Marion walked into her day bedroom and was astounded to find it was occupied. One of the two people engaged in frantic lovemaking beneath the covers was her maid, Rika. The other she recognised immediately, too. Neither had noticed her. When she backed out of the room they were not even aware of the door closing.

She sat in the drawing room and waited. Several minutes later, Rika came out of the bedroom. She was neatly dressed in the crisp linen of a maid’s uniform, with a pin identifying her as a servant of the House of Lœngbærrow. Her hair was neatly arranged. Only her face gave her away. When she entered the drawing room she was flushed, but when she saw Marion her face paled as if the blood had been drained from her body.

Her brother in law, Remonte, emerging behind her personal maid, looked even more distraught.

“I thought you were going to Lady Patriclian’s house for the day,” he said.

“They have a burst water pipe in the kitchen,” Marion replied. “Plumbing is something that affects even Gallifreyans. Lady Patriclian is coming here for lunch instead. Rika, will you please fetch tea for two. Remonte and I have some things to talk about. And when you have done that, I think the day bedroom will need attending to.”

Rika scurried away to do her mistress’s bidding. Remonte stood silently until Marion told him to sit down. She said nothing else until Rika had brought the tea, as well as a selection of neatly cut sandwiches. Even then she only asked him if he wanted sugar and milk in his tea.

“Marion…” he protested. “Don’t… don’t torture me.”

“We’re just having tea,” she said. “It’s my favourite English brand. But surely that’s not torture to you?”

“You know what I mean. You saw…”


“I’m not….” He began then stopped. Marion handed him a cup of tea and he took a gulp of it. He put the cup down and looked at her pleadingly. “Marion, please understand… I’m not… we’re not… This was not a sordid matter of a master taking advantage of a servant. I LOVE her.”

“Well, I should hope you do,” Marion answered. “How does she feel about you?”

“She loves me.”

“How long has it been going on? How did it begin?”

“We… I danced with her at your Christmas party, and found her charming company. A pretty young woman, and once she got over being awed by me, a High Councillor and a son of an Oldblood House, she talked to me so pleasantly. I found ways to meet her, to spend time in her company. And… we became lovers. She is not… She refused me at first. She is a good woman. She knows her duty. She knows that what we are doing is wrong. But our feelings for each other could not be satisfied by stolen kisses. We needed each other.”

“Well, at least you’re not just USING her,” she told him coldly. “I would be so disappointed in you. But do you have any idea how foolish you are being? If you are discovered…”

“We’ve already been discovered,” Remonte answered bitterly.

“I mean by somebody who would use this to discredit you. I know the servants are all loyal, but even so, an accidental remark…”

“You don’t have any idea how lonely I have been. My wife…”

“I know about your wife, Remonte. I know all about it. And I DO understand. But you CAN’T. You have to end this NOW. If not for your own reputation, then for Kristoph’s. You are committing adultery in HIS house.”

Lord Oakdaene commits adultery with a mistress he keeps on Munucea X. EVERYONE knows about it. Would it be better if I sent her there?”

“No, it would certainly not be,” Marion answered. “And I won’t even go into how hypocritical it is if EVERYONE knows about it, considering the fuss that Idell made about Kristoph and I taking a quiet trip offworld before our Alliance. Sometimes, Gallifreyan society disgusts me. But I rather hoped THIS family could rise above the depths Lord Oakdaene wallows in.”

The rebuke hit home. Remonte looked as if he was on the point of crying, except that he was a Gallifreyan, and couldn’t. He seemed scared of what she might say or do next.

“What are you going to do?” Remonte asked. “Rika… Please don’t dismiss her. She loves working for you.”

“I have no complaints about her work,” Marion answered. “Why should I dismiss her? But what are YOU going to do?”

“I am going to love her, whenever I can,” he replied. “I won’t give her up. I am trapped in a loveless marriage to a woman who denies me even the chance to see my son. Rika gives me some warmth and comfort, the relief a man needs from the cares of the universe. I will not…. I will not give her up.”

“I don’t intend to try. But do this one thing. Tell Kristoph. You CAN’T keep doing this under his roof and hope to keep it secret. And I don’t want to tell tales. So YOU tell him.”

Remonte nodded sadly. He knew what his brother would say.

He finished his tea and then politely dismissed himself from her presence and left the room. Marion waited a few minutes and as she expected, Rika came through from the bedroom.

“Madam…” she began.

“Rika,” Marion said to her. “Come here. Sit down…”

“Sit down?”

“Yes, sit down, here. On a chair. Would you like a cup of tea?”

“I have never drunk… tea…” she answered.

“Try it,” Marion told her. “Come on… You can’t tell me it isn’t done for a servant to sit and drink tea with the mistress of the house. I think we are far beyond what is done and not done in an Oldblood House.”

Rika sat. She let Marion pour her a cup of tea. She drank it slowly.

“The door to the day bedroom was open. So I suppose you must have heard what Remonte and I said…”

“Madam… a servant learns NOT to hear what is said in the private rooms of the house.”

“Good answer. But in this case, I think not true?”

Rika nodded hesitantly.

“DO you love him?”

“With both my hearts, madam,” she replied. “He is a good, kind man. And I know… I know we were wrong to… But I love him. I AM ashamed that I have become… what I never thought I should… a ~$%&£…”

Marion was startled by the unfamiliar Gallifreyan word. It roughly meant, in English, a harlot, and Marion thought that completely unfair. Remonte had pursued her with that intent. He had ‘persuaded’ her to give in to his physical needs. She wondered about that. Rika was a servant, Remonte the brother of the master of the house. How could she say no to him? It was just like in the nineteenth century when big houses in England had so many servants and they had almost no chance of saying no to their employer’s demands. Rika was very little better off. Did she give in to Remonte because she thought she had no choice? Because if she did, then Marion knew another word for that, and it wasn’t LOVE.

