The Elms, Wickshire, Cumbria
22 April 1015
My dearest cousin Armand,
I am at an impasse. I cannot proceed with my magical studies without a teacher—without someone who can explain what all of these tantalizing words mean and what they are for. The books I have are no help—no further help—and the only man in the vicinity I might ask is unavailable. Doubly, perhaps triply unavailable.
I speak, of course, of the good Lieutenant Archer, who might or might not even know the answers to my questions, but whom I have been completely unable to speak with at any length.
As we are not affianced, I cannot write him letters.
I can invite him to tea; but for my own countenance I must invite others, with whom I do not at all wish to discuss wizardry.
I can speak to him on the street in Stourton, should I happen to pass him; but not for long before Edward Hargreaves charges in and begins to bristle.
I suppose I must write Papa and see if he can find me a teacher, or at least a wizard with whom I may have an interview.
In the meantime, Edward Hargreaves is far too much underfoot. He insists on squiring me about Stourton whenever I visit there—as if he could ever be the squire—and on riding with me if he chances upon me whilst I am out for my daily ride. I do believe he lies in wait for me. And then, he comes to visit Brother Edward nearly daily to talk about farming, which is quite reasonable; but then Brother Edward brings him to the library to torment me.
Yes, dear Armand, that is unfair. Edward does not bring the man in precisely to torment me. But he does bring him in, and then I must use all my address to avoid being rude.
I begin to think I must begin to be as rude as I know how, if I wish to discourage the man. Though I am not at all sure it would work, for Mr. Hargreaves has quite settled his mind. I am not sure I could change it with a cannon: head gone, idea still present.
Have I shocked you, dear Armand? I am sorry, if so.
I have had a small respite this last week, for Mr. Hargreaves has gone into the city for some reason or other; but though I looked eagerly for Lieutenant Archer at the market, I did not see him. I did meet Lieutenant Pertwee, who told me that Archer had been given leave to go home over some kind of family matter "but would no doubt be back soon, right as rain."
I do have one spot of bright news. Mrs. Willoughby invited Brother Edward and I to tea this week, and Edward had the good sense to ask me what he should talk about.
"When it comes to your activities with Blightwell," I said, "only answer questions they ask you. Let the Willoughbys guide the conversation. Ask Jane about her health and how she is enjoying the spring weather."
He nodded seriously, and took it all in. I must say, Armand, country life has been good for Edward. Back in Yorke he was the most serious of his entire crowd, none of whom had any particular occupation, and was accustomed to think himself superior because of it. Here in Wickshire even the gentlemen his age have their proper tasks, tasks about which he knew nothing when he came—and he has begun to learn something about them. Perhaps one day, he might even listen to me if I tell me that I have not the least intention of marrying Edward Hargreaves.
Your pleased tho' frustrated cousin,
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