Late October, 1815.
Emma stood in front of the gate and stared at the grand mansion. She didn't know what she expected - the newspaper ad had not exactly specified the size of the house, nor household - but it was definitely not this.
She'd never seen a house this large before, not even the orphanage she grew up in. Then again, Emma had never left the city before and mansions like these did not exist in the city. The mansion appeared to have two floors, judging by the windows, and one tower on the far left side. Most of the windows seemed to reach from the floor to the ceiling and the cream-coloured curtains were drawn on almost all of them.
Ivy in all sorts of autumn colours climbed up the mansion's dark ivory coloured walls. The estate was surrounded by trees and endless gardens covered in the fallen autumn leaves, which was perhaps a little surprising, an estate such as this one surely had a gardener that would rake up the leaves, no? But what was more surprising, was the weather; it had not rained in a while, so rather than the garden looking like a big, sloppy mess, it almost seemed to invite you to take a stroll.
Emma took the carefully folded letter from her coat pocket and made sure she had the correct address. She would hate to fall in love with this place (perhaps she was already falling) and have it be the wrong address.
"Hey!" A brunette woman called out, she wore a dark blue dress, that was perhaps a little too long as it dragged over the ground and dragged along a few crispy leaves, her hands tucked in her dirty white apron as she walked over towards Emma. "Enjoying the view?"
"I..." Emma stammered, feeling her cheeks burn, no doubt colouring red.
The woman grinned, little wrinkles showing up around her eyes, she wasn't old per say - though she was older than Emma - she just looked like she laughed a lot. "Rest easy, I'm just teasing. Can I help you?"
"I'm Emma?" She tried, reaching through the gate to hand her the envelope that contained the invite. "I was supposed..." Emma started but realised quickly the brunette was not listening anymore, instead focused all her attention on the letter.
"Three thirty in the afternoon?" The woman mumbled, taking her pocket watch from her apron. "Dear me, is it that late already?" Her eyebrows raised upon seeing the time. "Goodness," she exclaimed, brushing a stray lock of hair behind her ear.
Emma cleared her throat, unsure if the woman had forgotten about her presence.
"Right on time," she laughed, looking up at the other woman, tilting her head slightly as if examining Emma. The woman had beautiful features, loosely curling dark brown hair, intense green eyes, a lovely smile, her lips a lovely shade of red. "Good," she then decided and finally opened up the gate. "Ruby," she introduced herself, extending a hand. "What was yours again?"
"Emma," She took the woman's warm hand and shook it once.
"Right," Ruby nodded, gesturing for her to follow. "Sodding leaves," she muttered, kicking a few out of the way. "The gardener retired a week ago, so far no decent man has applied yet," Ruby shrugged and took a deep breath before continuing to speak, allowing no room for Emma to speak - in all honesty, she wouldn't know what to reply anyway. "You are here for an interview for the position of nanny, no?"
"I am," Emma answered.
"I don't know why he scheduled you for today, if it was him who scheduled you at all," Ruby mumbled, more to herself. "Mr Jones isn't here right now, he might not return until next week."
"Oh..." Emma frowned. "Is he often gone that long?"
"Yes," The brunette replied, her smile never faltered as she spoke. Ruby had a kind smile, it made her feel comfortable and eased the nerves that had been building up since last night. "Lord Jones is more often than not out on business. I won't lie to you, Emma, I am going to make you an offer that he may not like at all, but we all have our tasks here, taking care of Grace makes everything so much harder. So here's the thing, if you would like to, you could stay already, to get used to the house, to Grace, see if you like the job at all. You will be compensated for your service, naturally."
"I can always use the money, even just for a week," Emma shrugged, quickly regaining her posture. She noticed the grin playing on Ruby's lips, but if she saw at all, she decided not to call her out on it. Or maybe a woman shrugging was but a trifle thing here and not frowned upon.
Instead, Ruby nodded, "In all honesty, Mr Jones is in desperate need of extra help, so if Grace likes you I believe your stay is as good as confirmed. You can use Charlotte's previous room."
