Tarleton House, London
1 June, 1818
London is excessively flat without you; also dreadfully muddy, as we have had a positively ridiculous amount of rain. Though I don't begrudge you and Thomas some quiet time at Schofield House; all that traveling the Continent was lovely, but it is nice to come home, rest, and not have to see anyone or do anything for a time.
Not that I have any personal experience with that state at the moment; I must say I sometimes envy Thomas his relative lack of well, relatives, although Lady Sylvia does have enough sheer Presence to equal any number of lesser persons. After you and Thomas left Rushton, James and I stayed on to spend more time with his family. Lady Tarleton is an absolute dear, but after two weeks I found myself very tired of her not-quite-inquiries on the subject of when, exactly, I plan to go about the business of providing James with an heir to the Tarleton name and herself with a grandchild to spoil.
Also, Robert and Dorothea Penfold came often to call, and though I am fond of them both, spending hours at a time in their company felt rather like being drenched in syrup. I felt decidedly sticky afterward; dearly as I love James, and he me, please feel free to throw buckets of water over us if we ever descend to such soppiness in company.
Reading over this letter, I fear that I sound quite bilious; I hope I am not such a grump as all that. Though I can't say that being questioned most closely by various intelligence officers in His Majesty's Service has put me in any great temper. Apparently, the formal report that James convinced me to write and the debriefing he and Thomas received upon returning home have raised further questions, though none of them seem terribly important to me. You and Thomas may get the same treatment when you arrive, if the gentlemen in the back offices decide that they are in need of additional points of clarification.
One brighter note—Alice Grenville (I really must accustom myself to calling her Mrs Siddington now) has sent her card, with a note that she will call tomorrow. I'm looking forward to seeing a friendly face, but also feeling strangely nervous, as she was always more your friend than mine. I hope our conversation mayn't fall flat without you to carry it along. She said in the note that she had an important matter to discuss with me. That sounds a bit alarming to me, but likely our recent adventures have made me a bit jumpy in that regard. Perhaps she merely wishes my help planning a fete for your arrival!
Fete or no, I am counting the days until you arrive.
Your loving cousin,
3 June, 1818
I cannot lie; I have quite enjoyed the opportunity to swan about lazily and spend a good deal of time alone with Thomas. It hasn't been all wine and roses, though--Thomas is forever closeted up with his man of business or one of his tenants, upon some manner or other that urgently requires his attention, while I have been getting acquainted with the household. You were forever teasing me about my fear of managing household servants, and you were right--my first introductions were not nearly so awful as I imagined.
Truly, I can't envision Thomas employing anyone really dreadful; indeed, his housekeeper was most welcoming and did everything possible to to put me at my ease. I think perhaps she is pleased that her management will be appreciated by someone other than herself, as Thomas never takes heed of such things so long as his meals are tasty and arrive on time. As you might suppose, his cook is excellent—and I must confess I am still a little intimidated by her.
But soon enough business is done, and Thomas and I are together. I'm grateful for this time to learn each other in quietude, without anyone trying to kidnap us, steal Thomas's magic, or do away with us in any manner whatsoever. I hope you and James are enjoying yourselves as well, despite those pesky interrogations. I'm looking forward to seeing you, and am holding on to the (most likely vain) hope that the members of His Majesty's Service will confine their curiousity to Thomas.
I shall virtuously resist the urge to tease you over your nervousness at having Alice come to call. You've always been the poised one in Society, so I'm sure it won't show in the slightest. And Alice is the merriest girl imaginable, hardly someone to be nervous of. I'm sure you two will get on famously.
I feel just as you do about cryptic notes these days, though.
Love from your
Tarleton House, London
5 June 1818
warded by Cecilia Tarleton
I wish I weren't so often right about these things; it is a terrible burden. Alice was not calling about a fete, though we have indeed decided to have one in your honour.
It will give us an opportunity to plot under cover of gaiety, and hopefully provide us all with some actual gaiety as well. Alice, at least, could certainly use some.
But I must tell it all in order...
When Alice came to call, she seemed most reserved, quite at odds with your description of her. I received her in the yellow parlor, and she sat silently while I poured the tea, but after a few restorative sips, her tale began to come out.
