”Jack, leave Boots alone. Miss Lilly will get upset if you frighten her cat, and she’ll be ornery,” Mr. Butler grumbled to his dog.
Jack ignored the grumble and barked loudly while racing up the walkway. When the cat yowled loudly, the door flew open! “You know better than to bring that beast here!” Miss Lilly harangued.
“He’s my partner,” Bill grumbled. “Where I go. He goes.”
“Well Boots is my baby,” Miss Lilly whispered soothingly while cuddling the cat and glaring at Jack.
“Come in! Come in and shut the door. You’re letting the cold in,” Miss Lily ordered.
Mr. Butler stepped inside and leaned his walking stick in a corner while hanging his hat and coat on hook.
“I came as soon as I got your message. What’s wrong? It doesn’t look like you need wood.”
“No, I’ve got plenty of wood, thanks to you,” Miss Lily replied. “It’s Vincent.”
“Vincent?” Mr. Butler questioned in surprise.
“Well, he’s been stopping by too often and it makes me feel uncomfortable.”
“Come. Sit. Sit.” Miss Lilly directed as she continued. “Two days ago he brought me a bag with five apples and asked me to bake a pie for him.”
“That seems reasonable,” Mr. Butler mumbled. “Everyone knows your apple pie is the best.”
“Thank you, Mr. Butler. You always say the kindest things,” Miss Lilly replied. Boots nestled comfortably on her lap.
“But that isn’t all. The next day when he came back for his pie, he suggested that we each have a piece, enjoy it with a cup of coffee.”
“Sounds sensible to me. That Vincent is a sensible man.”
“You men always stick together,” Miss Lilly whispered defensively.
“It wasn’t that he asked for a piece of pie, it’s what he did when I gave it to him!”
Mr. Buttler raised his eyebrows questioningly.
“When I handed him the plate, he took my hand and smiled at me.”
“Sounds like he was showing his gratitude,” Mr. Butler mumbled.
“Then, then,” Miss Lily continued, “He told me I was pretty. Maybe I was pretty years ago, but I know I’m not now. That Vincent is a liar!”
“Miss Lily, don’t get upset with me, but I have to disagree. Vincent is right, you are pretty,” Mr. Butler mumbled.
Miss Lilly blushed and smiled slightly, “Do you think so, Mr. Butler?”
He tilted his head and smiled shyly while slowly nodding.
“What is it you want me to do?” Mr. Butler mumbled.
“Tell Vincent that I think he’s a nice man but he mustn’t get notions about me, and tell him not to visit more than once a month.”
“Sure seems like a strange thing for me to tell Vincent,” Mr. Butler mumbled.
“You have to. I can’t,” Miss Lilly persisted.
“Maybe it would be best if Jack and I left. Maybe you don’t want us to visit but just can’t say it,” Mr. Butler mumbled.
“Ohh, no, no!” Miss Lilly contended. “Boots and I love having you and Jack visit.”
“That’s good. Jack and I enjoy your company too,” Mr. Butler mumbled.
The two sat quietly for a few moments before Miss Lilly advised, “You had better go. The snow is supposed to get heavy.”
While picking up his walking stick, Mr. Butler turned to Miss Lilly and mumbled, “I’ll talk to Vincent.”
Miss Lilly smiled and, while tucking four napkin-wrapped cookies in his coat pocket, said softly, “Now you come back, Mr. Butler. You and Jack come and visit whenever you want.”
Three days later, when Mr. Butler and Jack walked the snowy path to Miss Lilly’s, he was carrying five pie apples in a bag and wearing a contented smile.