There was a distinct nip of autumn in the morning air even though it was only the first week of September. By mid morning the sun had smoothed out any creases of the day, clouds rolling back to reveal a deep blue sky, a gentle breeze stirring some recently fallen leaves along the pavement. On the hearth rug, on top of a piece of muslin, Connie Foyle lay on her tummy, shakily lifting her head and shoulders, looking surprised at the effect.
Giving her a small rattle, Sam smiled, shaking the toy. "What's that?" she asked rhetorically. She was dressed in a light green, printed dress, barefoot with her hair down. She had forsaken the chores of the morning to play with Connie, and her apron lay discarded and forgotten on the back of the settee.
Connie first stuffed the end of the rattle into her mouth and then decided it was more exciting to shake it, the funny sound causing her break into a delighted gurgle. She began to babble, as if holding a conversation with her mother and Sam nodded seriously.
"Really, my sweet?" she enthused, tickling the little girl.
Sam jumped when the knocker sounded at the door and she looked up, wondering who it could be. Scooping up Connie, setting her comfortably on her hip, Sam made for the door. "Who's that then, eh?"
Standing on the doorstep was a young man. He had thinning hair swept over a round forehead, longer than when she had last seen him. A well trimmed moustache covered his top lip and he brushed it once with a forefinger before taking off his grey trilby hat, and clasping his hands behind his back. He wore a grey pullover with a red tie and jacket, and the broad sweep of his shoulders was visible underneath. Clear blue eyes stared back anxiously and he cleared his throat.
"I am sorry to disturb you, I—"
"James?" Sam interrupted, breaking into a broad smile. "James Devereaux?"
The young man look surprised and smiled shyly. "Um, yes. Hallo."
"I'm Samantha Foyle, Christopher's wife."
He smiled and nodded.
"Won't you come in? He'll be back for his lunch soon. He's been fishing all morning."
"I shouldn't like to keep you from anything."
His eyes took in her bare feet and easy appearance, and he looked apologetically at her.
Sam shifted Connie slightly and looked at the young man openly. "If you would like to come in and wait for him, I know he would be very pleased to see you. And I would be thrilled to have a chance to finally speak with you."
He looked embarrassed at such attention and gazed down at his well polished shoes. "Well…"
Connie gave a gurgle and held out a hand towards the young man. They all smiled and Sam added, "And Connie would too, it seems."
Devereaux nodded, "Yes. Thank you."
He followed her inside and sat down in the chair Sam indicated. She slipped on her shoes near the door and pushed back her hair with one hand, trying to instil a modicum of tidiness, trailing behind him into the lounge. It was Christopher's chair which he sat in and Sam sat down in the one opposite, putting Connie back on her muslin square between them.
"I..uh…well, I meant write, then I thought to come by. I meant to come sooner," he began, clasping his hands nervously.
"You've had a busy time of it, I expect," Sam said soothingly. "Glad you're here now." She smiled brightly at him and the young man visibly relaxed.
"Christopher was very kind to me."
He reached into his jacket pocket, "I've brought his books back."
Sam looked with interest at the titles and smiled softly, "He's a good man."
Devereaux nodded and said in an unexpectedly warm voice, "He has given me my life back. I owe him everything."
"He's told me the whole story," Sam said, catching his eye, "I'm sorry for what you've had to go through."
"Thank you. And I'm glad you know — it means we can be honest with one another." He paused a moment before continuing, "I should like to get to know him, if that's all right?"
Sam bit her lip, feeling the back of her eyes prick. "We would love for you to — Christopher has hoped you would consider spending time with him, with us."
Connie had been quiet thus far, but now she began to make her presence known. The young man looked down at her and gave a crooked smile. "She's beautiful."
"Would you like to hold her? Meet her properly?"
Though he looked a bit taken aback at the suggestion, he nodded. Sam scooped the little girl up and placed her on his knee. Connie stared up at him in surprise.
"Hullo," he said, "what have you been up to?"
Something in his voice stayed her intention to cry, and she continued to stare at him in amazement. She reached out a hand towards his mouth, grabbing for his moustache.
Sam grinned, "She does that with Andrew too — she adores him, and is so well behaved with him. I half wish he hadn't gone up to London for his work as he could get her down to sleep with very little fuss."
