"What do you mean?" Asked Mrs O'rourke, looking at her daughter with both bewilderment and awe.
"I got the job mama!" Repeated Evangeline.
Her whole family stared, unsure what to say, her mother was pleased, she could tell but she was fearful also, what on earth did her dear, sweet, girl know about the ways of the gentry? They lived on a farm and a poor farm at that! They were only just above the station of a beggar if truth be told and had never learned how to speak properly or hold themselves in proper company because they'd never had any.
"Well no one is else is going to say it are they?" Said her sister Liza, she was tall and had skin like peaches and cream with dark blonde hair that cascaded about her shoulders in a gold and auburn wave. Evangeline had always wished she could look more like her big sister as she herself was small and as pale as milk with hair and eyes so dark they looked almost blue in the light. Her mother had often pinched her cheeks as a child to create a blush but as soon as the rose had flared it had faded.
"You are not of the proper station to be a maid!" Continued her sister, "you know you will be beaten for not knowing the way of things, little Alice Copley went to be a maid and her mother said she was beaten for everything she did wrong even if she did not know what the wrong was!"
"I shall learn", said Evangeline in little more than a whisper,
"And what of your duties? Do you even know what a maid does?" Demanded her sister, her frustration turning her whole face pink.
"They clean and... fetch things... and tend to people's need's is all", said Evangeline.
"Eve", came the voice of her father, "how much will they pay you?"
"Oh I don't like the sound of these beatings, John, I'm not sure this is a good idea", said her mother.
"How much, Eve?"
After Evangeline had told her father the sum she would receive for her work in the big house he declared he'd let all five of his daughters take a beating a couple of times a week as they might be able to afford to eat properly again. She hadn't told them what had happened when she had gone looking for a job as it had been strange but she didn't suppose it mattered now. She had been sat in the kitchen in a dress she had made from the old curtains Mrs Morris had been about to throw away. The fabric had seen much better days as it was faded and worn but she had made a very neat job of it and besides its obvious age it was a rather nice dress. Mrs Bishops was the housekeeper, she wore a long black dress with sleeves that extended all the way to her wrists and a collar that fastened up to the top of her neck and concluded in a small, frill of white lace. Her boots were black and polished to a perfect shine and her hair was steel and in an impeccable top knot.
She stared at Evangeline with fierce eyes, from her messy pony tail tied in a scraggly ribbon, to her obviously ancient dress. She was as skinny as any girl she had ever cast her eyes on and pale too, obviously she didn't eat well which meant she was poor and most likely uneducated.
"So, Mrs O'Rourke" she had said,
"Please, it's Miss O'Rourke", replied Evangeline, Mrs Bishops had raised an eyebrow at that.
"Nineteen and unmarried, are you willful or rude?"
"Oh not at all Miss, that is to say, Mrs Bishops, I'm just not acquainted with a lot of men and having an older sister with no husband it doesn't seem proper that I be introduced", answered Evangeline in a hurried stutter.
"Oh goodness me, well it seems no one at all wants to burden themselves with a wife from your brood MISS Evangeline, I can only assume you're family are seen as improper, and we can't have girls like that working here, the Duke would not like it".
"Only one person can speak for what the Duke may or may not like", said a voice from the doorway that Evangeline hadn't even noticed was open.
"Your Grace!" Said Mrs Bishops jumping to attention with a curtsy, "I hadn't realised you were here, forgive me".
Evangeline tried to see who was there but the doorway was round a corner and only just visible so the Dukes face remained undisclosed.
"Can she read and write?" He asked,
"Yes!" Said Evangeline realising at once that it had been wrong to shout out.
"And I presume she can take orders?"
This time Evangeline stayed quiet but nodded enthusiastically at Mrs Bishops who gave her a look of displeasure and then turned back to the Duke to say,
"Yes your Grace",
"Then she starts tomorrow".
Evangeline had not been raised with the knowledge of how to read, her grandmother had taught her the basics and once she knew how to read books she flew. All those hours spent memorising the shapes and their accompanying sounds and now she had a job that would make her life so much more than she had ever thought it could be.
