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Authors: Marjorie Moore

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BOOK: Gone Away
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“But this isn’t discomfort!” Patricia exclaimed. “Why, this looks like the height of luxury, especially after the station,” she ended, as she gazed round appreciatively at the oak-beamed walls and ceiling, and the comfortably
u
pholstered chairs.

Kay’s eyes followed the direction of his companion’s, and then came to rest on her oval face, with, its deep set eyes and regular features. What a thing of beauty she was, he mused, and how different from the average modern girl. She was unspoiled, untouched by flattery, and capable of finding enjoyment in trifles. It was a joy to be in such company, a pleasure he had never before experienced; she was like some wide-eyed child, and yet she was an entertaining comrade.

“Pat, I’ve been wondering. Is anybody meeting you? Will it matter about your non-arrival? Do you want to send a message?”

Patricia felt the warm color surge into her cheeks, but she kept her eyes lowered. “No, I don’t need to send any message,” she murmured almost inaudibly; then, as the enormity of her own actions suddenly overwhelmed her, she burst into frightened tears. “I’ve left home,” she gasped between her sobs. “I’m going to London to get a job.”

Completely taken aback, and in the hope that Patricia’s unexpected sobbing would soon calm down, Kay busied himself with the coffee the waiter had placed on a table in front of him. But
Patricia, now that she had broken down, found it impossible to regain control of herself.

Leaning forward, Kay gently stroked her hair with slow, comforting movements, then, pulling a fine linen handkerchief from his pocket, he tilted up her face and began to dry her eyes. “There, there, Pat, don’t cry any more. There’s no tragedy in running away; I expect you had good reason,” he murmured consolingly.

But tell me, have you any qualifications to help you find work?”

“I’ve had secretarial training. Of course, I haven’t had a post yet
...
but I work quickly, and that’s very important,” she added with candor.

He laughed softly. “What a precious little optimist you are! Still,
I promise not to desert you until you have found something suitable.”

“Do you really mean that?” Patricia gave a sigh of unconcealed relief. “I did feel a bit nervous about it, but not now.”

“And with the same undue optimism I presume that you have no idea where you are going to stay?” Kay inquired teasingly.

“Not the slightest notion in the world!” she answered promptly. “I always rush headlong into things and count the cost afterwards,” she explained.

“So it seems!” Kay nodded agreement. “Well, I can take you to a quiet hotel,” and seeing Patricia’s look of consternation, he added casuall
y.
“Oh, it’s not expensive and not far from the place where I generally stay.”


You’re
coming to my rescue again, I can see that.” Patricia smiled, although her eyes were still misted with tears.

“And now you must drink your coffee and nibble a sandwich,” Kay remarked
,
passing her a cup and offering her a plate of neatly-cut sandwiches.

Patricia drank her coffee gratefully but
refused to eat anything. “I think I’m too tired to be hungry now, or perhaps too excited,” she murmured. Then, as she replaced her cup on the table, she added, “I think I ought to say goodnight. I expect we shall have to be up early.”

“That’s the wisest remark you’ve made so far,” Kay teased, as closely, side by side, they made their way up the narrow twisting staircase.

The night porter, wearing a green baize apron, was collecting shoes to be cleaned. He bade them a cordial goodnight, and watched them as they disappeared up the short flight of steps.

“Goodnight, madam. Goodnight, sir”—the words rang in Patricia’s ears. They sounded strangely intimate; probably the porter thought that they were a married couple, and certainly, now that she reconsidered her companion’s easy-going manners, it might naturally be presumed that they were married, turning up late at night like this too. What was Kay thinking? Did the same thing strike him? They were placed
in
a most awkward, almost a compromising situation, although spending the night in this remote inn was a contingency that had been forced on them both. She gave Kay a sidelong glance and found him smiling down on her.


Worrying about the conventionality of this proceeding?” he queried, almost as if he had read her thoughts. Patricia blushed at his question, and before she had an opportunity to reply, Kay whispered, “Anyway, there’s nothing to blush about!” He stopped outside a door
. “
This is your room. Mine’s just across the passage; and now goodnight and sleep well, little stranger!” For a moment longer than necessary he held her hand in both of his, then, turning on
h
is heel, he left her.

With her pulses racing with an indefinable excitement, Patricia entered her room. She was scarcely conscious of her surroundings, but in her ears rang Kay’s goodnight, and in her heart, although she was unaware of it, the precious seeds of love were sown.

 

CHAPTER TWO

Patricia clung to Kay’s arm as they emerged from the theatre on to the crowded pavement of Shaftesbury Avenue. She lifted a pair of sparkling eyes to her companion, and even before she spoke, her whole demeanour seemed to express her happiness.

“That was lovely!” she exclaimed ecstatically. “I’ve always longed to see a London show, and I’m not in the least disappointed; it was even nicer than I expected.”

Drawing Patricia closer to his side as he edged his way through the crowds outside the theatre, Kay replied, “It was a good play. I enjoyed it too. Now, how about some refreshment before I take you home?”

