Murder At Muirfield – Episode 33

INSIDE the tea shop was warm and stuffy and full of people. We slid politely between the tiny tables until we reached our own group.
Mr Joseph, Mrs Smith and Mrs Pearson’s table held a three-tiered cake stand and a teapot and cups and saucers. It was obvious they’d been there a while.
Gracie waved. She and Janet had a table for two. Beside them, on the next table, sat Sarah.
“What took you so long?” she said coolly. “I ordered for myself. You’ll have to order separately.”
“That’s quite fine. We shall do so,” Bill said merrily, oblivious to her mood.
We sat at the table with her. She didn’t dare to shun me but kept her attention only on Bill. He showed her the seashells. She drew back and didn’t touch them.
“They’re dirty; do put them away.”
He shrugged good-naturedly and slipped them back into his pocket.
The waitress arrived and we ordered a pot of tea and two slices of chocolate cake. Sarah’s lemon cake was put in front of her and another pot of tea, for one. “Let me go and bring Adam to the table,” I said.
I was feeling guilty for leaving him. I didn’t want trouble between us. I regretted our argument.
I hurried from the teashop and went back to the charabanc. At first I didn’t see him. Then I noticed the tips of his shoes above the side of it.
I clambered up on to the step. He was stretched out, dozing, on a bench. He didn’t seem to notice, or mind, the light rain falling on to him.
“Adam?” He didn’t move.
“Adam?” I tried again.
He blinked and turned his head to me.
“Will you come to the teashop? It’s warm in there. There’s lovely chocolate cake and hot tea.”
“No. I don’t care for chocolate. I’m content right here.”
“Adam . . .”
“It doesn’t matter.” I gave up and went back to join the others.
My chocolate cake slice had arrived. Sarah poured the tea graciously. There was no conversation while we enjoyed our treat.
The two ladies I’d seen on the beach came in. The little dog was left outside.
They sat at the table nearest the door. I realised they weren’t gentry after all. They were ordinary enough folk. Their dialect gave them away.
Now I saw them closer, their bonnets and dresses weren’t fine enough to be rich.
I wondered if I’d be like them when I got older. I imagined how nice it would be to walk along the beach every day with my pet dog, picking up shells and breathing the fresh, tangy air.
But when I tried to imagine a companion, it wasn’t Adam that came to mind. It was a different kind of man. One who laughed and chatted with me and shared my joy in the shells and the seals.
I glanced at Bill.
He was politely offering Sarah more tea. Mrs Pearson leaned over to ask him something. Whatever he answered, it make her chuckle so much her hat quivered.
I found myself smiling. Being here, with the other servants, felt like family.

* * * *

I was restless. I didn’t know why. We’d had a lovely day at the seaside but that was a week past. The Dawtons were away and the house felt empty.
Mrs Smith was firm that cleaning and tidying must still go on. In fact, according to the housekeeper, it was even more important with the family in Glasgow that we should deep cleanse the rugs and the floors and the insides of cupboards while they weren’t there to be disturbed.
Gracie and I went upstairs, lugging buckets of hot, soapy water and scrubbing brushes. We carefully peeled back the heavy rug from the upstairs living-room, then we set to work.
Half an hour later, my brow was damp with sweat. Gracie had stoked up the fire earlier, knowing we’d be working here. Strictly, we weren’t meant to, but Mrs Dawton wasn’t here to complain.
“This is exhausting!” Gracie cried, putting down her scrubbing brush.
“It really is,” I agreed.
“Oh, I wish we were back at the seaside,” Gracie said dreamily. She pushed back her cap and wiped her face.
“Wouldn’t that be nice.” I nodded. “I can’t settle down somehow, since we were there. It’s as if there’s nothing to look forward to.”
“I know just what you mean. Apart from our half days off there is nothing to get excited about. I don’t even enjoy my day off. Mum’s always on at me to get another job.”
“Because of Ellen?”
“That and the trouble with May Litton, even though it turned out that had nothing to do with it. She’s heard that Mr Sankey is around Muirfield a lot and that’s spooked her, too. She doesn’t like me being here.”
“I thought she’d changed her mind about that?”
“So did I.” Gracie sighed.
“There’s not much you can do about it. I’ve not heard of other jobs coming up.”
“Not around here, that’s for sure. Well, maybe something will turn up.” “You’d leave?” I said, dismayed.
She sighed again.
“I don’t want to, Hannah. I like it here, especially now I’ve got you as a friend. But I’m fed up with Mum bending my ear about it. It’s wearing me down. It would be different if they caught the murderer.”
“I don’t think they will. Not now.” She frowned at me.
“That’s a change of tune from you. Not so long ago you were going to catch him single-handedly by walking in the woods at night.”
I lifted up my hands helplessly.
“The days and weeks are flashing by. But nothing’s changed. No-one’s acting suspiciously. Arthur Sankey is making no progress.”
“You can’t say that no-one’s acting suspiciously,” Gracie argued. “What about the person who pushed you?”
“I’m beginning to wonder if I imagined it all. Did I get pushed? Or did I stumble on a root and simply fall? It’s possible my imagination was overwrought.”
I nodded.
“I think so. I got caught up in the whole thing and I thought someone was there, following me. But now I’m not sure. It’s easy in the darkness to get a bit carried away.”

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!