“No, Madam,” Rika insisted. “He was gentle with me. He did nothing until I told him it was all right. I wanted HIM just as much. I know he is a High Councillor and an important man. And for me to love him… But I DO.”

Kristoph and Remonte’s mother, of course, had dared to love an Oldblood, despite being a servant in just the same position in the household. The difference, though, was that Lord de Lœngbærrow was not married at the time and was free to make her his wife. Remonte was not.

“Is it true, madam,” Rika asked. “That on your planet a man who is not happy in his marriage may dispose of his wife…”

“Dispose…” Marion tried to suppress the image of Idell chopped up into pieces and stuffed into a black bin liner. Rika looked startled. Of course, she was Gallifreyan, even if she was a servant. She must have at least a low level of telepathy.

“Madam…” She blushed. “It is utterly rude of a servant to read the mind of an employer. I am sorry. But that… NO, I didn’t mean THAT at all.”

“Nor did I,” Marion admitted. “I think disposed wasn’t the right word. Something was lost in translation. I think the word you mean is divorce. And I know there is no such provision here on Gallifrey. Even though a wife can be set aside, as Idell has been, Remonte IS still married to her.”

“There is precedence for a man to take a second wife if the first cannot produce an heir. But as Idell HAS had a baby, that cannot be the case here. I can never be his lover openly. It must be in secret. And… I beg of you, madam… please don’t… Don’t stop us. I know we are doing a terrible thing. But… But I cannot give him up. I love him.”

Marion looked at her. She had been angry with Remonte, for risking shame on the household, risking embarrassment to Kristoph. And he WAS wrong to do this. But yet, looking at it from Rika’s point of view, she saw only an unfair system that forced Remonte to remain married to Idell and prevented them from being together. And it WAS unfair. Remonte should have been free to find REAL love, to marry Rika and make her his lady as Kristoph had made HER, as their father had married Aineytta and let her rise above the social position she was born into. It WASN’T fair.

But what could she do? Apart from assure Rika that she would not be dismissed.

And what WOULD Kristoph say?

She did her best not to let her worry spoil her lunch with Calliope. And she certainly didn’t discuss that matter with her friend. Rika, for her part, acted as the perfect Lady’s maid all through the day. Remonte stayed well away from Marion’s rooms. She didn’t see him until supper time when Kristoph finally returned home, weary from a difficult day.

“You are so tired, these days,” she said to him as they ate their meal together. “You were never so weary looking when you taught English literature in Liverpool.”

“In Liverpool, teaching English literature,” he answered. “The worst I could do to anyone is give them a bad mark for an essay. As Magister… I may have to condemn a man to death. Sometimes, I wish I COULD be a teacher of English Literature again. I envy you in your happy work at the estate school, nurturing young minds. But we must all do our duty. And at least I have you to come home to, to ease my troubled mind.” He smiled at Marion and reached to touch her hand. She smiled back, but she knew that there was still trouble to deal with in their own home tonight. Remonte had not said anything over their meal, of course. But Marion made an excuse to leave the table. She went to her private drawing room. Rika came in, looking nervous, but Marion told her she did not need her tonight and that she could go to her room, quietly.

“Madam…” Rika said. “Thank you. But… What will come of me? They… His Lordship is very angry. There was shouting…”

“You are MY maid,” Marion answered. “It is for me to decide. And I am certainly not going to dismiss you. Have no fear.”

That reassured her. She went away calmly. Marion waited for Kristoph to finish ‘shouting’. She knew he would come to her afterward. She wondered if he would be angry with her, too.

Kristoph came to find her after a while. He looked even more weary than before. He sat on the same chair Remonte had sat in earlier and looked at her for a long time.

“Remonte…” he said at last. “He told me everything. The whole sordid story. The girl…”

“Rika…” Marion cut in quickly. “Don’t call her ‘the girl’ as if she is nobody. And… she is my responsibility, not yours. She is MY maid. I have already told her she will not be fired. So don’t countermand me.”

“I have no intention of doing so,” Kristoph assured her. “You are perfectly right. But… you should know that Remonte has refused to end the affair. In fact, I think he intends to take her to his bed tonight. He said something to that effect as he walked out of the drawing room.”

Marion sighed.

“He really LOVES her,” she said. “We ought to be giving them both our blessing. The rules of this society are the only thing standing in their way.”

“The only way I could stop him is by acting on my right as primogeniture and cutting him off financially and morally from the family. And I can’t… I won’t do that to him. But those ARE our laws, and if he is discovered… adultery… A public flogging, the disgrace… he would lose his position. Mine would be shaky. He could ruin us all.”

“Then… It seems to me that we have to protect them,” Marion said. “Protect their secret. Can we do that? I would like them both to be happy.”

Kristoph shook his head. “Secrets like that don’t keep on Gallifrey. One of the other servants will talk. Something will slip out.”

“I think we have to try,” Marion said.

“I think you are right. But it cannot end well. Remonte is playing with fire.” He sighed and reached out his hands to his wife. “My dear… You did well. Remonte told me how you acted with such Ladylike dignity in the face of all of this. Well done. I am proud of you, at least. My wife, and my Lady.”

Then he reached and kissed her. And only then did the cares begin to lift from his face. At least she could do that for him, Marion thought as his kisses deepened. She helped him forget his troubles for a little while, though her own thoughts turned on Remonte and Rika and she wondered what would come of them.