"I am to live here?"
"Oh, you don't have to, but it is recommended, I must say. You have a room of your own, besides, you will likely have to stay the night here often enough when Mr Jones is off on a business trip again."
"And Charlotte was young Miss Grace's previous nanny?"
"That is correct."
"May I ask what happened?"
"Charlotte went on and found herself a husband. They wanted a family of their own, and her husband made enough money for her to stop working." Ruby explained, taking another look at Emma while fumbling in her apron for a bunch of keys. "You're younger than Miss Charlotte was, I believe. How old are you?"
"Ah, yes, she was nearing her thirties, if I remember correctly. And don't call me 'Miss'," Ruby chuckled, "Among us we call each other by first names."
"I apologise," Emma lifted her skirt ever so slightly in order to be able to take larger steps so that she could keep up with Ruby's fast pace up the stairs leading to the front door.
"Don't worry, it's a learning process. The lord of the manor, of course, we address with Sir, Mr or Milord."
"What about the Mrs?"
"No Mrs I'm afraid," Ruby opened the large front door, using her body to do so. "And we don't talk about her. It's a sensitive subject." Emma nodded once. "Mr Jones will address you with Miss," Ruby continued, halting in the middle of the large foyer they now stood in. "Unless you are married, which I presume you are not?" Emma shook her head quickly. "Or if you have been here as long as myself."
The interior of the mansion was a mix of warm brown tones and soft white to beige tones. Before them was a grand, curved, dark wooden staircase that led to the first floor, way above them. The floor seemed to be entirely made of dark parquet flooring. There were hallways to both her left and right side.
"I don't really have the time to show you around, I need to pick up Grace in a moment, I will quickly say," Ruby pointed to her right, "Anything servant related is that way, everything else is the other way and upstairs." Ruby guided her through the right hallway, walking until they reached the double door in the back, pushing it open. "This is the kitchen," she stated the obvious. It was a big room, similar to the one from the orphanage. Though less crowded and not exactly designed for mass production of food. The four people present looked up briefly from their tasks to acknowledge Emma, but none of them introduced themselves. "You will not be here often, but it is an important room to remember."
Emma nodded and followed Ruby through the back. It was an extended hallway two doors on her left and another door in the far back. "First door is the laundry room," Ruby spoke as she walked right past it, "though I doubt you will be needing to be there often. The second door is the female bathroom. The last door leads west wing, it's where the servants bedrooms are as well as the male bathroom."
Once they reached the end of the hallway, nearing the door in the back, there was an entire hallway that extended so far it almost looked as if you needed at least five minutes to get to the other side of it. Windows stretched along the entire hallway, leaving it well-lit. Though save from a simple staircase, it was relatively empty. Curiosity took over for just a small moment, taking a step away from Ruby to look through the windows; they looked out to the garden, while many trees surrounded the domain, the one that caught her eye was an immense willow tree by the lake, currently it was coloured in the most stunning autumn colours.
"The staircase leads to the master and guest bedrooms. It is the servants' stairs, so you will not see Mr Jones use it often," Ruby explained, then urging Emma to follow her again, through the last door - it revealed yet another seemingly endless hallway, this one just as well lit due to the large amount of floor to ceiling windows.
While following Ruby through the mansion, it didn't take her long to notice that there weren't many paintings in the house. Most households would usually have at least one or two paintings of the family - and multiple paintings of scenery and such.
"Mr Jones took them down after the Mrs died," Ruby explained after Emma brought it up.
"All of them?"
Ruby nodded, "He was a very different man before his wife died. I mean, he's nice enough should you ask him something, but he doesn't smile a lot or he won't talk to you just to have a conversation anymore. Or for example, he used to play the piano a lot, now whenever someone touches the thing, he gets angry."
"That's sad," Emma said softly, her voice not quite a whisper. "And the girl?"
"Grace? She's lovely -"
"No, I mean, how does he treat the girl?"
