I've wanted to write a fic involving this pairing for ages and I've finally worked up the nerve.
It might not be the strongest start but I'm hoping it will improve as time goes by.
This scene comprises of mainly the same as the movie, but as the story builds it will have more original scenes.
All thoughts are welcome.
I have confidence in confidence alone...
Maria's cheerful song stuttered to a stop as she caught sight of a set of rather imposing wrought iron gates, her shoulders slumping as her mouth fell ever so slightly agape. She walked dazedly towards the intimidating structure, blinking unsurely at the mansion that sat behind a rather impressive, sweeping driveway. She had never expected such refined elegance, the career of sea captain was obviously much more lucrative than she'd ever thought possible, she'd certainly never seen such a house before.
"Oh help," she murmured weakly, swallowing heavily as she tried to force back her nerves. She took in a deep breath, remembering that she was here on God's errand and that though she might find the experience challenging he would not send her something he did not feel she could cope with.
Swinging her carpet bag and shoulders back, Maria steeled herself and summoning all of her nerve quietly started to sing again as she swung open those intimidating gates. She would be fine, she knew she would. At that calming thought her feet picked up pace as her song careened towards its conclusion, her feet slipping on the gravel although mercifully though she stumbled she did not fall. With her hands full she certainly would have face planted into the dirt and she didn't think dirty and bruised was the best way to meet her new employer.
Her misstep did not stop her song though, and if anything it sped up her jog into a sprint as she flung herself at the front door. In her experience it was best to greet every new challenge with enthusiasm and a smile, because there was always a way through, you simply had to find it.
Finishing her song with a confident flourish, she pressed the doorbell and flopped inelegantly against the sandstone frontage, her hand pressing against her chest as she tried to regain her breath. She was seriously considering taking her hat off to fan herself with when the front door opened. Maria straightened instantly and smiled brightly at the man on the other side. The Captain no doubt, she decided quickly as she scanned his face, not quite what she was expecting, she'd thought he'd have a beard, bushier eyebrows and look much fiercer, this man looked slightly...well weedy if truth be told and not at all what she'd expected from a heroic naval captain.
At that thought she shook herself, she should know better than to judge someone at first sight, people were full of surprises after all. Widening her smile, she greeted him brightly, "Hello. Here I am." The man simply stared at her, his already narrow eyes narrowing further and she had the strangest feeling that he found her rather distasteful. Or perhaps it was simply that the Reverend Mother had been unable to inform him of her arrival; that must be it she decided firmly; why else would he be staring at her thusly? So she in an attempt to be helpful she added, "I'm from the convent. I'm the new governess, Captain."
His face did not clear, his expression unchanged as he told her coolly, "And I'm the old butler, fräulein." His gaze skimming down over her and then back up again, his face an expressionless mask.
That made infinitely more sense Maria decided quickly, and explained his reaction to her, from what she'd read – after all she'd never come across a real life butler before – butlers were meant to act in a certain...uptight way. Still that did not mean they couldn't be polite, friendly even. She grabbed his hand and shook it firmly. "Well, how do you do?"
He ignored her, looking between their now interlinked hands with a mixture of shock and suspicion. "Hmmm," she muttered as she dropped his hand almost as quickly as she'd grabbed it, it probably wouldn't do to make the man uncomfortable. Although why a mere handshake should have such an effect she simply could not understand.
The butler – who's name she still didn't know - stepped to one side, letting her past and she rushed inside, smile wide for all of half a second before it fell again. The hallway was cavernous, the stair case sweeping grandly up on both sides, and a chandelier hanging in the centre of the two storey entranceway. Everything was so grand; she'd never seen such opulence, or indeed an actual chandelier before.
The butler swept past her, telling her firmly, "You'll wait here, please."
Maria barely heard him, her attention focussed solely on her surroundinsg as the neat clipping sound of his footsteps disappeared from earshot. Her eyes darting around the room, she wandered slowly down the steps, placing her bags carefully to one side as she twirled around, marvelling at the detailing. Even the banisters that framed the upper hallway looked intricately carved out, she'd seen such attention to detail at the Abbey, but to have it in one's own home was simply...oh she couldn't even think of the words, and that was certainly not a problem she had very often.