"I don't wish to presume upon our acquaintance," she said, "since we've only met at a few parties, but I feel as if I know you from Kate's stories. I'm afraid I am in need of help, and since Kate is not yet arrived in London, I hoped that you might be able to assist me. She has always said you are her dearest friend as well as her cousin, and, though she hasn't told me a great deal, I know that that the two of you were in some fashion connected with Sir Hilary Bedrick's expulsion from the Royal College of Wizards. You and Kate are the only people whose discretion I feel can trust."
All this came out in a headlong, breathless rush, as if she had screwed her nerves to the sticking point merely to come and speak to me. I tried my best to put her at her ease, and assured her that any friend of yours was someone I would be happy to help. Then I encouraged her to go on.
"I have a young cousin, Arabella Cartwright," she said, "we were very fond of each other when we were children, but after my Aunt Mary's death, my Uncle Edwin largely cut the connection with our side of the family. He's a clergyman, and very strict; he never really approved of our side of the family, and I think he resented that Grandmother and Grandfather felt Aunt Mary could have made a better match. He did allow Arabella to carry on a correspondence with me, though we didn't see one another.
After Jack and I were married at Christmas, I wrote to Uncle Edwin asking if he might allow Arabella come up to London so that I could prepare her to be presented at Court. I wasn't certain that he'd even consider it, but I wanted so badly to do something for Arabella, and she had hinted that the family was in straitened circumstances. He did allow it, and I sent a coach to fetch her last week. But Wilson, our coachman, came back a few days ago in a sweat, without Arabella. When he arrived, her brothers said that Arabella had already gone with a man who had said he was my coachman, and had a note of introduction with what must have been a passable forgery of my signature.
I greatly fear Arabella has met with some sort of foul play; though I cannot imagine why..."
At this point, I interjected. "I do not know your cousin," I said, "and I do hope that you may not take offense, but is is possible that Arabella had a sweetheart who she was keeping secret? Could she have run away to Gretna Green? Her father sounds rather a tyrant, and in my experience it is just those sorts of parents who drive their children to secrecy and desperate actions."
"I am not in the least offended," Alice replied. "One must consider all possibilities. Still, Arabella has always struck me as a very sensible girl, not one given to rash actions. Also, she is as fond of me as I am of her; I can hardly imagine that she would be so selfish as to run away and not send me word eventually, even if she had gone to Gretna Green. Even so, I asked Jack if he would send a note of inquiry to the Magistrate's office there; no such marriage has been recorded, at least not under her own name."
"Well, that is one possibility we can rule out—unless she used a false name. Still, I fear you're right; foul play is looking more and more likely. But what reason could someone have for abducting your cousin?"
"That's just what I have been asking myself," Alice said, "and I'm afraid I have no idea. It seems like something out of a Gothic novel, but it had occurred to me that someone might have attempted to hold her for ransom. Jack's family has done very well in the Funds. But someone would have to be very knowledgeable indeed about our family, perhaps even reading our correspondence, to make off with her in that way. Also, I haven't received a note, nor any token of Arabella's."
"Is there anything about Arabella herself that might have attracted notice?" I asked.
"Well, she was a very pretty child, and I suspect she's grown into a Beauty. One does hear rumours about men who entice innocent young girls...but again, it all seems too much like a melodrama to credit."
Suddenly she stopped, visibly struck by some notion that had not yet occurred to her. "Could it have had something to do with magic? Arabella confided in me that she had had a couple of magical accidents in recent weeks, and she suspected that she might have a stronger gift that anyone had realized. Her father is one of those sorts who doesn't approve of giving girls formal training in magic, you know, and I had hoped to secretly get her a little instruction while preparing her for the Season."
"That sounds horribly possible," I said, "but it would also require a kidnapper who paid close attention to your family, or perhaps someone looking for girls of a particular level of magical talent, whom he then investigated more closely. There are spells that will tell you if there is someone magically gifted in the vicinity, and the more advanced ones will show you how powerful they are. Unless the persons being watched have personal wards that alert them, they will be entirely unaware of any intrusion."
"You're a magician," she said, "would you be willing to scry for her?"
I said that I would, and then asked if she had any item of Arabella's in her possession. "Only the letters she wrote me this past year," she replied.
I told her that letters would do excellently; they often give a strong sense of the personality of the writer. She said that she would bring them the next day, which would give me time to prepare. I warned her that if a powerful magician were somehow involved in this, we might not be able to get a clear trace. I also warned her that if the kidnapper was indeed someone with a connection to her family, she might well be being watched.
