Peregrine Scoular leaned back in his armchair as Mrs Dinnimont dispensed tea from a china teapot. He felt relaxed, which was strange, he reflected, because Mrs Dinnimont was not the most relaxing of companions. But she represented a world where tea was served at a set time with wafer-thin sandwiches and delicious cake. It was a pleasant change from his long-time lodgings, where the furnishings were basic and where the mingled smells of boiled cabbage and floor polish filled every room. He helped himself to another cucumber sandwich as Mrs Dinnimont sang the praises of her latest maid.“Josh found her for me, and instructed her on just how I like things done. Of course, she was employed by Sir Hugh Glenavon before she was married and came to live in Glasgow. And it shows.”“Don’t you find it a disadvantage that she doesn’t live in?” he asked. “You are on your own from supper until breakfast time. Since you were widowed you’ve always had someone living in the rooms upstairs.”His companion sighed.“I do miss Josh. He became a boarder shortly after I lost my poor dear Fergus. As you say, I am not used to being alone.”Peregrine leaned forward.“Does that mean that you would consider my suggestion that I might take up residence here as a boarder, then, Mrs Dinnimont?”The faintest of blushes rose in her cheeks.“I would, on condition that propriety was observed at all times, Mr Scoular.” Peregrine put down his cup with a clatter. He had never thought of Mrs Dinnimont as a temptress, and was suddenly urgently in need of the comfort of his pipe!“I mean,” she went on, “of course, that your rooms would be on the first floor and you would join me in the parlour only at my invitation, or if you wished to entertain guests on a special occasion. There would have to be adequate notice.”Peregrine stopped listening. He was still impaled on the word “propriety”. Granted permission to smoke, with Mrs Dinnimont opening a window to accommodate him, he relaxed a little.“Propriety will be observed at all times, Mrs Dinnimont. In addition, although I’ve just retired from the art school, it will be a comfort to live nearly next door to it, and to be able to call in now and then to visit former colleagues. Of course, I’ll dabble a little in painting myself, but I’m sure the art school will give me a little corner to work in, when the humour takes me.”Mrs Dinnimont was smiling.“A little corner . . . just as you found one for my dear Fergus when he asked you to help develop his talent as a painter. You know, if he had not been such a success in the business world, I’m sure he would have made his name as an artist.”Peregrine thought of the departed Fergus Dinnimont and his Highland landscapes, one of which hung above the fireplace.“I’ll close the window,” Mrs Dinnimont said. “You’re shivering.”Her visitor looked round the room.“This room, Mrs Dinnimont, has very pleasing proportions. If I am compelled to purchase a house in which I can display my collection of paintings and sculptures, built up over a lifetime, I shall look for a house like this.”“Collection?” He nodded.“Including some very fine pieces from France and Italy. A small collection, but, I’m pleased to say, of excellent quality. It’s in storage at present,” he added casually. The lady of the house tugged the bell-pull by the fireplace.“More tea, Mr Scoular? I have just had the most splendid idea!”****An hour later, the idea was taking shape.“Just think, this house could become a temple to art!” Peregrine nodded from behind his usual fug of pipe smoke. “It would have to be completely cleared out, making the most of the light in this room and the hallway. Then, in the evening, careful lighting to show up the collection to advantage. Those of an artistic disposition would be attracted to it like moths to a candle flame!”“It could even be a salon for artists!”“If you so wish,” Peregrine said gravely, wondering how long it would take him to pack up and take his leave of his present landlady.“Only established artists, of course.” His hostess was reining in her almost-girlish excitement.In the end, Peregrine was invited to stay for supper so that the ideas that came from both of them could be discussed. After the construction of the “temple to art” might they not embark on opening a little antiques shop, which would involve both of them going to auction sales? Then there would be soires, of course, where prominent artists would speak of their work. Adam and Constance Gray, and Josh Glenavon, would surely launch the project. The possibilities were, they agreed, limitless.Peregrine Scoular smiled to himself as he left. The future looked bright and the smell of boiled cabbage was receding already. Best of all, the masterpieces of Fergus Dinnimont would be packed away for good!