That night she dreamed of the door way where she had heard the voice of the Duke and she had dreamed of whispering words that she could not understand but made her heart race. She walked towards the doorway, his words beckoning and promising and making her yearn to see his face and know what he wanted from her but as she turned to look upon the man she woke and the revelation was lost.
She had been given a uniform by Mrs Bishops and told to attend at five in the morning, clean and with her hair looking "respectable" so she woke her sisters Liza and Mary to help. They put her in a metal tub and poured icy water over her head and naked body, scrubbing at her delicate, snowy skin until it shone pink.
They plaited her long, sable hair and twisted it around it's self into a neat bun and fastened it in place with with the ribbon from before but tucked it under the twist to hide it.
"You'd better run Eve, it's almost time", said Mary, her chestnut hair a mass of matted disarray.
Evangeline kissed her sisters goodbye and set off to the big house feeling like real life was only just begining. She had been walking for about ten minutes when she was stopped by Andrew Fishburne, he was thirty eight and ruddy faced with hands like hams and teeth the colour of straw. He had always been very interested in Evangeline and she had always been polite as he himself owned a farm that was a great deal more successful than her fathers and she knew he had given them money before now but his breath smelled of stale smoke and his body was mixture of odours, mostly sweat, partly cattle.
"Little Evangeline, where are you headed?" He asked, taking hold of her hand, she withdrew it as gently as she could and smiled.
"I have a job Mr Fishbourne, it's my first day",
"A woman shouldn't have to work" he mused, "it's not proper".
"Oh it's as proper as jobs come Mr Fishbourne, it's in the big house as a maid and I'm late as it goes so I must say goodbye to you Mr Fishbourne", and with that she escaped his gaze and set off at a faster pace.
By the time she reached the manor of Duke Mason Blackledge she was out of breath and the look that Mrs Bishops gave her was not favourable. A few wisps of hair had escaped their place and her cap was off center but as she was late she was sent straight to her duties.
She spent hours polishing cutelery and making beds in the vast building, most had already been made but she still had to enter each room with another girl named Elsie to check all the linen and neaten up any corners and dust. Maids usually had specific duties but she had the position of "maid of all work" which meant where she was needed she would go. By afternoon she was exhausted and just wanted to sleep but Mrs Bishops entered the kitchen and gave her a cruel smile obviously recognising her lethargy.
"The Duke will be back from his horse riding soon, you must fill a bath upstairs with hot water, Elsie will show you what to do but-" she turned to Elsie, "don't dawdle, as soon as she understand what is to be done I need you in the laundry room".
Both the girls curtsied and Evangeline followed Elsie, feeling foolish at having to be shown anything by a girl of fifteen.
They carried a tin tub up to the Dukes room by two large handles, as Elsie explained,
"You must fetch water from the kitchen, nice and hot, fill the tub and leave out some soap and a cloth and a brush for washing, theme a screen in his room that needs to go round the bath to keep out drafts and you can't forget the towel. His man will dress him, don't worry about putting out clothes or nothing and when he's done it must be taken away again".
The dukes room was vast, a huge four poster bed dominated with drapes tied back to the posts of dark, green velvet. The curtains matched the bed and the carpet was off white, as we the walls all coved with delicate patterns and gold framed pictures. The was a fire place bigger than Evangeline had ever seen beside which they placed the tub then Elsie left.
Evangeline followed her instructions, running up and down the stairs to fill the bath and had entered with the final jug when she paused. The screen that surrounded the bath had a pair of trousers thrown over top and then she heard the sound of water swishing back and fourth. She stood for a minute before turning but then he spoke,
"Are you going to make me ask?" His voice was even heavier and richer than she had remembered in her dreams and made her voice come out in little more than a squeak.
He sighed with frustration and continued, "the water, bring me the damn water, girl!"
She managed to come to her senses and rushed forward with the jug, stopping momentarily at the screen.
