Louisa Tarrant-Smyth’s hand shook as she dispensed tea from a silver teapot. “It was good of you to call, Letty. The house has been very very quiet these last few weeks.”Letty smiled, accepting a dainty cup and saucer.“Oh, I was passing this way, and realised that, as it was three o’clock, afternoon tea was likely being served. The temptation was too great!”Louisa shot a penetrating glance at her friend.“Nicely done, Letty, but I know you too well. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not actually having an attack of the vapours or a fit of hysterics over my daughter leaving home.”She gazed past Letty to the landscape outside.“She gave me no warning, you know. Instructed Butchart to fetch the carriage from the coach house, and before I knew it there was a pile of valises in the front hall and that Kirsty girl was standing crying into her apron.”“I can’t imagine dear Constance would leave, just like that.” Letty’s voice was mild as she watched her friend struggle to hold back the tears.“Perhaps, as she said, I hadn’t listened to her. She claims she had been telling me about this artist nonsense for most of the summer, but I thought that was just a silly notion. I was sure she would tire of it and follow the plans I’d made for her.”“Plans?” Letty helped herself to another cup of tea.“Going to London, being introduced into society and the Grand Tour, of course!” Louisa’s tone was impatient.“And finding a husband?” Again, Letty’s voice was innocent.“A suitable husband,” was the response.Letty tried to choose her words carefully.“I don’t suppose Constance was being outrageous by being set on her own plans, Louisa. Things have changed since our youth. These young women have their own ideas. They want the vote. They want to make their own choices.”The other glared at her.“They have a duty to their parents, who only want the best for them. Which is what I told Constance as she was leaving. No daughter of mine should behave like some sort of hoyden!”There was a tap on the door. A timid Kirsty answered Louisa’s “Enter!” and edged into the room.“Madam, I’ve come to hand in my notice.” Louisa stared at her for what seemed a very long moment. The girl flushed.“I have enjoyed my situation here, madam, but, but . . .”“You’d rather be with Constance?” Louisa’s reply was stiff.Kirsty looked away from her employer.“Miss Constance has been very good to me.” “Then I gather that, given the chance, you would enter her employ in Glasgow.”“I havenae been offered another situation, madam, if that’s what you mean.” Kirsty reddened as she spoke. Louisa’s next words caused Letty to stare at her friend in incredulity.“What if I were to offer you a situation with my daughter? I would, of course, arrange to have your wages sent directly to you.”Kirsty’s chin went up.“I dinnae want wages from you, madam. I willnae spy on Miss Constance!”There was an ominous silence, filled by Letty.“You are mistaken, Kirsty. Mrs Tarrant-Smyth would never suggest such a thing. She is simply trying to . . .”As she struggled, Louisa came to her rescue.“Kirsty, my daughter has gone to Glasgow. For all I know she is alone in that city. Of course, she has friends, but it is important to me that she has somebody she can trust by her side.”Kirsty stared, disbelieving, as her employer continued.“She has been gently reared and is unused to performing household tasks. She will need someone to assist her. Someone she can trust.”Kirsty had drawn herself up to her full five-feet-and-one-inch. She met Louisa Tarrant-Smyth’s gaze.“Thank you, madam, for sayin’ I kin be trusted. I’ll see to Miss Constance, you can be sure o’ that. And if there’s nae wages coming in, I’ll find ither work. We’ll manage.”For a moment Louisa’s composure nearly slipped altogether. Eyes filled with tears, she smiled.“Thank you, Kirsty. Under the circumstances, you have no need to work your notice. Just do your packing and, when you are ready, let me know. We’ll have your box sent on to Glasgow as soon as you send your address.”A smile lit up Kirsty’s face.“Thank you, madam. I’ll start packing tonight.”Louisa stared out of the window, silent. Letty waited.“Sometimes servants can surprise an employer, Letty. That little girl, Kirsty, is certainly full of surprises.”“Pleasant ones, I should say.”Louisa didn’t seem to hear her as she continued.“I had a letter from Constance. She has found suitable accommodation near the art school, and promises to visit William and Emmeline. I have written back to her, of course. The fact that I disagree with her course of action makes no difference to the fact that she is my daughter, and . . .” She cleared her throat to stop the shake in her voice. “I miss her, of course. The house is very quiet. And I live in hope that she will see sense very soon and return home.”She took a deep breath and turned to face Letty, her back ramrod straight as usual, her features composed.“Now, I believe I shall ring for another pot of tea.”And Letty knew that the matter was closed.