The Marquess' GovernessBride
In the middle of the night, a slight, feminine figure shrouded in a long, dark, hooded cloak crept down the staircase, across the marble tiled floor, and opened the front door of Mildenhall House. She tried her best to be silent, but the door gave out a loud creak, like the moan of a melancholy maiden, threatening to give her away. Hurriedly, Emma Cavendish stepped out of the place which had been her home since she was a child. She held many fond recollections of Mildenhall House, and she was certain she would miss it when she was gone. However, not all of her memories were pleasant, and she trembled at the thought of the circumstances that compelled her to escape at such a late hour.
Her breath was heavy and slow, her heart beating in quick excited thuds but filled with dread at the same time. She was, indeed, afraid to be confronted by her malicious brother and sister-in-law if they were to find her secretly leaving home, leaving them and their wickedness. She wanted to be free of them and the abhorrent Lord Oscar Benedict, to whom she was betrothed to, thanks to her conniving sister-in-law, Lady Selina Cavendish, Baroness of Mildenhall.
Lord Benedict was old enough to be her grandfather! Emma knew that her dear parents would have been horrified by the arrangement if they were alive. Her mother would have fainted at the mere mention of such a thing, and her father would have been livid at her brother, Lord Archie Cavendish, Baron of Mildenhall.
Emma smirked at the thought of outwitting the pair, wishing she could see the looks on their faces when they found out she was gone. But the smirk soon faded when she remembered seeing the elderly, sombre-looking gentleman who had recently turned up at the house in a shiny black coach that resembled hearse. She had been in the drawing room at the time and witnessed the sight through the window. The butler had showed the man in announcing the arrival of Lord Oscar Benedict, a man she had never heard of before.
“Good afternoon,” the man had said, toking off his hat and pressing it against his chest. He looked solemn and unassuming.
“Good afternoon. What can I do for you, Lord Benedict?” Archie had asked, standing up from his favourite chair by the fireside.
The man had proceeded to explain the situation, but all Emma heard was “accident,” “death,” “parent,” and she was quite unable to understand what the man was saying. It was only after a while that it began to register with her that her parents were dead.
“Please accept my condolences, Lord Cavendish. It is such a tragedy,” Lord Benedict said.
Archie didn’t seem at all moved. “Yes, yes. It is a tragedy.” He glanced at Emma, and then said, “Let’s move into my private study and discuss the official papers and arrangements needed to move forward with the matter.”
Emma, of course, wanted to hear the conversation too. But she knew it wasn’t the place of a lady to wish to speak or hear such things. As her brother automatically assumed the position of the head of the household on their father’s death, he held the authority to exercise control over the estate, the finances, and even her own fate. It was a distressing realization that weighed heavily upon her. She wept profusely on that day and continued to mourn in the months that followed.
She dearly wished her parents’ coach hadn’t been in that dreadful accident three months ago. A sob caught in her throat whenever she thought of how much she missed them. How different her life would have been if they were still with her! Her rotten, selfish brother wouldn’t have inherited everything then and practically ruined her life. He didn’t even seem a little bit disturbed at the mention of their parent’s demise, the heartless monster!
Shortly after the passing of their parents, it became apparent that Archie and his wife desired to rid themselves of her presence. They sought to arrange a marriage for her with a man more than twice her age whom she had never met. And when she had, she detested him. How could they expect her to marry such an elderly man who was known to have been married twice already, making her his third wife!? Not only was he advanced in age but he also suffered from poor health. He had small, beady eyes, and a leering expression seemed permanently etched on his face. Emma’s distaste was evident as she frowned and scowled at the mere thought of him.
“I don’t want to marry Lord Benedict,” Emma had told her sister-in-law when the subject of a marriage to Lord Benedict was mooted. She had crossed her arms in defiance before Selina.
“Well, my dear, you must marry someone,” Selina had declared. Emma thought her sickly voice always sounded as if someone had given her some nasty medicine to taste. “Lord Benedict is, as you know, my beloved uncle, and he is a kind and generous man, Emma. And he has taken a liking to you. He is wealthy beyond our means, and I am certain he would give in to all your childish and temperamental demands. Indeed, you have caused me and dear Archie much trouble already, and to the best of my knowledge, you have been a source of trouble throughout your upbringing as well. Ever since you and Archie were children. He confided in me about it,” she said, offering a sugary smile to Emma.
