“Grace, do you remember last summer when we took a drive into the country? Village cricket and kite-flying and cream-tea? Memorable day. And I talked about Europe and generally waffled on. Boring, but you know since then things have moved on with a vengeance. I’ve seen it, felt it all happening, like a train gathering speed out of the station.
“The point I wish to make is that a move out of the city, with your children and your guests, wouldn’t be at this moment at all inadvisable. And so Hayling Island, with your business plans, is an excellent choice . . . as things turn out.”
“But we’re only renting the place for the summer. It’s not a permanent move.”
“Quite so. But why shouldn’t it be?”
“Well, because our home is here.”
“Could you not sell up here?”
“No. This is rented too.”
“Aha, of course. Of course, I see. And so, you were going to tell me about the capital you hope to raise between yourself and Mrs.Kimball, for expenses, staff and so on, I take it.”
“Yes. Oh, and a charabanc to visit the lights!”
“Oh ho! Then hadn’t you better do it very soon? The season is nearly upon us.”
“Oh, we have. I’ve – we’ve got it.”
“You have? I see! Well – well, how splendid! I hope it is adequate. And not too expensive.”
“In what way?”
“I mean, in rate of interest.”
“Oh, no, no. It’s in cash.” Grace glances quickly towards the sideboard.
“Why, better and better! Have you sold some valuables? I say, you’re not going without, or the children – what?”
“Och, no, nothing like that.”
“Well, that’s fine.” Hugo pauses, and with a shrewd look, “I imagine Mrs. Kimball will be playing her part?”
“Yes, indeed. We’re both in it together, as I said.”
“Very good. No doubt she has some sort of – er – fruitful resources to draw upon. Charming woman. And attractive.”
“Och, I never think – I mean she’s fun, and has lots of friends, that’s true.”
“So one must be careful.”
“Ah, why do you say that?”
“Please, don’t misunderstand me – not careful of her. Rather, for her – and her friends. Do you follow? When it’s a question of money.”
Grace gets up and walks over to the window.His echo of her own caution, and Arthur’s too, only amplifies her unease, arousing even a twinge of guilt.
“Look, I do beg your pardon, Mrs.Lamerton. I do seem to be going too far. But there is a reason.”
She stands silently thinking. Why should she feel so guilty and defensive? If it’s a question of right and wrong she needs no other conscience than her own to warn her, whether it’s five hundred pounds or a penny. Stealing is stealing. If that’s what it is.
Wasn’t it given with his love? Wasn’t it actually his love? Betty has translated love – or whatever was meant by that faltering heart’s last ambitious leap – into hard cash. His “pennies”. Now to be re-invested in another hopeful venture. Sinah Light, a season of celebration, renewed livelihood and, yes, an island refuge. What an ascent, an expansion, projecting, as such things are meant to do, into an unknown future! Noble, it seems. Even heroic.
But “one must be careful”. There is no refuge on any island, in the most golden season, from the biting, searching wind of cold legality. There sits Hugo Quist, couched in cold legality, safe, secure. A strong, true refuge.
On an impulse Grace turns, goes over to the sideboard, unlocks the cupboard, takes out the wad of notes and presents them, with her accompanying deposition, before counsel.
* * * * *