The Sea Garden

The Sea Garden by Marcia Willett Read Free Book Online

Book: The Sea Garden by Marcia Willett Read Free Book Online
Authors: Marcia Willett
too. He’ll like that.’
    Young Will, Louisa’s eldest, is now at Mount House, the prep school just outside Tavistock. It is his turn to be cherished on Sundays out and exeats when he can’t get back home to Geneva. He misses his parents and his three little sisters, but his grandfather – ‘Grando’, as Will calls Johnnie – and Sophie do their best to keep him busy and happy. They go to the school plays and concerts, to rugby and cricket matches, and Sophie encourages him to bring his school friends down to the Tamar with him at weekends.
    Freddy smiles at her approvingly. He’s very fond of Sophie. He likes her directness, her sense of humour. He’d guessed at the infatuation, was flattered by it, but relieved that nothing came of it and that Sophie was clearly unscathed. His one attempt at marriage had shown that he hadn’t the temperament for it and he had no intention of risking it again.
    â€˜Will’s very much like Johnnie was at that age,’ he says. ‘Rather serious and mad about boats. I wonder if he’ll follow the family tradition and join the navy.’
    Sophie edges Freddy along so that she can get to the sink and he moves aside and picks up his mug.
    â€˜It’s his ambition at the moment, but he’s only ten,’ she says.
    Freddy thinks about it. By the time he was ten his father had been killed in the war and his mother had gratefully accepted her cousin Dickie’s offer of the cottage in Cargreen. Dickie had generously taken responsibility for young Fred’s education so that he and Johnnie and Al had grown up more like brothers than second cousins. It had been taken for granted that all three of them would join the navy as a matter of course. And so they had. When they passed out from Dartmouth, Al and Johnnie had joined the submarine service like their father before them, but Fred had been unable to face being shut in a metal tube under the water, all packed together like sardines, and he’d joined the surface fleet.
    â€˜A skimmer,’ Al had said derisively. ‘Poor little Fred. Always littlest, least and last, but never mind. I suppose someone’s got to do it.’
    Al considered himself to be one of the élite: first, best, special – but Al had died. For a brief moment, Freddy is transported back to the past; he recalls the sound of the wind and the snap of the sail, raised voices and then the cry in the darkness of ‘Man overboard!’
    â€˜Are you OK?’ asks Sophie. ‘You look like you’ve seen a ghost.’
    And so he has. ‘I’m fine,’ he says. ‘Is that the car?’
    Johnnie comes into the kitchen and drops a pile of books on the table. He looks at Fred, an odd, warning look, as if he is preparing him for something.
    â€˜Hi,’ says Sophie. ‘The tide should have dropped enough. I think we’ll be able to start any time now. Go and change, Johnnie. Shorts and gumboots rig. It’s quite hot out there.’
    â€˜Yes,’ he says abstractedly. ‘Yes, of course. I’ll just go and have a quick look at her. Coming, Fred?’
    He goes out and Fred, raising his eyebrows at Sophie, follows him. Sophie stands for a moment, puzzled, and then shrugs. She’ll change too, into her shorts and a halter top, but first she’ll just check on Rowena.
    She finds the older woman in the morning room; Rowena’s favourite place. She stands by the table, staring at nothing in particular, her whole concentration inward as if she is seeing other scenes and hearing other voices. Sophie sees that she is holding a silver-framed photograph and, even at this angle, Sophie recognizes the frame and knows that it is a photograph of Al: Rowena’s first-born, her favourite.
    Sophie comes closer and Rowena glances up, startled out of her preoccupation.
    â€˜What is it?’ she asks sharply, as if Sophie is a servant – but Sophie is used to

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