The Elms, Wickshire, Cumbria
30 December 1014
My dearest cousin Armand,
It has been such a week!
Wednesday was Christmas, of course, which we kept quietly, Edward and I. Yes, indeed! Edward appeared on the 24th with my pair of matched bays and my mother and father's best wishes; and he was accompanied by Tom Cotton, one of Father's grooms from Yorke, now promoted to coachman.
So I have a carriage, and I have horses to pull it, and I have a coachman to drive it (for surely I never had need to learn to drive a carriage when I was in Yorke); and as I greeted Edward the first real snow of the season was falling all around, deep and crisp and even as the carol has it. However, Tom Cotton has assured me that the sleigh is quite in order, if unlovely, and will be quite usable for this season whenever it should be required.
Edward, I may say privately to you, Armand, was both a comfort and a trial. A comfort, of course, for I have been lonely here in Wickshire, I who am used to living in the bosom of my family and participating in all of the life of the City; and I do love Edward; but he can be so stuffy, Armand, and he hasn't the least notion as to why I pushed He Whose Name I Shall Not Remember into the duck pond. And I quite fear to tell him, for if I did word would get to Jack, and Jack might take it in mind to call the blackguard out. Which would be a horrible thing, I assure you, for he would need to return to Cumbria from Armorica, abandoning his post with Lord Doncaster, and so threaten his future career; and if he were killed, I should have lost my brother, and if the Never To Be Sufficiently Forgotten One were killed, there would, I assure you, be Consequences.
All this would follow if I were to get the circumstances into Edward's thick head; which I fortunately I am not likely to be able to do even if I wished to, you know, for he does insist on thinking the best of everyone, and he is quite starry-eyed when it comes to—
But I have said too much. No good could come of it, is what I mean to say, Armand, no good could possibly come of it.
The Willoughby's carriage arrived on Friday to take me to tea, and as Edward was present to escort me I presumed to bring him along, heartlessly leaving Miss Derby at home. I do feel quite guilty with regard to Miss Derby, you know, for she sees so little diversion, and though her task is to be a companion for me, I fear I have been no sort of companion for her.
In the event, I found I had done right; for Mrs. Willoughby greeted him quite cheerfully, and bade him welcome, and we were also joined by Lieutenant Pertwee and another officer, Lieutenant Archer.
Lieutenant Pertwee greeted me with a smile, which caused Edward some dismay—I know, because he stood slightly taller, and looked solemn, which just goes to show how thick-headed he is. Having Jack for a brother, I assure you I have no desire to have an officer to husband!
Lieutenant Archer, I may say, is something else altogether. He is not tall, but lean, with dark hair and a point to his chin; and of a reserved nature, for he said but little, being almost as grave as Edward. I could tell that Miss Willoughby was taken with his appearance, and the few words he did let fall gave me no reason to judge her for it.
"Milton's replacement, don't you know," said Lieutenant Pertwee. "A fine fellow, too, for all he don't say much."
"Lieutenant Pertwee is too kind," said Lieutenant Archer.
"Is this your first post, Mr. Archer?" Miss Willoughby asked.
"Yes, miss," he said. "It is a family tradition. My uncle served in the 2nd Hussars in the last war."
"You are your father's second son, then, I gather," said Mrs. Willoughby.
"Just so, ma'am."
"Have you any prospect of seeing service abroad?" I asked. "My brother was in Andaluz and Provençe with Lord Doncaster, as he now is."
"It is not likely, miss," he said, with a rueful smile.
"No promotions in peace-time," said Pertwee with a laugh. "It's too bad, is what it is. Mustn't repine, though!"
"I do hope that wicked Marshal does not kick up any more fuss," said Miss Willoughby. "The thought of you fine gentleman going into danger makes my heart quiver!"
"Never fear," said Pertwee. "Raised to it, you know. Being under fire is what Archer likes best."
The good lieutenant made no demur, but his reserve deepened.
I rather think it was Archer's fine profile that made my friend's heart quiver, and I may say I do not judge her for it. The Grimsbys will be pleased with him, too, for his manner of speech revealed him to be a gentleman not just by breeding by also by upbringing, and where there is proper upbringing there is a good fortune, you may depend upon it. Or so said Mrs. Willoughby after the two men left us, Armand—you needn't look so shocked at me, for I am only reporting. For my part, I wonder what expectations a second son might reasonably have, past the expense of his his commission and whatever allowance he might be given.
But he is a fine looking man, and his manners would be unexceptionable even at Harrison House, provided his dancing were up to scratch. But of course I was not able to determine the quality of his dancing at tea time.
Alas, we are not to have a ball, or not soon. Mrs. Willoughby is in favour, mind you; but, she says, the weather is too chancy at this time of year, and that we must wait until spring. Spring! It seems so far off!
It was quite a pleasant outing, even if Edward did lecture me all the way home on the unwisdom of allowing my heart to be captured by an officer, no matter how fine he looks in his regimentals.
"It will not answer, Amelia, truly, I tell you, it will not answer. And how you can think of it, after—"
And there he stopped, for even Edward is able to see daggers when they are looked at him.
He assured me repeatedly that he had only my best interests at heart, which is quite true, and which I have never doubted; and I fear he has made himself certain that I am longing to be courted by one or the other of them, for nothing I said to the contrary made any impression. What an opinion he must have of my good sense! It is too lowering. And worse, I expect I shall be hearing from Mother by return of post.
Your loving cousin,