Mr. Abbington considered her vantage point and found himself curiously intimidated by the lady in the tree. He approached the cup, intending to putt and be on his way, but her presence made his knees wobble and despite four or five practice swings, he barely tapped the ball an inch. Pulling at his collar and looking pointedly over his shoulder at her, she just smiled and watched as it took him six strokes to sink a 2-ft. putt.
Shaken, he approached the 18th tee, unable to focus on the ball and strangely, his elbows wanted to flap in and out, as if preparing for flight. “Look here,” he turned to call up to her. “I’m really not much for audiences. Why don’t you come down from there and I’ll buy you a cold drink.”
“Never let it be said I stood in the way of a man and his ball,” she laughed and climbed down, heading toward the clubhouse. Mr. Abbington watched her walking away and something inside him made him throw his club into the rough and follow her. They were married a month later.
Mrs. Abbington took up her widow’s residence in the old Abbington mansion at the top of the bluff overlooking Ivy Nook Village Lake. Every so often the sun glinted a spark off the case of her powerful telescope. She kept this outdoors on the wrap-around porch where she watched the townspeople from her perch. This made people very nervous and they tended to scurry quickly when moving from building to building, the way one does when you jaywalk and a car stops to let you pass.
People didn’t particularly like Delia Abbington, but then neither did they dislike her. They couldn’t afford to.
Delia became Mrs. Abbington on the first of June and the widow of the late Mr. Abbington on the second. Mr. Abbington, the coroner said, unknowingly had a bad heart and as he shared relations with his new bride, the bad heart took its leave.
Mrs. Abbington was forced to comfort herself with Mr. Abbington’s money. There is nothing particularly unusual about these sorts of situations; you hear about them every day. You might even be picturing Mr. Abbington as non-descript, fat and bald and Mrs. Abbington as a beauty queen; but you would be wrong. In fact, this was, if anything, not the usual sort of situation.
Mr. Abbington was, his friends are fond of recalling, a man’s man. He spent long hours beneath a veil of cigar smoke with the gentlemen at the poker table. His clothes were textured more than tailored and he was often spotted on the golf course with a hunting rifle handy among his clubs. Women inhaled tummies and touched their hair with limp fingers when passing him on the street. Mr. Abbington was never alone…until the day he met Delia.
Delia Lambert was new in Ivy Nook. Although she was second cousin to three or four of the locals, they would not readily offer this information. It seemed that scandal followed Delia and most recently it had followed her from New Orleans. Delia had been visiting a great aunt, having nowhere else to go, and although the elder lady had sorely welcomed company, she did not live long enough to regret it. Not long after Delia took up residence in the moss-smothered mansion, great aunt fainted one afternoon over tea and never could be revived. She had been in her late 80s; the humidity and suffocating heat of The Crescent City took over from there.
The first time Mr. Abbington saw Delia, she was straddling a sizable limb that overhung the 17th hole. She waved at him merrily and called out, “Don’t mind me, I’m just resting. Please play through.”
Mr. Abbington, intrigued by this sturdy woman who had evidently managed to scale the ancient oak tree, stopped and removed his cap. “Are you planning to come down anytime soon?” he asked with poorly-hidden sarcasm.
“Not really,” she quipped. “I find the view is quite pleasant up here.”
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