Alarming News

By
Langley sat on the porch, wind blowing through his fine, blonde hair. He was thinking. Unmoving. If only I could read his silent thoughts. The swinging bench he sat on gently rocked while he thought, but Langley paid no attention to its sharply decreasing number of swings. His profile was screened against the blue, August sky. I didn’t know how much longer a period of silence I could bear. As I opened my mouth to remind Langley of my presence, he began to speak, slowly, carefully.

“I don’t believe it would be wise to worry on such things Johanna.”

I looked at his unusually pale face with intent. I could read nothing of it.

“And why do you believe this Master Langley?” I inquired. Langley sighed.

“As I’m sure you’re aware,” Langley said, still gazing out to the forest of the west, “troubles of this kind are to be dealt with by those who are far more in the know. My parents can only reveal certain quantities of information to us until it’s the proper time.”

I considered what Langley had said. “So you believe it unwise to jump to conclusions for it is unlikely we know the entire tale?”

Langley thought again momentarily. “Yes, for without full information proper conclusions are impossible. The slightest difference in story could make such conclusions idiotic and wasteful. Just as a math problem that holds a wrong figure will give an incorrect answer at its resolve; the conclusions we may draw with our limited information can only possibly add more to the immediate problem.”

This statement was meant to signal a closure to the discussion, but I asked one thing more. “Are you at all worried Master Langley?” I spoke with a softened tone. It was the tone of a friend rather than that of a servant.

At this question Langley turned his head so his coal irises looked at the chocolate rings of mine and showed me the smile meant only for me. “Of course Jo. But worry is a consuming thing. Much like guilt. I will not allow either to ruin me further.”

And with that I left him.

I’d known Langley for almost seven years. My mother Evanna was given a post as nursemaid to the children of the Hewitt family. We were given servants quarters near the children’s rooms and the promise of three meals a day. Being desperate at the time, this offer seemed a gift from God to my mother. The only condition was that my mother raise the Hewitt children for the Mr. and Mrs. of the house. Langley, the eldest at twelve, immediately took it upon himself to help Evanna and I care for his three brothers. Lysander (eleven), Ronli (nine), and Sven (one). Langley was the perfect older brother- almost father figure to Sven- while he did nothing for himself. He worked as hard as my mother, who had almost twenty-one years on him. When we were fourteen, the boys all caught fever.
“Evanna!” Langley had cried, forcing the door open, nearly out of breathe. He’d been drenched all the way through his fine coat by the rainstorm outdoors. He was sweaty and had bags under his eyes but looked awake as ever. “Evanna!” he yelled again, lifting the limp figure of his three-year-old brother off his back and onto the hallway chair.
Lysander and Ronli were immediately behind him. They were standing, but evidently exhausted. Before Langley could call for my mother a third time I’d made it to the hall.

“Mother is in town until the morn for Mrs. Hewitt, Master Langley.” I said, suddenly alarmed by the state of Sven. “What’s happened to you all?”

Langley had already grabbed his brother and burst through the doorway of Evanna’s and my bedroom.

“Master Langley, what’s happened? Where have you all been?” I asked again looking to his red-faced brothers for an answer this time. Neither complied. But after a minute of silence, Langley finally spoke.

“We were caught in the rain. We’d gone to play in the forest, but we carried on much farther than I realized.” As he spoke Langley searched desperately through our cupboards, “We’d almost made it through to the edge of the woods through the down pour, when Lysander had the brilliant idea to drop Sven’s hand and run ahead to see the remaining distance to the house!”

Langley shot Lysander a dark look that was especially reserved for this brother as he hastily crossed the room to more cupboards. Sven suddenly began a fit of coughing that prompted me to rush to his side and remove his hideously muddy and wet clothing. I found some blankets and wrapped them around the toddler, and then cradled him in an effort to keep him warm.

“A second after I realized Sven was alone,” Langley continued, “he slipped into a puddle of mud and rain that soaked him through!”

“That’s not my fault!” Lysander exclaimed. “ I left him for a moment and-”

“ YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE LEFT HIM AT ALL!” Langley bellowed ferociously, now entirely focused on his even more red-faced brother, whose colouring was, I suspected, due to embarrassment rather than cold.

“ARE YOU REALLY SO SELFISH,” Langley continued, “THAT YOU ENTIRELY FORGOT THE EXISTENCE OF YOUR YOUNGER BROTHER IN THE MOMENT THAT YOU THOUGHT TO REACH THE HOUSE FIRST?”

“Master Langley-” I started to reason but I found no need. Lysander had already stormed from the room, most likely to his own quarters, and Langley had turned back to the cupboards. I felt immeasurable pity for Ronli, who was often left in the middle of these arguments between Lysander’s self-obsession, and Langley’s black temper. I saw the uncertainty in his face as he tried to decide where he fit into this disagreement. Apparently deciding that Sven needed him most, he came to my side.
Langley, finding the cough syrup he’d been looking for turned towards us also. I noticed his face becoming increasingly paler, and his brow was covered in thick sweat.
With effort, the three of us coaxed Sven into drinking a spoonful of herb cough syrup and set him gently on the chair to sleep. Already I could hear the change in his breathing pattern. Out of time, and incredibly shallow intakes of air for the child. Hearing it made me nervous.

“I think I should retire to my room now.” Ronli stated. I quickly agreed after glancing his drained expression.

The room fell unnaturally silent at his departure, and for several minutes I struggled to listen to the baby’s rugged breathing. I couldn’t deny that with his temperature, Sven had the fever.

