Chapter Eleven

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I watched as Robert rolled his eyes in response to the voice, folding his over his chest and raising an eyebrow at the figure standing just behind me. Turning away from Robert, I glanced down towards the end of the corridor, coming face-to-face with a rather un-happy looking Matilda. Like Robert, she had her arms folded over her chest, her eyebrows furrowed in anger as she glared at me across the short distance. Mrs Ealing stood beside her, a box in one hand and her purse in another, though she said nothing as Robert and Matilda stood watching each other.

Neither of them spoke. It looked as though they were having a conversation with their eyes, yelling at each other in complete silence. Mrs Ealing and I just stood back and watched them, neither of us knowing just quite what to do, or just not wanting to get involved. Instinctively, I brushed my hands over the skirt of the dress, refusing to make eye contact with Matilda as her eyes danced between Robert and myself. They had reached a stalemate through nothing but glances and the occasional furrowed brow. When Matilda looked set to break the silence with what I could only assume would be a string of insults, Robert stepped in.

"It was my idea, Matilda. Her other dress is drying in the kitchen and she couldn't walk around in her underclothes, could she?"

"That doesn't mean she has to wear my dress! I don't care if her ratty piece of cloth was covered in candle wax, she should not be wearing my clothes!" Matilda yelled, stamping her foot as though she were some sort of child.

"It's not like you wear this dress. You said yourself that it was out of fashion."

"That's not the point!"

"Matilda, please," Mrs Ealing said. She sounded annoyed, but not quite angry, as though this wasn't the first time Matilda has acted like one of the twins. "Why is Rosie's work dress wet?"

"Zachariah thought he would go for a little swim in the river. If it hadn't been for Rosie, he wouldn't be upstairs playing with his trains."

"What do you mean he went for a little swim?" Mrs Ealing said, the pitch of her voice getting higher.

"He fell in, Rosie went in after him. She got him out before any harm was done, he's dried off and playing with Charlotte upstairs."

"Are you alright?" Mrs Ealing asked, turning to me.

"Fine, Ma'am," I said.

"Father said she has a bruised wrist but beyond that, she's perfectly fine."

"What about my dress?" Matilda interjected, looking somewhat annoyed that the topic of conversation had shifted from her and onto the situation that landed us in this mess in the first place.

"You'll have your dress back tomorrow, Matilda. It's just for one day. Now, why don't you take your new dress to your room and I shall see you in the dining room for supper."

Without saying another word, Matilda took the box from Mrs Ealing and brushed past me, her shoulder deliberately knocking into me as she passed. I stumbled slightly, quickly regaining my balance and watched as she disappeared up the stairs and to her room. Robert looked at me and shrugged, but I knew he was holding back a small smile, no doubt a reaction to Matilda and her actions. Mrs Ealing looked between Robert and myself before heading away to the parlour, leaving Robert and I alone in the hallway yet again.

Robert looked at me and placed his hand on my shoulder, giving me a reassuring smile before he too walked off, leaving me alone in the brightly lit corridor. Shaking my head, I smoothed out the skirts of the dress before heading back to the kitchen where my work dress was hanging in front of the burner, the colour changing as it dried. After informing Miss Jenkins of the bruise to my arm, she set me to work finishing the cleaning I was supposed to have done that morning. With an apron tied around my back to protect Matilda's dress, I returned to the parlour to continue cleaning.

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