“Dear Captain Erestor,” Mrs Bedlow-Squires smiled gushingly. “How absolutely darling that you decided to come to my sweet little house and take tea with us.”
“The pleasure is all mine, dear lady,” Erestor said as he took her hand and kissed the back of it. He reflected how often one had to lie so that social harmony could be maintained. “Please call me Erestor.”
Glorfindel stood beside him and Erestor drew a quiet strength from his tacit support. He trusted that his lover would smoothly manoeuvre the conversation if anything accidental or untoward were mentioned, which made the invitation to tea a more bearable prospect.
They followed their host through the large hall, to the double doors situated just past the ornate and rather large wooden staircase. Beyond the doors was a large room capable of hosting a dinner party for at least thirty guests. To one side of the room stood a grand piano, covered with a tasselled hand-painted silk, shawl. In the centre, there was a round table with eight place settings.
“Tea is a rather formal affair by the looks of it,” Glorfindel whispered in Erestor’s ear as they walked forward to meet the other guests, who were all congregated at the end of the room discussing Mrs Bedlow-Squires’ latest art acquisition.
“Here is our guest of honour, dear ones,” Mrs Bedlow-Squires boomed to the puzzled guests who were trying to work out the meaning of the painting. “Dear Captain Erestor, who has entreated me to call him Erestor. Such a dear friend, he is.”
“Damn, that is one of my paintings,” Erestor said, somewhat alarmed and wondering when he had become such a dear friend of a woman who looked as if she would eat him alive if he put a foot wrong.
Glorfindel smiled inscrutably. "Might just work in our favour," he said as he regarded the three-foot square painting of Galadriel gazing into her watery mirror. She was viewed from behind, and over her shoulder over her shoulder could be seen a vision...of the one ring, distorted in shape and clarity by the wind rippling off the water. Enough of her face could be seen for her to appear very beautiful indeed.
“Major and Mrs Bellstone-Gibbons. Good to meet you, old chap,” Major Bellstone-Gibbons boomed as he heartily shook Erestor’s hand.
Erestor smiled at Mrs Bellstone-Gibbons and kissed the back of her hand. “The pleasure is all mine,” he said to her, as she simpered with joy at meeting someone so famous. After all, Captain Erestor was the toast of London society at the moment because of his new and outrageously successful exhibition at the Tate Gallery. The fact that he achieved as much whilst preferring to stay in St. Michael’s Leap only added to his mystique and desirability. It was a fact lost on no one that Mrs Bedlow-Squires had pulled off the social coup of the year at least. The guests were too polite to plan any revenge or possible counter coup, if there could be one, until they were back at home. However, it would not hurt to watch and listen closely, to ascertain whether there was a possibility of tarnishing some of Mrs. Bedlow-Squires’ glory in the coming days.
“This painting, is she a relative of yours?” the Major asked, before Erestor could be introduced to the other guests.
“She was my fiancé, before the war,” Erestor lied. Through their connection, he could hear Glorfindel laughing.
“Nice one,” Glorfindel’s voice rang in is mind. “I bet they ask about the ears.”
“I wondered because, not to put too fine a point on it, old chap, she has your ears,” the Major chuckled.
“Artistic license,” Erestor smiled and swiftly turned his attention to the next guest.
“Dear Daisy Hawkinghurst,” Mrs Bedlow-Squires smiled as she introduced her dearest and most dangerous friend.
“How very nice to meet you,” Erestor said as he kissed her proffered hand.
“I am most pleased to meet you as well, Captain Erestor,” she said, wondering if he would be such a dear friend to her and exhort her to call him Erestor also.
“Please call me Erestor,” the dark elf smiled and gazed into her eyes.
“Then you must call me Daisy,” she smiled back, knowing for certain that her dear friend Mrs Bedlow-Squires was not such a good friend of Erestor’s at all, merely an acquaintance who had politely asked her to drop his title when addressing him. How handy this information would be when there was occasion to use it, but for now she would play the game as she always did.
“A beautiful flower and a beautiful name,” Erestor said, implying that Daisy might be good-looking too.
“Thank you,” Daisy replied. “I hope you enjoy living in our little village, and may I say that your painting is wonderful; I like it very much.”
“How nice of you to say so,” Erestor smiled. “I am in the middle of painting my garden at the moment; there is a quality of light like I have never seen before. It should be my best piece when it is completed, especially if I can capture the golden afternoon light.”
“How delightful,” Mrs Bedlow-Squires said as she pulled Erestor away, privately rueing giving Daisy an invite. How rude she had been to monopolise her guest.
At the end of the line of guests stood the Reverend of the local church and his wife Dorothy.
“We have not seen you at church, Captain Erestor,” the Reverend said and shook the elf’s hand. “However, I hear that you have not been very well.”
“Our sweet little church is the centre of our social community, dear one,” Mrs Bedlow-Squires said to Erestor. “When you are completely better, perhaps?”
Erestor smiled and turned his attention to Dorothy who stood looking at him through her thick, horn-rimmed glasses. He noticed that she was not smiling, and for a moment he was uncertain about meeting her. “It’s nice to meet you,” he said pleasantly as he kissed her hand.
“I love your painting,” she said softly, almost wistfully. “There is magic and a certain sadness to it; to me, it speaks of loss.”
