Friends and LoversHelen Macinnes
FRIENDS AND LOVERS
ALSO BY HELEN MacINNES
AND AVAILABLE FROM TITAN BOOKS
Pray for a Brave Heart
Assignment in Brittany
North From Rome
Decision at Delphi
The Venetian Affair
The Salzburg Connection
Message from Málaga
While Still We Live
The Double Image
Neither Five Nor Three
Snare of the Hunter
Agent in Place
Ride a Pale Horse
Prelude to Terror
The Hidden Target
I and My True Love
Cloak of Darkness
Rest and Be Thankful
Home is the Hunter (February 2014)
FRIENDS AND LOVERS
Friends and Lovers
Print edition ISBN: 9781781163344
E-book edition ISBN: 9781781164327
Published by Titan Books
A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd
144 Southwark Street, London SE1 0UP
First edition: January 2014
© 1984, 2014 by the Estate of Helen MacInnes. All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Copyright © 1948, 2014 by Helen MacInnes. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.
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To my Mother and Father
With my admiration and love
1: The Foreigners Come to Inchnamurren
2: Dr. Macintyre as Lord Chesterfield
3: Mrs. Lorrimer Regrets
4: White Sands and Black Seals
5: The Pleasures of Family Life
6: Talk For a Grey Day
7: David Makes up His Mind
8: The Crescent is Stormed
9: And The Castle is Taken
10: The End is Always Goodbye
11: Thoughts at Midnight
12: David Comes Home
14: Penny in London
15: New Perspective
16: Women Only
17: Mrs Fane Entertains
18: Dinner at Marinelli’s
19: Afterthoughts in Gower Street
20: David in Oxford
21: Post-Mortem on Friendship
22: Fantasia and Fugue
23: David and His Father
24: O Western Wind...
25: Punitive Expedition
26: Declaration of Independence
27: David Alone
29: View by Moonlight
30: Oxford Reality
31: A Room Of One’s Own
33: Hampton Court Revisited
34: The Age of Gold
35: Mrs Lorrimer is Blown Off Course
36: She Sets Sail Gallantly in Another Direction
38: The Roofs of London
39: Beginning of a Long Journey
About the Author
THE FOREIGNERS COME TO INCHNAMURREN
The morning mist had cleared. Now a fresh wind was blowing, curling the edges of the waves, touching them lightly with flecks of white. The sea had lost its cold grey look; the blue waters were a darker reflection of the smiling sky, intensifying its colour and emotion by their great depths. The mainland, wide stretches of heather and bracken sloping down from barren hills, ended abruptly in red granite cliffs. On this part of the coast there was no sea loch or ragged inlet to distract the swiftly moving tide in its course between the mainland and the scattered islands. There was no sign of house or croft. There was nothing but the uneven hills, silent, watchful, folding eastward, one behind the other. To the west and north and south was the Atlantic, with the lonely islands jutting out of its deep waters to break the force of its rolling waves and turn them into swirling currents.
The men in the boat—single-sailed and small, speeding swiftly with the wind and racing tide—had not spoken since they had left Loch Innish, on the mainland. But then, David Bosworth thought, this was the kind of place where conversation was hardly necessary. He was content to watch the wide-winged gulls wheeling overhead.
George Fenton-Stevens, who was standing upright with an arm hooked round the mast, oblivious to wind or spray or gulls, suddenly looked down at David, sitting securely in the well of the boat. “What do you think of all this, David?” There was a smile of enjoyment on his face, possessive pride in his voice.
David studied Fenton-Stevens for a moment before he replied. Perhaps if he waited long enough no reply would be necessary. George’s eyes and attention were once more fixed on the islands lying ahead of them. When in Rome, David was reflecting, old George could always be counted on doing more than the Romans did. In Oxford, for instance, George wore more twists of scarf round his neck, trousers both baggier and more stained, a gown torn into more tatters, than the usual undergraduate adopted. In London, at Christmas, he had appeared more Foreign Office than Anthony Eden; never had there been so black a hat, so neat an umbrella, such impeccable shoes and gloves. And now, in the Western Highlands of Scotland, he was the Celtic sea-reiver standing proudly before the mast as his ship bore down on an unsuspecting island.
“What do you think of it?” George asked again.
David buried his chin in the upturned collar of his jacket as he tried to avoid a sudden shower of cold sea water. “Ninth century,” he answered. “Definitely. Kishmul’s galley and all. If I could see properly”—and he wiped the spray ostentatiously from his brows—“I could perhaps give you the decade as well.”
George relaxed noticeably, and his very Anglo-Saxon chin was less pointed towards the prow. “I hadn’t thought of that,” he said, “but it is ninth century. Nothing has changed. This sea—and these hills.” His flight of fantasy failed, and he was left with embarrassment. He sat down beside David Bosworth.
“That’s better,” David said. “With you swaying up there above me I couldn’t concentrate on equilibrium.”
