April 1899 – Grand Central Station
Abigail was frightened as she boarded the train at Grand Central Station. She was leaving everything behind to take the journey west. What the west would bring – she had no notion. From Grand Central Station, she would make the journey to Union Station in Denver. There she would cross paths with Mrs. Oakley. Mrs. Oakley was the reverend's wife. Abigail knew no one in the small town of Colorado Rockies where she would be going – save for Mr. and Mrs. Oakley. The reverend and his wife had been long time acquaintances of Abigail's father. Once Abigail had accepted the governess position out west, her father made inquiries towards his connections. He wished to secure his daughter's safety.
Now here was this eighteen-year-old city girl headed into a new life. Abigail thought herself mad. Cecily, her long-time school mate told her stories of the west. It was filled with wild-men and injuns, Cecily had said, and she ought to have stayed East. A young woman going alone to somewhere unknown was a mistake.
Abigail had everything back in New York – a life of leisure and wealth. She chose to abandon all hopes of continuing that life. Her father knew the situation was desperate, there was no dissuading his daughter once she had her mind set. The same mulishness as her dear mother, he once said. But now that the time had come, she was frightened. What if this whole venture out west was a mistake? What if she could not do the task before her? What if she really was this frail, comely city girl who could do nothing for herself? What if her train got robbed? How would she handle herself in a fleeting moment with wild cross-country bandits? The train whistled loudly, startling her out of her wild imagination. In her first-class seat, Abigail opened the window to wave at her mother and father. With one look, Abigail knew her father was defeated – betrayed. The train began to chug forward, slowly.
A white cloud of smoke covered her window as Abigail sat down. This was it – this was her point of no return. There was no going back now. Abigail felt her stomach churn with excitement and pure anxiety. The only thing she could do from here on out was look forward. The west was coming. And she would see what seemed like the world in a few days' time. Her last stop before venturing into the uncultivated Rocky Mountains was Denver. One last night in the city, she thought to herself, and she would make the most of it. Whether it was to go see a vaudeville or dine at the finest hotel restaurant. Or perhaps she could do both.
Once her city life in Denver ended, Abigail would take a bandwagon ride to God knows where in Colorado. It was a ranch and there was a town nearby with a church, a general store, no doubt a saloon and perhaps a whorehouse but no one spoke of the whore houses that ran in the west. It was unceremonious to do so. It was a vulgar life that no one besides men and the whores needed to know. No respectable society discussed such matters.
She looked down at her hands, covered in white satin gloves. Inwardly she scoffed. What was the point in dressing in the finest? The women in Idaho City perhaps had no sense of what the latest fashion was. There was no direct access to the finest department store. What would there be to do in Idaho City, Abigail wondered further? All she knew it was gold-mining boom town and she was to be a governess there for a family of six children. It was one of the better of families outside of town but nonetheless, she was still fearful of certain things. She learnt in her letter from Mrs. Oakley that the husband of the family had become rich during the discovery of gold in their town. Their house was a fine one, decorated in the optimum tapestries and art the mistress asked for. However, Abigail speculated if the elegance of the house could match one as splendid as an Upper East Side duplex. How arrogant, Abigail, stop acting like a petulant imp. She had known better than to think lowly of others.
She played with the curls of her red hair as she watched the view change. Within two hours, she was in New York State, watching the farmlands and cattle go by. The lunch bell rang. Eagerly, Abigail went to the dining car to her reserved table by the window. She looked at the clock above the door which read eleven-thirty. The chauffer greeted her and the other two ladies who sat at her table and took their orders. Tea was poured out for them. The chauffer placed a tray of tea cakes and other treats. Abigail smiled as she took a bite out of the lemon merengue cake. It reminded her of home already.
She sipped her earl grey and listened as the other two young ladies chatted away about visiting their families in Chicago. They too were in eager anticipation. Abigail continued her small talk with the women when they asked her questions. Both were shocked to hear she was going to the West. Whispering, they told her the vilest stories they had read in the daily paper about wild men and their heinous crimes. It is certainly not a place for a fine young lady of class to be headed.
