Deception By Proxy. Chapter Fifteen. An Armed Protectress Disarmed, then Re-armed.

Thursday, March 1st, 2018



Nothing seemed to escape William’s attention. By early the next morning, he had noticed that Annis has taken to carrying a bulky and heavy knitting bag with needles poking from it, and yet, he had never seen her knitting to any purpose. It sounded ominous when she had put it down on the parlor table a little too heavily on one occasion.

He smiled and bided his time. He had noticed one of the large horse pistols had gone missing from the gun cabinet in the study.

That same afternoon, as he was allowing his midday meal to settle, he had sat himself in the window seat of the parlor and opened his journal to continue writing his various letters. Annis was doing some mending with needle and thread as she sat at the parlor table, intent also on keeping an eye on William as much as she could. He had not spent much time after that first day in their father’s study and after the other two gentlemen had left. Annis had watched everything taking place around her, even as she watched William, and was concerned to note that her mother no longer seemed worried about the state of their affairs, or almost anything else for that matter, yet she herself could not see that anything might have changed for the better.

She now knew, after a little surreptitious investigation as the opportunity was available, that some of the letters in William’s folder were to the families of those who had served with him in his regiment and for whom he had felt responsible, for there were a sheaf of them in the back of his bulky folder along with his sketches.

As a major, he had the responsibility of commanding several men and undoubtedly of losing some of those about him. Her father had spoken of such things as the various news sheets had come across his desk.

William had taken on the task of writing to their families to express his greatest sorrow over the loss of their sons while serving with him in the Peninsula and clearing out the French. There seemed to have been many of them killed in action, and yet, she was not sure just how many men a major might expect to command. She had noticed and read one or two where he had written to those whose son was only badly wounded, to give them news of their son’s progress and whereabouts.

He had positioned himself close to Annis’s knitting bag, which was beside him and he seemed to have lost something, for he looked through his folder and then beside himself.

“So that is where I lost it.” He had picked up Annis bag as he delved behind it, into the cushions for a pencil that he seemed to have lost there, and seemed surprised to encounter the muzzle of a pistol poking from her knitting bag.

“My. What is this?” He gave every appearance of being bemused as he looked across at Annis. “I did not realize that this was part of the knitting requirements of a young lady. Surely the clacking of knitting needles does not arouse such violent passions in anyone to the point where you need to defend yourself from attack?”

“It isn’t.” She colored, even as he smiled and then laughed gently. It seemed that he was able to read her thoughts.

He smiled at her. “I didn’t think it was. You seem to fear for your life. Do you? That is the only reason I know for anyone wanting to carry such a murderous weapon as this.”

She was flustered for a second or two and could not meet his eyes. “There were two strangers here the other day. One of them seemed most…seemed the worse for wear and strange, and perhaps with violent tendencies.”

“Surely Mr. Gilbey did not scare you that much? Though yes, he does have exceptionally violent tendencies in the right circumstances, as we all do, but I can assure you he is a gentle man where women are concerned and is even gentle with stupid young boys too in need of his tutelage, as I once was.”

She tried to bolster her case with the pistol. “I also heard that Mr. Thackeray was seen in the area—one of our less illustrious and desirable relatives.”

“He was? He is?” His innocent response was as though he did not know that, yet he certainly did for he had brawled with him, and there was that ever-present smile upon his face as though he were laughing at some inner secret known only to himself. She wondered if he had not also known about the pistol too, and had needed an excuse to disturb her bag, for she did not see him retrieve any pencil that he might have lost. “Perhaps he was just passing through.”

It all sounded so innocent, as though nothing need be thought of it. “I can understand your concern over Mr. Gilbey. He has that effect on most people who encounter him. He instills, in some, a great dread of making him angry, as he has the reputation of being unpredictable and violent if crossed. And in others, he instills a great confidence that trouble will never approach them while he is close by. He is my sister’s butler and general factotum, whom I borrowed for that day. As for the taller of the two gentlemen, Mr. Diebold, he is more to be feared, I think.” His eyes sparkled as he thought of that gentleman. ‘Yes. Much more dangerous, for he has an incisive and quick mind that nothing will hinder or stop. He is the mightier pen to Mr. Gilbey’s obvious sword, but in a violent scuffle my money would be on Gilbey every time.”

Hers would be too. She shivered at that thought, for some reason. “You seem to know only violent and dangerous men.”

