He addressed Charlie in Scots. "Whisht now, barn. Dinnae greet." Hush, child. Don't cry.
Charlie was calmed.
"You see?" said Jamie.
They drove off, in the green Swedish car, with the castle towering above them, and above that a sky from which the clouds had drawn back to reveal an attenuated blue, cold and pure.
And as I came to the end of the chapter I laid the book on my chest, closed my eyes, and with a smile on my face drifted off to sleep, contemplating what comforting pleasure it was to read Alexander McCall Smith.
I had worked all morning, baking and packaging the results for the Christmas Bazaar. Baking is not the snap it once was, say twenty years ago. It takes a little more concentration, and after a while my back aches a bit, and my legs complain bitterly.
But now it was done - lunch was over and it was time for a little rest. The small dog came alongside the couch, appealing to be lifted up. It is only in the last two weeks he has not been able to manage the small stool and then the step up to the couch. We have reached the same stage in life, and so I have a great understanding of his needs - I circle my arms around his back legs and his chest so that he feels secure and lift him tenderly up beside me. He snuggles into a pillow, and I pick up my book to lull me to sleep.
I napped a little, but then the wind came up, tearing around the house in wild abandon, and rattling the chimes and the hanging pots on the deck. It woke me, and so I read the last chapter of the book - 'The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday' - reluctantly. I hate to come to the end of a McCall Smith book, - it means I have to wait for the next one to be written.... His stories are so civilized, and his humour so wry and gentle. There is an enduring goodness underlying his writing, - his characters are not saints, but they recognize their failings and feel morally responsible for them. A sense of responsibility! It seems to be a quality that is diminishing, one that has lost its importance in keeping us clear of the jungle.
Well, before I take the book back to the library I will have the delight of reading once again the pages that I have marked with little slips of paper, lengths of wool or old grocery slips. And admiring once again Isabel's spirit, the quality of her life, and McCall Smith's unexpected twists and turns in the telling of this story.