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He slept for a few hours and only woke when David thoughtfully came in with tea. He sat up, thankful that his back had suffered no harm.

“How’s Tom?” John asked, taking it.

“He’s going to be fine. Clean bill of health. How are you feeling?”

“I’m fine too.”

“Great news! I brought up your letters. Would you like a very belated breakfast in bed?”

“Oh no, I’ll get up… It must be time for lunch surely?” John clutched Daniel’s letter, identifiable by his handwriting and the American stamps. Two others were official Navy communications. He opened those first while David opened the curtains for him.

The first was his official discharge and pension information; he pulled a face. Although it wasn’t bad, he would still need to take a civilian job. The second, surprisingly, was a communique telling him he would retire as Commander Bettany. He saw the hand of Captain Walsh in the gesture.

“That’s good.” David said, as he briefly imparted the information. “I was going to ask if you fancied a spell working in the San. I need an Assistant Registrar - someone to keep on top of fees.”

“In Armishire?” John opened Daniel’s letter slowly.

“Switzerland. If you went for six months you’d soon shake off that cough. Think about it.” David clapped his cousin on the shoulder, then left.

Daniel’s letter wasn't long.

Dear John (it said)

I hope you are well and no longer convalescent. I am fine and I’m told my treatment was successful. Unfortunately it’s six solid months of recovery so I won’t be back in England until November at the least. I’m glad my lectures are finished. I’ll be at a nursing home in Connecticut for the next few weeks, then I’ll probably go back to the Plaza. After that, London I expect and back to work. Have you decided what you will do?

I know I behaved unreasonably when you were in hospital. Half of it was the relief from knowing you were alive and would be well but half of it was my own nature and failings. I’d give anything to take back what I said. Of course you have your life and your past, just as I do and it’s wrong of me to wish it different. I just want you to be content and happy, although you know how I feel about you.

There is one thing I want you to know and I wondered how to do it but then the answer came to me. Do you remember that day you first came to Candlebury and we spent time in the library? You found a box of newspaper cuttings that I have. I had an argument with Freddie over them and you were so kind, you didn’t even read them or ask about them.

I gave your brother my keys to the house. I want you to have them. You can use it as your own.

I find it difficult to talk about what happened in the house, but it's never been my home. The only time I thought it could be was when you were there with me.

I don't want to lose you. I want to share something private with you so if you did want to go to Candlebury and look over those old newspaper articles I would be glad of the chance to talk with you about it. I'd be so glad of it. If you wanted to, that is.

You can telephone me - use the one at my house. The best number to use is written above. Or of course you could write. I hope you will.

Daniel


John’s hand shook slightly as he replaced the letter in its envelope. He would go to Candlebury and read what Daniel wanted him to read. In the cave that morning, when he had remembered Lewis Keeler for what he was, he had realised, perhaps finally, that casual cruelty with only the smallest bits of affection wasn't love. He wanted love. He was tired of being lonely.

It might not work out with Daniel Lyndhurst but one day it might with somebody else.



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