Swinging round she saw a pair of double doors and her curiosity - as it so often did – got the better of her. Almost tiptoeing forward, she pressed her two hands flat against the doors and pushed one open. If it was even possible she felt her eyes widen even further as she stepped unthinkingly into the gilded ballroom, it was just like a fairytale she decided as she moved into the centre of the room. She could almost hear the music and see the dancers, it was exactly as a ballroom should be, and exactly like one she'd dreamed of when she was younger. A smile pulled at her mouth as she lost herself to her childhood dreams of elegance and excitement and dropped into a dramatic curtsey. After all a few seconds of dreaming could do her no harm.
He hated correspondence, Georg decided grimly as he tossed another letter to one side, whilst Agathe may have been content, happy even to write letters to all and sundry within society, it was not a task he enjoyed. His hand stalled on the blank piece of paper he'd pulled out to pen his reply, she'd always had ink smudges on her fingers after she was done he remembered suddenly, and he'd always lifted her hand and kissed them. A dull ache started in his chest at the memory.
Georg shook himself suddenly, this was exactly why he did not want to remember, he had felt enough pain to last a lifetime and he would not subject himself to more. Tennyson was a fool who certainly had never truly loved or lost to have come up with his damnable theory, he decided viciously.
Dropping the pen, he scrunched the paper up in his hand and threw it into the wastepaper basket, the reply could wait, it was certainly not a matter of urgency, or better yet he'd simply phone them later this evening. A knock sounded at his office door, and Georg wasn't sure if he was relieved or irritated, if the caller brought him news of yet another one of his children's pranks it was certainly going to be the latter. "Come in," he called dryly.
The door opened and Franz cleared his throat. "You have a caller, Captain."
His features settled into an even deeper frown, he was not expecting anyone and those who did visit knew better than to do so unannounced. "Who is it?" he asked irritably.
"She claims to be your new governess," Franz replied, his eyebrow arched as though he simply didn't believe the words that were coming out of his own mouth.
Georg looked at him for a second, surely the woman hadn't turned up in full Abbey regalia, although who knew? And perhaps looking like a servant of the Lord might just stop his children in their troublesome tracks. His mouth twitched, no, he decided firmly, that was certainly too much to hope for, if anything they'd simply see it as a new challenge. "Ah yes," he told the man after a moment. "She's from Nonnberg."
Franz didn't reply to that, although his eyebrow did inch slightly higher, any further and it would end up in his receding hairline, Georg thought to himself sourly. He had not wanted to resort to such desperate measure but the fact of the matter was that he had been out of choices, word of his children's reputations had spread and as of yet no-one had replied to the ad he'd had posted. That simply wouldn't do, his children needed a firm hand and good guidance, and he needed not to be around them, not to be around the constant reminder of Agathe and how she'd always been the better parent.
And so the idea of Nonnberg had suddenly appeared in his mind, the nuns were always the picture of restraint and dignity, exactly what he wanted for his children. Anyone of those women would no doubt bring the peace, order and discipline into his home where it was so sorely lacking. He got to his feet feeling slightly more cheerful than he had a few minutes previously, in a few hours his children would be settled back into a calm and detailed routine that would see to their needs and he could return to Vienna, where he might not be any happier, but he certainly wasn't haunted by constant memories of a better time. It was a perfect plan.
Franz followed behind him as he strode confidently into the entranceway to greet his new employee, only to find the large space empty. "She was here, Sir," Franz assured him, stepping past the man and craning his neck upwards as though he expected the woman to drop from the sky. "I even instructed her to wait here."
Georg felt his heart sink slightly, surely his children had not managed to scare her away in the few minutes it had taken him to be informed of her arrival – although in truth he wouldn't put that past them, not with their track record. He looked towards the door, which was still firmly shut, his eyes scanning the upper hallway for any signs of discord only to find none. No she must still be here, he decided firmly. His eyes suddenly fell on the scruffy looking carpet bag that was lodged beside one of the few chairs in the room. It had certainly seen better days, although he supposed that having taken a vow of poverty, it would not bother a nun – or even a postulant who knew and accepted their calling in life. "I think our guest may have gone exploring," he informed Franz grimly. "Go back to work, I'll find her," he instructed him, watching the man scurry away, looking into darkened corners as he went.
