Deleted scene from the end of The Mantle of God

I’ve decided to publish a few of these deleted scenes. They are bit like outtakes from a movie – scenes that are perfectly okay but that for one reason or another don’t make it into the final book. I know readers often enjoy these, especially those who are as interested in Dottie’s love-life as they are in the crimes she gets caught up in.

So I hope you enjoy this one:

 

A movement outside in the street caught her eye. She looked at the real world now, not the world of the recent past. She looked at the man who stood just beyond the gate.

William Hardy was outside. He saw her standing by the window and paused for a moment at the gate. Then he ducked his head as he fumbled with the latch of the gate, and so she couldn’t tell if he was smiling. But all the same, she ran to the door to let him in, almost seeing herself from outside, seeing her eager step, her heart pounding again but for a different reason: she knew herself, knew her feelings.

She threw open the door and he stepped into the hall, without invitation, flinging down his hat which fell on the floor, and he swept her into his arms. He kissed her, holding her in a grip that left her breathless.

It seemed as if eternity had elapsed when she finally pushed against his chest to get away, suddenly aware that behind her, Janet was standing in the doorway, her hands covering her laughing mouth, and behind her, her mother was standing there with a heavy basket on her arm and—incredibly—on her face, an expression that Dottie had hardly ever seen before: one of tolerant maternal indulgence.

Pulling himself together, William took the basket from Mrs Manderson with a somewhat breathless, ‘Allow me,’ and a face of scarlet. Avoiding Dottie’s eyes, all three, mother, basket and lover came into the hall proper and everything began to be tidied away and dealt with, and everyone began to behave once more as they ought. Janet was sent to the kitchen to make tea. Dottie was handed her mother’s coat and hat to hang up, and William, uncomfortably aware of the situation, was summoned into the drawing room with a curt, ‘I wish to speak with you, Mr Hardy.’

Dottie shook her head in wonder, both at her mother, once more the controlled but inexorable force of a ship on full sail, and her own abandoned behaviour.

Dottie dithered in the hall, unsure where to go or what to do. She could hear the sound of voices, but not the words they said. She fought to compose herself, and when Janet arrived from the direction of the kitchen with a tray, Dottie stepped back to allow the maid to go through first. Janet gave her a wink, and whispered an ecstatic, ‘Oh miss!’ then set her face and entered the drawing room, Dottie following in her wake.

William Hardy was sitting in an armchair, and Dottie’s mother was in another opposite him. It was impossible for Dottie to divine from either’s expression the nature or tone of their conversation, nor how satisfying the outcome had been for either party. She took a strategic seat on the sofa, slightly nearer to her mother than to the inspector, who still wore his coat and clutched his carelessly abandoned hat.

‘Shall I pour, Madam?’ Janet asked in her best parlourmaid voice.

‘Yes please, Janet. Just one cup for myself. Miss Manderson and Mr Hardy are about to go out, I believe.’ Mrs Manderson nodded at William who seemed to start, then understand what was required of him.

‘Y-yes. Yes, indeed.’ He got to his feet, and with a nod, and even, Dottie noticed incredulously, with a slight bow he said to Mrs Manderson, ‘Well good afternoon, Mrs Manderson—er—thank you for your—er—time.’

Dottie’s mother looked up at him, and with what was almost a smile said, ‘With such excellent manners, it is no surprise that you were so quickly promoted. Good day to you, Mr Hardy. I hope we shall have the pleasure of your company to dinner on Saturday evening.’

Still looking somewhat disconcerted, he hastily agreed that it would be a pleasure. Dottie, by now totally confused, hurried out of the room behind him with barely a mumble to her mother.

And then they were outside in the fresh air, and looking at one another in that bashful, surprised way of young lovers for whom everything suddenly seems possible he held out his arm for her and hesitantly and more than a little self-consciously she took it, glancing back at the house, just in time to see her mother hastily step back behind the curtain.

They walked along the road.

‘Lyons’?’ he said, ‘or somewhere else?’

‘Lyons’,’ she said. ‘I’ve been going in there almost every day in the hope of seeing you.’

‘Lyons’ it is.’ And they crossed the road, and as they passed beneath the bare outstretched limbs of a lilac tree, a blackbird began to sing.

Dottie said, ‘I can’t believe I just saw you bow to my mother. No one under ninety has bowed for twenty years.’

‘I couldn’t help it,’ he laughed, ‘your mother scares me.’

Dottie laughed too and hugged his arm. ‘My big brave policeman!’

***