The Elms, Wickshire, Cumbria
29 April 1015
My dearest cousin Armand,
Brother Edward has been taking my advice, in the face of all history, and I have high hopes that we may soon see an understanding betwixt him and my dear Jane Willoughby. We have been together for tea on several occasions; he has been quite clear about his devotion to her, and as he has adjusted his manner (and as the intriguing Lieutenant Archer has remained on leave, in some other part of the country), I do believe Miss Willoughby has begun to return it.
Indeed, I know she has, for she spoke to me briefly upon leaving just this afternoon.
"I believe I was quite mistaken in your brother," she said. "You had taught me to think him dull, but we had quite an enjoyable chat just now. And he seems to be taking to country life. We spoke of Father's plans for his flocks, and Edward said—oh, but you don't care about farming, do you, my dear?" And she tapped me on the shoulder with her parasol, and mounted her carriage.
But there remains a cloud in Edward's sky: the attentions he continues to receive from the Grimsby sisters, who are quite shameless and every bit as determined as Edward Hargreaves. They plague him in Stourton, if he should chance to go to town; they find if he goes riding; while he is out in the fields talking with the men, across the fields they come walking. They have done everything but show up at our door and demand to see him!
It has become quite a joke with the men, Blightwell tells me…though when I inquired as to what kind of a joke he turned quite red and refused to say.
Though I surprise myself by saying it, I must call myself comparatively happy in Mr. Hargreaves' attentions, for there is only one of him, and as he has duties of his own he cannot be constantly underfoot. But Agatha and Matilda Grimsby seem to have no other thought in their head but Edward; and as they pursue him as a pair, neither willing to let the other out of her sight, he must be always dealing not only with their unwanted presence but also with the slow bubbling current of sisterly bile that passes constantly between them under their too sweet smiles and protestations of affection.
I mean to say, even Brother Edward has noticed it.
I thought to help him, for with his new work and his new love he has become a much less vexing companion, and so I invited Miss Willoughby and the Misses Grimsby to tea yesterday, trusting that the latter would take note of the dashing of all of their hopes; and I have no doubt that they did. All of Edward's attention was for Jane, while I did my best to occupy the Grimsbys with every country matter I could put to my tongue: the lovely spring weather, the latest regimental gossip, the upcoming ball, the prospect for a warm summer.
The Grimsbys said little, casting many a pointed glance at my brother and at each other while I babbled at them; for if they are divided in their pursuit, they are at the very least united in their determination that Jane Willoughby shall not have him. But what can they do? I may say I had quite a warm feeling in my heart as I bundled their disgruntled selves into their carriage and sent them home.
Oh, yes, the ball, the long-awaited ball! It is to take place at Stourness this coming Friday, for the moon will be full. The invitations have been sent and the responses received, as I well know for I have been Jane's assistant in all of this, and it promises to be quite the affair of the season. Papa and Mama are coming up from Yorke to attend, and I have every hope that when next I write I will have news of an engagement.
Your cheerful cousin,
photo credit: Vulpes_podšitá Grass snake (Natrix natrix) via photopin (license)