The Elms, Wickshire, Cumbria
18 February 1015
My dearest cousin Armand,
Oh, it is too, too bad. My brother Edward, so far from being consoled by my father’s words to him, has determined that it is his duty to “stand by me”—that is his phrase—”during this difficult time.” And what “stand by me” means is to remain here in the country with me, breaking up my peace and in no way alleviating my tedium, while preventing me from attaining that free and easy social discourse with the other folk of the district that is all that can console me for my exile here.
Which is to say that he still does not understand about the duck pond, and that he is determined to prevent me “dangling after officers,” however free of concern our male parent might be. It is too provoking!
You will say he means well, and so he does; or so he would if he were more concerned for me and less for the good name of Montjoy.
Though perhaps I wrong him, Armand. But he is like a monstrous creature from one of the more lurid penny-dreadfuls: he cannot be stopped, and he cannot be made to go away. Only a shining hero can end him—and that on the last page, only—and I give leave to doubt that any of the local heroes would seek to win my heart by destroying my father’s heir.
But you have not seen Edward in some years, and so you surely do not know what he has become; and perhaps, he being so much older, you were perhaps never well acquainted with him to begin with. So I suppose I must offer you a sketch.
Edward Trevelyan Montjoy, to give his full name, my father’s heir, is now three and thirty years of age. He is a gentleman; and as our family holdings in Wickshire are well managed by Blightwell, he need do no more than flit about London, drone-like, sipping at nectar, smiling at pretty young things, resisting the blandishments of society mamas, whilst attending prize fights and horse races and driving high-perch phaetons too fast, all in the precisely proper attire: all the things that society expects of a young man in his position.
And yet he cannot even do that. He disapproves of horse races and prize fights on principle; he happily attends assemblies at Harrington House but has, as yet, managed to attach no young lady of the ton, nor her mother either; he drives perfectly, and sedately, in a low phaeton with nary a cape to his coat; he dresses well enough, but with no special distinction; and I am quite at a loss to state how he spends the rest of his time, for he neither engages in trade (for that would be low) nor manages the estates (for that would be needless), nor practices politics (for that would be unpleasant).
And now, instead of indulging his principles elsewhere, he has brought them here, where he spends his time in my library reading aloud to me from improving books and trying my patience.
If only the duck pond were not frozen over. For we do have a duck pond here at The Elms, Armand, a lovely duck pond in a seldom visited part of the garden, a pond that, when not frozen, is quite choked with weeds and slime. It would be perfect for my purposes, if only Edward were doing something actionable instead of merely being benevolent and improving towards me in the most objectionable manner imaginable!
But alas, my conscience prods me.
He means well; he does. And should I meet a tall, handsome, scoundrel with designs on my fortune and my virtue, I should be quite glad to have a tall, stouthearted brother to send him packing.
Not that it would help me, for he will not be convinced of the lack of good intent of anyone, it seems, but myself; for I have quite failed to convince him of the lack of good intent of the one tall, handsome, scoundrel I have met. I solemnly swear, Armand, that if he mentions the name of that loathsome object one more time I shall surely lay about him with the fireplace poker.
May the weather break soon! I must get out of this house for a time.