Eve Bolsover 37

‘How’s Septimus Tuam?’ said James. ‘How’s he getting on these days?’

They were standing in the centre of the drawing room when James said that. The furniture, Eve thought, was uglier than she’d remembered it. She walked away from James. She spoke with her back to him, looking through the window at an ash tree.

‘He came one morning, the day after that dinner party, and he helped me in his peculiar way with the housework. He had damaged my stocking with the tip of his umbrella in the button department of Ely’s: he came to give me other stockings instead.’ Eve related these details because she had not spoken of them before. She told James all there was to tell, how Septimus Tuam had captivated her, causing her to imagine scenes in a country of the Middle East, and Arabs who danced in celebration.

‘I find it hard to visualize the chap,’ said James agreeably. ‘Well, well.’

‘I behaved like a schoolgirl of fourteen.’

‘I would have thought not. Do schoolgirls of fourteen take on lovers?’

‘I meant I was silly.’

‘You are thirty-seven. It’s an age of discretion, Eve.’