|Publisher:||Baker Publishing Group|
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The Tutor's Daughter
By JULIE KLASSEN
Baker Publishing GroupCopyright © 2012 Julie Klassen
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBefore, however, Lucy had been an hour in the house she had contrived a place for everything and put everything in its place.
The Naughty Girl Won, circa 1800
Five Years Later April 1817
Twenty-one-year-old Emma Smallwood carefully dusted the collection of favorite books atop her dressing chest. It was the one bit of housekeeping she insisted on doing herself, despite Mrs. Malloy's protestations. She then carefully wiped her cherished teacup against any dust particle daring to lodge there. The cup and saucer were a gift from her motherfine porcelain rimmed with real gold.
Emma set the cup and saucer back atop the leather-bound volume of Sterne's A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy. She angled the cup to best display the image on its sidea lovely painting of a graceful gondola in Venice.
Emma had never sipped from the gold-rimmed cup. But she did like to look at it. To remember her mother, gone these two years. To remember a young man who had once left roses inside it. And to imagine visiting Italy someday herself.
Morning ritual finished, Emma stowed her cleaning supplies and checked the chatelaine watch hooked to her bodice. She closed the cover with a satisfying snap. Precisely as she'd thought. Time to go down and send off their last remaining pupil.
Reaching the bottom of the stairs, she saw Edward Sims standing in the hall, fidgeting with his valise. He wore a smart frock coat and top hat, and looked the picture of a young man ready to take on the world.
"All set, Mr. Sims?"
He turned. "Yes, Miss Smallwood."
Though she was only four years his senior, Emma felt a fondness bordering on the maternal when she looked at the young man who had lived with them for most of the last three years. She glanced around the empty hall. "Has my father bid you farewell?"
Mr. Sims shifted and shook his head. "I have not seen him this morning."
Emma forced a smile. "What a pity. He shall be so sorry to have missed you. I know he wanted to be here to see you off."
Her father ought to have been there. But no doubt he had gone to the churchyard to visit her grave. Again.
Mr. Sims gave an awkward smile. "Tell him good-bye for me, and thank him for everything."
"And I thank you especially, Miss Smallwood. I learned a great deal from you."
"You are very welcome, Mr. Sims. I wish you every success at university."
From the front window, she watched the young man walk past the Smallwood Academy sign, and down the cobbled lane, feeling the wistful letdown she often felt when a pupil left them. This time all the more, since there were no new students to replace him.
The house seemed suddenly quiet and empty. She wished Mr. Sims had a younger brother. Six younger brothers. She sighed. Perhaps even amiable Mr. Sims would hesitate to recommend Mr. Smallwood as tutor, considering how little her father had actually been involved in his education. But how would they pay their cook-housekeeper and maid, not to mention the languishing pile of bills, without more pupils?
Emma walked to the desk in the family sitting room, pulled out the bound notebook she kept there, and flipped past previous lists:
Books read this year.
Books to read next.
Improvements needed to boys' chambers.
Places to visit someday.
New texts and primers to order for next term: None.
Diversions to improve Papa's moods/Improvement noted: None.
Pupils by year.
Her pupil lists, which had grown shorter with each passing year, included notes on each young man's character and his plans for the future.
She turned to the list from three years before, running her finger over the few names, lingering on one in particular.
Phillip Weston. Kind and amiable. Second son. Plans to follow his brother to Oxford and read the law.
The brief note hardly did him justice. Phillip Weston had been her only true friend among her father's pupils over the years.
Seeing his name caused her to turn to another page. Another list.
Prospective pupils for the future: Rowan and Julian Weston?
Emma thought again of the letter she had sent a fortnight before. She knew perfectly well Henry and Phillip Weston had two younger half brothers. Phillip had mentioned them often enough. Julian and Rowan were at least fifteen by nowolder than Phillip when he'd been sent to the academy.
But they had not come.
She had broached the subject with her father several times in the past, suggesting he write to the boys' father. But he had hemmed, hawed, and sighed, saying he was sure, if Sir Giles meant to send his younger sons to them, he would have done so already. No, more likely, Sir Giles and his second wife had eschewed their humble establishment in favor of prestigious Winchester, Harrow, or Eton.
"Well, it would not hurt to ask," Emma had urged.
But her father had grimaced and said maybe another day.
Therefore Emma, who had been acting with increasing frequency as her father's secretary, had taken up quill and ink and written to Sir Giles in her father's stead, to ask if he might consider sending his younger sons, as he had his older two.
She still could hardly believe she had done so. What had come over her? In hindsight, she knew very well. She had read an account of the daring travels of the Russian princess Catherine Dashkov. Reading about the princess's exploits had inspired Emma's rare act of braveryor foolishnesswhichever the letter had been. In the end, her letter apparently made no difference. Her assertiveness had been in vain, for there had been no reply. She hoped if Sir Giles had been offended at their presumption that word of it had not reached Phillip, who was, she believed, still away at university.