A murmur of agreement from the two ladies made Abigail huff in annoyance. It was a dangerous perdition. Many who ventured West oftentimes returned East due to lack of society and bustling cities. Perhaps the two women assumed Abigail was meeting her young lover or soon to-be husband, for why else would any woman dare to go alone to such a place? She responded kindly enough that it was a governess position she had read of in the papers.
"Weren't there any decent families in New York that you couldn't have been a governess for? Why must you go all the way out West?" the first woman inquired, icily.
"My business affairs do not concern you, Madam. It is a respectable position and well paid."
"Well, I certainly hope you find whatever it is you're looking for all the way out West, Miss Winston. Lord help me if I ever find myself out West."
The woman shuddered in thought and finished her tea and finger sandwiches.
"I don't know how anyone can live without the new modern light. Oh, and the theater and shopping! I'm going to make the best of my shopping in Chicago."
Once luncheon was over, Abigail was grateful to separate from the two ladies she had acquainted herself with. Why was everyone so horrified at the thought of her going to Colorado? Didn't anyone have a sense of curiosity or desire to see the glorious west? Some people were just too old-fashioned for her taste.
Two weeks or so later, Abigail was in Idaho Springs, awaiting Mrs. Oakley. She stood at the railway station, holding her bag. It felt rather awkward standing by herself with no escort, staring aimlessly at country folk. It was a quaint, grubby town but there was still some bustle going on. Carriages and wagons rolled past. School children played on the streets with a brown ball – all laughing and shouting. The air smelled of horse manure and every once and a while she caught a whiff of tobacco. When the wind picked up, it blew the dry earthen dust – causing Abigail to cough.
Abigail found it much more difficult to breathe than she did when at home. In the back of her skull she felt a dull pain beginning. She was not accustomed to this mountainous air or living. There would be a great many things she needed to familiarize to. There was much change coming her way that she questioned if she was ready for.
Soon enough, Abigail spotted a horse-drawn wagon pulling up to the station. There sat a middle-aged couple. The gentleman was in black garb and wore a black cowboy hat. The woman had a gray streak in her light brown hair which was pulled back into a bun.
"Abigail, is that you? My goodness how much you have grown! I don't suppose you remember me but I'm Clara Oakley. This is my husband, Reverend Thomas Oakley. It's been a long while since we were last in New York City, hasn't it Thomas?"
"Hello, Mrs. Oakley, it's a pleasure to see you again. Reverend," Abigail greeted, as the couple helped her with her luggage.
"Now, Mr. and Mrs. Blaise will be returning on the weekend. They are the family which you will be governess for. The family went for a funeral. Mrs. Blaise's mother recently passed. The winter in St. Louis was harsh from what Mrs. Blaise told me before they left. So temporarily you are a most welcome guest with myself and Reverend Oakley." Mrs. Oakley went on to tell Abigail the latest news.
Mrs. Oakley continued going on even as they went on the outskirts of town, entertaining Abigail with compelling stories. Abigail listened and asked questions whenever she got a moment in. Although, Abigail couldn't help but notice how spectacular the view was. There were still snow-covered peaks surrounding her. Though the sun was warm and inviting, the wind caused a light chill in the air. As the wind blew colder, Abigail wrapped her shawl closer around herself.
"If I might ask, what made you choose a governess position way out here?" Mrs. Oakley inquired of Abigail.
Abigail paused a moment and sighed before responding.
"There's a part of me that wonders that also. Another side of me is telling me that this is what I want to do. I want to seek adventure in my life. The West is the place to seek it. I contemplated with myself if I got tired of living the life I had in the city, not being able to do anything for myself, always having someone look over my shoulder." Abigail said, looking down. "I felt like a hopeless child, wanting to prove to my parents that I can and want to do so much more in the world. But if being a governess is my calling – I don't know who marries governesses – especially one so close to twenty."
Mrs. Oakley smiled kindly at Abigail and wrapped her arm around the young girl.
"God has a spectacular plan for your life, Abigail. Perhaps you'll meet that fine young man here. God always as a plan for you, a plan to prosper and not to harm."
