The Duke and the Governessof Baringdale
Situated in a most sought after street in London, near Grosvenor Square, sat Wedgewood House. It was the home of Miss Ellen Wedgewood, for the time being. Though the grandeur of the home suited a man of high status, such as Ellen’s father the Viscount, it had seen better days. No happy thoughts and joy had filled the halls for quite some time, having been wasted away to bare essentials by the Viscount’s penchant for gambling, drinking, and heavy debts.
Ellen understood her father’s grieving for her mother, who passed when Ellen was but fifteen years of age. It had been the sole cause of his descent into disarray and despair. So she could not fault him for having squandered the family fortune in such a manner, but it did bear inordinate consequences, for when he passed Ellen had been left with nothing. Now her future had become unsure and possibly of great danger if she could not find a proper place to call ‘home’. What she would do, she knew not, for she had only her wits to see her through and her precious dog, a pug named Duchess.
With the title of Viscount and Wedgewood House passing onto her cousin, and being an only child herself, she had inherited close to nothing except what little means saw her through the last year at Wedgewood House before her cousin’s impending move to reside in the house. She had only been allowed to stay while the new Viscount changed his business affairs in London. She had also been left with the task of overseeing the matter of the stream of her father’s creditors that came to collect the furnishings in lieu of his overdue accounts.
“No, not the pianoforte. It must not be removed,” she said to Mr. Primrose, the creditor that currently ransacked the home for due payment.
“I am sorry Miss Wedgewood but it is on the list of items that have not fully received payment,” he said.
“It was a gift from my father to me on my twentieth birthday,” she said with sadness in her heart.
“I understand, but there is nothing I can do on the matter, Miss,” he said.
He nodded to the group of men that began to prepare the beautiful instrument for travel. Ellen sighed a heavy sigh indeed to see the one item that had kept her from being idle taken from the premises. It had been the last source of enjoyment and pleasurable evenings since her father’s passing. She keenly felt the sting of being abandoned by all her relations now that she had no money to speak of and creditors passed through her doors causing further daily embarrassments.
“Miss Wedgewood,” Mr. Primrose said.
“Yes,” she replied feeling uneasy at hearing her name as he looked down at the parchment.
“A mantel clock that should be here in the drawing room, I believe, is not in its place. That too I must take,” he said.
“No, no it is not in the drawing room for I moved it to my bedroom. I shall retrieve it for you Mr. Primrose,” she said.
Ellen walked out of the drawing room and into the foyer where one of the few remaining servants stood, Mr. Landers.
“Landers will you oversee this… monstrosity while I venture to my rooms for a moment. I must fetch an item for the creditors. Make sure they take nothing more than that pianoforte until I return,” she said in a stern manner. For she was a clever young woman of strong constitution not to be confused with other women of her age that could not manage the most trivial matters without fainting. This attitude she had grown into quickly after having her mother pass and her father become irresponsible, it was up to her to oversee much of the household.
“Yes, Miss,” Mr. Landers said.
She ascended the stairs to retrieve the gold gilded clock she thought to sell to afford and stretch the living, but she had no notion that it had been due to creditors for she thought it an old heirloom. These schemes of what she could sell that would not be inherited by her cousin, constantly occupied her mind. How she would live, she did not know. For her cousin had made it very clear that he considered her to not be his responsibility and offered that she should be quick to find a husband before he turned her out. The brute.
Ellen had considered marriage, of course it had always been on her mind as anyone after her coming out years before, but she never found any suitable match. The gentlemen that courted her, she grew to despise as they only had interest in her father’s fortune. However as rumors spread of his ineptitude at keeping his finances intact, so too did the interest in her hand all but vanish.
Now facing a life in squalor on the streets, perhaps she had been too harsh on the many men that could have offered her a home and a living. Deep down however, she knew that she longed for love, a true love of the heart and not of convenience.
“Here, Mr. Primrose. I hope you will not be taking much else,” Ellen said, handing the clock over to the man.
“I believe we are done here,” he said.
“I am glad for it,” she said.
