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A Secret Infatuation

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Just for once allow your heart to rule your prudent common sense…Tempting advice – dare Eugenie take it? A country upbringing had taught her to be practical…not to cherish romantic dreams about tall, handsome strangers! But a chance encounter one misty day in spring changed all that. Eminent surgeon Aderik Rijnma ter Salis was a very special man – he made Eugenie's life seem brighter, full of exciting possibilities! But with the gorgeous Saphira at his side, could Aderik's feelings for Eugenie ever be more than strictly professional?
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A Secret Infatuation Betty Neels

Dear Reader,

Looking back over the years, I find it hard to realise that thirty of them have gone by since I wrote my first book—Sister Peters in Amsterdam. It wasn’t until I started writing about her that I found that once I had started writing, nothing was going to make me stop—and at that time I had no intention of sending it to a publisher. It was my daughter who urged me to try my luck.

I shall never forget the thrill of having my first book accepted. A thrill I still get each time a new story is accepted. Writing to me is such a pleasure, and seeing a story unfolding on my old typewriter is like watching a film and wondering how it will end. Happily of course.

To have so many of my books re-published is such a delightful thing to happen and I can only hope that those who read them will share my pleasure in seeing them on the bookshelves again…and enjoy reading them.

A Secret Infatuation

Betty Neels


Table of Contents

Title Page









EUGENIE SPENCER, tall, splendidly built, dark hair, dark eyes and beautiful, put out a reluctant hand to turn off the alarm clock and got out of her bed. She dug her feet into slippers, dragged on a dressing-gown and went to the window and peered out into the early day. The April morning was misty, veiling the moorland and the great outcrops of rock, although the mist was slowly dispersing under the faint warmth of the early sun. She nodded in satisfaction. Driving her father to Exeter would be no problem; she could take the Moretonhampstead road across the moor. It was lonely for most of the way but she had been born and brought up on Dartmoor and was familiar with its vastness, its sudden mists and wild winter weather. Her father had been team rector for as long as she could remember, visiting the remote villages over a wide area, assisted by two fellow clergy. When she had gone away to train as a nurse and then take a post as ward sister at a London teaching hospital, she had returned home at every opportunity until his sudden severe heart attack had put an end to her career; for, after several weeks of hospital treatment, it was obvious that he wouldn’t be fit for work for a long time. He was sent home to recover slowly and she had given up her job and come home to help her mother, take upon her shoulders the mundane parochial jobs, nurse her father and cope with the Reverend Mr Watts who had been sent to act as locum to the parish. A zealous young man who, coming from one of the big inner cities, had no idea of village life and even less of village life on Dartmoor.

The villages were small and widely scattered, not to mention the remote farmhouses, frequently cut off in winter. This morning, though, the moor was inviting, stretching away in grand loneliness as far as the eye could see. Eugenie nipped smartly across the landing to the bathroom to begin her day.

Presently, in a tweed skirt, a sweater over a blouse and sensible shoes on her feet, her hair piled rather haphazardly on top of her head, she went downstairs to the kitchen to open the door for Tiger, the elderly spaniel, and Smarty, the crotchety old cat, and then put on a kettle to make early morning tea.

The Rectory was a short distance from the village, midway between Dartmeet and Two Bridges, a solid house, capable of standing up to bad weather, its rooms comfortably furnished, the kitchen old-fashioned without modern fitments but with an Aga and a solid dresser laden with plates and china, rather haphazardly arranged. Eugenie moved to and fro at her familiar tasks, roused her parents and laid the table for breakfast. It was still early but her father couldn’t be hurried and there were several small chores to be done before they could leave.

Her mother came downstairs first, a woman as tall as her daughter and still with the echo of youthful beauty in her face.

‘You go and feed the chickens! She took the bowl of eggs from Eugenie’s hand with a smile, and then added, ‘Your Father’s a bit edgy—you will drive carefully, darling?’

Eugenie opened the garden door. ‘Yes, Mother dear, and we’ll be back for tea.’

