Daphne Receives an Important Letter
Daphne was seated at her writing desk working on letter to one of her aunts when the housekeeper Mrs. Westfield entered the room, followed closely by the maid who was carrying a potted plant. “I am sorry to disturb you, Miss Welby,” said the housekeeper, “but this has just arrived for you.” She gestured to the plant and then motioned for the maid to set it down on a nearby table. “It was accompanied by this,” she continued, holding out a sealed letter for Daphne to take. Daphne took the letter and barely noticed Mrs. Westfield and the maid curtsying and leaving the room.
Daphne broke the seal on the letter with no small amount of trepidation. She was fairly certain that she knew who it was from, as she recognized the type of rosebush that was delivered along with it. She had seen a specimen of it lately at the Estate, where in a cursedly unguarded moment she had managed to rather superbly humiliate herself. She could not help the thoughts that charged through her mind as she worked to open the letter. If it was from Mr. Mabry, and surely the rosebush was a sign that it was, then perhaps it was possible that he had not been horrified by her revelation that she had developed feelings for him. Perhaps, he even reciprocated? But she hastily cut off that thought before it could take root and giver her unfounded hope. The most likely answer, the most logical answer, was that he had pitied her and, by sending this note and the plant, sought to assure her that he was still of a mind to consider her a friend.
The moment she had arrived home from the Estate after the harrowing occurrence she rushed to her room and remained there with the door locked and the curtains drawn and refused every effort by her sister to engage her in conversation. Daphne had quickly deduced that Hester and apparently Miss Lucia Mabry had colluded to arrange for Mr. Mabry to overhear her talking about him. She marveled at their cheek – really, though, she could only in the end blame herself. No one had held a pistol to her head to make her say that she had a romantic interest in Horace Mabry. What stupendous luck the two younger women must have had to get Mr. Mabry within hearing range just when Daphne had, during the course of trying to give Miss Lucia advice, made the rather ridiculous mistake of revealing where her own affections lay. If they had not been respectable young ladies they ought to have taken themselves to one of London’s gaming hells. They most certainly could have made their fortune with luck like that. But why had they done it? They must have thought it would lead to a match between Horace and her; but the fact that out of shock he had dropped a potted rosebush much like this one when she exposed her feelings was all the proof she needed that her admission was unwelcome news. It had been dreadfully lowering.
In that first awful night Daphne had actually arisen from her bed long before dawn, lit a candle, and started to pack her things. She saw no course open to her but to return to the family seat in Kent. But she realized that was a foolish plan. She did not want to go back to her parents; she had established herself with a life independent of them for the most part, and she enjoyed it. But the Tyrehampton/Oakston neighborhoods were just too small. Daphne knew that she and Horace would be bound to meet more often than was comfortable for either of them. Not that she believed he was capable of causing any unpleasant scenes or of making fun of her to his friends. He was too much the gentleman for that. But the knowledge that he knew what was in her heart, and that he did not feel the same meant she would never be comfortable in his presence again. After giving the matter some thought Daphne decided that returning to Kent was out of the question. Instead, she would write her Aunt Persephone, her mother’s older sister. She lived in the general environs of Glastonbury. She was a widow now and surely could do with some companionship? She could borrow the funds for the journey from her brother Alistair and go by hired coach. While she was planning a new life with Aunt Persephone the issue of Hester suddenly loomed up in her mind. She couldn’t just leave her here. It was Daphne’s responsibility to watch over her, and besides leaving Hester unsupervised could lead to all manner of disasters for the local population. Well, she would just have to come along, despite the fact that Daphne had resolved never to speak to her again. With some sort of course of action planned out she felt better and unpacked everything again before falling into bed and finally asleep. She did not leave her room however the next day, and in fact it was only when Hester threatened to summon a doctor that Daphne consented to go downstairs that evening and eat something. She still maintained a stony silence in the face of Hester’s attempts to talk to her. During the meal she mentally drafted out the letter to Aunt Persephone and wondered if she had enough funds on hand to send it express.
She had finally this day begun to actually write the letter to her aunt when Mrs. Westfield had interrupted her to announce the delivery of the plant and the mysterious note. Now she held the letter in her hands and regarded it with equal feelings of fear and curiosity. She unfolded it, slowly and deliberately and raised it up to better have the light from the window fall upon it. It was short, but after the first reading she went back to the beginning and read it again. Then a third time. Then she found herself strangely out of breath and inexplicably dizzy, so she sat down on the nearby chair and stared off at nothing while a particular passage raced around her brain. “I must confess that learning of your own thoughts, inadvertently as it may have been, brought me hope for mine own. You have found a way into my highest of esteems and deepest of affections.”
Daphne had never allowed herself to hope about Mr. Mabry, not really. But, here in ink, words from him that were so unexpected and entirely marvelous. She looked down at the page again. Her eye alighted on the last sentence, “Though I am uncertain how to proceed at this juncture, it seemed best that the honest truth be available to us both.”
She felt a very pleasant sensation insider her, which she supposed must be happiness. Daphne looked over at the rosebush. A smile formed on her face, probably the first one since that afternoon at the Estate. She was a bit overwhelmed. Could it be? And yet, here was his letter, and he was a true gentleman. He would not toy with a lady’s affections. He was uncertain how to proceed, he said. Well, that was true for her too. She stood and walked over to the little rosebush, and gently cupped one of the small buds in her hand. Daphne leaned toward it and breathed in its sweet scent. Strange, but when she straightened up again and looked about her, the room seemed noticeably brighter.
She walked back to the writing desk, carefully refolding the letter as she went. She placed it on the desk, and picked up the partially written letter to Aunt Persephone. She walked over toward the mantle, and lit a candle that was resting there. She then used the flame to set the letter burning, and placed it carefully in the empty fireplace. It shriveled up as it burned, and she turned away to return to the desk. Sitting down she took out a new piece of paper. She dipped her pen into the inkwell and then began to write, “Dear Mr. Mabry,” then paused and tried to think of what to say next. But she was still smiling and her mood was as light as the wispy clouds that were visible through the window. It was good, she reflected, that Hester was out at the moment. Were she here, Daphne might do something quiet shocking, like hug her.
Chuckling softly to herself at that amusing image she returned her attention to the letter. She wanted to send him a reply as soon as possible. “Dear Mr. Mabry” she whispered, as she resumed writing.
When she was done she folded the letter and sealed it with a wafer. Daphne walked out in the hall and saw the maid there dusting the furniture. “Here, Sarah, please take this letter immediately to Mr. Mabry’s residence in Oakston. You may leave it with either him or his butler, but no one else.” The young maid looked at the letter and then at her mistress. “Yes Miss Welby, I’ll go at once.” Daphne watched her go, then went back to the desk to retrieve Mr. Mabry’s letter. She then went upstairs, humming softly. Such a lovely day, she thought.