January 04, 17--

268 21 3
                                              


Letter XXII

January 04, 17—

Dear Mother and Father,

I was very well pleased (pray tell Jane) with the small portrait of Bea - in shape, features and sweetness; there never was a greater likeness. The frock is precious, and the ornaments convince me of what I had always supposed, that green was a favourite colour with her. I dare say the young Jacq would do very well in yellow if he can be prevailed upon to sit long enough to have the image captured.

You must not be concerned to hear that I have been gripped by a terrible fever these past days, since the night of the Master's ceremony, as I have made a substantial recovery since yesterday and have been well taken care of. A doctor was sent for on the second day when I found I had not the strength to climb out of bed, and I have been beset upon by all varieties of medicine – Mademoiselle Else being very insistent that I am cured "at once and not a moment later". I felt well enough to stomach some soup at yesterday's supper and have slept with sporadic interruption since.

Today, the doctor said that I was well enough to walk again and that it would do me good to take a few turns around the garden from where I write to you now. I may also admit that I have been subjected to some feverish imaginings - "agitations of the spleen" as the doctor pronounced them, with kind firmness.

Madam L---, standing nearby when I recounted the tale, was far harsher. "This would well become a woman's story at a winter's fire, authorized by her grandmère. Hush, hush!"

The Master was surprisingly more indulgent, listening to my strange tale of apparitions on the landing with convincing sincerity and then bursting out - "madam, I say you are quite mad!"

I laughed so hard that Else had him removed from the room, declaring that it was too much excitement.

She has been very sombre lately. And he very jovial. I suppose the new mistress of the house is cause for both. The lady has made herself quite at home here and has already garnered much approval from the household staff by her countenance and manners. She is highly accomplished for age, and her performance on the pianoforte is exquisite. I had tried to make Else observe and learn from her, for musical instruction is something lacking in our teaching, but she disdained the idea. I had previously felt myself duty-bound to her tuition but now I am concerned that perhaps I have outlasted that purpose; you may see me even before Easter, though I wish to settle one or two matters before I give my leave.

I have digressed from her ladyship however, and meant to answer your questions on that subject a little more. I had the opportunity to speak to her a little this morning and learned that she has many grand plans for this household – with the desire to acquire a much larger staff-in-residence and a very fine fleet of carriages. She confided that she had never felt such happiness although, she said in her tinkling laugh, "it is a selfish passion and my own governess, a very strict nun called Mother L------, would be most disapproving". She had felt a little morose during her journey, homesick and fatigued, but all of that had dissipated when she met my Master. "I shall labour to be worthy of him," she told me, very seriously. I wanted to ask if she would be willing to induce him to prayer, for seems such a good Christian lady, but I felt it was beyond the limits of my station – and that is a role I am determined to adhere to most strictly. I am sure, at any rate, that she will reach the same conclusion I have, and I am easier in the knowledge that the future of Chateau ---------- is secure with her presiding. 

The Master has not commented on the match, at least not to me, but continues to bestow great affection on her ladyship. He had the piano brought downstairs yesterday, into the Great Room, so that he might be able to watch her play at the best vantage from his study. The day before, flowers arrived; at least a hundred bundles, armfuls of arum lilies in great glass jars with heavy pollen that powers the fingers. I was still bedridden and half-asleep that I thought myself dreaming at first when I saw them all being unloaded. They have filled her bedchamber and spilt out, down the adjacent hallway, so that the whole wing is perfumed with the lush, rich incense that hangs heavy in the air. And today, she came down in a ruby choker that likes of which I have never seen before – not even in the courts of P---- where the ladies are bedecked in finery. It is a family heirloom apparently, from the Marquis' grandmother who was the -------------- of ---------------. I am too poor a writer to give its splendour justice, but the necklace is comprised of three golden rows, each inlaid with a proportionate gem, glittering red and half a fist in size. The effect, even worn with her plain white gown when she tried it on, was marvellous and I fancy she will create quite the stir in any ballroom in this country or her own.

Ms. Pennyworth still does not approve. One of the Marquis earlier gifts, in his vexing rudeness, was a book that does not bear mentioning. Suffice to say, it was a very poor choice and though I am not acquainted with the exact material it contains, a rudimentary understanding of the synopsis was enough to know that it should never be beheld by a proper lady. It has been confiscated now, and I believe that the necklace and flowers do show his penitence. Although I never can quite predict what he shall do next.

I have dawdled over this letter for so long it is raw twilight and I feel the chill nipping at my fingers and toes, chasing me back into the house. Besides, I must go and ensure that my little mademoiselle has not gone nighttime wandering -

, etc etc

C.B.

PS.

I am back in my room and have ensured that Else is tucked in for the night. Something else has happened; Ms. Pennyworth has been turned away! I came in from the cold this evening, from where my letter left off, and walked into the most dreadful row. It was Madam L--- and Ms. Pennyworth is such a dreadful shouting match that I thought they would come to blows. Her ladyship was there, in tears. The Master too, very grave and unfriendly. Else was my immediate thought and I rushed up the stairs; she was in her room, brushing her doll's hair very neatly. I told her not to worry about the commotion downstairs but she seemed entirely unconcerned and, after checking she was definitely unperturbed, I came back down to find that Ms. Pennyworth had been given her bags.

She was still in a furious temper and was crying out to the Master – "you haven't gotten rid of me, no no, this isn't the last of me. I know what you are about Sir, yes I do, mark my words". They had to force her to leave and she was pushed out into the cold – the Marquis ordering the footmen to ensure that she was escorted away before he went to comfort her ladyship who was utterly wracked with misery. At one instance, she said to him, "please call her back? She may be a very angry woman, but she has cared for me very well over the years."

The Master refused. He said that he would not tolerate such behaviour in his home and could not abide her language – which, he added, is not fit to be spoken in front of his wife nor daughter. I hastened to reassure him that Else was fine. He thanked me and bade that I return to my room – chastening the others to do the same.

"The woman is not permitted onto my estate," he closed, "and if you see her again, you will tell me at once."

Privately, I feel bad for Ms. Pennyworth. She should not, of course, have acted so imprudently but I do believe that she had only the ladyship's interests at heart. I should try to be a friend to the Mistress in Ms. Pennyworth's absence, for I am sure she will miss her sorely. 

Dangerous LettersWhere stories live. Discover now