Authors: Hilary Wilde
BLUE MOUNTAINS OF KABUTA
BLUE MOUNTAINS OF KABUTA
Library Cataloguing in Publication Data available
This eBook edition published by AudioGo Ltd, Bath, 2012.
Published by arrangement with the Author's Estate.
Epub ISBN 9781471300318
U.K. Hardcover ISBN 978 1 408 49363 2
U.K. Softcover ISBN 978 1 408 49394 9
Copyright Â© Hilary Wilde 1970
All the characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the Author, and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the Author, and all the incidents are pure invention.
All rights reserved.
Jacket Illustration Â©
Jon Hampton stood on the verandah, staring silently at the view before her. She still could not believe that it was trueâthis wide beautiful lawn, the trees with their crimson flowers and the purple climbers; there was even a bush covered with gardenias, their sweet fragrance drifting on the hot air while, straight ahead of her, were the mountains. Never in her life had she seen so much beauty.
âWell,' a deep voice interrupted her thoughts, âwhat do you think of your inheritance?'
Jon sighed. âI can't believe it. That anything so lovely could be mine.'
The tall man by her side chuckled. âDon't get ideas in your head. Those mountains aren't yours.'
Jon felt her cheeks burning. âOf course they're not, I know that, but the view is mine.' She turned to look at him, annoyed by his amused smile.
At that moment, her mother joined them, her voice tired and a little irritable. Not that she could help it, poor darling, Jon was thinking, for her mother hadn't been at all well on the plane.
âIt's not too bad, Jon, but it's so terribly isolated.'
sit down, Mrs Hampton,' the man, Alex Roe, said. âI've told Dorcas to bring us out some cold drinks, or would you prefer coffee?'
Ursula Hampton smiled. âHow thoughtful of you! A cold drink, please. It was very good of you, Mr Roe, to meet us at the airport and be so helpful. I honestly don't know what we would have done without you. Don't you agree, Jon?'
Mrs Hampton glanced at her daughter, but Jon had turned and was staring again, as if hypnotised, at the scene before her.
âMy pleasure,' Alex said with a smile. âAfter all, Ned was my best friend.'
âBut old enough to be your father.'
âYes. Actually he was the father I needed when I took over the farm. My parents had run it and when they died and I knew nothing, Ned taught me everything about farming.'
Jon turned. She was tall, slim, with short dark curly hair clinging tightly to her head. She was not pretty and yet her face always attracted attention, perhaps because it was so contradictory. Her deep-set, dark, dreamy eyes were so unlike her small square chin. Her mouth was firm, and this, when she was thoughtful, made her look older and more mature, but for most of the time she looked about seventeen, although she was twenty-three.
She said nothing, for she felt dazed, almost as if she had been hit by a hammer and was
regaining consciousness. She had felt like this ever since the news came that Uncle Ned had left her his farm in Africa, plus sufficient money to run it without financial difficulty. She could not believe it. Even today, standing here and knowing it must be true, it still seemed like a dream.
Dear Uncle Ned, whom she had known for so short a time. Uncle Ned, who had comforted her so when her grandfather had died. Uncle Ned who had written to her and whose letters she had so rarely answered. Not because she didn't want to but . . .
âJon . . .'
Her mother's voice finally pierced Jon's faraway thoughts and she turned round quickly.
âJon, I'm just going to have a wash. Do come out of your dreams and talk to Mr Roe. You're not being very polite, dear.'
Jon smiled, âSorry, Mum.'
She looked up at the big man who was standing now as her mother rose and hurried inside, notâas Jon well knewâto âwash' but to hurriedly clean her face and put on fresh make-up, for the long flight out from England must have left her feeling like a wreck. Poor Mum, Jon thought with a tenderness she would never lose, it meant so much to her to look nice.
Now, her mother gone, Jon found herself alone with this man to whom they owed so
and on whom they were dependent, not financially but for advice.
She stared at him, seeing him, perhaps, properly for the first time. A tall ugly man who yet managed to be good-looking. A square face, deeply tanned by the sun, his eyes were half-closed as he stared at her thoughtfully.
âWell?' he said. âD'you think we might sit down and relax?'
Again her cheeks burned. âOf course.' Hastily she sat down, tugging at her skirts. How awkward they could be, she thought irritably, still uncomfortably conscious of his amused, almost assessing look. âDid youâdid you really think I was going to be a boy?' she asked abruptly.
He smiled, and it startled her, for she saw his eyes were green. He was the first man she had ever known with green eyes. But his hair wasn't red. It was blond, almost bleached white by the sun.
She could not forget the moment when their plane landed with a slight bump and her mother, unused to flying, had grabbed her hand tightly, her lovely face frightened. They had gone down the steps and this big man had come up to greet them. It was a small airport and there was no need to produce passports and visas as they had had to do at an earlier landing.
âMrs Hampton,' the man had said, smiling but totally ignoring Jon. âWelcome.' Then he
looked round. âBut where is your son?'
âMy son?' Jon's mother, still a little unsteady on her feet, had looked dazed. âI haven't got a son. This is my daughter, Jon.'
And then Alex Roe had stared at her, his eyes half-closed, his mouth obviously trying not to break into a smile as he apologized.