"Jeremiah 29:11," Abigail returned.
"Quite right, Miss Winston," Reverend Oakley chimed, with a ghost of a smile.
Abigail took a liking immediately to the reverend and his wife. She smiled as they pulled up to a lovely white farmhouse. Reverend Oakley parked the wagon in front of the porch, stepping down on the wheel and then assisting the ladies. Abigail grabbed her suitcase and bag, following Mrs. Oakley as she was let into their attractive house.
"This is the parsonage, we have a spare guest room downstairs. It isn't much, but it has a lovely view of the Rockies and the sunset during the evening."
In the guest room there was a four-post bed, a table of drawers and a chamber pot. There wasn't much for heating but a warm feathered quilt and two wool pillows on the bed. Mrs. Oakley had placed a vase of flowers on the table of drawers and there was a painting above the bed which had been given to the Oakleys as a gift last Christmas.
"I hope it's to your liking, Abigail."
"Very much so, thank you, Mrs. Oakley." Abigail replied, placing her bags upon the bed.
Should she unpack? She knew she wouldn't be staying too long here and wouldn't want to inconvenience the reverend or his wife by any means.
"I'll let you settle in. Once you're ready, I'll have supper waiting for you in the kitchen."
Mrs. Oakley closed the door behind her, leaving Abigail to her own devices. Abigail sat down on the edge of the bed, looking about the room about her. Much like everything else she had seen, it was quaint but lovely. Her own room in the duplex back home had been the size of the Oakley's living room. Abigail took her gloves off, let down her hair and decided to braid it. It appeared that Reverend and Mrs. Oakley had no care for formalities. Abigail was grateful for that. With her comb, she brushed her tousled red hair before putting it into a braid and tying it off with a ribbon. Once she prepared herself, Abigail made her way from the guest room to the kitchen. The smell was inviting, and she felt her stomach grumbling.
Mrs. Oakley smiled when she saw Abigail come into the kitchen. She bustled about and pulled out some plates from the cupboard. Abigail offered to help, though Mrs. Oakley said there was no need.
"Smells mighty good, Clara." Reverend Oakley said, coming in through the kitchen door.
"Go and wash now, Thomas, I'll not have your hands dirty for dinner." Mrs. Oakley reprimanded.
Thomas obeyed his wife and went to the sink to wash his hands thoroughly. Meanwhile, Mrs. Oakley placed a plate of food in front of Abigail. It was a homecooked shepherd's pie with a side of jam and pickle. Courteously Abigail waited until the reverend and his wife sat down at the table. They resumed to pray.
"Lord, thank you for this bountiful blessing you have provided us. Thank you for giving safe passage and journey for Miss Abigail and may your name be blessed, and you be glorified forever, Amen."
There was a round of 'amen' at the table before they began to eat. Abigail was in raptures towards Mrs. Oakley's cooking. Certainly, back home the Winston family had elegant meals, sometimes up to five courses. Abigail enjoyed the simple dining Mrs. Oakley had provided for them that evening.
"This is positively wonderful, Mrs. Oakley." Abigail commented, breaking the silence.
"That's kind of you to say, dear. It was my mother's recipe. It was a reminder of home for her and my da when they came from Ireland."
"I do not know much how to cook or bake. Mother did not think it necessary for me to learn – she was rather hoping I would be married and well off with a rich husband now."
"There's not much too cooking. Quite simple once you follow some recipes. I have a book or two of recipes and whenever Mrs. Baily gives you time off from being her governess, if you would like to learn, I can teach you some excellent recipes. You'll have men flocking to your door in no time, of that I'm certain!" Mrs. Oakley exclaimed, with a chuckle and smile.
"Aye, a way to a man's heart is through his stomach." Reverend Oakley added in. "The first I met Clara – she baked this delicious apple pie for the auction at the church. Won first prize, it did. Although, can't remember if I fell in love with the pie or Clara first."
Mrs. Oakley sent her a husband a look, receiving laughter from him. Abigail smiled at Reverend Oakley's teasing.