She lingered at the bottom of the garden after she had fed the chickens. Tiger and Smarty, anxious for their breakfast, wove themselves around her as she stood looking about her. The village was out of sight, round the curve of a steep hill, and the only other house in sight was a shepherd’s cottage half a mile away.

‘Very different from London,’ said Eugenie to Tiger, ‘and I wonder if I shall ever go back there? Not that I want to but I dare say I shall eventually.’

They had been good to her at the hospital and allowed her to leave on the understanding that she would return as soon as she could and work out the month’s notice she hadn’t been able to give. It all depended on what the doctors said when they examined her father later on that day.

The drive to Exeter was uneventful. The road was a B class and by no means busy; heavy traffic going to Plymouth and beyond used the fast road further south, skirting the moor, and there were few villages on their route. She had to slow down at Moretonhampstead, a small bustling market town, but after that it was an easy run into Exeter and the hospital.

She took her father straight to the cardiac unit, handed him over to the nurse there, and went to sit in the waiting-room and leaf through the out-of-date magazines there. Rather out of touch for the last few weeks, Eugenie, who loved clothes, found them entirely satisfactory.

Her father was tired by the time the examination was finished and she drove to a quiet restaurant and persuaded him to eat a light meal. The specialist had been pleased with him—another few weeks and he would be allowed to resume some of his lighter duties around the parish, something he was anxious to do after months of convalescence. He talked about it while they ate. ‘Another month, my dear, and you will be able to return to your hospital. Do you suppose that you will get back your ward?’

Eugenie speared spring cabbage on to her fork and popped it into her mouth. ‘Probably not, Father, but I would be quite glad of a change.’

Which wasn’t quite true. She had forborne to tell her parents that once she had done her month’s work she would have to leave. After all, the hospital had allowed her to take extended leave—more than two months already—and by now her post would have been filled. When she went back she would work out her month wherever she was needed and then leave. Time enough to tell them when that happened.

She drove home presently, thankful that the day was still fine although there was a bank of cloud in the west climbing slowly across the sky. It was still early in the year and the weather wasn’t to be trusted …

Her mother was waiting for them with the tea-table laid and a cheerful fire in the sitting-room, and presently Eugenie went along to the kitchen to cook supper. While she peeled potatoes and sliced vegetables she reflected upon her future. She was twenty-five and heart-whole. She had had more than her share of proposals, both honourable and dishonourable, but although she wasn’t exactly sure what kind of man she would like to marry she was quite sure that she hadn’t met him yet. Until then she would need to earn her living, this time at a hospital a good deal nearer home. She had talked to the specialist and he had warned her that her father might possibly have a second heart attack, in which case the Reverend Mr Watts would have to return. She did hope not; a nice enough man, she supposed, but with all the wrong ideas when it came to running her father’s far-flung parishes. Besides, he had made it plain that he had taken a fancy to her and, from his point of view at least, what could be more convenient than that he should marry the daughter of his rector and, in due course, take over the parish?

‘I’ll do nothing of the sort,’ she told the animals, as they waited patiently for their suppers.

It was raining when she got up the next morning, and the wind had got up during the night, sending low clouds racing across the sky. She listened to a cheerful voice on the radio telling her that there was bad weather from the Atlantic on the way. She went outside and sloshed around in her wellies, feeding the chickens and making sure that the various shed doors were securely fastened and the washing line was empty, and when she got back it was to be told by her mother that the Reverend Mr Watts had phoned to say that he had a heavy cold and could Eugenie possibly do some of his visits for him? There were several, and she decided to take the car and go to the more distant parishioners first—outlying farms and an old man who lived by himself in a tiny cottage isolated from his nearest neighbours. There was a rough track leading to it and she decided to go there first, driving the Land Rover, and since the Reverend Mr Watts was vague as to the old man’s circumstances she took a supply of milk and bread and various groceries which he might need. She took the local weekly paper too; if she remembered aright, he liked a good read.

