November 20, 17--

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Letter XVI

Nov 20th, 17--

Dear Mother and Father,

It has been a week since I last wrote and I have had time to reflect upon those circumstances of last Sunday and see them in a new light. To explain, earlier today I took a morning walk, as I often do on my day of rest. I have no definitive route, but prefer a more meandering course and today Providence guided my steps through the rose garden and into the hidden cemetery, where I chanced upon the Master. He was very taken aback and angry to see me and, for my part, I was deeply sorry for the intrusion. I promised not to return again, saying that I had only come to walk a little way around the mausoleum and admire the structure once more. "You must pardon me, sir," I implored, "I would not be the cause for your ire". At this his demeanour quite changed.

"Come," he said, "I shall show you inside."

He showed me the key to the doors that was hung around his neck. It was very dark inside and I could scarcely make out the six or seven steps we descended into the crypt. Here, there was large, grand tomb with the statue of a weeping angel above. She is beautifully carved but the sculptor had made her face wondrously piteous and I felt rather overcome myself.

The master was on his knees. "My wife lies here."

"It is a beautiful resting place," I replied, but he seemed not to hear. He cut the most solemn, wretched figure I had ever seen.

I know not how long we stood there under the angel's gaze. Finally, he bade me leave. I had just removed myself to the top of the stairs when he cried again, in such anguish and fury, "leave me!"

I picked up my skirt and fled.

Once I had returned to the courtyard fountain, I reflected upon what I had seen. I was unhappy that I had disturbed him in his grief and realised that much of his darkness and distaste towards the church – that has troubled me all this while – must come from the terrible loss he suffered. Judge not lest ye be judged. I have done my Master a great disservice and can only now vow that I shall endeavour to help him in whatever way I might. I had thoughts to leave but, dear parents, you must permit me to extend my duties here until I can somehow see him and Else settled, and I can be assured of their family's happiness. I must do what I can, in the time that he is here, to help him reconnect with the God he has so wretchedly distanced himself from. The bell has called for supper, I shall go down and then resume –

I have now just returned from speaking with the Master. He called me into his study after supper and appeared very melancholic.

"My dear," he said, "I hope I did not startle you too much this morning."

I, of course, assured him that I was in complete understanding and regretful at having imposed myself on such a private moment. "If I may be so bold, sir," I said, "I feel that I understand you a little better."

"You do?"

"Yes. And I will keep you in my prayers. Morning and night."

He looked at me for a very long time, but I could not presume to tell you what he was thinking. "That is very good of you," he said, at last. We spoke for some time, and then we somehow came around to the topic of coffee. When he found that I had never tasted it he was most adamant that he send for a sample and prevailed upon the housekeeper despite my commands to the contrary. Two cups, so dainty and delicate they might have belonged to Else's tea set, were carried in some time later despite the hour.

"It isn't the same as drinking it in a coffee house," the Master said, "there you get a certain ambiance, a place for conversation and exchange, that is so lively and busy I always associate it with the smell." He took a deep breath. "I am transported already."

I found the small unpleasant, and the actual flavour of the drink worse. It was foully bitter, thick and brown so that it coated the tongue and was entirely unpalatable. He caught my reaction and laughed heartily, shaking off my apologies as he removed the cup.

"I admit, it is oddly like boiled leather, but the effects on the mood are wondrous if you can stomach enough."

I thanked him again, very aware in that moment of my less refined tastes at having scrunched up my nose at a beverage that he had had the beans specially imported for.

Still, when I at last returned to my room, I found myself highly gratified by the whole exchange and hope to continue my good work. I think, in time, I might encourage my lord to reopen the Chapel and what a blessing that would be for the household. I am weary, and there is an unmistakable chill in the air, so I will to bed at once.

With love –

Charlotte

PS. Mother! Father! I awoke this morning to news that the Master is to go to court and desires Else and I accompany him to the capital. I am to see P----! I have, as you well know, always wanted to visit the city but have never found myself with the time nor connections to do so; and I am most gleeful at the opportunity. I am meant to be packing right now but, instead, am hurriedly scribbling this attachment to my last letter because I do not know what the conditions of our stay will be or when I will have a chance to deliver word of my arrival. Be assured of my safety, however; the Marquis has permanent quarters in the ------------ -------- and has made all the necessary arrangements. We are to stay there for about two weeks while he conducts important business and, although Else's lessons must not be neglected, the little Mademoiselle seems to have caught my excitement and is already discussing all the places she will visit.

She has just popped into my room now. It is the most childlike I have ever seen her; she even did a twirl – though very daintily – and declared, "I shall have a new hat, and a new dolly, and a new china set, and a lovely little frock with a big bow around it. Yes Madam?"

"I am sure you shall have to ask your father."

"Her father must say yes to all," said the Marquis, appearing in my doorway! I stood up at once to greet him, very self-conscious at having on my plainest shawl and being unkept from rushing about after breakfast. He grabbed Else and swung her up in one great, strong movement.

"Sir?" I asked.

"Forgive me madam, I came in search of my daughter. Else, are you ready to leave?"

"I've told Bertie to repack my valise, she folded the garments poorly the first time," said Mademoiselle in her prim way.

"You should not run my staff ragged," warned the Master, playfully. "Come, let us leave Madam, I sure she wants shot of us."

I am sure I turned an immediate red, unused to such teasing. "That is not true at all, Sir."

He was thankfully called away before he could respond and I might cause myself further embarrassment. I have just heard Else cry – "you are crumpling my frock, papa, see how it creases? Put me down at once." I must confess, I find them the most humorous pairing.

But now I must go; so I shall, once more, draw this letter to the close. Mention my leaving to Hannah, if you have the opportunity, so that she does not fret – I shall not have time to write her word of my travel as well. I only wish that you could join me in P----, but I will write you ever detail of what I see and it will be as if you were there all along. I hope you are not saddened by my continued stay so far away; I feel very foolish at having pre-emptively mentioned a possible return but I now that you would caution me to be wish and not to act rashly and if only I had heeded such advice I would not have almost turned in my resignation! The incidents of last time, now more fully formed and explained in my mind, have been replaced by a feeling of warmth and surety that I am now where I belong, and can do some good.

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