“I am not childish or temperamental,” Emma replied, shaking, livid at such an unfounded accusation. “That was Archie, not me. He was the one who always demanded things from our parents, and he was the one who was pampered by Mother to the effect of spoiling him completely. Father remained quiet because your husband was the heir to their fortunes.”
Selina sighed heavily, as if Emma was indeed a heavy burden to bear, a little child who perhaps needed a little scolding.
“Now, dear, look what you have done to yourself. You have gotten yourself flustered and hot. Do take heed of my words and do not fight your fate, which is to marry my uncle. There are so many poor women looking for a man as rich as Lord Benedict to marry. I believe you are one of the lucky ones.” Selina gave Emma a scathing look. “Do not behave like a coddled child now, it is quite tiresome.” She put a hand to her forehead like an actress in a twopenny play, declaring, “Oh dear, I suddenly feel the need to rest.’’ Emma’s brother entered the room just them, and Selina smiled at him winsomely. “Archie, my dear, there you are, I’m so glad you’ve come,” she said, feigned dizziness.
“Will you be a dear and accompany me to our chamber? Your sister has not been cooperating at all and won’t listen to my good advice. I feel I need to recuperate now and regain my health.”
Emma rolled her eyes.
“What has happened, my darling?” Archie took his wife in his arms and sat her down on the chaise longue. “What has my sister done to you?”
Emma looked on with disbelief. Selina was quite the actress, and Archie was a willing and doting audience.
“I was only telling her it is good for her to marry Lord Benedict. Instead of appreciating my advice, she was offended and argued with me. Oh, dear.” Again, Selina placed a dramatic hand on her forehead.
Archie glared at Emma, who glared back and then turned away from him.
“This is all your doing,” he seethed. “Look at my dear wife, she is pale as the moon and appears ill. Wait here for my return. I’m taking Selina up to our bedchamber, my poor dear needs to recover.” Archie placed his arms around his wife’s waist and guided her upstairs.
Emma didn’t wait to be scolded by her brother but left to go to the west wing of the house, to her parents’ old chambers. She climbed onto their bed and cried for hours.
But that had been several weeks ago, and now she was escaping her fate! As she stepped onto the drive of the house in the darkness, a splash of rainwater on her face brought Emma out from her reverie. She glanced at the overcast sky, realising it was beginning to rain in earnest. Should wondered if she should risk going back inside to fetch another cloak. The one she was wearing was light and suitable only for dry weather. I’ll be soaked in no time! But no, I
simply do not have the time.
Archie and Selina had gone to a ball, so she was safe in the knowledge that they wouldn’t be back for hours. But she couldn’t risk anyone else seeing her sneak away, for they would likely tell her brother and sister-in-law. Large raindrops began falling fast, and her cloak was soon too wet. The weight of the drenched cloak became a burden on her small shoulders, but Emma carried on walking. She tried to avoid the puddles and navigated her small feet around them, for she didn’t want the water to enter her shoes either. She only had the pair she was wearing and one other in her travelling bag.
I must not miss the last coach to London, she told herself, walking quickly to where the stagecoach picked up passengers. As she approached the stop, there were a few other people waiting. She breathed a sigh of relief, for it meant she was in time.
At last, the coach arrived.
“One for London, please,” she told the driver.
Emma sat among the other passengers, shivering in her wet cloak hoping it would eventually dry out. Among the passengers was a dear old woman with a young child who was perhaps five years old or so. The girl looked frightened and sat very close to the woman.
“She is my granddaughter,” the woman explained. “Poor child, she is now an orphan. I am taking her to my home in London. I will be her legal guardian.” The woman had kind grey eyes.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Emma said sincerely. “I am Emma, I am also going to London, for a job interview for a governess position.” It was true. She had secured an interview without her family finding out. It was a blessing for her.
“I am certain you will succeed, my dear,” the woman told her kindly.
This reminded Emma of the other people who had been very kind and helpful to her. One was her friend, Lady Danielle Taylor, who was the wife of Thomas, Viscount of Sharply, as well as Danielle’s parents, Mr and Mrs Vaughn. who had befriended her. The memory of her last meeting with them unfurled in her mind.
