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STEEN.

Do you hear that, Mr. Blenheim? "

He was bawling now.

"His name is Steen. And if you're not there on time then I'll do what I'm itching to do now, that is if you've not already been picked up, you dirty white-livered swob youl' When John Blenheim, his face ashen, made to get up from his chair, Esther restrained him, and she glared at the pair standing hand in hand before her. Then her eyes focused on her daughter, boring into her until Gail, turning away, tugged once more at Robbie's hand, murmuring, " Come on, come on. "

As Robbie looked at Gail he was seeing her clearly for the first time since he had entered the house. He couldn't quite take it in that she meant what she had said but she had said it.

"I'm leaving with him."

And now he said to her, more in the form

of a command than a request, "Go and get your tmngs.

"No, no." She shook her head.

"I don't want any things." She knew that if she went up the stairs she would be trapped, and either by force or persuasion she'd be made to stay.

"I'm going as I am. Come on."

"Gail!" Esther Blenheim made one last attempt.

"Think, girl, think what you're letting yourself in for."

Gail turned and looked at her mother and she repeated, "Letting myself in for? Huh I That's really funny because what ever I was letting myself in for couldn't be any worse than the life I've been forced to lead over the last three years in this house. You've treated me like a prisoner."

Esther Blenheim remained silent for a moment, and her chin seemed to flatten itself out under the pressure of her jaw bones. Then she said,

"And where do you think you're going to stay if ... if he no longer has a house F~Give yourself time, girl and..."

"That'll be my business from now on." Robbie's answer cut her off.

"And that should be the least of your worries, Mrs. Blenheim. What I would advise is you concentrating on Mon day an' getting your son to Mr. Steen's, together with ... an' let's not forget this, the difference in the money, and that should be around six thousand pounds.

No, don't let's forget the money, Mrs. Blenheim, the money's very important to me. Come on." He went to turn away, then looked back and into the staring eyes of John Blenheim, and he said, "As for you.

You can remember for the rest of-your days that you were nearly finished off by somebody half your size, a dirty little Jew. " He paused, then ended, with a threat in his tone now, " Until Monday, you swob, or else. "

When they went through the front door Gail attempted to run, but he pulled her to a walking pace, saying, "Steady on, what's your hurry?"

And that was all he said until they were on the main road and nearing the lane leading to the mine. And then he glanced at her and asked softly, "You all right?"

And in reply she lowered her head but didn't speak.

When he entered the yard the house was still blazing. As he got out of the van the policeman came up to him, but didn't speak. Instead, his eyes ranged over him from the long deep over his blood-stained shirt and torn coat, the pocket ripped away exposing the lining. An hour ago the little fellow had looked spruce.

He'd heard he had just been to a wedding, his mother's wedding; now he looked as if he had come out of the wrong end of a a wrestling match.

He said to him pointedly, "Did you find who you were looking for?" and Robbie, returning his look, was about to say, "What do you think?" but aware of Gail standing by his- side he said nothing. When he looked at her she was staring at the house and her face was awash with tears.

They were silent tears, flowing from pain, and he took her by the arm and led her over the tangled hoses, around the side of the house, across the smoke-filled yard where the firemen were still fighting the flames, and into the stables that Harry had turned into a workshop; and guiding her to a wooden form near a long bench he pressed her gently downwards, then sat beside her, but looked at her dumbly as her crying became audible. At the height of her sobbing she gasped,-"Oh, Robbie, Robbie, I'm s... sorry."

"It's all right, it's all right." He made to take her hands but they were covering her face, so he pressed his own between his knees and bent his head deeply over them, his teeth gritting against each other to prevent himself now from crying with her.

After a while her sobbing eased and he looked up at her, to find her eyes on him. She was still gasping as she said, "It's dreadful, Robbie, dreadful. I can't believe any ... anybody could be so cruel, so vindictive."

It was some time before he answered her; then to his own amazement he found his stiff lips moving into a smile, and he said, "It ... it doesn't seem so bad, nothing seems so bad now." He was holding her gaze.

"Back there you said that .. that you had promised not to marry me"

"Oh, Robbie." Her chin was on her chest now, and her voice was a mumble, "She ... she forbade me to see you. John had been spying on me coming here. I don't know what possessed me, it just came out. I I said I would marry you. It was just something to say in defiance. It was then she made the bargain with me. If ... if I stopped seeing you she would give Dad his divorce. It was fantastic.

It seemed an easy way out at t-ll*w Ll1.

1H-5 A .

L.

LJ.

t^XJ. -L *^ fi'-^ went on it got harder, I mean not seeing you. "

Slowly she lifted her eyes to his again and she saw in them a strange expression, for Robbie Dunn and humility didn't go together; but that was the expression on his face, a soft humility.

