To the Land of Long Lost Friends: No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (20) (20 page)

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Mma Makutsi sat down at her desk, adjusted her spectacles, and began to read the letter that Mma Ramotswe had handed her. After she finished, she laid it down and sighed. “Why did he go to all that trouble?” she asked. “Just to impress people?”

Mma Ramotswe said, “Forgiveness is good, Mma. If she can forgive him, then that is a good outcome. And remember, Mma, he is a man—and a man of a certain age. When men get to that age, they sometimes do foolish things—they forget themselves—because they are…well, they become anxious that ladies no longer find them attractive. It is called insecurity, Mma.”

Mma Makutsi snorted. “Men are very fortunate that women are so understanding.” She paused, and smiled with a certain air of satisfaction. “So I was almost right, Mma. I said that man must be up to something—and he was. It’s just that it wasn’t quite the thing I thought he was up to. I did not think that he would just pretend to be having an affair with that mathematics teacher.”

“Who was entirely innocent,” Mma Ramotswe added. She paused as she contemplated innocence. She had suspected Mma Mogorosi of having an affair herself, having seen her with that man in the supermarket, allowing him to pinch her. But if she had been, then why would she have written that note to the teacher? Jealousy perhaps lay behind that, or double standards. She might have expected her husband to remain faithful while she herself had a dalliance with somebody else. Or the man in the supermarket was, indeed, a member of her family and not a lover at all. Or the husband was not making it up—he
was
having an affair and she was misleading them in saying that it was imaginary on his part. She might do that if she felt guilty about her own conduct and wanted to present him in a better light. That was possible.

Mma Ramotswe sighed. You had to sigh sometimes, because life was so complicated or impenetrable; or because people behaved in a messy way; or because there was simply no ready solution to a human mix-up. What did Clovis Andersen say about it? Anything? Did he not say that you should not expect a resolution of everything because some details in any picture were simply not there, and never would be? Did he not say that—that great man from Muncie, Indiana, who gave the world that singular gift of
The Principles of Private Detection
? It came back to her.
Don’t think you can explain everything,
Clovis Andersen wrote,
because you can’t.

Mma Makutsi shook her head in wonderment at the foibles of people. “Sometimes you really have to ask yourself: Why do people do the things they do, Mma? That is what you ask yourself.”

“Because they are people,” said Mma Ramotswe. “I think that is the answer to that.”

The door opened. It was Charlie. He looked at the two women. He smiled. “I have an announcement to make,” he said. “Next Saturday, two o’clock sharp—I am getting married. It will be a small wedding because there is not much time, but you are both invited. And Phuti. And Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni.”

Mma Ramotswe stood up. She held her arms open, and Charlie rushed headlong into them. She hugged him to her. He said, “Oh, Mma, oh, Mma…,” and he began to cry.

Mma Makutsi came out from behind her desk. She too opened her arms. “Dear Charlie,” she said. “This is very good news.”

Mma Ramotswe released Charlie, wiping at his tears of joy with the sleeve of her blouse. He turned to Mma Makutsi and she embraced him. Her glasses scraped the bridge of his nose. That did not matter.

Mma Makutsi made tea. They drank it while seated in a circle. They talked about what they would wear and about what Charlie should wear. Mma Makutsi said that Phuti had a suit that was a little bit too small for him but that should fit Charlie perfectly. It was made of a sort of shiny black fabric that was very fashionable these days, she said. Charlie said that he would love to try it. “Even if it is a bit tight, I can hold my stomach in,” he said.

Not much work was done that morning, but there was not much work to do. At midday, Mma Ramotswe suggested that Charlie should take the afternoon off. Mma Makutsi said that he could come with her to her house and try on Phuti’s suit. For her part, Mma Ramotswe had a lunch appointment, on the verandah of the President Hotel, where she was due to meet Poppy and Calviniah and talk about the old days in Mochudi.

They did just that. They talked. And at the end, Mma Ramotswe looked with fondness at her two old friends. Calviniah was happy because her daughter had returned to her; Poppy was relieved because she had been anxious about what she had done even before Mma Potokwane resolved the situation for her. Her car had been returned, along with other property she had parted with. “I was very foolish,” she said. “It went to my head, I’m afraid.”

“We are all foolish at some time or another,” said Mma Ramotswe. “There is no shame in that.”

After their meal they went their separate ways. Mma Ramotswe started to drive back to the office, but thought better of it and made her way back to her house on Zebra Drive. She would spend some time in her garden, she decided, getting it ready for the rain that people said was forecast for the following day—the life-giving rain, the rain they had awaited for so long. And she would think about all the good things she had had in her life—good things given to her by her father, by her friends, by her country, Botswana, that dear and good place—and the good things she still had, which were so many; so numerous, in fact, that it would take far too long to count them.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels and of a number of other series and stand-alone books. His works have been translated into more than forty languages and have been best sellers throughout the world. He lives in Scotland.

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