This is dedicated to NidaBhatti for the lovely poem dedicated to me :) Check it out! xxx
For the first time Imogen could recall, Beatrix’s presence was actually expected and the stout elderly woman made it abundantly clear what she expected from the moment she stuck her spindly foot over the threshold. The front door was thrown wide, with it a gust of emphatically forbidding wind blew the hair off the foreheads of the occupants already stationed within the cottage and sent Beatrix’s oddly prim white cap skittering from the top of her silver head and tumbling across the floor.
“I SAY,” she boomed, her eyes narrowed as she peered accusingly about the room, “TRUST YOU SUTHERLAND MEN TO MAKE A MESS OF THINGS. SOMEBODY GET ME A SCOTCH!”
Morris set aside the hand of cards he’d been cradling against his palm and stood, his chair scraping against the floor as he did so. “Beatrix, it’s good to see you,” he said amiably, although Imogen perceived his smile to be somewhat fixed.
“EH? WHERE’S ME SCOTCH?”
Morris sighed and sent a bereaved look in Marshall’s direction. For his part, Marshall placed his cards flat against the wooden surface of the table and raised his brows in perplexity. “I suppose you don’t have any liquor in stock?” his father asked resignedly.
“That old bat will drink us dry,” Marshall grumbled, “but there is brandy.”
“I heard that,” Beatrix scowled at Marshall sharply and Imogen stiffened, her ears buzzing with the softness of her aunt’s voice.
“Aunt Beatrix?” Imogen murmured questioningly, surprise apparent on her countenance. “You’re not shouting.”
Beatrix gave her an undignified glower. “Shouting indeed!” she sniffed disdainfully. “I never raise my voice above a pleasant trill. Pah. You young girls… would have got a thrashing for your impertinence back in my day.”
“You can hear properly, too,” Imogen remarked sardonically. Indeed, Beatrix had been painting a remarkably inaccurate picture of herself for the entire two or so years she had thrived within the Brightmore family.
Beatrix stomped over to the table, leaving the door ajar in her wake, and occupied the chair that Morris had vacated, momentarily ignoring Imogen and Marshall’s presence at the table, too. She picked up Morris’s cards, peaked at the contents with a perceiving leer, and announced, “I say, Morris! This hand is deplorable! I daresay you won’t be betting on it!”
Morris straightened, brandy in one hand, a crystal glass in the other, and glowered at her. “Beatrix, we were playing rummy.”
“Aunt Beatrix,” Imogen interrupted sternly, “you are not deaf, are you?”
“Evidently, my sweet, she is not,” Marshall answered, leaning back in his chair and folding his arms over his chest. “She’s been playing you all for fools the entire time.”
“Nasty man,” Beatrix sniffed and then beamed happily as Morris set a glass of amber liquid in front of her. “I, for one, haven’t an inkling as to what the lot of you are on about. I am here because there’s a wedding afoot.” She swigged her brandy and made a face. “Pah! Rubbish stuff this. Given me swill, you have.” She proceeded to drain the contents of her glass. “Marshall,” Beatrix declared suddenly, “you’ve been a naughty boy.” The glass was hurled at his head, which he narrowly missed by ducking to the side.
“Language!” Beatrix howled with all the self-righteous fury of an outraged schoolmarm. Reprovingly, she raised a gnarled finger and pointed it at him. “Just what the devil were you thinking, taking her halfway across the country alone?”
“I wasn’t,” Marshall snapped begrudgingly, “but what’s done is done.”
“Thank goodness Morris had enough sense to follow you or Lord knows what could have happened,” Beatrix pontificated. “Well, now, you can all relax now that I am here. I’ll set things straight. I’ll push you down that altar if I have to drag you there me’self.”
“Beatrix, Imogen has agreed to marry me,” Marshall said between his gritted teeth.
“And you, girl,” she said, the accusing finger swinging to Imogen with deadly assertion. “You will marry him or I’ll chain you to the spot. I say, in my day we didn’t have such lenient tendencies towards the opposite sex. Alone with the scoundrel… for several days! Pah!”