“Thank you very much for these references, everyone,” Emma said with tears of gratitude in her eyes.
They were in the private study of the Viscount, who had just handed her two false but glowing references for her job interview. Danielle and Mr and Mrs Vaughn were all present, and both Daniella and her parents had happily supplied the references, extolling her abilities as a governess.
“Oh, Emma, I will miss you very much!” Danielle embraced her good friend. Emma had been seventeen when they first met, almost two years ago. “You must write constantly to me, do you promise?”
“Yes, yes, of course I will,” Emma cried.
“It is our pleasure to assist you in any way, my dear girl,” said Mrs Vaughn. “I cannot imagine what you must be going through without your parents. Such kind people they were. And what you have told us about Lord Cavendish and his wife, it is despicable! Shame on them!”
“Emma, if you need anything else, don’t hesitate to ask us,” Mr Vaughn said with a kindly smile. “You know you are dear to every one of us.”
Thomas nodded his head in agreement. “I will come and bring you back here immediately if you don’t survive in London, and we will help you find a job nearer to us.” He looked at his wife, and a glance of agreement seemed to pass between them. “You must know you remind me very much of my own dear sister,” he said turning back to Emma.
“I wish you could stay, dearest,” Danielle took Emma’s hands. “You are wonderfully fortunate to secure an interview for the post of governess to the Marquess of Everdeane’s ward. But I beg you to reconsider staying with us. We would be happy to help you find a position here in Buckinghamshire if you wished.”
“You know I cannot accept that offer, but I thank you. I must find my own path and get as far away as possible from Archie and Selina,” Emma replied with determination.
That conversation had taken place only the previous afternoon. Emma had left her friends with a sad heart. But she also had two good references which she hoped would ensure that the Marquess of Everdeane would see her as the perfect governess for his young ward and hire her.
She had hidden the references inside her stationery box in her parents’ chambers, where her brother and sister-in-law never went. She had known they would be safe there.
Emma leaned back into her coach seat now, feeling both excited and apprehensive for her future. Armed with a small inheritance from her mother, some jewellery, and all the books and clothes she could carry in her one bag, she was out to make a sincere and decent living that would allow her to support herself financially. She prayed for a good outcome to the interview. She knew it was imperative for her brother and his wife never to discover her whereabouts. So, she resolved to be vigilant and take every necessary precaution to ensure her secret remained intact.
She wasn’t one to lie and cheat; it wasn’t natural to her. But in her pursuit of securing the position, she understood she had to do whatever was necessary to survive.
The stagecoach finally arrived in London three days later, in the early afternoon. Emma was glad of it. She did not like long journeys and avoided travelling long distances if she could help it. The coach dropped the passengers off at the coaching inn. Thankfully, it was the last stop for Emma. She stretched her legs gratefully, feeling stiff all over her body from the hours of dreary travel. The last leg of her journey would be travelling to the Mansons via hackney cab.
It was a fine, warm June day at the end of the Season. She closed her eyes for a moment and looked up at the sky, feeling the warmth of the sun on her face. Then, the clamour of London’s great metropolis awakened her. It was getting late, and she had to make haste to reach the Manson’s residence. Hailing a hackney cab, she boarded it and set off to her interview with hope and trepidation in her heart.
“You must be Miss Emma Cavendish!” Mrs Manson, a tall woman with a lovely smile welcomed Emma into the house. “My husband and I have been waiting for you ever since my good friend Mrs Vaughn wrote to tell us you were coming. Oh, it will be lovely a change for us to have a young lady in the house, even though it may only be for one night. We both hope you will be selected for the post, isn’t that right, dear?”
She spoke over her shoulder to a short gentleman with a red face and a jolly smile, who appeared from another room and came at once to join his wife. “Yes, indeed. You are very welcome here, Miss Cavendish,” he said, giving Emma small bow.
“Please call me Emma,” Emma said. “I have to thank you for letting me stay with you. It was short notice, and I hope it wasn’t too much of a bother for you to arrange things so quickly.”
“It was no bother at all, my dear,” Mrs Manson assured her. “Now, I will show you to the guest room. When you have had a change of clothes and feel refreshed, come downstairs, and we will have some tea.”
