Maggie Ferguson gathered her skirts in hand and hurried to follow the servant girl up the stairs. The duty before her was one she did not relish, but as sister to Lady Helena MacDougall, Maggie couldn’t deny that she was best suited to the task. She hoped that Helena would be in a softer mood than what she had portrayed of late.
The servant girl rapped on the door to Helena’s bedchamber before Maggie had even reached the top of the stairs. Maggie thanked her and pushed open the heavy door without waiting for an invitation.
She scanned the room, noting the opulence with distaste, before addressing the turned back of her sister. “Might I ‘ave a word with ye?” Maggie asked.
Helena swivelled awkwardly on her stool, flicking away the hands of the two women who were dressing her hair. Maggie noted the now familiar chill in Helena’s eyes and was saddened to realize that even a visit from her beloved sister could not warm the Lady MacDougall’s heart.
“Leave us,” Helena dismissed the servants with barely a glance. “What is it, Margaret?”
“Such pretence, milady! Are ye so high above me now that ye canna call me Maggie?”
“Fine then, Maggie, if that’s yer wish. But I daresay that’s no’ the reason ye’ve come so far.”
Maggie lowered her eyes. “’Tis, point o’ fact.”
“Ta tell me ta call ye Maggie? ‘Tis a long journey in such weather. Methinks this highland winter is addling yer head.”
“’Tis more than just me name, Helena. I’ve come ta show ye the person ye’ve become since ye wed Laird MacDougall.”
Helena leapt to her feet. “The person I’ve become, is it? Well, ye better start explainin’ yersel’, an’ do it quickly. I’ve no’ much time ta waste on yer impudence.”
Maggie chose to take a seat while she spoke. She forced herself to address her sister with love instead of the hostility her neighbors and kinfolk had burdened her with. “Ye were the Lady o’ the Moors long before the Laird set his eyes on ye. All who met ye adored ye fer yer kindness and respected ye fer yer humility. Ye welcomed anyone that came ta our door and ye helped wherever ye were needed – in flocks an’ fields an’ kitchens alike. Since ye wed Laird MacDougall, it’s been nothin’ but heartache for them who loved ye.”
“That canna be true! Many are the days I’ve spent visitin’ old friends, bearin’ gifts o’ food every time. An’ dinna ye ken how many poor girls I’ve hired ta serve in the castle? I’ve no’ forgotten what it’s like ta go ta bed hungry at night.”
“I’ve seen ye go about yer visitin’ with yer wee basket of fruit and bread. But ye eat more than ye’ve brought while yer there. An’ ye scold the wee ones fer dirtyin’ yer fine dresses when all they want ta do is climb onta yer lap. As fer the servants ye’ve hired, ye work them ta the bone with no’ even enough wages ta buy meat fer their families. Is this yer way of helpin’ them?”
Helena sank to her seat again and said not a word for a long moment. “Do they hate me, then? Is that the truth o’ the matter?”
“Nae, they dinna hate ye. They’re just wishin’ that the Lady o’ the Moors an’ the Lady MacDougall could be one an’ the same. We’d set such store by ye when ye won the Laird’s heart. We thought ye’d be a blessin’ ta yer kin by turnin’ the Laird’s favor towards us. Instead, ye’ve turned yer own favor from us an’ brought a curse upon our very lives.”
Helena had no response. Maggie saw tears in her sister’s eyes and knew she’d said enough. It was time for her to take her leave and pray her words would take root in Lady MacDougall’s heart.
Proverbs 28:3 “When someone poor takes over and mistreats the poor, it’s like a heavy rain destroying the crops.”
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