Searching (aka Two Very Different Encounters)

It was ten-thirty at night in 19th-century suburbian London when Isabel suck out of her room to explore again that night.

It wasn't that hard. She had always been a night owl. But the sneaking around, sucked. The Saint-Claires were great people. The maids were really nice, too, and the footman was a bit rough, but totally loyal from what Isabel could tell. He also seemed to have a bit of crush on Ellen. It was actually kind of cute. . . .

But, that wasn't important now. What was really important was getting around the house to see if she could find a way to discover these relics and documents that Saint-Claire was hiding.

Find the relics. . .I sound like a grave robber or a tomb raider or something! It's not good at all. Makes me feel like a villain of some sort, or a spy like in "Mara, Daughter of the Nile" only I'm just on the one side for now.

However, Isabel also really wanted to get home. She'd never last in this place, would she?Could she bear it for long? How was she going to do this, she wondered as she explored the halls and checked a couple of doors, which were locked up.

"Are you lost, miss?"

Isabel gave a yelp of surprise and whirled around. It was one of the younger maids.

"Oh, Jocelyn. You scared me."

"I imagine so from the way you screamed, miss." Jocelyn said, trying to hide her smile. "Is everything alright?"

Isabel nodded. "Yes, everything's fine. I'm a bit of an insomniac sometimes, I'm afraid. So I explore when I can't sleep. Don't mind me."


"Speaking of which, why haven't you turned in?" Isabel wondered.

"Just a bit of tidying needed doing in the drawing-room, miss. That's all. I'm on my way down right now."

"Alright. Goodnight, Jocelyn."

"Goodnight, miss." Jocelyn curtsied smartly. The two of them went their separate ways, Isabel to Saint-Claire's study to look around.

"Where should I start?" She murmured in surprise when she opened the door.

The study was huge. The desk was large and looked half-organized, books of all sorts lined the walls, there were portraits, and all sorts of things.

The rich people around here sure clutter things up.  Isabel thought as she circled the room. There was stuff everywhere. Of course, there was still room to walk, but it was a little surprising. Even she didn't clutter up her room back home like that.

Isabel decided to start at one end and work her way around. She looked behind portraits and under couches and behind the books on the shelves. Nothing.

How was she going to find out where these things were? Was there some sort of indicator or password she had to use if she found it? Maybe there was a guard or something?

Now if this was a movie. . . .Nah, she wouldn't go there. This was, story book-like as it seemed, real life. Still, time travel being real, it was pretty cool.

I wonder if Christopher will let me use the time machine for myself sometime. I could go anywhere I want.

Yeah, sure. And God would find her a real boyfriend within the year. Isabel sighed as she climbed a ladder to search through yet another bookshelf. Looking at the clock nearby, she noted the time. Almost one-thirty.

Isabel slowly climbed down and made sure that nothing in the study was out of order. It looked perfect. Luckily, she hadn't gotten to the desk yet. That would be a nightmare to go through, even if it looked half-organized.

Oh, well. She would get to it eventually.

The next night, after going through some instructions from James and Grace about Lady Harrows, she searched the study some more.

Just when she had stepped down from the ladder, having finished looking through all of the bookshelves, she heard someone calling softly.

"Hello? Is someone awake?"

Isabel dashed to the door. That didn't sound like a man, so it couldn't have been Saint-Claire or Vance. But it didn't sound like Grace or Ellen, either. Was it one of the younger maids? But it sounded so faint. Maybe it was just her imagination?

She stepped outside, and a floorboard creaked. Isabel heard a squeak of surprise and tripped from the shock. So someone was actually there.

"Oh! Oh, miss, it's you!" the stranger exclaimed.

Isabel looked up to see a girl holding a candle in one hand.

"Lydia?" she whispered. "What's wrong? Why are you wandering about like this? It's very late."

"Please don't mind me. I can never sleep, you see. Sometimes if it's really bad I'll clean up a bit so that I get tired." Lydia explained.

"Or get scared out of your wits?" Isabel grinned.

"Either way usually works, miss." Lydia agreed amiably. "Do you have trouble sleeping as well?"

Isabel laughed. "Yes, I'm a dreadful insomniac."

Thinking back, she remembered several little things throughout the day. Lydia was was often seen picking up something she had dropped, or stumbling on the stairs. Isabel thought that the poor maid was just clumsy. But instead she had trouble sleeping? That was interesting.

"Would you like me to walk to your room with you, miss?"

"Well, I. . . .sure, that would be great." Isabel yawned. She really did suffer from slight insomnia, but was not used to using so much energy at night.

If I keep this up, I'll have a really terrible sleep pattern.

While they walked back to Isabel's room, Lydia chattered away.

"I never really thought I would find you wandering around in the middle of the night. I thought I was imagining things." Lydia laughed at little to herself. "I was just as afeared as a small child would have been."

"So was I." Isabel agreed.

Lydia nodded. "I'm sure you were, begging your pardon of my saying this, since you tripped and fell like that. I thought you had fainted dead away, as if a ghost had come."

Isabel laughed. "Do you believe in ghosts, Lydia?"

Lydia nodded, her eyes growing wide in the candlelight. "Oh, yes, miss! Ghosts are terrible things to be involved with. Them and goblins both, the cook says that they're the reason for all of the trouble in her kitchens whenever guests come to stay. She's frightened of having Lady Harrows stay on here for the season."

"Is she?" Isabel asked. "James and Grace say she's very particular, but she doesn't seem that bad from what I've heard."

"Oh, miss, you've never met her! She's a grand, grand lady with a posture so straight I wonder if she has something in her dress to keep her from slouching. When she's angry her voice is great and terrible, and carries so that even I can hear it in the scullery. She hardly gives praise to people and- begging the missis' pardon -I hardly see how the two of them are related! Our lady is so gentle, and Lady Harrows-" Lydia stopped herself, bowing her head as if in shame.

Isabel smiled and touched the maid's arm. "It's alright, Lydia. I understand what you mean. Are you afraid of her?"

"I am very afraid of her, miss." Lydia affirmed in a small voice.

"Oh, come now, she can't be that bad."

"I'll talk no more of it, miss. I dare not speak ill of Lady Harrows when she's so close to arriving."

"Oh, Lydia. I'm certain that Lady Harrows will be perfectly pleasant." Isabel tried to assure her.

"We'll see tomorrow when she arrives, miss." Lydia replied.

They both tiptoed inside Isabel's room, as if afraid to break the silence.

"There, now." Lydia whispered, watching carefully as Isabel climbed into bed. "Try and sleep some, miss. You'll need all of your wit and energy tomorrow."

"Yes, Lydia." Isabel smiled. "You must promise to sleep as well. I'm certain you wish to impress her."

"Goodnight, miss."

"Goodnight, Lydia."

The End

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