The spring, uncommon of itself, had been the wettest and dullest of the season; the rain had been heavy, and the earth absorbed the liquid greedily which resulted in sloshing mud that rendered all traveling to be an undesirable task. As such, even the poor refused to venture outside unless it was unavoidably necessary. The elite class had no such concerns as they were content to remain indoors with their warm fires while their servants dealt with the effects of the odd weather. However, for one gentleman, such a luxury could not be allowed, for he had the most odious task to complete.
The gentleman, a young nobleman of thirty years, was named Mercier Danos; the eldest son of Count Albert Danos and Countess Madeline Danos. A responsible and educated man, Mercier was the ideal son that every wealthy family wished to have and that any wealthy father wished to have been his son-in-law. However, Mercier had been faithfully married to a young Welsh girl for eight years, Jennifer Lynn until just this last winter.
His beloved Jennifer was a woman of unfortunate circumstances; she had been born with a weaker immune system compared to the average woman and, against the odds of nature, only managed to gift Mercier with a daughter of equal weakness as herself. The child whom she was due to birth the previous winter had taken too much from its mother and both died in childbirth. Admittedly, both husband and wife knew that it was only by God’s good graces that Jennifer survived to birth their first child and, by taking another chance with the unchangeable truth, would be taking advantage of God’s miracle and kindness. Still, as it is the nature of a mother, Jennifer wanted another child and felt that it was a chance worth taking; she believed that God would not be so cruel to her and would prove his kindness once again, if only by giving a second child to take her place in their family should she depart. However, her hopeful wishes did not come to fruition and Mercier was left to care for their only child, Nathalia.
Though it was natural for Mercier to be deeply affected by his wife’s passing, his increasing depression was affecting everyone around him. His parents, who dearly loved the young woman, were forced to swallow their grief and take care of Nathalia while Mercier locked himself away from the world. Had Nathalia been a younger child, it would have been easier for them to ease her mind; however, the eight-year-old girl knew exactly what was happening and she wasn’t sure what upset her more, the fact she had lost her mother and baby brother, or that her father wasn’t coming to see her anymore. The young girl and her grandparents had left for Paris over a month ago while Mercier’s younger brother, Fitz Danos, took care of Mercier. The task was far more difficult than Fitz had thought that it would be and to see his brother this way broke his heart.
Eventually, Fitz had to make a choice for Mercier; either he was to let Mercier fall deeper into his sorrows or he would force his brother to move on for the sake of their families. He decided that Mercier had to move on and sought something that could occupy his brother’s focus, finding that there was an abandoned playhouse in America. The place was specifically located in a small town called Greenville; it was about thirty miles away from the city of New York and had the potential to evolve into a much larger city if the locals could have more to offer travelers. Although Fitz didn’t like the idea of sending his grieving brother to another country, he knew that managing a playhouse would be the perfect fix to Mercier’s depression. With his mind made, Fitz presented the offer to Mercier.
“What’s this?” Mercier asked as his brother handed him an advertisement for the playhouse. The ad didn’t offer much, just an address and the name of the playhouse, which was the Sapphire Assembly Hall.
“It’s an advertisement.” Fitz said, “There’s a playhouse in the state of New York, I thought that-”
“No.” Mercier interrupted his brother with a cold glare and huff. “Leave me alone.”
“But mon frère-”
“No, just leave me to suffer.”
Fitz sighed and left his brother’s bedroom. He knew that Mercier wouldn’t agree to his scheme so easily and he intended to pester his brother with the idea until Mercier would consent to purchasing the playhouse. However, now that he had seen his brother’s reaction to the idea, Fitz was admittedly discouraged. Still, he needed to be firm with his brother. This had to end, and, in time, it did. After three weeks of persistence, Mercier finally relented an agreed that he needed to be there with his young daughter and leaving Wintervale was a promising idea.
