A Tale of Two Sisters – Episode 04

The two sisters with their neighbour, Mr Herbert Markington

“I’ve heard it said that we will be assisting some of the new ladies in their studies. At least, that’s what Lavington told Huntsford.”

“Ladies?” Reginald groaned. “You’re not serious?”

Oliver nodded.

“Don’t look so glum. They may be charming.” He chuckled, his pleasant face full of good humour.

“Heaven forbid that we should find those harpies attractive.” Reginald shook his head.

“Whatever persuaded this venerable institution to admit them in the first place?”

Reginald could see no point in educating a female to this level – it was a waste of time and resources.

He felt most frustrated that it would now interfere with his own final year of study.

Surely spinsters could find something better to do than sabotage the workings of university life.

“Are you sure?” he asked, hopeful that his friend was mistaken.

Oliver shrugged.

“We shall discover in the fullness of time, but I am quite looking forward to it.”

Reginald raised his eyes heavenward. This was not a topic on which he and his friend were going to agree.

Alice was heading down the servants’ stairs at Halsom Hall, making her way towards the laundry.

She was a trim figure in her neat black gown, starched apron and mob cap.

She intended to check that Miss Lucinda’s dress had been properly pressed, ready for tomorrow’s morning visits, before she went out to make some purchases for her mistress.

Alice was in her early twenties and had already been in service at the hall for seven years.

She had started as a housemaid, but was a practical, hard-working girl, so Mrs Hicks had trained her to be Miss Lucinda’s personal maid – a job that she had undertaken for the last two years.

Today, Alice’s face was serious as she moved along the stone passageway.

She was very fond of her mistress and, at the present time, concerned about her.

Although little was said, she could tell that Miss Lucinda was missing her sister dreadfully and that this was made much worse by the quarrel they’d had before Miss Millicent’s departure.

Alice didn’t know the particulars, but it was common knowledge in the servants’ quarters that it was about Mr Markington.

Alice did not have a high opinion of men, and it was not her place to comment on her mistress’s future husband, but she couldn’t help having sympathy with Miss Millicent’s views on the subject.

She doubted that the young lady was jealous and, in her opportunities to observe, she had noticed that Mr Markington was condescending to her intelligent young mistress.

She shook her head. It was not her business, and Miss Lucinda was clearly head over heels in love.

There was little she could do but be kind to her until she had healed the breach with her sister.

“Good day, Alice. You look well.”

She frowned as Jenkin, one of the male servants, came towards her. What did he want now?

She nodded at him but didn’t answer, hoping to bustle past.

He stopped in front of her.

“I’ve a message for you from the master.”

The colour in her rosy cheeks deepened. Mr Halsom – what could he want with her?

“It’s naught to worry on,” Jenkin assured her, seeing the expression on her face.

“Mr Markington is visiting with Miss Lucinda this afternoon and the master would like to speak with him before he leaves.

“He asked for you to deliver the message.”

She nodded, relieved it was nothing more, and made to go about her business, but Jenkin placed a gentle hand on her arm.

“I hope all’s well at home,” he said kindly.

Alice’s mother had been unwell with a fever.

“Ma’s much improved,” she replied, keeping her eyes on the floor. “Now, I must deliver the master’s message.”

She made her way towards the house’s grand hallway, deep in thought.

She couldn’t deny that Jenkin was a decent man, but she didn’t like how he kept singling her out to talk. It made her uncomfortable.

To be continued…

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