I sat next to Sven on the edge of the chair. It should only be eleven o’clock in the evening, I thought to myself, Mother won’t be home until nine tomorrow morn. I worried that Sven would take so ill that night that we might have had to call on the doctor.
I almost jumped with fright when I noticed that Langley was still standing beside me. He drew in deeper breaths that bothered me almost as much as those of Sven. I looked up at him. Langley stared at his baby brother. But his thoughts seemed elsewhere.
He had an unintelligible look scrawled across his face. A mix of pure fury and frustration as well as trickles of fear, which distorted his sharp features into an almost ugly look. Expression was Langley’s talent- he had a look for every situation- yet this was the first time a look of this nature had etched itself from Langley’s forehead, to the reaches of his jaw line. I also saw that Langley’s golden hair had turned almost brown from sweat, and the darkness added a glow to his abnormally pale skin. Adding all these elements together seemed to create the illusion of a different Langley than the one I’d grown with for the previous two years. A Langley of an opposing dimension, or something taken over him, like an internal beast.
But when Langley noticed my disturbed gaze, he smiled reassuringly, a small but close to perfect smile that I recognized. All was right with the world.
Langley sat unmoving on the chair beside mine, and there we stayed through the night watching Sven’s every move, bead of sweat, and pained face. I could tell clearly that Langley felt near as awful as his brother from fever. Though when I suggested his trying to sleep, he turned it down immediately, saying not until Evanna came home. Never once thinking of himself, only of Sven. I secretly worried that this would make his fever far worse than need be, that it should be myself that watched over the toddler, as it was part of my job. Through the night I would sometimes notice a quick shiver run down Langley’s spine through his thin shirt. It even gave me chills.
Finally dawn came, and with it, my mother. The boys managed sleep and recovery from the fever that ended up striking all of them. Well, the majority of them managed a quick recovery.
During the extent of the chaos the fever had caused, Langley wasn’t resting at all. Through the constant sounds of crying and horrid coughs, Langley helped to make sure his brothers were perfectly looked after by himself, Evanna and I. He even took care of Lysander though he still put the fault on him for causing the weakened state of Sven. Every day Evanna and I had to witness his growing fever, through the declining ones of his three brothers.
Lysander and Ronli recovered almost immediately, the worst of it falling on Sven. It was mostly this brother’s condition that forced Langley’s ignorance to his own illness. Sven had never known his mother and father the way the others had. He was born after their fortune and social status had been heightened enough that the Mr. and Mrs. Hewitt became more concerned with their lives and outings than that of their children’s. While this broke Langley’s heart for himself, it broke his heart far more for his brother. Sven, he feared, would be damaged by this ignorance. So came his feelings of replacement father. And while Langley outwardly projected the guilt on Lysander, we all could tell it was himself he became most furious with. This was the beginning of his unnecessary guilt.
Eventually all the boys recovered. Langley took the longest because of his over exertion, but Sven took the worst blow. Sven was never recovered to his original state of health after the illness.
Now, as I left Langley to himself on the porch to clean Ronli’s chamber, I thought how much had changed since the fever. How much had changed because of the fever. Despite what Master Langley may say, this new problem will have a strong effect, I told myself, and will probably thrust his soul deeper into his ever-consuming guilt.
I walked through the main house’s kitchen, first checking on the porridge that the kitchen maid had left momentarily to slice bread. Unfortunately, it was this type of meal my mother and I were given the promise of seven years before.
I continued through the musty hall, up the long flight of green wallpapered stairs that led to Ronli, Langley and Lysander’s rooms. Ronli’s was first to the immediate right. I always started with Ronli’s chamber when I cleaned. He was the messiest, still mostly a child. I looked at the faded blue paint on his walls. It made me sad to remember how so few years before; all the chambers had seemed alive. Ronli seemed the only brother whose personality stayed latched on to the joy of years past, but his decaying chamber did not in any way reflect it.
While they certainly were all rich enough through the years to take care of their living spaces, the three brothers did not waste on appearances, and replacing decaying furniture. They saved their money wisely for the most part. Well, except Lysander. His personal obsession did cause him to spend his share lavishly on clothes, and the three or four girlfriends he’d managed at the same time in the last two years.
The walls reflected the torn interiors of all three brothers souls. Yes three brothers. The fever won the war.
Two years after the fever, Sven took ill again. While he never fully regained his healthy immune system, we no longer worried every night that the five year old’s heart would just give up beating. When the doctor diagnosed the child with pneumonia, the pain rebroke the scars covering our hearts.
No one took the news worse than Langley. The doctor having connected the newfound illness directly to the weakening effects of the fever, he was again swallowed by his guilt. And again took it out on Lysander.
While Ronli, Evanna and I would sit by the slowly dying child’s bedside, rubbing balm on his pale chest, Langley and Lysander would have horrible disputes, each partially at fault, but taken further by Langley’s mistakenly pointed finger. The life had been sucked from everyone’s eyes through the long nights and days when all we could do was pray, argue and weep.
I could even sense the enormity of the pain Sven was feeling. He became trapped within it, only ever half conscious and struggling to breathe. As his days quickly began to come to a close, Sven would even stop breathing sharply, and after a few moments of anxiety he would breathe again shallowly, and off tempo. As his coughing up worsened and more fluid became clogged in his weak lungs. His breathing was a disgusting rasping sound and he switched from over heating to chills faster than even the doctor could have imagined.
After four long, painful days, baby Sven slipped into unconsciousness. Shortly after that, the baby’s breathing became slower and less likely as he drifted away. I almost imagined a small twitch of a smile on the lips of the child, as he escaped further from his pain. In his last breathe the baby held the hands of my mother, and Langley. His chest rose and fell, and the baby’s warm cheeks were rouged for the last time.
Even these memories brought on my fast flowing tears. They ran from my lashes to my lips and the taste of the salt reminded me of the tears I’d shed at the child’s funeral two years before. The stormy day years ago in which the limp figure of Sven’s covered body ripped a slice from each of our hearts. Causing more damage to us all than anything else, which happened in the following two years.
I turned down Ronli’s bed sheets and beat the down inside of his pillow to make it plusher. Before I left the room he used to share with his diseased five-year-old brother, I wiped the tears from my eyes and put a faint smile on my face. Like the one which flickered on Sven’s lips for the last time.
I turned to continue cleaning the remaining three brothers rooms with my chin held high. It’s time to face the future, I thought, the past may have a part in it, but I have other priorities now.
So I looked through the window on the left side of the stairs, a bright day. I could see the shape of the horse and carriage coming down the lane, and Langley running from the porch to meet Ronli. Yes, a new day means new problems. So I decided to go and face them.
As I stepped carefully from the narrow steps of the porch to meet Ronli, I noticed from my distance that his round face was full of severe nerves. The coach driver had to help the fourteen-year-old to the ground, as he was shaking like the smallest leaf of a tree in a violent windstorm. Langley already stood at the foot of the carriage, staring anxiously at his youngest brother. Together, we walked Ronli over the threshold of the house, and into the pastel pink parlour to the right of the centered stairs. Ronli immediately sank into the sofa; he appeared made out of a rubber tree.
“Ronli?” Langley spoke to him in concern. “What could possibly have shaken you so?”
Ronli remained silent. He seemed to be gathering himself, so I turned round to pour some of the warm tea the kitchen maid had just brought in. I could feel the mercury of Langley’s internal patience thermometer rise.
“Ronli,” Langley spoke again. Equally concerned, but with an undertone of force I’d learned to recognize. “Ronli speak your mind.”
Ronli breathed in, and then out; so deeply the tips of his lengthy brown hair ruffled from its wind.
“Mother and Father.” Ronli stated. Langley stared expectantly.
“What troubles do they have to concern us?” Langley finally asked, becoming exasperated, seeming to remember the discussions of earlier.
I handed Ronli his tea. He accepted, and drank it all in one downing. He managed to look up from the spot on the floorboards he’d continually been staring at, to look into my face as he handed his empty teacup back to me. I could see the early aging in his young face that became more exaggerated every time a new problem arose. His dark, eyes sagged with sleep, and stress. I cannot even try to say the sadness I felt to see the most joyous and alive of the brothers hurting.
“They sent a letter, I received it while I ate with the Marshall family.” Ronli began to explain. “They are returning home in a week to try and straighten our affairs.”
“What are you speaking of Ronli?” Langley snapped, apparently losing his patience. “How could they be returning home? How bad can things be?”
Ronli handed a crumpled paper to me. He seemed unwilling to deal further with the predicament, and figured it smarter for me to read the letter. Langley almost positively would have taken it for himself, forcing me to inquire from Ronli. I knew the flushed boy certainly wouldn’t appreciate that.
It read:

“To Ronli and Langley Hewitt of Palington County,


Greetings sons. I hope you have received this letter in good time, we sent it to the Marshall’s, as their manor is closest to town, and therefore the post office. Your mother and I would like to announce our homecoming mid week, on Thursday. We must discuss how to put our affairs in order upon our arrival.
We, as I ‘m sure you’ve heard rumored from the servant’s gossip, are currently having financial trouble and must deal with it accordingly. I do not wish to alarm you boys, but beware there must be some drastic changes in your current living situation. Of course, we will discuss these matters when time comes. Be warned.
We have also invited the Marshall’s in a separate letter to join us Friday eve for a supper. Prepare the cooks and maids. Pheasant is our preferred meal. Do not worry on expenses for this occasion; spend your normal pounds on the meal. Langley boy, please be prepared to clothe particularly well, you’ll soon understand why.”

I interrupted the letter momentarily at the confused grunt Langley made at this last. His expression was one of expectance in the worst. I continued more fervently:

“ I should also mention that your brother Lysander shall also return for the meal with the Marshall’s. He was recently promoted to official service in the military. They asked if we would prefer him to stay at the college, but of course we allowed him to join. It’s not often a boy of a recent seventeen years is asked to help out in the real world, no matter the trouble. He’ll be home to celebrate too, have his chamber readied.






Hoping you are well,







Your mother and father”


Scrawled beneath was the signature of Mr. Hewitt. The writing was unshockingly rushed. The last letter from the Mr. and Mrs. was the same three months before. Their visit last March had the same air as the letters. Poor boys. Always an after thought.

“I suppose I can worry now.” Langley said in my direction, though he stared at the script that remained in my hand. Boy am I glad he taught me to read, I considered, else I’d never have found out in time.

Ronli poured himself more tea, then sat, staring nervously at his left shoe. Langley closed his eyes, once again lost in thought. He sat so still, I wondered if he hadn’t just become paralyzed with fright. I tapped his strong shoulder to check, and he opened his eyes. Still, thinking, but with his eyebrows furrowed with worry. The expression both of us had been dreading to see.

I jumped in a start as he quickly rose from his seat across from Ronli’s sofa. He changed the shape of his mouth into an attempt of a smile, but the creases in his forehead never flattened. The strange mixed expression reminded me of a frightening marionette I’d seen in town earlier in the summer. It gave his face a queer, squashed look, like that of a very chubby child.

I attempted to choke down the laugh in my throat, but I failed as the sound escaped my lips into a small chuckle, that sounded even more ridiculous because of the odd coughing I started from attempting to stifle the sound. At first, I thought Langley became angry, but as the coughing began, his expression changed to one of amusement. Then he smiled a proper smile, my smile; the one he saved just for me. When I finally stopped coughing, he bent to kiss my forehead and traipsed from the room, reappearing through the parlour window behind the sofa. He took his favourite seat for thinking, the rocking bench, and stared out at the reddening sky.

I looked back to Ronli, who had never looked from his shiny black shoe, and decided to allow him time to swallow his nerves. I lifted the tea tray, and excused myself from his presence, walking down the hall to the kitchen. The sooner the help were informed of the change, the better.

After returning the tea tray and relaying the arrival information of the Mr. and Mrs. to the kitchen staff, (to which I heard many groans and even a few whimpers) I continued up the stairs. I decided to resume my cleaning job with Lysander’s room.

I remembered that Lysander had always been quite small for his age, but always very handsome. Girls in town had swooned over him, making Ronli jealous and causing me to laugh. Lysander even made Langley look a joke in contrast to the girls. The oddest thing was remembering Lysander’s fancy of me. He was two years younger than I, so I’d always looked on him as a child, unlike Langley who was the same age as me. Lysander would actually spend afternoons cleaning with me because of his liking towards me, and it was always filled with my refolding of the clothes he’d folded, and his numerous blushes. It was really very cute, and it made Langley laugh at his brother’s silliness. But I must admit, I grew to miss the attention.

It had been seven months since Lysander had been home. He’d gone to the military college in Wayward County to be educated. Despite what he had told his father, it was not entirely because he was interested in serving his country or that he felt the Hewitt tutor was not enough education, but was in fact because of a horrible argument between himself and Langley that caused a huge rift between them. Neither Ronli nor I were present at the time, so we still had no idea what had caused the destructive schism. We were told within two days of the infamous and damaging rift, that Lysander was to leave for the military college January third.
At the time he was still sixteen, until his birthday in July. We had received two letters before that time, both unnaturally polite, and directed only towards Ronli and I. None mentioned Langley. In return, our letters were never added to by Langley though we did mention him. On Lysander’s birthday I did sign the present for Langley, but he never found out, and I’m almost positive Lysander knew it to be me.

Ronli was incredibly upset the first few months of Lysander’s absence. We both worked desperately to squeeze the truth of what happened from Langley’s lips, but he never gave in. It’s against my nature to keep my opinions to myself, and usually the boys allow it. I only truly realized the extremity of the situation an afternoon in April. It had been months since Lysander’s leave, and I’d had enough of Langley’s silence.

I had stepped outside that morning to check on Ronli’s drying laundry, when I saw the outline of a figure lying among the tall grasses of the meadow. I couldn’t imagine who it could be. I’d just left Ronli in the parlour, and I could have sworn the garden employment was clearing the backfield. And of course Langley had gone to town for the day. He’d told me so.

Yet as I neared closer to the still, resting body, I couldn’t help doubting this last fact. When finally I could see a contrast between the yellow of dried grass and the honey of his hair, I couldn’t believe I’d been deceived!

“Langley!”

The previously still body leapt up to look at me. He squinted with the brightness of the sun in his dark eyes. At first, he looked shamed from my hurt voice, when suddenly he became angry. The same type of anger that had first formed itself on the first night of the fever. The ugly look shocked me more than his presence.

“What are you doing here Johanna? You disturbed me from my thoughts” Langley asked.

“Disturbed you?” I repeated alarmed. “How can you accuse me of disturbing you when I simply came to see whose body lay in the field? How can I have disturbed you when you are the one who lied of your plans and whereabouts today? Ever since Lysander left you’ve barely spoken to your brother or myself! You’ve become as self absorbed as Narcissus! You weren’t moving at all, for all I knew you could have been the corpse of a foul beggar!”