And so, Mercier had begun to pack away what he felt he may need for the trip and settled all financial pursuits with the aid of his father. Of course, he should have guessed that Jennifer wasn’t entirely content with all that had occurred and, from what felt like an act from the grave, she left behind a final request to her husband.
The carriage that carried him suddenly came to a stop and, with a weary sigh, Mercier found that the door to the carriage opened to reveal his coachman waiting for him. Mercier hesitated for a moment, he stared up at the front of the orphanage that now stood before him. Though he was the one to push for this trip, he was torn between his own wants and what he had silently promised his deceased wife. The coachman was patient and waited until Mercier finally moved to leave the safety of the carriage.
With an umbrella in his hand, the coachman assisted Mercier out of the carriage; Mercier’s pride usually didn’t allow him to ever be helped, even in moments where he may need it, but today he made an exception. He then stood in front of the building as the coachman closed the door to the carriage; the three-story building stood tall, but no longer looked like a clean establishment if it had ever been one. The walls had water stains and sun-bleached wood, he could see that there was damage to some parts of the building that required desperate repair. The surrounding area was unkept with knee-high weeds and scattered pieces of woods. There were piles of sludge that attracted flies and a foul odor that Mercier wasn’t sure if he was smelling it or tasting it. Hearing Mercier gag slightly, the coachman hurried to escort his employer into the orphanage while ignoring the sights that disgusted the nobleman.
“This place isn’t well cared for,” said Mercier as they headed to the large double doors. “This is a charity orphanage, isn’t it? Shouldn’t the head of the house be receiving money for this place?”
“Oui.” nodded the coachman, “I’ve heard that the head of the house isn’t so keen on giving the money to repairs and proper necessities, rumors say that she’s a cold woman, greedy as they come.”
“Is that so?” Mercier took that into consideration and found that he was disgusted with the thought that this woman was abusing her power and forcing the children to live in these conditions. “I suppose that I am doing a blessing by adopting a child from here.”
“You would be doing a blessing even without the circumstances.” said his coachman with an earnest smile, “Forgive me for being so blunt sir, but shouldn’t you smile more as to not frighten away any children? You’re awfully solemn.”
Mercier couldn’t resist a small smile and asked if he looked, in some semblance, frightening to which his coachman nervously affirmed. Mercier apologized for it but admitted that to fake joy would potentially be worse as he could not truly feel happy with everything that had happened. The coachman nodded and respected his employer’s wishes.
When they entered the house, they found that the interior was only marginally better than the exterior; the walls on the inside were not as damaged by nature, however, the walls bore cracks and were not an even color of brown. The further the two men went, they soon found the children who were cleaning the house. They were using filthy water that should have been dumped long ago and many of them looked like they were not entirely well with their fevered flushed cheeks. Mercier’s disgust rose when a small boy started to have a coughing fit, and a loud, elderly voice ordered him to cease his coughs as if he had any control of them. The two men refrained from speaking as they feared that a child might be blamed for it and, instead, headed toward the stairway where the voice had originated from. There they found an older woman, perhaps in her late eighties, standing there with a stiff upper lip and narrow eyes. Mercier felt himself being challenged by this woman’s gaze as if she felt that she was above all including the wealthy. What he would give to put that woman in her proper place.
The old, bitter woman was Madame Steele, or that’s what the children called her, and she was not of the elite class. She was considered to be of old English gentry at some point in her life, however, the family fortune was given to her elder brother who left her nothing once the money was his. As one could suspect, she came from a greedy family and she was no different than her brother; in her youth, she was quite the seductive flirt who took from those she catered to until she was threatened with death by one of her former lovers. From then on, she was forced into sheltering with other poor folks until she was offered a job as caretaker of an orphanage by a rich man. Mercier could only guess how many children had to suffer under this woman’s care.
“Who are you two?” demanded the bitter woman, she gave them a slight glance and seemed displeased with their presence. “I’ve not heard of anyone coming to visit.”