"Ah," Ruby smiled, understanding. "He loves her, but sometimes it's clear he can't look at her without remembering the Mrs. He buys her lots of gifts as if he hopes that one day she will understand why he can't be the father he's supposed to be."
Ruby stopped at the sixth door, just a little before the middle of the hallway, and unlocked it, "this would be your room," Ruby handed her the key, "We usually don't lock the doors, but that is completely up to you." Emma nodded and accepted the key.
The room was empty, it was clear no one had been here in a while, though the bed was neatly made. She had a single, very comfortable looking bed, on the right side of the room. A wooden drawer next to it, and as well as a desk. The room wasn't necessarily big, but it sure was larger than what she was used to.
"All servant rooms look somewhat the same, but you are completely free to decorate it to your liking," Ruby's voice broke the silence softly. "I have to pick up Grace now, you are welcome to look around the house, there aren't any areas restricted or anything, but knock the doors first before pulling them open, just to be sure," Ruby winked. Emma smiled weakly, suddenly feeling extremely nervous. "She will adore you," Ruby assured her, "there is hardly a person she doesn't like."
"But it's not her I need to convince, though, right?"
"In a way she is. Mr Jones just wants someone who is good for his daughter," the brunette replied. "It'll work out, don't worry," she gave Emma a reassuring smile before leaving. Emma placed her bag on the desk, purposelessly walking around the room. The walls were a light shade of beige, her room - was it her room already? - did not have the gorgeous view the hallways had, but it did look out over autumn-coloured trees. In the Winter they would surely look lovely covered in snow and in Spring she would be able to see the birds.
Emma traced her fingers over the linen on her bed and pushed her hand down as if to subtly checking if it was indeed a comfortable bed. She realised then, that she was alone and sat down on the bed instead. It was a very comfortable bed. Emma couldn't help but smile, if anything, she would take the job just to have a room to herself with an incredibly enjoyable bed.
A knock on the door startled her, and it was then she realised how silent the house was compared to the city and the orphanage, or any other family she'd tried to nanny for, but didn't work out for various reasons that weren't her fault.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you," a young woman with short black hair stood in the doorway - her doorway.
"It's all right," Emma rose to her feet, inviting the woman inside.
"Ruby said you had arrived, thought I might come introduce myself," she petite woman smiled. "My name is Mary Margaret, I work in the kitchen with Ruby."
"Nice to meet you, I'm Emma..." she trailed off, "But you knew that already, of course," Emma shook her head slightly. "Sorry, I'm nervous."
"That is understandable," Mary Margaret spoke, her voice sounded calm, a little motherly, it soothed Emma, to know that they were so welcoming and tried their best to make her feel at ease. "Would you like me to show you around, or would you prefer to venture out on your own?"
"Oh, if you are not busy, showing me around would be preferable," Emma laughed, having resented the idea of walking through the unknown mansion by herself from the moment Ruby suggested it. In all honesty, she was likely just going to sit on her bed until Ruby returned with Grace, however long that may be. Emma followed Mary Margaret out of her room.
"Have you seen anything at all?"
"Just the kitchen and my designated room."
Mary Margaret nodded, "Well, this entire hall is truthfully just servants' bedrooms. The bathroom at the end is the male bathroom, the female bathroom is in the beginning of the hall," she explained while walking down the hallway, her pace a lot slower than Ruby's.
Emma followed Mary Margaret until they once again stood in the grand foyer. "Seemed easier to start here, as a point of orientation," she said, walking to the left side of the staircase. "There are two salons, the grand and petit. The petit salon is downstairs, we use it to welcome guests."
Mary Margaret opened the double doors to a bright room, perhaps in a too strong contrast with the hallway they just came from, but stunning in its own way. The light flooring was almost entirely covered by a large rug. Three incredibly comfortable looking beige sofa's, each with their fair share of pillows, stood arranged around the fireplace.
"If there is a petit salon, there is also a grand salon?" Emma suggested.
