Chapter Fifteen

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Standing on the threshold of the house with water seeping into my clothes, I didn't want to look up. I stood there, letting the water drip off my dress and bonnet, forming a puddle on the steps. It was as though I had taken another swim in the river, only this time it wasn't because I didn't have any other option, and it wasn't my fault. The water soaked into my dress, causing the fabric to cling to my body. Every time a cold breeze went by, small goosebumps formed on my arm and a shiver ran down my spine. After getting soaked through twice in the space of a few days, it would be a miracle if I didn't end up unwell.

"Now I see why you were keeping her in the basement, Albert. I wouldn't want anyone to see one of my servants if they had such a grotesque looking mark," a voice beside me said. I still didn't look up. There was something about avoiding eye contact that made the situation a little better.

"Actually Gregory, we thought it best for Rosie to stay away from the party for her own sake. She's only been with us a few days and we didn't want to overwhelm her so soon," Doctor Ealing said.

"Hm, of course. Are you sure there isn't something wrong with her? Other than her arm, that is."

"I'm not entirely sure what you mean, Gregory."

"Well, are you sure she is all there? I just poured a bucket of cold water on her head and she didn't even make a sound, she's just standing there. I knew you needed a new servant, but you are really scraping the bottom of the barrel with this one."

"I'll thank you to not insult my workers at my own house, Gregory," Doctor Ealing said, his voice lower than I had ever heard it.

"I think it's time we all went inside, this is supposed to be Matilda's birthday party, not a chance for you two to cause a scene in front of our guests."

"Elizabeth's right. Miss Jenkins, I'll leave you to deal with Rosie."

Knowing I was standing directly in the threshold, I took a rather large step to the side, giving the guests to the party access back into the house. I kept my eyes to the ground as everyone shuffled past me, people stepping over the puddle of water on the step. Even though I never looked up, I felt their eyes on me, the way they stared at my soaked through dress or the burn on my arm. Strangers are always the ones who judge the harshest because they don't have the facts.

When everyone had passed and re-entered the house, I glanced up from the steps expecting to see Miss Jenkins standing alone before. Whilst Miss Jenkins was there, standing off to the side with a concerned look on her face, Robert had also hung back. He stood on the grass in front of the house looking at me, small droplets of water apparently soaking into his shirt. He had been splashed by the incident, though I'm pretty sure he had walked away before the water had been poured.

Neither Miss Jenkins nor Robert said a word as we stood in the darkness, a candle occasionally flickering above our heads. A cold breeze wiped around us and I wanted nothing more than to get out of the dress and sit in front of the brazier, but that didn't look like it was going to happen any time soon. Small goosebumps had formed up my arms and my hair had started to unravel itself from the tight knot it had been in all day. Small, wet tendrils snaked down my back, clinging to the back of my neck and dampening my dress even more if that was even possible.

"I might have to stay away from any form of water for a little while, this is getting a little ridiculous," I said, trying to make light of the situation.

"If I had known he was going to do that, I wouldn't have let you come out here. I knew Mr Warrington was up to something, but not this," Robert said.

"Who is he, anyway?"

"A friend of my father's. His son, Alexander, is to be Matilda's sweetheart though I'm not sure she'll want to be now. Even Matilda has a line."

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