Following from the last section
A new chapter. Sylvester insists on attending Sunday service.
Uncle Sylvester knocked on Elizabeth’s door in the morning. “Sleep well?”
“Excellent. It’s Sunday and that means church. Time to rise.”
Elizabeth threw on her house dress and descended for breakfast. “Uncle, where are Mr and Mrs Trent?” She helped herself to the porridge that burbled on the range.
“They’re non-conformists, dissenters. I let them use the trap. Don’t like Sunday travelling as a rule myself, but they have an excuse. We’ll walk to St. Michael’s in North Bovey. It’s not far. Unless you’re still feeling weak.”
She smiled, “I haven’t felt this strong in at least a year. You were right about the value of country air. What’s wrong with travel on Sunday’s?”
“I may be old-fashioned, but Sunday is meant to be a day of rest. I don’t travel unless I must. Which reminds me, I’ll need my bag. I must see a patient after service. Doctors don’t always have the privilege of a rest on the sabbath.”
Elizabeth sat with her uncle through the service. He sat bolt upright throughout, alert even when the vicar lulled most of his congregation to sleep with a 45 minute long digression into the home life of the Assyrians, Persians and Medes, finally ending up with the mene, mene, tekel, and upharsin verse from the book of Daniel. Her uncle’s loud voice echoed, only slightly off-key, through the church during the hymns.
Afterwards, he congratulated the vicar, “Excellent sermon, Dr Grace, most entertaining.”
“I may have been a mite too long. Especially on such a warm morning. I could see some of my congregation nodding off.”
“Stuff and nonsense, I felt as though I were back in Nineveh. Those were great times. Much younger then.” He stopped in thought, and then seeing a middle-aged woman and her daughter, shot off to them. “Mrs Grace. I am so pleased to see you. Have you recovered?”
“Yes, Dr Standfast, I’m much better now.”
“Capital, not that my medicine did anything, but capital nonetheless. I have a visitor from the city, my niece,
Miss James. She’s about your Lucy’s age.”
“I should think Lucy would be overjoyed to have a new companion. Miss James is educated?”
“Surprisingly well – even with the poor quality of city schools these days,” He paused, and then called,
“Elizabeth, please come here.”
Elizabeth stopped looking at the flowers and trotted over to where her uncle was conversing.
“Elizabeth, may I present Mrs Grace and her daughter, Miss Lucinda Grace.” Lucinda, Lucy to her friends, was a healthy young woman, with light brown hair, and a more sunburnt robust complexion than Elizabeth’s. Her father had seen to it that she was well educated, or at least as well educated as a country vicar of a remote parish could afford. While she shared many interests, such as horses and riding, not to mention young men, with the young ladies of the parish, she also had something of a literary and cultured, if not to say romantic outlook. Sometimes it made her seem standoffish, above her peers, when she meant nothing of the sort. Still, her all too few terms away at school had driven a wedge between her and the girls she had played with as a young child.
Lucy examined Elizabeth and liked what she saw, “Miss James, may I call you Elizabeth?”
“If I may call you Lucinda, Miss Grace.”
After making their excuses to Dr Standfast and Mrs Grace, the two young women wandered off to the far side of the churchyard for a private chat.
Sylvester said to Mrs Grace, “It looks like they will like each other. Do you mind if I leave Miss James with you? I must check on how poor Mrs Willis is getting on. She wasn’t at service, which is not at all like her.”
“Why ever should that matter, Dr Standfast? I’ll let your niece know where you’ve gone.”
“Thank you. Oh, and please remind Miss James to stop by Barnecourt to change if she and Miss Grace decide to go for a ramble. That London dress of hers would not last long in the briers.”
Mrs Grace smiled at him, her Lucy often needed the same reminder. “I’ll send them along, and just hope they don’t wander off on the way.”