Marian was late coming back from the village. Although this was not unusual—she often wandered along the banks of the River Leven, spreading the fluff of cattails or tossing leaves into the current and watching them meander onward—it was particularly vexing to her mother. Her baskets for charity needed to be delivered, and the bread still waited for wrapping in new muslin cloth. Since Susan had her afternoon off, Marian had volunteered for the errand. But that was three hours ago!
At last she entered the foyer, humming a little tune and spinning a long grass stem between her fingers. "Marian!" her mother called. "Come quickly with that cloth."
She came into the room. "What, Maman?"
"The cloth! Ma fille, where is the muslin you were sent for?"
Marian looked startled for a moment, and then in a rush of realization stared at the blade of grass in her hands, as if horrified to find it had been transformed from a piece of cloth into a weed. "Oh..." she moaned. "I had it, I'm sure..." She looked around, patting at her sides to see if it was somehow there.
Maman sighed in exasperation. "Three hours, and no cloth."
"No, I did have it. I went to the store, I saw Rose and Violet there, and we walked to the tea shop." She paused, turned, and motioned with her hands as if she were walking up to a door and opening it. "We had tea, we saw some friends." Another long pause as she stared back down the hall she had just come from. "Ah! I sat in the tree near the stone bridge. I must have left it there!"
Maman put her hand to her forehead, lightly pressing her temples as if a headache was about to begin.
"No, don't fret Maman, I will run and get it. It's only a few fields away. Not far past the Simms' place. I will return so quickly!" Her footsteps echoed as she skittered back to the foyer, grabbed her bonnet and flew out the door.
Rachel came around a corner, curious. "Wasn't Marian just returned? Why is she gone again?"
"Your sister simply forgot what she'd been to town for. She arrived without parcel or package, rien pour tout!" From there, her language switched to a rapid barrage of French and Rachel tried to nod sympathetically, though she only caught a few words.
After the steam of her exasperation fizzled out, Rachel simply said, "Sorry, Maman." She began to pick up the several baskets that were put together and carry them towards the back door. In a small morning room, just outside the servants' hall, she placed them on a table. Her mother followed with two more baskets. They tucked in a few final items and her mother began to write the destination of each in her flowing script.
A bang and clatter announced that Marian was back. "I found it," she announced loudly.
"In the morning room," Rachel called back. Marian appeared, out of breath and clutching a fraying ball of fabric. She held it out to Maman, who took it with a sigh and began to smooth it out. "Marian, thank you, but now I need my scissors. Please retrieve them from my sitting room."
Marian panted through the back hall, then her footsteps were heard on the way upstairs.
"Three hours, Rachel. What can she have been doing for three hours?"
Rachel smiled. "All sorts of nothing. But soon we'll have these packages finished. I will go with you to deliver them, if you like."
"'Twould be helpful. Merci."
Once the scissors were produced and the cloth trimmed and folded, Rachel rang for Cook to bring the loaves of bread. They wrapped them loosely and carried the baskets out towards the door, where their small carriage was waiting.
YOU ARE READING
The Vicar's DaughtersHistorical Fiction
If every young lady likes to be crossed in love now and then, the Vicar Pearce's daughters are three times blessed. Willful and spirited, Rachel refuses to think Lord Ellsworth's son, her dearest friend since childhood, is not in love with her. But...