The guest room was unexpectedly grand, with a pretty marble fireplace, pale, flowered wallpaper on the walls, and long, mauve drapes that pooled on the soft, cream carpet. Emma looked out of the window and was delighted with the view of a small, green park. She admired the luxurious four-poster bed with thin curtains surrounding it, where she was to sleep.
Against one wall stood a walnut writing bureau, and nearby was a cabinet with washing things upon it, with a large ornate mirror hanging above it. Looking at herself in the mirror, Emma noticed how tired she appeared. She felt weary too and longed to climb onto the bed and sleep, even if only for a little while.
But she told herself she could not. It would be quite rude to go to sleep when she was expected downstairs for tea. She promised herself she would have an early night. A little later, after having washed, changed, and tidied her hair, Emma headed downstairs wearing a clean blue dress with matching gloves and bonnet. She felt more alert, thinking herself quite smart in her new outfit.
“How splendid you look!” exclaimed Mrs Manson. “That colour does suit you, dear.”
“You are very kind, Mrs Manson,” said Emma.
Mrs Manson took Emma down to the dining room, where a wonderful spread of food was waiting for them. Seeing it, Emma suddenly realized how ravenous she was. She sat down happily with the Mansons, ready to partake in the wonderful feast they had provided, once more grateful for their kindness.
“We have no children of our own, and so having a young person here with us is very so special,” Mrs Manson told her, beaming.
“Yes, very special,” Mr Manson agreed.
“My husband is a solicitor, and he works ever so hard. He is always travelling to his client’s homes to see them, and sometimes, he works in his office in the very centre of London,” Mrs Manson shared eagerly. “Tell us dear, why are you seeking a position here in London?”
Emma hesitated to speak about her circumstances, but she didn’t want to lie either.
“I believe there are better opportunities in London than in Buckinghamshire. I tried to find vacant positions near my home, but sadly, I wasn’t fortunate enough to do so.”
Mrs Manson was satisfied with the explanation. Tea commenced, and general talk carried on, thankfully, not about Emma or her recent past, which she wanted to forget. Later, she bid her hosts a good night and finally sank gratefully into the comfortable four-poster, falling asleep immediately.
The next morning Emma woke early, and she was pleased to see it was another dry day. For a moment or two she stood by the window and looked over at the park. It was very green and calmed her anxious mind.
After a while, Emma refreshed herself by washing and scrubbing her face, then she delicately dusted it with a light powder. For the special occasion, she carefully selected a simple beige dress, one she believed would be appropriate for a job interview as a governess. She anxiously hoped her choice of attire would prove to be the right one, as she desperately needed to secure the position.
Mrs Manson tried to encourage her to have some breakfast, but Emma’s appetite seemed to have vanished.
“I do apologise, I just cannot eat, Mrs Manson. I feel very nervous, and my stomach is quite sensitive,” Emma said.
Mr Manson had already left for the day, and Mrs Manson was sitting out on the balcony, where she said she preferred to have her breakfast.
“You must try and eat a little fruit,” she insisted. Mrs “Do sit down, Emma dear. Now, I understand you are nervous. However, it will fade away rapidly when you begin the interview. I am certain of it. Before I met Mr Manson, I also worked as a governess, and I remember my first interview very well. I remember being as nervous as you are now.”
A maid poured some tea for Emma and Mrs Manson. The Mansons didn’t have many servants, only one maid, a housekeeper, and a valet for Mr Manson who was also the butler. The maid was Mrs Manson’s lady’s maid as well.
Emma ate some cheese and grapes to satisfy Mrs Manson.
“I am very excited to hear the outcome of the interview dear. We await your return with much excitement,” said Mrs Manson before bidding Emma good luck when her hackney cab arrived. Emma climbed into the cab feeling quite queasy.
She didn’t know what to expect of Lord Adair. All she knew was that he was Lord Edmund Adair, Marquess of Everdeane and he was interviewing to find a suitable governess for his young ward. Apparently, the child was only seven years old, a girl. Emma hoped she would turn out to be well-behaved, kind, and likeable. She loved children. She only hoped the girl would take to her immediately. She wondered what relation the girl was to the Marquess. Emma wasn’t one to pry, not at all, and she was patient enough to let the relevant events and relationships unfold before her if she secured the position. She prayed fervently that she would.