“For all you knew?” He repeated with a glint in his eye, obviously seeing something in the words. “YOU KNOW NOTHING! HOW COULD YOU? YOU’VE NO PROPER EDUCATION, WHAT YOU’VE LEARNED I’VE BEEN GENEROUS ENOUGH TO TEACH YOU! YOU’VE LEARNED THE TRADE OF A MAID FROM YOUR MOTHER, THOUGH SHE OBVIOUSLY DIDN’T TEACH ENOUGH FOR YOU TO KNOW TO LEAVE WITH HER! YOU’RE LUCKY MY FATHER PAYS YOU AT ALL FOR YOUR WORK BECAUSE HONESTLY YOU’RE OF NO HIGHER STATUS THAN A SLAVE!” His condescending yells were of a fury I’d never heard before. Especially not from Langley, my best companion. The most fair and kind person I’d ever known rather than my mother. How could he have become so changed by his guilt and his pain? He continued.
“AS FOR YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF MY WHEREABOUTS, IT IS OF ABSOLUTELY NO CONCERN TO YOU! YOU’VE ALSO NO BUSINESS IN SPEAKING TO ME THAT WAY! YOU WERE NOT ASKED YOUR OPINION, THEREFORE IT IS NOT YOUR PLACE! SINCE IT IS MY FAMILY WHO EMPLOYS YOU, AND KEEPS YOU FROM THE STREETS, I WOULD SUGGEST KEEPING YOUR UNWORTHY OPINIONS TO YOURSELF! YOU ARE TO ADDRESS ME AS MASTER FOR A REASON AND I WOULD CARE FOR YOU TO REMEMBER THAT!”
I could only stare up at his deranged and unfamiliar face. At first I’d felt uncontrollable anger that reminded me of the teenager who stood silent across from me. Then I’d felt unbelievable sadness. Not just for how I’d just been treated by my best friend, but for him also. I couldn’t understand what could cause such an outbreak in temper towards myself, but I could only think how much pain could be causing this behaviour. I knew it to be inexcusable, yet I couldn’t think of the anger I’d felt just a moment before. While I should be the one requiring comfort after his display, I yearned to give Langley comfort. To finally break the barrier that separated us from understanding. We both just stared and thought. I finally could feel water pooling at the bottom of my brown eyes. My chestnut hair blew with a gust of wind round my face pulling it out of its bun. The tears fell; alternating between those that existed for my pain, and those for Langley’s.
I sank until I sat on the ground, between the blades of grass that nearly reached over my head. Langley finally moved to sit beside me. Holding me to him as I wept. I’m sure my salty tears must have soaked all the way through his sweater to his chest, but he didn’t stop me. Never once speaking, Langley just let me cry myself out. When I began to shudder from near hysteria, he hugged me tighter to him, trying to comfort me.
He really shouldn’t have. Had his mother been there, she would have called him a savage for holding a lady. Especially alone, in a filthy meadow. Had Langley’s father been there, he would have called his son a disgrace for caring for, or even nearing a servant. Someone who was beneath him.
After a long while, I finally looked up to see Langley’s now softened, gentle features gazing back at mine.
“I’m sorry.” He said simply.
And so began the unspoken love I held for Langley. Something I knew would never be more than that. Something I knew I would never receive in return. He would marry a rich, beautiful English woman who would entertain and care for him, and he would have a family and a good, paying job. And I would hopefully find another servant, with whom to share my days with serving for Langley’s children. I never felt that Langley felt the way I did. Only on our few, silent afternoons that we would spend sitting, just sitting, side-by-side would the thought ever cross my mind.
Of every bad thing come of Lysander’s leaving, this realization made it almost worth it.
Leaving my memories, I dusted the sad, empty shelves of Lysander’s room. This room was the deadest of all. It had been stripped of everything that reminded me of the Lysander I once knew. The only reminder of Lysander his old room held was a small rocking horse he used to love to ride on. Mostly before I came to live with the Hewitt’s.
Still, the days we spent around this rocking horse were joyous. I finally began to feel excited that in just five sleeps, our Lysander would be with us again. My excitement for Lysander’s return almost masked the fear I felt for Lysander’s joining the army. Especially so young.
Unfortunately, before the good of Lysander’s return could come, the wrath of the Hewitt family parents would.








