“You are mistaken, madam,” said Mercier as he walked forward a step. “I sent a letter last week detailing that I was coming to collect a small girl.”
The woman ever so slightly glanced over her shoulder at the younger woman who timidly stood behind her. The younger girl nodded and stated that the man was there to inquire about a child named Nadja, a child that the head of house disliked immensely.
“Nadja, bah! That little wench!” Madame Steele spat out the child’s name as though it were bile in her throat. “Very well, come with me to the drawing room and Ms. Austen shall bring the girl to us.”
Ms. Austen bowed and turned on her heel to find the girl that Mercier was hoping to adopt. Though it was perhaps wrong of her to think so, Ms. Austen was quite happy that Nadja was being adopted so soon after arriving here as the elder woman was not kind to the child from the moment Nadja arrived. Though she longed to have all the children adopted, Nadja deserved recognition the most; the girl lost both of her parents within less than a month and then was sent here only to face cruel punishments; no child deserved this.
Mercier and his coachman entered the drawing room where no children were present, and the room was by far better than what they had seen already. The floor was nicely polished, the upholstery was clean and seemed to rarely be used, and the drapes were most likely new judging from the lack of fade. From this scene, Mercier could guess where the funding for the orphanage went and Madam Steele didn’t have any shame as she bragged about how she came into possession of all this fine furniture and ornaments. Of course, as a man with a fortune of his own, Mercier knew that all of what he was seeing was not easy for someone of meager fortune to acquire. These were expensive objects that do not belong in an orphanage.
“Madam, why is it that you own such extravagant things when the children are in such need of medical care? Even the house needs repair.”
Madam Steele was unbothered by this fact and merely answered that she didn’t have the money for it. Mercier had argued that all the money she spent on her furniture and objects could have been used on improving the well-being of the children, repairing the house, and generally keeping the place pleasant for prospecting parents.
“I assure you that they need no more than they already have.” sneered the woman, “They are low in society and if I was to improve their conditions, they would become spoilt and ungrateful for what they have.”
“Ungrateful? What intentions do you have for these children?” cried Mercier in disgust, “They are children, children have needs and what is necessary does not make a child ungrateful; it makes them healthy. Does no one visit to see what the conditions are? The orphanage is funded by noble families that pay rather handsomely I’m sure.”
Madam Steele insisted that no one came to seek the conditions of the children because the families that funded her didn’t care about the children. When he pressed on, she admitted that she faked their well-being through letters which were enough to keep people from visiting them. The man who would bring new children to her was mute and terribly timid around strangers; he had no courage to inform the patrons of what was really happening. Mercier and his coachman were thoroughly disgusted with the woman and her excuses; how thankful they were when Ms. Austen brought the small girl into the room.
Ms. Austen gently pushed the girl to stand in front of her and announced that she was the child who Mercier had written about last week. “This is Nadja Beilschmidt, recently orphaned and only child.”
“She’s a troublesome girl,” said the elder woman, disregarding whether her opinion was wanted by Mercier. Nadja didn’t seem to like hearing the woman’s voice as she shifted from standing tall to leaning on her left foot. “she came from Germany a few months ago.”
Mercier glanced at the woman and then back at the child, it was perplexing to him that a German child would be sent to an orphanage in France, but he feared that inquiring might anger Madam Steele enough to refuse his adoption. Mercier approached the child and kneeled to her eye level, he took in all her physical beauty as the girl was pretty for a young child. Nadja was a very young girl with red hair, blue eyes, and fair skin with a dusting of freckles; her features were soft and well-proportioned rather than awkward and gawky. He attempted to speak to her in German, but the child didn’t understand him at all; it was clear that she could recognize the sound of the language, but to understand and speak it was not something she knew.
“She can only speak English, monsieur.” said Ms. Austen, “A letter from her dying father told us that she was only being taught English.”