Ellen moved to the window where she watched the horse drawn cart with her home’s cherished items being displayed for all the wagging tongues of society to see. Shaking heads of disapproval donned the ladies and gentlemen out on their morning stroll as they passed the house of the Viscount. A blush of pink hue developed on her cheeks out of embarrassment and anger. Thus in this state of disarray she passed the morning, until the most unexpected visitor happened to call upon her for tea in the afternoon.
“The Dowager Duchess of Baringdale,” Landers announced to Ellen as she sat in the drawing room.
“The Duch… yes see her in please, Landers,” Ellen said with her blue eyes wide in astonishment, as she quickly pushed her blonde ringlets into place on her head. Her hands moved down the folds of her dress to remove any wrinkles.
The Dowager entered the room in the most grandiose fashion and a soft smile upon her face. Juliana Barnes, the Dowager Duchess of Baringdale, the grandmother of the Duke of Baringdale, Christian Barnes. Christian had inherited the title after Juliana’s son passed away almost eight years previously, handing the title down to his son Christian.
“Your Grace,” Ellen curtsied.
“Miss Wedgewood,” the Duchess said.
“Please come in. I did not expect company, please excuse…” Ellen started to say.
“Oh my, is it this bad, then?” the Duchess said, as she stepped further into the drawing room taking in the meager furnishings and tattered drapes in need of mending.
“No, not as bad as it seems,” Ellen said, trying to not cause more humiliation to her situation. “Tea?”
“Yes, thank you,” the Duchess said.
“Landers, tea please,” Ellen said.
Landers bowed and left the room to attend to the tea service. Ellen looked at the Duchess with silent astonishment. She had only met her a few times before, but it had been when her mother was still alive, as the Duchess often called upon her.
“Close your mouth child, it is unbecoming, even though it does portray your shock in seeing me quite well,” the Duchess said.
“My apologies,” Ellen said, reeling in shock.
“My, my, you have grown, and very pretty I might add. So like your mother you are,” she said.
“Thank you, your Grace,” she said. “I am very happy to see you indeed. I have not been called upon in such a long while by anyone,” Ellen said.
“Of course and judging by the looks of things I can see why. Our society is not the most clever and thinks that any downfall will be passed onto them if they call upon someone facing unfortunate matters,” Juliana said with a sparkle in her eye.
Ellen laughed in agreement.
The pitter-patter of paws suddenly entered the drawing room as Ellen’s pug dashed into the room, jumped onto the chair, and into Ellen’s lap. “Oh Duchess, what have we here? Where have you been?” Ellen said to the pug.
“Duchess?” Juliana asked with a raised brow.
Ellen bit her lower lip. “Oh your Grace, please do not take it as an insult. I love my pet deeply, and well… I do remember when you came to see my mother every so often and I thought of you the grandest of ladies. When it came to naming my pet I thought of wanting to name her after a grand lady,” she said.
Juliana looked at her with suspicion. Ellen held her breath for she could not fathom that she had managed to insult the only person that had called upon her in months.
Suddenly Juliana released a joyful laugh at the matter that drew Ellen into a laughing fit as well. So much so that Landers returned with the tea, setting it upon the table and looked at the two ladies as though they might be descending into madness, then promptly left the room.
“That is such a lovely story. I am happy to be the inspiration for such a remarkable creature,” Juliana teased.
“I am glad to hear it,” Ellen said as she stood up from the cushioned wingback chair and gestured for Juliana to join her at the table for tea. She poured a cup for the Duchess.
“Now about your situation, are there any prospects for your hand?” the Duchess asked.
“No, not that I am aware of,” Ellen said.
“Then when your cousin turns you out…”
“Turns me out? How are you aware of…“
“Everyone is aware, it was the talk of the Season this spring,” Juliana said.
“Brilliant. That should strengthen my chances,” Ellen said with a hint of sarcasm. “I assume wages are being taken on my downfall.”
Juliana smiled, “I must say that your constitution on the matter is very much to my liking. How like your mother you are, child.”
“Thank you, ma’am. I appreciate hearing such a thing. I adore her and miss her greatly.”
“Well that is why I have come. I needed to see with my own eyes how things are here at Wedgewood House and to make accurate the rumours that your cousin will turn you out,” she said.
Ellen placed her cup down on the saucer. “Oh? How so? I mean, why? I don’t understand.”
