Letter XI [Sent]
02 Nov, 17--
My dear Hannah,
I was delighted to receive letters from you, two apiece, dated on from the 7th and 12th, and can scarcely convey the happiness these brought me. I am thankful to hear you are well and ardently hope you continue so. I must express my sincerest thanks for the kindness that you show my parents in visiting them weekly; it is a great source of comfort to know that you have taken such pains to care for them and I can only express my eternal gratitude. You should have made me, if I was not already, duty bound to love you forever.
I am touched by your concern regarding the sociability of my new home, but I hasten to assure you that I am now quite content. My days are busy with the young Mademoiselle and most of the spare hours left over are spent in my preferred way of contemplation and long solitary walks through the gardens. The seclusion here makes for a quiet, monastic life, which appeals to my more introspective tendencies. I am not entirely bereft of company though; there is a footman who has taken great pains to befriend me.
A new maid, Rosa, also joined not long after myself; she is timid and will hardly speak more than a handful of sentences at a time, but is a very sweet girl and has an excellent heart. She hails from ----- and always has, when she can be induced to tell them, interesting stories about growing up in the heart of ----. I first met her when she helped round up my ward, who had gone out bonnetless and shawlless as she is want to do, and so we were united force in bringing the little hellion back into the warmth!
I have also, finally, met the Master, when he summoned me down to his study; located in a remote corner of the ground floor, it is one of the largest and stateliest chambers in the mansion. It is a room lined with polished mahogany; a dark, serious wood that imparts a certain import. There were two tall windows that took advantage of the ceiling height but these were mostly obscured by the drawn blinds, half-shrouded in festoons and falls of ruddy drapery. There was a very long and wide writing desk in the centre, draped with reams of deep red damask that spilled over onto the dusky carpet. This was then piled high with a disorder of loose paper and rough scribbles, heaped upon several books in various states of being read. Three amply cushioned easy-chairs, a rich and velvety red, flanked the central display. The biggest, positioned just behind the desk and currently serving the Marquis, was even grander and looked, I thought, almost like a crimson throne.
The Marquis is what you might expect of someone in his standing; he is all well-bred pride, so innate it becomes almost slovenly, and has such natural charm that I was very gratified when he bestowed it on me for that short while. I found his face, though not pretty, quite striking in its sharp jawline, aquiline nose and deep-set eyes. There, however, I shall end my thoughts with the conclusion that he appears a man of sterling and resolute character; pray, do not mention my impressions to my parents; I fear I was a little too effusive in my description of the Master in the last letter to them.
We discussed his daughter's lessons but I was disappointed to find that he had quite strange ideas regarding her education. He told me that he considered himself "an historian, an essayist, a biographer, a scientist, a dramatic writer and a philosopher", and that he had every hope his daughter would become the same. "She should be skilled," he added, "in the art of music, language and drawing. But I do not wish to see her disciplined but would ask that you nurture the liberty of spirit and mind, so that it becomes naturally inclined to such pursuits rather than forced to bend towards them through that subservience we customarily breed into our young girls. I have oft said that human intellect is a sort of barometer, directed in its variations by the atmosphere which surrounds it."
I'm afraid that I am still not entirely sure what he meant. When I impressed upon him my opinion that a little structure and guidance was beneficial, he dismissed the suggestion out of hand. We ended without my making any progress at all and, as if sensing my dejection, he said very affably. "Do not mind, my dear, you will appeal again and with my weathercock instability of opinion" – here he gave me a conspiratorial grin – "I may be prevailed upon yet".
I do find him a very odd man.
He is writing, he told me, something on liberty and the bourgeoisie – he seems to have a quite audacious fondness for revolution politics notwithstanding his own station. Oh! and an unfathomable disregard for novels, poetry or anything of a fictional persuasion save from plays which he believes should be only watched and never read. I was, therefore, further unsuccessful in suggesting that Else might find this kind of writing instructive. He was scornful at the idea and I have little hope of broadening the scope of the chateau library that, at present, does not cater to more chimeric tastes.
When you write to me again, as I insist you do with all haste, I beg of news about dear little Bea and Jacq.
With best love, etc., I am affectionately yours,
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