Mercier accepted the information and tried again. “Good day, Ms. Nadja. How old are you?”
“I’m five.” The girl answered softly, her German accent was not as strong as he would have thought. In fact, he would have thought that she would speak German instead of English and yet, she didn’t seem to know German at all from what her speech pattern suggested. “You know my name, what’s yours mister?”
“I am Mercier, Mercier Danos.” answered Mercier as the girl tilted her head, “I heard that you and Madam Steele do not like one another, may I inquire as to why?”
“Because she is ungrateful!” Madam Steele insisted.
Nadja turned her head toward the woman, scowling at the wrinkled old hag that she wished never existed. “I called her an ugly, old toad.”
Mercier bit his bottom lip to keep from laughing, but his coachman had awkwardly coughed to cover his amusement at the insult. Ms. Austen lightly patted Nadja’s back, presumably as a silent way to tell Nadja to remain calm. However, though she was only five, Mercier could see that the child had a fire in her spirit and was, by nature, untamable.
Madam Steele was all too eager to be rid of the German child and pressed for Mercier to take Nadja away that day. Though it was what Mercier had intended to do in the first place, he disliked how she tried to push him to her own will. Even so, he announced that he would take her, but he must first know what he was to do to claim her as his child.
“Surely there are documents I must complete.”
“Unfortunately.” Madam Steele admitted though she didn’t sound too heartfelt. She ordered Ms. Austen to return Nadja to the dorm where she slept so that the child could gather her few belongs whilst also fetching the papers required for the adoption. Once all was complete, Ms. Austen and the coachman placed Nadja’s belongings in the carriage as the girl called farewell to her friends. The other children watched as Nadja called to them, bidding them goodbye and wishes for a similar fate as her own. They waved and called to her, some asked for her to visit them someday while others asked for her to write to them.
As the carriage drove away from the large house, Nadja admitted to feeling only a small ounce of regret.
“For what reason do you feel so sad?” asked Mercier as they drove away, “You’re free from Madam Steele.”
“But the other children are not.” Sighed the child as she gazed out the window, watching as the rain fell from the sky. “They are to stay while I get to leave, it is most unfair to them.”
Mercer smiled, “How strange you talk when you’re a child so young, will you tell me who taught you English?”
“Papa taught me the alphabet, Ms. Austen taught me to speak it.” Her language sounded much like an adult's and he wondered if it came from the trauma of losing her parents. “Where is it that we’re going to?”
“To my estate for the moment. We shall be off to America by nightfall.” The answer came with some mild sorrow laced in his voice.
“America?” She questioned, having heard the odd tone of his voice. “Why are we going to America?”
“Because, my dear, that is where we shall live from now on.”
The carriage fell silent after that, only the rain, sloshing of mud, and the horses could be heard. Nadja was content with staring out the window, watching the trees and bushes passed her by while Mercier analyzed her.
There were quite a few things that he found interesting about the small girl; from her beauty to her odd way of speaking, there was so much to wonder about. However, what he currently curious about, was the little black book she had with her. He had noticed it when she was first outside while her small trunk was being loaded onto the carriage. She clung to it like a pastor clung to the Bible; it was always in her hand and even now it was pressed against her left thigh.
He inquired about it to Ms. Austen who had replied that not even she knew what was in that leather-bound book. It wasn’t the Bible for it was slightly too small than any Bible he had seen before. Perhaps then, it was a journal.
“It’s my mama’s diary,” Nadja stated after Mercier finally asked about it. “She gave it to me when she died.”
“Have you read it?”
Nadja shook her head and explained, as best she could, that her mother used to read it to her every night until she was bedridden. Her father took it upon himself to read it to her when her mother passed but, for reasons she couldn’t understand, he wasn’t able to.
“May I see it?”