“To make you an offer. You see I promised your mother to always look after you if you should need it. I tend to keep that promise. Since things are in such disarray, I have means to offer you a place as governess to my two granddaughters.”
“Really?” Ellen perked up with a grand smile.
“Indeed. I know it is not what you are used to. In truth you would also be somewhat of a companion to myself but the two little ladies need an education, so why not both? And you may bring your little dog as well,” Juliana said.
“Yes. YES.” Ellen jumped from her seat and hugged Juliana.
“Now it is not all roses. It is of short notice I’m afraid as I’m leaving the country in two days’ time. You will be travelling with the two girls and me. So you will be quitting this house sooner than expected,” she said.
“Oh… I see.” Ellen felt a heavy sadness.
She knew that eventually she would have to depart with her home, but she thought she had longer on the matter. The Viscount would turn her out in due time, but she planned on taking in every moment of her home until then.
Ellen desired to take her time in saying goodbye to her childhood home and hoped to somehow convince the Viscount to let her stay among them. Now she was offered another opportunity that could change her fortunes and see some joy in her life again. Could she take this position and give up the very slim possibility of staying in her home? It was a risk and if she learned anything from her father’s downfall, it was that gambling never turned out well. She needed to make a decision.
Christian Barnes, the Duke of Baringdale stood at the railings of the clipper ship as it set into port on the River Thames. Having spent time abroad for a full year, he almost forgot how crowded London could be.
“Indeed, there is no place like you,” he said lightly to himself as he watched the people crammed onto the docks in all matters of business. There were passengers for ships coming and going, fishmongers, and crewmen and the occasional sailors. The sounds of clatter and chatter filled the air and thick black smoke marked the sky.
Christian felt the stark contrast between this and the countryside of the main continent he had only just returned from, where he broadened his business connections.
The crewmen aboard the ship shouted orders as the ship docked. Christian moved to his valet Dudley, who stood beside Christian’s belongings.
“Shall we, Dudley. My cousin should be expecting us,” Christian said.
“Ready when you are, Your Grace,” Dudley responded.
A moment later the Duke of Baringdale alighted from the ship with his valet following.
He released a deep sigh as he stepped onto the dockside. Welcome back Duke, he thought. Christian did not feel too keenly about his return, for he would have much rather stayed abroad. However, his responsibilities were many and his duty lay in running his duchy.
“There he is, Dudley. As I said he would be. My most reliable cousin, Alexander Baringdale,” Christian said, spotting his cousin who stood beside a most fashionable carriage.
“Alexander,” Christian said loudly to capture his attention.
Alex in return greeted with a smile. “Happy returns, Cousin.” Alex walked with long strides to Christian and shook his hand.
“Happy is not the word I would use, but I am happy to see you again, Cousin.” Christian said.
“Then you must tell me all about it,” Alex said. “Shall we?”
“Indeed,” Christian said. He gestured to Dudley to secure his belongings on the carriage, and then stepped inside it with Alex following.
“What say you? Shall we have my driver drop us at the club and they will go on to your home to unload your trunks?” Alex suggested.
Christian raised a brow. He should, of course, head home and see to the management of his return and household, but he could not pass up a good evening at the gentlemen’s club with his dear cousin.
“I accept,” he finally said.
“Excellent,” Alex said. Then he banged on the roof of the carriage and shouted to his driver, “To Boodle’s”
The carriage jolted forward jostling on the cobblestone streets of London to Mayfair. Where the majority of high society lived, when they were in London and not at their country estates. Boodle’s of course was one the most exclusive gentlemen’s clubs in that area.
A short while later, Christian sat with a port in his hand and Alex at his side at a corner table. Alex rambled on about the most shocking scandals amongst the ton and all that Christian had missed during the year.
“I assure you I am well informed. My grandmother has kept me abreast of the latest in her letters while I was abroad,” Christian smiled.
“Oh yes, the Duchess of Baringdale. She is quite well, last I saw her,” Alex said.
“Indeed she is. Every letter she reminded me of my responsibility to my nieces and begged that my trip be cut short in order to see to that,” Christian said. His voice suddenly became somber.
