Table of Contents

Chapter 1 - Aftermaths by A.J. Hall

He had left her a note: rusty-black ink of an un-English shade, handwriting spiked with haste and natural temperament both, yet sinuous — she did not think she flattered herself on the point — with the muscular remembrance of pleasure.

She had heard him rise, although she had pretended still to be sleeping. Her governess had taught her that post-scripts betrayed vulgarity. She had taken the matter to heart, and applied it in matters beyond letter-writing.

It had happened; it was over. She had not feared the note would require anything of her, and nor did it. Nor did it offer anything beyond a formal acknowledgement of gratitude and regret that circumstances rendered it impossible &c. He expected, she gathered, to be at sea by the day after next, and thereafter it was unlikely he would touch on a European port for some months. He did not expect that she would have any need to get in touch but in the event of unforeseen circumstances the vessel’s name was –- her eye skimmed – her owners – her owners’ agents –

The callow, careful phrasing provoked a queer, twisting blend of amusement and agonised sensitivity, like a feather drawn repeatedly over one’s instep. It was the sort of letter one could imagine Giles writing. Absurd, really, as if she was some green girl who couldn’t be expected to take the obvious precautions –


She rose and went to the bathroom. She had known as soon as the thought had occurred, but nevertheless she had to check.

The spongebag hung discreetly on the second hook below the wash-basin, where it had been since her arrival. She did not need to feel inside to know that the contents remained undisturbed. Her memory, pitiless in its clarity, took her through every step of the previous day. After a little while she went back into the bedroom. Her appointments diary was where she always kept it, in the inner silk pocket of her handbag. She flicked the pages back to the most recent red dot, counting.

She was very calm. After breakfast, she summoned the concierge, and asked him to book her cross-channel passage and ensure a telegram was sent to Teddy, in London, announcing herself much restored after her holiday and anxious to be reunited with him, Molly and the boys as soon as possible.

Sometimes, she reflected as the white cliffs hove into view, bridges needed to be quenched. Even on an off-chance.

Reina del Pacifico had brought treasure to Callao. The orderly, dense-packed columns of the Times front page fell like balm on shattered nerves. No screaming headlines, just sober announcements of marriages, deaths and births. So many births. Germany re-arming, the League of Nations spineless, the British mesmerised. What a world to bring children into. At least there he had the joke on Nature.

MAUNSELL, a daughter, Pamela Theresa Fitzgibbon.

Deauville in September: Joyce, armagnac and the Sortes Virgilanae.

A joke inverted, turned upon its head.

“Lanyon! Finished with that paper yet? Anything in it?”

“Not a thing, sir. All yours.”