The loyal housekeeper (T-minus two hours)

"Where is she?" Grace demanded once they were downstairs.

Ellen pointed down a corridor and hurried off, Grace and Isabel at her heels.

Isabel hoped things would work out. Ellen was the head housemaid. Between her, Mrs. Parks' right hand, Betty Smith, and the cook, Mrs. Jace, the household would run just fine. But Grace seemed terribly upset.

A good housekeeper was everything, right?

Not that Isabel wasn't upset about Mrs. Parks' getting hurt. The woman had spent a lot of nights taking care of her, and Isabel was grateful. It was probably just because she had run out of steam recently.

Grace stood in the doorway of Mrs. Parks' room, a worrisome look on her face. Isabel remained uncertainly behind her guardian, surprised to hear a soft murmur from Mrs. Parks.

"No, no." Ellen was saying. "You need to rest and wait for someone to see you. Your ankle is swollen terribly, and your arm. . . .you need to stay here, Mrs. Parks."

"Yes, we can take care of things." Betty, the small woman who was Mrs. Parks' right hand, was kneeling by the bedside as well. When Mrs. Parks retired, it would be all her, Isabel remembered Ellen telling her.

"Our mistress needs me." Mrs. Parks was saying. "And the master. . . what with Lady Harrows coming. . ."

"You must stay here, Mrs. Parks." Grace stepped into the room. "We'll send for the doctor. I do not want you to hurt yourself even more."

"But you need me. . ."

"You must rest." Grace repeated. "Please."

The housekeeper nodded faintly.

"Very good." Grace murmured. "Ellen, we'll need to send for the doctor now. Pray that he has nothing else at the moment to attend to."

"Yes, ma'am!" Ellen dashed out of the room calling, "Mr. Williams! We need you to send for a doctor!"

Isabel blinked. Obviously, a doctor would been needed. But was this something a person in this time did? Weren't servants totally underestimated and overlooked in this time?

Christopher had been right when he said that these people were "eccentric." James always going on about intuition and Grace being the way she was all the time. Isabel wondered what Grace had been like before meeting St. Claire. It was inexplicable.

Although Isabel was happy with their values, she was also astounded. Who exactly were the St. Claires?

"Isabel." Grace said, their shoulders brushing as she exited the room. "Let's go back upstairs. Betty, I'll leave things to you."

"Yes, ma'am." Betty rose, but didn't turn away from Mrs. Parks.

"Would you normally send for a doctor?" Isabel asked.

"For someone like Mrs. Parks, yes." Grace said. "She is one of the keys to this household. Do not doubt her value."

If you say so. .  .

The two of them hurried back upstairs to find Saint-Claire speaking with Vance Hartfeld in a low voice.

Grace froze. Isabel bumped into her.

"Recent struggle in India. . . .Her Majesty feels uneasy." Saint-Claire was saying.

"I can resecure tonight, sir." Vance whispered back. "But the only problem is the int-" he interrupted himself, and mumbled something in a voice that Isabel couldn't hear.

Grace muttered something Isabel could barley make out, and entered the room.

"Darling?" she said uncertainly. "Is everything alright?"

Saint-Clarie nodded. "Everything is fine. How is Mrs. Parks?"

"I sent for a doctor to make sure that it's nothing serious."

Saint-Claire frowned. "I see. Pray that he gets in and out of here before your mother arrives."

Grace nodded.

Can she really be that bad? Isabel wondered. What kind of person is Lady Harrows? From what people have told me, I can guess that she's a horrible snob. But how much of one? How prejudiced can one person be?

Isabel shrugged. Half an hour later, the butler, whose name had escaped her, announced that the doctor had arrived. Grace called for Ellen, and the two of them went downstairs, leaving Isabel and Saint-Clarie in the parlor.

The End

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