A Tale of Two Sisters – Episode 23

Miss Lucinda visits Notre-Dame with her new friends

Alice could not believe she was in Paris! It was wonderful!

She was excited to see the sights and couldn’t wait to tell her family.

Thomas’s eyes would be as round as saucers.

She was also grateful that everything was so new and interesting that it helped take her mind from her other concerns.

For the last few days, her mistress’s new friend, Miss Thérèse, had acted as their guide around Paris.

They’d been chaperoned by a Monsieur Emile Lacroix, a childhood friend of Miss Thérèse.

To Alice’s astonishment, he supported the lady’s views on rights for women.

Miss Lucinda was fascinated by the movement that they were part of.

She had asked hundreds of questions and Alice was glad of it, as it seemed to distract her from her heartache.

Alice had never seen such enormous buildings and such a busy, bustling city.

Today they were visiting Notre-Dame, and it was the biggest building she had ever seen.

“We are very proud of our mediaeval cathedral,” Mr Lacroix told them as they entered. “Work on it began in 1163.”

Alice gasped. It must be a very ancient place.

“Was not Monsieur Hugo’s novel set here?” Miss Lucinda enquired.

“Why, indeed it was.” Mr Lacroix looked impressed. “You have read it?”

“I have.” She smiled at him. “My sister and I are fond of reading. We devour every volume that comes to hand.”

He looked delighted.

Mr Lacroix came from an ancient French family that owned land across the country.

Alice had felt quite intimidated when she first met him, but he had been kind and put her at ease.

He had a pleasant face with intelligent blue eyes and straight black hair.

Unlike Mr Markington, he was a modest man and, Alice suspected, better informed, too.

“I love books,” Miss Lucinda said. “And I am also interested in art.”

“Then you will not be disappointed with our city.

“Let us start with some of the treasures right here. These beautiful stained-glass windows are famous.”

Alice stared up at one of the rose windows, bright with exquisite glass.

She was filled with wonder. It was like an enormous glowing flower.

“There are noteworthy paintings and a section of Christ’s holy crown of thorns, if you should like to see it?” Mr Lacroix added.

Miss Lucinda nodded, and Alice followed behind the three gentlefolk as they moved about the cathedral.

She listened with only half an ear, more intent on looking around her and watching Mr Lacroix than listening to what he said.

She’d wondered almost from the outset, but today she felt certain that he was attracted to her mistress.

She was worried by this. Miss Lucinda was fragile and didn’t need new attentions so immediately after her heartbreak.

Yet it was obvious to Alice in the way his eyes lingered on Lucinda’s face and the depth of his attention and interest when she spoke.

Menfolk! What a complicated world it was.

Alice sighed and her thoughts flew to Jenkin, Miss Lucinda’s manservant who had accompanied them on their trip.

He had been so kind and supportive to her in the last few days. She couldn’t help but be grateful.

It was a relief to have someone to lean on. She found herself looking forward to seeing him, glad of his company.

But could she trust him? Did she have the strength to take such a risk again and, if she did, what difference did it make?

If he knew her past, his feelings for her would soon vanish.

She tried to focus. A chance of happiness was over for her. She must merely support her mistress and do her job well.

She turned her attention to the conversation, which had now moved on.

“Do you think there is a chance of success?” Miss Lucinda was asking. “Why, in England, many women do not wish to vote.”

Thérèse frowned.

“That is true here also. There is a long way to go, but that is only reason to work harder, no?”

Miss Lucinda looked thoughtful.

“You are right. The sooner we start, the sooner change can be achieved – for our daughters, if not ourselves.”

“This is very true.” Mr Lacroix gave Lucinda a glowing look.

Alice didn’t think her mistress noticed, however. She would not think about romance again for some time.

While Mr Lacroix remained respectful, Alice supposed no harm could be done.

The pair got on well and the gentleman seemed able to raise Miss Lucinda’s spirits. Alice was grateful for that.

He had been most sympathetic when apprised by Miss Thérèse of her mistress’s situation.

In another week they would be home, and just as well. Miss Lucinda would be safe with her father, and Alice could spend less time with Jenkin.

To be continued…

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