Murder At Muirfield – Episode 07

SARAH frowned at me, then a smile slid on to her fine features and she enticed Bill back with another whispered conversation. Her soup lay untouched despite her earlier claim to be starving.
They acted like a couple – or at least she did. Perhaps they were. I had no idea about the house I now lived in and all its occupants.
I decided to ask Gracie more about the people later when we went to our room.
“Sarah, if you have something to share with the assembled company, we’d be delighted to hear it,” Mr Joseph said.
She flushed and, even in her unease, managed to look pretty. She shook her head.
“No, Mr Joseph, I’m just telling Bill here about the young ladies’ party planned for tomorrow. They’ll want the footman to let their friends in, I’m sure.”
Bill raised an eyebrow but didn’t speak. He finished his soup and laid his spoon carefully down on the empty dish. What had Sarah really been saying?
A polite cough from Mr Joseph had the attention of the table.
“We have a new member of staff arrived today. Hannah Miller is to replace Ellen.”
There was a momentary awkward silence, then he spoke again.
“We all wish you well in your new post, Hannah. Now, where is dessert?”
And that was that. I jumped up at the same time as Janet and we hurried together to get the puddings.

* * * *

I was very glad to get ready for bed later that night. After a brief wash with the pitcher of cold water, I got into my nightdress and scurried under the covers.
Gracie’s bed creaked as she snuggled down, too. We had a candle burning on the cabinet between the beds. Gracie blew it out. I smelled the smoky wick and melted wax. Such comforting smells.
I lay, staring up at the high ceiling. Moonlight bathed the room. Shadow shapes patterned the walls.
“Your first day over,” Gracie said sleepily. “Do you think you’ll like it here?”
“Yes, I’m sure I will,” I said, thinking of Adam.
“Poor Janet, she got a right mouthful from Cook for dropping that dish.” Gracie yawned.
“It was an accident. I didn’t warm to Sarah; she was quite mean about it.” When there was no answer, I rolled over in bed to look at Gracie. “Are she and Bill a couple, then?”
Gracie stared back. She blinked and shook her head.
“Not any more, but Sarah would like to be again. It’s obvious.”
“So they did go out before?”
“It was a few months ago. Bill was smitten with her and he’d been asking her out for ages. All of a sudden she said yes. So he was courting her. And then . . .” “What?” I said impatiently.
“Well, I suppose it’s no secret,” Gracie said, sitting up as if feeling more awake. “It turned out she was also stepping out with a footman up at the Manor. You won’t know it as you’re not from around here, but there’s a big estate some miles away, further up the glen. It’s bigger than Muirfield and there’s more money. They’re gentry.
“The staff there think they’re above us. Maybe they are. After all, everyone knows Mr Joseph’s got his heart set on being butler there. He’s just waiting for the old butler to die or hang up his boots. Then he’s going to apply. Very taken with his Lordship, is Mr Joseph. Mrs Joseph, too. Keeps pushing him to apply now. Wouldn’t do any good, would it? No-one needs two butlers, do they? Even if they’re very rich.”
I wasn’t interested in Mr Joseph’s ambitions. I wanted to hear about Bill.
“How did Bill find out about the other footman?”
Gracie rubbed her nose.
“It was Ellen who told him.”
“She did the right thing.”
“Did she?”
“Of course. The truth’s always best.”
“Only it’s made Bill so sad ever since. So, I wonder . . .” Gracie frowned. “I wonder if it was right.”
“Maybe Ellen couldn’t keep the secret. Imagine the guilt of knowing but not saying.”
Gracie looked uncomfortable.
“See, the thing is, Ellen was my friend, like I told you. But . . . well, she was a funny sort of girl.”
“What do you mean?”
“She liked to know stuff about people. She got a kick out of it. Sometimes she was in such a gloom, with a darkness over her, and then the next day she’d be bright as a button. She was such a moody sort. You had to tread carefully with her. She’d jump down your throat at the tiniest thing or she’d bring you a gift. It could be unsettling. I never was sure where I was with her.”
“So she told Bill to make trouble? To split him and Sarah up?”
Gracie nodded.
“That’s what I think. Somehow she found out about the footman up at the Manor. And it was too good to keep to herself. She hated Sarah.”
There, I didn’t blame her. I hadn’t liked what I’d seen of the lady’s maid so far.
“But it was Bill who suffered. Sarah’s very confident, but Bill, he’s very tender-hearted. I’m sure he was in love with Sarah.”
“They were friendly enough tonight at dinner.”
“Sarah’s sure she can get him back. It’s just a matter of time.” Gracie let out a huge yawn.
“Will Bill take her back?” I was a bit disappointed in him, if that were the case. Men were so easily taken in by a beautiful face and well-shaped body.
There was no answer.
“Gracie?” I hissed.
There was a loud snore. I sighed and turned back so that I could watch the moonlight.

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!