Murder At Muirfield – Episode 02

ALL had been well until a year ago when Dad had had an accident. He’d been employed as a farm labourer for Home Farm. A piece of machinery had crushed his arm and now he couldn’t work. It was up to Mam, Kitty and me to make the money that kept us all from the workhouse.
Living in at the Collingtons’ had helped. I had my board and lodgings, my uniforms and my meals, plus a wage that was not too shabby.
“You’ll have to go tomorrow to the Servant’s Registry,” Mam was saying now, more to herself than to me. “Perhaps they will be able to find you a place quickly.”
“The nearest Registry is in Glasgow, is it not?” I asked her.
I wondered how she thought I was going to get to the city. I supposed I could walk back over the fields, get a lift then, if I was lucky, on a farmer’s cart, then get myself somehow to the railway station. It would be a long journey.
“Oh, no, she won’t have to do that,” Kitty piped up with a big smile on her face. “I happen to know that they’re looking for a maid up at Muirfield Hall.”
Mam frowned at her, a deep groove like a black line between her eyebrows.
“And where did you hear of that?”
“Muirfield Hall?” I chimed in. I hadn’t heard of the place.
Kitty’s chin went up and she puffed with the pride of knowing all the answers – answers her mam and her big sister clearly had not.
“Brigid who brings the washing, she said they needed a girl up at the Hall. She asked me if I knew anyone who needed a place.”
“Brigid O’Connell, is that?” Mam asked, still with that deep furrow in her forehead.
I wished she didn’t need to worry so much. I wished . . . Well, wishes weren’t going to do any of us any good. Life was hard. That much was true. It was only hard grind and determination that put food on the table.
“Aye, Brigid O’Connell.” Kitty nodded, “Biddy’s daughter. Said she’d give it a go herself, if she didn’t fear her mammy so much. Biddy won’t let her give up her position at the Manor. She gets such a fair wage there and they’re good to her. She gets every second Sunday off and she gets out of the house to bring the mending here.”
“Ah, well.” My mam sighed and said no more.
“Where is Muirfield Hall?” I asked again, breaking the silence. “I don’t know it at all.”
“It’s a county over, that’s why,” Kitty said. “That’s the downside; you won’t be visiting us much.”
“I haven’t got the job yet,” I teased.
Kitty rolled her eyes.
Mam stared hard at me.
“You’d better get it. There’s no place for you here. I’m sorry, Hannah, but it’s the way it is.”
“So what do I do?” I asked Kitty.
I felt odd, taking the advice of my younger sister. Kitty had always looked up to me. I was older by two years and I’d taken care of her when we were children. Now, it seemed, she was the boss of me.
“Well, the way Brigid put it, whoever wants the job, Mr Dawton will come personally and interview them. If they are suitable, like, he’ll take them back that very day in his carriage to Muirfield Hall.”
Mama and I both looked at her. Kitty modestly dipped her head and began to sew once more.
There was a creak of bedsprings in the next room. I leaped up and ran through.
Dad was awake.
He lay in the wrinkled bed sheets, his chest rising and falling with shallow breaths.
“Hannah, my darling girl.” He reached for me with a shaking hand.
I grasped it and pulled myself close to hug him. I loved my mother, but I adored my father. It was thinking of him and how proud he was of me that got me through each day of employment.
“Are you an apparition?” He wheezed.
“No, it’s me, Dad. Really me.” I leaned in and stroked his cheek.
I felt the prickle of his beard and saw, with dismay, how grey his whiskers were. He was getting old. “You’re home for good?” I shook my head sadly.
“No, just stopping by for a few days, that’s all.”
“A pity. I wish you could come back. I remember when you were but a little lass, the songs we sang and the games we played. If only time stood still, or better yet, if time went backwards. You and Kitty, small again and safe with me. And I’d be strong, a full man. Not like you see me now.”
“Oh, Dad!” I cried and hugged him tightly.
“Never mind, lass. Never mind. Tell me, are you well? You’re a bit pale around the gills.”
So I told him all of what had happened at the Collingtons’ house and he was angry and indignant on my behalf. But it couldn’t change the fact that I’d lost my job.
Later, he managed to get out of bed and make it through to the table. Kitty had set it for four.
Mam served up hot, vegetable stew and bread fresh from the skillet. I ate hungrily, my appetite returning after the long weeks when I’d had none.
Kitty polished off her portion quickly and asked for more. Mam and Dad took smaller portions but said they were satisfied with what they had. It was so lovely to be home with my family around me.
I had no idea what the future held for me. I wanted only to hold on to this moment and treasure it.

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!