فصل 15

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فصل 15

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CHAPTER FIFTEEN

At Maude and Timothy Abernethie’s house, Miss Gilchrist had hurried out to the hall to answer the telephone, which was behind the staircase.

‘It’s Mrs Helen Abernethie speaking,’ she called up to Maude.

‘Tell her I’m just coming.’ Maude came down the stairs slowly because of her broken ankle.

Miss Gilchrist said quietly, ‘I’m so sorry you’ve had to come down, Mrs Abernethie. I’ll just go up and get Mr Abernethie’s coffee tray.’

Timothy looked at Miss Gilchrist angrily. As she picked up the tray he asked, ‘Who’s that on the telephone?’

‘Mrs Helen Abernethie.’

‘Oh? I suppose they’ll talk for an hour! Pull that curtain aside, will you? And - Where are you going?’

‘It’s the front doorbell, Mr Abernethie.’

‘I didn’t hear anything,’ Timothy said as Miss Gilchrist quickly left the room. Moments later she came up to Maude Abernethie, who was still on the telephone, to say, ‘I’m so sorry to interrupt. It’s a nun. Collecting.’

Maude Abernethie said into the telephone, ‘Just a moment, Helen,’ and to Miss Gilchrist, ‘I only give money to our local church.’

Miss Gilchrist hurried away again.

Maude finished her conversation and came into the front hall. Miss Gilchrist was standing completely still by the sitting room door. She jumped when Maude spoke to her.

‘There’s nothing the matter, is there, Miss Gilchrist?’

‘Oh no, Mrs Abernethie, I was thinking about something.. .’

Maude Abernethie climbed the stairs painfully to her husband’s room.

‘That was Helen. Enderby Hall is definitely sold. Helen suggests that we might like to go there for a visit before it goes. She was very upset about the way the smell of the paint is affecting your health. The servants are there still, so you could be looked after comfortably.’

Timothy, who had been looking angry, now nodded his head approvingly. ‘It’s thoughtful of Helen,’ he said. ‘But moving might be too much for me.’

‘Perhaps you’d prefer a hotel, dear,’ said Maude. ‘A good hotel is very expensive, but where your health is…’

Timothy interrupted. ‘Maude, we are not millionaires. Why go to a hotel when Helen has very kindly suggested that we could go to Enderby? Not that it’s really for her to suggest! And I would like to see the old place again before I die. Yes, it is an excellent plan. The painters can finish while we are away and that Gillespie woman can stay here and look after the house.’

‘She’s called Gilchrist,’ said Maude.

Timothy waved a hand and said that it didn’t matter what her name was.

‘I can’t do it,’ said Miss Gilchrist. She was shaking. ‘I simply can’t stay here all alone. I’ve never been a nervous woman - but now I’d be terrified to be all alone here.’

‘Of course,’ said Maude. ‘It’s stupid of me - after what happened at Lytchett St Mary.’

‘I suppose that it’s… it’s not logical, I know. But even that nun coming to the door startled me. Oh dear, I am in a bad way…’

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