If she was successful, then it would be the first time she would be independent, as a working person and as a governess. She had no experience of it, of course. Emma was confident she would be able to do the job since she was well-educated in many subjects including music and singing. Her musings reminded her of her own cherished governess, Miss Elaine Smith. She had been a dear woman and had loved Emma, showering her with kindness. Emma now hoped that, if she successfully secured the position in the Marquess’s household, she would be able to pass on the same affection to her charge and give the child a good education at the same time.
This taste of independence felt strange to her indeed, but though she had no choice but to seek employment, she rather relished it. Admittedly, obtaining the position would not solve her problems back home, but it would give her the chance to carry on with her life with her head held high. She wanted no favours from anyone.
The rhythmic sound of horse’s hooves hitting the road as they effortlessly pulled the cab towards its destination brought with it a sense of optimism. Along the way, Emma passed by several parks, each adorned with lush green trees that swayed gracefully in the gentle breeze. She fancied that even the trees appeared to be in a jovial mood, adding to the pleasant atmosphere of the journey.
The cab slowed down as they rounded a corner and came to the grand entrance gates of an estate park. Its extent was hidden away behind the busy London streets, and a sense of calm descended upon Emma as the cab took her along a winding, tree-lined drive. She poked her head out of the window and breathed in the warm air, closing her eyes. After several minutes, they emerged onto a vast circular forecourt that fronted an enormous and very beautiful mansion house.
The gardens surrounding the mansion were also beautiful and immaculately cared for. There were small fountains and statues dotted about, neatly pruned hedges, and a lush green lawn cut to perfection. She could name a few of the flowers she saw in bloom, such as the pink, red, and white roses as well as primroses and bluebells.
The Marquess must love his gardens, Emma mused. She imagined him spending a lot of time out there, perhaps in a favourite spot.
The mansion itself was impressive, constructed of white stone and adorned with numerous windows that glittered in the sunshine. Emma couldn’t help but imagine the countless rooms that lay within its walls, which promised to be a sight unlike anything she had ever seen before. As her gaze shifted, she was captivated by the sight of many climbing plants that rambled over the walls, adding an exquisite touch of natural beauty to the already stunning scene.
“Here we are, Miss,” the coachman said. “It is quite impressive, is it not?”
“Yes, I do agree, it is,” Emma replied. She paid the driver and stepped down from the can onto the gravel.
“Would you like me to wait for you?” he asked.
Emma had no idea how long she would be. It could be minutes or an hour or two. But if she let the coachman go, how would she get back to the Manson’s house?
“That would be very kind of you,” she told the coachman.
Just then, a young lad came around the side of the house and approached them. He doffed his cap politely to Emma and then spoke briefly with the coachman. “I’m to wait by the stables, miss,” the man called down to Emma, who nodded to show she had heard him. He drove off slowly around the back, following the lad.
Left alone, Emma stood for a few moments looking at the house, wondering what she should do. Should she go around the back too and knock on the door of the servant’s entrance? There was no one to direct her, so she decided she had better do that instead of using the grand front door.
Choosing to follow the same path as the coachman and the lad, she went around to the back of the mansion and located the servant’s entrance. She was just about to ring the bell when a cry reached her ears. It sounded like a child’s cry, apparently echoing from somewhere within the sprawling gardens. Emma paused once more, looking around, but she could see no child.
Once again, she stood hesitating as to what to do. If she were to investigate the source of the cry, she risked being late for her important interview. After a moment, she decided the welfare of the invisible child was more important than being a little late. Lifting her skirts a little, Emma went hurriedly into the gardens to search for the child, hoping they were not in any distress.
Edmund leaned back in his favourite leather chair, overlooking his large, well-polished mahogany desk. Its surface was currently full of papers and files containing land information, contracts, new proposals, and other various related paperwork as well as correspondence. But all of it can wait, he decided. His priority lay somewhere else at that moment in time.
Edmund liked to spend a lot of his private time in his study when he wanted to think or just be on his own. It was a place where he could hide from people he didn’t want to entertain, especially when their company became unbearable.
