Calm filled the air when she saw several people working to maintain landscape. Her father had obviously spent months planning this and making sure that it would be every bit as breathtaking as it deserved to be. However, she wondered when they left the swamp and entered the beautiful land since the rest of the state had been miserable, at best, to make a way through. Edith looked for glimpses of her father’s latest scheme in terms of a profit, but did not find what she was looking for. The carriage slowed as the approached the manor. Servants lined in front of the house, ready to greet their guests.
She expected to see her father coming from above but did not see him yet. The carriage stopped. She waited for the escorts to get out and unload her things before one helped her out of the confined quarters. As soon as she set one foot on the ground, and popped her head out, the servants bowed.
“Welcome Madam!” they chorused, uniformed in their speech. She did not say anything in return, as it would displease her father if he saw her interacting with the servants in a friendly fashion. She merely walked past them, following her escorts inside. Upon entering, she took in the full detail of her father’s work. A man clad in dress cloths approached them. His head held high and posture impeccable, she waited for him to speak.
“Master Huey is out for the moment, tending to other matters. He says that you should bathe and rest before joining him for dinner later this evening. I will send someone to wake you in a few hours and lead you to the dining hall.”
“Thank you,” she replied. “What is your name?”
“My name is Charles, please do not hesitate to call me when needed. Please follow me to your bedroom in the eastern wing.”
The butler, though similar in many characteristics, was nothing like Weston. No warmth could be found in his eyes and the distance between them was unnerving. She did not say anything while following the gentleman but attempted to memorize the floor plan from sight. From what she could tell, the mansion was larger than the last.
Their journey led her through toward the end of a lengthy hall. Hers was the last on the room in the section. Charles pushed open the door for her. The color scheme for this room was green and deep mahogany. Green drapes laced the outer of her bedroom, obviously to block any sun. Creamy white sheets and blankets covered her bed. A bookshelf stretching from the floor to the ceiling caught her immediate attention. Books packed each shelf, with little room for her old titles. A chair rested near the books along a fireplace. Even if the room was simple compared to others, she enjoyed it all the same.
The butler closed the door behind her, but she didn’t mind. Edith did not explore but simply located the wash room and found a tub filled with hot water. She stripped out of her sweat-drenched clothes and cleaned her skin and hair. The servants had left her with options for sleepwear and she took the lightest item to keep her cool.
The bath left her feeling refreshed but only sated the deep weariness in her bones. Edith climbed into bed and fell into a deep sleep.
Evening came far too quickly in Edith’s mind. Her body protested to the thought of getting up since it was still sore from her journey. Three servants hurried into her room. One of them carrying a large dress. The others, an array of items she had never seen before.
“I can change myself.”
The servants gasped. One of them rushed out of the room while the other two tried to push her in a chair placed in front of the floor-length mirror. As the argument continued, the door to her room burst open. The master of the house—Charles, she recalled—stormed in. The third servant close behind. Gone was the feigned pleasantries. His face hard, aging him more.
“Everyone out,” he ordered.
The servants left. The heavy door closed behind them. Charles circled her, almost as if she were prey. Edith took a deep breath to steel her nerves.
“I knew there would be challenges when dealing with northerners,” he sneered. “I had heard tales of their lack of refinement, but I didn’t expect rebellion as well.”
“What you call rebellion is simply a preference. I would prefer to dress myself.”
Charles openly laughed at her. “That may be what life is in the north, but you are in the south. We have expectations. You do not just represent yourself. You represent your father, his reputation, and societal standards. While you are in my house, you will be dressed as I see fit. You will allow the servants to do their jobs as I have tasked them. Am I clear?”
Edith narrowed her eyes. Working in her father’s business had taught her which battles to fight. This was not one of them.
“I know there will be an adjustment period, but your life will be easier under my house rules.”
She smiled at him. “I’m sure we’ll come to an understanding.” Charles seemed satisfied enough and left her room. Soon, the servants returned. For today, she would concede to the treatment. However, she planned to address the encounter with her father in the morning.
“You are ready, Madam.”
“Thank you,” she replied. Charles opened the door to her room and beckoned for her to follow.
They walked in silence. She attempted to the memorize the way, but the halls all started to look the same. Before long, they were a large room with a table stretching from almost one end to the other. Rich ebony chairs lined against the lengthy piece of hand-carved wood. Two sets were at the table, both next to each other. She looked around to catch sight of the man she desperately wanted to see.
“Edith!” a deep voice cried with joy. She turned around to see a tall, thin man looking at her with a smile stretching across his weathered face. Wiry brown hair draped across his eyes.
“Father,” she said. A smile of her own displayed itself across her face.
“Master Huey, dinner will be served shortly.”
“Thank you, Charles, you’re dismissed.”
The elderly butler left them alone in the room. For now, it seemed like her father was in a good mood, which made her relieved. She started to relax in his presence. Edith walked forward and waited for her father to initiate contact.
“My, you’ve grown more beautiful since the last time I saw you.”
“You haven’t changed a bit,” she replied. “How have you been?”
“Busy, as always. There is never a dull moment when you’re working as hard as I am.”
“I know. I appreciate everything that you’ve done for me, father.”
“Please sit,” he said while beckoning toward the empty table. She obliged. He pulled out her chair and she sat there before he pushed her in. She waited for him to be seated before continuing the conversation.
“How are your studies going, Edith?”
“Very well, father. I am ahead in my work so far. I made sure to study diligently ahead of the trip so I would not be behind.”
“Good, good,” her father said. “I hope you will like it here.”
“While it certainly a different environment, I am quite certain I will get accustomed in no time. Did you set up the fields for your latest project, father?”
“Yes. They expect the fields to be bountiful this year.”
“Are you going to harvest fruit again?”
“No, I decided to do something different.”
“What is that?”
“Since when did you care about my affairs?” her father inquired.
She heard the testiness in his voice. Odd. She had always helped with the family business before.