“Ah, Bella! How was town?” Johnathan, the older manservant asked.
She shrugged. “Twas alright. My sisters took to buying three new dresses each I think.”
Ursa, Johnathan’s dear old wife, scoffed with anger at hearing such words.
“Greedy young lasses! With nothing left for you, the master’s only real daughter!” She huffed.
Isabell smiled. It was nice to have people who still cared about her. Even after being offered much less pay than before, both of them chose to remain here just to watch over her. They truly were her greatest comfort over the years, and since they were cheap, her step-mother allowed it.
“I only wonder how long this frivolous spending can last. What shall become of the estate if the Mistress keeps on this way?” Johnathan sighed.
It was true. Her step-mother indulged in only the most extravagant of things. Her father’s fortune was dwindling away each day, and before long she doubted that they would even be able to afford caring for the estate! Not that Isabell could care too much. It would serve them right to lose this house. And when that happened, she would take her coins and leave them behind as well. Most likely, she would stay with Ursa and Johnathan until she found a suitable job. Neither of them had much to call home, but in times of need, it would be more than enough.
Just then, the bell rang from the dining hall. Ursa grumbled with disdain. “Here child, take those pigs their bread. Ah yes, I bet they are so tired from all that shopping!”
Isabell stifled a laugh, though her husband did not act as amused.
“Be mindful of your tongue my dear,” he said gently.
His wife nodded with a reluctant acceptance of the unfair situation. Then Isabell left out of the kitchen and headed up towards the dining hall, where her finely dressed step-mother and sisters sat waiting.
“Goodness, what always takes you so long? Are you quite deaf?” Rachel sneered impatiently.
“Yes, you really should not be so slow. For we are famished!” Lucille added.
Isabell bowed her head in apology as she began setting down the bread at each woman’s plate. Next, she took the water jug and filled their cups, after which she prepared to leave. Upon reaching the kitchen she helped to mash the potatoes, season the carrots, and arrange the whole roasted chicken that came out of the oven. Once the plater was ready to be delivered, Isabell climbed the stairs once more with the meal’s main courses. She set the bowl of mashed potatoes and vegetables on the table, followed by the chicken, which she then had to cut and place on each person’s plate. Her mouth watered at the meat’s fine aroma, though she told herself to be patient until later. Only after everyone else had eaten could she partake of the leftovers.
“So, Rachel, what did Duke Lanceton say to you earlier? I noticed your conversing with him while your sister and I were examining the imported lace,” her step-mother inquired, taking a big bite of food.
Lucille let out a sudden scream. “Lanceton! You spoke with him earlier!?”
Isabell, who could not leave now until everyone was done eating, stood off near the doorway in case something was needed, having no other choice but to listen in on such useless conversation.
Rachel gave her sister a cruel smirk. “Oh yes, he came over to speak with me specifically. He wanted to know when I might be free to take a tour of his new manor. I mentioned I was free tomorrow morning!”
Their step-mother let out a happy giggle. “Well done my dear! He is quite the rich one you know. Why, with a connection like him, our family name could rise back to its previous glory and splendor! Make sure you wear that new green dress when he comes by, it shows off your figure the best.”
Isabell rolled her eyes. Poor fellow, he had no idea how awful these women were. She honestly would not wish such a marriage on him.
“But mother! I said that I liked Lanceton before Rachel ever set her eyes on him! She only wishes to steal him away from me!” Lucille whined.
Rachel shot her sister another smile, which only confirmed her guilt in the matter.
“Come now my dear, your sister cannot help it if her beauty is more desirable to the local men. Be patient, once she marries well enough, then you too can have your pick as well,” their mother said.
Lucille blushed with envy and turned away to pout. Though she was quite beautiful, with her dark hair and dark eyes, her sister Rachel outshone her with blonde hair and deep blue eyes. Isabell herself could not even hold a candle to them, having only light brown hair and very plain brown eyes to match, as well as an average figure no dress could ever accentuate.
“So, it is settled. Tomorrow you will visit Lanceton and do all you can to secure his affections. Perhaps he will be moved to propose a marriage soon,” their mother said.
Both girl nodded in obedience, and went back to eating. They spoke of little else besides men and money, but once the food was eaten, they each got up and left to their rooms. Isabell was quick to eat the scraps that remained, which consisted of the chicken left on the carcass, and what little potatoes and carrot pieces were left near the platter’s bottom. After that, she cleaned the table and helped Ursa wash the dishes. The dear old woman had set aside an old loaf of bread from breakfast too, so she ate that as well. Then, when all was said and done, she too retired up to her room in the attic for the night. Once she was finally alone, and her bedroom door shut tight, Isabell flopped down on her old mattress wearily.
Her father’s old things still laid strewn about the room, decorating the space she had come to call home. His old portrait stood out to her the most, as it hung on the wall closest to her bed. It was a very nice painting done sometime after marrying her mother. She was not in the picture, since anything that had showed the face of her father’s previous wife had long ago been sold by her step-mother. This was the only picture Johnathan had been able to save all those years ago.
“Oh father, I really wish you had married a different woman! Or, at least that you were still here to keep me company…” Isabell sighed.
His portrait stared back at her, with a smile constantly on his face in the frame. His brown eyes stared back at her, bringing good thoughts to her mind again. She relaxed at the sight, remembering vividly the sound of his charming laugh and gentle voice.
Comments (3)See all