I suggested that we plan a fete, as an innocent excuse for us to be often together in the coming days. I will let you know the results of the scrying as soon as may be. In the meantime, it occurs to me that the village of B----, where Arabella's father has his parish, is only about a half-day's ride from Schofield Castle. Perhaps you could take a little jaunt through the countryside before you and Thomas return to London?
I'm warding this letter for your eyes alone; I suggest you ask Thomas to ward your reply.
Your loving cousin,
Tarleton House, London
5 June, 1818
I'm glad to hear that you and Kate have finally tired of rusticating at Schofield Castle, and are shortly to be on your way to London. I don't mind saying that Cecilia and I have both missed you thoroughly; somehow the company is quite dull when you are absent, and all the inquiries about the events of last year have been giving me fits. Not Wellington's—I'd happily supply any information Old Hookey might wish of me—but those of his less perceptive (or informed) underlings.
However, spending time with some old friends has helped break the monotony a bit; I took luncheon recently with Richard Merrill. I can confidently say that he has grown no less eccentric or amusing over the last few years--though he's married now, which I can hardly credit. The woman who'd accept his suit is a brave one indeed. I hope to be presented to her one day, if only to verify that Richard is in earnest and not telling bouncers as he is so fond of doing. He asked me to convey to you that he has some business for both of us when you arrive in Town; it seems he hasn't left the old trade either.
Ever your friend,
7 June, 1818
(warded by Thomas, Lord Schofield)
What the devil!? Richard Merrill married? I didn't think old Mairelon had it in him. I am as eager as you are to meet this remarkable woman. Kate has given me to understand that Cecilia is planning some sort of fete for our arrival; perhaps you could suggest that she invite Merrill and his wife. I doubt she has made Merrill's acquaintance, but I'm sure Kate and Cecy would find him tolerably amusing, and we can all ascertain that this Mrs Merrill is no mere figment.
As to his business, I must admit that you've piques my curiosity, but I am also concerned. If Merrill is involved, whatever it will likely to be uncomfortable, embarrassing, dangerous or all three. He also has a highly unfortunate fondness for disguise. Did I ever tell you that story about that French peasant farmer and the chickens?
Well, it's not as if we're strangers to that sort of business, but I must confess that I'd hoped our lives would remain dull for a bit longer. It hasn't been so very long since our European adventures after all, and those were decidedly strenuous. I'd like a taste of good, old-fashioned aristocratic idleness for once.
I have enclosed a letter to Cecelia from Kate; it seems they are embarked on some business of their own. Kate told me a bit before riding over to B---, apparently to interrogate some clergyman or other. I could wish that both of our wives had less of a taste for intrigue, but I fear it would make me a howling hypocrite. Intrigue brought us together, after all, and I could not unwish that.
And I suspect that if Kate and Cecy were the sort that could be forbidden from such things, they would not have such a hold upon our affections as they do. Still, my heart is in my throat a little, whenever Kate goes out on this sort of errand, despite my surrounding her with the best personal wards I can contrive.
7 June 1818
I borrowed our Reverend Hawley for my ride over to B---, both for propriety's sake and because I hoped Reverend Cartwright might speak more freely in the presence of a fellow minister. Alas, he remained most guarded, seeming convinced, at least at first that we were out to besmirch either his daughter's honour or his parental fitness.
After I painted him a touching portrait of Alice's familial concern, he unbent a little, though he grew immediately repressive when Rev. Hawley delicately raised the subject of magic. I could not see my way clear to asking him for a token, that Thomas might scry her as well. Also, he was from home, visiting a very ill parishioner, when the false coachman arrived, and thus could provide us with little helpful intelligence in that area.
Rather than offend his sensibilities further by raising questions he would consider indelicate, Reverend Hawley drew him into a conversation about the needs of his parish. They retired into the study to discuss pastoral matters, and I asked if I might see the children, as I had brought with me some sweets that they might enjoy.
While plying them with sweets, I questioned the children, far more directly than I could have done their father. Had their sister ever spoken of a sweetheart? Had they ever seen her at the window, late at night? What were her feelings about going to London for the Season? Did she ever speak of magic? Had any of them seen the man who had fetched her from the yard? Did he look familiar?
The children were most helpful, though I fear their answers confirm what you suspect. Arabella never gave any hint of a sweetheart, and she had few opportunities to meet young men, as the children's nurse is quite old and feeble and it sounds as if Arabella spent most of her time caring for them and trying to give them some sort of education, while her father tended more to the needs of his parish than to those of his own family. All of the children agreed that, though she cried a little at the thought of missing them, Arabella was thrilled to be going to London and had the very highest opinion of her cousin Alice.
