Winter Wonder – A Story for the Darker Days

“Very well, Malcolm,” Mary conceded reluctantly. The man was lying, she felt sure. “Is the Dowager Countess abroad?”

“No, ma’am…” Malcolm was interrupted by the clatter of Lady Calder’s walking stick as she made her slow and painful way from the door to take a place at the table. Mary frowned in concern. Her mama-in-law’s health did not improve. While she grieved over the lady’s loss of mobility, Mary was aware the pain affected her temper woefully.

“Indeed I am, Mary, although you caught me by surprise, I’ve risen to join you. Enough, Malcolm. Her ladyship and I will serve ourselves.” Grizel spoke from the doorway and she sounded, Mary thought, as testy as ever.

“Good morning, ma’am. Do you know where Lennox has taken himself? He goes out so early these cold mornings.”

“Does he?”  Lady Grizel sank onto a chair. “Your complexion has suffered badly from the weeks indoors, Mary. We must take advice before you go abroad and meet respectable folk.”

The words stung Mary’s conscience. Respectable folk, her mama-in-law said. Didn’t she always meet respectable folk? Waves of mist ebbed and flowed in her brain. How long had she been indoors and why? What event had kept her indoors? Why didn’t she remember?

And where was Lennox?

Winter Wonder – A story for the Darker Days

Inlay Taj Mahal

Inlay Taj Mahal

Mary pushed open the door of the breakfast parlour, but before she could see into it, she was aware of silence. Wherever her lord was this morning, he wasn’t in Queen Street.

How often his booming laugh made her want to cover her ears, but in this quiet, how she longed to hear it. The silence brooded around her and when Malcolm spoke behind her, she jumped.

“Begging pardon, ma’am, but we haven’t served your breakfast here in some weeks. Coffee is on its way,” the servant said. Mary heard that guarded note all the staff used these days and quailed. Had she become a difficult mistress?

“Thank you, Malcolm. Is the master from home?”

“The master, ma’am?” Malcolm fussed with settling her into a chair and shaking out some linen to cover her lap. When his prevarication began to look like the unwillingness to answer it surely was, he replied.

“I hivnae seen the maister at a’ the day, ma’am.”

Mary stiffened. Malcolm forgetting his polished speech. What was Lennox about?