Endless Night
Author:Agatha Christie

Chapter 7
When I got home there was a telegram waiting for me - it had been sent from Antibes.

Meet me tomorrow four-thirty usual place.

Ellie was different. I saw it at once. We met as always in Regent's Park and at first we were a bit strange and awkward with each other. I had something I was going to say to her and I was in a bit of a state as to how to put it. I suppose any man is when he comes to the point of proposing marriage.

And she was strange about something too. Perhaps she was considering the nicest and kindest way of saying No to me. But somehow I didn't think that. My whole belief in life was based on the fact that Ellie loved me. But there was a new independence about her, a new confidence in herself which I could hardly feel was simply because she was a year older. One more birthday can't

make that difference to a girl. She and her family had been in the South of France and she told me a little about it. And then rather shyly she said:

"I - I saw that house there, the one you told me about. The one that architect friend of yours had built."

"What - Santonix?"

"Yes. We went there to lunch one day."

"How did you do that? Does your stepmother know the

man who lives there?"

"Dmitri Constantine? Well - not exactly but she met him and - well - Greta fixed it up for us to go there as a matter of fact."

"Greta again," I said, allowing the usual exasperation to come into my voice.

"I told you," she said, "Greta is very good at arranging things."

"Oh all right. So she arranged that you and your step-mother -"

"And Uncle Frank," said Ellie.

"Quite a family party," I said, "and Greta too, I suppose."

"Well, no, Greta didn't come because, well -" Ellie hesitated, "- Cora, my stepmother, doesn't treat Greta exactly like that."

"She's not one of the family, she's a poor relation, is she?" I said.

"Just the au pair girl, in fact. Greta must resent being treated that way sometimes."

"She's not an au pair girl, she's a kind of companion to me."

"A chaperon," I said, "a cicerone, a duenna, a governess. There are lots of words."

"Oh do be quiet," said Ellie, "I want to tell you. I know now what you mean about your friend Santonix. It's a wonderful house. It's - it's quite different. I can see that if he built a house for us it would be a wonderful house."

She had used the word quite unconsciously. Us, she had said. She

had gone to the Riviera and had made Greta arrange things so as to see the house I had described, because she wanted to visualise more clearly the house that we would, in the dream world we'd built ourselves, have built for us by Rudolf Santonix.

"I'm glad you felt like that about it," I said.

She said: "What have you been doing?"

"Just my dull job," I said, "and I've been to a race meeting and I put some money on an outsider: 30 to 1. I put every penny I had on it and it won by a length. Who says my luck isn't in?"

"I'm glad you won," said Ellie, but she said it without excitement, because putting all you had in the world on an outsider and the outsider winning, didn't mean anything in Ellie's world. Not the kind of thing it meant in mine.

"And I went to see my mother," I added.

"You've never spoken much of your mother."

"Why should I?" I said.

"Aren't you fond of her?"

I considered. "I don't know," I said. "Sometimes I don't think I am. After all, one grows up and - outgrows parents. Mothers and fathers."

"I think you do care about her," said Ellie. "You wouldn't be so uncertain when you talk about her otherwise."

"I'm afraid of her in a way," I said. "She knows me too well. She knows the worst of me, I mean."

"Somebody has to," said Ellie.

"What do you mean?"

"There's a saying by some great writer or other that no man is a hero to his valet. Perhaps everyone ought to have a valet. It must be so hard otherwise, always living up to people's good opinion of one."

"Well, you certainly have ideas, Ellie," I said. I took her hand. "Do you know all about me?" I said.

"I think so," said Ellie. She said it quite calmly and simply.

"I never told you much."

"You mean you never told me anything at all, you always clammed up. That's different. But I know quite well what you are like, you yourself." "I wonder if you do" I said. I went on, "It sounds rather silly saying I love you. It seems too late for that, doesn't it? I mean, you've known about it a long time, practically from the beginning, haven't you?"

"Yes," said Ellie, "and you knew, too, didn't you, about me?"

"The thing is," I said, "what are we going to do about it? It's not going to be easy, Ellie. You know pretty well what I am, what I've done, the sort of life I've led. I went back to see my mother and the grim respectable little street she lives in. It's not the same world as yours, Ellie. I don't know that we can ever make them meet."

"You could take me to see your mother."

"Yes, I could," I said, "but I'd rather not. I expect that sounds very harsh to you, perhaps cruel, but you see we've got to lead a queer life together, you and I. It's not going to be the life that you've led and it's not going to be the life that I've led either. It's got to be a new life where we have a sort of meeting ground between my poverty and ignorance and your money and culture and social knowledge. My friends will think you're stuck up and your friends will think I'm socially unpresentable. So what are we going to do?"

"I'll tell you," said Ellie, "exactly what we're going to do. We're going to live on Gipsy's Acre in a house - a dream house - that your friend Santonix will build for us. That's what we're going to do." She added, "We'll get married first. That's what you mean, isn't it?"

"Yes," I said, "that's what I mean. If you're sure it's all right for you."

"It's quite easy," said Ellie, "we can get married next week. I'm of age, you see. I can do what I like now. That makes all the difference. I think perhaps you're right about relations. I shan't tell my people and you won't tell your mother, not until it's all over and then they can throw fits and it won't matter."

"That's wonderful," I said, "wonderful, Ellie. But there's one thing. I hate telling you about it. We can't live at Gipsy's Acre, Ellie. Wherever we build our house it can't be there because it's sold."

"I know it's sold," said Ellie. She was laughing. "You don't understand, Mike. I'm the person who's bought it."
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