He smiled at her criticism. “Violent and dangerous only to their enemies, Miss Barristow. Annis.” She noticed that his eyes smiled at her, and that he did not seem offended by her comment. “Yes, I have lived with such men for the last few years and been thankful because of it. That is what war is all about, and I have survived when too many others did not because I was also violent when I needed to be.”

He continued to smile at her, but then his expression became more serious. “But more to the point over what is dangerous or not.” He turned the pistol over in his hands and examined it. “You carry this horse pistol close by you, but can you handle a firearm, or do you pose a danger to everyone about you as well as to yourself?” He looked at her, awaiting some kind of explanation, and she found herself blushing at the uncomplimentary thoughts she held for him over his discovery.

“My father taught me to shoot.” She was flushed and even defiant. “He sometimes took me out birding with him, so I am also familiar with fowling pieces.”

“I see. I regard firearms with great respect and caution, especially….” He did not continue his thoughts, but then he had no need to. Especially when in the hands of a foolish woman, he might have continued to say.

“Especially in the hands of a woman?” she filled in the gap.

“No, Annis. Especially when there are impressive and curious children in the house. I was one myself once and nearly caused the loss of life of a friend with a pistol just like this one. I did not know that with age, they tend not to function as intended.”

“Oh.” She digested that admission. “But Sophia knows that she must not touch this, for I had a word with her and warned her of the dangers. She promised not to touch it.”

“Good. But safer never to have to carry it. Most ladies I know would not know how to fire such a weapon, never mind be so unwise as to pick one up, to say nothing of loading it and carrying it about with them, for I assume it is loaded.” He looked at her for confirmation.

She nodded.

“Especially one so conspicuous and so large and clumsy and even with this vicious blade hinged beneath it.” He swung the blade out and replaced it again. “Yes, it would definitely do great injury if it were dropped on one’s foot.”

She found that she was feeling stubborn as well as angry at him for baiting her and seeming so smug about it all. “Perhaps you would like a demonstration, sir?” She regretted the words even as she spoke them, but he had goaded her.

“Yes, I would.” He smiled at her. “I’m not surprised I touched a nerve. I would be surprised if I had not. But that would be a capital idea. Dare you do that, Annis?” He seemed to be challenging her as his eyes also seemed to smile at her.

She could not back away now, as he well knew. She would show him and perhaps let him see that she knew how to use it and was not afraid to use it if she must. “Yes. I do.” She took it from him and cursorily examined the gun. “I will need to recharge the pan, however. The gunpowder has fallen out of it.” She blushed at that discovery, but at least, she had discovered it before she tried to show him that she knew what she was doing, and had failed.

“Yes, so it has.” He had not taken a second look at the pan, for he had already seen that for himself as he had first removed it from its hiding place. “No danger of that one going off by accident.” Nothing would escape his keen eyes, it seemed.

He might try to convince her that he had not noticed that, until she pointed it out herself, but it was obvious that he had already seen that her gun would have been totally ineffective had she needed to use it. He did not seem to be gloating at her carelessness, and yet she felt as though he could not have been more critical of it if he had pointed it out himself.

“I think that if you expect to use it with any purpose, and without having to rush around looking for powder to recharge it or to rummage amongst your knitting to find it, it needs a better and tighter cover over the flashpan as well as more care in putting it away. That one is askew with age and hard use. Quite common, I know, as I found to my cost more than once, and as others did, to theirs. I shall see to it if you like?”

His words were gentle as he looked at her, but she did not answer, feeling embarrassed by that omission despite the fact that he also admitted to having been caught in the same position on one occasion.

“But then we should go outside.” He took the gun from her. “I doubt your mother would approve of having a loaded gun in the parlor.” They walked outside. He carried the gun and handed it to her once they were outside.

He watched as she recharged the pan from a powder horn in her knitting bag also.

“My. What you ladies manage to squirrel away in your bags and purses defies the imagination.”

She knew better than to respond to his humorous comment in her present rebellious mood.

“What about the knot in the gate-post over there?” He was challenging her again.

“I do not know my backdrop there, sir. There may be someone walking in the lane.”

“Yes, there might.” His eyes betrayed that he had already known that, and was challenging her again. “I am also William, remember?”

He had not said so, but that was her second test after she had carelessly failed the first one. Fortunately, she had passed that one. She had not known the powder would be shaken out of the flashpan so easily, especially when it was covered, and hoped that the wadding had been secure enough in the barrel not to have fallen out also, and losing the ball and charge in her bag as well. But then that was why she had put it in with the muzzle uppermost. She must make sure that there was no loose powder left in the bottom of her bag. It would be too embarrassing to have it suddenly erupt in flames.