One of the older boys described the false coachman as being tall and heavy-set, with a slightly swarthy look; he remembered thinking that the man looked a bit of a rough character to be a fine lady's coachman, but he had a letter of introduction, apparently signed by Alice, and Arabella saw no reason not to go with him.
When I asked if any of them had a token of Arabella's that they might lend, her littlest sister Leticia, who can't be more than seven, handed me some hair ribbons and with a quavering voice said, "Use them to find her, please, milady, we miss her so." I couldn't help but embrace her and assure her that we would. I only hope we may indeed do so. I will ask Thomas if he can scry anything with the ribbons, and between his work and yours, perhaps we can get a sense of her location.
Searching for Alice's missing cousin has made me think of you often and be thankful that you are safe. I shall see you soon, and we can talk more freely in person.
Your loving cousin,
Tarleton House, London
10 June, 1818
To Mr. and Mrs. Richard Merrill:
Mr and Mrs James Tarleton
request the honor of your presence
at a garden fete
to be held at Tarleton House on the 14th of June
in honour of Lord and Lady Schofield
Respondez, sil vous plait
15 June, 1818
(warded by Richard Merrill)
Remember that business that you wished me to bring in Schofield and Tarleton on? Well, it seems they may have already stumbled into it, and in the most unpleasant possible manner. It seems there may be a connection between those anomalous increases in magical power amongst various underworld figures, that you and I have been monitoring, and the disappearances that have been recently brought to your attention by Madame D'Auber.
Schofield and Tarleton's wives were investigating one of those, as a favour to a friend, until someone abducted them last night from a party that was being held in the Tarleton's home. I must confess that I am still quite puzzled as to how it was done, particularly given that they are, according to Tarleton and Schofield's accounts, clever young women and by no means naively trusting. Furthermore, Mrs Tarleton is a magician of some ability.
We did find a handkerchief of Lady Schofield's on the floor near an upstairs window, which makes me think that they may have been removed from the house via the roof. I have been in conference with Schofield and Tarleton since early this morning, while Kim went over the house, seeking clues. I believe she will wish to report her findings in person. How quickly can you clear a space in your schedule for an informal council of war?
Tarleton has just responded to a whisper from his butler, and returned; it seems there was an exceedingly grubby street urchin on the front step, bearing an unsigned note with the following message:
Shouldn't all good husbands keep their wives from meddling in matters which don't concern them? Behave yourselves, and I may return them to you only a little soiled. Do otherwise, and I cannot answer for their safety.
Two locks of hair, which are at least the same colours as Lady Schofield's and Mrs Tarleton's, were enclosed with the message. On a second consideration, it may not do to be seen meeting you openly; Kim and I shall contrive something and contact you again.
In His Majesty's Service,
End part one
7 July, 1818
I suppose I ought to write 'Dear Mrs Merrill', for I haven't really known you long enough for informality, but somehow it is difficult to be so formal with someone who has saved my life and risked your own on my behalf and Cecy's. If I live to be a hundred, I shan't ever forget the moment when I first realised who you were, beneath the dyed hair and the cheap petticoats, and what you had come to do.
I am ordinarily quite as good with words as I am dreadful at anything which requires dexterity, but now I find myself equally as clumsy when I try to put pen to paper, so I will simply tell you the bare truth: Thomas and I, as well as James and Cecy, are in your debt and will never be able to repay you and Richard.
Thomas mentioned that he and James had been by to see you yesterday; he said that you came downstairs and made conversation, and seemed to have largely recovered from the effects of the magical backlash. I am exceedingly glad to hear it.
He also said that you and Richard, along with your friend Madame D'Auber, had already begun making arrangements for those girls who had been held captive too long to be returned to their families. Please tell me if we can be of help to you in any way. You might also solicit the help of Lady Sylvia, Thomas's mother; you may already be acquainted with her, as she is very likely a part of your mother-in-law's circle. She has a great many contacts in the most unlikely places, and is not at all a stranger to covertcy.