Old Mr Bamber was quite well and delighted to see her. He was fine, he assured her, and looking forward to the warmer weather when he could get out more.

Eugenie offloaded the groceries and the newspaper, washed up the accumulation of dirty dishes in the sink, made them both coffee and sat down for a chat. He knew everyone in the village, so she passed on all the small gossip, promised to give the postman some new batteries for his radio and went on her way.

The farms were off the narrow moorland road but easier to reach; she drank more coffee, enquired after the children, listened patiently to lambing problems, admired new puppies and a litter of kittens, looked at knitting and took a handful of letters to post. It was lunchtime by the time she got home and it was still raining although the wind had died down.

The weather was no better the next day. It was the Mothers’ Union in the afternoon and, since the Reverend Mr Watts was still feeling poorly, Eugenie went along to the small village hall, the centre of community activities, and made tea and handed round cake in a practised manner, saying the right things, admiring the babies and small children, listening to the small problems. I would, she reflected, make a good parson’s wife.

The next morning the moors were shrouded in thick mist, a hazard to any stranger to them but to Eugenie, who had been born and brought up there, merely an inconvenience. True, she wouldn’t be foolish enough to go too far from the village, but what to a traveller might seem a thick blanket with an occasional glimpse of bleak landscape was to her quite familiar. She had so often been on the moors and caught in a sudden mist but all one had to do, she had pointed out to her anxious mother, was to stay still and wait for a glimpse of the surroundings—she knew every stone and tree and bush for miles around and had no fear of the profound silence the mist brought with it.

By the afternoon the drizzle had ceased but the mist was as thick as ever. It was almost teatime when the Reverend Mr Watts phoned. He had a small house on the other side of the village, perched off the narrow road on the steep side of the open moor, no distance away but awkward to reach, some way away from the first of the village cottages.

Eugenie, listening to his anxious voice, felt sorry for him. His cold was worse, he complained—if only he had some cough lozenges or even a lemon, and he had finished his aspirins.

‘I’ll come over with whatever you need,’ said Eugenie, cutting short his unhappy complaining.

‘You’ll never reach me in this mist.’

‘Oh, pooh,’ said Eugenie, ‘expect me in twenty minutes or so.’

She collected aspirins, a couple of lemons, throat lozenges and a small bottle of whisky from the cupboard where, from long experience, her mother stored them, got into her parka and wellies and went out into the darkening afternoon, urged to return as soon as she could. ‘I know you can find your way,’ said her mother. ‘All the same, take care.’

Eugenie found her way unerringly to the village, where the lights from the house windows shone dimly, but once past them she began the climb up the road, keeping well to the bank, hoping that the Reverend Mr Watts would have the sense to switch on all the lights in his house. She began the climb up the narrow path away from the road and saw that he had.

She didn’t like him overmuch, but she felt sorry for him, miserable with cold, obviously hating the house and the moor and everything else making life difficult.

‘I don’t know how you stick it,’ he told her. ‘If I had known what it would be like when I was sent here—nothing but mist and wind and rain …’

Eugenie had put on the kettle and was squeezing lemons into a jug. ‘Oh, come now, you know how lovely it is here on a fine day—the peace and quiet and the gorgeous views and no traffic worth mentioning.’

She made a pot of tea and put an egg on to boil, offered him aspirins and turned up the Calor gas fire. ‘You feel rotten, so everything’s horrible. You’ll be better in the morning. Now sit down and eat your tea and go to bed early and take two more aspirins.’

A practical girl as well as a beautiful one, she had set the table, filled a hot water bottle, taken it up to his bed and come down again to inspect the larder. ‘There’s plenty of food here, and as soon as the weather clears Mrs Pollard will be up to see to you. I’ll ring you in the morning to find out how you are.’

‘You don’t need to go? Can’t you stay for a while?’

‘My dear man, have you looked outside? It’ll be dark in no time at all and getting around isn’t all that easy.’

‘You’ve lived here all your life. Surely you must know your way around?’

