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Sarah Gray, nee Fitzgerald, spared a glance at the farmhouse on her right that could only be described as picturesque. Not worth any more of her attention, she made a dainty sigh as she observed the back of her chauffeur's head. It was so inconvenient that Blenkisop had enlisted. Resolved to think of the matter no more, she turned her face to the window once again.
She had not seen her children in over a year. She had been advised by her ex-husband that her son had momentarily been in London some time ago, but that was nothing more than a minor detail really. In fact, if it wasn't for her husband, she wouldn't need to come out at all.
Her nose turned up and the very faintest of horrified expressions graced her features as the pleasant countryside morphed into bushes, mud and bumpy roads. Her derriere was quite bruised and her attention quite elsewhere when the car came to a stop.
Sarah Gray looked out with a sense of foreboding. This was where her sister lived?
Her chauffeur, ever efficient, held the car door open. There was no indication of his opinion of standing in the poo, and a lot of poo there was. Refusing to step out just yet, she inched along the seat and looked out further, distaste lining her features.
She could see a boy working in the mud near a building, and not long after another boy passed him by with a bucket. The bucket emptied, Sarah was mortified that the boy that then pushed his cap back and wiped his brow was his son.
She almost didn't recognise him, so brown and coarse and tall was he.
Covering her mouth to hide her dismay, she was out of sorts. Her delicate hearing was damaged when a loud call rent the air. "Mum! We've got visitors!"
Her eyes sought out the rude little boy standing in the doorway of what must be the barn. The two working boys lifted their heads and she saw the recognition in her son's eyes, Cyril taking a step forward and then pausing, maintaining his distance.
Not feeling anything, and suspecting that she should, Sarah turned to the house, only to receive another rude shock.
Was that Isabel?
She had not seen her sister since the day she had declared she was going to wed Rory Green. A farmer. Their only means of communication was through letters, and even then, only when absolutely necessary.
Turning her nose down at the decidedly "farmers-wife" persona Isabel had adopted, and clearly relished, Sarah saw her changed body shape, her sister clearly in the advanced months of pregnancy.
Another? she asked herself with derision. You would expect that she had enough to care for.
She did not match the smile her sister had on her face, the hand wiping the bowl stilling.
They came to her – as expected, as there was just no possibility of her leaving the car. Cyril, attired in such an outfit, showed respect as he removed his hat and bowed to her. She flinched as a speck of mud landed on her skirt.
Her silk skirt.
Her sister was right behind him, the youngest boy at her back. "Come on in Sarah!" she cried. "It's such a surprise."
Darling, I think not.
"I can only stay but a moment," she declined. "Where is Celia? I need my daughter."
She saw Isabel's face fall, but ignored it. Her sister had always been the favourite, and she was not going to give in now.
"Celia's out at the moment," came the slightly less enthusiastic reply. "She'll be back any moment."
"Good. I will wait here." Turning to face the front, she propped her hands on her knees and sat upright.
She didn't see the way the Isabel placed a hand on Cyril's shoulder, or Vincent poked his tongue out, or Norman place a comforting arm around her son's shoulders and guide him away.
But she did see the wagon that trundled through the gate shortly after.
Her lip curled as she spied the man at the reins. Rory Green she had met once, and it was once too many.
She watched the way he halted the horse, slipped from the seat and soundly kiss her sister. She saw them look to her, but her gaze was caught elsewhere, for jumping off the back of the wagon was two dirty people.
And one of them was Celia.
A very dirty, ill-dressed, boisterous Celia.
This would not do. She could not take her daughter back and prepare her for society when she looked like this. She would be the laughing stock of her entire circle.
Without sparing another glance, she spoke with authority to her driver. "Finch, take me home."
Sarah Gray would never know what she left behind that day.