Evelyn searched through every portion of the house in which Maria was inclined to hide away before she found her. Though Evelyn could not long be vexed with the Maria who met her look–eyes glowing, cheeks to which clung wisps of hair flushed, silk skirts enveloped in a voluminous apron.
Nevertheless her tone was still mildly chiding as she addressed Maria, asking had she truly been down here the whole morning?
“Yes, Evelyn.” Maria answered. “I could not take Lady Bramble out in this weather so I came down here.”
“Maria you should have come up to do your embroidery with Margaret and I,” Evelyn said, lowering her voice. “It would have been much better for you to have done so. The servants can do the cooking.”
“Indeed, Evelyn, I believe we are commanded to do so in the Bible–or somewhere. You know, 'He who does not cook shall not eat', or some such thing.”
“Oh, do not be ridiculous, Maria! That verse is speaking of all work–not specifically cooking.”
“I prefer to error on the side of caution. And Evelyn–imagine this–” Maria said, extending her floury hands, her voice low and thrilling, “Cook has gone out in the morning to pay a visit to a sick niece, leaving us to the tender mercies of Martha's pastries. It is nearly time for tea–and what is this? It is the sound of carriage wheels upon the gravel. You hasten to the window to peek out and see whom it may be–”
“But Maria, I would do no such thing,” Evelyn interposed.
“No matter–Margaret would–and if not the servant would soon announce the name. Lo, it is Lady Warren and Lady Anneliese! You long to invite them so stay for tea–yet the thought of Martha's pasties lying in the kitchen weigh upon your spirits. Now would it not bring you peace to know that you have a sister who can secretly abscond to the kitchen, weigh and pour and mix, so that at the time to ring, not dull heavy patties of dough will meet your eye upon the tray, but things of fresh and delicate beauty?” Her eyes were full of demure merriment as she turned to her sister, knowing her cause was won.
“Very well,” Evelyn laughed. “But why do you so wish to cook? I inquire since I know there must be more than a wish to preserve your sister in such a time of desperate need as you spoke of.”
“I do not wish to cook for cookery's sake,” Maria said, pausing in her mixing, her expression earnest and somewhat wistful as she looked at her sister, “but I must have something to do and on rainy days when I cannot be without doors I cannot spend all my time reading and in the stable. Then the house becomes so utterly still and silent, except for the dull thud of the rain, I feel as if I must do something else I will smash something, so I like to come down here and clatter about as much as I like.”
And so Evelyn left her, humming contentedly as she mixed up a cake. Closing the door she said to herself, “I would talk to Dr. Owen about her nervousness except that he would most probably simply tell me that that type of occupation is exactly what she needs.”