‘Just so. That’s why I’m going now. Don’t forget to take this aspirin.’

Making her difficult way back to the road, she reflected that he hadn’t thanked her.

‘Men,’ said Eugenie, and slithered to a halt as she reached the road and bumped into a very large motor car.

Its door was open and an amused voice said, ‘An angel from heaven. You are not hurt?’

A very large arm had steadied her and a moment later its owner was beside her. He had taken his arm away but she had the impression that he towered over her even though she could not see him at all clearly.

She said, ‘No, I’m not hurt. You’re lost?’

‘Yes. I was steeling myself to spending a long night in the car. Now I’m hopeful of rescue. Unless you are lost also?’

‘No, no, I live here. Well, not far away. The village is close by. Where do you want to go to?’

‘Babeny …’

‘Tom Riley’s place. You’ll never get there until this mist lifts. You had better come with me. Mother will put you up for the night and you can phone him from our house.’

‘Your house?’ he asked. ‘But perhaps there is a hotel or a pub?’

‘A pub, but no beds. The nearest inn is miles away at Hexworthy and you’ve passed that—I doubt if you even saw it.’ She added in a motherly voice, ‘You know, you really shouldn’t drive around Dartmoor in this weather unless you know your way around.’

‘No, no, very foolish of me. Could you get into the car from this side?’

She wriggled her splendid person past the driver’s seat without more ado. Only when she was settled did she say, ‘Is it a Rolls or a Bentley?’

‘A Bentley.’ He had got in beside her and she turned to look at him under the car’s light. A very large man, bare-headed—his fair hair could be silver, it was hard to see. She could see though that he was good-looking with a high-bridged nose, a thin firm mouth and a strong chin. She wished she could see the colour of his eyes. He was wearing the kind of casual tweeds which, while well cut, looked suitably worn too. Well, she reflected, that stood to reason, didn’t it, if he drove a Bentley?

He said nothing, only smiled a little and then said, ‘I must rely on you, Miss …?’

‘Eugenie Spencer. My father’s the team rector.’

He offered a large cool hand. ‘Aderik Rijnma ter Salis.’

She shook the hand. ‘Not English—Swedish? Norwegian? Dutch?’


He sounded amused again and she said quickly, ‘The road goes downhill for a hundred yards or so and then levels out as you reach the village. Look out for the sheep. There’s a steep bank on your right. Keep as close as you can to it—you can just make it out …’

They began their cautious journey and he asked, ‘You walked to wherever you came from?’

‘I’ve lived here all my life. The Reverend Mr Watts, who’s taken over the parish until my father is well, phoned for lemons and things. He’s got a bad cold.’

‘Lemons—and you came out in this weather to bring lemons?’

‘And aspirins. He’s from Birmingham and hasn’t got adjusted to the way we live here.’

‘That I can well understand.’

‘The road curves to the right. Will you open the window, please?’

When he did she stuck her head out into the mist for a moment. ‘There’s a tree stump right on the corner. Here it is, go a bit to the right—straighten out now, here’s the village.’

The lights were shining dimly through the cottage windows and the neon light from the village post office welcomed them, but they were quickly back in the gloom. ‘Not far now,’ encouraged Eugenie. ‘I must say you drive very well.’

Her companion thanked her meekly.

Her mother had the door open before the car stopped in front of the house.

‘Eugenie, is that you? However did you get a car …?’

Eugenie had got out of the car, surprised to find her companion waiting for her as she did so, shutting the door for her too. Nice manners, she thought, and plucked at his sleeve. ‘Let’s get inside. The car will be safe here.’ She raised her voice. ‘It’s me,’ she called ungrammatically. ‘I’ve got someone with me; he got lost.’

‘Come in.’ Mrs Spencer peered towards them. ‘You poor man, you must be tired and hungry.’

She held out a welcoming hand as the pair of them reached the door.