"Oh, now you're just being a tease, Mr. Oakley." Mrs. Oakley commented, dryly.
Abigail was charmed by their affection for one another, despite the teasing and the looks. They continued chatting that evening well after dessert. The grandfather clock in the living room struck eight and the sun was far hidden beyond the mountains. A wave of exhaustion overcame Abigail even as she aided Mrs. Oakley to clean the dishes.
"I'll have none of that. You'll have your hands full of work soon enough being governess and all. Off to bed with you. You've had a long journey."
"Thank you for all your kindness, Mrs. Oakley, truly." Abigail exclaimed, as she parted from the kitchen.
Abigail undressed herself and put her nightgown over her head before crawling into the bed. It was cool at first when she touched the sheets, hissing as her warm skin contacted the cold sheets. Within moments, she was warm, the feathered quilt heating rapidly. Easily, Abigail drifted off into a sound sleep. The journey had indeed been exhausting. She did not grasp how tired she was until she felt comfortable in bed.
. . .
The next morning, Abigail woke to the smell of freshly brewed coffee, bacon and eggs. The aroma was delightful. Abigail was not accustomed to having sunlight blaringly come through the window. The curtains were drawn every night and once Abigail had summoned her ladies' maid, only then they were opened. The young governess pushed the quilts off her. She went to her wash basin to rinse her face. The water had been chilled from the night before, it had woken her up undoubtedly. Once dressed in her simple summer dress, Abigail walked to the kitchen. Mrs. Oakley was awake, perhaps a few hours earlier than Abigail. There was a breakfast plate warming on the stove.
"Good morning, Mrs. Oakley," Abigail greeted, as she stepped into the homely kitchen.
Mrs. Oakley jumped, a touch surprised.
"Oh heavens, I was expecting you to still sleep. I trust you slept well, Abigail. I saved some breakfast for you. Reverend had to go early to the church. He's preparing his Sunday sermon."
Abigail sat down at the table as Mrs. Oakley placed the breakfast plate in front of her. Grateful, the young woman began to eat.
"I did not realize how tired I was until I did go to sleep. I did sleep quite well though, thank you." Abigail replied, with a smile. "Have you anything for me to do today? I don't like to be idle. I would like to help around the house."
Mrs. Oakley smiled as she sat down at the table with two cups of tea.
"Well, Reverend Oakley should be returning for lunch. If you would like to learn to cook, you could assist me in making our lunch today."
"I should like that very much." Abigail said. "Do you have any children, Mrs. Oakley?"
The elder woman smiled and nodded. From her pocket, she pulled out a locket. Within the locket contained two pictures of both her sons.
"Thomas and Matthew," Mrs. Oakley said, showing the pictures. "We lost Thomas to pneumonia. Matthew left for the city to continue his education at William and Mary. He'll be back to help with the harvest. Thomas was my oldest."
"They are both handsome young men. I am so sorry for your loss, Mrs. Oakley."
"Neither had yet found a wife. Matthew was eager to visit the East. He sends telegrams often home. He visited last Christmas and brought some lovely gifts. I love my boys dearly but it's a blessing to have another woman in the house. Have you any brothers or sisters at home?"
"Mother tried, but my brother and sister were both stillborn. One elder and one after me," Abigail answered.
"It is heartbreaking when a mother loses her child. It doesn't matter the age. Once a mother, always a mother."
The grandfather clock chimed. Abigail had finished her breakfast and helped Mrs. Oakley with cleaning the kitchen. Before she had received the offer for a governess position, Abigail had asked her mother for proper household training, governess schooling. She knew her time had been limited but certain things she knew she had to learn as she went when she arrived in Colorado. Many governesses her age had gone through proper training and schooling. Perhaps with the help of Mrs. Oakley, she could continue her household training.
With the kitchen cleaned, Mrs. Oakley changed her damp apron to a dry one, also giving Abigail an apron. She wrapped it around her waist as the elder woman did, following her example. They went outside to the garden with baskets in hand. Fresh vegetables were growing. Abigail inwardly admired the beauty of Mrs. Oakley's garden. She knew her own mother would never care for such tasks. She scorned at the sight of dirt on shoes even after a walk in the city.
