Both of your letters arrived on the same day, which was a great comfort to me. I am relieved to know that you do not, in fact, blame me for the faults of my father. But if I may offer a suggestion, when you next encounter the enemy at sea, instead of throwing a pitched battle, simply write them a letter, I assure you it will be quite effective.
Cousin, I’m so sorry, truly from the depths of my soul. I know that it hurt you to receive my news. But I would rather that it came from my own hand than by that of your mother. It was not my decision, and believe me, I did not concede peacefully or quietly.
Papa has not been the same since Mama and Phillip died. Losing his heir and his wife so close together from the fever was a great blow to him. Not to mention leaving him alone with a strange girl child who is just as much a changeling to him as if I really had been left by the fairies. I believe he may plan to remarry, as he still has no heir, and that may be part of the problem. A father and daughter out at the same time would be decidedly odd. I do not know why he is acting in this way, what prompted him in this hurtful decision. Please believe that if I only knew, I would correct whatever fault of mine brought him to it.
I am managing to keep in contact with your family, despite Papa. I still see Rachel at many dances and balls. Fans may not be as reliable as your semaphore, but we manage. I only wish that language didn’t revolve almost wholly around romance. There are gestures for ‘I am engaged’ or ‘kiss me’ but none for ‘Rachel you dear, that bonnet is lovely, wherever did you get it?’ And of course we write to one another as I do with Aunt Emmaline.
I do not think you need worry about Rachel’s prospects, or little Freddy’s. The society papers, which have been known to comment on the color of Rachel’s gloves, have not deigned to notice recent changes vis-à-vis myself. After all, the moon does not suffer if a cloud cuts it. It in fact shines all the brighter.
As you pointed out yourself, the Sutcourt women have never wanted for excellent matches whether they had the talent or not. However they also had excellent dowries, were of sweet temperaments, closely tied to the Sutcourt family prestige and of course, very beautiful.
As to the question you raised in your second to last letter, as to who would bring me out if not Aunt Emmaline? The answer is my Aunt Constance Hewett on Papa’s side of the family. An absolute stick of a woman, quite the opposite of dear Aunt Emmaline in every respect.
This is the unkindest cut of all. Papa has returned to Warwickshire for business, unavoidable he says, running away I say, and I am left in Aunt Constance’s tender care. She is to be my conscience and my shadow. I can only surmise why she was willing to take me in, especially on such short notice, for she never seemed to have any affection for me before. But very quickly I was whisked away to her town house with my belongings, while Papa returned to our estates.
Canterford Place is a large forbidding sort of townhouse, all done in shades of gray like a charcoal sketch. The interior is decorated with many of late Uncle Mortimers curios from India. Stone monkeys and fantastic monsters ought to be ludicrous sitting next to a delicate porcelain vase of fresh flowers. But instead they add a gruesome touch of the macabre. They are more at home here than I.
After Papa took his leave, I was left with Aunt Constance in the parlor. She walked around, examining me head to toe as I’ve seen you inspect your sailors. Finally she said. “You’ve grown since I saw you last.”
“Yes ma’am. Mama was tall, and I appear to take after her in that regard.”
She made an un-encouraging sound. “The rest of you will do I suppose. You may have the height from the Sutcourts, but your coloring is definitely Endicott.”
I wasn’t sure if this was good or bad, and so held my tongue.
“Don’t hold yourself so stiffly, gel. I don’t bite. Though I make no promises about Alphonse.”
“Alphonse?” I asked.
Joshua, Aunt Constance has the most wretched little dog, a Pekingese named Alphonse. And he DOES bite. Face like squashed cabbage and with much of the same temperament. And you know how I usually adore dogs.
After a barely cordial introduction with said canine, Aunt Constance laid out the rules for my stay at Canterford Place. I will not list them all, for there are quite a few. But they boil down to doing what I’m told when I’m told, and not doing anything when I’m not.
But rest assured that I will find some way of stretching my wings in any little way that I can.
But if you could be persuaded to send me some of those volumes you promised earlier? I do not think Aunt Constance’s French is as good as mine. And I doubt she reads either Greek or Latin, so books in any of those languages would be greatly appreciated. As well as more news of yourself and Théophile. If I am trapped for the moment, I beg of you to help me live vicariously through your adventures.
Your loving cousin,