(With thanks to my beta, Terri Derr.)
Has my father given his permission? A letter from Mama arrived this morning, but all she has said is that Papa has written to you. I begin to worry, and yet I cannot imagine we could be refused. Do not keep me in suspense a minute longer than necessary, my dearest, for I am now as anxious as you are for news.
Well, that was odd and a little worrying. After waiting so long for a reply from Boston, they still had no answer, and even Katie was surprised and concerned by the silence. Scott put her letter down next to him on the bed. Neither of them had seriously considered Robert Eliot refusing his permission for them to keep company. Scott didn’t think it would stop them if he did, but it would certainly upset Katie.
There was no reason for Dr Eliot to refuse. Was there? Scott racked his brains, trying to recall when he’d last met Katie’s father. At Bob’s twenty-first? Surely, they must have met since then? Scott hadn’t been drunk at the official party—well, no more than anyone else.
Damn! Dr Eliot knew old man Stanforth. They were both on the board of governors for Boston Latin. Was Scott never going to live the Barbara incident down?
No. Calm down. Dr Eliot wasn’t at the party, and Stanforth wouldn’t advertise his daughter’s indiscretion once he cooled off. Would he? Scott pushed aside his doubts, and forced his mind to concentrate on the fact that he hadn’t received any communication at all from Katie’s father, good or bad. “I wonder when he sent it.”
“When who sent what?” Johnny appeared in the doorway, leaning against the jamb, looking like his clothes were too big for him after his long illness.
“Nothing you’d be interested in. I was just thinking out loud.” Scott stood up and stashed Katie’s letter into his top drawer. Then he strode over to the washstand, undoing the buttons on his cuffs.
“Murdoch wants to see you before supper.”
The smell of pot roast was in the air and Scott’s stomach growled. “Is he in his bedroom?”
Scott glanced at Johnny. “You came up especially to tell me?”
“Uh-huh. I’m pretty good on the stairs now.”
“You are at that, brother. I forgot. I’ll be able to have that little chat with you soon; the one about admitting when you’re in excruciating pain.” Scott splashed his face with water and dried off with the towel.
“You’d better see what Murdoch wants first. You might need back-up.” Johnny straightened and thumbed a goodbye. “Holler if you need me.”
Scott laughed and closed the door. He finished washing up for supper and changed his shirt before heading downstairs.
Murdoch was sitting at his desk, reading a letter of his own. He looked up as Scott entered the great room. “Is there something you want to tell me?”
“This.” Murdoch held up a small envelope. “If I’m not mistaken that’s Robert Eliot’s handwriting, and it’s addressed to you. It was in with a letter from Beth.” Murdoch leaned back in his chair, tapping the letter against his hand and staring at his son. Scott felt the heat rise up his neck. “The thing is, Robert hardly ever writes. This is very unusual. So I just wondered if there was something I should know?”
“May I have the letter, Sir?”
Murdoch got to his feet and handed Scott the envelope. Scott took hold, but Murdoch didn’t let go. “You know when we waved Beth and Katie off, I was distracted for a moment, but just as the stage pulled away…I thought for a second…but you didn’t say anything, so—”
“If you’ll excuse me, Murdoch, I’d prefer to read this in private. I may have something to tell you later.” Scott tugged the envelope free and backed off. Bumping against a chair, he turned and hurried outside through the French doors, welcoming the cool evening breeze against his skin.
Scott kept walking until he was well away from the house and hidden from view by a tree. He’d shot Pardee from under that tree and built the first small bridge between him and Johnny. Perhaps it would bring him luck again.
A lead weight lodged under his lower left rib and pressed against his stomach as he broke the seal and opened the envelope. How ridiculous. What could Katie’s father possibly say to justify…
One sheet—was that all? Scott checked the envelope again, but there was nothing more. This didn’t bode well. In his experience, good news was generally fulsome; only bad news was delivered terse and to the point.
Scott unfolded the single sheet of Massachusetts General Hospital stationery. It wasn’t even a proper letter. Robert Eliot had signed and dated it, but there were only two other words written in doctor’s scrawl on the page.
Scott swallowed and turned the paper to decipher the writing.
1. This story is part of the Eliot Series by Margaret P., which on occasions overlaps the Widow Morris Series by Doc. The stories in date order in terms of the plot are: Past Imperfect by Margaret P., The Visit by Margaret P., The Only Way to Have a Friend is to Be One by Margaret P. and Doc, Unfinished Business by Margaret P., and My Dear Friend Katie by Doc, Dearest Emily by Margaret P., and Permission by Margaret P. The Eliot Series has its roots in From Highlands to Homecoming by Margaret P.