‘I’m Eugenie’s mother.’ She beamed up at him. ‘You’re more than welcome to stay until the mist lifts. The weather forecast is gales from the west, so there’s a good chance it will be clearing by morning.’

They were in the hall and Eugenie took off her parka and kicked off her wellies. ‘We waited for you to have tea, so come along in and meet my husband.’

‘You’re very kind. May I get my bag from the car first?’

‘Of course—bring in anything you may need for the night. We have more than enough beds in the house and you can borrow anything …’

He went away and Mrs Spencer took the opportunity to say, ‘What an enormous man—wherever did you find him, darling?’

‘Just below the Reverend Mr Watts’s house. Which room shall I put him in, Mother?’

‘The comer bedroom at the back, I think. He’s not English, is he?’

‘Dutch. Going to Babeny.’

He came back as she spoke. ‘You’ll want to phone,’ said Mrs Spencer. ‘It’s in my husband’s study.’ She opened a door. ‘Do come into the sitting-room when you’re ready.’

There was time to tell Mr Spencer about him before he joined them to be introduced to the rector. Eugenie perceived that the two men were going to get on well together; a chance remark of her father’s about the Bronze Age, still strongly evident on the moor, received a reply from their visitor which demonstrated not only a knowledge of that but a lively interest as well. Tea, taken round the fire, was a leisurely meal while the Reverend Mr Spencer expounded his theories about the stone huts, the tors and the very long history of the moors.

It was nice to see her father showing such interest, reflected Eugenie, getting supper ready in the kitchen. Over that meal, presently, the talk turned to just about every subject under the sun. It was only as she was getting ready for bed that she realised that their guest had told them almost nothing about himself. He came from Holland, he was a doctor, he had told them, but more than that they knew nothing. Did he live in England now? Was he on holiday? Why was he going to Babeny? Did he work at one of the hospitals in London perhaps? And just before she dropped off to sleep she wondered, was he married?

By morning the mist had thinned sufficiently for careful driving to be safe enough. Their visitor, eating a hearty breakfast, reiterated his thanks and declared his intention of leaving as soon as possible.

‘Well, don’t take any short cuts,’ said Eugenie matter-of-factly. ‘There’s a lot of boggy ground.’

He assured her that he would be careful.

Her father didn’t come down to breakfast and presently their visitor went upstairs to say his goodbyes, collect his bag and go out to the car. He stowed it in the boot and came back to where Eugenie and her mother were standing at the door.

‘I am in your debt,’ he told Mrs Spencer, ‘and I can never thank you enough for your kindness.’ He shook her hand and turned to Eugenie.

‘Goodbye—you were an angel just when I needed one—a sensible angel. I am greatly in your debt.’

She offered a hand. ‘I’m glad I could help. And do take care.’ She wanted very much to know where he was going after Babeny but he had offered no information, not even the smallest hint … She went out to the car with him and waved as he drove away. Extraordinary, she thought, watching the big car disappear round the bend in the lane, to meet a man and know that you loved him even though you might never see him again for the rest of your life. She hadn’t supposed falling in love was like that.

She went back to her mother and took her arm. ‘I should like to marry him,’ she said, and then added, ‘Don’t laugh.’

Her mother turned to look at her. ‘No, dear. Just remember this: if you’re meant to meet again and love each other and marry then nothing will prevent that happening.’

Eugenie kissed her mother’s cheek. ‘I’m not surprised Father married you.’ She paused, ‘I mean it, Mother.’

‘I know you do, darling. Now come indoors and we’ll get started on the chores.’

As they washed up together Eugenie said suddenly, ‘I don’t know the first thing about him and yet I feel as though I know him—have known him all my life.’

She went for a long walk that afternoon and allowed common sense to take over from a daydream which held no vestige of reality. The only thing that was real was the fact that she had fallen in love with a man she was most unlikely to see again. ‘Oh, well,’ said Eugenie, making her brisk way home again, ‘better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.’

