Murder At Muirfield – Episode 25

IT never occurred to me that Adam was dragging his feet. If anything, his slow ways were endearing.
He had his back to me as I went into the walled garden. I called his name. He turned, not looking too excited to see me. He had the glazed expression I had come to know only too well. He was thinking about plants. He lived and breathed them.
I sighed. I wouldn’t complain. Mr Dawton knew his worth. Adam had a good job here. Nothing must jeopardise that. Even if I took second place to the shrubs.
“I’m busy,” he said.
“I know. I won’t disturb you. I’ve left your lunch with Pete.”
“I just want to know if you do like me.” There, it was out. All my insecurities.
“I like you.”
“Then prove it,” I said boldly. “Kiss me.”
He hesitated. I took the twigs from his hand and threw them down. Stroppily, I stood there, hands on hips, defying him not to act.
He slowly pulled me to him. I didn’t breathe. Then his lips were on mine. They were warm and dry. He pressed my mouth for a second, then drew away.
Disappointed, I opened my eyes.
“We must be careful of your reputation,” he said.
There was no-one to see us but I understood. He was protecting me.
I sighed.
“Can we go out together?”
His shoulders tensed. Then he nodded.
“You know there’s a servants’ day out coming up. It happens every year. Mr and Mrs Dawton pay for us to go to the seaside. We’ll be together then.”
“It’s a bit cold for the seaside,” I said.
“Cheaper out of season. And it’s got to be soon because they’re going away to the city for a few weeks. While they’re gone, we’ll get our day out.”
It was a long speech for Adam. I sensed he wanted rid of me. Well, I was happy to go. I’d got what I wanted. A whole day with him. It was going to be wonderful.
In the meantime, Mrs Smith called me to one side and told me I could go home.
“We’ve a bit of a lull. You can go for a couple of days but you must be back to help with the packing. The family are going to Glasgow and taking half the house, if you ask me.”
I was very pleased. I nearly hugged her.
She smiled at my delight.
“Now, off with you. There’s dusting to be done upstairs.”
* * * *
The journey home was long and tiring. I took the wagon as far as the county line. Then I hitched a lift on a farm cart going my way. I had to walk a stretch, too.
Finally, I made it after a long day and after darkness had fallen. I wasn’t afraid. The fields and the soft hooting of owls were familiar. I knocked on the cottage door and pushed it open.
Three faces stared at me. A few candles flickered, casting yellow light. The fire burned and glowed.
“It’s our Hannah!” Kitty cried, coming to greet me.
I had to brush away a tear as I hugged them. It was hard working so far from home.
“Come away in,” Mam said, herding me to the table. Dad sat with a big grin on his face.
“My lass, my bonnie lass. Is it really you?”
“It’s me, Dad. It really is.”
His eyes were wet, too, as we embraced again. He held me as if he’d never let me go.
Gently, I pulled away and sat next to him. Mam pushed a plate of vegetable soup at me. They all watched as I gulped it down. I’d not eaten all day apart from breakfast at Muirfield. She poured a cup of tea, brown as peat water and set it down. It was hot but I drank it fast. Then, feeling much better, I picked up my bag.
“Cook has sent some presents for you.”
“We don’t need charity,” Mam said swiftly.
“It’s not charity; it’s a kindness, that’s all. Here, open that.” I passed her a parcel. Mrs Pearson had put in cheese from the estate, some root vegetables, a pot of blackberry jam and a large pound cake.
“Cut that up, lass,” Dad said to Kitty, pointing to the cake. “We’ll have a slice each with the jam.”
“We should keep it,” Mam said. “We’ve eaten enough today.”
But Dad would have none of it. He waved her away.
“It’s a celebration. Hannah’s home. Come on and taste this cake. It’s delicious.”
Mam allowed us to bully her into eating a thick slab of it, slathered with the dark, sweet jam. She didn’t comment but finished it all.
Dad’s breathing was laboured. She ordered him back to bed and he didn’t argue. I promised to go in soon and sit with him.
“How is he?” I asked her.
“He’s no worse and he’s no better. Which makes it all the more important you keep that job and don’t get laid off.”
“I’m well settled in there and there’s plenty of work. I’m not worried.” She sniffed.
“It’s nice to see you, lass.”
“And you, Mam.”
“Why did they let you come home?” She picked up the remaining cake crumbs and licked her fingers.
“Because they’re good people. Mrs Smith is the housekeeper and a very fair boss. Mrs Pearson is the cook and a lovely, generous woman. I didn’t ask for this food to be sent– she made it up for me to take.”
I told them all about Muirfield, describing the people and the place as best as I was able. Mam and Kitty hung on every word.
Later, I sat with Dad and repeated some of my tales. He got tired quickly and fell asleep.
I tucked up his covers to keep him warm and tiptoed out.

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!