Nadja handed him the black book, only asking that he not damage it in any way. He made his promise and opened it to the first page after the cover. There he found neat, cursive handwriting that read:
Diary of Adriane Beilschmidt
For my daughter, Nadja Kathryn Beilschmidt
Mercier turned the page and found that the rest of what was written in the book was German, not in English as the beginning was. Luckily for him, he was fluent in German, just as he was English. However, he felt that it wasn’t his place to read it or, at least, not yet. So, he promptly closed the book and handed it back to the girl.
“Can you read it?” asked Nadja, “Can you understand those letters?”
Mercier admitted that he could, telling her that her mother wrote it in her native language and he figured that since it was addressed to Nadja, there was something important written on those pages.
“Can you teach me how to read it then?”
“I suppose I could, though now is not the time for such lessons.” He sighed as the gates of his estate passed through the window. “We will wait until we’ve settled in America until then, keep the book by your side.”
“I always do.” Smiled the girl and, in return, Mercier gifted the child with a genuine smile. Though it felt odd to him that he was growing just a touch attached to Nadja so soon, it also felt perfectly wonderful to have someone new in his life. This was, after all, what Jennifer wanted when she insisted that he adopt a child to replace herself and their dead son.
That evening, as Mercier said, they found themselves boarding a ship that was due for America. Mercier and the small girl were already situated in their chamber when a servant arrived to tell them that Nathalia, Mercier’s daughter, had just boarded with his parents. Fitz was supposed to join Mercier on this voyage, moving his own family to America so that he could keep an eye on the older Danos, but Fitz’s wife had thrown a horrible tantrum when he presented the idea to her. She refused to leave the life of luxury for the frontier and the Count and Countess decided that they should go with their eldest son instead. Mercier didn’t mind, and he found that he preferred having his parents with him than his brother and his annoying wife.
Eager to introduce the girls, Mercier requested that she and her grandparents come to their suite as soon as possible. The servant bowed and left to deliver the request along with the request for dinner being brought to the suite. Nadja was none too curious about the strangers who would be joining them and instead focused on the drawing of the ship that was framed in their room.
“Nadja.” The girl swiftly turned to see that Mercier was beckoning her to join him on the couch. “Come, I have something to show you.”
Nadja nodded and approached him cautiously, fearing that she might have done something wrong. Mercier only smiled at her cautiousness and handed her a black velvet box. She stared at it, confused as to what it was and what he wanted her to do with it until he asked her to open it.
“What is it?”
“A gift,” answered Mercier as she pushed open the lid of the box. Inside of it was a simple necklace, a chain necklace with a red ruby as its only accessory. Nadja glanced up at the man, silently asking what it was for. “Since Nathalia was born, my wife insisted upon gifting the child with a single necklace, one colored jewel will be hung from it to show that this is a child of our family.”
“So why are you giving this to me?”
“Because now you are my family and should be treated as such.” His soft smile took the girl by surprise and he gently patted her head as he continued, “Nathalia has always been a calm girl, even from birth, therefore her jewel is blue. You are quite a strange girl, just from the moment you insulted Madam Steele I saw that there was a free spirit in you and so, your jewel shall be red.”
Nadja glanced back down at the necklace, her emotions were becoming rather rampant, and she wasn’t quite sure what to feel. She was crossed between happiness and sorrow, there was a swelling of excitement, but an urge to repress it. Unable to understand her emotions and, in turn, unable to express herself, the child started to sniffle and weep.
So much had happened to this little girl; she lost her parents just a month after her fifth birthday, she was then carted off to France from the little cottage that had been her home since birth, she was abused and tormented by the cruel Madam Steele though loved by the kind Ms. Austen, and now she was being welcomed into a new family. What child could not weep at such a turn of events? To lose what they knew and loved, to start anew with strangers, how could she not cry? She cried for the loss of her parents, she cried for the loss of her home, but most of all, she cried because Mercier had wanted her to be his daughter. She lost all that she loved and now, he was here to give her a new family and life. These emotions were too raw for a child who was only five.
