Julia Ferndale 47

 ‘Such weather, Mrs Ferndale!’ Diane remarked, and when Julia murmured a reply the girl went on to speak about her parents’ opinion of her boyfriend, Nevil Clapp. ‘I mean,’ she finished up eventually, ‘they’re not being fair.’

The hair that Diane snipped at was short and brown, with quite some grey in it. Faint little lines had begun to blink around Julia’s eyes, coming or going with changes of expression or mood; a few faint freckles had always been just visible on her forehead. At forty-seven her round face was not yet empty of the beauty that had once distinguished it: now and again it echoed in her smile, or in the depths of her blue-green eyes. Her mother had once said that Julia had a look of a Filippo Lippi Madonna, a similar delicacy in profile, the same reddish tinge in her hair. But there was plumpness now as well: Julia’s daughters had stolen the Madonna look.