The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey
published 1952 chapter 8
The room in the early dusk was full of firelight and wavering shadows. He thought it was empty until he noticed that someone was sitting in the big wing-chair by the hearth. A woman; so long and slender that she seemed as fluid as the shadows and he had to look a second time to be sure that she was not in truth a shadow. 'Lady Kentallen,' said Laura's voice behind him, in an introducing tone. 'Zoë has come back to Clune for a few days' fishing…'
She had the kind of beauty that allows a woman to part her hair in the middle and wear it smooth to her head. A dark, small head on a long graceful neck…
In the morning he watched the guest getting her tackle ready for the river and wished that he was going with her... She set off without fuss, self-sufficient and unobtrusive, and Grant, watching her walk down the path, thought that she was more like an adolescent boy than a prospective dowager. She was wearing very elegant trousers and a disreputable old lumber jacket, and he remarked to Tommy that she was one of the few women who looked really well in trousers. 'She's the only woman in the world,' Tommy said, 'who looks beautiful in waders.'
Will she attract the superior Alan Grant? Briefly, but really Josephine Tey is keeping him for herself – see comments here.
Interesting (well….) etiquette point: She is a Viscountess: her husband has died, and her son has inherited the title. But she is not yet the dowager Viscountess - that title awaits her only when her son gets married. Clothes in Books (who wrote a book on etiquette, and was able to explain the ins and outs of Downton Abbey to everyone) should have known this, but didn’t. Hence, above, prospective dowager.
She learned to fish from ‘local talent’ where she stayed as a child – the phrase sounds too modern for 1952. Other sociological point: on arriving in a sleeper train, the first thing any male passenger does is take off his hat and throw it in the rack. It’s a clue: the man still wearing his hat does not intend to travel…
Links up with: previous entry for this book, here, and for Tey here. A woman being racy in trousers features in this entry by the other Miss Pym.
The photograph is from the Nantucket Historical Association. We were going to crop it to make one woman going fishing, but didn’t have the heart as the two-woman-image is so lovely – Lady Zoe does not, in fact, have the monopoly on beauty in waders.