“There are empty fields over there. There is a blemish on that oak, where a branch was taken off, and a weathervane leaning against it. Take your choice. If you miss, there is nothing to come to harm. For the target is below you, and a ricochet will go nowhere. Or you can choose a target more suitable for yourself.”

“I shall take the weathervane. The middle of the rooster’s body will leave a visible mark and a sound, and I shall not miss.” She sounded defiant.

He was impressed by her determination and confidence.

She raised the gun purposefully and fired without hesitation at the designated target. There was the dull sound of metal being hit by a piece of lead, and there was suddenly a notable dent in the body of the rooster. She was relieved to find that she had not lost anything from the pistol in her bag other than the powder from the flashpan.

“You hit it. Quite a respectable shot for this distance, but I fear, light on powder. You are one of only two ladies I know who might decide that they needed to know how to fire a gun and might be capable of firing one in anger, as I think you may be.” Her eyes flashed. Yes, she was angry. Angry at being found out. “A little high and to the right, I think, but you would have been effective anyway. I would have been heading quickly in the other direction after that. If I was still on my feet.”

She was not pleased with herself despite his praise. He seemed to be playing with her if his gentle smile could be read accurately. “It kicks.”

“They all do. If they didn’t, they would not be effective at the other end. Please stay there. Do not reload, though I am sure you have powder, shot and wadding enough somewhere in that knitting bag of yours. I have a better and safer solution to the difficulty.”

She watched as he entered the house. She swore at herself in frustration for having been found out to be carrying a bulky pistol and not knowing that it was useless.

He reappeared after a few moments with a small case containing a smaller pistol, a few lead shot, a little powder, wadding, and some strange and small brass cylinders. She was curious to see that the pistol had no flint and no flashpan.

“This is less bulky and will not lose its powder. It can also be kept in its case and out of the way of children.” He began to load it, and she watched attentively as he spoke. “It has a shorter barrel so it is liable to be less accurate too unless you are close to your target, but then a lady would rarely need take a distant shot—never advisable anyway. Better to wait and be sure of hitting what you decide to fire at with the one shot you can be sure of getting, though that may take some courage. It is also less likely to kick so hard and spoil your aim, but it will also kick, so it needs a firm grip. It is one that a lady—well, certain ladies—would not scorn to own. Keep this by you instead. It has a new percussion cap system that is cleaner and easier to use and less likely to misfire.”

He placed a percussion cap in place and handed it to her. “Now try it.”

She took her time, cocked the gun fully, and discharged it at her selected target. The kick was only a little less, even though it had a lighter ball and less of a charge of gunpowder, but she did strike the middle of the rooster, even at that distance and even put a hole in it.

“That will not take up too much room, I think, and you might even be able to carry it with less trouble. It would save you lugging about such a bulky knitting bag to conceal that other murderous weapon. Though safer by far, I think, if you were not to carry it at all.”

“Yes. Thank you. I do not knit that much.” She recalled something he had said earlier that had stuck in her mind. “You said I was one of only two women….”

He proceeded to clean and reload it for her as she watched attentively. “My sister, Elizabeth, whom you all seem to know. She would not be likely to tell you any of that, however. I gave her one like this just before I quit England. It was almost one of the first to use the new percussion cap. She had to use it only once I believe, and to some effect for her protection, before she introduced herself to Mr. Gilbey.” He was briefly reminded of Julius Maxton. His sister would not have discussed firearms nor have said anything of that misadventure to either Annis or to Bella or anyone else.

“If you do not object, I will see that this horse pistol is cleaned and returned to the gun cabinet, lest your sisters take it into their heads to emulate you. I am surprised that most of the house has not come running to find out whom you have killed, except I saw them heading into the village earlier. So who do you think you need protection from? I know I have a poor reputation in many quarters.” He smiled as though he did not believe that of himself. “But surely it cannot be that bad?”

She blushed and said nothing other than to thank him for his pistol. Had she been so obvious and transparent? It would seem so.

She was suddenly confused by him. He was obviously a dangerous individual and devious and was undoubtedly trying to lull her and the entire family into a false sense of security, including the servants, even Mrs. Rogers, and Thomas. But to what end? He had made no overtures of any kind to either her or Charlotte but rather, had seemed aloof to them, and he was all consideration itself to their mother. But her mother should know enough to see right through him, and yet it seemed that she had become blind. Sophia stood in no fear of him nor should she from what she had seen. He seemed to have everyone else, including her mother eating out of his hand. Either that, or he was far too good to be true, in which case Lady Seymour was mistaken in her rendering of him. But that seemed unlikely, for there had been hints of various scandals around him that she had heard of from years before, which her godmother had suddenly breathed better life into, and even that Mrs. Chepstow had known of him.

