The Confession

The Confession by Charles Todd

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Authors: Charles Todd
tradesman’s entrance?”
    To his surprise she laughed. “Yes, as a matter of fact. The Russell who built River’s Edge didn’t wish to see viands and coal and other goods carried across his hard-won lawn. The path leads directly to the kitchen. What do you do, come here once a fortnight to see that all is well? I noticed, when last I came, that someone had walked up the drive. The grasses were bent over, and even broken here and there.”
    â€œHow often do you come?”
    â€œWhen the spirit moves me,” she countered.
    â€œHow did you get into the house?”
    â€œWhen I left, no one thought to ask me for my key.”
    â€œWhen did you leave?”
    â€œBefore the war,” she answered evasively.
    â€œWhy did you leave?”
    She pondered that, her eyes taking on the expression of someone staring into the long and unforgiving past. “A very good question. I expect it was because I felt it was the right thing to do.”
    â€œIt’s a lovely day. Would you care to bring out two chairs? We could sit here and enjoy the afternoon. Sadly there’s no one to bring us our tea. Never mind. And I must warn you I promised to have the launch back no later than five o’clock.”
    He did as she asked, walking into the house for the first time.
    The room behind the French doors was spacious, with a marble hearth set across from the long windows. The high ceiling was decorated with plaster roses and swags of floral garlands, while trellises of lemon and peach roses climbed the wallpaper. Several chairs and settees, what he could see of them beneath the shrouding dust sheets, were covered in pale green and soft yellows. The effect was tranquil, an indoor garden, created for a woman’s pleasure.
    He found two chairs that would do, removed the sheets covering them, and carried them out to the terrace.
    Cynthia Farraday was standing where he’d left her, staring out over the river.
    She turned as he set a chair down near her, with a clear view across the lawns to the water, and she smiled, sitting down and stretching her booted feet out in front of her.
    â€œHeaven,” she said as he took the other chair. “I have always loved this terrace. Aunt Elizabeth—Mrs. Russell—used the garden room more than any other, and I could understand why. The two go together, don’t you think? I spent many happy hours there.”
    â€œWhen did you arrive here today?” he asked.
    â€œI came just after noon. In fact, I’ve missed my luncheon. I didn’t think to bring any sandwiches with me.”
    â€œHow long did you intend to stay?”
    â€œNot this long. But then I didn’t have the courage to bring out a chair. It felt somehow—wrong—to disturb the furniture. As if it were all sleeping.”
    â€œDid you live here as a child? What do you remember most about it?”
    â€œYou’re very inquisitive for a solicitor. But since you were gallant enough to bring out our chairs, I’ll answer that. I remember being happy, for the most part. Of course in the beginning I missed my parents terribly. Wyatt did his best to amuse me, out of kindness, knowing how I grieved. And not very long afterward, another cousin—Wyatt’s, not mine—came here to live, and the three of us passed an agreeable few years together. And then we all grew up, and it was vastly different.” Her voice had taken on a sad note.
    â€œWhat happened to them?”
    â€œYou’re the solicitor. You tell me.”
    â€œJustin never came home from the war. And Russell married but lost his wife and his child at the same time. He was a widower. And he still loved you.” That last was a guess, based on what Nancy Brothers had told him, but it clearly found its mark.
    Cynthia Farraday stirred uneasily. “You know too much. Have you been prying?”
    â€œHardly. Just fleshing out the facts. How did you get on

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