Come back Miranda 1/b

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CHAPTER ONE

Seguito da Come back Miranda 1/a:

He glanced from side to side and saw a young girl gazing intently in his direction, half smiling, her expression a mingled hesitancy and invitation. Her smile deepened; he noted how it slightly lifted her cheekbones and that a little nick, like a dimple, flickered in the left one.

“Upon my word,” Mr. Willison said to himself, “if I were thirty years younger I should be tempted to say she was making eyes at me.”

Modestly deciding that, at his age, such a thing was out of the question he averted his own eyes; he must be mistaken, it could not be at him she was casting that come-hither look. But the girl was now pushing forward through the crush; a moment later she stood before him.

“You are Mr. John Willison, aren’t you?”

“I am.” He regarded her with benevolent inquiry.

“You don’t remember me but I was sure I recognized you. I met you and Mrs. Willison several times when you were still living in London. I’m Charles Rendle’s sister”. She spoke in a clear, unhurried voice, her words accented by the merest trace of flatness. An echo of Americanism; Mr. Willison found it most engaging.

“My dear”, he exclaimed, “of course I remember but you were in pigtails and pinafores in those days.”

She laughed. I was still at the convent and probably wearing the uniform”.

“Something of the sort. Now, let me see; you are Marion, … Miriam…” “Miranda”.

“To be sure Miranda.” A charming name, and it suited her as names do not always suit their bearers. He gave her an interested scrutiny; dark hair, trimly netted under a tiny white hat: a pretty, somewhat contradictory face, the black-lashed grey eyes wide and appealing, the small nose a fraction tip-tilted, inquisitive and gay, the curve of the red mouth denoting sweetness and, if Mr. Willison were any judge, an impulsive temper. He liked especially her rather high cheekbones and that oddly placed dimple.

She stood without fidgeting, he approved further; she was wearing a little grey suit with white doeskin gloves and carried a large white handbag.

“Her mother over again, but let us hope with more stamina,’ he thought, recalling the vivid, fragile American woman who had been Mrs. Rendle. A lovely creature—Mary, his wife, had been devoted to her—but no staying power. Passionately in love with her husband, and when Colonel Rendle was struck down by a fatal heart attack she had never rallied from her grief. A few months later she, too, died.

“How friendly of you to come at once and make yourself known to me, Miranda,” Mr. Willison continued, gratified that she had done so and amused by her precipitancy. Pushing through the crowd as if she couldn’t wait—bless her little heart. “Are you off to Lisbon to see your brother? Your aunt is with you?”

He knew that since her mother’s death four years earlier she had made her home with an uncle and his wife.

“No, I am by myself. Uncle Arthur hasn’t been well and he and Aunt Molly have gone for a trip to South Africa. So I wrote to Charles and suggested coming to stay with him and Sybil for a while. I’m crazy to see Portugal.”

It is worth a visit, certainly. I take it         ” Mr. Willison’s voice was a trifle dubious, “that you have already met your sister-in-law?”

“Not yet. I was on a motor tour in Ireland when Charles came home on leave and met Sybil. Then, before I got back to England someone went sick and Charles was recalled. Sybil followed and they were married in Lisbon. But you know that, of course.”

Mr. Willison did know, and had his own ideas on the subject.

“We must all see to it,” he said, “that you enjoy your stay. Mary—she didn’t come over with me this trip—will be delighted. She was so fond of your mother and Charles is a great favorite of hers.”

“It will be lovely for me, having old friends of Mother and Daddy there. I was so glad when I caught sight of you.” Her voice quickened a little. “You were talking to someone. Funnily enough, he looked sort of familiar, too, although I only had a glimpse of his back as he went off.”

“That was Freddy Clayton.”

“Oh.” The grey eyes blinked.

“Do you know him?”

“Charles does, and I met him once or twice about two years ago. I haven’t seen anything of him since. He is a friend of yours?”

“His father was one of my greatest friends. I saw a good deal of Freddy as a youngster and have always kept in touch. Mary and I generally dine and do a theatre with him when we are in London.”

“I suppose he is on a cruise? This is a sort of cruise ship, isn’t it.”

“As a matter of fact, he is also bound for Lisbon. Some trusting editor has commissioned him to do a series of articles on Portugal.”

“Oh,” Miranda said again. For an instant she looked aghast. Her expression escaped Mr. Willison who had turned as another passenger, a woman, greeted him.

“So we are to be fellow travellers,” she was saying.

“How are you, Mrs. Sangster?” he responded. “Enjoyed your holiday? Let me introduce Miss Rendle, Charles Rendle’s sister who is coming out to visit him.”

“So this is Miranda, is it? Your brother has spoken of you and must bring you to see me. I don’t make social calls but I am always at home on Thursday afternoons.”

“Thank you Miranda replied, amused by what sounded like a royal command. “It is very kind of you and I shall certainly ask him to bring me.”

Mrs. Sangster was a stout, middle-aged woman wearing a coat and skirt of substantial tweed and conservative cut, the skirt brushing her ankles, the coat more than three-quarter length. Her abundant, greying auburn hair was drawn back into a neat roll under a sensible felt hat and her shoes were uncompromising, heavy soled brogues. She had a brisk and capable air; her prototype could have been found in any English town.

Having exchanged a few commonplaces about the weather and what they might expect in the Bay she bustled on to her cabin.

“Who exactly is she?” Miranda asked.

“One of our institutions. A widow, whose husband was attached in some capacity to one of the Latin Embassies in Spain, a liaison post. When he died, she stayed on and when the civil war broke out she moved into Portugal. Likes the country and the climate and enjoys her position as an old established resident in these parts. A well-to-do woman; she owns a house in Lisbon and occupies herself with good works.”

“She looks it,” Miranda smiled. “I don’t mean that cattily but one can’t mistake the type.”

“One cannot, indeed. An admirable type if sometimes a little exhausting. Gets a bee in her bonnet—dear me, these people have cut it very fine”

Some belated passengers came hurrying in, chattering in some foreign tongue. The gangway, about to be lifted, had been held for them. They were a tall man of forty or so, a slender black-haired woman and a young girl whose blonde hair hung to her shoulders. A striking trio; all good looking and with an unmistakably aristocratic air.

“Hungarians, I fancy,” Mr. Willison commented, “and probably on their way to Portugal. We have numerous exiles there.”

The exiles, if such they were—they seemed very cheerful about it—went volubly past: Miranda took leave of her elderly friend and sought her cabin. She closed the door, sat down on her berth and gazed with unseeing eyes at the opposite wall.

So it was Freddy. She hadn’t really believed it when she caught that momentary glimpse of the tall figure. Her heart had given a little jump and she told herself not to be absurd; of course it wasn’t he. But it had been necessary immediately to make sure; that was why she had approached Mr. Willison in the midst of all the crowd and confusion instead of waiting until some more convenient moment.

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