Reading Sundays: A SURPRISING CURE (Part 4) a short story by Cynthia Sally Haggard

“Ah! Here it is!” She picked up Walter Pater’s Renaissance.

“Miriam, dear,” I interposed. “Why don’t you sit down and take off your hat? I haven’t heard anything about your journey, or your stay in Edinburgh.”

“Of course, my dear.” She seated herself beside me, and sipped her tea.

Mr. Nicol fished around in his pockets and brought out a packet of cigarettes. He offered one to Miriam, and glanced at me, one eyebrow raised.

I shook my head. I regarded smoking as a dirty habit, it was the sort of thing office boys would do. To my dismay, I had noticed young women beginning to take up the habit. I really must remember to mention to Miriam that this new enthusiasm she was acquiring was unladylike.

He lit up and they puffed away.

There was an awkward silence.  Finally I put my cup down. “It is growing late,” I remarked. “No doubt you would like me to see you to your lodgings.”

“Robert’s staying here!” exclaimed Miriam, putting her hand on his arm.

“Indeed. And may I enquire, young man, how long you intend to stay?”

He half-closed his eyes. “As yet, that remains to be determined.” Again he let his tongue linger over each word, giving his remark a sarcastic edge.

“And may I enquire what that determination is?”

“Och. Ye may enquire.” He kept his lids half lowered and smiled slowly.”

Miriam exploded into a peal of laughter. “Robert!” She nudged him with her elbow, then turned to me. “We haven’t made plans yet.”

“We?” My eyebrows rose. But Miriam ignored me.

“I’m going to show Robert around. I want him to meet all of our friends and acquaintances.” [To be continued next week.]