“Isn’t it rather late?” Patricia’s tone was dubious. Much as she longed to accept, much as she hated ending what had been a perfect evening in her new friend’s company, she couldn’t quite rid herself of the idea that a scandalized father or an irate stepmother would be awaiting her on the doorstep. It was wonderful to feel so grown up and independent, and the small, private hotel Kay had recommended gave her a feeling of immense superiority. It was quiet, and perhaps a trifle old-fashioned, but to Patricia, with her lack of experience, it represented a height of luxury such as she had never before known. There had been moments when she had wondered whether the price wasn’t beyond her slender means, but her first outing that morning had been to visit an agency and her heart had lightened when told that they had the very thing for her; a solicitor’s office required a beginner to learn the work. She could scarcely believe her good fortune when, following an interview, she had been told to report for work the following week. Of course, the salary wasn’t high at first. Patricia’s thoughts wandered on. No, even now that a post had miraculously presented itself she feared her residence at this delightful hotel of Kay’s recommendation would be short-lived.

“It’s not a bit late and you haven’t to get up early in the morning, so what’s the hurry?” Kay laughed. “I’m not taking you home yet, and you don’t know your way alone, so, you see, you’ll have no option,” he ended teasingly.

Patricia needed no further persuasion. “I don’t really want to get back if ... if you’re not in a hurry, she averred shyly.

Kay glanced down at the slim figure by his side. How little he knew of this girl! Why, they’d only met two nights before, and yet he felt he had known her so long; felt as if her pale, oval face, framed with wings of soft brown hair, and her scarlet, expressive mouth above her small, rather arrogantly tilted chin, were imprinted forever on his mind. There was an appealing quality about her slenderness, while her loneliness and unexpected confidence in herself moved him strangely. She looked very young and unworldly; yet this embarking on a new life appeared to leave her entirely unafraid. Kay found himself unconsciously admiring her courage, curiously intrigued by this mixture of inexperience and sophistication.

“Any special place you’d like to go?” Kay questioned, while he elbowed his companion through an unexpected gap in the streams of home-bound traffic.

“Lyons Corner House,” Patricia replied promptly. “I’ve heard so much about it. I’ve never been. I’d love to go there.

“Then of course we can go there.” Kay turned away to hide the smile that played round his lips. He didn’t spend many months in London himself, but it was difficult to imagine there could be any modern girl who hadn’t paid at least one visit to the Corner House. Maimie ... he tried to imagine what her choice might have been; certainly something far more exotic and expensive; and from his recollection he couldn’t remember any evening when she had demurred at the prospect of prolonging their outing. Maimie
...
His thoughts wandered on; he supposed that he’d propose to her one day, but almost unconsciously he found himself comparing the girl he hoped to marry with the girl by his side. How different they were, Maimie so infectious in her gaiety and
joie de vivre.
His glance strayed to Patricia. She might be—yes, she probably was a year or two older than Maimie, but her brown eyes beneath their fringed lashes were shadowed, and her expression, until she smiled, dimpling the smooth contour of her cheeks, showed a seriousness beyond her years.

“Is this it?” Patricia gazed at the glittering window display outside the restaurant with wide-eyed wonder. “Isn’t it marvellous?” She tugged excitedly at her companion’s arm. “Do let’s go in. There seem to be heaps of people there. Isn’t it funny, at this time of night too.” She laughed softly. “Why everyone at home is in bed by ten!”

Kay piloted his companion to a table from which she had a good view of the jovial crowds around her, then, seating himself opposite, handed her the menu.


What would you like?”

Patricia shook her head. “No, please, don’t give it to me. You choose. I’ll like anything you order.”

While her companion addressed the waitress, Patricia’s eyes wandered round t
h
e restaurant. What a wonderful place it was! How marvellous to have been brought here, her second day in London too! For the hundredth time she blessed her meeting with Kay. How kind he had been! How different this venture would have seemed without him! They had lunched at a smart hotel, driven round London, and seen all those things which she hadn’t seen since a child then, on a flying visit with her father, she had been shown round on what had been a more or less educational tour of the capital. It had been different with Kay; they’d laughed together at the waxworks, fed nuts to the monkeys at the zoo, watched, entranced, the changing of the guard, and exulted together over the wonders of the British Museum. All this would
have to stop soon and, as Patricia realized it, a pang of regret assailed her. She’d come to London to earn her living. This was but a transient episode; it couldn’t continue. Still, she could see this new-found friend occasionally, an infinitely comforting thought.

“You’re not drinking your coffee. It will get cold.”

“I’d forgotten.” Patricia
s
miled. “I was thinking and looking round at all this
...
” She indicated the crowded room. “It’s all so exciting, so wonderful.”

“I wonder if such things will still prove exciting when you’ve lived in London for a few months?” Kay was scarcely aware of asking the question aloud.

“Of course. There’s such a lot to see and do, I don’t think one could ever exhaust such a fund of pleasures.”

“It’s a change to find someone so unspoiled. My
fiancée
loves London too. She lives here, although she is away just now.”

“Your
fiancée
?” Patricia could not keep the questioning note from her voice. Somehow she had never thought of Kay as belonging to anyone. There was no reason why he shouldn

t be engaged, she chided herself quickly; it was silly of her to have been so surprised, and yet she was
...
there was no use denying it. And worse, she was strangely hurt. In an effort to hide the embarrassment his simple statement had evoked, she picked up her coffee cup and began to drink.