He now caught hold of her hands and his voice was gruff as he asked,

"Do you really mean it, Gail? You're not just sorry for me, or anything like that?"

"Sorry! Oh no, no. I admire you, Robbie."

"You admire me?" The phrase was a question, a soft doubtful question, but she nodded quick confirmation.

"Yes, oh yes. I know now, I always have."

"I'm a Jew, Gail. As your John so aptly put it, a little Jew, not dirty, no, I won't have that word attached to me, but still a little Jew. Some Jews don't look like Jews, except that their noses might give them away, but every bit of me looks a Jew. Mind' --his voice now became a tone higher" --I'm not makin' excuses for me self I'm not ashamed of being a Jew, but if a girl like you married me some people might say you must be hard up for a man. "

"Oh Robbie, don't. Don't." She pulled his hands towards her breast.

"It's true, because you've only got to look in the mirror. I thought a while back that you'd gone off, gone sort of plain, but now you're just like you promised to be, you're bonny beautiful, an' you'll get more beautiful."

"Robbie 1' She gathered his hands so tightly to her that his face was only a few inches from hers, and her eyes moved over each prominent race-translated feature before she said, " If I don't marry you I'll marry nobody. I thought after that business with grandfather that I couldn't bear a boy . a man near me, ever, but from that day I saw you in the bookshop I knew I could you, but only you. "

When their mouths touched the pain from his cut lip stabbed through him, but it was as nothing because he was holding Gail Blenheim in his arms, he was kissing Gail Blenheim. Gail Blenheim had said that if she didn't have him she'd have nobody. She was beautiful, lovely, and she wanted him, him, Robbie Dunn. The aching secret that he had pressed deep down

mro mmseii over me past ycais, ic. i. uaing lu i>->-ugm. -'ll. "

i.vi.n to acknowledge its existence, surged upwards and filled his body with power.

When at last he released his hold on her she still remained leaning against him, and he held her gently now and they were both silent.

After a while he said, with a catch in his voice, "It's getting on, we'll have to find some place for you to stay the night. There's a little hotel near ..."

She raised her head from his shoulder and asked "Where are you going to sleep?"

He thought for a moment, then said, "The back shop will do me; there's a studio bed in there. It only came in last week, it must have known.

I'll kip there tonight, and we'll have to think up something before they come back the morrow. An' that's another thing, they're going to be shocked to the core, especially your dad, because he'll blame himself . still he'll have you near him now and that should make up for . "

"Robbie."

"Yes, love." Even using the ordinary endearment brought a slight flush up under his dark skin.

Her lips were trembling and her eyes half veiled as she said, "I don't want to go to a hotel, I... I don't want to be separated from you, ever, ever. I'm ... I'm frightened, Robbie. I'm frightened that if ever I lose sight of you something will come between us."

For what seemed a long while he stared into her eyes, then gently took her face between his hands, and, his voice scarcely above a whisper, he said, "This time next week we'll be married;

we can do it by special licence; in the meantime, I'm not goin' to take anything from you that you'll regret later on. Under stand? All right? all right? " He shook her face gently.

"We'll be together, nothing or nobody will put more than a few yards at ween us until we're married."

The tears were in her eyes again and her voice cracked as she whispered, "I love you more every minute, Robbie." Then after a moment, she added, "Do you love me, really?"

He stroked her cheeks now and brought his hands down her neck, round her shoulders and up through her hair before he muttered thickly, "What I feel for you, Gail, couldn't be said W1LH |U;>(- A A^vA y^u.

^LUUJ.^, WUtaitiU) dll &.U1US UJ. WOrdS aren't big enough, they don't fit. I can only say this, that the feeling that's in me now has made that out there' he jerked his head towards the door 'of little importance, an' if you knew me like I know me self then you'd know that all me life I've been workin' towards building that house, owning that house. It was what you would call a kind of lode-star, the pinnacle of all my dreams, and, and now it doesn't seem to matter much ... So that's what you mean to me, Gail.

You understand? "

When she moved her head slowly he said, "No, you can't, you can't, an'

it'll take a lifetime to prove it to you. But I'll work at it, you'll see. An' I'll tell you another thing. By the time I'm finished you won't be seeing me as five foot five Robbie Dunn but as I see me self inside, big, capable of achieving anything I set me mind to ... aye, an' capable of loving you like you never dreamed, of being loved. An'

by that time we'll have a family an' you'll be mistress of a fine house. Aye, I promise you that an' all, for it'll be re-built." He again thumbed towards the door.

"But above all else..." His face now underwent a change. The natural arrogance went out of it and the bumptious ness out of his tone, and, his head dropping to her shoulder, he murmured, "Above all else, and although I may never mention it again, I want you to know now I'll always be grateful to you for having me."

"Oh Robbie I Robbie Dunn 1'

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