Beatrice Lacy 45

We got up. Giles shook the dust off his hat. Maxim yawned and stretched. The sun went in. I looked up at the sky. It had changed already, a mackerel sky. Little clouds scurrying in formation, line upon line.

‘Wind’s backing,’ said Maxim.

‘I hope we don’t run into rain,’ said Giles.

‘I’m afraid we’ve had the best of the day,’ said Beatrice.

We wandered slowly towards the drive and the waiting car.

‘You haven’t seen what’s been done to the east wing,’ said Maxim.

‘Come upstairs,’ I suggested; ‘it won’t take a minute.’

We went into the hall, and up the big staircase, the men following behind.

It seemed strange that Beatrice had lived here for so many years. She had run down these same stairs as a little girl, with her nurse. She had been born here, bred here; she knew it all, she belonged here more than I should ever do. She must have thought about the days that were gone, ever remembered the lanky pig-tailed child that she had been once, so different from woman she had become, forty-five now, vigorous and settled in her ways, another person…