A Tale of Two Sisters – Episode 32

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

It was a cold morning as Reginald and Oliver hastened out of town.

The streets were quiet, but horses’ hooves rang loudly on the cobbles and a flower-seller’s cry carried from the market.

A thin film of ice coated the river and the ground was dusted with frosted leaves.

A pale sun slanted down and their voices carried in the clear air.

Reginald felt unable to heed any of it. He walked as swiftly as possible, eager to see Millicent once again.

Not long after, they were seated in the study with Violet, ready to begin their tutorial.

“Millicent will be here directly. She has gone to collect our post and a copy of the morning paper. May I get you a cup of tea?”

“That’s just what I need to warm me up.” Oliver grinned, but Reginald shook his head.

He did not think he could eat or drink anything until he saw Millicent’s beautiful face.

He hoped she was fully recovered from the other night’s ordeal. Confound that insufferable man!

How glad he was that he had been able to rescue her.

How he wished he could win the honour of protecting her always, but he had no idea what her feelings might be.

There was a thunder of footsteps racing along the corridor, a violent rattle of the door, then Millicent burst inside, waving a newspaper and babbling incoherently.

Her friends were startled and Reginald leaped to his feet, but Violet got there first.

“Why, Millie, whatever’s amiss? Come, sit down and take a breath.”

She led her friend to an armchair.

“Calm yourself. I’m sure all will be well. Is it bad news?”

Millicent was trembling, but she took a couple of deep breaths and tried to control herself.

“Papa is very well. It’s Lucinda.” At the mention of her beloved sister she burst into tears and thrust the morning edition towards her friend.

Reginald was horrified. How he wished he could sweep her into his arms and comfort her. What on earth could be wrong?

“The Neptune – that is the ship on which Lucinda was returning home, is it not?” Violet asked as she scanned the front page.

Millicent nodded.

“It is.” She sobbed. “It has gone down. Many lives have been lost. What if Lucinda . . .?”

Violet took Millicent’s face in her hands and looked her in the eyes.

“It is alarming,” she said gently, “but do not give way to despair.

“It says here that there are survivors recovering on Guernsey. Perhaps Lucinda is one of them.”

Reginald was aghast. How he hoped Lucinda was safe. He knew that Millicent was close to her younger sister and loved her dearly.

He thought of his bond with his own brothers and his face was grave.

Violet held Millicent and spoke soothingly. After a time, her weeping ceased.

Millicent pulled back and reached for her handkerchief.

“I am sorry,” she said, wiping her eyes. “I am so afraid and I do not know what to do.”

“That is quite all right,” Reginald murmured, finding the words quite insufficient for his feelings.

“Drink this and have a piece of toast.” Oliver passed her a cup and plate and Violet took them for her.

“Oliver is right. You must eat something and drink some sweet tea.

“You will be no use to Lucinda or your father if you don’t take care of yourself.”

To Reginald’s relief, Millicent nodded and tried to sip her tea. When she was calmer, they discussed the situation.

“Are you certain that this article refers to Lucinda’s ship?” he asked her.

“Yes. Mademoiselle Thérèse Dumas wrote to apprise me of Lucy’s return and to tell me all that has happened in France.

“My poor sister; what a dreadful time she has had of it.”

“Indeed she has,” Violet agreed.

“However, she has made good friends during her stay in Paris, and she is no longer duped by this Mr Markington. All may yet be well.”

“I pray so, but I cannot sit here waiting for news. I shall go to Guernsey.

“I must find Lucinda – I have to know if she is alive!” Millicent cried.

“You cannot go alone,” Violet returned. “I shall come with you.”

“Oh, Violet, I do not wish to impose or to drag you away from your studies.”

“I am determined.” Her friend grinned.

Millicent hugged her.

“Thank you. You are the most wonderful friend.”

Violet shrugged.

“I shall enjoy the adventure.”

“And so will I.” Reginald rose to his feet, determined to support Millicent in any way possible.

He could not witness such distress and remain inactive.

“You will need an escort, and Oliver and I would be delighted to come with you, wouldn’t we, Oliver?”

His friend nodded.

Reginald moved towards her.

“Do not give up hope. It is possible that your sister is safe.

“We shall procure a carriage and be back within the hour. Will that give you time to pack?”

“More than enough.” Millicent regarded him gratefully and his heart leaped.

He could tell she was eager to be off and he would do all he could to facilitate her search.

Whatever happened, he would be there by her side.

He’d never experienced such love as this, and he would do everything in his power to make her happy.

To be continued…

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