KnightsbridgeRobert Candler sat on the middle step up to his front door and squinted in the light that bounced off the houses' white facades. There was a little wooden bi-plane in his hand, a closed book with paint on it in his lap, and a tiny grey glass pot and paintbrush next to him on the step. He had taken refuge out there from the dark and stuffy drawing room, hoping that his father was too busy entertaining the family to notice that nobody had made him change out of his church clothes.He adjusted the book on his legs to catch straying paint, and bent his head to concentrate on his work. Then out of the corner of his eye he noticed the little girl with brown hair that had been sitting on the steps next door all along.Robert gave her his full attention. She wore a back dress, black patent leather boots, and her hair in two French braids, and sat still and silent clutching an open book which seemed huge in her arms.He paused. He knew very little about her, only that she and her father had mov
Frail EdenThe storm broke, and thunder rolled across the rough landscape. It mottled the earth, the tree tops, the sheer sharp mountain faces that tore holes in the sky for the moon to glimpse through and illuminate, momentarily, each little scene of the night below. The birds that cowered in tunnelled cliffs. Frenzied fishes in rain-chopped pools. The skulking beasts in their leafy nests, and, away from these, ropes and canvas strained against the wind, preserving the warm lamplight inside.Cloth and chloriphorm sat on the ground beside the girl, her head in the old man's lap, as he caressed her head and brushed away her tears."I can't marry him, daddy. Not without lying to him."She remembered the first occasion on which he'd found her in that state. Crumpled and moaning upon the wooden floorboards, twisting her damp vest with her fingers and clutching her stomach. She remembered the way his face looked when he darted to her side, eyes so wide, his mouth pulled down with dismay and question.