“Esther, would you get the door? It will be Edward. I’m awfully flustered at the moment. My hair wont style as I’d like. Just look at the left side, can you see? The curls aren’t as defined as the right!“
“Let me see to it Madam.” Esther did so, carefully pinning the long, blonde tendrils.
“Oh and Esther, I can’t find the twins, wherever could they be?”
“I haven’t seen the young ones for at least half an hour. The last time I saw them, they were pestering that poor tom cat again.”
“Oh dear. What ever shall we do?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll ask Mr Wimms to search for them.”
“Mr Wimms! But they’re your responsibility! Oh just leave my hair and find my children.”
“As you please maam.”
“Edward and I are late already, fashionably late! This just isn’t good enough! Now please do something about it, or I will hold you accountable!”
Esther curtsied shyly, picking up her skirts and scurrying down the grand staircase. She padded across the checked floor and entered the main kitchen.
“Where is Mr Wimms? It’s urgent!” She blurted to the red-faced, burly cook who was carefully putting away her utensils.
“No good asking me, he doesn’t come in here at this time.”
“Sorry. I’d just wondered if he might have passed through, but no matter.”
After glancing into every single room in the house, she took the side door, wandering into the garden.
“Young Rupert! Miss Diana! Are you there? Your Mother is very anxious!”
“Come and find us Esther, come and see!”
“Oh, you weren’t to come out here. I was under strict instruction to keep you indoors! It’s February and too cold to be playing in the garden at such a time!”
“Go to your left Esther!”
Esther sighed, obeying and following the excited whispers, until she reached some high bushes.
“In here Esther silly! Crouch down!”
“I can’t, it’s like a marsh.”
The twins rosy faces loomed into view. She gasped on seeing the traces of mud on their cheeks as they placed their filthy little hands upon them, their elbows sinking into the mud.
“Goodness gracious! Children! Your mother is going to be angry, just look at your good clothes, you’ve ruined them!”
“But look Esther!”
“I don’t understand. What is there to see?”
“It’s a feast for pixies! Look, there’s a berry pie, fresh leaf salad and goblets of forest juice for them to drink.”
“Oh dear.” Esther stated solemnly.
“Oh Esther, I thought you’d really like it!” Diana’s face fell, her small eyes filling with salty tears.
“Aw, now, now child, don’t cry!”
“Esther she was so excited about showing you and now you’ve made her sad.”
“Master Rupert, I’m sorry. It’s lovely, you’re very clever children. I need to get you both inside and cleaned up before your mother sees! We’ll go through the servants quarters, I do suppose that I’ll have to mop the floors again ” She grumbled.
“Yes Esther!” They chorused.
She sat them in the large main bathroom, helping to scrub their dirty hands and faces.
“You both could have done with a bath, but there just isn’t time. Your Mother wants to see you before she leaves. Put your nightclothes on now that you’re clean.”
She led them across the landing, knocking on Lucinda’s door.
“Excuse me maam?”
“I found the children.”
“Oh you did? Thank heavens! I was getting myself in all of a pickle. I’m ready now, where were they?”
Rupert and Diana froze, staring at Esther with anxious eyes.
“Oh, they were just in the garden. I must be blinder than I thought maam. I’m awfully sorry.”
“That’s quite alright.” Lucinda reassured.
“Not to worry children, it’s just that your Father and I are exceedingly late.”
“Mummy, I want to be a grown up lady so that I can have nice, fine things too!”
“Well, perhaps you shall Diana, if you learn your lessons and are good. Oh Edward is that you?”
“Ah, yes I see you now, oh do stop hiding around the door,come where I can see you. Have you seen my lace gloves?”
“Yes dear, I did a moment ago.”
“Oh I am silly, they were in my handbag all this time. Sorry my dear, I’m in all of a fluster now. What will the Stephenson’s think of us?”
“What is it Rupert? I’m rather busy, Edward do you have your pocket watch? We have to leave now. Am I wearing enough blusher and will my hair do?”
“What is it?!” Lucinda exasperated, staring sharply at Rupert.
“I-I think you look very pretty.”
Her frustrated expression softened, as she glanced at her small son.
“Thank you darling. My I am an old cross patch aren’t I? Edward have you found your cuff links?”
“Yes, shall we go? Goodbye my dears, be good wont you?”
With that, the couple waked hand in hand to their carriage. Esther glanced at the twins.
“Children, I think it might be wise if you went to bed.”
“That’s it. Don’t forget to say your prayers.”
“We’ll go right away.”
Rupert offered Diana his hand.
“What’s that for?”
“I’m being a gentleman like Father!”
“To be a lady, you must take it!”
“Yes, come on!”
Gingerly, Diana sighed, taking his arm as they ascended the steep staircase together.
To be continued…