Armand’s First Letter. Amelia’s First Letter.
The Elms, Wickshire, Cumbria
1 August 1015
My dearest cousin Armand,
My brother Edward and my dear friend Jane are now one! And what’s more—
But let me relate events in the proper order.
The wedding was a quiet affair, as such things are these days, so I am told. Mama and Papa and Edward and I met the Willoughby’s at the village church in Stourton. Edward Hargreaves was there, to stand up for my brother, and I for Jane; and Maximilian, who is still guesting with the Willoughby’s, was the the only other non-family member in attendance. Mr. Somerset, the vicar, led them through the vows—for of course they were not married in the Old Religion, Armand, not in Wickshire, whatever might be the case in Armorica—and we all adjourned to Stourness for the wedding breakfast.
There was the chance of some slight unpleasantness during this transition, as Edward Hargreaves presumed I should ride with him in his gig, and of course Maximilian expected that I should ride in his phaeton, which I would most certainly have done under other circumstances; but Papa called to me to come ride with Mama and him in our family carriage.
“Better to have you with us, m’dear, I think, though I’m sorry to take you away from your lieutenant,” he said once we were properly on our way.
“And I do thank you, Papa. I have no wish to cause Mr. Hargreaves any pain, but he will not see what is before his eyes.”
“Some don’t,” said Mama, looking fondly at Papa. “Do you remember William Westchester, George? He came to call on me the week after we were wed, and my mama said he was quite taken aback to learn the news.”
“Quite so. Whatever became of him?”
“His mother told me that he left for the colonies in shame.”
“Oh, no!” I cried.
“She was quite sanguine about it, my dear,” said Mama. “‘Perhaps there he shall learn to see his nose before his face,’ is what she said to me.”
“And did he?”
“I am sure I have not the least notion,” she said, comfortably.
Mrs. Willoughby is no fool, Armand, as you should know by now, and being keenly aware of the possible difficulties had set her table accordingly. Edward and Jane were at the head, as is only fitting, with Edward Hargreaves and I in the places of honor beside them; which is to say that Edward Hargreaves sat next to Jane and I next to my brother. That put me across from Mr. Hargreaves, and quite separated from him by a lovely and well-placed silver epergne.
Next down the table came Squire and Mrs. Willoughby, and then Mama and Papa, and finally my dear Maximilian in lonely estate by Mama. I smiled at him apologetically as I went in to table on Mr. Hargreave’s arm, as was unavoidable, and I must confess he winked at me.
Our breakfast was simple, ham and eggs, with hot rolls and buttered toast, and a goodly supply of jam, and of chocolate. I do not believe you will have heard of chocolate, Armand, for it is quite new, having just come in from the colonies. It is a hot drink, bitter, and yet somehow refreshing and satisfying. Mama and Papa brought it from Yorke as a gift for the Willoughby’s, for it has not yet penetrated to the outlying provinces, not in the usual way.
And then Edward and Jane mounted their carriage, which is to say our family carriage that Mama and Papa brought from Yorke, not our Wickshire carriage, if you see what I mean; for they have driven to Yorke and are having their honeymoon at our town home whilst Mama and Papa stay with me in the Wickshire. The family carriage is newer, and better sprung, and will be ever so much more pleasant for them.
We saw them off and away; and then, at last, the inevitable happened. Edward Hargreaves came to escort me to his gig, begging the privilege of driving me home and quite ignoring Maximilian who was standing at my right elbow talking quietly with Mama.
My dear Armand, I do not believe it occurred to him that Maximilian might have anything at all to say about the matter.
I opened my mouth to speak, but my “gallant lieutenant,” as Mama is wont to call him, came to my aid.
“I beg your pardon, Hargreaves, but I fear I must claim that privilege for myself,” he said. “I have begged leave to court Miss Montjoy, and Mr. Montjoy has granted it.”
Poor Edward! He looked blankly at Maximilian, and then at Papa, who inclined his head slightly and said, “It is quite true.”
And then he cast such a gaze of longing and shock at me that I was forced to cast my eyes demurely downwards, for I could not bear it.
Edward looked from one to another of us, and then, the perfect gentleman, said quietly, “Mrs. Montjoy, Miss Montjoy,” and left us.
“It is too vexing,” I said to Maximilian as we went spinning down the lane in his phaeton. “I have tried every way I know how to discourage him short of making a public scene.”
“There being no duck ponds in Wickshire?”
I gave him a light buffet on the arm. “Oh, Maximilian, he has deserved no such thing. He is a good man, and intelligent, and has committed no offense beyond having a head so full of farming that there is no room for anything else. I do wish he hadn’t made such a cake of himself.” I leaned into him. “Thank you, my dear one, for handling him so politely.”
He smiled at me, and turned his gaze back to the road ahead.
“Maximilian,” I said after a time.
“Yes, dear one?”
“Might we have a duck pond someday? For convenience?”
“I hardly know how to answer that,” he said. “I am sure I should never wish to merit its use. Why, do you think we shall have the opportunity to have a duck pond? Together, as it were?”
“I should think so, dear Maximilian. And I am not thinking of you, but of our daughters. One would wish them to be prepared for whatever might come.”
“I see. But, perhaps, we might have sons.”
“Then their young ladies will thank us for our foresight,” I said firmly.
“Yes, of course. But I admit to a certain concern—quite beyond the measures you think necessary to keep our sons on their best behavior.”
“If we are to have daughters—or, as it might be, sons—ought we not to be wed, first?”
“I should not wish to outrage the sensibilities of our friends and neighbors by suggesting otherwise.”
“You are the very soul of propriety, my dear. Except, perhaps, for the instance of duck ponds.”
“I consider that I behaved very properly,” I said in my most demure voice.
“Well, then, shall I speak to your father, whom I see helping your mother down from their carriage?”
“Please do! Repeatedly, if necessary.”
Oh, oh, Armand, it is true! There are many matters to be arranged, but it is true! Papa sent in an announcement to the Times yesterday afternoon.
Your twice-joyful cousin,
Image by Andy Ryland from Pixabay