Locating a good townhouse required a good agent, someone trustworthy and moreover someone who had no acquaintance with him or his family. It wouldn’t do to have his affairs leaked, it must be done with discretion. Henry avoided the usual offices, he was well known there. His business ventures made him more familiar in the offices in the city than in the drawing rooms. Seeking someone fresh and new he walked down Union Street, clicking his black umbrella on the paving like a walking stick. Everyone here was well known to him. he tipped his hat occasionally at a business associate. There was nothing new, he wondered if he should perhaps to travel to Dundee or even Edinburgh and have the deal managed by proxy, he would certainly have less chance of being discovered that way but already he had succeeded in arranging the best lodgings in town he’d ever had, they made the Anchor Inn look like a hovel in comparison.
He would continue here a while at least and see what could be managed. He shook his head at his own folly in every going to The Anchor and worse, returning. Though, with a wry smile, he realised the sport at his current lodgings would be poor in comparison, the landlady was as pious as a Sunday morning. There was no chance of any snappy banter or backchat, and that, he reminded himself, was just as it should be.
Nowhere caught his eye as a suitable place to start his quest, it must be properly managed and therefore not rushed. His arrival in town had been later than expected, the afternoon was growing late. He decided to spend no more time looking, he would start afresh the following day. For the present, he was famished. The promise of a good hearty meal at his lodging house filled his mind. He had grown much too thin of late, his appetite ceased each time he set foot in his own house and the constant nag of his mother and sister gave him no wish to remain at table for longer than necessary or even sit down at all.
The feast that was laid before him was better fair than he ever remembered eating in his life. Even with his landlady hovering in a very bumptious fashion, he still found his enjoyment not overshadowed in the least.
‘You’ve got a very healthy appetite, and you look like you need it. Skin and bone, that’s what I thought the minute a saw you. I said that soon as I clapped eyes on you. You got a wife you?’
‘Eh, no,’ he said as the large woman bore down on him, hands on her gargantuan hips, a large cloth trailing over her left arm. He found her questioning almost as distracting as her towering persona.
‘No, I thought not, if you had a wife she wouldn’y let you get that thin, doesn’y do to be too thin.’
‘Well,’ coughed Henry, ‘this ought to help, it’s very good.’
The landlady smiled, she looked immensely pleased with herself.
‘You know of course you get no liquor her. This is a respectable establishment and no resident here has ever had the taste on their lips.’
‘Yes, thank you,’ he said, assuming she must have short term memory problems as she’d already given him a substantial lecture on this point on his initial enquiry regarding rooms.
‘Good, you seem a man of good sense and intelligence. I wonder that you’re not married, are you a widower?’
‘I’m a widow and I’m not sure it suits me.’
She leered at him in a manner that he did not care for, pleased as he was that she thought him a man of sense and intelligence, he did not like the implications this admiration seemed to insinuate. He was not about to change his status for her, no matter how good her cooking was. He could go without alcohol for a while but a life permanently devoid of a good malt did not suit.
‘I wonder,’ he said quickly, ‘if you can help me with something.’
‘Oh?’ she said, looking interested.
‘I’m looking for a solicitor, for the purpose of purchasing a house in the town. I’m looking to put my business in the way of someone young, perhaps new to the profession.’
‘Really? A bit of a philanthropist are you?’
He could not help but let out a dry laugh, ‘perhaps, though not always through choice.’
She laughed, without really understanding and started clearing away his plates.
‘I think I know just the place, a nice young solicitor, eh… name of Macmillan, I believe, yes. My brother had some dealings with him, all good I think, certainly talked about him a lot, raved in fact.’
‘Marvellous, perhaps you’ll be good enough to furnish me with the address, I’d like to go there tomorrow.’
She bustled off to retrieve immediately.
Henry felt deeply satisfied.