Once in the garden, Mrs. Oakley showed Abigail how to dig out potatoes, to carefully cut tomatoes from a vine without bruising the fruit. They were going to make a stew of chicken and potatoes. Once the vegetables were gathered, Mrs. Oakley snatched a chicken from its coop. The neck was snapped – Abigail watched in wide eyed almost horror at the process of preparing a chicken. Her face paled at the task.
"Wherever did you think prepared chicken came from?" Mrs. Oakley asked, with a chuckle.
"From the kitchen?" Abigail said, with a shy smile.
Mrs. Oakley laughed heartily as they walked back to the house. Before plucking the feathers, Mrs. Oakley showed Abigail how to peel the potatoes. The rest of the morning was set to prepare lunch and possibly dinner as well. Soon, delightful aromas filled the kitchen – spices, herbs, vegetables. From the storage closet, Mrs. Oakley brought out bread she had baked the day previous. For a few moments she wrapped it and placed it on the stove to warm it. Before long, Reverend Oakley returned from the church. Abigail looked up as she heard the wagon and the sound of hooves outside.
"Good afternoon, ladies."
"Afternoon, Reverend." Abigail greeted, as he came through the door.
"Smells mighty fine in here. Oh, Clara, I've got a telegram from Matthew. Came just this morning." Reverend Oakley exclaimed, pulling out a letter from his pocket.
His wife wiped her hands, excitedly accepting the telegram. She opened it, smiling as she read it. 'All is well at William and Mary. I have spring exams coming soon so things will be quite busy. Once exams are finished, I expect to be coming home for the summer season. I hear that a Miss Abigail Winston of New York is to be governess for the Blaise's. Hopefully the boys won't be too hard on her. Give pa my best. Matthew.'
"Matthew will be coming home after exams are done. The eldest Blaise boy went to William and Mary with Matthew. He mentions hearing that you'll be the new governess and hopes the younger boys won't be too hard on you, Abigail." Mrs. Oakley read.
"What profession is Matthew hoping to obtain?" Abigail inquired, stirring the stew.
"He's training for law – hoping that his profession will help the towns here. We have a doctor who's quite talented in his profession. But we have yet to have a lawyer. Matthew always had a compassionate and just heart, especially to those less fortunate out here."
"It's admirable, Mrs. Oakley."
Mrs. Oakley folded the telegram and placed it in a box with other letters and telegrams she had collected over the years. Abigail set the table for lunch. Soon after Reverend Oakley joined the ladies and they helped themselves to a delicious chicken and potato stew. It was delightful to learn how to cook. Abigail hoped that one day she could excel – should she ever marry, she would need to know how to feed her husband and her family. She wondered how her own mother ever won her father's affections. Perhaps her mother didn't even love her father when they met. After all, it had been arranged. How many arranged marriages were there that the husband and wife did not love one another? Abigail thought, curiously.
"To which ladies do I owe the compliment of preparing this delicious lunch?" Reverend Oakley inquired, breaking silence.
"It was an equal effort between us, Thomas." Mrs. Oakley commented. "Abigail is a quick learner."
"Fine job," Reverend Oakley complimented.
"After lunch I'll be headed out again. There's some business that needs tending to in town. I promised the Masons I'd help them move. While I'm there, is there anything you need from the general store?"
"The flour is low as well as sugar."
Reverend Oakley nodded. Soon after, lunch was finished. The next few days were similar business for the women. Household chores were done, and food was prepared. The day came when the Blaise family returned home from their travels. Mr. Blaise and his wife settled quickly with the help of the two servants they had within the house. After hearing the early arrival of their governess, Mr. Blaise sought out the Oakley Farm. Riding in his open barouche, he came upon the white farmhouse. Dust trailed behind him as he came up the rugged path. The barouche was parked in front of the house. His manservant waited as Mr. Blaise jumped out. He knocked loudly on the front door and waited patiently for an answer. Moments later, he heard footsteps and the latch to the door click.
