A Tale of Two Sisters – Episode 29

The main characters from the serial, including Millicent and Reginald, and Miss Lucinda, with a ship on stormy seas in the background.

Millicent felt faint. Her cheeks burned and she tried to remove her hand from Stanley’s grasp – to no avail.

She was attempting to break free when out of nowhere he was yanked to his feet and she was mercifully released.

She looked up to see Reginald, his features etched with fury, holding Mr Thursford by the lapels and hissing something into his startled face.

He let go, though it seemed to cost him a great deal of self control, and Mr Thursford scuttled towards the exit, his head bowed.

Millicent took a few steadying breaths. Her heart was pounding.

She wasn’t sure if that was due to her ordeal or the manner of her rescue.

As she looked into Reginald’s face, she felt an unprecedented wave of emotion.

He showed such consideration for her and was such an intelligent and interesting man. She had never met anyone like him.

She swallowed and clenched her gloved hands.

“I hope you don’t mind my intervention,” Reginald said.

“I couldn’t bear that fellow manhandling you in such a despicable fashion.”

Reginald seated himself beside her at a respectable distance, and the sheepish look on his face brought a smile to her own.

“I am very grateful.” She blushed crimson. “A most unpleasant incident.”

He looked relieved.

“I could see how unhappy you were and I . . .” He hesitated and his gaze swept her face. “Would you like some air?”

Millicent nodded. She still felt shocked and not at all herself.

He rose and offered his arm. She took it gratefully and leaned upon him as they walked to the door.

“I am sorry that your evening has been spoiled in such a wretched manner,” he said, “but I do not think you will be hearing from
Mr Thursford again.”

A look of grim satisfaction crossed his face and Millicent wondered what had been said.

She found she did not much care, if it had removed Stanley Thursford from her life.

Again she felt a powerful wave of gratitude towards Reginald and, to her surprise, something more.

Outside in the fresh air, with Mr Fenton beside her, Millicent immediately began to recover.

It was a crisp night. The trees carved fantastic shapes across the dark sky and leaves crunched beneath their feet.

A white moon shone out of the heavens and infinitesimal dots of light pierced the firmament.

“I shall be myself again directly,” she assured Reginald. “I am not much given to faintness or vapours.”

“I can well believe it,” he responded with a grin. “You are a remarkable woman.”

He gave her such a warm look that, for a moment, hope rose in her breast.

How had she come to care for him? She’d only ever wanted an academic career.

“Millie, I’m sorry. Are you all right?” Violet had dashed outside, followed by Oliver. “I promised not to leave you. Forgive me.”

Millicent took her friend’s hand.

“I am quite all right, Violet. Pray, do not alarm yourself.”

“We knew he was persistent, but I never imagined . . .”

“It’s my fault.” Oliver looked mortified. “It was I who dragged Violet away. I am most dreadfully sorry.”

Millicent looked around at her friends’ anxious faces and smiled.

“You are all very kind, but no-one is to blame except Mr Thursford, and Reginald dealt with him very ably.

“I am perfectly well. Indeed, it is becoming a little chilly. Shall we go back inside?”

As they re-entered the room, Millicent suddenly felt hungry and her eyes strayed towards the buffet, set out on the other side of the room.

Oliver followed her gaze and his eyes lit up.

“Food – an excellent idea, Millicent! I’m absolutely famished.”

Reginald burst out laughing.

“That doesn’t surprise me one bit. Please be seated, ladies.

“Oliver and I will bring you some of the delicacies on offer, and perhaps a glass of brandy?”

He glanced at Millicent, who nodded gratefully. Food and a warming drink was exactly what she needed.

She and Violet crossed to some unoccupied chairs close to the fireplace and made themselves comfortable.

Violet sighed.

“I believe we shall have a much more pleasant evening now all that is over,” she remarked.

“Indeed.” Millicent’s response was heartfelt.

She was very glad to see the back of Mr Thursford. Now she could relax and enjoy a wonderful time with her friends, as she had originally hoped.

The gentlemen soon returned, their hands laden with goodies, and everyone tucked into cold chicken and delicate pastries.

A most fascinating discussion on the lecture ensued, then Reginald told them more about his visit home.

Millicent was interested to learn about his three brothers.

He spoke warmly of Harry and Charles, and she thought his feelings did him credit.

There was no mention of his young lady, and she had no idea what to read into this, if anything at all.

Every now and then she glanced up at him. More often that not, he was already looking at her.

The expression in his own eyes made her feel wobbly. Perhaps an academic career might not be the only thing she wanted in life, after all.

What an evening of shocks and revelations it had been!

To be continued…

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