Murder At Muirfield – Episode 20

I WAS humming a little tune, happy with my plans as I sorted the provisions and poured beer. The gentlemen swooped in and took the offered plates of food and the great big glasses of drinks.
They stood, exchanging tall tales of the morning’s chase of small animals. Around their legs, the dogs wandered or flopped on stiff paws, watching their masters. The servants had gone back into the house, their duties never stopping.
Gracie nudged me.
“Someone’s happy. What’s with you today?”
“I can’t be happy with my work?” I teased. “Shame on you.” She laughed.
“It’s more than that. Go on, tell me.”
But I didn’t want to share my news about Adam. Not yet. I wanted to wrap it around me and keep it secret. Besides, there were things I needed to hear from Gracie.
“You’re quite jolly yourself.” I deflected her. “Is it your Johnny?”
She tossed her head, pleased.
“I do like seeing him. That’s the truth. I can’t wait to dance with him.”
I tried to sound casual as I prepared my next question. There was no need for Gracie to see how hurt I was.
“I heard something about Adam.”
“What was that?” Gracie filled up the flagons again and cut more pork pie. The food was going down rapidly with no signs of the gentlemen stopping eating.
“Only that Ellen had a fancy for him.” I believed Adam’s story. Sarah had reason to lie to me about them stepping out.
Gracie looked uncomfortable.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked. “You must have guessed how I feel about him.”
“Everyone’s guessed,” she said.
“Is it a problem?” I asked nervously.
If Mrs Smith disapproved, I could lose my position. She shook her head.
“I don’t think so. Then, neither was Ellen and Adam courting. We all thought they’d get married eventually. Not that they told anyone that. It was a slow sort of stepping out. Adam’s not the sort to be impulsive.”
“They were courting? I thought . . . I was told that Ellen liked Adam but he didn’t feel the same way.”
Gracie looked at me.
“Who told you that? No, they were quite the lovebirds for a while. Then, as I say, it cooled off a bit, but it was bound to end in a wedding. Only she died.”
I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to. Why had Adam lied to me?
“Hannah, you’ve gone quite white. Are you all right?”
No, I was not all right. I was deeply confused and mixed up. I could no longer tell what was true and what was false. Nor who to trust.
“By the way,” Gracie said, “May Litton’s turned up. My mother is very relieved and so am I for my own selfish reasons.”
“That is good. Which means that there is no murderer stalking unsuspecting girls.”
“But that doesn’t bring Ellen back.”
“Where was May Litton?”
“She won’t say, but I’d bet my best hat there was a man involved.” Gracie grinned. “The good news is my mother is off my case for now. She’s still worried about me working here, but she’s not grumbling for me to leave right away.”

* * * *

You’ll be serving at dinner tonight,” Mrs Smith announced later. “Mr Joseph and Bill need an extra pair of hands, what with all the visitors. Muirfield must not be seen to be wanting in any aspect.”
I was quite excited at the prospect. I had some small experience of serving meals from working for the Collingtons. They had occasionally asked me to help with lunches. Mind you, they had a larger staff and my main duties had been looking after Arthur.
Still, I reckoned I’d do OK.
“Don’t worry,” Bill said, coming over to me after Mrs Smith had gone, “I’ll keep you right.”
“Thanks. Will it be formal?”
“The evening meal will be formal with Mr Joseph overseeing it,” Bill said. “But once we’re having our party, there will be a buffet and the upstairs folks will help themselves. It’ll be nice to have some hours to ourselves, not at their beck and call.”
“Don’t you like being a footman?” There had been a bitter note in his voice.
“Does anyone like being in service?” he parried.
“I never thought much about it,” I said.
“There’s no alternative. At least, not for girls like me.”
“Girls like you.” Bill’s gaze flickered over me. “I don’t think there are any other girls like you.”
“Now you’re being daft.” I pushed him playfully. “There’s nothing special about me. Away with you.”
He looked as if he’d say more, then grinned and went off. It was odd, but I began to sense there were layers to him.
As his friend, I wanted to find out more. Perhaps at the servants’ party that night I would.

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!