The fashion show at the Mountain Top Hotel turned out fine for Maxwell Elliot, thanks to the assistance given to him by a student. The young man’s courteousness and how Maxwell had an entertaining conversation with him saved the day. However, in the days which followed the show Maxwell reflected how it was a shock to his system to have come face to face with Callum McDuff: the man responsible for such a miserable episode in his life. Nevertheless, Maxwell tried to be positive about the awful ordeal then tried not to dwell upon it or ressurect the subject with Nancy again. It was all put down to being a one off nightmare.
The following week, after attending to some routine business at the Bank in George Street, Maxwell decided to treat himself to a nice leisurely lunch in the lovely 5 star hotel at the bottom of Lothian Road. He had not been to the hotel for quite some time. It was on an impulse he fancied going to the hotel where he had met Nancy five years before.
On stepping inside the Caledonian hotel Maxwell was dressed for the season in the most wonderful tweed suit, which had been delivered to him by his tailor that morning. It was a three piece suit in copper and gold and russet tones. As he walked through the beautiful foyer he began to think what a lot had happened in the space of time since he had met Nancy. So much had happened, actually, he felt in need of some quiet space to catch up with himself and to digest all that had happened. The serenity of the hotel was just what he needed. Maxwell was never one who wished things to go at too fast a pace, he liked the idea of embracing a fairly slow, balanced kind of lifestyle, although he knew sometimes it was not easy to control the exact pace your life was at.
‘Ah, Mr Elliot, so nice to see you Sir. Where would you like to sit?’ asked the waiter, giving Maxwell a warm friendly welcome.
‘It is lovely to be back in the hotel I must say. I think I shall sit over on the sofa with a view of the castle,’ replied Maxwell.
‘Just follow me Sir,’ continued the waiter.
‘You always did love that seat didn’t you, Sir,’ added the waiter.
‘Yes I did, I did indeed and how kind of you to remember small details like that about me,’ remarked Maxwell, whose new autumn toned suit harmonised with the colours of the sofa seat.
‘It’s not so terribly long since you were here last,’ commented the waiter.
‘Is it not?’ asked Maxwell.
‘I think about 2 months, Sir,’ continued the waiter, taking Maxwell’s brolly from him to place on the umbrella stand.
‘Ah, it is not so long then. Yet, it feels so much longer than that,’ replied Maxwell, feeling he had missed being in the hotel.
‘Lovely to have you here,’ reiterated the waiter, showing more warmth and respect to Maxwell.
Before Maxwell married Nancy at least every second day he would visit the hotel but that routine just fizzled out.
‘Now, can I get you a tonic, Sir?’ asked the waiter.
‘Yes, that is perfect, you even remember how I like to drink a tonic water before my lunch,’ continued Maxwell, feeling chuffed the waiter had remembered that too.
The waiter went off to fetch Maxwell his drink and in a moment had returned and placed the drink down on the table.
‘I will leave the menu with you, Sir. Just let me know when you would like lunch,’ remarked the waiter, handing the menu to Maxwell then going off to attend to some other guests who were coming in for lunch.
Maxwell glanced out of the window. The sky was soft and lovely and blue and high in the sky was an autumn sun. The castle looked warm and welcoming with mild sunlight falling onto it, creating a glow of amber all around it. In the foreground some of the leaves on the trees were losing their shiny summer greenness and were beginning to turn pale crisp bronze. The door of summer was closing, the door of autumn opening. Glancing out at the glowing onset of the new season, for a moment Maxwell reflected on the summer that had passed.
It had been a pleasant summer, some lovely things had happened. He and Nancy had been happy and he was making steady progress with his new creative pursuits. Also, he and Nancy were keeping to the anniversary promise they made to each other of having regular artistic sittings. The portrait of Nancy was coming along fine, though it had some way to go before it was finished. Maxwell then retrieved the exctasy of his Midsummer’s madness with Daphne from his mind, those sublime and secret pleasures he had known. He began to sigh to himself.
‘Yes’, it has been one wonderful summer and a gentleman, after all, must have one naughty secret,’ thought Maxwell.
The only unfortunate thing which had occurred was the awful recent ordeal with Macduff. Maxwell continued to glance up at the castle again, and on seeing the pure enchantment of the view in front of him, he managed to clear his mind of the nightmare of seeing Macduff. Then Maxwell signalled to the waiter to take his order for lunch.
‘I think I shall have the prawn salad,’ requested Maxwell.
‘A good choice, Sir, nice and healthy and I can assure the prawns are excellent,’ commented the waiter.
‘Will you have some crusty bread with it Sir?’ asked the waiter.
‘Yes indeed that would be splendid,’ replied Maxwell.
Maxwell sat looking forward to his healthy light lunch. Before long it was in front of him and he was enjoying it.
‘It is so pleasant being at the hotel again,’ thought Maxwell, as he slowly ate his lunch. He loved the tangy taste of the marie rose sauce over the prawns.
As he was finishing his lunch he began to think what Nancy might be doing back at Edington. He was thinking she may still be rather upset about the incident at the fashion show. It also occurred to him she may be feeling she had let Samantha down.
A few minutes later the waiter brought Maxwell a copy of The Times newspaper in the same way he always did.
‘Coffee Sir?’ asked the waiter, handing the newspaper to Maxwell.
‘Yes indeed,’ replied Maxwell, opening up the newspaper then becoming lost in one of the articles. Maxwell loved his daily dose of news. He would spend ages reading articles he found of interest.