He would often greet visitors with an excuse as to why he had to cancel or cut short their engagement, usually to their disappointment. He did not care, for unfortunately, his callers all too often consisted of an ambitious mama with a daughter or two in tow, with the mother keen to marry her offspring off to a man of wealth and status like him.
“You have upset my friends again, Edmund!” his mother would complain every time. “It is kind of them to come and see you. You do not need to be so rude about it.”
“Oh, Mother. You know very well they don’t come to talk about anything interesting. Really, you are no better than them. You are always trying to find me a match when you know I am not ready. When will you stop?” he would say to her, deeply frustrated by her machinations.
“When you decide to marry someone whom I and your father approve of, then I will stop. It’s not hard, Edmund and you are still young and handsome. All the eligible ladies are dying for an audience with you,” Lady Estelle would frown, her voice laced with exasperation. “I do wish you would oblige them. Did you not notice how Lady Hortense Wallace seemed to be constantly by your side throughout the entire Season? She made a point to dance with you at every ball if I recall correctly.”
“Yes, she wouldn’t leave me alone,” Edmund muttered.
“What was that?”
“Nothing, Mother. Of course, I will keep my appointments in the future,” he would promise, not meaning a word of it.
But today, all that was far from his mind. For the moment at least, he felt relatively safe. The servants knew no one was to interrupt him once he entered his office, although his young ward Eloise would come in unannounced when it suited her. Edmund knew he could never scold her for it even if he wanted to, which he did not. She was the light of his life and the main cause of his worries too.
Eloise had been the one to advise him on the redecoration of his office. After carefully considering various ideas, she had reached a decision on his behalf, and the crimson walls she deemed gloomy were promptly repainted in a soothing off-white.
Mahogany bookcases had been added behind his desk, a brown, buttoned longue chaise took up residence near a window, and some more comfortable chairs suitable for guests to sit on had been added. In addition, Eloise had her own little armchair, where she would sometimes sit and read while he worked.
Edmund also had a grand fireplace installed, positioned directly opposite another one of the tall, wide windows. There were four in total, bringing in sufficient daylight from his splendid garden that was his pride. He often made use of his garden, either alone or with Eloise. As she had told him several times, she loved spending the summers with him in the garden.
“It is our secret garden,” she would sometimes whisper to him when they were out there together, touching his heart with her childish sweetness.
“And so it shall be,” he had told her, liking the idea of it being a haven just for the two of them. Just thinking of it made him feel happy. But at that precise moment, he was far from happy. In fact, he was downright annoyed.
He took the letter out again from its envelope. The paper and the envelope were cream-coloured, the paper soft and velvety. Edmund could feel the weight of it. It was his mother’s choice of stationery for the family.
“Our position must be properly represented,” she had insisted when Edmund had challenged her on the necessity for such expensive fripperies one day. “You may sneer, Edmund, but I know that our status and reputation as a family must be adequately reflected in little things like stationery. Others expect it.”
Edmund thought that just about summed up his mother, Lady Estelle Adair, the Duchess of Buckinghamshire. And, of course, no one would date argue with her, not even Edmund’s father, Lord George Adair, the Duke of Buckinghamshire.
His parents were currently holidaying in Scotland with friends, which suited him perfectly. Even so, it seemed he could not quite escape his mother’s oversight. Edmund unfolded the letter and read it again.
I am writing to you about a dinner we intend to propose to Lady Hortense Wallace and her parents, the Earl and Countess of Columbine.
You are required to attend. I do hope you will consider this and make an appearance, Edmund. Your father agrees with me.
Well, of course Father would agree, Edmund thought, quietly seething. He knew what his parents were trying to do; they wanted him to marry this Lady Hortense, a young woman whom he disliked greatly. She was nothing like the woman he knew wanted to marry in the future. She had not a single quality he liked. She was bad tempered and spoilt in her ways, things he was not prepared to endure in a wife. He refused to be part of such a marriage!
Throughout the entire Season, Lady Hortense’s parents, as well as Lady Hortense herself, had relentlessly pursued him. Edmund had grown weary of their constant attention and longed for his own parents to understand his true feelings towards her. Unfortunately, all they saw was a favourable match in terms of wealth and social status, ignoring his own desires and emotions.
