The Life We Choose – Episode 56

Bunty kicked off her boots at the back door. The housekeeper was stirring an array of pots on the big range in the kitchen.

“Any chance of a hot drink, Mrs Goudie?” she asked, sinking wearily into a chair. “Walking the dogs isn’t very pleasant on a day like this.”

Mrs Goudie filled the kettle and set it on the range with a disapproving sniff.

“I thocht that Mister Giles was gaunnae walk the dugs for you,” she said.

Bunty sighed.

“Out of the question, I’m afraid,” she said. “Giles is afraid of them and they know it, the rascals.”

Mrs Goudie did some more ferocious stirring.

“He’s been in here again wi’ a menu for dinner the night,” she said at last. “A’ fancy stuff. A’ extra work.”

Bunty wasn’t in the mood for Mrs Goudie’s litany of complaints. She got up.

“I’ll make some tea and take it into the drawing-room,” she said brusquely.

As she escaped, the housekeeper’s voice floated after her.

“I hope ye’ve left thae dugs ootside the hoose. I’ve juist washed the tiles in the hall.”

“Giles has only been here for three days, and it seems like three years,” Bunty told her father’s portrait. “And if he proposes to me one more time I shall scream.”

Behind her, the door opened.

“Ah, there you are. I heard voices.”

It was Giles, brandishing a notebook. He sat down opposite Bunty.

“My findings are all noted here. You are right, dear Bunty. This house needs a degree of refurbishment. I have many recommendations to make.”

Bunty immediately regretted having given him the job of inspecting the house and recommending some artistic flourishes which might brighten it up. She had done so in desperation, when Giles had announced that he intended to stay until Bunty accepted his proposal of marriage.

“I’d love some tea,” he said, eyeing Bunty’s cup, at the same time reaching for the bellpull by the fireplace. Bunty quailed, imagining the wrath to come from Mrs Goudie.

Giles brushed a smear of dust from his jacket, and straightened the silk cravat at his neck.

“Have you considered my proposal, then, Bunty?” he asked, leaning back in his chair and crossing his legs.

As she searched for the right words to convince Giles that she regarded him as a somewhat eccentric friend rather than a suitor, he leaned forward and took her hand.

“I insist on an answer, Bunty. Time’s getting on and we’d be as well to make a match of it before it’s too late.”

As Bunty snatched her hand away, the door flew open and an irate Mrs Goudie made a loud enquiry.

“Whit is it this time?” she enquired.

Tricky Binnie appeared and tried to push past her.

“I’ll be glad tae assist you the morn’, Mr Giles, if that’s suitable,” he said, smiling engagingly.

Mrs Goudie transferred her annoyance to Tricky.

“Ye’ll muck oot the stables first, I hope. Ye’re no yin for the dirty jobs, Ah notice. A’ talk, though.”

Giles leaned forward and whispered to Bunty.

“This is fascinating, Bunty. You wouldn’t get such a frank exchange of views among staff in Edinburgh.”

Tricky was staring up at Mrs Goudie.

“My, Mrs Goudie, ye’re lovely when ye’re angry,” he said. There was an ominous pause while the housekeeper glared helplessly at the speaker. “Ye mind me o’ my mither.” Tricky added, gazing adoringly at her.

Bunty had endured enough.

“Get about your business, the two of you. I’m going out, and when I get back I expect this house to be quiet and orderly,” she snapped, closing the door on them with a bang.

Giles opened his mouth to speak, and she turned on him.

“Before you give me the benefit of your opinion, Giles, I have to tell you that I can’t spend my time sitting about here. I have responsibilities.”

Giles was still amused.

“Responsibilities?” He leaned back in his chair and cocked an inquisitive eyebrow.

Bunty was pulling on her boots.

“Yes. It is not widely known, but I’m joint owner, with my brother, of Langrigg Colliery. I’ve never had to assume responsibility for that, but as my brother is indulging his demanding wife by racketing across the Continent at the drop of a hat, it seems I’ll have to take the place in hand. There’s trouble brewing down there, so that’s where I’ll be for much of the time until Colonel Grant gets home.”

Giles was staring at her.

“You’re an heiress,” he murmured.

Bunty seemed not to hear him.

“I’ll be back in a couple of hours,” she told him, opening the drawing-room door. “Just go on with your inspection, make some notes. If you tire of that, there’s a fire in the library. You can read, if you care to. But stay out of the kitchen and out of the way of Tricky Binnie. He has work to do.”

With that, she was gone, banging the door behind her and leaving Giles with much to think about.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.