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Authors: Anne Brear

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Virtue of a Governess

BOOK: Virtue of a Governess
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V
irtue

of a

G
overness

By

 

Anne Brear

 

KNOX ROBINSON
PUBLISHING
London • New York

KNOX ROBINSON
PUBLISHING

3rd Floor, 36 Langham Street

Westminster, London W1W 7AP
&

244 5th Avenue, Suite 1861
New York, New York 10001

 

Knox Robinson Publishing is a specialist, international publisher of historical fiction, historical romance and medieval fantasy.

 

Copyright © Anne Brear 2013

 

The right of Anne Brear to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Knox Robinson Publishing, or as expressly permitted by law, or under terms agreed with the appropriate reprographics rights organization. Enquiries concerning the reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Knox Robinson Publishing, at the London address above.

 

You must not circulate this book in any other binding or cover and you must impose the same condition on any acquirer.

 

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

 

ISBN 978-1-908483-57-7

 

Printed in the United States of America
and the United Kingdom.

 

First published by KRP in Great Britain in 2013.

First published by KRP in the United States in 2013.

 

Cover design by Karolina Rekas

 

Typeset in Adobe Caslon Pro by Susan Veach
[email protected]

 

Download the KRP App in iTunes and Google Play to receive free historical fiction, historical romance and fantasy eBooks delivered directly to your mobile or tablet.

 

Watch our historical documentaries and book trailers on our channel on YouTube and download our podcasts in iTunes.

 

www.knoxrobinsonpublishing.com

Chapter One

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

 

July, 1867

 

Nicola stood on the worn deck, one hand holding the rail, the other raised to shield her eyes from the sun’s harshness reflecting off the dark water. A cool breeze rippled over her, reminding her that July in this part of the world was winter. Not much else seemed different for she was used to the strange looking trees now, as they’d been hugging the coastline for a few weeks. At first, the sharp smell of the eucalypt trees, with their thin grey-green leaves and the piercing squawks of unfamiliar birds had been a novelty after weeks of ocean. She had filled a sketchbook of the new land in the glimpses she’d been afforded from the ship’s deck. Once settled, she’d do many more and try to sell them. Lord knows she needed any income available.

Shaking her head, she pulled her black shawl tighter around her shoulders, closing her eyes for a moment. She had to think positive thoughts. But, try as she might, the confidence, which had made her tempt such a drastic alteration to her life, began to ebb as easily as the tide beneath the ship. The excitement that gripped her on the wharves at Liverpool had vanished on waking this morning and realising that today they would dock, her ocean journey would end and a new life in a new country would start.

Behind her the ship’s crew urgently jostled each other as they prepared to disembark. Amongst the flotilla of the vast harbour, a small white boat sailed towards the Lady Fair, the ship that had cradled her for seventy-one days. An easy voyage the crew stated, but she was simply relieved to have reached the other side of the world without mishap.

A weather worn deckhand paused by her side. “Ere, Miss, yer off on’t first boat?”

She turned to him, unable to smile for the nervousness that coiled her insides like the rope loops the sailors twisted. “Yes, if I am able. Is that it there?”

He looked to the small boat coming close to rub alongside the hull. “No, that’s the pilot’s boat, taking him back ashore. He’s done his job and got us safely through the harbour.”

“Oh, I see.”

“Yer passed all clear?”

“Yes, Mr Gyngell, the surgeon, signed my papers. I’m in excellent health.” She glanced away as a line of rowboats headed towards them. The first one bumped alongside the ship’s bulk. The flurry of activity in securing the small boat kept her speechless for a moment. She gazed over at the busy wharves and nibbled her upper lip in apprehension. She would need all her strength and well being to cope with what was ahead.

A vista of sailing ships, timber warehouses, pale stone buildings and narrow streets opened out before her. People scurried like mice found in a corn barrel. For a fleeting moment she wished one of those people were meeting her.

“How much do yer have below, Miss?” the seaman asked patiently.

“One trunk.”

He bent down to grasp her green velvet carpetbag. “Is this going over the side with yer?”

“Yes, thank you.” She followed him to the rail where the First Mate stood giving orders. She interrupted the officer. “Excuse me, may I go ashore now?”

The First Mate, Jones, flashed her a short smile. “Ah, Miss Douglas. I see from my list you have been passed by the ship’s doctor and your papers are correct.”

“Yes. Thank you.”

“Is there anyone coming aboard to meet you, Miss Douglas?”

“No.” She raised her chin in defiance to her plummeting heart. She would cope alone. Hadn’t she been doing it for two years? Would this new place, this new town...Sydney be very different from home? The country was full of Englishmen, her people; they had the same language and customs. What did she have to worry about?

“Very well, since all is in order—”

‘Thank you.” She nodded once, her gloved fingers gathering her black skirts in preparation to descend into the little boat below. With a deep breath, she climbed down the rope ladder until thick hands held her steady at the bottom.

Gripping the sides of the rowboat, she balanced herself and sat down. She was used to the gentle sway of the ship, but the rowboat’s wild rocking as it filled with passengers alarmed her and she clutched her bag in mounting fear of being flung into the shadowy blue-green depths just inches away.

The crew settled themselves into the pull of the oars and the regular splash while they crept towards the wharf calmed the rocking and her. The fresh saltiness on the breeze tickled her nose. Land noise, not heard for some time, assaulted her ears as the wharf’s steps loomed ahead. She tried to think clearly, to order her thoughts, only the feeling of trepidation made it difficult.