"Mr. Blaise! Welcome home! We weren't expecting you or your family until Monday!" Mrs. Oakley exclaimed. "Do come in."
She stepped aside to let the man through. Removing his hat and coat, he placed it neatly on the wall hook. Mr. Blaise hummed.
"Yes, Mrs. Blaise was eager to return. We received a telegram from Jonathan that Miss Winston arrived much earlier than anticipated. We were not expecting our governess until Tuesday. Pray tell me, Mrs. Oakley, where may I meet the governess?"
"Abigail, Mr. Blaise is here. Won't you come to meet him?"
Abigail left her sanctuary within the kitchen and stepped out to the sitting room to greet her future employer. He was a handsomely aged man, dark hair with a curled moustache. There were streaks of gray in his hair. His figure was slim. Mr. Blaise chuckled at the sight of his new governess.
"What red hair this governess has!" was his first comment about Abigail. "I hope not a temper to match."
"I can assure you, sir, that I have no such temper to match the incurable redness of my hair." Abigail said, quietly.
Of course, that was a lie – she did have quite a temper, but never did it show. There had been times of course as a little girl when she would fight her mother and her own governess. However, those temper tantrums were long passed.
"Would you care for some coffee or tea, Mr. Blaise?" Abigail inquired.
"Oh no, that's quite alright. I just came to inquire of our new governess. Our maid has prepared a room for you in the servant's quarters. My lady would like it if you could come to the house this evening. You will meet the children and have a tour of the house. Tomorrow you will have the day to plan your lessons, but Monday I should like you to begin work. Understand that you will work six days throughout the week – eight-hour days but you will have Sundays off to attend church and to plan the next week's activities. The pay will be five dollars a month. Mind you governesses in England make thirty pounds a-year. Not many governesses were willing to come to Colorado for such a venture. Are there any questions?"
"None, sir, momentarily. I will fetch my suitcases immediately."
Abigail curtsied before Mr. Blaise and hurriedly went to fetch her belongings. She was rather surprised that it had been Mr. Blaise who had come to retrieve her and not the mistress. Perhaps it was due to the fact Mrs. Blaise had recently lost her mother and wished to remain home. Within moments, Abigail was ready – though the prospect frightened her. She had enjoyed staying with Reverend and Mrs. Oakley. But her new life was going to start. Abigail returned to the living room where she found Mr. Blaise and Mrs. Oakley in conversation.
She set her bags down and came forward, allowing Mr. Blaise to know she was ready. Mrs. Oakley turned to face the young woman. She gave Abigail a warm, kind embrace.
"You are always welcome to visit, Abigail."
"Thank you for all of your kindness, Mrs. Oakley. Give my thanks to the reverend as well."
Mr. Blaise got up out of his chair by the fire and stepped out and into his open barouche. The manservant attended to Abigail, helping her with her suitcases and into the barouche. She sat opposite of her employer and waved goodbye to Mrs. Oakley. Soon they were off down the rugged path. Ever so often, the wheel would bounce over a rock, making the ride rather uncomfortable. Ten minutes or so passed before the barouche came up to a rather large country house.
It was far grander than the house Abigail stayed at the past three nights. It was made entirely of red brick, two large stories and an attic. It very much reminded Abigail of the city houses she saw in Denver. The house was built in the same fashion. The house itself was surrounded by aspen and pine, the outside walls decorated with blue flowers Abigail had not seen before.
"This is one of the first houses here at Idaho City to have the new electric light. Mrs. Blaise is quite in raptures." Mr. Blaise crowed, proudly. "I'll have my manservant bring your belongings to the room you'll be staying in. In the meantime, I should like you to wait here. I'll bring the children."
Somewhere in one of the rooms after Mr. Blaise had departed, Abigail could hear the piano being played. It was a gentle playing but soon enough the sound was blocked with footsteps and chatter. Five children in all descended the stairs, all watching Abigail and whispering. Some giggled and one of them snorted as they lined up in front of their new governess.
"Children," Mr. Blaise said, "this is your new governess, Miss Winston. She will be providing you with your education. I trust you will treat her respectfully. If not, your governess will make a full weekly report to your mother and me. Am I understood?"