Over the next hour or so, she began to see him in a little different of a light, still keeping her godmother’s cautions in mind, but found that despite that, she was judging him less harshly. No brigand or despoiler of women would willingly give into her hands the means to foil him. Or would he? She decided she needed to know more about him than she had so far read in that letter, though what she had encountered in his own journal began to be seen differently. Perhaps all young men were rogues of that kind. She knew few young men to know that with any surety, and those that she did have some acquaintance with were certainly not so much at ease around women as he was.

She also decided she did not need to carry the pistol, and returned it and its case onto his dresser one morning. He said nothing about it. But shortly afterward, she noticed that it had been placed on her own dresser with a note on it. It said simply “A gift, to a determined, resourceful, and courageous young lady. Best keep it out of sight of your mother and Sophia.”

 

She was confused again. She decided she would keep a closer eye upon him and try to discover some deeper purpose in his staying, for she doubted it was just to help them in their time of need. Or maybe that’s all there was too it, and he was really quite considerate of them all and reserved his predations for other parts of society in which he travelled, and with a different class of female as her godmothers letter had indirectly suggested. Yet he had not been in any hurry to head back to any mistress he might be keeping in London.

She began to take more of an interest in him and to spy on him more than she had, though she hoped, not too obviously.

He continued as he had been, busying himself outside quite well, and she could even begin to see improvements in most things, though he said little to anyone other than her mother what he intended to do or had done.

She noticed that he was often in her father’s study, mostly in the early morning before anyone else was up, either writing in his journal; going over the ledgers; or reading through older copies of the various newspapers that her father had collected over the years. She noticed that he had also changed his habits and no longer shaved or washed in the trough now that he had hot water delivered to him whenever he wanted it.

After dinner, he had excused himself for the last two evenings and had sat down and continued writing in his journal or wrote continuations of the many letters, and one in particular that he seemed to add to, from time to time.

 

One evening, he left his journal again in the window embrasure by some oversight, rather than taking it up to his room as he usually did. As he was not close by but had gone into the village and had taken Sophia up on his horse with him. As no one else might see her, she picked up his journal again; undid the ribbon holding it all together; and read more of his entries since she had last opened it. He would be unlikely to return unexpectedly as he had before, as she would have ample warning of a returning horse coming up the lane, so she could go through it at her leisure without disturbing anything, or presenting the impression that anyone had opened it.

The unfinished letter at the front on this occasion was to his sister, Elizabeth. She wondered what he might have to say to her, for she was an especially good friend to them all.

He wrote well and concisely, describing the setting in which he found himself and with some not unflattering viewpoints of her mother and sisters. He was able to express sympathy for their loss, and in a way that was believable to the point where she found herself beginning to cry, with more than one of the tears falling on the document, before she saw what had happened. She turned to entries for the day that he had fought with Thackeray and discovered nothing at all. Strange, for her own diary had been filled on that day with what she had learned, and enough to spill over onto the following page.

There were many more letters ready to be sent off to bereaved families; there seemed to be too many of them, and the one in progress to his sister.

She looked at the direction on two others but did not recognize either name, though one seemed directed to a law firm. She recognized one name in the list of those on the letter, that of Diebold, and the other, was to a firm she did not know. Both were to go to London. He had sent several such letters to London and elsewhere while he had been here, for the younger stable boy rarely seemed to be doing anything except ride back and forth on such errands. Her mother had said nothing about it, though she must have noticed, and nor did the stable boy who seemed to be rewarded well for his efforts each time, and even from William’s own pocket.

She decided not to pry further, but the temptation proved too much, so she picked up the several pages of a letter that seemed directed at his sister. It was still incomplete. It was again, written not in ink, despite there being plenty of ink in the study—which was always fraught with the risk of being spilled and probably not easily available on campaign—but with that interesting pencil that he seemed habitually to use, and that nestled in the edge of the book. The graphite core in the middle of a slim wooden holder, bound tightly to hold everything in place, seemed harder than usual, leaving a thin easily read line on the paper. It did not seem to easily smudge either, and was totally unlike those graphite sticks from Cumberland that she and Charlotte used for drawing. They dirtied one’s fingers and even smudged too easily on the paper and then their clothing if they were careless with their smocks. She would ask him about that some time.