"Yes, the grand salon is on the first floor. It isn't used as often as it had been once. Sometimes guests that are here on extended stay take their tea there. But more often than not, it is empty." Emma walked behind the other woman as she guided her through the hall, "The room in the back is Mr Jones' office, but he prefers we don't enter unless we have been invited. It is locked most of the time anyhow."
"All right," Emma replied, making a mental note of the floor plan. The kitchen, a long hallway, the petit salon and Mr Jones' office were on the ground floor and looked out to the front yard. Surely it wouldn't be too hard to remember.
"This is the sunroom," Mary Margaret said after a moment of walking, "Though it isn't often used," She opened the door, revealing a sun-warmed room, the colour scheme was rather blank, with colours varying from white to the beige of the sofa that was the same sofa used in the petit salon.
"The sunroom faces North?" Emma asked, looking around the room. "What an odd choice…"
Mary Margaret chuckled softly, almost a giggle, "The architect mustn't have been very clever."
The opposite wall consisted entirely out of windows, the right wall had windows as well, but rather than looking out over part of the garden, there was another room behind it. It was hard to see, for the windows were mostly covered in ivy. "It's sad that this room is not often used. I quite like it. Before Mrs Jones died it was, though, they would go for a swim and come here to have tea," Mary Margaret smiled sadly but shook her head. Emma saw that the room next door was, in fact, a pool, though it was empty and many of the plants had wildly overgrown, multiple ivy plants covering the windows. The room appeared to be made entirely out of glass, even the ceiling, which would allow the sun to warm up the room all day and probably leave the water pleasantly warm until the late evening.
"It is sad that he let it get to this, I am sure swimming there would have been a delight," Emma replied, her thoughts wandering, even if she didn't know how to swim, perhaps to simply sit there with a book.
"Yes," Mary Margaret agreed, "He became rather closed off when she died, locking away all evidence of her."
"How long has it been since she passed away?"
"Nearly seven years," Mary Margaret pursed her lips, then nodded. "Grace's birthday is the third of December."
"She died in childbirth?" Emma asked softly, following her out of the sunroom.
Mary Margaret nodded but didn't speak of it further instead she stepped across the hall, opening another door. "This is the servant's area. We come here to repose a bit, talk, have tea, those things," she explained. The servant's area was just another grand room, this room appeared as though once it had been a small ballroom, but it had been converted to accommodate the servants and give them a space to rest. But it was quickly made clear that this room was not meant for guests to see. A girl sat slouched with her feet on the coffee table, in front of the fire, while reading a book. Two men sat on the table - rather than sitting on the chairs - deep in conversation.
"Manners aren't really a common thing in this room," Mary Margaret chuckled. "Behind this room is the servants dining room. There is a master dining room as well as a breakfast room upstairs, although they are only used when guests are present. When they are alone, Mr Jones usually eats in his office. Gracie eats with us in the servants room."
Following Mary Margaret, Emma found herself once more in the foyer.
"It is a lot to take in, is it not?" Mary Margaret offered.
"A bit, but I imagine I will not be left alone too much, so I'd wager it is not too bad if I forget where the sunroom is."
"Well, it is barely ever used, so it would not be too bad indeed," the brunette chuckled. "Just remember where your own bedroom is and where the kitchen is. Either Ruby or I will almost always be there, so you can ask if need be."
"Thank you," Emma smiled, following her up the staircase, lifting her skirt with one hand, her other hovering the wooden railing. She looked down behind her, surprised to find that the staircase looked even higher when you stood upstairs. Directly in front of them was a double door similar to the one that led to the petit salon downstairs, so it was not hard to guess what would be behind this door.
"The grand salon," Mary Margaret confirmed her thoughts. A black piano in sharp contrast of the cream colours of the room, though not entirely out of place as its grace suited the rest of the room, stood on their left. On their right, two sofa's stood before the big, stone fireplace. A fluffy white carpet laid between the chaises and the fireplace. Above the fireplace was an empty space, an odd choice for an otherwise well-decorated room. It did appear as though once something had hung there, a mirror or perhaps a painting. The walls had five wide floor-to-ceiling windows, between each window a decorative piece hung to accommodate a red candle. See-through curtains hung before the open windows, fluttering softly in the warm autumn wind.
