A Tale of Two Sisters – Episode 21

Helen Welsh © The main characters from the series

A while later they drew up in front of a building in the centre of the city.

Jenkin handed them out of the carriage and Alice felt his gaze taking in her puffy face and swollen eyes.

“It’ll be all right, Alice,” he whispered. “You’ll see.”

She wished she could go home now. His attentions were intensifying and she felt so confused.

She followed her mistress inside and they repaired to the salon.

This one was grander than before and Alice’s jaw dropped as she stared round at chandeliers and liveried footmen.

“We will take some refreshment,” her mistress told her.

Alice didn’t protest, but sat in silence as patisserie and glasses were brought for them. She felt greatly relieved for baring her soul.

“Do eat some cake, miss,” Alice urged her. “You had little at luncheon. You must not ruin your health over a worthless man.”

Miss Lucinda smiled and attempted a mouthful.

“You always look after me well,” she told Alice.

“You are right. It will take time to get over this, but how glad I am that I know his true character.”

She shook her head.

“Dear Millicent was right all along. I shall visit her on our return.” Miss Lucinda’s face brightened. “How good it will be to speak with her again.”

“Excuse me. I may join you, no?”

Alice looked up to see a French gentlewoman with hair pulled into a bun and intelligent green eyes.

She wore a navy dress with a small bustle and she was smiling at them.

“Pray do.” Miss Lucinda was taken aback, but was too polite to decline.

The woman seemed to understand.

“I will not take up much of your time,” she assured them, “but I wished to introduce myself.

“I am delighted to find two women bold enough to travel alone. My name is Thérèse Dumas. I live here.”

“You live at the hotel?” Miss Lucinda looked shocked and the other woman laughed.

“It is surprising, but perfectly respectable.

“My family insist on a chaperone and servants, but I wished for greater independence and the opportunity to focus on my work.”

“And what is that?” Miss Lucinda’s eyes were wide.

“I belong to a group who believe in equality,” Thérèse told her. “The movement is gathering strength here in France.

“We hope to gain the vote for women and better educational opportunities for all. Women are just as intelligent as men, no?”

Miss Lucinda’s eyes blazed.

“Indeed, my sister is undertaking studies at Oxford University.”

From here the conversation flowed, and Alice sat, wide-eyed, listening to the woman’s revolutionary ideas.

To be continued…

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