Letters from Armorica: Confounded Spite (15 April 37 AF)

First Letter

The Elms, Wickshire, Cumbria

11 February 1015

My dearest cousin Armand,

I am delighted to have heard from you at last! You seem to be doing quite well for yourself with your Amelie and your daughters and your town and your wagonworks. I remember how often you and Uncle were at daggers drawn; more than once I quite expected to see blood on the drawing room carpet, so cutting were your words. That is the second person plural, my dear Armand; I am by no means blaming it all on you. Nor can I blame you, in truth, and so I am glad that that is all behind you.

I thank you for your delicacy in not asking after my erstwhile beau—though I am sure you have not been so reticent with Jack, not that he knows anything more than you do. And that is all that I shall say about that loathsome object.

How little I have to tell you, to be sure. Life in the country is so slow! One daily has tea, and perhaps even crumpets, but one usually has it alone; one never receives morning visits; one never goes for a promenade in the Park. One can walk or ride, when the snow isn't all encompassing, but of course it is; one can go out in the sleigh, but only when there is somewhere to go—unless one delights in being frozen for its own sake.

And so I have remained at home, snug in my library, sitting by the fire and sipping tea in quite unladylike quantities. Even without a reply to spur me on, I find writing to you to be one of the bright spots in my week; I think I should go mad without it. So it is embarrassing to be caught with so little matter for reflection.

But let me see. The weather being particularly trying this week, I ventured no farther than the Grimsbys—and a badly judged outing it was, too, for a stray blizzard required that I must stay the night. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my room had been properly aired, with candles to spare and a decent fire; but I believe that one of the housemaids has taken a liking to me, for I am sure that La Grimsby did not order it so.

Of course, it is ever and always my plan to be pleasant to the Grimsbys, cheerful and demure, never rising to their bait, which is plentiful—for how better to confound them? I have no lack of repartee, Armand; I am not one of those who thinks of the right thing to say hours later, on the staircase. But this is the country; and so often the right thing to say would be the wrong thing.

I may say it has given me a great if bitter pleasure over the last four months to observe the faces of La Grimsby and her daughters when I come to call—for I am no naïf, Armand, and I know what it means when they glance at me in that way. They are looking for signs of my impending, so they suppose, confinement, and wondering how long I will continue to be seen in company. May they choke on my company as the months go by!

Poor Armand, I believe I have shocked you again. But I assure you that there is nothing in it: it is merely their ill-bred, low-minded spite that would lead them to think such a thing. The looks of disappointment on their faces are a joy to me, and I mean to heap the burning coals as high on their heads as I can.

And indeed, think whatever ill you may please concerning the loathsome object I spoke of earlier—but you must acquit him of that, at least. He is not so abandoned—or, if he is, the harm he did me was not of that kind.

Of what else may I write? The gardener's dog has had a fine litter of puppies. Miss Derby was afflicted with the ague, but is now quite well. Blightwell sent a man to deal with several persistent drafts; and if he did so in part by completely stopping up the music room door, I can well make do with the smaller piano in the drawing room. And if I missed my weekly promenade through the market in Stourton last Thursday, I can assure you that no one at all was walking through Stourton for pleasure this past week.

It is little enough to delight in, I am afraid. Perhaps next week's letter will not find me quite so at point non-plus.

Your loving cousin,


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