The temptation to find out about him from Tom Riley was very great but she had no reason to phone that gentleman. He and her father were acquaintances but that was all; besides, it seemed a bit sneaky to go behind Dr Rijnma ter Salis’s back …

There was a message for her when she got back home. Could she go and see the Reverend Mr Watts about the Mothers’ Union and the pram service and could she at the same time bring him some more aspirin?

‘He seems rather poorly,’ observed her mother. ‘You might take him some of the soup I made—there’s more than enough for us.’ She looked at her daughter’s faraway expression. ‘Have your tea first, darling.’

The Reverend Mr Watts opened the door to her. He looked woebegone and said peevishly, ‘Mrs Pollard hasn’t come near me. Just left the milk and papers and called through the letterbox that she wouldn’t be coming until I was better. She’s afraid of catching my cold.’

‘You can hardly blame her,’ said Eugenie bracingly. ‘She’s got five small children.’ She went past him into the kitchen to put down the soup. ‘You can look after yourself for a day or two, can’t you? Would you like the doctor to come? Dr Shaw at Holne is very good. Perhaps you need an antibiotic.’

‘No, no, there’s no need of that.’ He gave her an arch glance. ‘Of course, if I had a wife to look after me …’

She ignored the glance. ‘Mother has sent you some soup. Now if you will tell me what you want me to do about the pram service and the Mothers’ Union. Choir practice as usual, I suppose, on Thursday evening? Will you be well enough to take the Sunday service?’

‘I shall do my best. How is Mr Spencer?’

‘The doctors are very pleased with him—another month and he will be able to take over at least some of the parish work.’

The Reverend Mr Watts sneezed, blew his nose, and said, ‘How splendid. Then my services will no longer be required.’ He paused. ‘Unless, of course, I might be allowed to hope—Eugenie, would you consider marrying me? We could remain here—in a better house, of course, and I could take over from your father. I must say, with some truth, that I would prefer a living in one of the cities but I can see a good many improvements which need to be made. Living here, in the back of beyond, I suppose one doesn’t move with the times as one would in more modern surroundings.’

She was a kind-hearted girl; she also had a fine temper when roused. She allowed her kind heart to damp down the temper and answered him mildly.

‘Thank you for your proposal, but I’m sure that I could not make you happy, and I think that you will be much happier if and when you return to a city parish where your enthusiasm will be appreciated. You see, here life is rather different—more basic, if you see what I mean. We live close to nature and nature doesn’t change, does it?’

She held out a hand. ‘You’ve been such a help during these last few weeks. We are so very grateful. It must have been hard for you …’

The Reverend Mr Watts blew his nose again and looked pleased with himself despite his cold. ‘I believe that I have given your father’s parishioners an insight into various aspects of the church.’

‘Oh, indeed you have.’ She forbore to tell him what they had thought of them. He had, after all, done his best—would still do it once he had got rid of his cold.

She said briskly. ‘Well, I must go—there’s supper to get and odd jobs around the place.’

He went to the door with her. ‘You are happy here?’

‘Yes. This is my home …’

‘You had no difficulty in getting back yesterday? That awful fog.’

‘No difficulty at all …’

‘I thought I heard a car just after you left.’

‘Sound carries in the mist,’ she told him. ‘Let us know if you need any help.’

When she got home her mother asked, ‘What kept you, love? You’ve been ages?’

‘I have had a proposal of marriage which I refused, and the Reverend Mr Watts told me something of his views about updating us.’

‘You were polite, I hope, dear. Oh, I’m sure you were but you do have a hot temper when you are taken unawares. The poor man.’

‘He’ll go back to his big city and marry someone who’ll put his feet in a mustard bath and agree with everything he says.’

She caught her mother’s eye. ‘I don’t mean to be unkind, Mother, he’s a very good man, I’m sure, but somehow I can’t take him seriously.’ She added, ‘I don’t think he minded too much—me refusing him—I dare say he thought it would be a chance for him to take over from Father later on. even though his heart isn’t in rural living.’