There were murmurs of agreements from the children. Three boys and two girls in all, Abigail saw, but the eldest son – as she had discovered was studying over in the East at William and Mary. Mr. Blaise nodded once at Abigail, standing off to the side, watching how she reacted with his children.
"You're not old – you're too young to be a governess." One of the boys exclaimed, noticing how young she was. "You can't be much older than Jonathan."
"I am quite experience, I assure you. As for formalities, you may call me Abigail or Miss Abigail. There is no need at home to call me Miss Winston. What are all your names and how old are you?"
"I'm James, I'm fourteen." The second oldest said. "These are my brothers Mark and Anthony, they're ten and seven. My sisters, Louisa and Fredricka, six and four. Our oldest brother is studying at William and Mary to become a doctor. What do you think of that profession, Miss Abigail?"
"I think it a very heroic profession. He can help save many lives one day." Abigail replied, with a smile.
She could see Mr. Blaise with a ghost of a smile across his face.
"Alright children, to bed, you will begin your lessons with Miss Winston starting Monday."
Uniformly, the Blaise children retreated upstairs.
"The manservant will show you to your rooms, Miss Winston. In the morning for breakfast you can join the servants in the kitchen. Undoubtedly, Mrs. Blaise will summon you for a brief interview after breakfast in the tea room."
Abigail nodded and followed the manservant upstairs. She was led down a corridor and then up another flight of stairs to the servant's quarters.
"Your room, Miss Governess," the manservant said, opening the door.
"Thank you," Abigail replied, walking in.
It was smaller than the room she had at the Oakley farmhouse. She sighed as she placed her luggage down, sitting on the edge of the bed after. This was it. There was no going back now. Abigail decided then it was time for herself to prove to all those who were against this venture that she can do this.
. . .
The first handful of weeks took Abigail a little while to get adjusted to, figuring out the rhythm of her schedule. It was an alteration for the children – a rather sudden change to their every day life. The elder boys of the family were finding it somewhat difficult to have such a young woman – someone so close to their own age being their teacher. Abigail feared she was ordering the boys about too often. The eldest at home, James, was the most stubborn. Though he did his schooling well, Abigail found it far more difficult to reach the young teenager.
Later that afternoon when the children were on their hour recess, James sought his governess in the library. She was sitting at the desk scribbling away. He cleared his throat as he entered, startling Abigail. She put down her wooden quill and closed the book she'd been reading from.
"Hello, James, I thought you and your siblings were on a brief recess from studies." Abigail said, standing up.
"We are." James replied, rather awkwardly. "The thing is – I didn't want to tell Mother or – or Father,"
"Louisa's injured herself. She fell from a tree and is badly scratched. I don't know if she's broken anything."
Abigail's eyes widened, hurriedly followed James to the yard where she found his siblings all around Louisa. The little girl was crying silently, clutching her wrist and looking down at her bleeding knee. Abigail dropped immediately to her side, lifting Louisa into her arms.
"Louisa, will you tell me how you fell?"
"I didn't fall," she said, with sniffles. "Anthony pushed me."
"I did not you little weasel!" Anthony growled, kicking dirt towards them.
"Anthony!" James snapped.
"Yes, you did! I was trying to climb the tree to see a butterfly and he shoved me over. I lost my grip and fell."
Louisa was in full sobs.
"Alright, Louisa, I'm going to bring you inside. I want the rest of you into the library waiting for me. You have one hour to think about what you've done and the choice to tell me the truth about what really happened. James, could you bring your brothers and sister to the library?"
The eldest nodded and ushered his siblings inside. Abigail carried Louisa to the kitchen where the maid servant was already there.
"Martha, could I get some warm water, disinfectant and a bandage?" she asked the household maid.
Martha nodded and quickly went to work in assisting Abigail. Louisa continued sniffling, but no more tears fell. Martha and Abigail helped to clean the wound and bandage it up. Martha checked the wrist for sprains – there were no broken bones or sprains, just a little bruising.
