A Tale of Two Sisters – Episode 13

Helen Welsh © Miss Lucinda in a carriage with her maid

Alice sat opposite Miss Lucinda, blinking at the splendour of the grand salon in the French hotel.

They had arrived a few hours earlier and were now settling into their new surroundings. What amazing things she had already seen!

The sea crossing had been quite an experience. Water in all directions and not a scrap of land in sight!

The gulls had screamed overhead and the wind buffeted her face. It had been both exhilarating and terrifying.

Alice had to admit that Jenkin had been very kind, checking how she was and encouraging her in such unfamiliar circumstances.

The journey through France was a revelation. The country seemed dry and dusty after England’s lush greenery, and more ordered, somehow, with its avenues of trees and terraced vineyards.

Some of the views took her breath away, with sparkling rivers and fairy-tale castles, and she had been pleased to see many church spires rising in towns and villages as they passed.

When they had arrived, Jenkin and the other manservants had brought the trunks up to their rooms, then seen to the horses, whilst Alice and Miss Lucinda refreshed themselves.

Her mistress had changed into one of her most flattering gowns, a pink dress with lace at the neck and cuffs.

She had been eager to go straight to Mr Markington, so they had made their way to his suite of rooms and the door was opened by his servant.

After a short delay, they were admitted to his bed chamber, where he greeted them politely.

“My English rose, as beautiful as ever,” he had said. “What an unexpected delight.”

A smile was affixed to his handsome face, but the evident dismay that their arrival had caused was unfortunately also visible.

Miss Lucinda hesitated, then took a seat by the bed.

“I hope you are a little better, Herbert,” she said.

“I was alarmed by your letter and have come to nurse you until you are able to leave your room.”

“That is very devoted of you,” he replied with a distinct lack of enthusiasm, “But they have physicians in France, my dear.”

Lucinda flushed.

“I am well aware of that,” she replied. “However, I hoped my presence would be a comfort to you.”

He nodded, though his eyes betrayed his amazement.

“It is always a delight to be with you, Lucinda, though there was no need for you to travel so far.”

A desultory conversation ensued, until Mr Markington claimed he needed rest and they had come away.

Now they were sitting in the salon together, her mistress pale and listless.

Miss Lucinda was twisting the spoon in her cup of chocolate, ignoring the pastry on her plate, and Alice was concerned.

“Why don’t you try some cake, miss? It’s very pleasant. It will make you feel better.”

Lucinda shook her head.

“I am not hungry at present, thank you.”

Alice wondered what she could do. It had not been the warm welcome that Miss Lucinda had expected.

She looked around the grand room. There were large tables surrounded by velvet chairs.

Statues stood on plinths in the wall recesses and chandeliers hung from the ceiling.

A number of elegant ladies and gentlemen were milling in groups. Some were taking tea and others were reading or talking.

Alice couldn’t understand a word they were saying; it was all very strange.

“Mr Markington was not himself,” Miss Lucinda remarked eventually.

“No, miss, but that is to be expected when he’s poorly.”

“Do you think so? He has clearly been quite unwell.” For a moment, Alice’s mistress’s face brightened, then clouded again.

“That may be part of it,” she added, “but I do not think he was pleased to see me.”

Lucinda blinked hard and sipped her hot chocolate.

“I’m sure that ain’t so, miss. He were taken by surprise and was tired, that’s all.”

“I hope I have not done wrong in coming. Papa was not keen on the idea, but I knew that, were matters reversed, I would be most happy to see Herbert.” Lucinda bit her lip.

“We are to be married in a few months. I do not think it indecorous,” she added.

“No, miss. We have travelled most respectably.”

Lucinda sighed.

“Perhaps you are right. Maybe he will be in better spirits after he has rested. It is certainly delightful to be near him again.

“I confess that home had become dull with Herbert and Millicent away.” She smiled forlornly. “I do wish Millicent would not be so difficult.”

Alice didn’t know what to say to this. She couldn’t see Miss Millicent’s opinion altering, but she would no doubt have to accept how matters stood.

“I am sure she is missing you, too, miss,” Alice replied, then she took a deep breath.

“Perhaps you should write to her. You might feel better.”

Lucinda stared at Alice and she wondered if she would be reprimanded, but her mistress merely shrugged.

“Perhaps you are right. Maybe once Mr Markington is recovered…”

Her voice trailed away and Alice could see she was once more lost in her thoughts.

To be continued…

An error has occurred while loading your details. Please click the following link to try again - if the issue persists, please don't hesitate to contact us. Try again by refreshing the page.