I am glad we were at least able to give Miss Cartwright a happy ending. Alice and I have put about that Arabella's arrival in London by a visit to a sick great-aunt, who has since conveniently died. Fortunately, she and Alice have such a vast profusion of relations that I doubt anyone will try to probe further. I expect a few old biddies will remain suspicious, but everyone else will be too dazzled by Arabella's beauty to ask questions. I hope her suitors are gentlemen in the truest sense. She will need kindness in the coming days. At least she was uninjured physically or magically.
If you and Richard ever need a respite from the pretenses of Society—and I certainly would wish for one were I in your place—the doors of Schofield Castle are always open to you.
9 June, 1818
My dear Kate,
Please don't worry about being formal with me. Everyone who knows me well, knows that I am not in the least a formal person. In fact, I am regularly chided for it by my husband's aunt.
I don't take naturally to fancy words, and I'd rather not put up a pretence among friends, or those who I hope to count as friends. Horribly respectable people who care about such things generally do not wish to know me in any case. So I pray you will forgive me if my words are, betimes, a bit raw.
I do hope to see you soon; I can exert myself without falling into a faint now, and I will be back to my normal routine as soon as Richard ceases practically sitting upon me and forcing me to rest. The fainting was most vexing—I never had the vapours before in my life and I certainly did not intend to start now. There was some deuced odd magic in that energy construct of Tanistry's.
Speaking of the dead, I sense that you are still troubled by many aspects of recent events. Please feel that you can always write to me and speak your true thoughts. If you aren't yet ready to share them with another, I suggest a commonplace book, preferably a strongly warded one.
Please tell Cecilia that she may also feel free to write to me, when she is well enough. I've killed; if not directly by my hand, then surely through my actions. It is no light and easy thing, even where it's necessary.
With affection, from one who hopes she may call herself your friend,
12 July, 1818
I feel as though someone has taken my whole world, the world that I thought I know, and disarranged its orbit, so that I wander amongst unfamiliar stars. Apparently I have also developed a taste for bad poetry, and I am a little appalled at myself. But truly I cannot otherwise put into words this profound dislocation that I feel.
I feel as if I have come home from a little war, a secret war that will reward none of us with honours. At that, I suppose it is not so different from some of what we did on the Continent. Still, this is home and peacetime; somehow I believed that true ugliness would never touch us here.
I look at Cecilia, lying in bed, looking so still and un-Cecilia-like, and feel myself half a man for being unable to protect her from this. I've never envied magicians, but I find myself doing so now, wondering if more magic might have protected her. I wish she might have drawn on all the strength available to her to escape that bastard, even if she had miscarried our child. But it was her decision, as she reminds me when she is well enough to do so.
I often do not know whether I should touch her; if I should come close, or stay away. Yesterday, before I had fully stepped into the doorway of our bedroom, she saw my shadow and started. When she says she feels as if she will never cleanse the blood from her hands, I do not know what to say. I do not know how to talk to my wife as if to a fellow soldier, though she is surely that and much more.
Disloyal though it may be, I find myself thinking of the times we spent together in the old days, when we were each other's only support behind enemy lines. We are facing a different kind of enemy now, and I would have you at my side.
14 July, 1818
Be careful of the poetry; it's a sure sign that your mind is going. I am sorry; I am flip because I stand a little in awe of you and your willingness to lay yourself bare to your comrades in arms, whilst I am more apt to hide myself behind a fortification of cutting wit or indulge my taste for boxing.
That last vexes Kate a great deal. We had our first true fight—a hard, vicious thing—over it yesterday. And I would stop to please her, if only it did not make me feel alive as little else seems to these days.
Do stop blaming yourself for not being a magician; I, a fully-trained wizard, was equally useless. If it had not been for the Merrills, we might have been lost, though certainly the four of us have got out of tight spots before. But somehow the stakes never felt as high, not even when the fate of Europe was at issue. I always believed in our ingenuity and cleverness, our ability to draw upon each other's strengths. I still do, but even those came so, so very close to not being enough.
I, too, wish I could be nearer, but someone has to stay in London and quell rumours. Your and Cecilia's abandonment of Town can be attributed to her confinement, but I do not think Kate and I can be absent so long. Though I hate having to present a carefree and insouciant face to Society, fortunately, I am very good at it. As, a bit surprisingly, is Kate. Her natural talent for telling bouncers has risen to new heights. But when the parties are over, she and I get tangled up in each other, and all too often end up snarling.
My most peaceful thoughts are often of you.
16 July, 1818
Do you hate me for what I did to you? For not finding a better way? I would understand if you did.
