATE TAKES A HAND
was still standing there when Mr van Linssen came
back, offered her a drink and, when she had sat
down, went to his chair again.
She answered his remarks with polite brevity, al-
though this didn't appear to discompose him in the
least, for he made easy conversation until Dodge
came to tell them that dinner was served.
Eulalia, whose insides were hollow with hunger,
was sensible enough to polish off lobster bisque,
chicken a la king and chocolate pudding, as light as
air and smothered in cream. It made no difference,
she told herself, that she was at the table of a man
she disliked; she had been famished and it was good
sense to eat a meal, even though she sat unwillingly
at his table. Mindful of her manners and swallowing
her temper with the soup, she replied suitably to her
companion's casual talk and had a second helping of [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]