January 17, 17--

141 9 1

Letter XXIV [Sent]

27 Jan, 17--

Dear Bea,

To think that I have received my very own letter from you! (Though, I perceive, written in my mother's hand). It has given me occasion to smile, and reminded me of all the love and joy that waits for me at home.

It sounds like you shall soon grow into a fine, full-grown lady, but you must be a child, or at least child-like, for a little while longer and be affectionate, merry and playful. You asked after the little girl that I instruct; she is just as doll-like as you hope. A Mademoiselle with light, golden hair, cheeks of cream and roses, full cherub lips, a mildness in the nose and eyebrows – so that it seems Nature has moulded and coloured with intention. You would think her a tiny angel at first glance. There! Does that not please you? I fear that you may be disappointed in conversation however; she has none of your love for stories and wants to hear of only the practical; she could not tolerate one of our pirate tales, nor accept Blanc the flying horse that you would canter around the garden on a summer eve.

A week ago, I asked her to write me a poem and so she set out some very strict lines in versification as to the ploughman's lunch (owing to her recent interest in the dietary habits of agrarian farmers). "My dear," I said, "why don't you write something else? Try to have fun." "I do not know what you mean," she replied.

"Why don't you write it for a friend?" I said and then, reflecting that she had none her own age (a very sad consequence of her current isolation), I added, "or perhaps Madam L---, your housekeeper?"

It was only until I offered to bribe her with bon-bons that she reluctantly agreed and, in her surly fashion, shortly produced a very impolite ditty as to Madam L—'s stature. Of course, I had to scold her, but privately was very amused and see no harm in copying it for you here. It is addressed "To a Tall Thin Person" and carries out as follows -

I'm fond of light in any shape,
But can't perceive a cause
Why I should like a lamp-post,
Or a pair of lantern jaws.

When first your tall gaunt form I saw,
With face like any mourner,
I thought you were the shadow
Of some person round the corner.

I don't know that I'd like a friend
Particularly lumpy,
But then, you know, you scraggy ones
Are always cross and grumpy.

If I am preying on your mind, 
Dismiss, I pray, that matter, 
The ones I prefer to speak to me,
Are at least a trifle fatter. 

I should wonder if that will not produce a giggle! Do not repeat it in front of your parents, else they won't be best pleased with me. I am counting down the moments until I see you all, and I should like nothing more than the chance to sit around the fireside again and carry on with all our wonderful conversational stories. 

I have enclosed a package which I hope reaches you safely, it contains some small presents that I found whilst walking the town near to my current estate. There is a dainty comb in your favourite shade, a painted soldier for Jacq and a pair of silk stockings for your mother (not as durable as those I forwarded from P----, but at a saving of 2s. 4½d. I felt it worth the expense). If you continue to be good, and apply yourself to music and reading, and say your prayers and hymns nightly, I shall carry a few more trinkets when I return at Easter. Tell your brother the same, and that I am counting on him to look after you all.

With all my love,

Auntie Charlotte B------

Letter XXV [Sent]

27 Jan, 17--

To Sir. T—D-------,

Your letter has puzzled me exceedingly - and I equally am astonished that you thought it would garner any different a reception. It is an abrupt departure from our last communication which, I had thought, marked the end of our correspondence forever.

When last you wrote, it was out of anger at the belief that I had presumed too much from our previous interaction – and that I had acted on that presumption with great folly, at the risk of jeopardising your name and reputation. You impugned my character and condemned by motivations, cast aspersions against my beloved parents, all whilst continually owning that you had never said a word in encouragement of my ill-conceived affection. Am I now to surmise that your feelings have entirely and inexplicably changed? That "From Fairest Creatures, desire increases" so miraculously, this "Gentle Thief" has somehow worked from afar to insight such passion - against all objections of reason and duty? You may keep your sonnets, Sir; all praise of me is unnecessary. If what I wrote to you in my last missive was a sign of encouragement, I know not how to phrase this refusal to convince you that it is one.

I am sorry that your engagement to Miss. D-------- L--------- has been terminated. I am even more sorry if it truly was, as you say, on my account. Yes, there was a time when your solicitations would have been welcome but your conduct since, and the matrimonial attachment you made instead, has meant that I can no longer desire a more intimate acquaintance. In short, I could not reasonably expect happiness from a union with an individual who is so changeable that they might disparage in one turn, and propose in another. If you thought that I would tolerate such alteration, I fear that you do not know me as well as you suppose.

I bear you no malice though. My chastisement is intended only to impress upon you, as firmly as I possibly can, that I cannot entertain even the notion of a renewed friendship. Perhaps I could even overlook all that has passed between us but you must pay me the compliment of believing that my refusal is for as much your own good as mine. You must trust me when I say that I wish you very happy and very rich and, by refusing your hand, do all in my power to prevent you from being otherwise.

I must also direct you that, in no uncertain terms, are you to visit the residence where I am currently employed. Not only do I not desire to see you, but the Master of this house does not permit my having callers and will certainly refuse visitation. Besides, there is nothing further to discuss, my thoughts enclosed here and the final words I have to offer on this topic and the sooner that this insensibility has been dispensed with, the better.


Miss. Charlotte B------

PS. I shall not expect a return letter.

Dangerous LettersWhere stories live. Discover now