"So, where are you from?" Mary Margaret asked.
"And your parents are still there?"
"No parents, I'm afraid," Emma answered, fiddling with her dress, growing slightly nervous. That's what always happened; they asked about her parents, and either they treated her like a poor orphan, or they deemed her not good enough to look after their children, for what would an orphan know about parenting, right?
"I apologise, I should not have pried."
"Nothing to worry about, eventually it would have come up anyhow." Emma froze as she heard the heavy front door close, all the nerves that had been eased by Mary Margaret's kind smile came right back at her. She seemed to pick up on it and laid her hand on Emma's lower arm. "It will be fine," she smiled, guiding her back out to the hallway.
From there she could see a young girl stood next to Ruby, looking around the room until her eyes fell on Emma. Her eyes lit up and her smile widened. "Hi!" She yelled, lifting her skirt so she could walk up the stairs - well, run was more the word. "Hi!" The girl said again, slightly out of breath this time, once atop the staircase. "Are you Emma?"
"I am," Emma confirmed.
"I am Grace, it is nice to meet you," Grace said politely and extended her hand for Emma to shake. Emma smiled, surprised by the proper manners of the child. She had met a fair share of children before, but none were as well-behaved as Grace.
Emma shook Grace's hand, "likewise."
"You are very pretty," Grace stated, her bright smile never leaving her face.
"Thank you," Emma replied, flustered. "So are you." It wasn't just a courtesy, Grace was a very beautiful child. Rosy cheeks contrasted her pale skin, she had emerald eyes with a dash of gold around the irises. Thin, yet full eyebrows the same colour as her dark brown, curly hair - though slightly messy, perhaps because of the outside air. Grace had a lovely, genuine smile.
Emma wondered if she looked more like her mother or her father, but the lack of the paintings did not help. Though a child as beautiful as her could only come from a beautiful mother and a handsome father, so her imagination sated her wonder.
Emma looked up to find that both Mary Margaret and Ruby had left them alone, it made her slightly uneasy, but eventually this would be her job, so best get started at it.
"Have they shown you around yet?" Grace asked, breaking the silence.
"The ground floor, yes, I have yet to see the first floor."
"All right," Grace smiled, taking Emma's hand in hers and tugging at it to indicate that she had to face to face the left side of the hallway, pointing at the doors with her free hand as she spoke, "That's the hallway with the guest rooms and there is the dining room," turning on her heels midsentence, forcing Emma to turn as well, she pointed at the right side of the hallway, "In the back is my room, with next to it my study. Across my room is father's room. The library is between his room and the grand salon."
"You are not showing me the rooms, then?"
Grace shrugged, "Do you want to? It is not very important. You will see my room when you bring me to bed tonight."
"All right," Emma replied, perhaps a little relieved that she did not have to walk a lot more. Her feet had already started hurting from trying to keep up with Ruby, then following Mary Margaret around the mansion. A small break was very welcome. "Is there anything you would like to show me?"
"The stables and the garden," Grace smiled wide, holding Emma's hand firmly as she walked down the stairs. "How old are you Miss Emma?"
"Twenty-four," Emma answered, trying to remember the exact path they had taken to get to the garden, but Grace was excitable - and fast - , so trying not to trip was a priority over trying to orientate herself. "And you don't have to call me Miss each time." Grace looked up at that for a moment, then smiled and nodded before continuing her journey towards the stables.
"So you do not want to be married yet?" They passed by the pool house, from the outside it looked even more weathered down, some of the tiles were broken, plants crawling through and covering the outside walls in ivy and other plants as well.
"I have no intention of marrying yet," Emma confirmed.
"Good. Miss Charlotte left because she wanted to be married."
Next to the stables, there was a small vegetable field, a man with brown hair sat on his knees, harvesting some of the vegetables.
