lawyers in Charlotte Square. They look after me very well, those people. Iâm seeing them at eleven, and I thought Iâd drop in and see how things were going. I gather youâre turning in a profit.â
Matthew sat back in his chair and smiled. âYes,â he said. âSurprised?â
Gordon looked down. My son knows what I think of him, he thought. He expects me to be surprised if he does anything well. And thatâs my fault; nobody elseâsâmine.
âI wanted to congratulate you,â he said. âYes, I was a little bit surprised. But perhapsâ¦perhaps youâve found your niche. And good for you.â
Matthew looked at his father. There was something about him which was slightly different. He had had a haircut, yes, and he was losing a bit of weight. But there was something else. Were his clothes slightly younger in style?
âYou look in good shape,â he said. âHave you started going to the gym?â
Gordon blushed. âAs a matter of fact, I have. Nothing too strenuous, of course. A bit of weight training and those running machinesâyou know, the ones which make you sweat. I do about two hours a week.â
Matthew raised an eyebrow. âDo you go by yourself?â
Gordon hesitated before he answered. âActually,â he began, âI have somebody who goes with me. She does aerobics and I do my running and pushing weights.â
Matthew said nothing for a moment. She. That would explain the change. He had found a girlfriend. âGood,â he said, after a while. âItâs nice to have company. Who is she, by the way?â
Gordon moved across the room. He continued the conversation as he leaned forward to examine a painting.
âNice landscape this,â he said. âSheâs called Janis. I met her a few months ago at the Barboursâ. Remember them? They send their regards. Anyway, Janis was at a dinner party there andâ¦and, well, we hit it off. Iâd like you to meet her.â
Matthew looked across the room. Why was it so hard to imagine oneâs parents having an emotional life? There was no reason why this should be so, but it just was. And his father, of all people! What could any woman possibly see in himâ¦apart from money, of course?
âWhat doesâ¦what does Janis do?â he asked.
âShe owns a flower shop,â said Gordon. âItâs a nice little business. People still buy flowers, you know. She says that flowers are all about guilt. Men buy flowers because they feel guilty about something. About neglecting their wives, about all that sort of thingâ¦â He tailed off. And what about neglect of sons? he thought. What about that?
Matthew listened to this information. A woman who owned a flower shop? There was nothing wrong with that, of course, but he could picture herâalone in her flower shop, amidst all those carnations and bunches of red roses, waiting for her chance. And along comes his father, with his GBP 11.2 million (or that was the figure that Matthew had last heard) and, well, it would be infinitely better, would it not, than selling flowers to guilty husbands.
Gordon turned round from the painting he had been examining. âIâd like you to meet her,â he said. âHow about dinner in the club this Friday? Would that suit?â
There was something almost pathetically eager in his tone that made Matthew regret what he had been thinking; more guilt, but this time the sonâs rather than the fatherâs. There was so much guilt in Edinburgh, everywhere one turned. Everyone felt guilty about something. Guilt. Guilt.
âYes,â said Matthew, guiltily. âI could be free. What time?â
âSeven-guilty,â said Gordon, and then rapidly correcting himself, âI mean seven-thirty.â
âFine,â said Matthew. âI look forward to meetingâ¦â
âJanis,â supplied his