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Authors: Anne Melville

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‘Faraday?' she repeated. ‘Oh yes. The name Faraday certainly means something to me.'

Chapter Two

Faraday! Grace looked with new interest at her unexpected visitors. The child, fair-haired and pale-faced except for a scattering of freckles on her cheeks, was standing quietly while the adults conversed, biting her lips to hold back the questions she was bursting to ask. The man, a few years younger than Grace herself, had the same fair hair as his daughter and a soft, crumpled face. He was tall and slim – though it was odd that she should use the word slim in her thoughts, rather than thin: that must have something to do with the grace of his movements and the charm of his smile.

That he was deliberately trying to charm her was obvious enough. In a moment he would be asking some kind of favour and making in return some promise that might never be fulfilled. She would have sent packing any other stranger who smiled at her like this, seeming to appeal for instant friendship, had his name not been Faraday.

He was presumably related to the architect, Patrick Faraday, who had been killed in the war; and Patrick Faraday had been of significance in her life not just once but twice. He it was who had designed Greystones as a house specifically intended to improve her health. If Grace had ever seen him while the plans were under discussion, she did not remember the occasion, for she was only an infant at the time. But she had met him once ten years later, in the home of her aunt, and that was an encounter she was not likely to forget.

It was because Aunt Midge, headmistress of a school for girls, had a lover whose existence must be kept secret that Grace had been deprived of the chance to go to the school
and had instead been forced to continue doing all her lessons with a governess. Patrick Faraday was to blame for that. No longer now did Grace mind about the defects in her education or her lack of companionship; but she had minded at the time. ‘I met a Mr Patrick Faraday once,' she said cautiously.

‘You actually met him! Oh, marvellous! I didn't think – because of course you can't have been born at the time when Greystones was built.'

‘I was three years old when we moved in.' Grace never made any attempt to conceal her age. She accepted the fact that she was on the shelf: a spinster. It was a life she had chosen for herself, and she was happy in it. Had she believed that Ellis Faraday was trying to flatter her by misjudging her age, she would have been scornful. But as a matter of fact and observation she recognized that her appearance had hardly changed at all in the past ten years. Her pale skin and dark hair shone with health and apparent youth, and her tall, slender body was in its prime. If someone meeting her for the first time claimed to believe that she was younger than her thirty-five years, he was not necessarily being insincere.

‘Patrick Faraday was my father,' said Ellis. ‘Though I must confess that I hardly knew him. My mother ran off to Ireland with another fellow when I was only a young boy, and took me with her.'

‘And are you an architect too?'

‘No. A photographer. I'll come straight to the point of my visit. I earn my living taking misty close-ups of débutantes. But for my own pleasure – and to honour my father's memory – I'm compiling a book about his work. Mainly photographs, with just enough text to explain them. He died too young, of course. Another twenty years, and he might well have been recognized as one of the giants of his profession. But he was only forty-four when he was killed.'

‘I remember,' said Grace softly. Aunt Midge had come to Greystones to mourn, weeping with anger and misery at the waste of a life.

‘All the same, he had time to achieve a good deal, especially in domestic architecture. Greystones was his first really important work. A turning point in his life, you might say, because its success brought him other major commissions. So I've come to ask your permission to photograph it. Not just one flat-faced view, but from as many different angles as possible. And interiors of the main rooms.'

Grace considered the request for a few moments.

‘I'm not sure about inside the house,' she said at last. ‘I'll have to think about that and have a word with my mother. But the outside – yes, certainly you can put that on record. Have you brought your equipment with you?'

‘It's not far away. But I didn't arrive here expecting to get straight to work.' He laughed as he explained. ‘In the ordinary run of things my sitters come to my studio by appointment and at their own request. The more clutter there is in the studio, the more they feel they're getting a professional service. It's only since I embarked on this project that I've realized that someone who drives up in a van and starts to unload a selection of tripods and umbrellas and all the rest of it, without an invitation, is most likely to have the dogs set on him. This visit is purely exploratory.'

