The Elms, Wickshire, Cumbria
6 June 1015
My dearest cousin Armand,
I am sure that I do not at all understand what has been going on here in Wickshire this past fortnight.
Following the ball, my foolish brother Edward has been in constant attendance on Agatha Grimsby: tea at the Grimsby house, walking out with Miss Grimsby, riding with Miss Grimsby, whilst the unlamented Mr. Edward Hargreaves has so been attending upon Miss Matilda Grimsby. There is little more for me to say upon that head, as virtually all of it has taken place outside my presence—for which I can only be grateful. It is no happy thing to watch a beloved brother make a cake of himself for the likes of Agatha Grimsby.
The loss of Edward Hargreaves I can much more easily bear, for as you know I did not want him, lowering though it is to lose a beau to Matilda Grimsby—though I am afraid I had to speak harshly to my abigail, Miss Derby, who made so bold as to try to console me for it. I was sorry, after, for she is too devoted to me, and serves me well; but in all matters beyond her duties she hasn’t the sense that—but I must not speak harshly of her.
Meanwhile, I have had repeated visits from Jane Willoughby, who is in a lamentable state. She assures me that Brother Edward had intended to speak to her father and offer for her hand during the festivities, but instead he began making up to the Grimsby.
It is some consolation to me that when Edward returns home he does not spend those hours expatiating to me on the excellence and charm of his new beloved, for I could not bear to hear such twaddle come out of his mouth. Instead he sits quietly staring into the fire, or stands and stares out of the window, or retires to his room, and this worries me, too, for this silence it is quite out of character. When Edward has a new enthusiasm, everyone knows of it whether they want to or not.
I cannot account for any of this. Nor are these the only peculiar happenings this week.
This past Thursday was Market Day in Stourton, as usual. And as I was walking about the square—looking for quills, if you must know, dear Armand—I caught sight of Lieutenant Pertwee. He is a fine man, if a bit dim, and I quite enjoy passing the time of day with him; and on this particular day, with my dear Jane still so distraught, I wished to speak to him about the continued absence of Lieutenant Archer. Not that I wish her to transfer her feelings back to Lieutenant Archer, but the poor dear is so downcast!
I tell you truly, Armand, Lieutenant Pertwee saw me coming and ran. Turned about face, as parade ground as you please, and made for the hills of Wickshire at full speed—I suspect him of having marched double-time all of the way back to his billet. I have since invited him to tea, but my invitations have been returned unopened.
Meanwhile, Blightwell tells me that Wallace Hampton, he who is to be married to a Miss Claverham, has taken to drinking heavily at the King’s Scones in Stourton. Now, Mr. Hampton has always liked his drink, at balls and such similar social gatherings, as the young ladies of the region know to their distress. He is no cad, I beg you to believe, dear Armand, or he surely would not be invited to such events; but a sodden man is no kind of a dancing partner. But this kind of heavy drinking is most unusual, even for him. I myself saw him, while walking in Stourton with Jane Willoughby. He caught sight of the pair of us, turned white with a suddenness that was shocking to behold, and reeled down the square and into the door of the Scones.
What is it about me, that I now drive men away by my mere presence? Though one must be fair—it might be Jane’s presence. Not that Jane was in any way aware of Mr. Hampton’s actions, for I spoke of them to her and all she could find to say was, “Oh, did he?”
I am pleased to maintain a light tone, cousin Armand, but truly I am at my wit’s end. I pass my days in a state of dread that Edward will return home and announce that he is engaged to that. My dear Jane is heartbroken; Squire Willoughby is fit to be tied; and I have had a most unpleasant interview with Mrs. Willoughby in which I threw up my hands and proclaimed myself utterly mystified. She was forced, at last, to believe me.
It will be Market Day again in two days, and I fear the prospect brings me no pleasure at all.
Your perplexed and unhappy cousin,