Chapter 2: In Preparation



The next day was of course Sunday, and like every other Sunday, we prepared for church in town. I dressed in my church dress, and wore the matching hat atop my head. They were both a deep navy. They’d been presents from the boys the previous Christmas. I’d braided my dark hair the night before, so it curled around my face.
Sunday was my favourite day of the week. All the servants went to church as well, but I was the only one who sat with Langley and Ronli. The others sat at the back, the intended area for servants. My mother and I had always sat with the brothers to keep an eye on them when they were younger, and we’d just kept the tradition. After church, everyone including the help would spend the afternoon in town, followed by a special meal back at the manor for everyone. Sunday wasn’t technically the day of rest for those of Hewitt Manor- as it was usually the one day of the week that we made it into town- but it certainly was the day of joy. I knew for a fact that Ronli only attended church because I made him, and because he enjoyed the time in town afterward.
Everyone attending church congregated in the front yard by the stables. I shared a carriage with Ronli and Langley, while the other servants were given a slightly larger, less grand carriage to share for the day. We traveled quite quickly into town, and arrived at the Anglican Church of Palington County for our weekly eleven o’clock mass.
Langley, as usual, smiled as he helped me down from the high carriage. His church suit was clean and dignified. It made him appear older, adding perhaps five years to his appearance. Yes, Sunday was my favourite day. But it seemed this Sunday was going to throw something at us to offset our long lasting tradition.
Ronli, Langley and I walked through the grand church, passing its stain glass windows to our usual pew that sat right behind the Marshall’s. Everything seemed perfectly normal when-
“Langley!” a high pitched, squealing voice called. Langley blanched.
“Tell me it’s not-”
“Victoria!” Ronli called back out of politeness. “It’s so good to see you! You never come to church.” Thank god for the child’s manners.
“Well, I figured I’d come today. I had to come to get a new dress in town for the lovely dinner we’re to have together, as well as a housewarming gift for your parents.” Her large tail end moved up and down as she joined her family in the Marshall pew.
Victoria Marshall was the complete opposite of every Victoria I’d ever met, read or heard of. The definition of the name was “Conqueror”. The only thing this Victoria ever conquered was the desert spread after supper. She strongly resembled a pig. Her long snout constantly twitched with ignorance and her pink face was round without a chin. Her bleached hair was curly as a pig’s tail round her face, though her features were nowhere as cute as a piglet’s. We’d nicknamed her Vulgar Victoria.
“Are you well Langley?” the pig woman inquired, leaning over the pew so far towards the poor boy that her muddy breathe blew in his face. He leaned so far away from her he almost fell over with the effort.
“Uuuuh… cheese!” he exclaimed. I giggled at the random word. Receiving a glare from Victoria’s small eyes that seemed to say: Have you forgotten who you are servant?
“I’m sorry?” Vulgar Victoria leaned slightly away from him, allowing Langley clean air, and a larger intake of breathe.
“Cheese.” He stated again. Ronli chuckled this time too. Vulgar Victoria waited for him to continue.
“ I mean,” Langley began, still uncomfortable, “that cheese would be a nice gift. Y- you know. Lysander will probably bring wine, so cheese would go nicely with it.”
“Oh, alright then I’ll bring cheese.” Piggy stated, still slightly confused. She turned to look at the Vicar. The obvious relief in Langley’s face made me feel good. It reminded me that he constantly felt pain when Victoria was around, and didn’t at all fancy the tone of voice that made her sound worth a pound. Ronli found it very entertaining indeed.
A toddler sat beside the Marshall family in their pew, directly beside Vulgar Victoria. She stood up on the bench to look back at me with a cute, round face that caused me to wonder if the child and sow were really siblings. I smiled at the baby and she smiled back, moving side to side, just looking. Taking in her surroundings. She really was a happy child.
The pig woman noticed the child and I smiling, and seemed to think it something disgraceful. She made an attempt to distract the child in a way so as not to offend the parishioners, but it backfired. The snout of Victoria’s face seemed to be what distracted the child, and she began to cry in fright. She started wailing enormous sobs that actually interrupted the mass, causing everyone to stare at the cause: Vulgar Victoria.
The Vicar stared hard, offended. All the other churchgoers stared in disgrace, and the Marshall’s flushed with embarrassment. Meanwhile, Langley, Ronli and I stared down at the floor, hiding any evidence of the silent laughter we shared for Vulgar Victoria’s predicament. This scene seemed to last for hours, when finally the Marshall’s got up from their pew, gave us a nod of acknowledgement, (Langley’s forced, solemn nod of return couldn’t have fooled anyone), and exited the Chapel in embarrassment.
“Poor Vulgar Victoria.” Ronli said in mockery under his breathe.
I still wonder at the idea that the Hewitt brothers were considered respectable in town even with their new generational ways. They were completely opposite in their opinions and behavior than the majority of the townsfolk, and the fact they were still befriended just went to show how kind they were and how well they hid the majority of their “questionable” behavior. (It also helped a little bit that they were known for being exceptionally handsome.)
And that was church.

After the morning service ended, Ronli, Langley and I sat at a café for dinner and pastries. Ronli soon went to visit with the young Marshall boy of twelve years in the general store, buying some sweets. Langley and I quickly made off to the delicatessen round the corner from our lunch place, for dinner meats that would be up to Mr. Hewitt, Mrs. Hewitt, and the Marshall’s standards. A difficult task. Of course, having been asked, we picked a nice, plump pheasant for the second dinner, and turkey for the Mr. and Mrs.
While we waited on the wrapping of the meats, I considered what the letter from the day previous contained.

“Master Langley?” I asked nervously, worrying I might anger him.

“Yes Johanna what is it?” Langley turned from his position by the window, which looked toward town. He seemed to have been lost in thought.

“Well, I wondered if we should try saving some money, in response to your current financial situation?”

Langley looked back towards the window; he obviously did not want to have to think about this.

“Jo, I told you I could worry. I could not stand to worry you or Ronli with matters our parents even told us not to worry about.”

Langley looked back to me. His voice told me that worry was unnecessary, but as usual his expression gave him away. His face was stretched with anxiety and his eyes slightly squinted with concentration. I may not worry for their financial situation, I thought, but I will worry for the worry their financial situation brings.

“You’re not ready to finish this conversation are you?” Langley asked, his knowledge of my personality showing.

“Well, we can’t speak freely of such troubles in our present company.” The middle of town was the worst place to have a private conversation. Gossipers and busybodies flooded the streets of Palington.

Langley looked around the beige walled room for a moment, and seemed to spot something. He grabbed our shopping and put his right hand on my shoulder abruptly guiding us to the opposite end of the meat counter. A young lady we knew as the shop owner’s daughter was taking something out of a small woodstove. I could suddenly see where this was going.

“Hello!” Langley greeted the petite, naturally blonde girl warmly. She turned towards us; seemingly shocked a Hewitt man appeared to be speaking to her. She looked over her shoulder to check this greeting was aimed at her, and then turned back. She remained speechless.

Langley continued, “Isabelle’s your name, am I correct?” The simpleton nodded. She didn’t seem to notice me at all; she was so fixed on the sight of Langley.

“My friend and I wondered if we might borrow a minute in a back room? We have urgent matters we need to discuss.”

At this, Isabelle finally snapped back to consciousness. “I’m sorry Mr. Hewitt-”

“-Langley please” The boy had no shame.

“Langley”, the girl seemed to glow at the wording of his name, “I’m afraid we really aren’t supposed to allow customers entrance beyond the counter.”

This thought did not seem to throw off Langley’s game plan at all. He leaned in over the counter so close to the poor, used girl’s face she ceased breathing. If anyone had seen they’d have found it distasteful, maybe even against health regulations.

“Couldn’t you make an exception,” he breathed, “for me?”

“I ummm. Yes?” She said the last as a question rather than statement. Langley nodded back, staring at her. She turned, looking quite pleased and led us beyond the counter, passed the smoke room, up a flight of stairs into a room barely large enough to fit a bed. Luckily there was none, which gave us a slight bit more room than if it had actually been someone’s sleeping quarters.

“I can probably allow a quarter-hour at most in here, but feel free to make your way out anytime beforehand.” Isabelle stated, still staring at Langley as though he were a mirage in the lands of the desert.

“Thank you dear Isabelle, I shall not forget this kindness.” He smiled at the girl, satisfied with his handicraft.

Isabelle nodded, shining like the sun, out of the room, closing the wooden door behind her.

I stared thoughtfully toward Langley’s almost arrogant face. “Don’t let this girl’s idiocy go to your head, you’re not as skillful as you may think.”

Langley still wore his smug grin, but his dark eyes seemed to focus on me. He waited.

I turned in a small stroll along the sides of the room. It seemed to be a small, rectangular, study. There were two wooden bookshelves on either wall beside the door, and a curtained window at the far end that only allowed for a dim source of light in the scrubby room. I stopped to run my fingers along the spines of the old books upon the right side bookshelf. Langley stood waiting for my next words standing, arms folded, in front of the door.

“I just think it immoral of you to use that girl’s innocence as a way to gain your ends. She’s young and inexperienced and winning one battle through your wiles and deception should not be able to boost you’re ego.” Langley seemed to find amusement in my little speech. He had a large smirk across his face that added to his already rude amount of outer confidence.