"Should I leave it here my Lord?" She asked, more nervous than she knew she could be,
"Tell me, what good would it do me there?" He replied, his words hard yet warm.
She took a deep breath, she did not wan to get fired on her first day, it seemed so improper to be with a man on her own, never mind in such circumstances but she forced herself forwards and placed the jug beside not the tub not daring to make eye contact or even glance toward the man.
"You're the new girl", he said before she could flee,
"Aye my lord",
"It's 'your grace', I am a Duke", he corrected her, she she felt her face burn with the blush and he laughed lyrically.
"You look as though you're embarrassed", he said, she nodded still averting her gaze,
"I am your Grace, I'd like to leave now if you would permit it, your grace".
She heard the water churn and splash with motion and felt her heart almost stop as she felt a hand on her shoulder and she realised he had stepped out of the bath and was standing right behind her.
"Are you afraid of me?" He asked, she took a shaking breath before gathering her composure and standing a little taller.
"No your grace", she answered.
He had felt her spine straighten before she had spoken by had not expected her response. They were like frightened little birds the maids of this house, they ran at the sight of him knowing his brazen attitude and his reputation toward ladies but this girl had fascinated him. He had seen her approach or the interview from his carriage though she hadn't seen him. She was small and all rags and tatters but had walked like any woman who knew her worth, there was fire and a part of him wanted to taste it.
"Won't you look at me?" He asked, she wanted to, oh how she wanted to put a face to that honeyed voice but she knew what was expected of girls who let themselves be led into wrong doing.
"If you cover yourself, your grace", she said in a tone she hoped sounded confident but he chuckled at the way her voice had squeaked.
He allowed his hand to linger on her shoulder for a little longer reveling in her obvious blushes then walked back around the screen into his room. As soon as he'd gone she put her hand to her chest to feel her heart hammering, knowing he had stood there so exposed with a hand on her made her feel like she should run, she had never even kissed a man besides her fathers cheek.
"You can come out now", he said, she slowly came around the screen to see him buttoning up the top of his shirt and he almost took her breath away.
His hair was almost as dark as hers and his shoulders were wide and strong, she could see the outline of his lean, muscled body beneath that thin, white shirt and his jaw was angular and masculine. She had never seen such a man, all the men she knew were over weight or just the opposite and they were as appealing as the livestock they tended but this man was like a sculpture or an angel, so clean and smooth and intimidating.
He looked at her now, seeing her properly for the first time and wondered what she would look like with that black, raven hair falling about her shoulders.
"What is your name?" He asked, she found herself gazing down again almost ashamed at how over come she was by his beauty, worried that he would see the knowing of it in her face.
"Evangeline, your grace", she said,
"Why are you here Evangeline?" He pushed,
"I want more than what I have, you grace",
"No" she said quickly, "I want... to know", she said, not quite sure how to explain what it is to be nothing and know nothing, to have done nothing, she was like a lion born into captivity who knew that there was more but wasn't really sure what that was.
He approached her slowly, she was as white as fine bone china, her eyes made all the darker for it. He wanted to touch it to see if the look matched the feel, he put out a hand toward her face and she gasped but did not move. He liked that, any other girl might have fled but his girl, she wanted to know, and so did he. He gently touched his finger tip to her temple and ever so delicately traced it behind her ear, tucking a lose hair as he went. She almost held her breath as he did, drawing himself closer and closer to her until finally he was so close that she felt she knew he was going to kiss her, she didn't pull back, she could feel his muscled chest brushing her breasts and the heat of his breath and just as she felt she couldn't stand the distance between them for another second he stepped back, breaking the spell.
"It was good to have met you, Evangeline, good afternoon", at that second his man servant stepped into the room and starred at the scene between them. The Duke stood with his hands behind his back, smiling amiably.
Evangeline curtsied and exited the room with as much decorum as she could muster, her brain awake in the strangest way.
The Duke had seen the clock on the wall behind the beguiling girl just as he had been so close to kissing her and known any minute now his man servant would be here to dress him. He had wanted to taste her, to bite those virginal lips and dig his fingers into her skin to see how pink that white skin could really turn but he knew how servants could gossip and he couldn't have her resigning just yet when she had only just gotten so interesting. Was she going to let him kiss her, it had seemed that way or was she just obeying the will of her boss?