George was watching him with amusement. And the red-bearded Highlander sitting at the stern gave almost a smile. In all the jokes against oneself, David thought, there was always a particle of truth. Ever since they had left the shelter of Loch Innish his mind had been persuading his stomach that this was all perfectly normal, and was even considered enjoyable by some. But it was difficult to forget the hideous groaning of the wooden planks, the laboured creaking of the mast, or the pool of water washing about in the bottom of the boat. All quite
normal, of course, if you were accustomed to this kind of thing.
“There’s Inchnamurren,” George said suddenly, and pointed to the larger of two islands lying close together. For company, David thought; they would need that in winter. George was explaining that the smaller island was uninhabited, and that Inchnamurren’s houses couldn’t be seen yet. They were hidden by the sharp hill, on the north end of the island, which fell steeply into the sea. “Devil’s Elbow, they call it,” George said. “Nasty piece of work, isn’t it?”
“Sounds ominous,” David agreed. He spoke lightly, but his thoughts were serious enough as he looked at the crook of black rock thrusting itself so evilly out into the Sound. Full fathom five... The grim sea-raiders, the quiet fishermen who once sailed round these islands, and then sailed no more— The sea-wrack their shroud... Back to back they lie, lifeless lie... The lines from the sea dirges which George’s mother kept prominently displayed on the piano at the Lodge were haunting him today.
David looked at the red-bearded owner of this boat. Captain MacLean, retired from the Seven Seas to spend his remaining years sailing round his own islands. David wondered what the Highlander thought of them, the intruders. His blue eyes, bright beneath the heavy brows, met David’s gaze. He nodded slightly as if in greeting. He raised one hand slowly to his pipe and removed it from his lips.
“Fine day,” he said.
“Fine,” David answered, conscious of the strange fact that he felt just like a schoolboy trying to win the friendship of an austered headmaster. Then the pipe was replaced, the blue eyes looked beyond David once more, and the conversation was over.
They passed the Devil’s Elbow, and entered the island’s sheltered bay. Here, in sunlit peace, colours sharpened. The water, shallow, flowing over white sand, became a broad band of jade edging the shore. At its edge was a row of white-washed cottages. Farther back there were other houses, equally white and gleaming, scattered widely over the green fields and rugged ground. The heather was beginning to bloom; one rough hillside was already covered with reddish purple.
“Every time I see this island I wonder why Mother didn’t buy a house here rather than on the mainland,” George said.
David didn’t reply to that. There was only one obvious answer, which George was too good-natured to see: there wasn’t a house on the island big enough to suit Lady Fenton-Stevens. The Lodge at Loch Innish, on the other hand, had Scots baronial turrets which photographed well for the August and September issues of the fashionable magazines.
“You really ought to see it when all the heather is out,” George was saying. “Look, David, why don’t you stay for August? Mother and the girls will be here for the Twelfth.”
“Can’t be managed, George,” David said firmly. Lady Fenton-Stevens had no doubt invited some really eligible bachelors to amuse her daughters.
“I hope it isn’t because of Eleanor,” George began, and halted awkwardly. He frowned as he thought of his very pretty sister, who had such an enchanting time, always—so it seemed—at the expense of his friends’ emotions.
“Good Lord, no,” David gave a short laugh which sounded almost genuine. Eleanor wasn’t within his price range, even if he had still wanted her.
“I still think you ought to have a few weeks of proper holiday,” George said stubbornly. “London in August is hideous. You’ll never be able to work there.”
I’ve got to, David was thinking: I’ve only myself to depend on. George would never know what grim urgency that small fact gave to life. But he smiled and said, “God, isn’t it bright? I am seeing all colours in the spectrum now, black-dotted.” He watched the boat as it was carefully eased along the jetty, where two brown-legged, barefooted children halted in their game to see the foreigners arrive. A white-haired man was working on the seams of an upturned rowing-boat. Two women gathered seaweed on the shore. Three men leaned against the wall of a cottage.
“A hive of industry,” David remarked. “George, are you sure there is a hotel?”
“Over there beside the church. They’ll give us a decent enough lunch, and then we can call on this Dr. MacIntyre of yours.”
“Not mine,” David said hastily. “This is all Chaundler’s idea.”
Walter Chaundler was David’s tutor at Oxford. When he had heard in June about his pupil’s visit to this part of Scotland he had been delighted. “You must go to see MacIntyre and take him messages from me,” Chaundler had said. “I shall write to him at once and tell him that you are tutoring this summer at the Fenton-Stevens’ place at Loch Innish. That is almost next door to Inchnamurren, as far as I remember. I spent a summer on the island three years ago, in 1929, when MacIntyre and I were collaborating on that book on Mysticism and its Influence on History. Quite a remarkable man, really. He was born in that island and went to school there. Then he went to Glasgow University, and after that came up to Oxford. He became a don here, and later he was a professor in London. And then, quite suddenly, after his wife died, he went back to his island again. Quite remarkable.” And when David had remained silent, wondering if retiring to an unknown island in a forgotten part of the world was the depressing proof of failure after so much effort, Chaundler had sensed the young man’s doubts. He had urged in his kindly, gentle way, “Do go. I am sure MacIntyre would be delighted.” And that was how this visit had been decided.