“Does it bother you when I do that? It’s only been once or twice, and for good reasons.” He said.

“To your inquiry I say yes and to your statement I ask; what was your good reason in this circumstance?”

He seemed slightly awed at my question. “To speak with you of course.”

I smiled, turning from the bookshelf to face Langley.

“We could have spoken out there.” I said

“To speak to you alone.” He added. I thought.

“We could have spoken alone back at the manor.”

“I couldn’t have waited that long”, Langley commented, dropping the look of haughtiness from his face, and replacing it with one that reminded me of the one he used to seduce Isabelle into giving him the room. Though this one I could see nothing behind. I flushed red, so I spun around quickly to look at the oak desk that sat between the window, and the bookshelf of the left wall.

“So,” I said, attempting and failing at keeping my voice from shaking, “What more have you to say concerning our current troubles?” Langley looked surprised.

“Forgive me, but I was under the impression that it was you who had something more to say. Was it not?”

I finally turned back to face him. “Yes, I suppose it was.” He returned to his usual smile that was only for me. I started.

“I believe if you do not allow me the burden of worrying over all of our fates, you will instead burden me with worry for you.”

“Our fates?” He questioned

“What happens to you and Ronli effects me. Especially if it is something from which you can no longer allow me to live with you.”

Langley considered my ideas. “As long as you want to you will live with us, so do not stress yourself on that.” He said, not quite done with his answer, “Though I suppose it may be better for you to be allowed at least silent concerns toward the problem, as it makes far more sense than to concern yourself with my stresses.”

“So, you do not mind when I voice my concerns?”

He seemed to have talked himself back into his decision. “Just do not worry over me.”

“No promises.” I said honestly. We fell silent in thought for a moment.

“We should find Ronli and leave early before he spends too much more.” Langley stated smiling.

We left the room, but before exiting the delicatessen, Isabelle noticed Langley, and almost sliced her finger with the knife she’d been holding out of distraction.

“See, your looks are a dangerous weapon Master Langley!” I whispered to him as we walked out the door.

Unfortunately, Sunday evening was the last joyous dinner (or moment for that matter) any of those in the house had during that week. The kitchen staff worked day and sometimes even at night by the boiling ovens to create all of the fine delicacies expected both for the Mr. and Mrs. and for Lysander and the Marshall’s. Of course the maids were constantly cleaning and recleaning the entire household, and I helped them when it came to the boys things. I also held the jobs of: reviewing table etiquette with Ronli (such a forgetful boy), picking out and washing clothes for myself, Ronli and I attempting to help Langley, and preparing more specifically the rooms of Lysander and their parents.

On a break from teaching Ronli his etiquette, I sat in the parlour drinking tea, watching the back of Langley’s head out the parlour window. He cast a shadow in the east from the western setting sun. It caused his honey coloured hair to glow with small strands of orange and red from the light cast upon it. I could see Langley’s profile; he was just at the right angle. It made me happy to just realize that such a beautiful creature could be real. He wore a burgundy jumper that my mother had made for him, maybe a year before. It accentuated the tight muscles beneath, and contrasted beautifully with his pale skin. I couldn’t see his dark eyes, though I suspected they were deep in thought, as they usually were when Langley sat on his favourite rocking bench. He also wore trousers that made his whole outfit remind me of his, and my, younger days. They were not so long ago, but they felt like ages since so much had changed so quickly. Langley and I had grown up. Even the fact that I gazed at him so, heavily reminded me of similar scenes that had occurred since our afternoon in the field. This shall recur many times after this. I thought. As life goes on, I shall watch his alongside mine. His life is one I’ll never delve any deeper into. I’ll always stay beholding his glory, only just slightly out of reach.

I finished the tea I’d been drinking, and stole out onto the porch. It was quickly getting darker, and I would not take the blame for Langley having been out of doors so late.

“Master Langley?” I asked, sorry to interrupt. He was silent, unmoving. His eyes didn’t even glance in my direction. I wondered if he’d even heard me when-

“Yes Jo?” He asked quietly. He still hadn’t moved an inch, nor diverted his stare.

“I think it would be prudent for you to come inside now. It’s twilight, and it shall become unbearably cold when the sun sets.” I recommended, still wondering if he had not been ignoring me.

Instead of answering to me, Langley finally turned his perfect head and smiled warmly. My smile. It made my stomach flip.

“Come sit with me Johanna.” Langley commanded gently, patting the bench beside him. This was highly unusual. But ignoring my own advice from moments before, I happily walked towards him. I sat next to him, so close I could almost feel the heat radiating off his body. Langley twisted to look back towards the pathway that led to our front gate, then the road. I smoothed the edge of my deep orange skirt down and fidgeted with my feet as I waited. I felt no older than four.

“Do you ever miss your mother?” Langley asked, once again frozen. I hadn’t expected this.

“Well, yes Master Langley all the time. There was a while where all we had was each other you know, before even you. It was difficult, but I never worried and my mother never complained.” I smiled remembering. “But I am sure she is quite happy now with George. Living in Dublin can only be exciting for my mother. She could always fit in anywhere, and all she really needs is love and income to make her happy. Of course I would probably help, but she knows I would be absolutely miserable were I to live with her there. My life is here. I definitely don’t plan to leave it.” I explained.

Langley thought for another moment. “What do you think towards your father?” he asked, even more seriously. I could feel my usually smiling face turn to one of anger.

“I only think hatred and evil towards my father. I feel shame that I share my last name with him, not my mother. Mackenzie is a name that only reminds me of cruelties that were unfairly borne on my mother. If he still lives, I should like for him to visit here, and I should curse him. He makes any Englishman look bad by his obscene actions. To use, then leave my mother, with no shelter, no job, and a baby! I wish for him to visit, so you could set rats upon him, to devour his entrails, steal his life’s blood, then steal all the money he has ever received and give it to my mother!”

I soon noticed myself scowling into the rising darkness, and Langley’s surprised eyes searching over my face. I almost died of shame.

“Do you truly wish that?” Langley asked. I supposed concern was better than anger.

“Yes.” I said, still shocked at the words I’d refrained from speaking to a soul for all my years.

“And do you truly believe I would do such a horrid thing to please you?” Langley asked with more earnest.

“Would you not?” I questioned, embarrassment returning.

Langley looked thoughtful again, then sneered. He wore the ugly look of Sven’s fever upon his face now. “Indeed I would if he were found.” He seemed to notice the fearful look that plastered my face from his oddly sinister reaction. He smiled, but it wasn’t pure.

“I never miss my parents. I dread their return even. I do not feel a family connection with them anymore. I barely think I will have enough of a passion to cry upon their deaths. I do not wish to become my father Jo. I do hope you will remind me of this if there ever comes need. Won’t you dear Jo?” He looked seriously into my chocolate eyes. I could only nod. His mood swings could rival those of a woman-carrying child.

