A Tale of Two Sisters – Episode 15

Helen Welsh © Miss Lucinda in a carriage with her maid

“Well, Reggie, you seem to be enjoying our role as tutors, I’m pleased to see.”

Reginald smiled at his friend and nodded.

“I must confess I am.”

Oliver grinned.

“I am very glad of it. They are charming and intelligent young ladies, and I, for one, am thoroughly enjoying our new friendship.”

Reginald nodded. He was, too, and he still found it hard to believe. These women were not just sensible and well-informed, they were highly intelligent.

At first, it had been a bitter pill to swallow, but he had to admit he had been wrong.

The more he thought about it, the more obvious it seemed.

Millicent had been right. His limited acquaintance with the female sex and his mother’s shortcomings had coloured his perspective.

“Fancy a drink, Oliver?”

“I wouldn’t say no to a whisky,” his friend replied with a grin. “And you don’t have any more fruitcake, do you?”

“I’ll see what I can find.” Reginald laughed.

He bustled about and, soon after, they were comfortably settled in front of the fire with a tumbler and a slab of fruitcake.

It was a crisp afternoon. Outside in the quad a low sun turned the college walls to gold and the ivy blazed scarlet around the latticed windows.

He had enjoyed his day, but especially their latest discussion at Lady Margaret Hall.

The ladies were good company and he was increasingly impressed by the breadth and depth of Millicent’s knowledge, in particular. Some of her theories were fascinating.

He sighed and glanced at a letter on the table beside him.

He ought to open it, but he didn’t want to spoil a lovely day.

The porter had handed it to him on the way into college and he had recognised his mother’s handwriting with foreboding.

“Open it,” Oliver said now, watching his friend with amusement. “It’s probably full of the comings and goings of Miss Grantham.”

Reginald attempted a smile. His mother was not a great correspondent and he feared it must be something particular to motivate her to put pen to paper.

“Don’t mind me,” Oliver persisted. “You know you won’t be comfortable until you have read it.”

His friend was right. His peace was disturbed and he would have to see what it contained.

He slit the envelope open and pulled out a sheet of paper. As he read the short missive, his face fell.

“I hope it’s not bad news.” Oliver leaned forward, a look of concern on his pleasant features. “Is everything all right, Reggie?”

Reginald nodded slowly.

“They are well,” he told Oliver. “However, Francis’s behaviour has now gone too far. Mama writes to beg me to return home.”

“Will you go?”

“I must. Francis must be dealt with, and Mama… Well, you know Mama.”

Oliver nodded.

“Will you be long, do you think?”

Reginald shook his head.

“I hope not. I shall tarry for as short a time as possible.

“However, I cannot expect to be back by Wednesday. You will have to make my apologies to the ladies, Oliver.”

Reginald’s spirits were low. Dealing with his brother’s mess would be a difficult and frustrating experience.

He did not want to be home during term time, and he felt disappointed to be forced to miss any of their engagements with Millicent and Violet.

“I don’t know what we shall do with him, Oliver,” he told his friend. “He has got himself into debt.”

Oliver’s eyebrows shot up.

“Too many new waistcoats and top hats?” he asked.

Reginald frowned.

“He allowed himself to be persuaded to place some bets on the horses.

“He has lost more money than he knows how to pay.”

His friend was silent for a moment.

“Perhaps this is no bad thing,” Oliver said at last. “Now he has overstepped the mark, maybe he will learn his lesson.”

“I very much hope so.”

At sixteen, it was time his brother grew up and took some responsibility.

His exploits before had been more in the line of boyish pranks that got out of hand, but this was different.

Reginald would not allow him to gamble away the family estate.

Moreover, Harry would be off to university next year and Francis would be the man of the house.

He must help take care of Mama and their youngest brother. His behaviour would have to change.

Oliver patted Reginald on the shoulder.

“Don’t look so worried, Reggie. You’ll figure out how to deal with this. Francis will come good, I’m sure.”

Reginald wished he could be as confident, but he appreciated Oliver’s support nonetheless.

“Take care of yourself in my absence,” he replied, shaking his friend’s hand.

“You, too,” Oliver responded. “Well, I shall leave you to pack.”

The two men parted and Reginald poured another whisky. It would be a busy evening.

To be continued…

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