The Elms, Wickshire, Cumbria
2 December 1014
My dearest cousin Armand,
But there, you have started in surprise. Yes, it is I, your cousin Amelia!
But what is the cause of your surprise? Is it that I call you “dearest cousin”? As you are my only close cousin, you are certainly my dearest. Is that I am writing from the depths of Wickshire? Or is it simply that I am writing to you at all?
Well you may ask! For it is a singular thing, I will readily admit, for me to write to you from such a place as The Elms, or indeed to write you at all, for before your sudden departure from Yorke I was not accustomed to speak with you upwards of two or three times a week in the normal course of things, a frequency that was quite sufficient to maintain the familial bond, and in the time since I have not had your direction until just recently.
Oh, have I run on again? I do apologize. I shall strive to do worse over the long weeks ahead.
But why am I in Wickshire, I hear you cry? What unforeseen, yea, unprecedented event has drawn your blushing cousin from the familiar assemblies and drawing rooms of Yorke?
It is said that a young woman in possession of a fortune, however small, must be in want of a penurious husband. Not by me, of course; but by the vast herd of penurious younger sons who flock to Yorke during the Season in the hope of offsetting their gambling losses. And some of these are successful at hiding their deepest aims from their intended.
I, thanks to my great-aunt Matilda, do possess a fortune of the smallest sort. More, I am not too ill-favored—compared to you or Jack, and at least—and my parents are utterly respectable. And so, as Jack has surely failed to mention, I became engaged last spring to a young gentleman whose name I cannot now recall, having burned all of his letters in lieu of setting fire to his heavily-mortgaged ancestral home.
He played the beau prettily enough. He was attentive, kind, and generous; well-dressed and well-spoken; and then I discovered, never mind how, that his perfectly fitting coat was not yet paid for, that his matched set of greys were borrowed, that his gambling debts exceeded my little all, and that he was wont to refer to me to his intimates as Old Prune Face!
Armand, I will admit to you, if to no one else, that I am no reigning beauty; no sister of Jack’s could be, as I am sure you will agree. But I am sometimes in looks, my disposition is of the sweetest, and I am by no means old enough to be on the shelf!
And so, after making this untoward discovery I met with this enterprising cad in the Park, and waiting my moment succeeded in upending him into the duck pond. I believe he may still be searching for the ring he gave me in the muck at the bottom of the pond. It was a cold day, too, and I hope he may have had a lengthy fever from his ducking, the scoundrel!
So I have had a close escape; and yet my parents, so far from agreeing with the wisdom of my actions, have accused me of imprudence and have banished me to the old family home in Wickshire until the rumors have died down, with only my abigail, Miss Derby, for company. Indeed, I believe they hope I may settle here permanently, and perhaps find a husband here in the country.
I must not judge them too harshly, I suppose, for I did dispose of my erstwhile fiancé in broad daylight, in the midst of all the ton, and Father did remain here long enough to see me introduced to the best houses in the neighborhood—for you know we have lived in Yorke the whole year round since Jack and I were small, and I should have had no acquaintance at all otherwise.
But still I have not answered the question that I know is gripping your beating heart. Why? Why have I written to you? The simple facts of the matter are these: you have always been a good listener (and you are now a better still for not being able to make reply in less than four months’ time); you are comfortably far off, and will have no occasion or temptation to spread my words about Yorke, if I should prove indiscreet; and O! I am so hellishly bored, Armand, and heartbroken with it. I did think he loved me.
In time, I know, I will begin to take an interest in the society of those here in Wickshire, but for now I remain,
Your ill-used cousin,