Evangeline stood in the cloak cupboard for a moment to get her wits together, what had just happened? All she knew was if it hadn't been for the Duke pulling away she would have let him get as close as he liked though she had never been so scandalous or had such terrible thoughts! Her whole body tingled and parts of her she didn't even know existed tingled even more than the rest of her. She must keep away from the Duke she decided but in her heart she felt she wasn't sure if she could.
For the next two days she managed to avoid seeing the duke by busying herself in the jobs the other girls didn't want to do and he seemed to have enough wit to recognise when he was being ducked.
Nothing much happened except Jenny Mills got herself caned for breaking a cup of fine porcelain and the cost ducked from her wages as well as the fact that there was a rumour going around that the Butler had a secret love child with one of the scullery maids who had left in a hurry.
Evangeline had made a friend of Elsie who was by all rights not a girl of the highest moral standard but still kind and caring and always had a lot of stories to tell although Evangeline was sure most of them were fictional.
It was on the third day that Evangeline found herself trapped, she was in the garden getting water from the well when out he came in his riding gear, the wind making the cotton of his white shirt rise and fall like a translucent tide, every so often exposing the definition beneath. She looked about herself panic stricken, there was no where to run but the large holly bushes behind her.
Dropping the bucket and hitching up the long hem of her dress she ducked underneath, emerging in the dark space that always seemed to form at the center of a holly bush, she used to pretend they were castles as a child when her and her sisters would play in the woods. She kept her eyes fixed on where she had entered, no one seemed to be approaching but then she heard a rustling that made her heart pound! She stepped backwards as slowly and silently as possible, not even daring to breath when her back pressed against something warm and firm. She span around and almost let out a scream as the Dukes hand came down over her mouth and muffled her cries from the outside world.
"Are you avoiding me?" He asked Evangeline who's face was a tableau of utter shock.
"What are you doing?" She said, forgetting herself and hurriedly adding the words "your grace".
"This is my garden" he replied, moving towards her as she stepped back, "what are you doing here?"
"I was getting water and... I fell", she lied and badly too, he liked that she couldn't lie well, it meant she wasn't used to deceiving people and he liked the way that doing it made her blush.
"So, Evangeline, are you hiding from me because you 're afraid of me after all?" He asked, moving even closer and backing her up against the trunk of the bush so she could only move into him, she looked him square in the eyes and felt his heart beat against her own chest.
"Do you want me to be afraid of you, your grace?" She asked,
"I don't really know", he confessed. She was perfect, virgin snow, not a mark on her both physically and sexually, he was willing to bet she had never shared a single tender moment with a man and he wanted to know what she would do in response to his touch if he were to really touch her. She was the purest thing he'd ever seen and he wanted her all for himself, he wanted to press his lips against hers and tease her own to part to kiss her deep and long and know how a heart could pound from just a kiss when they had never felt so much as a caress. He lifted a finger to her mouth and began to delicately trace her lips, she didn't move but her chest began to rise and fall as her breathing deepened. She could feel how rough his fingers were, rich with callouses from the reigns of his horse and other such activities she imagined. His finger left her lips and ran down her chin and onto her neck where it halted at the high rimmed collar of her uniform.
She stared at him, what was he doing? It was so strange, she knew the way he was touching her was entirely inappropriate but it felt right somehow and she wondered if that feeling made her wrong. He used a single hand to unfasten the buttons, using his other to lean against the bush, right beside her head causing his face to lower to centimetres from her own. He could smell her from here, he pressed his cheek against hers and whispered, "what is it that you want to know Evangeline?"
"What?" She asked in words barely audible, feeling his hand unfasten her buttons down to her waist.