‘Then perhaps you'd like to walk round the outside. See what the best views might be. Shall we all go together?'

She felt a small hand tugging at hers. The little girl had kept quiet whilst her elders were talking, but was longing to ask a question.

‘Please, did you make the hole?'

‘The hole?' Grace was puzzled.

‘I think Trish is talking about the piece of sculpture in front of the house,' Ellis explained.

‘Sculpture! I should hardly call it that.'

you call it, then?'

‘Oh, just a shape. It's a hobby of mine, carving and modelling. But I wouldn't be capable of creating a piece of work which actually looked like anything real.'

‘Well, whatever you call it, I thought it was a hole but Trish said it was Greystones.'

‘Then Trish is a very observant little girl,' said Grace, smiling down at her. ‘Yes, I did make it, and of course it isn't anything more to look at than a pair of holes in different planes. But I carved it at a time when I'd just learned that my father was dead and yes, Trish, it
Greystones in a sort of a way. My home with a big gap in its life. I don't think anyone else has ever recognized that before, though.'

‘I wish I could make a hole,' said Trish, looking longingly at the row of tools set neatly in a rack.

Grace followed her glance and spoke firmly.

‘You mustn't touch any of those tools, Trish. They're very sharp; very dangerous. But–' She took the lid off the old dustbin in which she kept her modelling clay. She had been using it on the previous day to make a small maquette of the piece which she proposed to carve from the stone. Now she broke a little off and handed it to Trish. ‘You could make a hole for yourself out of this,' she said. ‘And if it's the right size you could put it on your finger to be a ring.'

Trish stuck her finger through the lump of clay she had been given, but shook her head in disapproval at the result. Grace watched with interest as the six-year-old decided what to do. First of all squeezing the clay between her hands to see how soft it was, she broke off a very small piece, rolled it again into a thin sausage and pressed the ends together to form a circle. It was too large to be a ring. She repeated the process, this time fitting the sausage of clay round her finger before sealing it. Beaming with pride, she held up the finger to show her ring to the grown-ups.

‘Please may I make something else?'

‘Of course.' Grace broke off a larger piece of the clay and handed it to her before pressing the damp cloth back in place. ‘What would you like to make?'

‘I'll tell you when I've finished. May I stay here to do it, instead of looking at your house?'

Grace was about to say No, although in a kindly fashion, when Ellis interrupted.

‘If you're worried about your tools, Miss Hardie, you can trust Trish to do what she's told. If she promises not to touch anything here except the clay, she won't.'

‘Do you promise?' asked Grace.

The little girl nodded. ‘Trust Trish.' She enjoyed the sound of the words and repeated them fast several times until the sounds became muddled. ‘Trust Trish, trush Trish, trush Trist.' They all laughed together at the muddle.

‘This way, then,' Grace led Ellis out of the stable yard, but instead of turning towards the house she indicated that they should walk in the opposite direction.

‘My own favourite view is from higher up, up the hill,' she told her companion. ‘You can see the design of the house particularly well from there. It may help you to choose the positions you need for your photographs. We'll go through the walled garden: it's a short cut.'

Philip was hoeing between the rows of French beans, taking over one of Frith's usual tasks while the gardener was confined to bed. He paused for a moment to rest as Grace pushed open the wooden door.

‘This is my brother Philip,' she told Ellis. ‘Philip, this is Mr Faraday, the son of the Greystones architect. He wants to take some photographs of the house.'

Philip smiled, nodding in a friendly way at the visitor. With exactly the same movement used by Grace herself earlier to demonstrate that she was too dirty with stone dust to shake hands, he turned his earth-stained palms towards them before returning to work.

