To the south of Kensington Gardens, high above the watchful, glittering towers of the grand Imperial Institute, wholesome breezes fell upon the narrow arboreal road leading to the quiet respectable villas of Dorset Square… Further to the south, the River Thames shone silvery, like the path of a passing snail, in the lowering moonlight… Black of night.
She was late. It had gone eleven. Her daughter was never this late. In the basement kitchen of number 10 Mrs Mansell – The Llewellyn’s cook, fussed over her single seed like a preventive hen. Her eyes darted angrily once more to the small window that looked out over the small stairwell running to the street above. She would know her daughter’s footsteps – she would know them well. She tied the leg of Canterbury Lamb for the tenth time, mindful in one last pull, and looked at the slowness of her mantle clock. It’s tick thundered in the emptiness of a kitchen hung high with large copper pots and wiped her hands in routine on a messy dark apron that clung tightly to her aging thighs. Her beloved was never this late… Never this inconsiderate… Never this… No good! Irene should never be out so late… It was now well past eleven! People could not be trusted in this new age – hungry-found freedoms in young men, were for the best part destructive. Since the war people were different, irresponsible and blameless… And some were damaged goods.
Then she heard those hurried footsteps, chattering and clattering down the worn stone steps, and the recognizable spell of cotton cloth that wisped the blade of window light and framed a thankful evidence. A tiny smile crossed the widow’s face, fractioned only for second or two, and then turned itself down deep into the crevices of her private thoughts. She was replenished, relief was her’s, it governed her once more, and lifted her again into the plateau of satisfied endeavor. At last, she was here… This girl was here!
The door opened slowly into the kitchen with a heavy wincing creak. Her daughter stood framed for a moment in the half light, its pale golden reflection touching and running tiny fingers through the swirls and curls of her chestnut hair. She stepped into the kitchen, her fine body before her… A roll of confidence in her manner. She was a child who was finding her womanhood.