“I am sorry still about Irene’s passing. So unfortunate that she and her husband were gone in such an accident, and young age,” Alex said.
“Unfortunate, tragic, and of unhappy times indeed. To speak truthfully, after that carriage accident and their untimely demise I did not expect that my sister had made me legal guardian of my nieces. I thought their father’s brother would be named, for he is already settled with a wife and a child of their own. It seemed to fit more of a family life that the girls could fit into. For I am never home, and my sister knew that of me. Or even my grandmother would be a better choice of guardian. I do not know what possessed my sister to name me,” Christian said. He still had not recovered from the shock of his sister’s death, but also gained two wards to take care of those who were so young. What could he know of taking care of children?
“Aye, I understand, cousin. Perhaps Irene had her reasons of which we will never know,” he said. “It is hard to believe it has been two years since her passing.”
“Yes, the time has gone quickly,” Christian took a very long drink of his port to help ease the pain.
“Speaking of letters from your grandmother, the Duchess, I received one myself not but a fortnight ago,” Alex said.
“Oh? Pray do tell, judging by that tone I suppose it is of something rather interesting,” Christian raised his brows.
“An invitation as it were to a summer house party at Baringdale Estate,” Alex said.
“You don’t say? I can see now why she suggested I cut my trip short. No doubt she has some mischievous scheme she wants to expose me to,” Christian said. He knew his grandmother all too well and she had taken it upon herself to find Christian a wife, though he begged her not too. Such was the way of the elders however and he had no control over her actions, gladly he did have control over his choice in wife no matter who the Duchess managed to put in his path.
Alex laughed, “Aye, that would be her way.”
“And shall you accept this invitation? I have no doubt that my grandmother might also have invited you in order to match you with some noblewoman she deems perfect for you,” Christian said.
“I shall accept, though she would be doing no such thing after hearing the news. Which if I may guess, might be arriving to her within a day or two, judging by the speed my mother delights in writing her letters,” Alex said.
Christian put his cup down and looked at Alex with confusion. “News? What news do you speak of?”
Alex laughed a hearty laugh, “It has finally happened, my good man. I am betrothed to a woman of such admiration and glorious liking that I dare say I might burst at the thought of it.”
Christian stood up in his chair with shock upon his face. “You jest.”
“No I do not. It is the truth I speak.”
“No, that cannot be. Alex, you of all people are the last man that I shall ever imagine to be married.”
“I knew you would say that,” Alex stood up to meet his cousin’s gaze. “It is an astonishing thing, is it not?”
“This is not… are you…” Christian could scarcely get the words out. For his cousin had been the most womanizing and some would say secretly scandalous cad he had ever known. Not a handmaid in London was safe from Alex’s eyes. Daughters of nobles across the entire country had been warned of his rogue nature and dashing wiles. To hear this news had Christian dumbfounded.
“You? Betrothed. I simply cannot fathom. You must give me a moment to breathe,” Christian said.
“Seriously, Cousin. You act as though I would never marry. It has happened and you shall meet her at the summer house party at Baringdale,” Alex said.
“Well then… well…” Christian said with a smile. “Then we shall have a toast. Another round over here,” Christian shouted to the servant.
He grabbed Alex’s hand and shook it vigorously. “I congratulate you and wish you all happiness. I never thought you would settle or were the type to do so, but now that you have committed yourself I see that miracles do happen.”
Alex laughed. “You offer me great offence with your words, but I know I have earned them, nonetheless.”
The servant set down another round of port on the table before them. Christian handed a glass to Alex and then held his own in the air and addressed the room.
“Pardon me, pardon me good sirs,” he said.
The commotion of chatter came to a halt in the club as all the guests turned to Christian.
“I must ask you to help me cheer for my cousin Alexander Baringdale, who as some you may know is the most rogue of a scoundrel to women as there ever was…”
The men laughed a light laugh in jest at the well known fact among their circles.
“Yet he has finally done it. My cousin has just told me the news that he is set to be leg-shackled,” Christian said.
Cheers and applause abounded. Christian raised his glass higher and said, “To Alexander.”
“To Alexander,” the guests said in unison with raised glasses.
Christian and Alex took their seats and the murmuring of chatter returned to the room.