âI am sorry. I thought Jon was a masculine name.'
Jon had blushed, thinking of how many times she had been teased about her name. Her mother had merely laughed and the matter was forgotten, but not by Jon.
Now, sitting alone with Alex Roe, Jon leant forward. âSurely Uncle Ned told you I was a girl?'
âHe always talked about his little Jonâor his heir. Never his heiress. He talked of you a lot. He loved you dearly, you know?'
Jon's eyes stung and it took her a moment to answer. âI loved him, too.'
Her eyes grew dreamy as she kicked off her shoes and tucked her feet under her, clasping her hands. Her pale yellow frock was crumpled, the heat had caused her make-up to run, she knew her nose must be shining, her hair limp, but none of these things really worried Jon, and certainly not at a moment like this when she was looking back down the years. Nine whole years, in fact.
âYou see . . .' she said, thinking aloud, not noticing the way Alex was watching her
âDad died when I was five and we went to live with my grandparents. Mum was wonderful. She had married straight from school, but now she went out to work and Gran so-say looked after me, but it was really my grandfather who did. He was known as old John, and somehow, as I grew up I hated my real name.'
âWhat is your real name?'
âJoanne Undine Rebecca,' Jon said solemnly, and as he laughed, her face relaxed into laughter, too. âNow you do see why I hated it? It was too ghastly for words.'
âBut why Jon and not Joanne?'
âBecause everyone said I looked just like my grandfather. Same colour eyes and hair, same stubbornness.' She smiled suddenly. âI know I am. I can be very difficult sometimes. So he was old Jon and I was young Jon . . .'
She paused, no longer amused, for she saw he was still laughing, this time at her and not with her. Her cheeks hot, she looked at him.
âI don't see that it's so strange. After all, lots of girls today are called Jon. In any case, your name is a girl's. Alex is short for Alexandra.'
He laughed outright. âThat was a good try, but not a success, my little Jon. Alex is short for Alexander. Remember your history? Alexander the Great? My mother had great ambitions for me. Anyhow, please go on. You lived with your grandparents and your mother went out to work. What did you do? Learn
She hated him for the patronage in his voice. âI went to college and am a pharmacist,' she said proudly. She had worked hard, got a good job with a high salary, her own car with money enough for regular trips to the Continent.
âA pharmacist?' He sounded more surprised than impressed. âWell, I never did! I thought all pharmacists were men.'
âYou seem to have a complex about women,' Jon said sharply. âDo you think we're all dumb blondes?'
âYou're hardly a blonde, unless you've dyed your hair,' he said, laughing, and although it was against her will, she found herself laughing as well.
âLet's return to your Uncle Ned. I gather he was the black sheep of the family?'
âYes, but that wasn't fair. Granddad always said so. You see my grandfather had a family business. They were all architects and Ned, as the eldest son, was expected to carry on the family tradition. But he broke away and went to an agricultural college. His father understood, but his mother never forgave him. Gran was hard, at times. Nor did my mother because, you see, my father took Uncle Ned's place and . . .well, he actually died when doing a job which Uncle Ned should have been doing, surveying some land which gave way and he was . . .well . . .'
paused, looking anxiously at the door that led to the house, for it was a subject her mother refused to discuss.
âAnyhow, Uncle Ned had left years before and they heard little about him, but the family solicitor had his address and when my grandparents died, Gran first and Granddad only three months later, Mr Williams, our solicitor, must have cabled Uncle Ned, because he flew back at once and took over. I don't know how we'd have managed without him.'
âAnd your mother? She forgave him?'
Jon sighed. âI'm afraid she couldn't. She loved Dad so much, you see. She married him when she was seventeen and I was born when she was only eighteen, then she lost Dad when she was twenty-three, and I guess it was pretty tough.'
âBut how could it have been your uncle's fault? Maybe if he'd been doing the surveying he'd have recognized the crack in the ground. Surely your mother could see that?'
Jon stiffened. âIt's easy to talk, but unless you've lost someone who means everything to you, you can't understand,' she began indignantly, but he ignored her words and went on:
âSo your uncle flew over and took charge of everything. Was there much to do?'
Sighing, Jon ran her hand through her damp hair. Gosh, was it hot, she thought as she
herself longing for a nice long cool bath and a drink full of ice.
âI honestly don't know. I was only fourteen, but Mr Williams had warned us that by the time the death duties were paid, there wouldn't be much money. However, fortunately he was wrong, because in the end, we had quite a nice income.'
Alex Roe smiled, took out a silver cigarette case and offered her a cigarette. When she shook her head, he nodded.
âWise girl! Awful waste of money,' he said, lighting one for himself, then he looked at her and said casually, âYour uncle gave you that income.'
âUncle Ned?' Jon leant forward. âUncle Ned . . . ?' She caught her breath. All those years and they had not known. âI must tell Mum.'
Alex shook his head. âHe didn't want her to know. He loved you very much.'
Jon's eyes were bright. âI loved him, too. He was so kind, so understanding, and we both had loved Granddad so much. Mum got on well with Gran, but Granddad had meant everything to me. It was terrible to lose him and somehow Uncle Ned helped me get over it.'