He wanted a wife with a kind, gentle personality, a lady who was educated, with whom he could have an intellectual conversation. And Lady Hortense did not fit the bill at all. Instead, he found her a spoiled, overbearing flirt who wanted his attention continuously.
Edmund sighed, what was he to do? He couldn’t just refuse to attend the wretched dinner, much as he wanted to. That would only make his mother even more determined to have him there.
However, he decided he wouldn’t make a decision just then, for he was waiting for a Miss Cavendish to arrive. He erased thoughts of his mother and Lady Hortense from his mind and concentrated on Miss Cavendish. She was due that afternoon for an interview regarding the governess position. Edmund wondered what she would be like.
Would she be stern or kind? Would she be able to teach mathematics and history? Would she be knowledgeable on deportment and table manners? Eloise must learn everything needed to become a proper lady. She should be knowledgeable in all subjects but also know about etiquette and such like.
So, it naturally followed that her governess should possess all those qualities to his satisfaction, in order to be able to teach them. He sincerely hoped Miss Cavendish would be the right one for Eloise, for he hated conducting such interviews and hoped more would not be necessary.
“I must go and find Eloise,” he murmured to himself, shoving his mother’s letter in a drawer. He wanted his ward to meet the potential new governess and see how well she took to her.
Edmund left the sanctuary of his office and started for Eloise’s room, where he assumed she would be with Nanny Meekes. Eloise loved Nanny like a grandmother, for Nanny had been with her since she was a child. She had also been nanny to both him and Eloise’s mother, his twin sister Elaine, and though sprightly, she was getting on in years. She was kind and sensible, firm but fair, and they all loved and respected her.
Edmund climbed the staircase to the second floor. But when he reached Eloise’s room and opened the door, he found it empty. As he was looking around, he happened to notice some books and toys left in disarray on the floor. That was not normal for Nanny, who ran a tight ship. It made Edmund uneasy. What would make Nanny leave things so untidily? Oh, Eloise! I hope you haven’t been up to any mischief!
“Blast!” he muttered under his breath, shutting the door. “Where is she?”
“Is there anything I can do for you, my lord?” the butler, Banks, asked as he disconcertingly appeared at Edmund’s side as if from thin air.
“Ah, Banks. There you are. I need to find Miss Eloise. Do you know where she is?” Edmund asked.
“I am afraid I do not, my lord,” Banks replied sonorously. “But I assume Miss Eloise is with Nanny. Perhaps they are in the gardens.”
“Hmm,” Edmund said, growing irritable. “What about the woman who should be here for the interview at two o’clock, this Miss Cavendish? Has she arrived yet?”
“I do not know that either, my lord, but I shall inquire downstairs.”
“You do that. I’ll look outside for Miss Eloise. If you come across her, tell her I want to see her in my office as soon as possible.”
Banks gave a little bow. “Of course, my lord,” he intoned and went off to do as he was bidden.
Edmund ran down the stairs and hurried out of the back of the house. He had decided to head to the stables first, where Eloise liked to spend time with the horses. As Edmund made his way there, he heard the chime of the stable clock, indicating that it was already two o’clock.
“She’s late!” he grumbled to himself. He hated tardiness, and the fact the governess had not arrived for her appointment only added to his growing dissatisfaction. He had hoped to conduct the interview and, potentially, offer the job to the candidate in a timely manner. Perhaps she didn’t want the position after all? Perhaps she had changed her mind.
But when he reached the stables, he found the stable boy talking to the driver of a hackney cab. He frowned, confused. The presence of the cab indicated that Miss Cavendish had indeed arrived for her interview. He cast about him, looking for her, but no one else was about.
And, he asked himself, if she was already here then why did Banks not know about it?
The stable boy was in deep conversation with the driver and did not notice Edmund approaching until he cleared his throat.
“I am looking for Miss Eloise,” Edmund said when the lad and the coachman turned to him curiously. “Have you seen her, Fred?” Fred whipped off his cap and gave a respectful nod to his master.
“She came here for a little bit, my lord, and then I think she went into the gardens. Nanny Meekes is looking for too. She didn’t look too pleased about it though.”
“Right, thank you” Edmund replied, frowning. He was about to go into the gardens when he decided to ask the coachman about the woman.
“My man, I presume you brought Miss Cavendish here?” he said.