"Hey August," Grace crawled on the wooden structure around the vegetable field.
"Hey Gracie," the man, August, got up on his feet, wiping his dirt-stained hands on his trousers. "Miss," he greeted Emma with a small curtsy.
"Emma," she smiled.
"Pleasure to meet you, Miss Emma, I'd shake your hand, but," he held them up as if they were explanation enough, which, in truth, they were. "What can I do for you, Gracie?"
"Have you any rejects for the horses?"
"Not really," He scratched his nose, leaving a dirt mark on his face, "But I think I can be persuaded to give you a carrot."
"Two," August said firmly.
"But, then there is one horse that doesn't get a carrot..." Grace pouted.
"Fine," he grunted, taking three carrots out of the bucket and handing them over.
"Thank you," the young girl smiled proudly, "Bye."
"Farewell to you both," he chuckled, returning to his task of harvesting the vegetables.
Grace opened the stable doors, revealing multiple stables, but, as Grace had already mentioned, only three horses. The middle horse neighed at Grace as she approached it, "This one is mine," she explained while feeding it a carrot. "Have you ever ridden a horse before?"
"No," Emma answered, brushing her hand over the soft nose of the horse. "I haven't."
"I have never had the opportunity."
"Oh," Grace nodded once, taking a carrot from her bag to feed it to the horse in the stable next to hers. "Miss Charlotte taught me how to ride last year, but it has been a few months since I have ridden my horse. Father says it is best that I do not ride him anymore." She handed Emma a carrot and pointed at the horse in the other next stall.
"Why is that?" Emma asked, following Grace's example in feeding the horse; hand flat, making sure the animal did not eat her fingers along with the carrot. It tickled a bit (as well as feeling kind of gross, especially after the horse licked her hand searching for more).
Emma snickered and wiped her hand on her apron, quickly looking next to her; Grace grinned at her, "I won't tell Ruby."
"Thank you," Emma laughed softly and continued to wipe her hand until it felt relatively clean.
"Father won't let me ride because it's been too long for the horse, he might not respond to me the way he used to," Grace then explained.
"Perhaps your father can take you riding once, or find someone to ride the horse for you?"
Grace scoffed, waving at the horses before leaving the stables, "father has never taken me riding before, I don't see why he would now."
"I am sorry that I do not know how to ride a horse," Emma offered, walking through the garden with Grace, following her to Grace's favourite spot; the swing beneath a large tree. As she was walking, she noticed August looking at them intently. She'd noticed it before, other servants looking at her as she passed by. Curiosity, yet caution in their eyes. Who was this stranger running around the house with their Grace?
"It is not your fault, Emma," the young girl smiled softly while sitting down on the swing. "Push me?"
Emma nodded, taking place behind her, "shall I try and talk to your father about it?"
"It is no use, he will say no anyway, but thank you for offering."
They spent a while on the swing after that, getting to know one another. It were the basic things, favourite colour, favourite food, favourite animal, those things. But it was exactly that what made Emma feel at ease so much. Grace was a lovely child, perhaps slightly too mature for her age, but when the people you usually converse with are people three times your age, that tends to happen.
Emma had probed as to how Grace felt about her father not being home often, but to her surprise, Grace spoke highly of her father. According to his daughter, Mr Jones was a kind man, he was just broken and needed fixing.
Well, that was the first chapter. We will be meeting Killian in the next chapter, so don't worry about having to wait too long for him.
I would like to say that this fanfic is relatively historically accurate. The only thing that I have taken liberties on is the weather (not because I don't know, but because the winter in 1815 was quite rough and lasted until march, and in 1816 the Thames froze over because it was so cold.) Basically I could include that, but there are only so many things you can do inside the house, and I think it would get quite boring.
The second thing, is Killian's scruff. There wouldn't really be a way to accomplish that in 1815, so either he would have a beard, or he would be clean-shaven. So instead I chose to keep his scruff, because it is just a part of his character.
I believe that's about it.
Thank you so much for reading, comments or constructive criticism are always appreciated :)