Kathryn took breakfast in her room the next morning because she wasn't entirely sure what to do with herself. Lady Belmoor had made it clear that she was not a guest, nor was she to be treated as family. She wasn't exactly an ordinary servant either, which meant she was excluded from every dinner table in the house. It was an odd predicament to be in for a woman who'd been a member of high society just weeks earlier.
The tray sat on the other end of the window seat, the morning light streaming through the glass and splashing onto her plate. Kathryn finished nibbling on the biscuit she'd been holding for the last ten minutes and tossed it back onto the tray. She had a terrible habit of skipping meals whenever she got anxious.
She'd gone through her trunks last night and realized she had very few dresses that would fit the role of governess. A governess was supposed to be meek; she was supposed to be quiet and reserved; invisible.
A governess did not wear vibrant or flashy dresses, nor did she wear revealing clothing. A simple grey dress would have been ideal, but Kathryn was without such an option. It had taken her half an hour to find the deep purple dress she now wore, and although it lacked the long sleeves she needed, it had a modest neckline and little embellishment. She found a dark gray shawl to wear over it, sufficiently covering her from head to toe. It would have to do.
She waited a few more moments in silence, watching the gardener trimming back the rose bushes for the winter season. It seemed as if everything in life was transitioning from the beauty of summer to the cold emptiness of winter.
A motion caught her eye, and as she watched, Lord Graysbrook exited the house and walked towards the stables. He wore subdued gray breeches that fitted so well they could have been a second skin, along with a black tailcoat that fluttered behind him in the breeze. He walked with a purpose, his long legs bringing him across the yard in only moments.
She studied him, knowing she was well hidden, and allowed herself to ponder her first impression of his lordship.
In truth, he was just a little scary. She could see the resemblance of character from him to his sister. They shared the severity of their features, the stiffness that she'd found unsettling. They'd clearly been brought up to remain presentable and proper at all times, whether they had guests or not.
It wasn't just his choice in clothing that made Kathryn uneasy, it was also the emptiness in his eyes. There was no warmth on his face, no sparkle in his eye that showed his disposition.
Thank goodness for Lord Belmoor. He seemed to be the only normal one of the lot. He smiled and talked and carried on as though he couldn't be happier with himself. It was miraculous, really, to be surrounded by such stuffiness and be able to carry on without a care in the world.
As Kathryn watched, a groom led a glossy black horse out to the riding paddocks to meet Lord Graysbrook. The two shared words for a moment, and then the groom gave him a boost, and he was astride the horse, letting it prance about as it adjusted to his weight. It tossed its head a few times as his Lordship gathered his reins, and then settled in quickly as the two set out for a trot.
He looked relaxed atop a horse in comparison to the dinner table. His lower body stayed perfectly still, as though moving with his mount, while his upper body adjusted and twisted and turned, pushing the horse into one maneuver after another.
Kathryn had heard about the art of Dressage before, but she'd never seen it. It was better known in Germany, where the best would travel to train. It was meant to be the most harmonious pairing possible between man and horse. It looked as if Lord Graysbrook was doing nothing at all, and yet the slightest move of his ankle, the twist of his wrist, sent his horse into any number of maneuvers. One moment he was trotting along the rail, and in the next his horse was dancing sideways, crossing its legs one over the other until he'd made it to the other side. He extended the trot until they were all but floating on air, and then suddenly switched it back to a restrained, prancing jog.
The horse looked to be a warm blood of sorts, tall and elegant but still balanced and powerful. Its neck was thin and elegant, allowing the horse to tuck its head and balance its body as it danced about the arena. Lord Graysbrook had paid a tidy sum for the horse, of that much Kathryn was certain.
Kathryn was so mesmerized by what he was doing that she nearly lost herself, and time all together. It was only when her foot began to tingle from sitting on it so long that she'd realized what she was doing.
She was going to be late, and it was her first day.
She jumped up so fast she nearly fell down, but then gathered herself and darted out of the room. She took the stairs two at a time, rushed down the hallway, and then stopped to take a deep breath and compose herself.
She entered the room quickly, and to her relief, Lady Belmoor was not inside. Only the children were to be found, sitting on the rug and playing with any number of toys. They looked up at her for a moment and then returned to their playthings, as if they had no intention of greeting her.
"Good morning, children."
Emily looked up and smiled. "Good morning Miss Kathryn."
She was clearly the better behaved of the two, though that was of little consequence. It wasn't hard to behave better than the tyrant that was her brother.
"David, it is impolite to ignore others." He glanced up at her and then returned to his toys.