“I cannot believe it. You must forgive me but this will take some time to get used to,” Christian said.
“Take all the time you need,” Alex said. “So you will be at your grandmother’s to meet my betrothed then?”
“I do not know. I have not made that decision. I only now heard it from you, though I am sure an invitation sits in my townhouse waiting to be read.”
“Why not go? Surely you…”
“Because I only just arrived. I have my affairs to set in order. I cannot scamper off to the countryside before I have several meetings. My business dealings abroad are expecting certain timely letters and I am to see it through with my solicitor here in London. It may take some time,” Christian said.
“I see, that is to be understood. Well then I should return you home at a decent hour for an early rise to see your solicitor. Shall we be going?”
“After a meal. I am famished. Eating food aboard the ship has not been to the best of standards,” Christian said.
“Then let us have supper in the upstairs rooms,” Alex stood up.
Together they ascended the stairs to the upstairs supper rooms where long tables sat with elegant candelabras, centerpieces, and gleaming silverware. A meal of roasted ham, boiled potatoes, and rich sauces were the menu of the evening and Christian ate voraciously, for a man of his masculine build needed the nourishment.
When all was said and done Christian made his way to his townhouse in the elite borough of Mayfair. It had been so long since he walked those halls and called the place home.
“Home again,” he said as Dudley opened the door to take his coat and hat.
“Yes, Your Grace.”
“At sunrise send word to my solicitor at Morse and Baden that I have returned and shall be arriving at noon to their office to discuss my business. I am off to bed, for it has been a long journey indeed.”
Christian ascended the stairs to the second floor gallery where he stopped to look down at the foyer, how empty the house seemed, he thought. Then he proceeded to his rooms where he would sleep in his canopy bed for the first time in a year, keenly aware of how empty it also was.
“It is to my understanding that you have not been to Northampton, unless I am mistaken?” the Duchess asked Ellen.
“You are not mistaken, Madam. I have not ventured to that countryside. My mother spoke of it. Said it to be quite lovely,” Ellen said as she sat across from the Duchess in the lavish carriage.
“Oh yes, she did visit me once, before you were born. I almost forgot entirely,” the Duchess said.
Ellen smiled, for it did her heart good to hear of her mother and felt very excited at the prospect that the Duchess would be able to tell her more stories about her mother while she stayed at Baringdale. It had been a heavy decision indeed to leave her home altogether, but in truth she had little choice. Saying goodbye to all that she held dear and the rooms that she had grown up in turned out to be a very burdensome event. Still she made it through and congratulated herself for being strong enough to let it go and embrace the opportunity in front of her for a new life with someone she considered to be of good nature.
She turned to look out the window at the beauty of the countryside. It had been almost two years since she ventured out of London. With the decline of her father’s social status, came a decline in invitations to summer in the country.
The carriage jostled on the muddy road leading north out of London. It would be a two day journey to reach Baringdale Estate in Northampton. The elegant and plush interiors of the Duchess’ carriage made traveling much more agreeable, albeit slower due to its large size and gilded decor.
“You have a very fine carriage here. Thank you for allowing me to accompany you,” Ellen said. “I should have had to take the post if I came to you later.”
“It is a fine carriage, but I must thank you for making such a quick decision. My dear, I know it must not have been the easiest for you to do such a thing. But in truth I find that it is better to do these sorts of transitions quickly. For it is the dwelling upon it that causes great pain.” The Dowager said.
“I shall take those words to heart, Your Grace,” Ellen smiled.
“Make sure that you do. Now we have quite a journey ahead of us. Our stage stop is at the White Horse Inn at Bletchley. No other Inn will do for my needs. I find that the rooms are better, they treat my horses well, and of course one of the few Inns along the way that have private supper rooms. A noble woman such as myself cannot be dining amongst the riff-raff in the tavern, and the White Horse Inn honours that sentiment. With the Season just now coming to an end in London and most of the ton heading to their summer houses, I assume it will be quite crowded indeed,” she said.
Ellen smiled, “Then I cannot wait to visit it.”
“Yes, as I. Now while we are here in this box let us speak of my two granddaughters, for it will not be an easy task I have handed you.”
