Mrs. Wills stopped the tape. I held my breath.
"I’m sure you will agree that my great-grandfather was an honest man? From the recording I mean?" she asked.
"Very much so. It all sounds very accurate to me .. from what I know, of course. It’s tremendous stuff," I assured her.
For a moment Mrs. Wills hesitated. She turned to gaze out the bay window where she was framed in the bright sunlight. Ever seen the picture of Lady Di in the see through skirt? Yeah, you’ve seen it alright.
Well just at that moment, picture Mrs. Wills in the same frame.
"The grounds are wonderful," she said. It was a statement, not a question but I felt obliged to respond even if my mind was currently in turmoil. One half was in fantasy mode over her legs, while the other bit was screaming for her to turn the tape on again.
"Brilliant. It’s a lovely place," I agreed.
The sun passed behind a cloud and the outline image of the lower limbs disappeared. Thankfully. It had been rather disconcerting.
Mrs. Wills turned with the grace of a woman who has suffered a childhood of ballet classes. And she fixed me with a confident stare.
"85 years ago, the McCallion family lived in a two-up, two-down terraced house with an outside toilet. My great-grandfather William came home from the Great War and within a year he owned the Mill in which he had worked," it was another statement, but politeness demanded a response.
"He must have been a talented man. Worked his way up from the shop floor. Hard working generation," I said.
Mrs. Wills smiled: "The industrious working man who made the rags to riches story come true? That’s the strange thing about my Great Grandfather. William never actually worked in the Mill when he came home from the war. He just bought it.
"The owner at the time was a man called Baird. The mill had been in his family for generations but he had no living offspring. One day he was the master of all he surveyed, employing 200 people and the next he had sold up and moved away."
Industrial history isn’t my scene and economics are definitely not my strongpoint but I did know that men from Princes Street do not save their pennies in the quantities needed to buy such an enterprise.
Which led to my rather blunt question: "So where did William get the money from?"
"That’s the thing," said Mrs. Wills. "The whole deal was financed by a Major John Hartley, who, it seems was one of the officers in Great Grandfather’s battalion.
"William never told us why Hartley would lavish such a sum on him. I’d like you to answer that question for me."
End chapter 3