You astound me! What is it about females that the prospect of elopement so catches their fancy? I hesitate to recommend you the worthy young gentleman of my acquaintance lest the next letter I receive be a tearful one from my Mother with news of your flight to Gretna Green.
Your accusations are most wounding, my dear. I have not withheld any information from you, merely that my journey through the slums was tedious and for the most part unexciting. You certainly would not have enjoyed a detailed account of the smell.
Further more, Helene you goose, I know exactly where you recall your Viscount Durville from. You know him best as Baron Marville, the evil wizard from that silly novel Emma Rothmore wrote. I cannot recall the name of it right now, but somewhere in its lurid passages she describes him as you do, to the letter. You would still have been in the school room at the time, but the heart of the matter was not very long after the death of Miss Rothmore’s father Durville’s name became connected with that of her very pretty step-mother. The old wags say she wrote her tawdry little book because she had her heart set on Durville herself, but I have it on excellent authority that it was her step-mother that she was most attached to.
Regardless, that is neither here nor there. Durville is something of a loose screw but other than that I have little knowledge of him. I cannot fathom why he would wish to pay Father a visit. Perhaps it was simply to settle some gaming accounts. I am sure Mother would know if you were to ask her.
My profuse thanks in your aid in obtaining me a copy of the Charter. I shall explain to you where the problem lies. The Charter for the Marquis of Sutcourt was granted in 1420 by Henry V, as I am sure Grandmother often told you. I wonder if she ever told you the terms of succession? “Heirs male of the body, whom failing the eldest born female without division of body” – you may note, my dear, the absence of that word so dear to more modern grants, “legitimate”.
However, just this morning I have received letters from both my parents.
Mother wrote chiefly to berate me for staying in Paris too long. It seems the lovely Georgina Stapleton has formed a match with one Captain Goodwin March. I wish them all the best, as must dear Georgina’s father, General Stapleton – one would recall that Captain March is both his aide and his particular favorite. However, Mother’s good friend, Mrs. Stapleton, seems to have set her sight on someone of higher birth and greater fortune, and taxes her for not bringing me up to scratch. She has addressed me as ‘Her Changeling’, so I must be in very foul odor with her, since you know she normally does not even seem to recall the matter.
For once, Father’s letter was somewhat more pertinent. As have you rightly guessed he does have the matter in hand, at least as much as it can be. Claude-Laurent is aware of his birthright but seems also uninterested, and when the time comes if he is content to remain discretely in Paris while Ralph assumes the title than I little doubt that no one will be the wiser to our harmless fraud. I must confess that this does fill me with some regret, for of course if Claude-Laurent were to succeed than Théophile would in time be the 28th Marquis Sutcourt, with all honors and privileges, including a seat in the House of Lords. I would have given much to witness the spectacle.
(The brat is asking me why I am laughing all of a sudden. I shall not tell him or he would never forgive me. His dignity comes and goes like the wind, but when he has it he can be most intimidating.)
Returning to my father’s letter, as I guessed and I suppose you have already suspected, this was not one of his regular missions where I am tasked to bring an unfortunately misplaced child into the warmth and comfort of the family. Claude-Laurent is too old and too wealthy for that. My brother, it seems, was sired in the last heady days before that unspeakable uprising, while Father was on his grand tour. The child being born in his absence, he was taken in and raised by our Aunt Jacqueline, Great-Grandmother’s sister, and he seems to have in turn been instrumental to her in preserving her fortune during the Terror. After all, the brutes could not pillage what they could not find. Said fortune was willed to him upon her death and continues to provide him with all the comforts of an elegant life. In short, he has need for neither our money nor our countenance, and no apparent wish to quit the pleasures of the Parisian demi-monde for the decorum of London Society. That being as it stands, Father professes that he was most surprised to have received a letter from Claude-Laurent this past January petitioning for aid in a certain matter.
What that matter is I have not the foggiest clue. Father, b____ him, instead of acting with all the haste due to the matter and dispatching one of my brothers, waited until I relinquished command of my dear Britomart. The rest you know. Théophile confesses he is as lost as I am, he only knows that his father had been growing increasingly distracted over the past year.
You would offer to take Théophile in, wouldn’t you? Even after you call him a hellion. If only you knew, Hellene. He is the most hell-born babe imaginable, and would, if dispatched to Dorset, irreversibly lead Thomas and Kermit down the path of dissipation and moral ruin.
He and Wilson are at daggers drawn since this morning, when we discovered that the child somehow undertook to steal my gray coat, my beautiful gray coat made for me by Scott, and have it re-lined in a yellow embroidered Chinese silk. He says it is very “iki” and I must agree (though I wonder where he learnt the word. Perhaps from his mother?). Wilson would beg to differ. I offer up my poor coat as an example of the daily hazards of living with the boy, who seems to be frequently seized by these whims and is not used to having anyone restrain him from acting upon them.
I have not yet ascertained why he persists in his strange costume, though I am quite as curious as you are about it. Neither have I divined where it is that his talent lies, as it has yet to exhibit itself.
I am writing this as we sit at a coffee house by the Seine, where Théophile seems to be something of a known face. I find the fashionable crowd passing by to be quite diverting, but Théophile begs me to tell you it is very wet and very boring here, and that everyone is quite ugly, and that I am embarrassingly easy to please.