"You are an incredibly brave girl, Louisa. How do you feel?"
"Better," Louisa said, with a small smile.
Martha handed her a cup of milk and a cookie. Happily, Louisa ate and drank and soon enough was on her feet again, walking beside Abigail to the library. The closer they got, the more yelling they could hear. Deliberately, Abigail stomped louder to signal her coming. The children within the library hissed at one another and quieted down as they saw their governess coming with Louisa.
The young governess pushed the door open, seeing the children standing in line against the bookshelf. James and Anthony were fuming. Mark and Fredricka were both looking down, avoiding any eye contact with everyone. Abigail ushered Louisa to go sit in the chair by the fire. Once prepared, she looked at the others.
"Mark, Fredricka, go sit with Louisa. I would like a word with James and Anthony."
The two obeyed and went to keep their youngest sister company. Anthony glared at Abigail, his jaw set. He was infuriated, and Abigail wondered if she could reach through this temperamental boy who was almost a teenager.
"Anthony, did you push your sister over?" Abigail asked, gently.
He looked away, breathing out heavily. Abigail sat down on the chair in front of him, watching his movements. James stood beside them, also watching his younger brother – wondering how he could be so stubborn.
"Can you tell me what happened?" she asked again.
"What do you think happened? The weasel fell over – she's clumsy and stupid." Anthony snapped, angrily.
"I am not!" Louisa cried, standing up from her place.
"Yes, you are! You'll do anything to get all the attention!" Anthony yelled, fiercely.
"Anthony, shut up!" James exclaimed.
"Boys, that's enough!" Abigail shouted, startling all the children. "I do not condone the way any of you are treating one another! I understand you are all going through a change in your life, but you are called to respect and love one another! This fighting is doing no one any good!"
The temper within Abigail flared – the children all looked at her surprised, save for Anthony who continued to glare at her through tears.
"I hate you – I hate the fact you are here ruining our lives!" he shouted and stormed out, slamming the door behind him.
Abigail winced at the door being slammed. The children were all in stunned silence. James and Abigail shared a look before he, too, quietly left the library.
"I'll go find him and talk to him. If not, I'll let my father deal with him." James said, before he left.
Abigail stood there, slightly shaken at her own temper flaring as well as the effect Anthony had on her. She was shaken by the amount of rage he had within him. He was merely a boy of ten. She looked down when a tugging on her dress distracted her. Fredricka looked up at her, eyes filled with concern and question. She looked like she was about to cry. Abigail picked her up and went to go sit with the younger children.
"Would you all like to read a story?"
There was a mutual consensus with the children. Abigail picked up the children's fable book that was on the stool by the fire. For the next hour or so, she spent time reading stories to the younger ones, doing all the different voices. The children smiled and laughed ever so often, warming Abigail's heart. Fredricka continued to sit on her lap as she read the fables. She stopped when she heard the library door open. Mr. Blaise entered, leaving the door ajar behind him.
"Children, I would like you to go play upstairs. I'd like to have a word with Ms. Winston."
The three children obeyed their father immediately. Abigail stood up, straining the skirts of her dress. She folded her hands behind her back. Mr. Blaise looked at the young woman before him – clearly seeing her distress of the recent events.
"Forgive me, sir, I had not meant –,"
With a wave of his hand, she was silenced.
"Anthony is going to receive his punishment. I would like to have a weekly report of my children's conduct and education. If you would be so kind as to deliver them to my study on Fridays once the week is finished."
"Of course, sir," Abigail replied. "Sir if I may be bold?"
"What is your request?"
"Do not punish your son too harshly. He's merely a boy of ten and is struggling. He's in transition of leaving boyhood and turning into a man. I think he wishes to spend more time with you. Only you can teach him what it is to be a true gentleman."
Mr. Blaise hummed, a ghost of a laugh escaping him. He gave Abigail a curt nod before departing.
"Please see to it my children eat their supper and go to bed early, Miss Winston."
He left without another word on the matter of his son. Abigail was baffled – uncertain as to why Mr. Blaise showed little to no interest. Momentarily, she left the library in search of the children.