Authors: Catherine Hamill
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Enchanted by the Lord
By: Catherine Hamill
Enchanted by the Lord
I love my home in the town of Worthing, South England. My parents settled here many years ago, after my mother became ill and needed the sea air. My father, who was a lawyer, opened a new practice here, although he has now retired. Over the years my parents have seen this small hamlet grow into a fair sized town. More and more families are moving here, and only just recently two new schools have been opened by the new Reverend Danby. I am considering applying for a position at one of them, teaching the very young. I feel I need to find something to fill my life, as I will never marry, after losing my beau in the Napoleonic war.
Every day I walk down to the beach and set up my easel, to paint the seascapes. I love painting, especially outside, and even though I have painted this same landscape far too many times already. I never tire from the beauty of the coast. It was here where I met my Peter, as I painted an abandoned and wrecked boat that was being buffered about by the tide. He had approached me from behind, admiring my work. In every way, he was the perfect gentleman, and complemented me on my talents, and I could tell he genuinely loved them. We soon got chattering and it turned out his father was also a lawyer, so we had something in common right from the word go. Our meetings on the beach became regular, per chance or intentionally, I do not know.
I do not wish to linger any longer on the story of my fiancé, as he is now lost to me forever. I miss him so very much and it makes my heart ache terribly. When he started at the Officer School, neither of us truly understood the ultimate sacrifice he would make for his King and country. I worried every day he was away, especially when posted overseas. However, he loved the thought of adventure and travel, and could not bear the thought of working in a stuffy office. Just before he was killed, he was to be posted home and we were to marry, but fate is cruel and it was not to be.
His father took it very badly, as he was an only child. Having lost his wife some years previous, it hits him really hard now that he is all alone. I do visit him regularly, but he is withdrawing away from the world more and more every time I go. Who’s to blame him? I can’t give him the comfort he needs as I grieve too. Soon after his son’s death he sold his house and bought a small cottage by the sea. He can often be seen at the window, or sat on the porch overlooking the sea, as if waiting his son’s return. It is a sad sight to see, a parent should not have the pain of outliving their children.
He will never return - he died in battle, a brave death, so we were told. He was a good soldier and died saving others. This brings little comfort; his heroics took him away from those who loved him dearly.
It is time for me to move on in my life, I will always have a place for Peter in my heart, but I cannot mourn forever. I have informed my father of my intentions of applying for a position at the schools. He tells me I do not need to work, but he knows deep down it is time for me to move on. I too am an only child and I love my father and mother as much as they love me. We have been a happy family together, but now I must consider using my education to move on with my life.
I have mourned for a year and I know I will never love another, though my mother thinks this is nonsense and tells me that at twenty three, there is still plenty of time to find a rich husband. Personally, I only ever want to marry for love, not wealth. Besides, I like my own company, I don’t mind being alone for the rest of my days, if I am teaching children. A life of enjoyable work will be a good substitute to what may be an unhappy marriage of convenience.
As I sit on the beach, painting, I’m also considering an opening that my father has mentioned to me, as a governess for the Duke of Norwood. I wrote a letter some months ago and the reply offered me the post. I’m still contemplating on my choices, but I cannot decide if I wish to leave my home town. Do I want to move a hundred miles away from my parents, I’m just not sure? Should I go, I would be living in a large manor house that is only a few miles from the sea, so I could still paint on the beach on my days off. Plus the countryside there is truly beautiful, making it even more tempting, but I would miss my parents. Truth be told, I probably should shake up my life and move to somewhere new completely.
Yes, it is time that I used my education and spread my knowledge; I should take up this wonderful opportunity. I will go to work for Duke Lucius Howard, as a governess to his five grandchildren aged from five to eighteen years. Tragically they lost their parents some time ago, the ship they were sailing on was lost at sea with all hands lost too. I do remember my father reading about it in a newspaper. The Duke seems a good man, and from the terms he is offering me, I think he is a generous employer. I do believe I will be happy there. While the move from my childhood home will be difficult, in all reality I will be only a two day coach ride from Worthing.
The day has arrived for me to leave home and set off for my new life as a governess of five young children. My parents have raised me to be independent and strong willed, to know my own mind. Some would say that this is not fitting behavior for a young lady, but I, for one, am glad that is how they raised me. Without the strength they instilled in me, I would never have got through the loss of Peter. Not that I have forgotten him. I have vowed never to marry as I believe he was the only man for me. However, I am able to move on and widen my horizons, because of the self-confidence I have gained from my parents.
