A/N: Part Nine of the series, and the end. Next time I start to write snippets or scenes I would like to see, I'll ask myself if they really shouldn't take place in a chaptered story. It might make things easier on everybody.
Thanks ever so much to Persiflage for her beta work, to everyone who was kind enough to read and review, and to GiuliettaC, without whom this story would have had no end.
And in the End
"Uncle Aubrey! You'll marry us?" Sam gasped, scarcely believing their good fortune.
"Marry you?" Stewart was aghast. "Heavens, no, child! Iain would have my head on a platter!"
"Then what did you mean when you said you were our salvation?" Frustrated, she sat down next to her uncle on the sofa.
"First, Samantha, let me reassure you on one point: your parents don't doubt your love for Christopher. Their concern is whether it will last over the long haul."
"Then we need to prove them wrong," Sam said, chin tilted defiantly.
Stewart waved a dismissive hand. "I know, dear, I know. Love wins out, etcetera, etcetera. But the sad truth is that life is hard and ugly, and not at all romantic – as Christopher, I'm sure, has reminded you."
From his chair, Foyle acknowledged the statement by raising an eyebrow over his glass of whiskey. Sam sighed in frustration.
"What can I do to convince them?" she demanded.
"Absolutely nothing. Your parents are saying, 'wait a year to be certain' – which, as I'm sure you're about to tell me, is no guarantee of future happiness. What I would say is to do exactly what you're doing. Get married, begin your life. Show Iain and Eleanor that you are serious about your convictions. And then, in thirty years, you can tell them, 'I told you it would last'.
"And while I can't marry you, I can give you my official blessing. It may not mean as much coming from me as it would from your father, but I would be absolutely delighted to bless your union. I'm sure it would go a very long way toward mollifying your parents. Would that be satisfactory?"
Sam beamed. "Absolutely!"
It was his third visit to the Beardsley house. The first two times, Foyle had found no one at home. Third time, it turned out, was a charm.
"Mr. Richard Beardsley?"
The man sized up Foyle, clearly impatient. "If you're wanting a donation of some sort, you're out of luck."
"No, no donation. I'll just take a moment of your time," Christopher said pleasantly, and received a scowl for his efforts.
"I'm a busy man."
"Yes, I know that. My name is Foyle, and I used to be a policeman."
"So I still have many friends on the Force. I've notified them that you have a penchant for displaying yourself to the women your wife has hired to clean house for her." In truth, Foyle had no idea if Beardsley had exposed himself to anyone other than Sam; in his experience, however, he had found that such men tended to be repeat offenders.
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Beardsley retorted, but he'd gone pale.
"Don't you?" Foyle said, a tight smile on his face. "You're accusing my wife of lying, then."
Christopher wanted to laugh. The man was obviously trying to remember if he ever exposed himself to a middle-aged woman, and failing miserably.
"Yes. Samantha Stewart Foyle." He didn't bother to mention that they were not yet married, but Christopher saw no need to explain the particulars.
"Oh. I – uh – I'm sure there's been a misunderstanding," Beardsley stammered. "Women tend to have very active imaginations, you know. They get a bit hysterical, don't they?"
"I'm not going to debate your behavior, Mr. Beardsley, because we both know that you are guilty. Just bear in mind that your name is on file with the Hastings Police."
"Robert? Who is it?" Mrs. Beardsley appeared in the doorway behind her husband.
Beardsley stared helplessly from his wife to Foyle. He opened his mouth to speak, but nothing emerged.
Foyle tipped his hat. "I beg your pardon, ma'am. I evidently have the wrong address." He turned to go, a broad grin on his face.
The motion of the train lulled Sam into drowsiness. I never would have dreamed that a honeymoon could be so exhausting, she thought, and immediately smiled – and blushed – at the thoughts playing through her head.
Without thinking, Sam reached up absently to touch the corsage pinned to her coat. The flowers were four days old now, a pitiful semblance of their original beauty, yet they still held a faint aroma. She remembered descending the stairs at her boarding house to find Christopher there, waiting to take her to their wedding at the Registry Office. While Sam's dress was not new – could qualify as near-ancient, actually – it was her most appealing frock, and Christopher had always commented on how lovely she looked whenever she'd worn it. There at the foot of the stairs, he had pinned the rose corsage to her dress, looking as happy as she'd ever seen him.
It was almost embarrassing that she remembered so little of the wedding ceremony itself. Certainly her mother would want to know the details, but Sam was finding that because she had been so happy, so excited, that her recollection of the little things had failed to make an impact. She had a clear memory of the steadying smile on Christopher's face as they repeated their vows, recalled him slipping the ring on her finger, and knew that Andrew had kissed her on the cheek in congratulations. But the rest? The rest didn't really matter, of course.
Andrew had been able to come down from London to serve as best man, while Sam had recruited one of the girls from the boarding house to act as maid of honor. Maggie Bellwood was a pretty, dark-haired schoolteacher who was infused with a no-nonsense attitude that served to keep order in her classroom. It also managed to enchant Andrew Foyle in under an hour. The four of them lunched at the Royal Victoria after leaving the Registry Office, and once Maggie had briefly gone off to the loo, he'd leaned forward to catch Sam's attention.
"D'you think she'd go out with me?" he'd asked earnestly.
Amused by the prospect of an Andrew actually cowed by a woman who wasn't his usual type, Sam had shrugged loftily. "You'll have to ask her, Andrew. I can't say."
"I like her. She's different."
"Well, at least she's not a blonde," Christopher pointed out bluntly. "Might be a good sign."
"And she's not the flirty sort," Sam warned. "You can't use that suave, ex-RAF pilot act on her. She'll take you off your high horse in no time flat."
"Huh." And a gleam had formed in Andrew's eyes, as though a challenge had been found and the gauntlet thrown.
Sam awoke abruptly when the train lurched to a halt.
"Sorry," she mumbled. "I dozed off."
"You were sleeping so soundly, I didn't want to wake you until I had to," Christopher confessed. He stood, then helped Sam to her feet. "Ready to face real life as a married woman?"
"More than ready." Sam grinned in response.
They caught a taxi to Steep Lane. Christopher settled the fare with the cabbie while Sam stood on the pavement, eyeing the familiar house that was now her home. A package on the front step caught her attention.
"What's this?" Foyle came up behind her.
"I don't know. Wedding present, I suppose."
"Bring it inside so we can have a look."
Moments later, the packaging had been torn away to reveal, disappointingly enough, a bottle of Uncle Aubrey's famed greengage wine.
"Oh, dear," Sam said glumly.
"Here's a note," Foyle said, opening an envelope attached to the bottle.
Dear Sam and Christopher, I only wish I had thought to bring this in person when I saw you. As it turns out, one of my parishioners was coming to Hastings on business, and agreed to bring the wine along with him. Best wishes and congratulations on your marriage. I know you'll be happy for many years to come.
p.s.- And I told your parents as much, Sam!
"Well," said Sam, resigned, "I suppose it's the thought that counts."
"But what on earth shall we do with it, though?"
Christopher chewed thoughtfully on the corner of his lower lip. "I think it deserves to be passed along to someone who can appreciate it, don't you?"
Richard Beardsley returned home from work to find a package on his front step. Inside, he discovered shortly, was a bottle of wine. The unsigned note merely said, 'to Richard Beardsley, with all our best wishes'. He scratched his head, wondering who had been so thoughtful.
And on Steep Lane, Christopher and Samantha Foyle toasted each other - and their future - with a cup of tea.