"You've done what? What if Rosemary comes for us?" Camellia was not pleased. Duke Ellington was right about that! Hugh's excitement faltered.
"I forgot," he said.
Camellia went to the window and looked down. Rain was flowing over the roofs of railway carriages as they passed by. There seemed an awful lot of them. "It's raining," she said.
"But it will have stopped by then."
Camellia was furious "Don't be silly, Hugh," she said, turning back to glare. "You can't possibly know that."
"Camellia, I just feel it. It must. The sun will come out and everything will be fine. You should have heard them! Perfectly intelligent people complaining because someone who shouldn't have any power at all has organised a game of Bingo - and rather than say it isn't what they want to do, they troop along like automatons and put little counters on little cards. Week after week they keep doing it, until they are ground down. Once might make sense. Out of politeness. But this is ridiculous. Except for Professor Blake - who discusses vests instead."
"I know. And it's silly of him. Why doesn't he tell them to go away?"
"I don't know! But he doesn't!"
Camellia went over to the bed and sat on it. "They aren't our responsibility, you know."
"Yes, they are. I phoned Stephen."
It worked. Camellia stopped being angry.
"What did he say?"
"Nothing much, just that everything's alright. He says it's raining there too."
"It always does."
"I found the dining room."
"It's down the corridor beside the staircase. The kitchen's along there too. We shouldn't have gone to the basement this morning. But I've found it now - and there are fifty chairs."
"I've counted the chairs so I know what size coaches to order."
"Well, some people like Bingo, don't they? Ghandi and Scotty seem quite keen. We've got to assume everyone wants to go to Bingo and that everyone wants to go to the Gallery so I've ordered two forty-seater coaches."
"Hugh, that doesn't make sense!"
"Near enough it does. Taking into account some won't want to go anywhere. There's a corridor between the office and the lift and there are five bedrooms at the end with two names on each door. Professor Blake's on one of them so we must allow for ten wheelchairs."
"Wheelchairs don't go on coaches."
"Blake says he'll manage. The others will have to try. If it doesn't work, they'll have to understand."
"I expect they will," said Camellia kindly. It was years since Hugh had been excited like this. Maybe the possibility of buying South Devons had raised his interest briefly. Or was it Herefords? She couldn't remember. Not that it mattered until they went home. She simply knew she mustn't spoil his pleasure now.
"We'll find out," said Hugh. "Meanwhile, there's a lot to do."
"How did you phone?"
"What? Oh, there's a little room down the corridor where the dining room is. It's got a chair and everything. Quite comfortable."
"So Mrs Bendicks doesn't know?"
"Not yet. Now, listen Camellia, I want you to go round the women. I'll go round the men. And I'll do the downstairs bedrooms if you do the television room and the lounge. Make a list so we can check we don't count anyone twice. And I've got to find sixty wheel-chairs."
"What on earth . . . ?"
"Never mind. It has to be ready by lunch. We can tell people not to talk - but they will. By the end of the first course, Mrs Bendicks will know everything. But every minute counts so if we can delay it till then, that's good."
But she had nothing to say after all. She just wanted to smile at him because she could feel her energy surging along with his. It was like sleeping on top of the Blackpool tower again. There was the year they'd moved to Thorncombe. They'd bought chickens then didn't know what to do with them. Rosemary's laughter at her first pantomime. Their wedding. Curry when curry was new. All sorts of things. Things great and small and remembered in the wrong order.
"I've just thought," she said. "I don't think they do photographs at the Portrait Gallery, do they?"
"Well they should," said Hugh, rushing out of the door. "Remember - ask them not to talk. We mustn't be stopped. Got it?"
Oh yes, she did! And the rain was petering out, just as he'd said it would. And the sun was emerging from clouds. And her heart gave a little leap. Safehaven seemed to be turning out alright after all.
For The Post Before This One - Forty-Five