The Ivy Tree

The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart Read Free Book Online

Book: The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mary Stewart
said, on a note of enquiry: ‘Yes? Come in.’
    When the door opened, I had my back to it, lifting clothes out of the drawer. ‘Oh, Mrs Smithson,’ I began, as I turned, then stopped short, my brows lifted, my face registering, I hoped, nothing but surprise.
    She said, standing squarely in the doorway: ‘Miss Grey?’
    â€˜Yes? I’m afraid—’ I paused, and let recognition dawn, and with it puzzlement. ‘Wait a moment. I think – don’t I know your face? You were in the Kasbah this afternoon, the café where I work, weren’t you? I remember noticing you in the corner.’
    â€˜That’s right. My name’s Dermott, Lisa Dermott.’ She pronounced the name Continental-fashion, ‘ Leeza ’. She paused to let it register, then added: ‘From Whitescar.’
    I said, still on that puzzled note: ‘How do you do, Miss – Mrs? – Dermott. Is there something I can do for you?’
    She came into the room unasked, her eyes watchful on my face. She shut the door behind her, and began to pull off her plain, good hogskin gloves. I stood there without moving, my hands full of clothes, plainly intending, I hoped, not to invite her to sit down.
    She sat down. She said flatly: ‘My brother met you up on the Roman Wall beyond Housesteads on Sunday.’
    â€˜On the Ro— oh, yes, of course I remember. A man spoke to me. Winslow, he was called, from somewhere near Bellingham.’ ( Careful now, Mary Grey; don’t overplay it; she’ll know you’d not be likely to forget a thing like that ). I added slowly: ‘Whitescar. Yes. That’s where he said he came from. We had a rather – odd conversation.’
    I put the things I was holding back into the drawer, and then turned to face her. There was a packet of Players in my handbag lying beside me on the dressing-chest. I shook one loose. ‘Do you smoke?’
    â€˜No, thank you.’
    â€˜Do you mind if I do?’
    â€˜It’s your own room.’
    â€˜Yes.’ If she noticed the irony she gave no sign of it. She sat there solidly, uninvited, in the only chair my wretched little room boasted, and set her handbag down on the table beside her. She hadn’t taken her eyes off me. ‘I’m Miss Dermott,’ she said, ‘I’m not married. Con Winslow’s my half-brother.’
    â€˜Yes, I believe he mentioned you. I remember now.’
    â€˜He told me all about you ,’ she said. ‘I didn’t believe him, but he was right. It’s amazing. Even given the eight years, it’s amazing. I’d have known you anywhere.’
    I said, carefully: ‘He told me I was exactly like a young cousin of his who’d left home some eight years ago. She had an odd name, Annabel. Is that right?’
    â€˜Quite right.’
    â€˜And you see the same resemblance?’
    â€˜Certainly. I didn’t actually know Annabel herself. I came to Whitescar after she’d gone. But the old man used to keep her photographs in his room, a regular gallery of them, and I dusted them every day, till I suppose I knew every expression she had. I’m sure that anyone who knew her would make the same mistake as Con. It’s uncanny, believe me.’
    â€˜It seems I must believe you.’ I drew deeply on my cigarette. ‘The “old man” you spoke of . . . would that be Mr Winslow’s father?’
    â€˜His great-uncle. He was Annabel’s grandfather.’
    I had been standing by the table. I sat down on the edge of it. I didn’t look at her; I was watching the end of my cigarette. Then I said, so abruptly that it sounded rude: ‘So what, Miss Dermott?’
    â€˜I beg your pardon?’
    â€˜It’s an expression we have on our side of the Atlantic. It means, roughly, all right, you’ve made your point, now where is it supposed to get us? You say I’m the image of this Annabel of yours.

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