Shaking his head, he looked back towards the bag and realised that there was an equally scruffy guitar case sitting next to it. Why on earth would a nun or even a postulant have a guitar? He wondered dazedly. What had they sent him?
His eyes fell on the ballroom door, it was ajar, and he'd made it clear to his staff that it was to be left well alone. He despised that room now, when he was in it all he could remember was Agathe at her best and brightest, twirling around the room, laughing and talking gaily. Surely a woman of God would not have blatantly started looking around his home.
His blood boiled as he stepped forward, pushing the door open so he could see easily inside. The room was dark and so he could only just make out a dowdy figure cavorting around the room. For pity's sake! Was she bowing? She looked utterly ridiculous, it was the sort of behaviour he had expected all but his two youngest children to have grown out of, and it certainly wasn't to be encouraged.
Slamming both doors against the wall, he noted with grim satisfaction that he'd made her jump, and she whirled to look at him, although he still could not make out her features underneath that ludicrous hat.
He stepped to one side, giving her room to run out past him, and he saw her flash him a nervous glance as she darted back out into the entranceway. His tone icy, he informed her, "In the future, you'll kindly remember that there are certain rooms in this house that are not to be disturbed."
Her voice clear, young and bright rang out as she replied, "Yes, Captain, Sir."
Staring into the widened blue eyes that stared at him he realised with a jolt of dismay that he'd been sent some slip of a girl who looked barely old enough to be out of the schoolroom herself. His eyes dropped to look over what was a monstrosity of a dress, it was at least several sizes too big he surmised and it clashed horrifically with her jacket. He was not a man who followed fashion but he still knew a catastrophe when he saw it. Turning to shut the ballroom door he barely managed to suppress a sigh, he had a feeling that despite his previously high hopes this was not to be a successful endeavour.
Not only had she trespassed but she was looking at him as though he'd dropped from the sky in front of her. "And why do you stare at me that way?" he asked, feeling slightly irritable, her eyes were so wide and innocent that he could almost feel them searing through him. A foolish notion, he reprimanded himself swiftly.
She gave him a small, almost half smile as she told him eagerly, "You don't look like at all like a sea captain, Sir."
The words rankled him, what had she had in mind? A man with an eye patch and a parrot? He somehow managed not to snort with derision and instead replied, "I'm afraid you don't look very much like a governess."
Her hopeful smile dropped, as though the idea that she didn't look appropriately attired to the task at hand was only just dawning on her.
"Turn around," he instructed her. He was definitely going to have to put in some damage control before she met the children, because this certainly wouldn't do.
Her eyes widened again, her mouth falling open slightly to gape at him as she stuttered out, "What?"
"Turn," he repeated, twirling his hand patronisingly to signify what he wanted, because apparently words alone just weren't cutting it. She did as instructed and gave a haltering and awkward twirl, her eyes falling back on him when she was done, and she stared at him in confusion.
It was impossible to tell anything when she had that thing on her head. "Hat off," he barked.
This time she did as asked without a word this time, clutching the worn item in one hand and holding it loosely at her side as she stared at him in what looked like disbelief. She was so very young looking, he decided again, her skin perfectly smooth, her cheeks rosy and healthy, blonde hair glowing – although he wasn't overly keen on the style. No, he decided tiredly, she certainly wasn't the stern matronly figure of a governess he'd been expecting.
"It's the dress," he finally sighed. "You'll have to put on another one before you meet the children."
"But I don't have another one," she replied, and at his glacial look added in what she no doubt thought was a helpful side note, "When we enter the abbey, all our worldly clothes are given to the poor."
"Well what about this one?"
She looked down at her outfit as though she simply couldn't see a problem with it, and replied easily, "The poor didn't want this one."
The poor very obviously had better taste than she did, he thought wryly, mumbling aloud, "Mmm."
Apparently aware that she was not meeting his expectations she informed him quickly, "Well I would have made myself a new dress but there wasn't time." Her bright smile was back as she told him proudly, "I can make my own clothes."
"Mmm," he muttered again, he didn't care what she could do with a needle; it was what she could do with his children's abominable behaviour that interested him. Still it simply wouldn't do for his children's governess to go wandering about the place looking like a peasant...worse than that even because she'd confirmed herself that they had more taste. "Well I'll see that you get some material." He looked over her again and added, "Today, if possible."
