The Elms, Wickshire, Cumbria
13 January 1015
My dearest cousin Armand,
I beg of you to forgive me for not writing last week. All was in a whirl, but we are quite all right now.
Brother Edward trotted dutifully back to London after the New Year began, carrying news of my supposed enchantment with certain officers of the 2nd Hussars; and far from yielding the motherly but stern letter which I had feared, his news brought upon me a descent by my dear Papa and a fatherly but stern lecture!
He greeted me warmly on his arrival, and bade me join him for mulled wine in the library—for other than his manner he was cold clear through. I have been spending most of my time in the library, fortunately, so the fire was going apace; the drawing room would have been unpleasantly dank.
I sat in the deep arm-chair I had taken for my own; he stood by the fire with his wine until his shivers had quite stopped, and then took his place behind his desk. “His” desk, I call it, as if he had spent any amount of time there in living memory! “So, Amy my girl,” he said, “what is all this that Edward tells me about you dangling after officers?”
I sighed dramatically, casting my eyes to the ceiling in the most affected way I knew how. “Oh! Oh! How I long to live in garrison, upon cold toast and weak tea and bully beef!” I cried. “What joy to live in a cold tent, waiting by a tiny fire for my husband to return from playing whist with the other officers in the mess hall while the rain and snow falls outside. Oh! to live in mud amid the thunder of cannons and the rumble of drums! Can anything else be so romantic?”
As I finished this speech I clasped my fluttering hands to my bosom and cast my father a coy glance before restoring my normal mien and having a sip of my wine.
Father’s lips quirked a trifle, which I was glad to see, but all he said was, “Don’t try to gammon me, Amy. Out with it!”
“Very well, Father,” I said. “I have met Lieutenant Pertwee exactly twice, once at the Grimsby’s and once at the Willoughby’s. He did seem quite pleased to see me again, though I have no notion of what might be going on in that tiny brain of his, and I assure you I have done nothing to encourage him. I should think he is similarly pleased with everyone he meets. As for Lieutenant Archer, I have met him only the once, which should have been plain even to Edward, and it was Miss Willoughby who was making up to him, not I.”
“So there was nothing for Edward to be concerned about it, then?”
“Nothing at all, Father!”
He gave me a searching look, and so I was forced to add, “I do not deny I took a deal of pleasure in their presence, Father; for life is so very slow here in Wickshire, and I see so few people. But I was not dangling after them, nor will I. I am not at all inclined to once again put myself into a false position.”
He pursed his lips thoughtfully, and sipped his wine, and then made as if to speak, but I fear I cut him off in a most unfilial way.
“No, Father,” I said, holding up one hand. “I do not wish to speak of That Man. I have quite forgotten him. I wish only to remain here in peace until the ton have forgotten as well.”
He put his cup down on the desk. “That may take some little time,” he said. “For he has not forgotten you, and speaks of you often, so Edward tells me.”
“I make no doubt that he does, and more I will not say.”
Nor will, I Armand, for I can just imagine Him blackening my name. “Such a lovely girl; I confess I am quite pining for her. A pity she proved to be so unstable.” For it must be that I am in the wrong, not He. Never He! Such a thing could never be borne!
I do not at all see the end of this, Armand. It may be that I shall have to settle for some farm boy, some squire’s son, or perhaps live in garrison in truth.
Oh, but I must not given in to my fears, or I shall make myself quite miserable!
Father then read me a lecture about the honor of our family name, and about preserving my reputation, and this and that, as he was bound to do, I suppose, having come all that way; but in the end I was able to persuade him that I am unlikely to become attached to any of the gentlemen of my present acquaintance, and that Edward was being his usual fat-headed self. Not that either of us put it in quite those terms, but I believe we understood each other very well.
Father stayed with me two days, on the second of which we had tea with Squire Willoughby and his wife, and then he returned to London. I quite like Squire Willoughby, I find, though I shall have to give you an account of him in another letter; he is a bluff, hearty, good-natured man. Perhaps a squire’s son would not be so bad after all.
Your loving cousin,