"Christopher told me about him. He was a pilot with the RAF?"
"Yes. He's got a position at a newspaper now in London. He's a writer at heart, I always thought."
Devereaux nodded, smiling down at the little girl on his knee, cooing and dribbling.
"I will just put the soup on to warm through for lunch. You'll stay I hope?"
"If it isn't any inconvenience."
"None at all. Back in a moment."
She left them and went through to the kitchen, heart soaring. Christopher will be so relieved!
For her part, she liked the young man as well; his quiet reticence was so reminiscent, and she felt an unabashed curiosity to know him more. There was also a desire to mother him: feed him up and look after him a bit. Knowing his terrible past, Sam felt her heart go out to him, and she wanted to make things better for him if she could.
When she came back into the lounge, he had relaxed even more and she could see a healthy colour beginning to rise through the pallor of his cheeks.
"James, we all want you to be a part of our lives; Andrew, me, Christopher — but we also realise it is your decision and we will respect whatever you decide. I know it hasn't been easy for you…" she paused, not sure of what to say.
He looked at her keenly, "Thank you for saying so, Samantha. I want to get to know you all. Truly. I'm just not very good at being part of a family…I've not had much practise…"
Sensing his sudden lack of confidence, Sam said warmly, "Never mind — we're a bit irregular as family's come anyway."
She began to tell him of their history: of her multitude of uncles and cousins in the clergy; of her father and mother, and of dear Uncle Aubrey; how she had met the Foyle's and her time working for the police; she told him of her and Andrew and how the relationship they had embarked on hadn't played out; how she and Foyle had come to a certain realisation towards the end of the war.
She spoke to him in earnest and he was content to listen. Though he was not used to Sam's chatter, he listened intently, answering her questions when required, and generally brightening. He smiled more, showing his teeth, laughing from his chest at her more amusing stories. From listening to her, he could begin to picture a life around the Foyles, and a further understanding glowed within him. Connie too was delighted with him, and happily sat in his arms without so much as a sign of a fuss.
The warm smell of soup was heavy in the air by the time their conversation had developed into a companionable easiness. He looked years younger, as if he had left behind the shell of himself and entered onto a new path.
"Listen, Samantha," he began at one point, looking at her directly. "My mother always called me 'Jack' — my favourite character in a story, and well…"
He paused, face suddenly unsure.
Sam smiled at him encouragingly and he went on. "I was always happier as Jack than James — almost as if they were separate identities. I know that's silly…"
"Not at all."
"Would you mind—"
"Calling you Jack?" Sam finished, looking at him with sudden tenderness.
He nodded, eyes clear and questioning.
They exchanged glances for a moment, developing a sort of understanding. The key in the latch drew their eyes away and he looked suddenly anxious again.
"That will be Christopher now. He'll be so pleased to see you, Jack," she said to him soothingly.
Foyle, hearing her voice, came into the lounge, still wearing his hat and holding his fishing gear. In his checked shirt and corduroys he looked like a man at his leisure, sleeves rolled back to reveal brown arms from long hours on the river. He looked at Jack sitting in his chair, holding his daughter and a slow smile that turned his lips downwards began to spread across his face. His eyes danced behind a sudden sheen of moisture.
"Hallo, sir," Jack said, standing. Connie gave a happy gurgle and flailed an arm towards her father.
"Very glad to see you." His voice was low and his face expressed relief and curiosity.
"Jack is staying to lunch, Christopher," Sam said, breaking into their thoughts. "So, wash up and join us…"
She left to dish up and lay the table, and Foyle turned back to the young man, smiling. "I'll be right through…Jack."
The two men smiled at one another, each fighting back the lumps that had grown in their throats. There was peace and mutual understanding in the looks and a gratefulness that exuded from both men. It seemed to Foyle that things had come full circle and he exhaled in a moment of self reflection. Jack nodded knowingly and followed in Sam's wake, bouncing Connie slightly in his arms as she babbled in his ear.
Chewing his lip, Foyle turned away to put his things down and wash his hands for lunch. As he set down his fishing tackle in a heap in the hallway, his mouth quirked into a crooked smile. He removed his old green trilby and placed it on the hat stand, turning back towards the centre of the house.
Moving towards a new start with his family.