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A Governess for the Brooding Duke(8)

By:Bridget Barton

They traveled for several more minutes before finally drawing up to the great gravel apron which seemed to surround Draycott Hall on all sides. The post-chaise drew up on the west side of the mansion without hesitation of any kind; clearly, the driver was no stranger to the estate and very likely drove the mail there on a regular basis.

“Well, you are finally here, Miss Darrington,” the driver said with a cheery smile as he opened the door for her and gave her his arm to help her out.

“Thank you kindly,” Georgette said with a frozen smile. As much as she was grateful to her driver, her nerves had rather begun to overtake her.

“I daresay you will get used to it,” he said with a knowing nod and smiled at her so kindly that Georgette felt a little wave of emotion. “It is certainly a very fine place.”

“Thank you,” Georgette said and smiled this time with a little more warmth. “How very kind of you. And I daresay I will get used to it in time.”

“Right, well I will take your trunk down first, and then I will come back for their mail,” he said with a smile as he disappeared around the back of the carriage to unstrap her large wooden trunk from the back plate.

With the driver distracted, Georgette took a moment to look around her. Standing in front of so large a building she felt tiny and insignificant, her fears getting ready to overwhelm her. As beautiful as everything seemed to be, surely this would never feel like home. And, as large and as luxurious as she thought her own home had always been, it was as nothing to this very fine estate.

For an awful moment, Georgette wanted nothing more than to climb back into the carriage and tell the driver to take her far, far away. She was almost overcome with a sense of dread and the certain knowledge that she would never, ever like the place. She did not want to meet its master, nor any of its servants. In truth, at that moment, she did not even want to meet her infant charges. Georgette simply wanted to run.

Quite without knowing she was doing it, Georgette began to walk backwards and forwards a little on the spot almost. It was as if her feet were making ready to take flight, and she felt almost unable to stop herself.

Hearing the driver groan as he shouldered the heavy trunk, Georgette knew that she would have to get a firm hold of her senses immediately. Taking a deep breath, she smoothed down her skirts, straightened her spine, and held her chin up. Above all things, she must not creep into that house with her head down as if she were ashamed of herself.

“Oh, thank God for that. Here comes one of the footmen,” the driver said, smiling at the smart young man dressed in full livery who was approaching to provide assistance. “This is surely not your job, but I shan’t turn the offer down,” he went on and laughed.

“I do not mind a bit of heavy lifting now and again,” the footman said and smiled back.

“Thank you kindly,” Georgette said, keen to let the young footman know that she was grateful for his assistance.

“Think nothing of it,” he answered in rather a flat sort of tone, certainly flatter than the one he had used for the driver. “Shall we?” he added, more to the driver than to Georgette, but she followed them nonetheless.

As she followed the two men down the side of the west wing of Draycott Hall, she very quickly realized that she would be entering the building via the tradesmen’s entrance. Quite whether she would always be expected to enter thus, she could not tell.

When Georgette saw a woman of rather stern appearance in a stiff looking and plain black gown approaching her, the importance of which door she entered through seemed to leave her. She could not help thinking she had more imminent concerns.

“Miss Darrington, you have arrived at last,” the woman said rather harshly. “I am Mrs Griffin, the housekeeper here at Draycott Hall.”

“How very nice to meet you, Mrs Griffin,” Georgette responded as brightly as she could manage, hoping her nerves were not showing through the facade of calmness.

“I shall first take you through to meet Mr Pearson, the butler, and then you shall be shown the entire below-stairs area. Not that I suppose you will be spending a great deal of time here,” she said, seeming rather keen to show her displeasure. “But, nonetheless, it is wise for you to know where you are going if you need to come down here for anything.”

“Yes, wise indeed,” Georgette said, still brightly but certainly not keen to engage the woman any further. She would simply listen to what she was being told and look at what she was being shown. Too much of an attempt at conversation would very likely not be wise at that moment.