Mercier was taken back by the sudden tears and attempted to calm her down. The task was not easy as Nathalia never cried, or rather never cried enough for him to have experience with a sobbing child. He had seen Jennifer hold Nathalia as an infant when the girl cried, cradling her while whispering something into her small ears. He wasn’t sure if that might work for Nadja, but he was willing to try.
Mercier lifted the girl up into his lap and gently pressed her face into his shoulder, whispering to her that everything was alright. His hand rubbed her back in a circular motion, his body rocked slightly to lull her from her violent fit. Nadja cried for only a few moments longer until the rhythmic movements of Mercier’s care calmed her enough for her to finally sleep peacefully, something she hadn’t done since her mother first fell ill.
The door to the suite opened and a young, wheelchair-bound girl and her two grandparents entered the room, looking for Mercier and the new daughter. The girl, Nathalia, glanced around and was disappointed to find that her father and new sister were not to be found. Her grandfather suggested that maybe the other two had to leave the room for a moment, perhaps still unpacking in their separate rooms. They were about to call out for Mercier when he showed himself, cradling sleeping Nadja.
“My goodness, what happened?” asked his mother as she noticed the redness of Nadja’s face. “Is she alright?”
“Of course, mother.” Mercier whispered to his mother, “She was just overwhelmed by everything.”
Nathalia asked her father to kneel so that she could see Nadja, something he did with careful grace. She analyzed the younger girl, noting all her features before commenting on how small she was.
“She’s only five, Nathalia.” Said Mercier, “Remember now, her birthday is December eleventh.”
“Then she is barely five!” cried his father in surprise, “December was, what, four months ago?”
“Yes, it was.” Mercier’s mother agreed with a solemn tone, “Oh, to be alone at such an early age. How cruel the world can be to a child?”
Mercier only nodded in agreement as he watched Nathalia pet Nadja’s hair, her fingertips barely touched the silky strands of red hair. His daughter carefully watched Nadja’s sleeping face, smiling when the younger girl pressed her face into Mercier’s shoulder.
“She’s pretty.” whispered Nathalia who glanced up at her father, “Do you think she’ll like me, papa?”
“I very much do.” smiled Mercier as he too combed his fingers through Nadja’s hair. “Come, we must let her sleep while she can. Help me put her to bed.”
Nathalia wheeled herself toward the separate room where she and Nadja would be sleeping during their voyage. Due to inability to stand on her own for long, Nathalia could only help by pulling back the covers of the bed, which was enough for Mercier. He placed Nadja on the mattress and covered her with the quilt. He and his daughter then left the room, Mercier would save introductions for tomorrow morning.
Nadja woke up the next morning, finding herself snuggled under a quilt in the room that was to be her and her new sister’s room. She hardly remembered falling asleep though she could remember crying against Mercier’s body.
Nadja glanced around the room, no one else was with her and she suspected that the others must have already gone for breakfast. If so, then she must hurry and dress for she had earned enough licks for her to know that over-sleeping was not acceptable. Nadja hurriedly dressed in her plain little dress and started to comb her hair when the door opened. She didn’t need to turn as she stood in front of a mirror and could see the door from where she stood.
“Ah, good morning!” Mercier smiled as he poked his head past the door. “I’m glad you’re up Nadja, it’s time for breakfast.”
Nadja tilted her head, “I’m not late?”
Mercier shook his head and assured her that everyone had only barely woken up and that they were to eat with the Captain today. He urged her to dress quickly as Nathalia was still being dressed by her nanny and grandmother while the men were about ready, only waiting on the ladies. Nadja nodded and quickly finished her dressing, hurrying out of the room to see Mercier with his father.
“Ah, there’s the little girl.” laughed Mercier’s father, his loud voice boomed throughout the room, startling Nadja. Although his booming voice reminded her of her late father, it bothered her more as he was speaking French. She didn’t like hearing people speak a language that she didn’t understand. “My, she’s as small as a mouse.”