With a bump and a grind against green slime-covered stone steps, the rowboat was quickly secured and before she was aware, men handed her up the slippery steps and onto the wharf. The incessant noise, the sharp smells and the confusing sights of a busy dock area reeled her senses making her giddy. Her heart thudded. It seemed as though the wharf swayed, but she knew it didn’t. How long would it take to get her land legs?

People crowded around, calling and talking, all busily going about their business. She shrank from a man who stalked by whistling loudly. Faces came and went in front of her and for a moment she couldn’t take a step for the press of the crowd. Panic rose threatening to choke her. What should she do? A frightened moan escaped and she glanced around in mounting alarm. The carefully constructed plans she’d made on the voyage lay in tattered pieces floating around her mind. Nothing sensible formed and she had to fight the desperate urge not to cry.

No, she must focus. She blinked rapidly, took a deep breath and fought for calm.

Her sleeve was suddenly pulled. An urchin with a dirty face pushed back his cap and grinned at her. “Want a cab, Miss? For a penny I can get your luggage to George Street. Do you have an address? Do yer want food? Drink?”

“No…” His persistent questions jabbed at her, leaving her even more unable to think clearly. “No, thank you.”

The urchin grabbed her bag. Instinctively, she wrenched it from him. “Get away from me!”

The boy laughed and ran off, leaving her trembling. She walked a few steps, the call of a newspaper boy filling her ears as he yelled out the latest details of the flooding disaster at Windsor. For one strange moment she thought he meant Windsor in England, but soon realised there must be another Windsor in this country.

“Miss Douglas!”

She turned and sagged in relief. First Mate Jones from the Lady Fair walked towards her, carrying her trunk over his shoulder as though it weighed no more than a bag of flour. He dumped it at her feet with a smile that showed a broken front tooth.

“You are kind.” She pushed back a stray tendril of hair that had escaped from under her hat. “I had quite forgotten about it.”

“Not a bother, Miss. It’s not hard to get muddled in a new port.” He swiped off his cap and wiped his sweating brow. “I’ll be glad to see the sun go down, that I will, for then we are ashore on leave for a week.” He smiled again and she returned it.

“And you deserve it. It’s been a long journey.”

“Are you waiting for a cab?”

“No…” She gazed around. “I’d rather not waste money on that. Perhaps I can walk…I need accommodation…” Looking around at the hundreds of strangers filling the area, she doubted her sanity. How had she expected to cope alone in this place? She knew no one. Simply leaving the wharf would prove difficult with no clear direction of what to do. Where would she go?

“Listen, Miss, you need to get yourself up into town proper like, away from here. It’s not the place to be, for a young lady like yourself, when it’s dark.” His dark eyes shone with sympathy at her plight. “Spend the money to get a hansom cab and find a decent hotel. There’s plenty about the city. Hire a room for tonight so you can get your bearings and rest up a bit. Everything will seem better in the morning.”

She nodded. He talked sense. A hotel, of course. She didn’t want to be here at nightfall and a good night’s sleep always made things seem better the next day. “Thank you. I will.”

“Have you been cleared through immigration yet?”

“No.” Her spirits sank once more. She’d completely forgotten. How foolish was she? Had she lost all common sense? Her father wouldn’t know her if he saw her standing in such a muddle. What was wrong with her?

“Right, then.” He heaved her trunk back up onto his shoulder. “It’s over here. Follow me.”

“You are extremely good, thank you.” The hollow ache of being alone lifted slightly and she quickened her step as he strode out amongst the teeming dockside.

The immigration building was airless and the rank odour of unwashed bodies made her breathe through her mouth. Rows of tables lined the far wall, and she spied other members from the ship in the snaking lines.

“I have to get back to the ship, Miss.” Jones deposited her trunk on the floor inside the building. “You’ll be all right now?”

“Oh yes. Thank you again.”

Jones grabbed a boy who lingered by the doorway. “You, mind this lady’s trunk until she comes back and you’ll get ha’penny for your troubles. Yes?”

“Aye, mister.” The boy promptly sat on the trunk and picked at his dirty chipped fingernails.

“Here. I think you need this more than me.” Jones opened her hand and placed a half crown in her palm. “Good luck, Miss Douglas. I hope you’ll be happy.” He slipped away before she could thank him once more.

Staring at the half crown, emotion welled. There were kind people in the world. The First Mate had been particularly nice to her the whole voyage and often sought her out to chat in the evenings. He said she reminded him of his sister, whom he sorely missed back home in England. Generously, he had spent time with her and supplied information about the new country she’d be calling home.

She tucked the coin into her skirt pocket and took out a farthing from her own meagre supply in her reticule and handed it to the boy. “You’ll get another when I come back. I’ll be watching, mind! So don’t try anything.”

“Yes, Miss.”

As Nicola joined the queue she felt Jones’s half crown against her leg. It would be her talisman for the future. She would never spend it...unless she was desperate, but hopefully it would never come to that. The line surged forward and she turned back to watch the boy, but he was busy scratching his head and paying no attention to anyone. Unlike the urchin on the wharf, he seemed happy to earn his money truthfully and she relaxed a little.

BOOK: Virtue of a Governess
3.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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