And so, it is with a little trepidation that I board the stagecoach and wave farewell to my family. Fortunately, it is not too overcrowded, as these things are often want to be. The Duke offered to send his own carriage, but I would not hear of it. I am a woman of independence and I will overcome my unease of traveling. Having lived in a small town, there has never been any cause for me to go anywhere, but the beach. This is a new experience, one, I hope that I will like.
Though the stage coach appears comfortable, with cushioned seating and curtained windows, I have to admit that it is indeed a very bumpy ride. I feel every hole and every stone that the wooden wheels roll over. Opposite me are a rather large lady and her small husband, which quite amuses me. He keeps bumping into her, yet she remains solid on the seat. Next to me are their two children, making our side of the carriage rather lighter. We seem prone to bounce up and down more than they do, or so it seems. Although I giggle with the children at the experience, I think we will have sore posteriors when we arrive at the travel inn this evening.
The inn is a dark dingy place, though the food is good and the bed is comfortable, so I cannot really complain. Luckily it is almost in the middle of nowhere, so there are not many patrons other than local farming people. I eat my dinner with the family, which pleases me. Although I consider myself independent, I do not really wish to be completely alone. Besides, when they found out where my new employment is, it made quite an impression upon them. Well, the woman was all a dither anyway; I do not think her husband cared one way or the other. Apparently he is a well-known tailor, but the name means nothing to me, though I do not say this to them.
We rise at dawn’s first light and eat a hearty breakfast, though we are soon on our bumpy way again. Some more passengers join us, but they sit on the roof. I don’t imagine it’s the most comfortable or safest way to travel, but probably the cheapest. I feel quite sorry for them as it is a cold and windy day. Still the sky looks clear of clouds, so hopefully they will be spared the rain.
The journey is uneventful, and we seem to make good time, when suddenly a loud crunching noise reverberates through the carriage. The vehicle veers to one side, sliding us down the seat. When we eventually come to a halt, the carriage is noticeably lopsided. We peer out of the windows and watch as the driver and couple of the male passengers from above, begin inspecting the side of the carriage. It seems we have hit a rather large rock and one of the wheels had been smashed. Fortunately, a spare is at hand, and with the assistance of the male passengers, the driver soon completes the repair and we are on our way once again, within a couple of hours.
Finally, we arrive late in the night at Rochester, which is as far as I am going. Here, I am to meet a private carriage, sent by the Duke. I say my goodbyes to my travel companions, and as they set off to the inn, I am met by my driver.
Although the coach is smaller, with fewer horses, it is much more luxurious. I am much warmer and the ride is smoother. Perhaps the roads are better here, though I doubt it.
We arrive at the manor gates and my carriage takes me on a long driveway, which leads to the rather grand looking manor house. Surprisingly, there are people there to greet me upon my arrival. I thought the hour late, but no matter, they have stayed up to ensure my arrival is a safe one. Already I am warming to the household staff.
I’m shown to the kitchen, which smells of freshly baked bread. Thankfully, they had thought to save me a small meal, and I gladly accept it as I have not eaten since breakfast.
After a cup of warm milk, fresh bread and a platter of meats and cheeses, I have my fill and am taken up to my room.
I stand in the doorway, in wonder at the sight before me. I thought my parent’s house to be a large one, as we live over four floors, but this room is enormous. It is filled with luxuriant furniture and the walls are adorned with large paintings. There is a huge and rather high bed. It could fit the entire family from the stage coach, within it, easily.
Trying not to show I am in awe, I thank the maid who has brought me up here. I see also that my baggage has arrived before me. As she leaves, I open up one of cases to find my night dress. Exhausted, I cannot even read by the oil burner, I simply fall straight asleep. I am soon snuggled into the many large feather pillows provided with my bed, and thankful that my journey is at an end.
I was awoken the next morning, by a maid filling my water bowl with a large jug, she informed me rather coolly, that I would find my breakfast in the kitchen. I had no problem with this and didn’t expect to be waited on hand and foot, but from her tone of voice it seemed there were some issues. It seemed my first day here had hardly started and yet there is animosity towards me, from some of the staff. I was surprised at this, as my welcome last night was most warm.
After bathing and dressing I take myself down to the kitchen in search of breakfast, although I did need to stop staff to ask the way. When I finally arrived, I sought out the cook, Agatha, and as soon as we met I could see this is where my problems have originated. To say she is a formidable woman is an understatement, yet I refuse to be cowed by her presence.
“Good day to you, madam,” I want to appear as professionally as I can. It would be better to get along with the staff, but I will not be bullied by them.
