In the late autumn of 1884, Lord and Lady de Lœngbærrow of Gallifrey – or Hampshire to anyone who asked – strolled along the Promenade des Anglaise in Nice, on the Côte D’Azur. There weren’t many of the English aristocracy left now. It was past the usual season, and although the hotel had been glad to accept them as guests there were no dances in the ballroom in the evening, now, and dinner was served in a small corner of the restaurant to those few visitors who remained.

They didn’t mind. They didn’t come for dancing. They came because Marion wanted to wheel a perambulator with a little frilled parasol over it along the Promenade. And that is just what they were doing on this mild October day that could have passed for early September. It wasn’t the modern, lightweight pram they had bought at Mothercare, but a rather heavy contraption that didn’t steer very well and took a lot of energy to push. But she didn’t care. She loved to be walking here in the sunshine, with her baby.

She stopped the perambulator by one of the benches that lined the beach side of the promenade. Rodan was awake, gurgling enthusiastically under the parasol. She was ready for a little drink. Marion lifted her out of the perambulator and sat to give her the modern sugar free rose hip and apple juice in an old-fashioned glass feeding bottle. Kristoph sat beside her and half watched Marion with the baby, a sight that continued to delight his eyes every time he saw them together. His eyes were also on the passers by along the promenade who glanced at their al fresco domesticity. Many smiled to see such a scene. A few disapproved. They were people of high birth, in clothes to fit their station, yet they had no nanny to attend to the child. How very bohemian, the passers by thought. How unusual.

“We’re causing a bit of a ripple in Côte D’Azur etiquette,” Kristoph said.

“We’ve already upset Gallifreyan etiquette,” Marion answered. “We might as well carry on.”

She smiled wryly as she remembered the first time she brought Rodan with her to the Capitol. She went to meet her friends for lunch at the Conservatory. Isolatta Braxietel, Calliope Patriclian – soon to be Madame Haddandrox – and Hesthor Lundar were all delighted to see her foster child. They all took turns to hold her. Marion had dressed her for the day in a baby dress of yellow layered net and silk that made her look like a butterfly. That and her wide, dark eyes and baby smile for each of the women who held her meant that she won over all of their hearts instantly.

Give her back to Marion, now,” Isolatta told Hesthor. “She’s fretting without her.”

“I’m not,” Marion answered as she took possession of the child and held her on her knee.

“Yes you are, dear,” Isolatta said. “Your eyes never left her, no matter which one of us was holding her.”

“Well… maybe I was, a little,” Marion admitted. “I feel so very protective of her. I just want to hold her all the time.”

“She is a lovely baby,” Hesthor assured her. “How old is she now?”

“Two and a half months,” Marion answered. “She’s been with us for two weeks now. And it’s been…” She smiled. “Well, it’s been a bit tiring. She needs to be fed every four hours. So that’s twice in the night. On Monday, I really did find myself thinking that my morning teaching at the Estate School would be a nice rest.”

Her friends smiled and exchanged glances. Marion had a feeling something was being said telepathically. She frowned. They all apologised for talking behind her back.

“But, Marion, my dear,” Isolatta began. “You must surely know that most High Caste ladies don’t have part time teaching jobs. And they don’t do night feeds, either. That’s what wet nurses are for!”

“I DO know that,” Marion answered. “I know I am creating scandal among high Gallifreyan society again. But I want to teach. It is what I trained to do on Earth, before I came here. I love being with the youngsters and watching them learn new things every day. I told Kristoph I would only come to live here on Gallifrey as long as I could be at least a part time teacher. But I also want to be a full time mother to Rodan… and to my own children in time to come. Wet nurses! Never. I can’t imagine giving my child to somebody else to look after in that way. And besides…” She smiled at her three friends. “I love you all. Don’t get me wrong. But I couldn’t live the lives you lead, with nothing happening every day but lunches and teas and dinner parties. Your lives are just one long round of fashionable meals!”

Her friends took the criticism of their lifestyle in good part, as she knew they would.

“Well, we do a LITTLE more than just eat meals,” Isolatta pointed out. “We have dress fittings and we have to order flowers and select menus.”

“And inspect the silverware to make sure it is polished to the best standard.”

“And make sure all of the best people are invited…”

They gave up and laughed as they conceded that Marion had a point.

“We should be ashamed of ourselves,” Hesthor pointed out. “We accept our indolent lives too easily. Marion does useful work. We should admire her.”

They all agreed as much before another lady of Gallifreyan society came by their table and they greeted her in a friendly way. Madam Arpexia, daughter of Lord and Lady Arpexia was, they all noted, always a little reticent around Marion. Of course, nobody blamed her one little bit for the accident at the ice party. But she still, even months later, seemed to blame herself. She looked at Marion with her friends and the baby that everyone was talking about and managed to say hello to her, but that was almost too much effort.

“Hello, Valena,” Marion answered her. “It’s good to see you. It’s been a while… Isolatta’s soiree a whole month back, I think. But I didn’t really get a chance to talk to you…”

“Yes…” She seemed to be plucking up courage to say something more. “The baby… is that… the one I have heard so much about.”

“She is. But… Please… sit down and join us. We were going to order more lattes.”

The waiter who came to take the order for more drinks brought another chair and Madam Arpexia sat. She still looked lost for words, and all the women around the table wished there was some way to bring her into their conversation, fully.

“Valena, hold the baby,” Isolatta urged her. “She is so beautiful. I guarantee she will make you smile. It’s impossible not to.”