David had not been altogether happy about it, though. He had postponed it until almost the last week of his stay at Loch Innish. And he would not write to Dr. MacIntyre, either. His excuse was that if Dr. MacIntyre lived on a small island he would always be easily found. Better keep the whole thing as informal as possible, he had thought: then it would seem less of an invasion.
As they began walking towards the village David found that he was following George and MacLean with rather a slower stride. Either George was being too enthusiastic about this whole place or he was taking charge of this visit too efficiently— anyway, it was all becoming a forced pilgrimage. It had never seemed to dawn on George that Dr. MacIntyre might find them rather a nuisance.
“George,” David said very quietly—and, as Fenton-Stevens halted while MacLean went over to talk to the three men outside the general store, he went on, “Look, why don’t we call the whole thing off?”
George stared at him. “Rather late to think of that. But just as you please.” He gave a worried glance towards MacLean and his friends, now deep in conversation.
David touched George’s arm. “All right,” he said. “I agree we did arrive rather obviously. Let’s see this medieval historian on his medieval island, and justify Chaundler’s letter of introduction about us. Let’s get that over and done with.” He watched George’s transparent relief at not being forced to do the wrong thing.
“Good!” George said. “Now we had better collect Captain MacLean. He has invited us to visit his sister, as we’ve arrived here earlier than we thought. I couldn’t very well refuse.” He looked anxiously at David, but David was smiling now quite openly. “Well, come on, then,” George said, with a touch of sharpness.
They walked over to the group of islanders, who stopped speaking Gaelic and watched the foreigners gravely as Captain MacLean introduced them with as much seriousness as a grand seigneur presenting two young protégés at Court. There was a brief exchange of polite phrases, the Highlanders now speaking in English with their soft voices and careful pronunciation. It was very far removed from the coarse dialect of the stage Scotsman. David was noting, too, that there was not one inch of tartan displayed—that was probably kept for dress occasions—and he was thankful that George had not worn his Clan Stevenson kilt today. That was best left for the Lodge, where the natives had become more inured to tourists.
MacLean measured the necessary length of the slow, simple conversation with considerable skill. As they were led away from the group, along the narrow earth road which ran in front of the row of cottages, David had the feeling that George and he had been weighed in the balance. And not found wanting,
A white-aproned, square-set, apple-cheeked woman was waiting for them at a cottage door. “My sister, Mistress McDonald,” MacLean explained.
“Will you not come in and have a cup of tea?” she asked. “The kettle’s singing on the hob.” She stood aside, waiting for them to enter, but with no trace of curtsy in her gesture. She had a gentle voice with music in it, and her eyes were as placid as her brother’s.
George Fenton-Stevens looked anxiously at David. But, for once, David needed no urging. He was saying, with that rare smile of his which lighted up his serious, guarded face with sudden warmth, “Thank you, Mrs. McDonald; that’s very kind of you.” He stepped over the carefully whitened step which led into the cottage, and Fenton-Stevens followed.
* * *
Inside the cottage was the smell of a peat fire and freshly baked scones. The kettle was hissing cheerily, a clock ticked loudly on the high, crowded mantelpiece decorated with an edging of crochet. The table was covered, and waiting. Through the small open window the cries of the cormorants and harsh-voiced seagulls blurred into the background murmur of breaking waves. The blazing colours of heather and grass and sea were exchanged for a gentler light.
A girl rose as they entered, more startled by the unexpected guests than Mrs. McDonald had been.
“It is Mr. Fenton-Stevens, from the Lodge at Loch Innish, with his friend Mr. Bosworth, who have come to see Dr. MacIntyre himself,” Mrs. McDonald was explaining. David found that he had held out his hand, and afterwards he remembered thinking how very odd it was that he had made that gesture so impulsively. But at the time he was looking into a pair of very blue eyes in a very pretty face, and that was all he could seem to see. He did not break that look, as he should have; and, besides, he didn’t want to. He did not even hear the girl’s name as Mrs. McDonald’s soft, precise voice made the introduction. Then he suddenly became conscious that George was saying something to him about one of the curios which littered the mantelpiece, and remembered to drop her hand. He glanced quickly at George, and he was relieved to see that he had noticed nothing. Neither had MacLean nor Mrs. McDonald. He relaxed, but he found he was watching the girl as she moved towards the door, and he felt a sudden stab of disappointment. The girl halted at the doorway. Perhaps she wasn’t leaving after all, he thought hopefully. But she was saying that she was so sorry to leave, that she was so very late. Her voice was gentle and yet clear, gentle and low, an excellent thing in a woman. Her dark hair had strong auburn lights, almost dark red and yet not quite. The sun was gleaming on it now as she stood at the threshold. There was a natural grace to her body as she looked back into the room over her shoulder. And then she was gone.