He stepped forward, it was best he decided to simply start his monologue of expectations and instructions, "Now, fräulein..." He clicked his fingers impatiently, belatedly realising that he had no idea what her name was.
"Maria," she supplied promptly
"Fraulein Maria, I don't know how much the Mother Abbess has told you."
"Not much," she admitted and he tried not to roll his eyes, she simply seemed determined to interrupt him. Obviously the discipline at Nonnberg was greatly exaggerated or on the downslide, well it wouldn't be the same in his house. And so he continued as though he hadn't heard her. "You are the twelfth in a long line of governesses who've come to look after my children since their mother died. I trust you will be an improvement on the last one, she stayed only two hours."
That voice rang out again, asking him, "What's wrong with the children, sir?"
His shoulders stiffened and he whirled to face her angrily. How dare this slip of a girl in her ill fitting clothing question his children! There was nothing wrong with them they were simply unhappy. The thought struck him almost like a blow to the chest, he didn't want his children to be unhappy and yet he was acutely aware of the fact that they were, why else would they misbehave in such a manner? It was why he wanted someone with a strong hand to look over them, to keep them on the straight and narrow, it was what they needed. "There is nothing is wrong with the children, only the governesses," he told her coolly. "They were completely unable to maintain discipline, without it this house cannot be run, will you please remember that Fraulein."
It was a command rather than a request but she answered nonetheless. "Yes, Sir."
"Every morning you will drill the children in their studies, I will not permit them to dream away their summer holidays. Each afternoon, they will march around the grounds breathing deeply. Bedtime is to be strictly observed, no exceptions.
"Excuse me Sir, when do they play?"
He ignored the asinine question and continued as though she hadn't spoken. "You will see to it that they conduct themselves at all time with the utmost orderliness and decorum." He pulled the small whistle out of the inside of his jacket as he finished off neatly and firmly, "I am placing you in command.
"Yes, Sir," she told him, giving him a completely inaccurate and mocking salute, her mouth curved into another one of her smiles. God, she was definitely cheerful, his children would soon knock that out of her, they'd done it to all the others, although that being said none were quite as...sunny as she was.
He glared at her, she were acting as though he were joking about his instructions. Her head tilted slightly and she gave him a quizzical half smile, one which he believed would fade in the face of his look of irritation, the very look that Agathe had once joked could freeze their lake over even in the height of summer.
Strangely though his glare seemed to have little or no effect on her, that look of amusement still firmly on her face, in fact she looked as though she though she were trying not to laugh at him. Lifting his whistle, he let out the familiar tune and he was somewhat gratified to see her mouth fall open in disbelief. She would need to learn to better conceal her emotions in order to keep control of his children, because right now he could see exactly how she was feeling painted right across her face.
Maria stared at the man in front of her and she knew that her jaw was hanging open, no doubt gaping at him, but had he really just whistled? Why would he do such a thing? He certainly wasn't like any Captain she'd heard of. He was much younger than she'd expected, and so intense looking, as though he could see right through her and found her lacking.
Suddenly there was a chorus of loud thuds coming from above their heads, and Maria instinctively ducked underneath the shelter of the lower ceiling, staring upwards as children seemed to dart out from every room, slamming the doors behind themselves...and good grief were they all wearing the same thing? She counted along the line, there were only six children but there was a gap in an otherwise immaculate line.
Her eyes widened further as the Captain started a rhythmic tune and all six marched to the tune, they looked more like sailors on his ship than his children. It was disconcerting to say the least. She straightened, slightly less alarmed as they marched down the stairs, their chests puffed out and their backs straight. So unlike children, she mused again.
She inclined her head slightly to glance back at the Captain who was obviously reaching the end of his routine. A grown man with a whistle, honestly, she thought in exasperation, he wasn't on a ship now, why would he employ such a device in his own home. Maria looked away from him, turning her attention back to the line of now stationary children and saw the missing one, a girl with her nose stuck in a book. The girl looked up slowly, as if belatedly realising her mistake, and for the briefest of moments Maria wondered if that's what she looked like when she realised she was going to have to kiss the floor again.
