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Since the age of 13, Emma (last name unknown) has worked as a maid, first for Mrs. Kelly Stownar, a widow and retired governess living in London, then for the Molder family at their mansion in the English countryside.
Though orphaned and mistreated as a child, Emma managed to survive through her own wit and determination (along with the kindness and generosity of a few people along the way), earning a reputation as a quiet yet diligent worker. Mrs. Stownar, who recognized intelligence in the young girl, took her in and taught her reading and writing and the proper ways of keeping house. After several years of faithful service, Emma's life began to change the day she met Mr. William Jones, son and heir of an English merchant family and former pupil of Mrs. Stownar's.
Following Mrs. Stownar's death, a chance encounter led to Emma being hired by Mrs. Dorothea Molder, wife of Mr. Wilhelm Molder, a German merchant who had moved both his family and business to England. Living and working at the Molder estate in Howarth, Emma made several new friends, earned the respect of her employers, and discovered a lasting place for herself. That is, until William caught up with her and began proposing marriage. Eventually, against all odds and her own self-doubts, she accepted.
One of Emma's most striking features are the glasses she wears, unusual for a woman of the Victorian era and especially for one of the working class. She rises early each morning, dons her maid's uniform, and performs her duties until late at night. Her interests are simple, including reading romance novels, feeding stray animals, and writing in a journal. Her possessions are few, including an old pocket watch and a beaded necklace given to her by Mrs. Stownar. But the one possession that she treasures above all others is the lace handkerchief that William gave her shortly after they first met.