Turning a page in her notebook, Emma tapped a quill in ink and began a new list.
Measures to acquire new pupils.
Someone knocked on the doorjamb, and Emma looked up. There stood Aunt Jane, who had let herself in through the side door as usual.
"Mr. Sims departed on schedule?" Jane asked with one of her frequent smiles, punctuated by slightly crooked eyeteeth.
"Yes. You only just missed him." Emma set her quill back in its holder.
Her aunt laid her bonnet on the sideboard and smoothed back her hair. Amidst the brown, Emma glimpsed a few silver hairs that had escaped her ruthless plucking.
Jane, her father's sister, younger by six years, had never married. She lived in the house next door, which had been their parents' home. There she ran a sister school to the Smallwood Academya boarding school for young ladies.
Jane peeled off her gloves. "Dare I ask where your father is?"
Emma shook her head. "He's been gone since breakfast."
Aunt Jane pulled in her lips in a regretful expression, her shaking head mirroring Emma's.
Mrs. Malloy, the Smallwoods' cook-housekeeper, brought in the tea tray and seemed not in the least surprised to see Jane Smallwood there. In fact, three cups already sat upon the tray.
"You will join me, I hope?" Emma asked politely, knowing full well her aunt had planned to do so all along.
"Thank you, my dear."
As if drawn by the warm trail of steam from the kettle or the smell of Mrs. Malloy's shortbread, the front door opened and Emma's father shuffled in, head bowed, thin mouth downturned, looking older than his forty-eight years.
Mrs. Malloy bustled over to take his hat and muffler, scolding, "Mr. Smallwood ... yer shoes are a right mess! And wet trouser 'ems in the bargain. Did ya swim 'ome?"
"Do forgive me, Mrs. Malloy," he said dryly. Irony glinted in his round, blue eyes. "I did not step in that puddle to spite you." He wiped his shoes and looked across at his daughter and sister. "Am I in time for tea?"
"Yes," Emma replied. "Though you have missed Mr. Sims."
Her father blinked, clearly surprised and chagrined. "Left already? Good heavens. I wanted to be here. I do hope you passed along my gratitude and farewells."
"Of course I did."
Her father sat down, rubbing his hands together. "Chilly day. Damp too."
"You ought not to have stayed outdoors so long, John," Jane said. "You'll catch your death."
"I should be so lucky," he murmured.
Aunt and niece shared a look of concern.
Emma poured tea into their plain everyday cups, and conversation dwindled while they partook of the simple repast of hot tea, bread, cheese, and shortbread. Her father ate a little of everything, she noticed, though his appetite was not what it once was.
Emma nibbled bread and cheese but resisted the shortbread, though it was her favorite. Her slim figure was one of the few things her mother had praised. Emma allowed herself sweets only at Christmas and her birthday.
She sipped her tea, then set down her cup. "Well, Papa," she began, "I have started a list."
"Another? What is it this time?"
She felt a flicker of annoyance at his condescending tone but replied evenly, "A list of things we might try to acquire new pupils."
"Ah." He waved a dismissive hand as though the topic were trivial.
Her aunt said more encouragingly, "And what have you thought of so far?"
Emma looked at her gratefully. "A new advertisement in the paper. Perhaps expanding to other newspapers as well, though that would be expensive. A larger sign might help. Our old one is showing signs of wear, I fear. And hardly visible unless one is looking for it."
Aunt Jane nodded. "Yes, a smart, well-maintained sign is very important, I feel."
"Ours is fine," John Smallwood muttered into his tea. "It is not as though parents go wandering through the streets in search of a tutor."
Emma weighed her best course, then said, "You are exactly right, Papa. It is not passersby we need to attract, but rather well-to-do families farther afield."
His eyes dulled, and his mouth slackened. "I just don't have the energy for all of that, Emma. I am not a young man anymore."
"Oh come, John," his sister said. "You have many good years ahead of you."
He sighed. "What a depressing thought."
With a glance at her niece, Jane said, "You have Emma to think of, John, if not yourself."
He shrugged, unconvinced. "Emma is more than capable of taking care of herself. As are you."
At that, Emma and her aunt shared another long look.
If Emma didn't think of some way to help her father soon, they would be in serious trouble, both financially and otherwise. They might very well lose their home and schoolhis only livelihood ... and hers.
* * *
Emma spent the next two days combing her memory and the newspapers for names of families with sons who were not already enrolled elsewhere, as far as she knew. She was hunched over the desk when Mrs. Malloy entered the sitting room with the day's post. "'Ere you go, love."