The Captain held out his hand, taking the book wordlessly and smacking it lightly against the girl in way of a reprimand, which wasn't unusual. What was unusual however was the absolute silence in which these children regarded their father, they simply watched him, as though waiting for their next command. Where was the joyful greetings or happy smiles, it was all very odd she decided as she watched him stroll down the line, correcting the two boy's postures before speaking in that calm, and yet somehow almost dangerous tone of his.
"Now...this is your new governess, Fräulein Maria."
Seven sets of eyes swivelled to look at her, their bodies unmoving. It was more than a little unnerving, this silence was not like the peaceful silence of the Abbey in the least, it was much more fraught than that.
"As I sound your signals you will each step forward and give your name. You Fraulein," Maria looked up at her title and simply stared at him as he continued, "will listen carefully and learn their signal so that you can call them when you want them."
Maria scarcely had time to blink before he had started blasting out varying notes on his whistle, he moved swiftly and each child seemed well practiced in this routine, so much so that she barely managed to focus until it was almost over. She smiled when the youngest one missed her cue twice and then still completely forgot to give her name.
"That's Gretl," he informed her, clearing his throat in a way that she wasn't sure signified his amusement or his annoyance He reached inside his jacket again and held out yet another of those infernal whistles, telling her, "Now, let's see how well you listened."
"Oh I won't need to whistle for them, Reverend Captain," she caught his irritated look and added , quickly, "I mean uhm I'll use their names, such lovely names," she stated, offering the children a smile, surprised when they simply stared at her.
Georg tapped the whistle against his palm in irritation; this woman was obviously sent to try him. "Fräulein, this is a large house, the grounds are very extensive and I will not have anyone shouting." He held out the whistle again and told her much more firmly this time, "You will take this, please and learn to use it. The children will help you." That last part probably wasn't strictly true, he knew already that the children would no doubt try and confuse her in regards to who was who. Still it was a trial she would not be able to avoid.
She took it reluctantly and stared at it as though he'd handed her some sort of dead animal. He could not understand her aversion to it; it saved time and helped this place run much more efficiently than shouting ever would. Quite frankly he thought it was one of his better ideas since Agathe died. Still though he continued on, he didn't have time for her odd sensibilities. "Now, when I want you, this is what you will hear."
Maria stared at him aghast as he let out a ear splitting, high pitched whistle. She already had no intention of using the whistle he'd given her and she certainly was not about to start answering to one. "Oh, no, sir. I'm sorry, sir!" She yelled over him until he stopped and stared at her in disbelief, obviously he was not used to an interruption to this part of the routine. "I could never answer to a whistle," she informed him. "Whistles are for dogs and cats and other animals, but not for children and definitely not for me. It would be too..." She searched a moment for the word before finishing finally, "humiliating."
Georg simply stared at her for a moment. "Fräulein," he inquired in what he could only hope was still a polite tone, because God only knew she'd exasperated him. "Were you this much trouble at the abbey?"
"Oh, much more, Sir," she replied honestly.
"Mmm," he mumbled again, letting go of the whistle so it fell flat against his chest. She would not last long, although he did hope that she stayed long enough for him to visit Elsa once more.
He turned to leave, only for her to let out a tuneless shriek on the whistle she'd just taken so shoulders stiffened as he slowly looked back at her. She smiled at him in patently false innocence as she told him, "Excuse me Sir, but I don't know your signal."
My God he wanted to throttle her, how did she ever manage to become a postulant at Nonnberg? His hands clenched into fists as he fought for control, he couldn't remember the last time someone had riled him so. "You may call me Captain," he told her, well aware that he hadn't actually answered her question, but he simply wasn't going to dignify that with a response. He looked back at her one last time, wanting to leave her with some biting response that would put her firmly in her place, but one look at that glint in her eyes and he knew it would be pointless. He'd leave it to his children to make the point; he was in no doubt they would.
He shook his head as he meandered back to his study, shaking his head. The Mother Abbess was obviously feeling her age, because Fraulein Maria did not fall into the outline of any of the descriptions he'd given her for a governess. Or perhaps she was simply riding herself of one of her own problems. Because quite frankly that girl was nothing short of galling, she was far too outspoken and clearly did not understand the household hierarchy.
His hand paused on the door handle of his study as he heard her loud and inelegant shriek, and for the first time in an age he let out a truly joyful laugh. It would appear as though the young Fraulein had finally met her match.