For part 1 of Ursa Minor, click here.
“Yes, Aunt Matilda?” Ursula said as demurely as she could manage.
Matilda Elliott frowned, her eyebrows drawing together just slightly over the wire rims of her spectacles. “Don’t think I’ll fall for that act,” she said sternly. “Agatha has upset the butter churn.”
Ursula did her best not to wince at the thought of buttermilk and clumps of partially-churned butter spilling out across the floor of the kitchens. “I’m sorry, Aunt Matilda,” she said sincerely, though she knew her apology would do little to placate her aunt. “I wouldn’t have shouted if it weren’t absolutely necessary.”
“Shouting is never necessary for a young lady of your station,” her aunt replied. “No, I don’t want to hear your excuses. The Marshalls will be here soon, and I asked you to fetch your mother’s tea set half an hour ago.”
“Yes, Aunt Matilda,” Ursula sighed. “I was just on my way to give it to Mrs. Pfeffer.”
“Well, be quick about it,” Matilda advised. “I won’t have you appearing before Ethel and Humphrey Marshall looking like some railwayman’s floozy.”
Ursula opened her mouth to protest, but thought better of it. “Yes, ma’am. Uncle Archibald–” She stopped short as she realized her uncle was nowhere to be seen. No doubt he had crept back into his study rather than face any overspill of his wife’s wrath. “–had wanted me to bring him something, but it can wait,” she finished less than smoothly in an attempt to answer the question implicit in her aunt’s arched brow. She resettled her grip on the tea set and set off down the hallway in short, quick steps.
The mess in the kitchen was not so bad as she had feared; Agatha had been nearly finished with the butter, which had stuck to the inside of the churn when it fell, and so only the buttermilk had escaped through the cracked lid. The churn had been righted, and Agatha was on her knees with a cloth, sopping up the buttermilk. Red-faced, Ursula stepped around her and placed the tea service on the end of the long table that took up most of the room. “I’ve brought the china, Mrs. Pfeffer,” she said.
“Hmm,” the houskeeper replied, fixing her with a stern look. “Thank you, Miss Elliot.” Mrs. Pfeffer had been with the family for as long as Ursula could remember, which allowed her to express a certain degree of disapproval with the Master and Mistress’s troublesome niece, but she was careful to observe the formalities of address just the same.
Ursula bobbed her head in an apologetic sort of answer and fled from the kitchens as quickly as she dared. Taking the servants’ stair–much quicker, and less exposed, than the main staircase–she made her way to her rooms. Located on the third floor of the manor, her chambers were sweltering in the August heat, but they were as far from her aunt’s room’s as Ursula could get without sleeping on the roof, which was worth the heat as far as Ursula was concerned.
She hurried through the solar and into her dressing room, stopping short at the sight of herself in the long mirror.
“Oh, dear,” Ursula sighed. “Mary!“
Brought to you courtesy of the free wireless at my local library, since the internet connection at our house is determined that we shall not access the interwebs for any reason whatsoever. I’ve left Ursula alone for too long, but here she is again! I’m going to try to write a little for her and for Tabitha each week.