“Aye, I did, my lord. I am waiting for her appointment to finish to take her home. I left her by the front door and then came around. Is she not at the appointment then?” he asked with a puzzled frown.
“No, she hasn’t called at the house,” Edmund replied, feeling quite frustrated by now.
“Should I wait or go?” the driver asked.
“She is here, somewhere. I am certain to find her, but I don’t want to waste your time any longer. I will see that she gets home,” said Edmund. “Now, do excuse me. I am in a hurry.”
He left abruptly, leaving the coachman and Fred looking after him in confusion.
As Edmund entered the gardens, he felt a little less anxious. He could sense the presence of Eloise somewhere—they had always had a special bond like that. He turned a corner and suddenly found himself facing a flustered Nanny Meekes.
“Nanny, what are you doing here? Are you still looking for Eloise?” he asked.
“I’ve been searching high and low for her, my lord,” the older lady told him, red-faced with annoyance. “That child always manages to give me a headache! She stormed out of her room, claiming she was tired of being cooped up inside and insisted on going to the gardens. I couldn’t keep up with her, she was too fast. The stable boy mentioned that she might be out here somewhere.”
“Yes. Well, that explains the untidy state of her room,” Edmund said without thinking. “But that’s not your fault, Nanny,” he quickly added, seeing the old lady looking offended. “Please pardon me for saying such things, I did not mean it. I will have a word about it with Eloise when I see her. Now, let’s find her together, shall we?”
Edmund cursed himself silently for offending Nanny. He had seen how upset she already was, and he told himself he should have been more careful not to cause her any more distress, for without her, he knew he would not be able to manage his ward. After a brief discussion, the pair decided to split up so they could cover more ground.
Edmund headed to a secluded part of the gardens which he knew was one of Eloise’s favourite spots. As he approached, casting around him for any sign of the child, he suddenly heard some low talking and a sob. Eloise! Edmund moved forward, but then he stopped dead. Through the bushes, he could see a peculiar sight. It was immediately evident that Eloise had fallen and hurt her knee, and a strange young woman in a blue dress and bonnet was kneeling next to her, nursing it with a fallen leaf.
“It doesn’t hurt so much now,” Eloise said, smiling at the woman. “Are you a fairy?”
The woman laughed, a light, musical sound. “What makes you think so?”
Eloise shrugged, leaning on the woman’s shoulder. “You are very pretty, and you can do magical things, as you have mended my knee already. Oh, I forgot to tell you what my name is. I am Eloise.”
“That is a very pretty name. Eloise. It sounds magical,” the woman said, and from his hiding place, Edmund could see a twinkle in her eyes. “And now I think it is time we took you inside,” the stranger added kindly.
Then, the woman picked little Eloise up, hitched her onto her hip, and was about to carry her away when Edward suddenly became alarmed. He lurched out from behind the bushes.
Eloise gasped, clearly shocked to see him there. The young woman started, her eyes flying wide as she stared at him, her mouth open in shock.
Edmund gave her a hard stare and said commandingly, “I demand you put my daughter down at once. Who are you, and what are you doing with her?”
The woman placed Eloise on the ground at once, blushing profusely.
“My name is Emma Cavendish,” she said, lowering her eyes. “I have come here for an interview for a governess’ post, but then I heard a child cry out. I had to come and make sure they were unhurt,” she found herself gabbling. “And that is why I am now awfully late for my interview. Very likely, they will not see me now. But since you are here, I can leave the child in your care. I have a cab waiting for me.”
“I don’t want you to go!” Eloise cried. She tugged on Edmund’s arm. “Uncle, I want her to stay.”
Edmund was speechless. He was unexpectedly very taken by Miss Cavendish’s beauty, her neatly arranged hair, her kind eyes, and her honesty. Suddenly, he understood perfectly why she was late.
He looked at Eloise and then back at the woman, thinking quickly. It was obvious the child had already taken a shine to Miss Cavendish. And why wouldn’t she? The young woman seemed to be everything he wanted in a governess for his ward. But by the same token, he felt an unusually strong attraction to Miss Cavendish and had to remind himself to keep his distance as her potential employer.
I hope you enjoyed the preview of my new novel“The Marquess’ Governess Bride.” It will be live on Amazon soon…