The sun was only barely visible in the sky now, a streak of yellow along the tips of the trees that signaled an end to this Tuesday. I gave a shiver in the cold. I’d just decided to suggest again our returning inside when one of the kitchen maids raced onto the porch, apron covered in a sauce I could only presume was meant for Mrs. Hewitt’s exotic loving taste buds.

“Evening Master Langley.” Samantha nodded quickly she looked to me. “Jo, Master Ronli seems to have been causing some problems in the dining room. Would you deal with him?”

“What kind of mischief can Master Ronli possibly have caused?” I asked curiously, sensing Langley’s equal interest.

“Not planned mischief. He seems to have accidentally stuck a knife through a chair’s arm, and he seems to have turned one of the bunts inside out.”

“How-”

“Please, just ask him that Jo. I’m the one who’s been given the job of cleaning the boy’s mess, I need to get a move on.” Samantha begged, looking incredibly stressed.

“Yes, of course then.” I’d barely uttered the words when the servant rushed back into the manor.

Langley and I got up, but he stopped just standing for a minute. He looked at me in confusion. “How do you turn a cake inside out?” He asked chuckling at the mental image. And with the last of the sun’s light, we closed the front door.

~~~~~~~~~~


The next morn was Wednesday’s, and it was busy with even larger amounts of cooking, cleaning and other types of preparation. I woke quite early in the day to take down some of the drying laundry from the clothesline. I definitely didn’t expect it, but when I walked in the house with the basket, Langley stood immediately in the hall. He looked incredibly anxious.

“Johanna!” He yelled when he first saw me. He took the basket from my arms without taking his eyes off of my face.

“What is it Master Langley?” I was slightly alarmed by his expression and by his early awakening. About an hour and a half earlier than usual.

“Ronli’s sick.” He spoke fervently.

We rushed up the stairs in the green hallway, Langley, still holding my basket of laundry, was faster than me even without holding the long, wooden banister. He reached for the doorknob, and held the door open for me with his foot. I entered quick as I could. I saw Ronli sitting on the edge of his mattress leaning over his bed, looking very green.
“Master Ronli dear, what’s wrong? Is it your stomach?” Ronli didn’t answer.
I could hear Langley setting down the laundry. Finally he came to stand beside me, also looking down at his incapacitated brother. He wore a look of concern, but didn’t seem worried in the same way he usually did when those he loved fell ill. I had a feeling why.
“Master Ronli, are you scared about seeing your parents tomorrow. Ronli?” I questioned gently. It wouldn’t be the first time, but it had never been this bad. “ Master Ronli?” I asked again.
“Yes.” The poor, pained boy stuttered out. “But that’s not all. I-” He stopped, seeming to hold back a strong wave of nausea.
“What else is it Ronli?” Langley actually sounded annoyed. I looked at him to show him a disapproving look. He returned it with one that blamed Ronli. Oh Langley.
“I’m nervous for what they might say as well. I- I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to change anything. I like the way things are. Other than if Lysander were to come back, I’m sure things can only become far worse.” Ronli said with incredible speed. He really did look very green. Langley breathed deep trying to regain his patience.
“Ronli, I want you to understand that no matter what the news is that Mother and Father have to give, we will deal with it together. I am really trying to make you understand that it is unnecessary for you to worry over things that we don’t even know of yet. At least wait until they explain our exact situation before you worry please.”
Ronli still did not look convinced, and Langley was obviously becoming impatient, and even angry. Before the situation could get out of hand, I turned to speak to Langley.
“Master Langley, why don’t you go to breakfast? I’ll try to deal with Ronli.” Langley was about to object when I softened my voice and did a cant. “Please?”
Langley sighed, resigned. He grinned back at me quickly before turning and leaving the room. I smiled and bent down to speak to Ronli.
“Would you like some food first, then you can try to get up?” I asked the nauseous child.
“ I don’t- think I should get up at all. But I could use some food.” I looked at Ronli sternly, debating whether or not I should tell him off for expecting me to cater him when he was a month away from being fifteen years old. In the end, I decided to give him a break. Usually Ronli was quite strong when it came to stressful situations, but I understood his distress today.
“I’ll bring you some oatmeal then, but don’t become used to this, I’m not the kitchen maid. Also don’t become accustomed to being allowed to spend entire days in bed.” I said sternly. “Master Langley won’t like this you know.”
Ronli got back under the cover of his bed sheets. “Oh, I’m sure you can talk him into being okay with this.” I forced myself not to smile, but I was sure Ronli was correct.
I picked up the basket of laundry Langley had left by the door, and made my way to my room, down the stairs and to my right. I quickly folded my clothing and put them in my small dresser. I made my way back into the foyer, then down the hall and into the kitchen.
“Good morning everyone!” I called to the few people who had already begun their jobs as kitchen help. I could only expect that everyone would be working over time this evening as last minute preparation.
Everyone looked up at me with faces of stress and even fear. This was the kind of atmosphere Mr. and Mrs. Hewitt always created. I could easily understand why Langley didn’t want to be like his father.
There was a huge amount to be done, and Ronli’s food was taken care of, so I helped them prepare.
































Chapter 3: Mr. and Mrs. Hewitt



From our places on the porch bench and chair, Ronli, Langley and I could clearly see the ivory carriage far along the path, and it moved at a constant, rapid speed. The two horses that drove the round carriage were large English Shire’s that pulled the beautiful carriage with grace and power, causing an even more shocking arrival by Mr. and Mrs. Hewitt.

As they drew closer to the manor and us, I heard the shuffling of feet from inside. This signaled that the rest of the household had either spotted or heard the carriage, and were now getting into their positions. Langley stood closest to the stairs that led up to the path now, and straightened his suit jacket. His lapels were cut nicely, so we knew of course that he would impress Mrs. Hewitt. Ronli wore a similar suit, though he did not wear it quite so well. I could sense his discomfort at the arrival of his parents already, and his itch to take his carefully made suit off. If Langley felt any of those things, I didn’t notice. Maybe because I was doing a last check of my equally formal but less expensive blouse and skirt.

The beautiful black horses came to a stop in front of the stables, and the coachman stood from his driver’s seat. He opened the door of the carriage, but Langley had already hurried down to assist his mother with stepping down. Langley took her hand gently, and she stood upon the dry ground. Mrs. Hewitt wore a lovely deep purple gown with a shawl, and a diamond necklace. Her dark, and short locks of hair hung beside her head, framing her face, and just meeting her shoulders. She looked as if she’d arrived for dinner at the Royal Palace. She also looked disappointed that she’d wound up here.