 

Dearest Elizabeth,

 

We continue to miss each other. Thank you for sending some of my better clothing and that little package that I requested. I hope that the sparse contents of my luggage did not too much startle you, but I did not expect anyone other than myself might need to dig into them. The Peninsula was not kind to my wardrobe. I am sorry to hear that you are indisposed, as well as concerned to hear from John, though I can assure you that he is safe where he is. I also know how impatient you are to come and visit your friends.

I am slowly recovering from the rigors of the continent, though my other letters revive too many memories of friends now gone. I had not realized I had lost so many of them, though my journal tells me that I did.

I am facing better fare at table than I ever seem to have remembered. I am finding that the demands of peacetime are more fatiguing than war, and from my pointless interview with our GM. I still do not know why she wanted to see me, but I do not doubt she intends mischief in some way and was fishing for some chink in my armor, so I gave her a few to occupy her. Of course, I regretted it soon afterward. She will undoubtedly use them too well against me.

I feel the need to write again, for I gave you so little news in my first letter, being as rushed as I was. I appear to be suffering from a peculiar malady, for I am caught up in some confusing personal crises (nothing to do with my ill-fated marriage or the aftermath of war—mama must be quite angry, or she will be when she finds out that her plans for me in that direction must have been disrupted or may even have been fulfilled, I am not sure which) when I consider the changes that I appear to be experiencing in my own character. I seem to be quite contented for some reason, despite the tragic circumstance in which I landed. This will never do. I have an unenviable reputation to uphold.

I fear I have fallen in love. Do not be surprised by this. She is barely six years old and follows me everywhere just like a shadow. What is even more amazing is that I do not mind. There may be hope for me yet, it seems.

Were it not for the entirely tragic circumstances I find myself in at this time, I would think that I might have landed in a paradise containing some of the loveliest and charmingly interesting women I have ever encountered, though I am mostly viewed with great reservation, and they all spy upon me. My heart goes out to them for their loss. I am not sure how I will be able to contain or control myself surrounded by such beauty, grace, and gentleness, having been surrounded for the last five years by such horror, violence, and with only rough men, death, and strange and bloodthirsty, and surprisingly violent women for company.

They are all frighteningly intelligent and accomplished and can see right through me (at least one of them can—I suspect you can guess which one)but then you already know all of this, for you could too. The same one seems to have taken me in dislike and was intent on carrying a horse pistol for protection from me. I hope that the next you hear of me is not that I have been shot, for she is another just like you and will obviously tolerate no nonsense when it comes to her family. Most interesting. But then neither will I when it comes to a sticking point. I shall have to watch my step. It is a good thing that I was here, for luckily, I was able to save them from an awkward confrontation that would not have gone in their favor.

By the way, the younger Maxton is not likely to be a problem for you ever again (RIP), and within hours of my landing. Quite depressing really to think that an individual might bear a grudge for so long and be so all consumed with anger and hatred. It destroyed him in the end. The damned fool thought I would sit still aboard my horse to be shot. At least you may now be able to leave your own pistol at home. More on that topic when I see you.

I am not sure what to tell you that you do not already know, for I have learned that you have long been friends with Mrs. Barristow and her daughters and know them all better than I might. Why is it that no one, you especially, ever mentioned them to me? Alas, I think I might know the answer to that—what a sad pass I must have come to—which means that no one ever mentioned me to them either and for the same reason. Just as well, considering the baggage and sad reputation I am saddled with, and unlikely to be able to free myself of it for some time with what I think I may have to do here.

On a lighter note, again. I am more contented and happy, I think, than I have ever been. I even begin to feel useful as well as needed, so you were right about that. For once in my life, I am useful to someone, rather than being the constant target of criticism and censure and the rest of it. I am also discovering that though I am following my usual habit of observing everything intently, I am also being subjected to the same intense scrutiny when I might least expect it. There is no possibility of privacy in conversation or anything, thrown together as we are. I find that I must have my wits about me or I am ambushed even as I wake up or retire, in my ablutions, even my bath, I suspect. And it can only get worse, I fear, as they get to know me better, and they seem to be ensconced everywhere where one least expects them or might even see them. I cannot go for a walk or pick up a book or write a letter but that I find I have an observer or a companion, though I do not mind that. I have discovered that I am constantly being spied upon and have little privacy. I find it intriguing.