‘Well, your father is doing so well that he should be able to return to wherever it is he wants to go before very long.’ Mrs Spencer began to slice bread. ‘I wonder if that nice man found his way safely to Tom Riley’s place?’

It seemed that he had, for the next morning the postman delivered a large box addressed to Mrs Spencer. There were roses inside, not just a handful but a couple of dozen, with a note signed A.R. ter S. The note itself was written in such a scrawl that Mrs Spencer wondered if he had written it in Dutch by mistake. Eugenie, invited to decipher it, being used to the handwriting of the medical profession, said, ‘No, it’s English, Mother. “With grateful thanks for your kind hospitality”.’

‘How clever you are, love. How very beautiful they are, and so many …’

The fine weather held although there was a chill in the air. Eugenie wrote to offer a tentative return date to go back to the hospital and began to make plans for her future. Regrettably, she was told, her post as ward sister had been filled; she would spend her outstanding month in the operating theatres since the second sister there would be going on holiday. She would be given an excellent reference and without a doubt she would find a similar position to suit her.

She put the letter in her pocket and didn’t tell her parents of its contents, only that she would be going back to theatre work instead of her ward.

‘That will make a nice change, dear,’ observed her mother, whose ideas of hospitals were vague, ‘as long as it isn’t like that nasty Casualty we see on television.’

Eugenie left home during the first week of May, on a cloudless morning when the moor had never looked more beautiful, driving her own little car and hating to leave. She took the Buckfastleigh road since she wanted to stop in Holne to say goodbye to a friend of hers who helped out in the little coffee shop there during the summer months, and although it was still early in the morning the two of them spent half an hour pleasantly enough over coffee. Eugenie got up reluctantly presently. ‘I’d better go. I don’t want to get caught up in the early evening traffic in London.’

She promised to let her friend know if she got another job, and went back to the car. There was no one much about. The caretaker was still in the little school getting ready for the morning’s classes, and the pub on the corner showed no sign of life. In another month, she thought, it would be bustling with tourists, for it was on the very fringe of the moor.

She drove past the reservoir, going slowly because of the sheep, resisting an urge to get out and take one last look around her from one of the tors on either side of the road. Instead she drove on steadily through the narrow streets of Buckfastleigh and on to the A38 which would take her to Exeter and the road to London.

London looked its best in the afternoon sunshine but nothing could disguise the overbearing gloom of the hospital. She parked her car behind the building and presented herself at the porter’s lodge to be much cheered by the pleasure of Mullins, the head porter, at seeing her again.

‘Nice to see you back, Sister. You are to report at five o’clock.’ He glanced at the clock behind him. ‘Time enough for you to go to the nurses’ home and get the key to your room.’

The warden was new and looked grumpy, and the room to which she led Eugenie was at the back of the building overlooking chimney-pots and brick walls.

‘I understand you are leaving at the end of the month and your old room is occupied.’

She went away, and Eugenie reflected that the last warden would have offered her a cup of tea and stayed for a gossip. There was time to make a cup of tea for herself, though, so she went along to the pantry and found two of her friends there. They at least were pleased to see her and, much cheered by their gossip and several cups of tea, she made her way to the office.

She was welcomed with as much warmth by the principal nursing officer as that lady was capable of showing. An austere woman, handsome and cold in manner, in her presence Eugenie always felt too large and too full of life.

She was to start in Theatre in the morning. The sister she would replace would work with her for two days until she felt confident. ‘That should present no difficulty, Sister Spencer; you were Staff Nurse in Theatre and Acting Sister before you had your recent post, and you have from time to time returned there for holiday duties, have you not?’

Eugenie agreed politely. She regretted giving up her ward but she liked Theatre.

She spent the evening unpacking and catching up on the hospital news, telephoning her mother and then going to drink tea with those of her friends who were there, and finally going to her bed to sleep soundly until morning. She thought briefly and lovingly of Aderik Rijnma ter Salis before she slept, and her first thoughts were of him when she woke. He was the first person she saw as she went through the theatre block’s swing doors.


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