MISS FISHER appeared to find the whole situation very amusing. She even offered to make up a bed for herself if that would be any help.
Thank goodness she came, Judy thought, as Holly took their guest upstairs, Tom following with her suitcase. She’s distracted Holly from worrying about Corin and made us remember why we’re here. Maybe even stopped us from falling out with each other.
Judy wandered through the ground floor, looking into rooms, opening cupboard doors, feeling as if she was snooping in someone else’s house. I live here now, she reminded herself, but it didn’t feel like home, and the gloom outside didn’t help. She drew all the curtains then headed for the kitchen.
In the store-room there were tins and packets they could make a meal from tonight, if for some reason Corin hadn’t managed to buy any supplies. Miss Fisher would surely not want to eat alone in the chilly dining-room so Judy rummaged until she found a tablecloth and cutlery and set the large kitchen table for five. She pulled the blinds down then imagined Corin seeing the place in darkness, opened them again and found an outside light she switched on.
“Don’t know what’s wrong with the heating,” Tom said, startling her. “I’ll check it out in the morning. I’ve found one of those Calor gas heaters in a back room. I’ll bring it through here.”
“Where are Holly and Miss Fisher?”
“Still upstairs, chatting away. Miss F knows the area.”
“I think her night with us should be on the house,” Judy said. “Everything is at sixes and sevens, and it looks as if I’ll just be throwing a pasta dish together for us all if Corin’s not back soon.”
“Agreed, definitely,” Tom said. “What she must have thought when the door opened and three strangers were gawping at her as if she was the ghost of Christmas past! I’ll get that heater.”
“Mum.” Holly passed Tom in the kitchen doorway. “What shall I do with Miss Fisher? The sitting-room’s like a morgue. Talk about Highland hospitality!”
“Bring her in here,” Judy said. “This is going to be the warmest room tonight.”
Holly picked up her mobile from the work surface and put it down again.
“Nothing from Corin.”
“Don’t worry, darling. Go and ask Miss Fisher if she’d like to come down and join us.”
Looking at Holly’s phone reminded Judy that she should call Marilyn and Louise to say that they’d arrived safely. Everything was lovely, she would tell them. The gory details of the weather and all the work there was to do could wait. As she went to find her handbag for her mobile she could hear a telephone ringing.
The landline. Where on earth was it? She ran through the ground floor listening at doors, finally running it to earth in a small room near the front door.
“The Ferryboat, good evening,” she said breathlessly, part of her mind wondering how many times she was going to say that, or some variation of it, in the years to come.
“We would like,” a voice said, in an accent she couldn’t place, “to come to your lovely hotel for dinner tonight. We have heard such good things about the new chef. There will be ten of us.”
It was flattering that news had travelled about Corin but this was impossible. And who would want to be out on such a night?
“I am so sorry,” Judy began. “I’m afraid . . .”
“It’s Philip, Judy. Got you!” Philip spoke in his normal voice and roared with laughter. “You’ve arrived, then?”
“Philip.” Judy sank on to the old swivel chair behind the table. Not her idea of a joke, but it had been a long day. And he was Corin’s father and a sleeping partner in the business. “Ha, ha! Yes, here we are. Everything’s going well.” She crossed her fingers. “We arrived about an hour ago. The weather’s pretty bad but we’re looking forward to seeing the place in daylight tomorrow.”
“Dreich, is it, Judy? That’s a good Scots word for describing dreary weather. And you’ll get plenty of that on the west coast, I expect. W for west, W for wet and wild. Corin about?”
Does it never rain in Edinburgh, Judy wondered. Honestly.
“He’s gone food shopping,” she said, trying to keep her voice upbeat. “We’re expecting him back any minute.”
“Good, good. Ask him to give me a bell. How is my lovely daughter-in-law? What is it?” Philip asked, evidently addressing the last question to someone at his end. “Yes, all right. Verity says she’s thinking of you and I’ve to leave you to get settled in.”
“Give her my love. I’ll get Corin to ring you.” Judy hung up.
“Who on earth was that?” Tom popped his head round the door.
“Checking up on us already, was he?”
“Something like that. I’ll give Mum and Louise a quick call. See you in a minute.”
When she got back to the kitchen Tom and Miss Fisher were sitting at the table and Holly stood beside her father flicking her fingers over her mobile phone.
“This is all looking very homely, Mrs Jeffrey,” Miss Fisher said.
“I do appreciate it.”
“Not quite the welcome we’d envisaged for our first guest,” Judy said. “It’s good of you to take us as you find us.”
As her mind went to concocting something edible, if not sophisticated, for dinner, car lights beamed through the kitchen window.
“Corin.” Holly ran to open the back door.
Her husband came in, several carrier bags in each hand.
“Sorry. Hope you weren’t worried,” he said, giving Holly a kiss. “Got talking to the owner of a deli. He’s given me names of lots of local suppliers. A smokery. A seafood place. And I found a great butcher.”
He started to unpack the bags.
“Venison steaks sound good for tonight? I got enough to feed an army.”
“Good. We’re five now. This is Miss Fisher,” Tom said.
“I blew in with the wind.” Miss Fisher laughed. “Venison steaks sound wonderful.”
Indeed they did. With a lighter heart Judy went to pull down the blinds and shut out the storm.