Beyond the walled garden, which was used solely to grow food, was the serpentine garden which Philip had created when he first returned to his childhood home after the war. Still suffering the effects of shell-shock, he had discovered his own therapy in designing and planting an area which was almost, but not quite, a maze. A wide grassy path twisted and spiralled
and turned back on itself; but it never in fact offered choices. Evergreen shrubs and trees sometimes lined the path closely and at other points curved away to enclose circles of earth, each devoted to a single species of flower. Other curves in the line of evergreens formed alcoves which framed examples of Grace's own work. Ellis, catching sight of the first, came to a halt.

‘Did you make this? Another of your – what did you call them? – shapes?'

‘Yes.' Grace laughed. ‘What other name could you possibly give it?' The wood carving which had caught his eye resembled a vertical figure of eight whose lines, instead of merely meeting at the top, had crossed over as though lifting hands to heaven. ‘More holes, you see. This is my brother's garden really. But one or two of my earliest efforts seemed to suit it, and so I went on to make some more specially.'

‘Where did you train?'

‘Train?' Grace was amused by the idea. ‘Well, the village of Headington Quarry has that name because the masons who built the Oxford colleges took their stone from there. The tradition is still alive, so I persuaded an old mason to teach me how to tackle stone. For the wood, I found carpentry equipment in an outhouse and borrowed some carving tools that had once belonged to one of my brothers. I have a good many split masterpieces, I can tell you, to show that I've never had any proper training. It took me a long time to learn that wood must be seasoned. Now, we'll go straight up this hillside, unless your shoes are too slippery to grip.' Grace herself was wearing a pair of moccasins which her mother had made from rabbit skins and given her for Christmas. Shop-bought shoes were a luxury in a household which never went hungry but rarely possessed very much actual cash for shopping; they were worn only on special occasions.

Ellis made no further comment on her work. No doubt he needed all his breath for the climb up the steep slope. Grace
herself, who was used to it, did not pause until they had almost reached the band of trees which crowned the hill.

‘Now turn round,' she said.

Chapter Three

Touched by the note of pride and affection in Grace's voice, Ellis turned and looked down at Greystones. From here, as she had promised, it was possible to appreciate the design. The front of the house faced south-west, and behind it two wings extended at right angles. The courtyard thus formed was further enclosed by the ends of the two wings, which turned inward at an angle of forty-five degrees. Ellis, who had studied the plans before embarking on today's expedition, knew that this was in order to give a true north light to a large studio. The kitchen had been angled in a similar way merely to balance it. Patrick Faraday had believed in symmetry.

It was that fact which made the placing of a round tower on one corner so surprising. Ellis studied this corner now – not entirely with approval.

‘Oh, Miss Hardie!' he exclaimed. ‘What has happened to the tower?'

Grace laughed. It was an attractive laugh, full of genuine amusement. ‘You mean the tree?'

‘I certainly do mean the tree.' A large oak was growing within a few yards of the tower. ‘I can't believe that was part of my father's landscape design. And the roots could prove dangerous to the structure.'

‘Yes, I know. And my reason for not having cut it down years ago is shamefully sentimental. The son of our gardener was my best friend when I was a small girl. He planted an acorn beneath my bedroom window as a surprise present. Watching it grow was a great delight to me when I was young. I've only recently realized that something ought to be done,
and now, of course, it's become rather a large and dangerous task. I suspect that I shall continue to feel sentimental about it, and hope that the structure will last my time out. Shall we go down again?'

‘Have you thought any more about allowing me to take some interior shots?' asked Ellis as they half ran, half slid down the slope.

Grace came to a halt and turned to face him. For a moment she seemed to be considering what she should say. When she did speak, it was with an honesty which Ellis found as touching as her earlier pride of ownership.

‘You probably realized as soon as I told you that the cook was my mother that we can't afford the domestic staff needed for a house this size – or, indeed, any staff at all. So I'm afraid the reception rooms, which I imagine are the ones which interest you, are out of use.'

BOOK: The Hardie Inheritance
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