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Last Taxi to Kensington, by Helena O'Rall

This short novel, purportedly written by Ellen Hall, one of the last family residents of Stoney Grove is presented here in 14 parts.

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 Part 3

The two had not met since that spring day, twelve years ago, when a fourteen-year old Arthur had shyly kissed her in the garden. In those days, Wilverdean Hall was a regular feature of Loretta’s life. She and her mother spent each summer of her childhood on the estate with her aunt. Beatrice, a solid, sensible woman, was widowed young. She treated Loretta as her own daughter. When Loretta had met Arthur, the son of a neighbouring farmer, she could not remember. He had always been part of Wilverdean, a playmate and confidante of her childhood and her first sweetheart. When she was eight they climbed trees together and swam in the cool green waters of the lake; when she was twelve he brought her flowers and a kiss.

That was the last time they met, for the following autumn her mother died and her visits to Wilverdean came to an end. The cancer, diagnosed on that bright, clear day in April, had spread rapidly through her elegant frame, leaving her bedridden and frail by August and stealing her from her daughter and grieving husband before the first frosts of winter set in.

Loretta’s father had never found peace in the countryside, and with the death of his wife, he turned his back upon it. A career diplomat, he accepted a series of postings on the Continent, and took his young daughter with him. The following years were spent in Rome and Berlin, until tensions between England and those two nations became such that Mr. Princeton returned permanently to his home in Windsor. Aunt Beatrice came to live with them, serving her brother-in-law as hostess and her young niece as confidante. It was only within the past year that Loretta, by now a young woman, had elected to take a flat in Kensington when her father was posted to the States. Aunt Beatrice, satisfied with having settled her niece happily into London society, returned to Wilverdean Hall.

Social engagements in general, and Reginald Winters in particular, had conspired to keep Loretta in the city for the past year. As she looked up at the handsome face of Arthur Kingsley, it occurred to her that perhaps her long absence from Puckering had deprived her of more than fresh country air.

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