“She is, isn’t she?” Mercier agreed with a fatherly smile, he switched back to using English and asked Nadja to greet her new grandfather. “This is my father, Albert Danos. He is a Count; do you know what that is?”
Nadja nodded and said that a Count was a rich man. The answer earned her a chuckle before Mercier corrected her, telling her that his father came an old noble family that earned the title of Count several years ago. He also added that he was considered a viscount.
Nadja looked up at the tall man and held out her small hand to the elder. “Hello, Count Danos.”
The Count smiled and greeted Nadja as best as he could for he wasn’t fluent in English like his wife and son.
“Count Danos isn’t good at speaking.” Nadja stated to Mercier with a giggle, “Why not?”
“He struggles with English,” laughed Mercier, “he’s a stubborn student as well.”
The Count began to complain as he knew from their giggles that Mercier and Nadja were teasing him and his inability to understand. His fit increased the humor between the girl and her adopted father.
“Madeline, Madeline!” called the Count, “Come deal with your son! He’s mocking me.”
His wife called back to him, her voice was laced with humor and she was unsympathetic to her husband’s woe. Annoyed, the elder grumbled about how unloving his family was to him, a statement Mercier corrected.
“Father, you are worse than Fitz’s wife.” Mercier teased with a grin. “Come, we should head to the deck to see the captain, so we can assure him that we aren’t neglecting his invitation.”
They announced to the Countess that the two men and Nadja were going to the deck, telling them to follow once they were presentable. With that, the small group left toward the deck of the ship, passing some of the other families that were on the voyage with them. Mercier and his father spent their walk talking about the playhouse that Fitz convinced Mercier to purchase. Nadja paid no mind to their conversation and focused her attention on the interior of the ship. The ship was, from what Mercier told her, one of a few passenger ships that were created for immigrations and vacations. It was a larger ship that was advertised as being the first in its class though Nadja felt that it looked no different than the ships that she had seen in the port.
“How shall we teach Nathalia English?” Count Danos asked, “Nadja will need no help, but Nathalia’s native tongue is French.”
“A governess,” stated Mercier as they climbed a flight of stairs. “She was going to need one, but I feel that it shall be best to hire one once we have settled in.”
His father approved of the choice and questioned further about the particulars of the Sapphire Assembly Hall. Mercier answered with all that he knew, Fitz hadn’t really told him much more past the previous history of the place and telling him that the surrounding neighborhood had gotten better than it formerly was. The house that he was also purchasing for their private use was large enough for the two girls and it was only a mile away from where the playhouse was. Nearby was a farm and further down was the wild woodlands, Mercier was certain that the change would greatly benefit himself and both of his daughters.
Nadja, upon arriving on the deck and seeing the ocean in the morning sun, began to pull at Mercier’s sleeve in a request to visit the railings. Mercier had agreed to go with her, telling his father to find the captain while he sated Nadja’s excitement.
“Sir, look!” called the small girl as she looked over the side of the ship, “The water’s so blue, why is it blue?”
“Because that is the color of water.” laughed Mercier, “Can you see the fish?”
“Fish?” Nadja squinted her eyes and declared that she could not see any fish. “Will they ever come out?”
“In the early morning, they might.” said Mercier as he followed Nadja’s gaze, “It must not be early enough for them, perhaps we might see dolphins along the way.”
“What is that?” asked Nadja with the earnest amount of curiosity. “Is that a fish?”
“That it is, a very strange one at that.” He explained casually, “Now come, we mustn’t be rude to our host.”
Nadja nodded and allowed Mercier to lift her up into his arms, she very much was enjoying the idea of being on the ship as there were some many things that were new to her here. She had a million questions to ask and she was determined to save all her questions for the captain, for he must know more than anyone else.
“There you two are.” Mercier smiled as he and Nadja approached his father and Captain Edwards. “We were beginning to think you had gone overboard.”
