A Tale of Two Sisters – Episode 20

Helen Welsh © The main characters from the series

Despite a bumpy carriage ride, Alice could feel her eyelids beginning to close.

What with the lack of sleep and the dramatic events of the morning, she was exhausted.

After pulling Miss Lucinda from Mr Markington’s grasp, she had managed to get her back to her room, shaking from head to toe.

She had then persuaded her mistress to lie down.

The poor young lady had curled up on her bed and broken her heart.

Later, with the fire stoked high, she had fallen asleep for a time.

Alice watched over her, wishing that she, too, could find oblivion.

The last 24 hours had brought back memories she had fought to suppress for eight years.

She had been fine whilst anger and adrenaline coursed through her veins, but now demons came back to haunt her.

When Miss Lucinda woke, she was pale and drawn, but had regained some of her fire and resolve.

She sat down in an armchair, deep in thought.

“We shall go to Paris,” she announced. “I cannot stay here, but we are not yet expected home.

“Ask Slater to return this.” She pulled the diamond from her finger and dropped it into Alice’s hand.

Alice gasped, curled her fingers over it and hurried from the room.

The rest of the morning her feet hardly touched the ground. They packed, ate a light lunch and now were on the road to Paris.

So far, the journey had passed in silence.

Miss Lucinda stared blankly out of the window, lost in thought. It must have been well over half an hour before she spoke.

“I have not yet thanked you, Alice,” she said at last. “I owe you everything.”

“No, indeed, miss.” Alice stared at her hands.

“I do. I will always be grateful.”

Alice did not answer and Lucinda reached across and gently took her hand.

“I know it took great bravery to tell me such a thing…” She stopped and swallowed. “And to rescue me in my hour of need. I dread to think –”

She ceased speaking as a sudden sob erupted from Alice’s throat.

“Alice, what is wrong? Are you unwell?”

Her mistress moved to sit beside her, putting an arm around her shoulders.

This was too much for Alice. The exhaustion and stress overwhelmed her and she was lost to tears.

Once she was calmer, she wiped her eyes and took some steadying breaths.

“I’m sorry, miss. I don’t know what came over me.”

Miss Lucinda patted her hand.

“It is understandable, given the circumstances. Are you feeling better?”

Her eyes searched Alice’s face and she paused.

“There is something else, is there not?” she asked gently. “Something is weighing on you?”

Alice knew it would be madness to confess, but her secret had pressed on her so long that it seemed to pour out of its own accord.

“It brought back dreadful memories, miss,” she found herself saying.

“I had a sweetheart when I were sixteen. I loved and trusted him, but he took advantage.

“I know I should not have done so, but when I saw what Mr Markington were about, I were so angry, I had to strike him.”

For a moment, Miss Lucinda didn’t speak, then she squeezed Alice’s hand.

“I am grateful that you did,” she told her. “I am sorry for the past, but your secret is safe with me.”

“I can imagine how easily such a thing could have occurred,” Miss Lucinda added. Then her hand flew to her mouth.

“Oh!” she exclaimed. “Your little brother, Thomas. Is he…?”

Alice didn’t reply, but her bowed head answered the question for her.

To be continued…

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