“I am Rosalind Blackwood, from Worthing, and I am to be the new governess to the children of the Duke of Norwood. I do not know yet what is expected of me within the household, so I would appreciate some guidance from you on this matter.”
“Guidance?” the woman spat at me. “I don’t have the time of day to be holding your hand, this is a busy kitchen, Rosalind Blackwood or Worthing, and you will have to manage by yourself.”
I was taken aback by her attitude, but I was not to be put off. I follow the woman around as she marches across the kitchen, shouting out orders to just about everyone present.
“If I am to manage by myself, then I must go through your cupboards to find some food to eat. I’m sure this will be acceptable under the circumstances,” I say, with confidence in my voice.
“No one goes in my cupboards without my permission,” she replies, her eyes boring into me, her face a mask of shock that I would dare to suggest such a thing.
It seemed that she wanted to make this as difficult as possible for me.
“Very, well, I will speak with the Duke and request that my food be brought up on a tray. I trust this will suit you?” I ask, knowing full well that nothing I suggest is going to suit her. It is clear these people did not care to have new staff arrive.
For that morning, I did without my breakfast, but as I was feeling quite nervous about my new role, I didn’t have much of an appetite anyway. I would give the cook a short while to get used to the idea of my presence. A governess’s role in a house is always a difficult one, and she walks a fine line. She is not of the same status as the other staff, but neither is she the same rank as the family. I had heard that this could cause some resentment when a new governess arrives in the household, but I was confident that I could brave it out until I was accepted. Often a governess comes from a noble family, but circumstances have accrued that leave them in a difficult position, financially, and they need to find employment. This was not the case for me. I have chosen to work instead of marry, for my own reasons.
This is where I have been lucky to have such understanding parents. They know that I cannot conform to the expectations of my class, and simply sit at home awaiting an offer of marriage. I want to marry for love, and not convenience. I nearly did, but alas, it was not meant to be. Instead, I chose to work with children and use my education for the good of society. Pass on my knowledge and teach.
I therefore find myself in a no man’s land; I fit neither upstairs, nor downstairs. Personally, I do not care one way or the other, I am simply me. I can live with my own company quite well, and will do so, until sooner or later I make some friends within this household.
I am to meet the Duke for lunch; so hopefully, I will have a better understanding of how I will fit into the household. By his letters, he is a kindly man who is probably totally unaware of my predicament. However, I will sort out the situation without any help. I understand that people are wary of changes, and I am the cause of changes to their routine. I will seek their friendship, but I have to consider that it may never be forthcoming. These are the difficulties I face, and expected, when I applied for the post. I am far too selfish a person to allow such silliness to bother me. I will be who I am and hopefully, the Duke and the children will be happy with me.
A maid knocks on my door to take me to lunch, which she explains is out on the patio. It is a beautiful day and it will be good to sit out in the sun. This lightens my mood, for I love the freshness of the outdoors air, before the winter sets in and we are stuck indoors shivering for far too many months.
I am taken and presented to the Duke, and he is as much a gentleman as I had judged him to be.
“Your Grace, the pleasure is mine. It is good to finally meet you in person,” I dare to say, not exactly sure how one addresses a Duke, as I have never met one before.
“I wanted to speak with you before you meet my grandchildren,” he said, as I took my seat. “I know much of your father’s work, he is an excellent solicitor. His reputation does him credit. This made you the perfect candidate for what I had in mind. I did not want the children pampered by airs and graces. I wish for them to understand the realities of life, to some extent. Times have been hard for them, since losing their parents, so I wanted a governess not to be too set in her ways. From correspondence I have had with your father, you are a flighty female with far too much independence,” he smiles at me.
“I was not aware that you and my father had corresponded, but I know my father will shed good light on my character, Sir, for it was he who raised me,” I reply with confidence.
“Indeed, indeed,” the Duke agreed. “I want the children to have plenty of air to breathe, and not to be afraid of anything. Can you do that, Miss Blackwood?”
“I will make that my priority, Sir, you can be assured, trips will be aplenty,” I knew we would get on, and we did.
We chatted for much longer while the Duke talked about his grandchildren, I could see his fondness for them. I too had the same ideologies as he, so my job here was going to be perfect.
I probably ate more than I should as I had not breakfasted, but he did not mention it, until I drank my third cup of tea. Then the matter came up, and he laughed heartily at my rendition of my first meeting with cook. Promising that all would be sorted, before we said our goodbyes, it was agreed that I would eat with the family that evening, as his guest. I felt a certain satisfaction at that, knowing that it would probably vex the cook somewhat.