"You said you were here because you wanted to know, so what is it you want to know little Eve because I want to know YOU", he explained then taking no time to wait for her answer he turned his head and began to kiss her neck, sliding his hand into her dress to run his fingers over the hard bones of her corset. They slid up her side until they reached her breasts where he pulled the fabric back to expose one to the chilly morning air. Instantly the cold made her nipple pucker and harden and she felt it tingle like before but it was so much more. Her whole body felt alive, she was terrified and thrilled all at once and the mere thought of him touching the rosy nubbin gave her a strange sensation deep in her stomach and loins that was alien but exhilarating and filled her with a yearning and a frustration unknown.
He brushed his fingers against her collar bone then ever so lightly retraced the path with kisses taking in the scent of her skin, so fresh and ripe and untasted, she was delectable and he couldn't wait to know how the rest of her compared in flavour.
Evangeline was in a flood of panic, she wanted him to grab her, to stop with his gentle caresses and take a hold of her body but knew she could not allow such a thing to pass and that even if he did take a hold of her she had no true idea of what would come next and that filled her with dread. All her mother had told her about the duties of a woman to her husband was that it was painful the first time round but she had failed to elaborate any further.
His hand came up to cup her breast but before he could put his mouth against the sweet rosebud he had been eyeing she pulled away from him, turning her body and moving swiftly out of his grasp.
"I have forgotten myself!" She said all a flurry, hastily and clumsily attempting to button her dress, the duke moved towards her and she gasped thinking for second he had decided to take what she had denied but instead he calmly buttoned up her dress, all the while looking her in the eye. It almost pained him as he looked into those big, confused, dark eyes, knowing how she had wanted him, even if she resisted, knowing that beneath the petticoats and layers of fabric modesty, her lips would be wet with waiting though it knew not what it was waiting for.
"Thank you" she said looking down, she felt like she had failed somehow, she had failed to act like a good christian girl but she had also failed to provide what he had wanted, but the truth was he did scare her just not in any way that any one had ever scared her before.
She didn't wait long to leave, running straight into the house and into the path of Mrs Bishops who gave her a look of utter fury.
"Where on earth have you been!?" She demanded but Evangeline couldn't think straight after her interaction with the duke.
"I... I fell", she tried but Mrs Bishops could spot a lie as well.
"Come with me!" Said the older woman, taking Evangeline by the arm and dragging her into another, small room where there was nothing but a cane and a chair.
"Oh please Mrs Bishops, I'll never do it again!" She pleaded but the wicked twinkle in the woman's eye told her it would do no good.
The duke entered the kitchen making all the maids avert their eyes and turn their backs and gasp. He had hoped to walk past Evangeline and see her blushes one last time, he'd been willing to bet seeing him in front of the other girls could turn her whole face scarlet and he'd get the enjoyment without giving the game away. When he saw she was not there he thought to casually get the information from Mrs Bishops but she was gone too.
"Where is Mrs Bishops?" He said to Elsie who replied by pointing to the door of the little room. He looked in to see Mrs Bishops with Evangeline over her knee, petty coats pulled up and bloomers hitched up around her knees with her flawless backside in the air. The cane came down with a swishing noise that sliced the air and landed with a "slap" leaving a perfect pink line across Evangeline's cheeks. She yelped and kicked but Mrs Bishops held her firm and brought it down again. She saw the Duke watching and opened her mouth to speak but he raised his finger to his lips and she fell silent again. Evangeline had thought for a wonderful second it was over when she noted the pause but then it came again, harder than before.
The Duke could feel his cock harden against the cloth of his trousers as she whimpered and yelped and wondered for a moment if he should take the cane from the woman and feel it flex against Evangeline flesh, watch it bruise and ripple with each strike, let her know that she was his now but instead he watched and was sure to leave before the end to keep his presence unknown.
Once Mrs Bishops was through Evangeline was a mass of shame and tears and her backside felt so raw and tender it made her cry to pull her bloomers back up. She had done wrong, so much more wrong than Mrs Bishops knew and she had been rightly punished, so why did she still want to feel the weight of the dukes body against her again as he kissed her neck?
What ever happened she would be sure to never again incur the wrath of Mrs Bishops.