“Thank you. I do feel that I can manage.” Ellen said.
“I am sure that you can but it will take a strong constitution and a stern word here in there. My granddaughters Grace and Jessica are lovely young girls. Full of life and quite energetic, but it is obvious to me that they are still having a very hard time adjusting to not having both their parents in their life.” She said.
Ellen’s eyes grew wide as she remembered the day that she had heard about the terrible carriage accident. It was the talk of society as everyone grieved the loss of Irene who had been a great beauty and married well. Having been so popular among the elite the news spread far and wide and everyone seemed to be distraught over the loss as well as over the cause. Everyone traveled by carriage and such a terrible accident that could take life stirred everyone deeply. Ellen shifted in the seat to think of such a tragedy coming upon them on their own journey on the muddy road.
“I know it has been some time but allow me to say my condolences. Such a tragedy it was,” Ellen said.
“Thank you. A tragedy indeed and one that I am not sure I shall ever recover from, but it is not I that needs to be worried about, but my granddaughters. They are so young and there’s so much they do not understand about life and death. They tend to have fits of anger and disillusionment. I think they fully do not grasp what death means and I feel that they still hope that their parents may walk in the door one day. Especially the youngest Jessica who is but seven years of age, and only five years old when the accident occurred.”
“I see. I shall treat the issue delicately if it ever comes up in conversation. However I do know what it is like to lose one’s parents and feel that I can relate to them in that manner.” Ellen said.
“Yes, so you might.” The Duchess said.
This topic of conversation made Ellen feel heavy of heart as she thought about her own mother and how dearly she missed her since she was taken from her at a much younger age. If only she were there to guide her but such wishful thinking could not change her reality. Ellen padded her pug on the head as it slept upon her lap. She was very grateful that she at least had this one remnant of home to go with her.
Hours later the sun began to move toward the horizon and the carriage started to slow down.
“We must be nearly there,” The Duchess said.
Ellen looked out the window and was surprised by what she saw. This was no ordinary roadside Inn, but it was quite grand. It stood two stories tall and was done in the Tudor style of white walls and brown beams. There was a stable beside it and several smaller buildings that she could only assume must be a kitchen and a servant’s quarters for those servants that traveled with their masters. The Duchess herself traveled with three manservants which included a footman who sat on the back roof of the carriage and two servants that sat up front to drive. Not only did these men serve as servants but they were also there to guard the Duchess in case of any highway robbery, which occurred quite often.
“It is very busy indeed,” Ellen said as she looked out the window at the bustling activities in front of the Inn. They were not the only carriage to be drawing to a stop in the circular driveway, but there were two others just as lavish as their own. Several wagons also pulled in and she could only assume that they must be merchants traveling with their goods. Various servants moved here and there in a bustle of activity. Ellen rather enjoyed watching the controlled chaos.
Soon they dismounted from the carriage and Ellen looked up to see a sign with a white horse hanging over the front door. The footman moved ahead of them to arrange their rooms and see to all that needed to be seen. This way the Duchess did not have to wait in the tavern but simply enter the foyer and up the staircase to the second floor where their rooms were situated.
Once upstairs in a private hallway, the Duchess stopped in front of her bedroom door and looked at Ellen who stood two doors down from her own. “Now I must lie down and rest for a while. However, you will join me for a late supper in my rooms at nine sharp.” She said.
“Of course. I hope you have a very good rest, Your Grace.” Ellen curtsied and bowed her head. Then she waited for the Duchess to enter her rooms before entering her own.
She entered the quaint room and was quite satisfied with what she saw before her. A bed sat in the middle of the room across from a small corner fireplace. There was a table and two chairs and threadbare rugs that had been well worn. One of her smaller trunks had been brought up by the man servants and she could not wait to relinquish herself from her traveling clothes and wash the dust of the road off her.
She removed her coat quite easily enough but as she began to remove the layers of clothing with laces and buttons here and there she struggled, for such an undertaking without a ladies maid had never been an easy task. She remembered that the Duchess herself would be doing the same, but Ellen felt it keenly. It only reminded her of Jane, her own lady’s maid that had been let go when her father began to suffer his finances. They could no longer afford Jane’s services and it hurt Ellen far deeper than her father could ever know. After her mother passed Jane became like a second mother to her and parting from her caused great emotional distress. Thinking of her, during this transition to become a governess from Viscount’s daughter, brought great sorrow and Ellen began to weep. Before she knew it her body convulsed into sobbing and she sat down on the bed and allowed herself to cry.