Oh dear. This was going to be more than she'd bargained for. Couldn't she have at least been sent to teach children who wanted to learn?
Kathryn crossed the room and picked up two small chairs, sitting them directly in front of the large rocker in the corner. The room had been set up as more of a nursery than a classroom, but this would have to do.
"Children, please come sit. It is time to begin our lessons."
Emily looked intrigued, while David continued to ignore her.
"David, if you've any hope of dessert tonight, I expect you to join your sister."
The little boy glared at her with his icy blue eyes, but he obliged, and Kathryn wanted to sigh in relief. She crossed the room and sat in her chair across from the children, as yet uncertain how to begin.
"I hope you two understand that certain things must change around here. We'll need to work hard on our studies. English and Mathematics will be our top priority, but there will be other topics of importance as well, like history, philosophy and etiquette. Shall we begin with some reading? Perhaps David would like to choose his favorite book to read to Emily and me?"
David simply looked at her with a blank stare and then shook his head.
"Now David, wouldn't we like to set a good example for our little sister?"
He shook his head again.
Kathryn was starting to hate him already. Not truly, of course, but out of simple frustration. He seemed to enjoy being disagreeable, just for the sake of being so.
"Have you ever heard of Aristotle?" Kathryn asked. David shook his head but looked mildly intrigued, so Kathryn forged ahead. "He was a philosopher from long ago, valued and respected by many men. Even your father would know of him."
To this he looked interested, so Kathryn continued. "He has a rather well-known line that goes something like this: 'Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting a particular way...you become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions.' Do you know what that means?"
He furrowed his brow in response. "No. Tell me?"
His response elicited a tingling of hope in Kathryn, for perhaps if she found a way to interest him, he would learn the things she sought to teach him.
"It means that if you choose to act rude, others will think you are rude. Is that how you want to be perceived?"
He sat up straighter for a moment and narrowed his eyes. "No one thinks I am rude."
"You acted very rude last night at dinner, and are continuing to do so now. I will think you are rude if you continue."
He crossed his arms, heaved a big sigh, and then leaned back against his chair. "I don't believe it matters. You don't matter."
Kathryn sat back into her chair, staring at the boy in shock. Where in god's name had he learned to be so rude? Worse, how was she going to deal with him? He clearly had no intentions of listening to her. She hadn't expected this to be so trying. "There will be rules in the classroom. You are to address me as Miss Kathryn. Is that understood?"
The two nodded, Emily looking far more agreeable than her brother.
"Miss Kathryn?" Emily asked.
Kathryn turned her attention to the little girl, who was twittling her fingers together as though she were nervous.
"Will you tell me another?"
"Another what?" Kathryn replied.
"Another saying from someone daddy would like."
Kathryn smiled. "Just one, and then we must begin our reading." Kathryn stopped for a moment, trying to decide which citation to share, and then smiled and said, "Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt."
"What does it mean?" The little girl stood and walked to her, as though Kathryn held the key to the secret of life if only one asked for it.
This young lady would be the apt pupil. She seemed to be the opposite of her brother, willing to please and seeking attention in any available outlet.
"It means not to doubt yourself, Miss Emily. It means that you should believe in yourself no matter what. And, it means that we need to get to work on your studies. There will be plenty more to share later. Now gather up your books and find one to read while I set about creating our lesson plan."
David, seemingly satisfied for the moment, walked away and sat down with his toys. Emily settled into her chair with a dog-eared children's book.
At least one of them knew how to read.
Kathryn kept her despair from becoming visible, and began to scribble down notes.
How would she teach a boy who had no intention of learning?
At lunch time the children's nursemaid came and escorted them back to their rooms, and once again Kathryn intended to take her meal in solitude.
Until she came across Lord Belmoor.
"Is it time to break for lunch?" he asked, in that cavalier way of his.
Kathryn nodded and curtsied. "Yes, My lord. The children are already with Mrs. McCall."
Kathryn started to walk away, expecting his lordship to simply move on, but instead he studied her for a moment.
"Would you like to take lunch with me in the dining room? Cook has prepared some sandwiches and tea."
Kathryn shook her head. "I believe her ladyship wishes for me to take my meals in my room."
"Her ladyship answers to me," he replied. He leaned against a nearby doorframe, crossing his arms and giving her a comfortable smile.
Kathryn resisted the urge to squirm. The situation wasn't at all what she wanted it to be. A governess should never associate with her lord without proper supervision. Scandals upon scandals had erupted from less.
"Her ladyship is at the seamstress'. As the season is changing, she's decided she needs another dozen gowns," he said with a smile.
"Are you certain it will not make her cross? I do not wish to offend her. This position is important to me."