“You are very perceptive,” Erestor said, and smiled before his new dear friend, Mrs Bedlow-Squires, pulled him away so that she could show him the painting of her house in winter.
“The Major painted it,” she beamed. “My sweet little house has a painting all to itself.”
“How pleased you must have been when you saw it,” Erestor said, wondering at her affectation of calling her mansion a sweet little house.
“Mere daubs,” the Major interjected. “Not a patch on yours, what?” he said to Erestor.
“It is a charming painting,” Erestor smiled. “If I were the dear lady, I would have been very pleased with it.”
The Major was very happy and later boasted to his wife that the famous artist had complimented him on his artistic talent, knowing that she had heard nothing of the conversation after being waylaid by Daisy who wanted to tell her about a redcurrant jam recipe she had seen in the local newspaper.
The tea went successfully. However, after a couple of hours it was time to leave. After many goodbyes and after accepting an invitation to dinner from the Bellstone-Gibbons, they made their way to their motor car and climbed inside.
“You did very well,” Glorfindel said happily, as they drove out of the village.
“I wonder when the Bedlow-Squires woman bought the painting. Surely she did not spend all that money just to impress me?” Erestor asked.
“They are like Rottweilers in this village,” Glorfindel laughed. “They have the money and the means to impress and so they do. It is as simple as that. It is a game, that is all, and one we shall be expected to play our part in now that we are accepted as one of their social circle.”
“When the war is finally over, let’s go on a cruise,” Erestor suggested. “This village is like a fishbowl.”
“A cruise would be a good idea. We need a holiday.” Glorfindel turned the motor car into the road leading up to the cottage. “Any idea where you would like to go?”
“I would like to go to New York and see the really tall buildings. I hear they are works of art,” Erestor grinned. “I could show my paintings there.”
“Then that is what we will do,” Glorfindel smiled. “As soon as they decommission the first liner from the war we will be off to New York.”
The nights drew in as summer ended and autumn took hold. The leaves fell from the trees and the garden fell into sleep. The air was crisp and cold and the wind howled around the cottage. Much time was spent sitting in front of the fire and socialising with their new friends, who were all very careful never to mention the war. Glorfindel had muttered darkly that they should never do so and, wary of the unmentioned consequences, they all agreed that this subject was off limits.
Erestor found himself enjoying the relaxed life of the village and kept a diary of events. In it, he tried to work out the machinations the villagers indulged in. Even he and Glorfindel were guilty of working their friends occasionally. They had scored a great success, and driven their new friends into an absolute furious envy, when the Duke of Windsor had stopped at the village of St. Michael’s Leap on his way to the Isle of Wight to present Erestor with the Victoria Cross for exceptional bravery during the battle of the Somme. The Duke also announced that Glorfindel was to be made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his services to the British Government.
Mrs Bedlow-Squires and Major Bellstone-Gibbons particularly, had made much of how proud the village was of them both, and how honoured they were that they had two such illustrious people within their midst. The rather formal civic reception lasted less than an hour, during which Erestor and Glorfindel made sure that their new social circle were all acknowledged by the Duke.
Dorothy, the Reverend’s wife, seemed less thrilled than the others. She was a serious and thoughtful woman, and quietly told Erestor that she thought the Duke, ‘frivolous and without direction’. “Not that I am indifferent to his presence,” she smiled. “He is rather handsome.”
“He is only twenty six,” Erestor replied. “I think it is quite exciting to meet our future king.”
“Destiny is the master of us all,” Dorothy smiled and squeezed Erestor’s hand. “Thank you for inviting me and it was good to see you again after such a long time.”
Erestor was nonplussed. He had only seen the lady a few days before and he wondered if she was suffering from memory problems. If so, he would have to be patient with her, as she had said some very odd things before that had made him feel uneasy. He was sure that she had not meant to be anything but sociable; however, in her own way she seemed inept at saying the right thing. Perhaps she was too thoughtful or maybe she held the games their friends played with one another in contempt. It would not be hard to do, Erestor reflected.
Glorfindel had no answers to the unsettling things that Dorothy said and told Erestor to dismiss his thoughts. “She is rather odd but she has a good heart and does no one any harm,” he reasoned. “I think her glasses make her appear odder than she really is. They are so thick that it is hard to see her eyes at all.”
“She gives the impression of knowing more than she should, like she can read minds.” Erestor remained perturbed and it was not the first time they had this conversation.
“She is human, the impression will always be no more than that,” Glorfindel said. “Now, let us go upstairs and you can sit on my lap.”
Erestor smiled. “One day we will not have to go upstairs.”
Glorfindel stroked the dark elf’s face. “One day we will go home. There is a new beginning now that the war is over, and we are not part of it.”
“I do not feel the call, do you?” Erestor asked.
“No, meleth,” Glorfindel nodded sadly. “It will come one day. Of that I am sure.”
In the months that followed, during the harsh winter darkness, they sat in front of the fire and dreamed of times long in the past when they were younger and had their future before them.
What was their future now, they both wondered.
Too many questions and no firm answers; it was best not to think too long about it, and so Glorfindel and Erestor spent most evenings in front of the fire, listening to the wind howling around the cottage and the ever constant rain pelting against the window. At least they still had one another and for now that was all that mattered.
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