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Gwenda Reed stood, shivering a little, on the quayside.
The docks and the custom sheds and all of England that we could see were gently waving up and down.
And it was in that moment that she made her decision -- the decision that was to lead to such very momentous events.
She wouldn't go by the boat train to London as she had planned.
After all, why should she? No one was waiting for her, nobody expected her. She had only just got off that heaving creaking boat (it had been an exceptionally rough three days through the Bay and up to Plymouth) and the last thing she wanted was to get into a heaving, swaying train. She would go to a hotel, a nice firm, steady hotel standing on good solid ground. And she would get into a nice steady bed that didn't creak and roll. And she would go to sleep, and the next morning -- why, of course -- what a splendid idea! She would hire a car and she would drive slowly and without hurrying herself all through the south of England looking about for a house -- a nice house -- the house that she and Giles had planned she should find. Yes, that was a splendid idea.
In that way she would see something of England -- of the England that Giles had told her about and which she had never seen; although, like most New Zealanders, she called it home. At the moment, England was not looking particularly attractive. It was a gray day with rain imminent and a sharp, irritating wind blowing. Plymouth, Gwenda thought, as she moved forward obediently in the queue for Passports and Customs, was probably not the best of England.
On the following morning, however, herfeelings were entirely different. The sun was shining. The view from her window was attractive. And the universe in general was no longer waving and wobbling. It had steadied down. This was England at last and here she was, Owenda Reed, young married woman of twenty-one, on her travels. Giles's return to England was uncertain. He might follow her in a few weeks. It might be as long as six months. His suggestion had been that Gwenda should precede him to England and should look about for a suitable house. They both thought it would be nice to have, somewhere, a permanency. Giles's job would always entail a certain amount of travelling. Sometimes Gwenda would come too, sometimes the conditions would not be suitable. But they both liked the idea of having a home -- some place of their very own. Giles had inherited some furniture from an aunt recently, so that everything combined to make the idea a sensible and practical one.
Since both Gwenda and Giles were reasonably well-off, the prospect presented no difficulties.
Gwenda had demurred at first to choosing a house on her own. "We ought to do it together," she had said. But Giles had said laughingly: "I'm not much of a hand at houses. If you like it, I shall. A bit of a garden, of course, and not some brand -- new horror -- and not too big. Some
where on the south coast was my idea. At any rate, not too far inland."
"Was there any particular place?" Gwenda asked. But Giles said no. He'd been left an orphan young (they were both orphans) and had been passed around to various relations for holidays, and no particular spot had any particular association for him. It was to be Gwenda's house, and as for waiting until they could choose it together, suppose he were held up for six months? What would Gwenda do with herself all that time? Hang about in hotels? No, she was to find a house and get settled in.
"What you mean is", said Gwenda, "do all the work!"
But she liked the idea of finding a home and having it all ready, cosy and lived in, for when Giles came back.
They had been married just three months and she loved him very much.
After sending for breakfast in bed, Gwenda got up and arranged her plans. She spent a day seeing Plymouth, which she enjoyed, and on the following day she hired a comfortable Daimler car and chauffeur and set off on her journey through England.
The weather was good and she enjoyed her tour very much. She saw several possible residences in Devonshire but nothing that she felt was exactly right. There was no hurry. She would go on looking. She teamed to read between the lines of the house agents' enthusiastic descriptions and saved herself a certain number of fruitless errands.
It was on a Tuesday evening about a week later that the car came gently down the curving hill road into Dillmouth and on the outskirts of that still charming seaside resort, passed a For Sale board where, through the trees, a glimpse of a small white Victorian villa could be seen.
Immediately Gwenda felt a throb of appreciation -- almost of recognition. This was her house! Already she was sure of it. She could picture the garden, the long windows --she was sure that the house was just what she wanted.
It was late in the day, so she put up at the Royal Clarence Hotel and went to the house agents whose name she had noted on the board the following morning.
Presently, armed with an order to view, she was standing in the old-fashioned long drawing room with its two French windows giving onto a flagged terrace in front of which a kind of rockery interspersed with flowering shrubs fell sharply to a stretch of lawn below. Through the trees at the bottom of the garden the sea could be seen.
"This is my house," thought Gwenda. "It's home. I feel already as though I know every bit of it."
The door opened and a tall melancholy woman with...