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In the Land of the Long White Cloud

In the Land of the Long White Cloud

Titel: In the Land of the Long White Cloud
Autoren: Sarah Lark
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    The Anglican Church in Christchurch, New Zealand, is seeking decent young women, well versed in housekeeping and child rearing, interested in entering into a Christian marriage with highly esteemed, well-situated members of our congregation
    H elen’s gaze fixed briefly on the unobtrusive advertisement on the last page of the church leaflet. The teacher had browsed through the booklet while her students worked silently on a grammar exercise. Helen would have preferred to read a book, but William’s constant questions broke her concentration. Even now, the eleven-year-old lifted his brown mop top from his work.
    “In the third paragraph, Miss Davenport, is it supposed to be
    Helen pushed her reading aside with a sigh and explained to the boy, for the umpteenth time that week, the difference between definite and indefinite relative clauses. William, the youngest son of her employer, Robert Greenwood, was a handsome boy, but not exactly gifted with a brilliant intellect. He needed help with every assignment and forgot Helen’s explanations faster than she could give them; he knew only how to gaze with touching helplessness at grown-ups, roping them in with his sweet boyhood soprano. Lucinda, William’s mother, fell for it every time. Whenever the boy snuggled up to her and suggested they do some little project together, Lucinda scrapped the after-school tutoring that Helen had arranged. For that reason, William still could not read fluently, and even the easiest spelling exercises were hopelessly over his head. Attending a university like Cambridge or Oxford, as his father dreamed, was unthinkable.
    Sixteen-year-old George, William’s older brother, could not even be bothered to feign patience for his younger brother. He just rolled his eyes and pointed to the spot in the textbook where the exact sentence that William had been puzzling over for half an hour was given as an example. George, a lanky, gangling boy, had already completed his Latin translation assignment. He always worked quickly, although not always flawlessly; the classics bored him. George simply could not wait to join his father’s import-export business. He dreamed of travel to faraway lands and expeditions to the new markets in the colonies that were opening rapidly under the rule of Queen Victoria. George was without a doubt a born merchant. He already demonstrated a talent for negotiation and knew how to use his charms to considerable effect. Now and then he even succeeded in tricking Helen into shortening the school day. He made an attempt that day, after William finally understood what he was supposed to do—or at least, where he could copy the answer. When Helen reached for George’s notebook to check his work, the boy pushed it aside provocatively.
    “Oh, Miss Davenport, do you really want to bother with all that right now? The weather’s far too lovely for school. Let’s play a round of croquet instead…you need to work on your technique. Otherwise, you’ll just have to stand around at the next garden party, and none of the young chaps will notice you. Then you’ll never get lucky and marry a lord, and you’ll have to teach hopeless cases like Willy for the rest of your days.”
    Helen rolled her eyes and cast a glance out the window, wrinkling her brow at the dark clouds.
    “Lovely notion, George, but the rain clouds are rolling in. By the time we’ve tidied up here and made it to the garden, they’ll be emptying themselves out over our heads, and that won’t make me any more attractive to the young nobles. How could you even think such a thing?”
    Helen attempted to assume an emphatically neutral demeanor. She was quite good at it: when one worked as a governess to high-society Londoners, the first thing one learned was to master one’sfacial expressions. Helen’s role was neither that of a family member nor of a common employee. She took part in the communal meals and often in the family’s leisure activities but took care not to offer any unsolicited opinions or to otherwise draw attention to herself. In any case, she would never have found herself casually mixing with the younger guests at a garden party. Instead, she generally stood off to the side, chatting politely with the ladies while surreptitiously keeping an eye on her charges. Of course, her gaze occasionally alighted on the younger male guests, and then she would sometimes indulge in a brief romantic daydream, in which she strolled
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