Murder At Muirfield – Episode 37

DID you not invite your aunt?” Mrs Smith said, holding a plate of ham and a small glass of wine.
“My aunt?” I said, puzzled.
“Yes, the aunt you visited in the market town last year.”
“Oh . . .” I tried for an answer and failed. It seemed shabby now to continue with such a fabrication. I was ashamed enough of having lied to her.
“I expect she didn’t wish to come. I recall you said she liked to keep herself to herself.” There was a twinkle in Mrs Smith’s eyes before she left me to join Mrs Pearson.
I wondered when she’d guessed. The story of my detective work had intrigued the other servants when it all came out. Naturally some of it had to remain secret. I didn’t mention Mr Joseph’s part in it, for example. And I had certainly never talked about following Mrs Smith. It would have been terribly unkind to tell everyone where her brother was.
I picked some choice morsels for my own plate. Bill was laughing with Johnny and Gracie. Mam and Kitty were standing together. Dad had taken a seat and was enjoying watching the party.
I stared out across the fields. There were splashes of yellow where coltsfoot and lesser celandine flowered and the hawthorn buds were a vivid, bright green. There was hope in the air.
“Do you ever think about him?” Bill’s voice said in my ear.
“No.” I shook my head firmly.
It was true. I had shut Adam’s fate from my mind. I wanted only to look to the future.
There was a new gardener at Muirfield now. Mr Dawton boasted that he could raise the most tender of plants.
Things changed, I mused. Even if you liked them the way they were. Nothing stayed for ever.
Bill took my hand and led me back to our wedding celebration. It was a day to be jolly, not sad.
Sarah was beautiful in a green silk dress. I knew it was a cast-off from Mrs Dawton but it fitted her slender frame very well. Her glorious hair was loose.
She came up to me when Bill was called away by my father for a chat.
“Thank you,” I said warily.
“Can we be friends?” Sarah said. “Can we start afresh? I know I haven’t acted well towards you.”
I was very pleased and surprised. Impulsively, I hugged her. For a moment she stiffened, then she returned the pressure of my arms.
“I’d like that very much,” I said.
She flushed almost as red as her hair.
“You see, for a long while I fancied myself in love with Bill. I disliked you for taking him away.”
“I didn’t try to take him away,” I defended myself.
“I know, but that’s how it seemed to me. Anyway, I’ve fallen in love with Ian up at the estate beyond Muirfield. He’s a very good match for me. We’ve plans to emigrate to America. It’s a land of opportunity for young people who want to work hard.”
“I wish you all the best. I really do,” I said.
“And I’m glad we’re friends.”
* * * *
Bill and I left Muirfield, too. I was sad to do so, yet the place held memories that disturbed me. We had an opportunity to manage a shop in the seaside village where we’d had the day out. And so I got my wish to visit there in the spring and summer.
In fact, we’re able to enjoy the seaside in all its seasons and weathers. We never tire of taking walks along the sands together.
Gracie and Johnny got married and worked for some years on a farm near his folks. When we bought the shop, they came to help run the business. Soon we expanded to buying the teashop, too, and there was enough work to keep us all busy.
Bill and I have three beautiful children who love to help in the shops. When the children are in bed, Bill and I enjoy a quiet hour or two together.
“A wander along the beach, my dear?” he asked earlier tonight.
“Is the tide in?”
“Not fully, from what I can see from the window. Do you care to take the air and find some more specimens for your shell collection?”
I kissed him, and then again because I loved him so.
“I do believe I could do with a few more of those lovely peachy pink ones. I’ve no idea what they are, but they’re perfect nonetheless.”
“Not as perfect as you,” Bill said, stopping me for another kiss before handing me my shawl and bonnet.
“Bill . . .” I began as we left our small house and stepped out on to the pavement. We only had a few steps to take until we reached the promenade and the stairway down to the sands.
“I’ve had a few ideas for the teashop. A new chocolate cake recipe, for example. There’s a new cookbook out by a Mrs Beeton which looks exciting and may give us food for thought.”
Bill took my arm gently and we descended to the beach. There was plenty of time to discuss all the wonderful things I had lined up for our future. But first I wanted to feel the crunch of sand beneath my shoes as I never tired of it.
The Dawtons sold Muirfield shortly after we moved to the seaside. Mrs Dawton had found a large town house in an exclusive part of Glasgow. Mr Dawton didn’t fight the move, according to Mrs Smith who often wrote to me.
The new couple who bought Muirfield didn’t care for gardening. The last I heard, the walled gardens had gone to ruins with bramble and willow growing wild, and the strange and exotic plants that had so obsessed Adam were but a distant memory.
The End.

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!