Today's Reading

Nora supposed it was the natural order of things. Except she had never been one to fall into the natural order of things.

As a child, Nora had mimicked Papa and pretended to be a physician, caring for her sick dolls and stuffed animals' broken bones. That definitely set her apart from her sisters and other girls.

And now such playacting had turned into reality. Her sisters were, in fact, wives and mothers (or soon to be mothers) whilst she was not. She cared for the sick and set broken bones on actual people rather than dolls and stuffed animals now.

Such a vocation definitely separated Nora from the masses.

Unlike the other females in the village, she was the first one free of the family pew and out of the church doors. She was not keen on lingering to socialize with myriad neighbors and friends. There'd been enough forced socialization and threat of fire and brimstone from the vicar for the day. Enough until next Sunday when she would once again be stuck in the family pew.

She strode quickly ahead. Stepping out into the churchyard, she lifted her face to the morning sun and inhaled a contented breath. Immediately, she began searching for her family's liveried carriage, eager to depart for home. She'd done her duty for the day. She was ready to take her leave and return home. She had many tasks waiting her attention and she was eager to get back to them.

She tugged on her gloves and squinted up at the sun fighting to break through the ever-clinging clouds. At least it was not raining. This spring had been a torrential downpour and she was ready for the days of summer where she might explore the countryside once again for herbs.

She glanced behind her, hoping that her sisters were quick on her heels. A vain wish, indeed. They just cleared the doors and emerged outside when they were intercepted by the Harken-Dales. She sighed. Of course.

Her brothers-in-law were equally popular. Gentlemen converged on them, too. Such pandering could take all afternoon.

Nora shifted on her feet. She was not quite so popular, which was not anything particularly new or particularly wounding to her ego.

Popularity was not anything for which she had ever aspired. Balls, teas, parties were all fine and well, but she would rather be working in her laboratory or toiling in her herb garden or attending to a patient.

Her sisters were married. That, she had learned, raised women in the world's estimation—specifically in the estimation of the villagers of Brambledon. Unfair as that may be, it was the reality of things.

Charlotte, historically the most reticent of the Langley sisters, was by far the most popular. A strange turn of events, indeed. Of course the reason for her sudden popularity was easy to understand. The cause happened to be the cute-as-a-bunny ten-month-old baby in her arms. Motherhood, apparently, was another cause for popularity.

In fact, motherhood, perhaps, topped wifehood. While her sisters' marriages had lifted them in the world's estimation...motherhood had lifted them to exalted status.

A glance over her shoulder revealed Mrs. Harken-Dale cooing over Charlotte's baby. A line was fast gathering behind her.

"Gah." Nora expelled a heavy breath. "We're going to be here forever."

She admired her niece as much as the next person. More so. They were kin, after all. But she did not relish having to wait whilst everyone gushed over little Cordelia.

Nora's gaze skittered to her eldest sister. Marian was increasing now, and everyone gushed over her nearly as much as Charlotte and little Cordelia.

As her sisters were rushed by the matrons of the village, Nora walked briskly toward the Warrington carriage. She would wait inside. Perhaps that would encourage them to say their farewells and break away.

No one attempted to intercept her. Unless someone had a boil that required lancing, Nora was not in demand.

A liveried groom lowered the step and moved to open the door for her. She reached for his extended hand, ready to ascend and wait inside.

"Thank you, Thomas," she murmured, nestling her fingers in his palm.

Once she was settled on the squabs, she sat and waited, willing herself to patience.

Of course, patience was not her strong suit. It never had been. In her restlessness, she slipped off her gloves and idly ran her fingers over the calluses marring her palms.

"Oh, bother." Without hailing the groom for assistance, she took flight out the door not facing the church. She cast a glance back. Thomas stared after her from his perch, looking quite puzzled.

She waved a hand in the air. "The day is so lovely. Tell my sisters I will walk home."

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