“You would certainly think so, father.” Mercier set Nadja down at his feet and extended his hand to the captain. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Captain Edwards.”
The captain took his hand and firmly shook it with a pleasant smile. “It’s a pleasure to have you on board, Monsieur Danos.”
The captain looked down at Nadja and attempted to greet her in French, only for Mercier to correct him by stating her language preference. From there, Nadja happily made her acquaintance with the captain, he was a pleasant man with good-humor to boost and gentle mind for all of those around him. He took a liking to young Nadja as she was curious about his ship and sailors, questioning him about what he does and about the ocean. He was more than happy to relay all that he personally knew and promised Nadja that dolphins were prone to swimming by every so often during his trips.
“Such an animated little girl.” Captain Edwards declared once he and Nadja finished their chat, “She’s intelligent for such a young girl, I have no doubt that she will be brilliant as a young woman.”
“And by then, I’m sure many men will be at my doorstep calling for her.” Mercier nervously laughed at the idea of men piling up to call on Nadja; he had no fears toward Nathalia for his daughter took after her mother and was a tempered young girl, but Nadja was quite the opposite. “She’ll be a very nice addition to the family.”
The other men agreed with that and soon, they were joined by Mercier’s mother, Nathalia, and Nathalia’s nanny. Nadja hadn’t realized that there was an addition to the group, she had been too busy watching the sailors and other passengers as they wandered past them. It was only by Mercier’s gentle nudging that Nadja found herself staring up at the three ladies.
“Oh, she’s so much smaller than I thought!” Countess Danos reached down to pet Nadja’s hair, “Hello, little miss.”
Nadja said nothing as she shook her head, having felt that her hair had gotten messed up by Lady Danos playing with it. The adults laughed, finding the action to be cute and found her to be charming. Nadja figured as much and looked up at Mercier as he was her only form of communication with these people. The Countess had a feeling that Nadja spoke a different than language than most of the group and it was to her pleasant surprise that she spoke English as the elder woman rarely had the opportunity to speak English in a French society.
Nadja found herself happy to have three people who could converse with her and talked a mile a minute to the Countess who was as equally excited. Countess Danos made sure that Nathalia was included in the duo’s conversation over breakfast, translating between the two new sisters. Nathalia, though partially disappointed that she and Nadja could not hold a conversation by themselves, very much found herself drawn to her sister and was excited to grow up with Nadja by her side. The same could be said for Nadja as she felt that Nathalia was sweet enough for her to love and care for. She would prefer that Nathalia learn English so that they could talk directly to each other, but that didn’t mean she didn’t enjoy the conversation between herself, Nathalia, and Countess Danos.
“I suppose that Nathalia will be very happy with Nadja.” Count Danos watched as the two girls impatiently would tell Lady Danos something to translate to the other girl. They spoke so fast that the elder woman would get confused and would have to stop them, forcing them to speak slower and wait for her to relay their messages.
Mercier nodded in agreement as he took a bite of the eggs that he had been given for their meal. He was rather pleased that the girls were getting along as he did, though a bit late, worry that their four-year age difference would create a division between. So far, from what he could hear, Nathalia was ecstatic with Nadja’s interests in painting and music which were Nathalia’s personal occupations. Nadja had mentioned that she loved to tell her own little stories to the other orphans from Madam Steele’s Orphanage leading Mercier to make a mental note to have a governess teach Nadja the art of writing.For the most part, Mercier found himself regretting that he was hesitant about adopting in the first place. While he couldn’t say with all his heart that his reluctance was entirely undeserved, he was rather grateful that he had visited the orphanage and taken Nadja with him for she was just the shining star among the group. She was a blessing and one that was he was in need of having; though he was still heartbroken over his wife’s untimely passing, Nadja’s presence would surely heal that wound to his heart. He glanced back at his two daughters and smiled; there was so much to look forward.