Her pug Duchess pawed at her lap bringing Ellen’s attention to her. It made her smile as her dog always did. She picked her up and held her in her arms. “You are all that I have left.” She whispered into the dog’s ear who snuggled against her and let out a small bark.
“You are right, Duchess. I cannot let this get to me. I will pull myself together and keep my emotional distress intact. We cannot afford for anything to go wrong and must maintain a good impression in our new role. This will be our new home and we cannot afford to lose it by not staying in control of our heart.” Ellen said to her dog. Then she set Duchess down on the mattress and moved to the wash basin. She poured water from the pitcher into the bowl and began to wash the tears from her face. When she was done she allowed herself a good long rest before getting dressed to attend supper with the Duchess.
Ellen knocked on the door of the duchess and waited for a response. The footman opened the door and allowed Ellen to enter.
“Good evening Miss Wedgewood. Come in child,” the Duchess said.
“Good evening, Your Grace,” Ellen said as she entered the door and stopped to curtsy in greeting.
“Come join me,” Juliana said as she walked to the table and sat down. Ellen looked about the room. She was surprised at how large these quarters were. They sat in a sitting room and beyond she could see another door that led to the bedchamber. A table was already set with a lovely feast of game hen, roasted vegetables, a large loaf of bread, and a wheel of cheese.
The Duchess gestured to her footman to begin the service. He poured wine for them both, starting with the Duchess first of course, then served them each a portion of the tasty delights.
“How do you find your room Miss Wedgewood?” The Duchess asked.
“I find it quite agreeable. Thank you.” She said.
“Good to hear it. We shall have the morning meal here in my room at sunrise. Do not be late. Then we shall stretch our legs in a brief stroll around the grounds and be off once more.” The Dowager said.
Ellen nodded in acknowledgement of this schedule.
“Now about my granddaughters. I must confess I am ashamed that I have let them fall so far behind in their schooling. So you will have much to teach them. I assume that you are well-versed in French?” the Duchess asked.
“Oh, yes Madam, a beautiful language I dearly love. I am happy to teach it to them.”
“Good. You and I will set about the subjects and when and where we shall teach them. I am very attentive to those matters. There is almost nothing I do not want them to learn but besides the subjects of reading, writing, history, and so forth I would also like you to teach them an instrument. They both have begun to learn the pianoforte but only a few lessons. Then of course there is sewing and patterns that they should learn.”
“Of course, I am very well-versed in the pianoforte and happy to teach what I know as well as sewing and patterns.” Ellen said.
“Good, this is turning out very well indeed. Now there is also the subject of my summer house party.” Juliana said.
Ellen was shocked by this notion so much so that she allowed the fork to slip from her hand and land on the plate in a loud clatter. It drew the Duchess’s attention from her own food to Ellen.
“Summer house party?”
“Indeed. I have not had one in a few years since my daughter’s passing but I feel it is high time that I got back to that schedule. It will be good for the girls as well as it is time that they make acquaintances of their own age that will grow into further support down the line.” The Duchess said. “It is in less than a fortnight. I thought of doing it as a beginning of the summer season party, to welcome everyone back to the countryside.”
“Of course, Your Grace.” Ellen said. But she was startled by the notion of such an event. This would be her first event in society in a new and much lower role as a governess. It brought her a feeling of embarrassment and anxiousness. How the tongues would wag at her demise. Perhaps the Duchess did not want her to attend such a thing as a governess usually did not. But why would she mention it otherwise? Especially because she wanted the girls to attend which meant that the governess would be there to look after them. It was most inconvenient that she had not even arrived at her new home and already had a reason to dread a future event at Baringdale Estate. What else could possibly happen?
I hope you enjoyed the preview of my new novel “The Duke and the Governess of Baringdale”. It will be live soon!
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Sounds like a fine beginning! I wish you well. You have entertained me well with your books. Thank you