It's all I have, Kathryn wanted to add, but didn't.
"Of course not, Miss Dreyton." He offered her his elbow, as if to end the conversation all together, and Kathryn sighed to herself. She could not make both he and his lady happy, so she had to make a choice between the two.
Besides, lunch in her room seemed altogether depressing. She took his elbow and he led her down the long hall, listening as he began to regale her with a story about his childhood.
He was, in a word, charming. He smiled and laughed and put her at ease within moments of arriving in the dining room, until she wondered what she'd worried about at all. Surely a simple, cheerful lunch would not offend her ladyship.
Kathryn nibbled at a small roasted ham sandwich and sipped at her tea while Michael told her all about the latest scandal to rock the ton.
In between stories he caught up on his eating, and she took one such occasion to talk to him about the children.
"Emily, I believe, is more willing to accept authority than David. I get the feeling they've had a governess or two who allowed them full rein. It shall take some time, but I think I'll be quite successful with them."
It was only a small lie. Kathryn hadn't a clue how she would manage to teach David, but she couldn't admit that just yet.
"Well that is good news to be certain. However, I'm afraid you're a bit misinformed. It is not the governesses that let the children run amuck. It is her Ladyship. She believes that the children are not to be punished, under any circumstances."
Kathryn's heart sank a little.
"It may not be my place to say such a thing, but her Ladyship must realize the damage she is doing to her children. They must have boundaries."
"Yes, I'm sure you're correct. You'll simply have to talk the lady of the house into agreeing with your plans." He paused for a moment. "Did you know that there is a beautiful pond just over the hill behind the gardener's home? It's quite a peaceful little place."
Kathryn was surprised at his change in topics, but had no choice but to go along with it.
"No, I'm afraid I haven't had time to explore much just yet. Perhaps after I get settled and the children have had time to take in some lessons I can take them there."
"Yes, I'm sure they would enjoy that. They have their own ponies, and I'm sure that one of the grooms can find you a suitable mount, if you know how to ride."
"I should think that would be quite enjoyable. Thank you for suggesting it. Perhaps I can relate such a trip to their studies. I've quite a plan laid out for them. Perhaps you'd like me to go over it with you?"
"I'm afraid I don't have much free time in the coming weeks. Perhaps Lady Belmoor would like to do so."
Kathryn nodded her head and tried to dismiss the knot that was growing in her stomach. It seemed to her that neither Lord nor Lady Belmoor took much interest in their children. Lady Belmoor had decided a trip to the tailor's was more important than her children's first day with a new governess!
That, coupled with the children's unruliness meant that Kathryn had quite a task set out before her. She only hoped she was up to the feat.
By dinner time that evening, Kathryn had become more determined than ever to see to it that the children received an education, and that she was the one to give it to them.
David had all but screamed and thrown everything in the room at her, including a rather heavy book. He was angry that she wouldn't let him play with his toys, and instead expected him to learn a bit of the French language. He hated this more than he hated reading.
However, once Kathryn had made a game of his tantrum, he'd become intrigued. At least, she'd hoped he was intrigued. She'd started naming everything he'd thrown with their French names, and then Emily had taken up the game, picking up items and throwing them across the room.
Kathryn had no idea if it had worked. In the end, she felt like she was shouting French words at a pile of rocks. He hadn't repeated a single one, but he' kept throwing everything in sight.
And in the end, the make-shift school room had been all but demolished. Toys, books and even chairs were strewn everywhere. Kathryn knew that she would have to return to the room and put it all back together after dinner, before Lady Belmoor happened to see it and ask what had happened. If she found out that Kathryn's teaching tactics included throwing everything in the room, she might not be so pleased.
Kathryn had only a few moments to freshen up before she was to return to the dinner table. She splashed some water over her face and dabbed on a bit of her rose scented oils, and then wished she hadn't.
Some habits die hard, she supposed, but she should have known better than to do that.
Invisible. It was a word she'd have to repeat to herself over and over. She was now in the same league of lady's companions. She was supposed to blend in so well that no one would notice her.
She wasn't supposed to wear alluring dresses or dab on enticing aromas.
She dipped a cloth in the porcelain washbasin and rubbed it on the base of her neck, where she'd dabbed the oil, and then sighed in frustration.
Sometimes it was the simple things that made her transition more difficult. She'd given a lot of thought to the lifestyle change, to her new home and new employers. She hadn't thought much about her wardrobe or use of rose oil.
Invisible, she reminded herself. With a heavy sigh she tossed the towel back into the washbasin and headed down the hall. She was certain that dinner would be yet another trying affair, and she just wanted to get it over with.