 

He seemed to have broken off and had taken up the letter sometime later in the day or even the next day.

 

I did refer to it above, I know, but I had better tell you before you hear about it from others and in a light that does not shine at all favorably on me considering my earlier escapades, which it shouldn’t anyway. To wit, I have not lost my touch for brawling, for I found it necessary to turn away one particularly ill-mannered and violent relative (not one of ours—I mentioned an awkward confrontation, but now I shall provide some detail rather than leave it hanging) who had thought to take advantage of their circumstance, and of me—most foolish fellow. I am glad to say that they appear to know none of this or I might not be so welcome, for I really did not feel kindly toward the individual considering what his intent seems to have been, especially when he was rough with one of the servants and then thought to bring his firearm into play. Unfortunately, I punished him severely for that and then regretted that afterward too. Damned conscience. I await with some small trepidation the arrival of yet another, perhaps the vengeful father that I was also warned about by Mr. B.

Tell Mama, if you see her before I do, only what you judge to be reasonable. I will write her when I am able to come to grips with my own feelings better. I am beginning to realize that I was an exceptionally poor, thoughtless, and heartless son for her. She did not deserve to be saddled with the likes of me.

No matter, you know how she feels about that side of me and how easily she is set off, so I shall strive to be more considerate and to try to mend fences now that I am returned with a better understanding of what is important in life. I can thank John and our campfire chats and you for that.

Tell our godmother nothing. She can take a minor irritant and make a life-changing issue out of it throughout all of society. I fear she has this nagging dread about me that I might sometime find contentment and happiness and might be able to survive without her patronage, influence, or approval as I have until now, and she is determined to stop that.

More about the daughter who might have shot me. One might almost think she knew more of me than I like. I hope you have not been sharing too many of my secrets. I gave her one of my pistols—the twin of the little set I once gave to you. It had saved my life on occasion. I think she is determined to protect her sisters and mother from some perceived evil in their midst who goes by name of William. Me. I hope that when you next hear of me that I have not been shot. Sorry, if I am repeating myself, but she obviously does not trust me. I do not blame her, considering the general rumors. But I must be careful with my journal and letters, for I fear she might be curious enough to read them if she gets the chance to learn more of me than might be good for her to know.

I did notice earlier that a letter had come for Mrs. Barristow from our godmother. I did not have chance to intercept it and destroy it as I undoubtedly should have done considering her vitriolic opinion of me, and yet, Mrs. B has not seen fit to show me the door just yet nor has locked away her daughters from my corrupting licentious presence. Either she has not yet read it or is aware of more of me than I might expect yet still smiles upon me. I wonder if you had a hand in that by any chance? You should not mislead others about my failings in character you know?

Better let Gossett know to continue managing the estate as he obviously does so well, for I shall need to be here for some time. It is all far too interesting and challenging to leave, for Ino, now that I think better of it, I shall not continue my thoughts here. You said I would eventually meet someone that would turn my life upside down. Well, you will be pleased to know that I did. I didn’t realize that marriage—especially mine —might prove to be so interesting despite the tragedy, but then I should have listened to John more than I did, and I might have learned more of this strange estate. There is more to tell here, but I shall say no more until I can resolve one or two difficulties, and it may take some time. I may not succeed. We shall see.

Speaking of John, I am sorry that I was not able to give you better news of him. He thought that he would be able to break away two weeks after I did, but when I think about it more, it could be more like three weeks; for I recall that the weather turns more unpredictable in the bay about now. I did bring a letter from him and if I find it, I will enclose it, but I have temporarily misplaced it somewhere.

 

He had not yet completed it, for it was unsigned. It was an unexpectedly well-written and educated kind of letter as had been the other entries and letters she had read earlier, and portrayed a different picture of him than she had gleaned from other accounts, but it was too early to judge. Men were usually not noted for writing such lengthy, educated letters, but he did.

She did not know what to make of it. Nothing he said, spoke ill of his intentions or of his character, and raised no difficulties for her at all, but then such rogues were rarely exposed until after they had done their damage.

There was another one he had begun. It was to his mother, for it began simply with “Mama.” At that point, his muse had deserted him. He was closer to his sister than he was to his own mother.

There was nothing else written yet. It seemed he had started and then had run out of something to say.

She wondered if he had not left everything there deliberately for her to read, considering his comments in the letter to his sister.

She put the letter back into the place where she found it, along with the two sealed ones, and took herself off, lest she be discovered prying into another’s personal affairs when she had no business to do so.

 

«Go back.