Patricia’s echo of her companion’s words, followed by her sudden silence conveyed to Kay more clearly than anything Patricia might have said that his mention of an engagement had come as a shock. For a moment he felt a sense of irritation at her astonishment, then, surprisingly, he felt gratified. Theirs was such a brief acquaintance, but how much had they crowded into those hours, and how pleasantly intimate their relationship had become. Patricia, too, must have felt those invisible bonds which had drawn them together. Kay took a cigarette case from his pocket and with mechanical actions commenced to smoke; he felt suddenly troubled and restless, as if some problem, not as yet put into words, was puzzling him. Then, suddenly, his mind became clear, and its
p
iercing clarity was like a knife drawn slowly through his heart. He
h
ad spoken of Maimie as his
fiancée
untruthfully, deliberately, with every intention of testing his companion’s reactions, wondering if his engagement could be discussed between them coolly, dispassionately, hurting neither of them, but now he knew it couldn’t be; no tie could exist for him other than that inexplicable bond which had sprung up, unasked, between himself and this girl seated before him.

“I didn’t realize you were engaged. I ... I hope your
fiancée
won’t mind you taking me out. You
...
you’ve been very kind.” Patricia tried to make her words sound conventional, but was miserably aware of her halting phrases.

“Of course she wouldn’t! Please don’t concern yourself about that.” Kay was glad of the natural turn the conversation had taken, but only for a moment
.
Patricia’s next question startled him afresh. “Are you marrying soon?”

“Nothing is decided.”

Kay’s answer was certainly truthful, but it was strange how remote Maimie had become, and even as he tried to visualize her features, they became blurred and unreal. In their place Patricia’s face, pale an
d
appealing, rose before him.

“I think I ought to be going home now.” Patricia broke the silence between them. It was extraordinary, she mused, how swiftly everything had changed. The restaurant seemed no longer light an
d
amusing; its glamor had gone, the crowds of merry people irritated her, she felt tired and dispirited and longed for the cold air of the night blowing against her cheeks.

“I’ll get the bill.” Kay also felt that the gaiety of the night had died. But for him it was different; in its place was a feeling of peace, as if some purpose had
b
een accomplished, a decision made.

Outside, although a fine night, the air was cold and biting. Patricia drew her coat collar more closely around her face, but the movement was mechanical; she was scarcely aware of the wind cutting through her. She still felt dazed and unhappy, like a child from whom someone has cruelly snatched a toy.

Slipping his arm beneath her elbow, Kay led her along a narrow street, dark after the well-lighted main thorough-fares, toward her hotel. “You seem very quiet. Tired?” he queried, searching his companion’s face anxiously.

“A little
...
but it’s been a lovely evening. Thanks, awfully.” Although Patricia tried to make her words sound enthusiastic, she was uncomfortably aware of their inadequacy.

She would have been amazed had she realized the joy her very diffidence had given her companion. He had not been slow to notice her sudden change of attitude, the hurt look in her eyes, the almost pathetic droop to her lips. His mention of Maimie had done that, and his heart beat faster at the thought, while his pulses
throbbed to the rhythm of the words, “She cares
...
she cares!” He resisted the urge to take her in his arms. It wouldn’t do to rush her, his common sense advised. To declare his love now would be ridiculous; she would never believe him, and perhaps he would lose her forever. Maimie must be explained away first, as well as the fact that she was not actually his
fiancée
.

“Please don’t bother to come in. I’ll be quite all right now,” Patricia announced as Kay made to follow her up the steps leading to the hotel entrance.

“Just as far as the hall. We haven’t made any arrangements for tomorrow yet.”

Patricia made no further demur, and it was not until they were standing side by side in the empty lounge that she held out her hand.

“Good night
...
and thanks again.”

Kay took her hand and looked down into the face lifted to his. The wind had whipped a soft pink color into her cheeks and her eyes were suspiciously bright. His heart contracted with pity. Had he really hurt her? Wouldn’t it be better to explain now, to tell her of his love, to see those lips melt into a smile? No, he chided himself, it wouldn’t do; he must win her confidence again and bring the light of contentment slowly back into the deep pools of her eyes.

“What about tomorrow? Can I call for you in the morning?” There was an inflection of eagerness in his tone.

“I’ve got an appointment at the agency in the morning. I’ve got to tell them I’m fixed up with a job. I really must go.” Patricia’s reply was flat and dispirited.

“Then the afternoon. I’ll ring you at one. You’ll come? Promise.”


I
... I expect so.” The words were torn from Patricia’s lips. What should she say? How could she refuse? Previous engagements were obviously a mere pretence; besides, by a definite refusal she might show her hurt. “I really must go now.” She forced a smile and made to pull away her hand, still closely held in her companion’s grip. She must get away quickly before the tears stinging her eyes could no longer be controlled.

“Patricia, dear, say you’ll come
...
You’ve got to. I’ve so much to say to you.”

BOOK: Gone Away
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