An hour or so later Maxwell emerged from behind the print of the newspaper. When he did he was beyond stunned to find Favia sitting on the sofa directly opposite him with her head almost blocking his view of the castle. To see Favia sitting there was as big a shock to him as looking out to find the castle was not there. He almost choked at the sight of seeing her.
‘Favia my dear girl. This is a surprise. I thought you would have returned to New York by now,’ remarked Maxwell, hardly getting his sentence out coherently. And that is saying something for Maxwell words always flowed elegantly and articulately.
‘So did I. But I decided to stay on Maxwell. By the way I do hope it is a nice surprise to see me and not a shock surprise,’ commented Favia.
‘It is a lovely surprise Favia. It is just you are the last person I would have expected to see here,’ continued Maxwell, who was now thinking to himself ‘my afternoon has just been ruined.’
Maxwell noticed how Favia took up the conversation where they had left off the previous week at the Portrait Gallery, in the same way as a schoolteacher takes up a particular lesson from the place they left the lesson last time.
‘And how did your important meeting go last week?’ questioned Favia, pouring out some tea for herself in a cool and calculating way, as if she was hoping she was going to control the conversation with Maxwell.
‘As a matter of fact it went very well,’ answered Maxwell. No way was he going to reveal how all hell had broken loose at the Mountain Top Hotel.
‘I was so looking forward to spending more time with you Maxwell,’ continued Favia.
‘Yes, so you were saying, but at least you’ve had the opportunity of seeing more of this wonderful city,’ replied Maxwell.
‘Indeed I have and I still have so much more to see. I am stopping at my hotel for a further few weeks,’ enthused Favia, who was still dressed for summer wearing a summery looking dress with turquoise polka dots all over it.
That was the last thing Maxwell wanted to hear. Maxwell glanced above Favia’s head to notice the blue of the sky was now gone, the sky had turned from blue to cloudy grey and the sun was gone too. Edinburgh castle was covered in dark shadows, devoid of enchantment, it now looked cold and lost and unwelcoming. It was a castle shrouded in bleakness.
‘I didn’t know this hotel was one of your favourite haunts?’ enquired Maxwell, now looking around at the exquisite splendour of the hotel, then probing how Favia had turned up at the very hotel he happened to be in. He could not remember ever having been to this hotel with Favia in the past.
‘It’s just nice to try different places Maxwell. I had been shopping in Frasers and it was a spur of the moment thing to cross the street and come over here. You know me and how I like to explore,’ explained Favia.
‘Yes, I do know that,’ replied Maxwell,
‘Unfortunately for me,’ thought Maxwell, to himself.
‘And I wish you happy adventures whilst you are here in Edinburgh, Favia,’ continued Maxwell.
Then Maxwell indicated to the waiter he was leaving. In a flash the waiter had brought him the bill. Within a moment the bill was paid and the waiter was handing Maxwell his umbrella.
‘Are you going so soon?’ asked Favia.
‘Yes indeed I am,’ replied Maxwell.
‘Another important meeting?’ enquired Favia.
‘Well, in a way, yes, I am heading home. My wife will be expecting me,’ stated Maxwell.
‘So she will,’ replied Favia, with a sarcastic snarl.
On the way through the foyer the waiter tipped off Maxwell about Favia.
‘I thought I’d mention, Sir. For the last three days the lady in the polka dot dress who was sitting opposite you has been in the hotel. She has been asking after you and if you had been here. She has also been asking some of the reception staff about you too,’ reported the waiter.
‘Enough said. I get the picture,’ commented Maxwell.
Favia was on his tail. She was in a sort of way stalking him, being a nuisance. Maxwell got into a taxi. Soon the taxi was speeding through the cobbled streets of the New Town towards Edington.
‘That is all I need. As if I have not had enough angst with Macduff appearing,’ thought Maxwell to himself.
Way in the distant past Favia must have remembered Maxwell talking about the Caledonian Hotel and had chanced her mitt by coming into it in hopes he would be around.
‘It seems clear I will need to devise a plan, an avoidance strategy so I do not bump into Favia again. I will need to think of places to go where I will be certain she will not be there. She is just something I do not need just now,’ Maxwell continued to think as his taxi pulled up outside Edington.
Maxwell was aiming for a simple creative harmony in his life and Favia was the last thing he needed.
Several weeks later, after a morning making progress with his portrait of Nancy, Maxwell was enjoying a quiet lunch in Whighams wine cellar when Favia appeared again.
‘This is certainly a long holiday you are having in Edinburgh, Favia. You must love that hotel you are at,’ remarked Maxwell, who was trying to remain as civil and polite as he could in the circumstances.
‘I did love it, only the Summer Heights hotel was becoming rather expensive, so I have booked myself into a small bed and breakfast so as to make things more economical for me,’ explained Favia, whose hair was showing signs of not being as pretty as it had been when she first arrived in Edinburgh.
Favia was providing information to Maxwell about her growing short of funds, in the hope it might touch Maxwell’s compassionate streak, for she knew Maxwell had a compassionate side to his nature. However, he was not drawn in by that. Maxwell blanked the subject of her diminishing funds.
‘Well, I do hope your next month goes well for you, Favia,’ concluded Maxwell, feeling bumping into Favia at every turn was becoming rather ridiculous. He decided he would now need a new more effective strategy to avoid Favia. A strategy which would mean he would stay home for lunch, for the immediate future anyway. And, if he did have the urge to go out for lunch then he would take Nancy with him. Not only that but he would explore eating in restaurants outwith the city. That way there would be virtually no chance of bumping into Favia and being bothered by her. As it happened, though, Favia did not bother Maxwell again.