Marion held Rodan out to her. Valena Arpexia looked hesitant at first, then she took the child and held her. Rodan played her part to the full, looking at her with her bright eyes and blowing bubbles through her baby lips.

“She is beautiful,” Madam Arpexia admitted, smiling as Isolatta had said she would. “Indeed… you could hardly tell by looking at her…”

“Tell what?” Marion asked.

“Well… that she is a Caretaker child. Even my father would find it hard to guess if there had not been so much gossip about her.”

“Well, how could anyone possibly think there would be a difference? How can you look at a child like her and say she is a ‘Caretaker’ or a ‘Lady’? Caretakers are the same species as you.”

“My father thinks there is a difference,” Valena answered, realising that, among this group of ladies it was she who had made the social faux pas, not the alien woman with a low born foster child who was the centre of the group. “My father would be appalled if he knew I was talking to you, Marion. He thinks it is disgraceful of you to have taken this child as your own.”

“I haven’t. And she isn’t. Her name is Rodan Mielles. She is an orphan and I am caring for her until her grandfather is able to return from offworld service and make a home for her. And I really don’t know what the problem is. On my planet, caring for those in need is considered the duty of those who have plenty. And if your father thinks that is wrong, then he has a very poor mind.”

“I know,” Valena admitted. “But I am too much of a coward to tell him. Everyone is. Marion… She is the sweetest child, wherever she comes from. And I am glad you are happy. But don’t be surprised if some people don’t approve of what you are doing.”

“They are the same people who don’t approve of me being a Lady of Gallifrey in the first place,” Marion answered. “I don’t care what they think. I am looking after Rodan while she has need of me. And when, in course of time, Kristoph and I have a child of our own – I don’t care what anyone says about mixed blood, either.”

Valena’s eyes flickered. Marion looked at her sympathetically.

“It will happen,” she assured her. “A Time Lord with the gift of foresight has promised we shall have an heir.”

“I’m glad,” Valena said. She was about to say something else when Hesthor drew their attention to something happening on the far side of the restaurant. They were partially obscured by potted trees and plants that made their favourite table by the window especially pleasant. It meant that when all five of them turned to look they were not noticed by the other customers.

“Oh,” Marion said in a low voice. “It’s…”

“Shiony Malthis,” Calliope added. “Idell’s sister. And she has the child with her. Remonte’s son.”

“Remonte doesn’t call him that,” Marion pointed out. “He has never even seen the child.”

“No, and the law upholds him in that view,” Hesthor confirmed. “But that’s not the point just now. Lundar has been teaching me to focus my mind-reading abilities. And I can tell that she’s in trouble. She was having lunch with Lady Ravenswode, but she’s gone and Shiony is left with the bill… and the waiter has just told her that her credit has been refused.”

“Why? I thought Remonte had made provision for the child.”

“For the child, yes,” Calliope pointed out. “But hardly for his former sister in law to play around with. She lost her position in the civil service more than a year ago. And I think her father is quite strict with her allowance.”

“How embarrassing,” Marion said. “In a place like this, in front of so many people.”

“We’re the only ones who know yet,” Hesthor admitted. “But the waiter is getting impatient.”

Marion thought about it and then beckoned to the Maitre’d. He came to her at once.

“Virrole,” she said, addressing him by his first name, as was proper for a lady addressing one of his position. “Will you see that Madam Malthis’s bill is settled to my account. But don’t let her know. I don’t want her to feel any more embarrassed than she is already.”

“Of course, your Ladyship,” Virrole answered. He bowed to her and then turned and went to the counter, signalling to the waiter who was by Shiony’s table. The two had a quiet conversation and then the waiter took the paid bill back to the table on a silver tray. Shiony looked surprised. She glanced around the restaurant but all eyes were turned away from her. Nobody was paying her any attention. Presently she stood and wheeled the perambulator out of the Conservatory.

“That was nice of you,” Valena Arpexia said. “I don’t think I would be so generous to her if I were in your shoes.”

Her other friends agreed.

“Would you have liked to have been in HER shoes?” Marion asked. “She is not a nice person, but she doesn’t deserve that.” Then she turned to settle Rodan into her own perambulator. When lunch was over she planned to go for a dress fitting and then to a place that made hand-stitched baby dresses. Even though Rodan already had lots of clothes she thought she would like to buy just a few more for her. Some she could grow into.

Marion sighed happily as she thought about that day when Gallifreyan society – or that section of it lunching at the Conservatory – got to know her foster child for the first time. It was two weeks later, now, and Rodan had been with her at many more lunches in the dining rooms or patio gardens of society ladies of Gallifrey. Most of them had been charmed by her. A few made comments rather like Valena had made, surprised at how a Caretaker child could look so much like one of her own. This weekend in 19th century Earth was a welcome break from all of that.

“Here, nobody knows she isn’t our child,” Kristoph pointed out. “They don’t know I’m from another planet and you’re from Birkenhead. They don’t know Rodan is a child of the servant class. They see what they expect to see – a well-dressed family with wealth and position.”

“Even so, they only see us on the surface. Our clothes, our money. They don’t see us. Everywhere we go, here or Gallifrey or anywhere else it’s all pretence. I do wish, sometimes, we could all just be ourselves and not have to live up to somebody else’s expectations.”

“So do I,” Kristoph told her. “But except in our own drawing room I’m not sure there is such a thing. We all live behind a mask of manners and etiquette no matter where we are. It doesn’t matter, though. As long as we know who we are and who we love. And right now, I love you, and I love our little fosterling. And I’m happy.”

“So am I,” Marion agreed.