Home > A Scot to the Heart(8)

A Scot to the Heart(8)
Author: Caroline Linden

He snorted and wandered off, showing her what he thought of that idea. Ilsa smiled fondly, watching him amble across the grass. “You can dismiss the idea that easily because you don’t have to see Mr. MacGill today,” she called after him.

She did not enjoy visiting her solicitor. He was reputed to be the best in Edinburgh, or so said her father. Her late husband, Malcolm, had also employed MacGill, keeping things like money and investments entirely out of Ilsa’s sight, let alone her control.

But then Malcolm died, and suddenly all that money was hers. Papa had wanted to handle it for her, but Ilsa was done with that, even if it meant she had to deal personally with Mr. MacGill, with his pompous manner and patronizing little smile. As if she were very fortunate indeed to have even a moment of his attention.

One day I shall withdraw all my money and buy a ship, she thought. I would like to see India or Spain or perhaps the South Seas. And wouldn’t that give Mr. MacGill the shock of his life.

She knew it would never actually happen, but it gave her great pleasure to imagine it happening.

After a long, refreshing ramble she and Robert returned home. He trotted right past her to his room at the back of the hall. It had been Malcolm’s private study when he was alive, but now it was Robert’s domain. He would settle in for a long snooze, snoring fit to rattle the windows. Ilsa went upstairs and girded herself to face the lawyer with a proper walking dress and coiffure of which even Jean would approve.

Despite arriving before the time of her appointment, she was still kept waiting. Idly annoyed, she entertained herself by counting the carriages that drove past. Mr. MacGill’s offices in St. Andrew’s Square were large, handsome, and ostentatious, with tall windows facing the square. She wondered why she paid him so much when he irritated her to no end.

She had counted twenty-eight carriages by the time the clerk showed her in. The solicitor came to take her hand and lead her to a chair. He always began with fawning smiles and pleasantries. If only he listened to her with as much solicitude.

“Now, Mrs. Ramsay, what can I do for you?” he asked at last, when she was settled in a chair and had declined his offer of tea.

“I would like to sell my shares in Mr. Cunninghame’s trading company.”

He was astonished. “Madam! What can you mean? I do not recommend that!”

“I understand,” she replied evenly. “But I would like to do it, and they are my shares. Will you see it done?”

“Are you in want of funds?” he said in reproach. “I should have anticipated as much. It is not unusual for a recently widowed female to be unaccustomed to the handling of money. If there are bills to be paid, you must send them to me—”

“Mr. MacGill, I know very well how to live within my means. I am not burning my money on new gowns or slippers.” She gave him a determined smile. “Sell the shares, please.”

She was slowly reading through the volume of information Malcolm had left behind. Now that he was dead, there was no one to stop her from examining everything in his desk. The Cunninghame trading company was very profitable, but its trade was appalling.

MacGill took a deep breath and seemed to change tack. Adopting an expression of paternal concern, he said, “It would be a very large sum. What would you do with all that money?”

She gazed out the window thoughtfully. The house across the street was under construction, and men were raising a heavy beam into position. “There are so many enterprises here in Scotland in want of investment. I like fabric. Perhaps I’ll invest in linen production.” She had also seen the reports of increasing trade with America. Scotland had enjoyed a brisk trade there before the war, and now that it was over, there seemed every opportunity for it to resume.

Mr. MacGill clicked his tongue. “I see. Of course a woman would take an interest in fabrics. But, my dear Mrs. Ramsay, investments are not made so impulsively. Let us wait a few months and see how you feel then, shall we? If in six months you still desire to sell, I shall speak to Mr. Fletcher about it.”

“It is not my father’s money. If my late husband were sitting here, would you say the same to him?” asked Ilsa, still watching out the window. If she looked directly at the solicitor, she would be tempted to throw something at him. “Would you scorn his wishes as idle fancy and impulse, not likely to endure?”

Malcolm had done many things on nothing more than idle fancy and impulse, and men like MacGill had only helped him, often when they should have stopped him. Not one of his friends or associates had tried to keep him from the duel that killed him.

Mr. MacGill went pink in the face. He was a pale man, and it was easy to make him flush. “Mrs. Ramsay. That is immaterial.”

Before Ilsa could reply, the clerk slipped in. Silently he brought a letter to Mr. MacGill, who gave the man a look that bordered on gratitude. As if he couldn’t wait to be free of her, even after making her wait half an hour for this appointment. With barely a glance at Ilsa, the lawyer unfolded the letter.

“Good heavens,” he exclaimed almost immediately. Turning his back to her, he whispered furiously to his clerk, who snapped to attention like a pointer catching a scent. Frowning, Ilsa tilted her head and caught a few words: “waiting,” “properties,” and “Carlyle.”

Almost before she could comprehend what was happening, Mr. MacGill was on his feet, offering her his hand. The clerk scurried out of the office. “My dear Mrs. Ramsay, I do apologize but an emergency has arisen—I must cut this interview short. Shall we speak again in six months?”

She rose to keep him from looking down on her. “Why? What is this? Mr. MacGill, we had an appointment! I only ask a very little of your time now and then.”

“Indeed, and you have had it.” He reached for her hand.

Ilsa stubbornly refused to move. “Are you throwing me out?”

“No, no,” he soothed her, even as he extended his other hand toward the door. “But I must turn my attention—”

“Sell the shares,” she said, her voice rising. “Sell them, Mr. MacGill, and deposit the funds into my account. I insist!”

“Madam, I will do no such thing,” he snapped, dropping her hand. “What foolishness! You will thank me for it when we speak again in six months.”

Frustration boiled inside her. Wordlessly Ilsa turned and stormed from the room without acknowledging his hasty bow. She threw open the door herself, almost striking Mr. Leish, the sanctimonious clerk.

Behind him stood a man, tall and broad, dressed finely enough to be a lord. An English lord. So that’s whom Mr. MacGill considered far more important than she, Ilsa seethed as she strode past the lot of them.

Men. MacGill brushing her aside without a moment’s hesitation, that arrogant Carlyle fellow demanding his attention with the snap of his fingers, and Leish smirking at her dismissal. Anger carried her blindly to the street, and then all the way to the foot of the Canongate, where her father’s house stood.

He was still at the table. Fashionable people dined later, but Papa clung to his preference for an early meal. She suspected he spent the more fashionable dinner hour at a tavern, with cards in his hand. “You’re early, my girl!” he said jovially when she came in. “Come in, child! Have some cake.”

“How are you, Papa?” She kissed his cheek and waved off the offer of cake in favor of pacing the dining room. “I’ve just come from Mr. MacGill’s office. He has lost my custom.”

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