Mr. Hewitt followed his wife out of the carriage. He seemed to have gained a small bit of weight since I’d last seen him, but his face was handsome as ever. It saddened me to see that it had to be from a terrible father the boys gained this trait from. He wore a suit that far outshone even Langley’s and his light hair complimented it even more so.

“Langley dear.” Said his mother, “It’s so good to see you again. It’s so hard to believe you’ve grown so much in just these few passing months. Do take us inside.”

Of course Langley led the way, holding his mother’s elbow with his father on his opposing side. The threesome made their way with elegance over the path, until they stood before us on the porch. Ronli muttered an inarticulate sound, which I took for a ‘Hello’ and I curtsied. “Madam.” I nodded, “Sir.”

“Good day to you Ronli boy.” Said Mr. Hewitt. “I see you haven’t abandoned the pair yet Miss-“

“Johanna Mackenzie.” I supplied.

“I’m sorry to have forgotten girl, truly I am. Now will you lead us through to the parlour for tea? My wife is quite famished from our early journey.”

“It would be my pleasure sir.” I lead the way through the front door to the right and into the magenta parlour. Two kitchen maids already stood waiting to pour the tea, trying to conceal their nerves with shallow smiles.

I nodded for them to pour the Earl Grey, and stood waiting for the Mrs. to first be seated. Then Langley, in a courteous mood, pulled up a lounge chair for me, I took it thankfully, and was tempted to mention his kind behaviour, but refrained because it would give his parents the knowledge that this was not a regular occurrence, which they would find almost impossible to believe. The Mr. and Mrs. sat upon the sofa, Ronli on the loveseat, and Langley and I were on chairs opposite the sofa, and therefore the window behind. Please Langley, just for today do not allow the view to distract you from the world surrounding you.

I felt my hair framing my face nicely, and usually dressing up like this made me feel good, but not at all in comparison to Mrs. Hewitt. She had a very similar hair colour to mine, but hers always seemed richer. Her curls were perfect, not one strayed from its place, and her face was made up nicely with an expert hand. My hair had curls that were almost entirely out of place, and were quite a lot longer and darker in brown. My eyes were my best feature, a chocolate brown, against my tan skin, though they didn’t stand out nearly as well as Mrs. Hewitt’s gray ones. I thought Langley should have been ashamed to have to sit beside someone like me rather than someone like her.

“Is your tea alright Mrs. Hewitt?” I asked pleasantly trying to help make conversation.

“Well it’s nothing we can’t fix dear.” She said handing it to me.

“Oh!” I said caught by extreme surprise. “Of course, let me fix that for you.” I got up from my seat and walked to the tea tray the maids had left. I poured a whole new one, and let the tea simmer the way I knew the Marshall’s liked it. Chances are, they have similar tastes. I actually felt slightly offended that she had made me do this for her.

“Mother, next time it would probably more fitting to allow a maid to fetch the tea.” Langley said, trying not to make this sound like a big deal.

“Oh Langley boy,” The Mrs. spoke, “The girl doesn’t mind. It’s the least she can do for constantly interrupting our visits here with her presence.”

I felt a stab of hurt. I was still turned away and I tried to conceal my pain, even the fact that I’d heard. Even though it was quite obvious that the Mrs. meant for it to reach my now pink ears.

“Mother, please refrain from speaking such things. You know that Johanna is much more friend than servant, and that Ronli and I always enjoy her company. She works far more than necessary on a daily basis, and I daresay she has earned a kind of acceptance and respect from you.”

“Langley, do not speak to your mother with that sickening tone.” Langley’s father said. Ronli actually looked as if he were trying to lean so far into his loveseat that he might disappear.

“Then please respect Jo for both her and your sons’ sakes.” Langley said.

I walked back and handed Mrs. Hewitt her tea. “If it is requested, I can surely leave the parlour for the family reunion Madam.” I mentioned quietly.

“No!” Ronli accidentally yelled, frightening the majority of us. It seemed that my presence comforted the frightened boy.

“No Miss Mackenzie, you may stay. It is possible we may have some use for you. This a far better tea after all.” Mrs. Hewitt said, not even glancing in my direction. I shot Langley a warning look, for him to contain himself. He swallowed half his tea.

“So.” Langley said, desperate to change subjects, “How have your travels been? You’ve just been in France I believe.”

“Ah yes.” Mr. Hewitt agreed. “France is a lovely place to visit. Many people to see, lots of artwork and beautiful architecture, such culture!”

“Yes,” Mrs. Hewitt added, “We actually had some delicious foods there. Let me tell you, escargot is sensational if it’s prepared in the correct sauce. It helps if the chef is of high recommendation too. I also enjoyed their shopping districts.”

“Actually I think you would quite enjoy it Ronli.” His father said, Ronli’s head snapping up. “Do go visit France one day boy. You would so very much enjoy it.” Ronli could only stare, bug eyed.

“Has he been going to lessons?” Mr. Hewitt asked Langley in an undertone. “Or has he simply grown incompetent?”

Mrs. Hewitt interrupted. “Have you been attending church quite regularly?”

“Oh yes mother. All the household has.”

“And do the Marshall’s continue to attend church lad?” Langley’s father added.

“Well yes Father, they do every week.”

“All of them?”

Langley considered his father’s question for a moment. Apparently not being able to find the motive behind it, he answered. “No. Mrs. Marshall has been bedridden for a month in her pregnancy and Amy has stayed home with her. Though she’s back now with a healthy baby. And of course Victoria never attends.”

“Until now.” Ronli added, under his breath.

“What’s that you said boy?” Mr. Hewitt asked his youngest remaining son.

“Nothing Father.” Ronli returned, still very quietly.

“Now Ronli, your mother and I distinctly heard you mutter something to yourself. Not only is that highly rude, but it also sends us the message that we are to find out what you have whispered in mockery.”

Ronli had become confused, so said simply, “Victoria came to church last Sunday.”

“She did, did she?” Mr. Hewitt said smiling toward Langley. Now I could sense Langley’s discomfort. “Why didn’t you mention this Langley?”

“I hadn’t realized this fact would hold any significance to you.” Langley answered suspiciously. Mr. and Mrs. Hewitt shared an all-knowing look.

“Well, did Victoria stop to speak with you?” Mrs. Hewitt asked fervently.

“Actually she did. She wondered what she might like to bring to dinner tomorrow.”

“Ah.” Mrs. Hewitt whispered triumphantly.

“So Johanna child, at what age are you now?” Mrs. Langley said, not even looking to me.

“ I’ve just turned nineteen in June Madam.” I replied.

“Oh you’re only a few months Langley’s elder then.”

“Yes Madam.”

“May I ask what you plan to do after Langley is married, and leaves the Manor?”

“Well Madam,” I thought for a moment. “I believe I shall stay here to look after Ronli for his remaining years at the Manor.” I thought again, and then glanced towards Langley. “And I’d supposed whether I might be allowed to serve for Langley’s children after





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