With the ordeal of breakfast complete, Nellie made her way back up to Lady Harriet’s bedroom, feeling deeply uncomfortable.
All she wanted to do was return to her own body and duties as a maid. It was unnatural for her to be moving around in somebody else’s shape and wearing their clothes. She hated being one of the gentry. It wasn’t right.
On the landing she passed Lottie, the maid she had shared a bed with, and went to speak to her normally, but before she could, Lottie curtseyed and said, “M’lady” and Nellie realised how stuck she was now.
She went into the bedroom and shut the door tightly, wishing the real Harriet would return and put her back where she was meant to be. But how could she? The real Harriet had changed into the Earl himself now! She was a man! It had become a horrible tangle that Nellie could see no easy way out of.
Lady Harriet, on the other hand, didn’t seem shaken at all by her experience. She had played the part of her father perfectly, acting exactly like the imperious old gentleman. If she had any reservations about becoming her own father it was impossible to detect them.
Nellie, meanwhile, felt totally at odds. She went to the mirror again and examined her reflection, disliking what she was seeing, even as she begrudgingly admitted that she was much more beautiful now. She hadn’t been ugly in her real body but there had been a plainness about her that wasn’t there at all no more. Now she was a beautiful titled lady. It didn’t feel right at all!
Though part of her had to admit that it was fun to put on this fabulous disguise and strut about the house as though she really owned the place.
She raised her chin and looked at herself some more, trying to pretend she really was Lady Harriet. Then she giggled. It was awfully funny.
Not as funny though as sitting at the breakfast table and seeing who had to be Earl Neville in her very own body and maid’s uniform come in and serve the food!
She couldn’t believe it was really so. She only had Harriet’s word for it, but she could see no other possibility. The Earl really was stuck in her body; forced to do her duties; and by the look of him, it seemed as though he was really doing them! As though he really were only a maid!
Nellie laughed out loud, gazing into her new eyes in the mirror and finding, in the humour, a little more comfort in this strange face looking back at her.
She was Lady Harriet for now. Harriet was the Earl and the Earl was her; nothing but a lowly servant.
It was funny but nice to realise that he was lower down than she was now. She wondered what it might be like to ring the bell and call for him; to give him instructions... But she was far too frightened to try anything of that nature. She couldn’t trust herself not to give the game away, and if the Earl ever found out that she had abetted in this steeplechase then when he got back to his real body he would punish her severely. That was a terrifying prospect!
She wished she didn’t have to stay like this but for now she did. She sat down on the bed and put her hands in her lap. The best thing she could do was stay out of people’s way. It sounded like she was going to have to attend the family picnic but she hoped to keep her profile while she was there as low as she could.