In Which Emilia Bexley Receives and Sends Several Letters
((This is a combination of letters and an Ongoing Story, but this seemed to be the most appropriate place to include it, given its epistolary nature. Enjoy!))
Emilia Bexley sits in her residence at 8 Mill Lane with a copy of the Tyrehampton Gazette in hand.
“Perhaps there is hope yet for Miss Bex—- who has been laid particular call by a certain itinerant dance master. Is an announcement forthcoming? (Those who recall the lady in question’s unusual predilection for botany or the affairs of J-L A. would say ‘Absolutement non!’)
It was true, though she and Mr. Randall had agreed to make no such announcements— yet. There had been so many affairs to get in order, including but not limited to her obtaining her brother’s consent. Now that it would be more widely speculated upon throughout the village, she worried about how to proceed. Should she openly admit that this gossip was in fact based in truth? Would Mortimer want her to do such a thing? It was o my a few weeks previous that she had penned the following note to George:
You might think it a shock that I write to you. I confess that I have scarcely thought of doing such a thing myself, but I am now in a situation where I must, considering my age.
I see no reason to drag out the matter. I have been made a wonderful offer of marriage by a gentleman named Mr. Mortimer Randall. He is the third son of Sir Edwin Bur Randall, though his family’s name and seat are of little importance to me. What I consider most important is that Mr. Randall cares a great deal for me, has the means with which to provide for me, and those feelings are reciprocated a hundred times over. I wish very much to marry him.
Unfortunately, your petition to the chancery court two October’s who leaves me unable to accept Mr. Randall as readily as I would like. As I am still not yet one and twenty, I must request your permission to be wed. Mr. Randall is a good man, brother. Please release me to him that I might live out my days in happiness and peace. After all I have been through at your hand these last two years, please give me this.
And it was just several days ago that she had finally received a reply from George— a most grievous one. Emilia sets the Gazette aside and picks up his letter, reading through it again and allowing the anger to swirl in her stomach.
If you insist on viewing me as a monster, you shall fulfill that prophecy yourself and thus I will become the evil that you paint me to be. For over a year I have been writing to beg your forgiveness- to ask for reconciliation. Can this truly not happen between us? You once thought me dearer to you than our own Mother and Father, yet you ignore me still. I am sorry that you have found all that I have done for you so detestable. I maintain that I have acted, and indeed- continue to act, in your best interests. Am I honestly expected to keep up with your whims and caprices still, after all this time?
As for your query, I have made inquiries about this Mortimer Randall and have discovered he is but a dancing master. At this point, his parentage is immaterial. If this is the life you wish for yourself then you must truly not care for all that I have invested in your future, to find someone as silly as yourself. I cannot abide this, Emilia. As your brother and your guardian, I simply cannot. Your request is simply one that I cannot grant in good conscience. Your words indicate to me that you are still far too young and inexperienced to handle such matters on your own.
Her first instinct in this moment is to tear the letter and throw the pieces on the fire, but instead she leaves it on her writing desk and stares at it for several minutes and she contemplated next steps. Truly, she’d been contemplating next steps every since the letter had arrived. The longer she thought, the more helpless she felt. Could they just ignore his guardianship and marry anyway?
As she muses over her options (fortified by a strong cup of Pierce’s tea), Eliza shuffles into the room- beloved Mr. Hotch Potch tucked under one arm— and requests to sit in her sister’s lap. Emilia scoops the child up ink her arms, giving her an exaggerated groan and making loving comments about how much she had grown.
Feeling like she had to keep somebody informed, Emili takes Feorge’s letter and copies it’s contents into a clean piece of paper. She owns a short note and includes the copy in a brief letter to her second brother, Colin. While she loved him dearly, there was naught Colin could do to assist from the seminary.
Would that she had had any other family to appeal to...family....family?
Struck with an idea. she takes the original letter from George and tucks it behind another blank piece of paper. She includes it in a letter she then writes to an old acquaintance. A very dear, old ‘uncle.’ She writes in French, with a hurried hand.
I write knowing full well that I haven’t the right to ask you for anything. But ai fear I am left with no option but to prostrate myself at your feet and beg a favour regarding a matter most personal.
If you find yourself with the time, please read through the enclosed missive. I will not make any particular request of you; I still hold you and your judgement in the highest regard despite the eventual dissolution of our arrangement.
I am eternally grateful for all that you have bestowed upon me, and my soul struggles to appeal to you in this matter. But I am sure you can see why I must. and I pray that you will find it in your heart to do what is necessary for a dear niece.
Yours in gratitude,
”Emilia, why are you writing in French?” Eliza cranes her neck to look up at Emilia.
”I’m writing to a dear old friend, little dove.”
Emilia pauses and thinks for a moment. “Tell me, dear one, do you like Mr. Randall?”
Eliza nods vigorously and hugs her doll to her chest. In her for year old mind, Mortimer Randall was akin to the good Lord himself.
“Would you like it if we all lived in the same house?”
Elizas eyes grow as large as saucers, and she nods again silently.
”Well, this letter, and this friend, might just help make that possible. Wouldn’t that be nice?”
Another nod. With that, Emilia sets Eliza on the floor and holds her hand out to her.
“Alright, well then why don’t you and I go catch the post chaise before it leaves the village?”
Exhaling a bit too loudly in frustration, Jean-Luc flops to his left side in bed, kicking the blankets down in the process. He cautiously opens one eye -- yes, it is as he thought. Moonlight filters through the draperies covering his apartment window. It is not yet time to wake, and sleep continues to elude him. A gentle breeze rolls from the Seine and billows into his room, catching a folded piece of paper on his desk, sending it softly whirring to the ground.
Jean-Luc throws a cautious glance over the shoulder to the woman next to him in bed. Her breathing is deep, steady. Good. He has not disturbed her. Pushing up into a seated position, the middle-aged Frenchman leans against the headboard, reaching over to gently caress the tousled curls that stretch on the pillow next to his own. “Belle femme,” he murmurs, almost imperceptibly. A weary sigh escapes his lips as his hand clamps the back of his neck, willing the tension to be released.
Easing out of the bed, he treads across to the desk, bending to retrieve the letter from the floor. He must respond, but he is so tired. So very tired. The arrival of the unexpected missive has done nothing but exacerbate his recent fatigue. If he closes his eyes, he can hear the urgency in her voice. He has heard it before. Her words jump from the page as he holds the paper to the window and reads it -- he has lost count of how many times. If he pens his response, perhaps he will rest. In a swift and decisive move, he lights the tallow candle on his desk and pulls a fresh sheet of paper from the desk drawer. One last glance in a mirror to the slight female ensconced in his bed. Good. She remains asleep.
Deep down, he had always known it might come to this one day. He had hoped not. Alas. Dipping the pen into his inkwell, a sardonic yet resigned grin takes the place of his recent perturbed frown. .
“Cher Monsieur Bexley,...”
(TO BE CONTINUED)