Needing to stretch, Emma rose and looked idly through the stack, dreading to find more bills or final notices. Her hand hesitated on one of the letters addressed to her father. The return direction: Ebbington Manor, Ebford, Cornwall.
Ebbington Manor was the primary estate of Sir Giles Weston and his family. Excitement and fear twisted through her stomach and along her spine. She had all but given up hope of a reply.
Because her father left it to her to open his correspondenceespecially the increasingly depressing billsshe felt only minor qualms about lifting the seal and unfolding this letter as she had so many others.
She glanced toward the door with a twinge of self-consciousness, then read the lines written in what appeared to be a somewhat hurried hand:
My dear Mr. Smallwood,
Thank you for your letter and your kind interest in my younger sons. You are correct that they have reachednay, surpassedthe age when my two older boys left us to spend a few years with you there in Longstaple. However, Lady Weston feels that our youngest are too delicate to live apart from their mamma. While I personally think the experience would be as good for them as it was for Henry and Phillip, and would no doubt strengthen their developing characters in the bargain, I feel I must defer to my wife's wishes in this matter.
I don't suppose you would consider coming to Ebbington Manor and teaching the boys here at, say, twice the boarding rate? If you could but spend one year here preparing them for university, how ideal that would be for us. Of course I realize that is a great deal to ask, especially considering the loss of your wife, which I was very sorry to hear of. But if you ever desire a change of scenery, do not hesitate to let me know. You would be most welcome. Your daughter as well.
Yours most sincerely, Sir Giles Weston, Bart
Good heavens, what a thought. That her father would give up his established academy to tutor two pupils. What personal service that would be! Many young gentlemen, fresh from university but without fortune, served as tutors in grand houses. But to presume that Mr. John Smallwood would leave his home and academy to do the same ...? Emma felt offended on her father's behalf. Had word gotten around that the Smallwoods were in dire straits? Emma huffed and tossed the letter back onto the pile.
She stood there, stewing. But after vexation passed, she read the letter again. In reality, Sir Giles's tone was perfectly polite, nearly apologetic to even suggest such an idea. He merely wanted to see his sons well educatedall while kowtowing to his wife's irrational coddling.
The first Lady Weston, Phillip and Henry's mother, had died when the boys were quite young. And Emma knew from comments Phillip had made that his stepmother, the second Lady Weston, was somewhat difficultand that she favored her sons by birth far above her sons by marriage. Emma recalled feeling sorry for Phillip when he'd described his tenuous relationship with the woman.
Emma did not recall Henry speaking of his stepmother one way or the other, though she and Henry had not been friends and therefore had not spoken of such personal matters.
Emma thought of Ebbington Manor, a place she had never seen but had often imagined, high on a cliff on the windswept Cornwall coast. Of course she would enjoy seeing Phillip Weston again. But she reminded herself that he was away at Oxford, likely in his third year at Balliol. Not sitting at home waiting for her to visit.
Should she show the letter to her father? She doubted he would even consider the notion, not when he spent hours each day visiting his wife's grave. And if he did agree, what would she dopack up her father and send him off to Cornwall for a year while she remained behind with Aunt Jane?
On one hand, that scenario appealed to her. How many times had her aunt suggested Emma teach with her someday, eventually becoming Jane's partner in the girls' school, if and when she felt comfortable leaving her father on his own?
But her father still needed her. Emma had been helping him for yearsfirst during her mother's long illness and then even more so after she'd passed on and her father's depression of spirits began. Emma wasn't certain he was capable of managing on his own. Although, at Ebbington Manor, he would be responsible for only the boys' education, and not the administration of an entire academyjuggling day scholars, tuition notices, as well as special sessions with the dancing master, drawing instructor, and French tutor. Yes, it might help her father if his focus were narrowed. Yet Emma couldn't be certain, and she couldn't abide the thought of sending him away on his own. What if he should fail? Embarrass himself and suffer the mortification of being dismissed? That would be too much for him to bear in his current state.
You're fretting over nothing, Emma, she chided herself. He won't want to go.
But when she broached the subject after dinner, her father stunned her by straightening and becoming alert, looking at her with more animation than she'd seen in years.
"Did Sir Giles really invite us to come and live there?" he asked.
"Yes, but ..."
"Interesting notion ..." His eyes brightened as he looked toward the ceiling in thought.
"Father, I assure you I did not hint at any such arrangement, only asked if he might consider sending his younger sons to us here."
Her father nodded, but he seemed not at all vexed about the invitation, nor her presumption in writing.
He asked to see the letter, and she produced it.
Excerpted from The Tutor's Daughter by JULIE KLASSEN Copyright © 2012 by Julie Klassen. Excerpted by permission of Baker Publishing Group. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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