A Tale of Two Sisters – Episode 01

The two sisters with their neighbour, Mr Herbert Markington

Enjoy our new serial set in 1895. Two sisters, Millicent and Lucinda, don’t know it yet, but their lives will take them in very different directions…

“How could you, Millie?”

Millicent Halsom glanced away from her sister, Lucinda, and bit her lip.

“You know I am happy and that Papa has sanctioned the betrothal. Why do you wish to spoil everything?”

Millicent took a deep breath and turned back towards her sister.

“I don’t wish to spoil anything. However, I think you would be prudent to wait, to reconsider…”

Lucinda stamped her foot.

She was a pretty girl, and standing on the terrace of Halsom Hall in the early evening sunlight, her blue eyes flashing and her cheeks stained pink, she looked more so than ever.

It wasn’t surprising that a young man might consider her a desirable wife.

“To speak to Papa behind my back – well, I never could have imagined you would stoop so low.”

Millicent shifted uncomfortably and fiddled with the lace at her wrist.

She hadn’t liked to do it, but Lucinda wouldn’t listen to her and she was worried.

At eighteen, her sister was young, and Millicent hoped she would see more of the world before she wed.

Her main concern, though, was the prospective groom himself.

However hard she tried, she just couldn’t like their neighbour, Mr Herbert Markington. There was something about him that she didn’t trust.

“Lucinda, couldn’t you wait a little? You are young. Even at twenty I have no thoughts of matrimony yet.”

“Of course not.” Lucinda tossed her head.

“All you care about is fusty old books. We do not want the same things from life.”

Millicent was well aware of that.

Lucinda was an intelligent girl and well educated. It was Millicent who took after their father, a philosopher and naturalist.

She was fascinated by science and consumed all the information at her disposal on the subject.

Whilst her sister was contemplating matrimony, Millicent was to embark on an adventure of a very different kind.

She had been fortunate enough to win a place to continue her studies at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford: no mean feat for a lady in the year 1895.

She was leaving in 10 days’ time and she couldn’t be more delighted.

She turned to look at her sister. What could she say to change her mind?

Lucinda stood, arms folded, glaring at her.

“I know that Mr Markington is handsome and wealthy.

“In the world’s eyes it would be a very acceptable match, but how well do you know him?”

“Quite well enough, thank you, sister. He is a gentleman and… Oh!” Lucinda’s eyes narrowed.

“Don’t tell me you object to the fact that his father is a self-made man.”

“Of course not.” Millicent sighed. “Mr Markington senior is charming, despite his lack of pedigree.”

It was true. Millicent was fond of Herbert’s father. He was rough around the edges, but a genial, hard-working man.

She respected him. He had made his money through trade, then bought the neighbouring estate with the fortune he had accumulated.

His son she was not so sure about. Herbert was handsome and polished but, in her opinion, he was spoiled and arrogant.

The rest of her family, however, did not appear to think so.

“In that case, I cannot understand what you object to.” Lucinda smoothed her long skirt and stepped closer to her sister.

She was wearing a pretty dress, nipped in around her corseted waist. It had a full skirt and puffed sleeves.

Her blonde hair was piled neatly on top of her head.

“He is an intelligent gentleman, his looks and manners exemplary.” She paused and studied Millicent’s face.

“Why!” she exclaimed. “I do believe you are jealous!”

Millicent’s eyes widened.

“Jealous? No, indeed. How can you think so?”

Lucinda nodded.

“It makes perfect sense. I see it all now. You would like Herbert for yourself.”

Momentarily, Millicent was rendered speechless, then she rose to her feet.

“Believe me, Lucinda, if I wished to marry, it would not be to a man like Herbert Markington.”

Lucinda’s brow darkened.

“So you say.” She pouted. “At the very least, you do not wish me to marry before you.

“Perhaps you are afraid to be labelled a spinster or bluestocking.”

Millicent’s face was scarlet.

“That is unkind.”

“I am unkind? I am not the one who betrayed her sister by going behind her back.

“It is unpardonable, Millicent.” She stamped her foot once more. “Until you get over it and wish me joy, I do not intend to speak to you.”

With that, she turned on her heel and marched away.

To be continued…

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