Kim--Mrs Merrill--has asked me to convey to you that you may correspond with her upon any topic, and I agree that you should. I have already exchanged letters with her, and it helped a little.
Even if you never wish to speak to me again, I shall always be your
Tarleton House, London
18 July, 1818
I could never hate you. Indeed, I know it is selfish of me, and likely wicked as well, but I long to have you with me, in every way possible.
I took your advice and wrote to Kim Merrill; she seems very wise for someone who is not much older than we are ourselves. I suppose it is because she has seen so much more of life in the same amount of years.
I must confess, I used to think myself quite worldly, especially after our Grand Tour, but now I see what an innocent I truly was. I have always been fond of Society--of parties and wit and flattering gowns--but now I begin to realise how it may crush one, as a team of blind oxen might, through no true fault of one's own. Those girls--the ones we were able to save--were guilty of nothing more than being naive and trusting, yet if anyone knew the truth of what they endured, they would be objects of scandal at best. As we would be. I wish someone to tell me how to live in such a world, but I am not certain anyone can.
Do you have nightmares, Kate? I do. I see him over and over, thrusting into that poor girl and taking her power into himself. I see him stripping us naked with his eyes, and then his hands. I see my hand on Kim's knife; my hand covered in blood and gore; I see his body lying at my feet. I know the world is well rid of the bastard who called himself Gerard Tanistry, but that knowledge never stops the dreams.
And I also dream of what never happened--I see him taking you as he did that girl; I see you or James or Thomas as the body on the ground, the knife still in my hand. I wake and call for James, and sometimes for you. I feel James' caution when he comes near, and I hope he does not see me as one who will forever be a broken and fragile creature.
And I hope he does not loathe me for the other dreams, the ones where I dream of what you did for me, to protect me, and I call your name in something other than terror. Gerard Tanistry (or whoever he truly was) may have taken his pleasure from watching us, but I knew that you were guarding me (and the life within me) the only way you could, with your own body. It feels strange, now, for you to be absent.
I miss you dreadfully.
18 July, 1818
My dear son,
You and Kate (and James and Cecilia as well) have been often in my thoughts these past few days, due to recent events. Whatever I can do for any of you, you may be certain I shall.
However, I am most concerned that I have heard naught of these events from your own pen. What I know, I know third-hand at best, from young Mrs Merrill via Lady Wendell and Madame D'Auber. They were most circumspect, but I remain greatly anxious, particularly as regards Kate and Cecilia's current state. I know that even at the best of times you are not over-fond of correspondence, but do try to remember that I am your mother and have a certain natural desire to learn how you and yours are faring.
You need not shelter me from this business out of some sort of concern for my matronly sensibilities. My years with the League of the Pimpernel have rendered me all too familiar with the evils men can do. I trust that these events have convinced Lord Shoreham and the inner circle at the Ministry of the vital importance of making a push to recover and destroy any remaining copies of Everard Tanistry's Epicyclical Elaborations of Sorcery. I fear, though, that if others have already begun to refine upon Tanistry's principles, as this supposed relative had done, it may be too late to entirely suppress the knowledge of his work. Still, the situation can be monitored, and I and the League will certainly do all we can.
In fact, I am preparing to depart for London as soon as I may. I will likely arrive a day or two behind this letter, making as much speed as is practical at my age. I intend to see Lord Shoreham in person, and perhaps the Duke of Wellington as well. I also wish to see with my own eyes that Kate is indeed healing. If Cecilia is willing, I would like to examine her as well. A young woman in her condition with possible magical injuries should be seen by a wizard, and I should think I would be more welcome than a stranger.
I do not wish to impose too greatly upon you and Kate during this difficult time, so I will be putting up at the George rather than at Schofield House.
Expect me when you see me.
I remain your affectionate
Trevelyn Cottage, Cornwall
31 July, 1818
Dearest Lady Sylvia,
Thank you a thousand times for all that you have done for us. You saw us all more clearly, it seems, than we saw ourselves; you not only knew what we needed but were able and willing to provide it for us. We are all in your debt. Please thank your ever-so-private and anonymous friend on our behalf as well, for providing us this beautiful place to let.
Everything is as you described it: the Cornish coast lovely, the location remote, the servants discreet. We have been well-supplied, lacking nothing, and we have particularly noted the quality of the beds, which are unusually large and commodious. We are all most appreciative.
And now I fear I have put myself to the blush, writing that last sentence, though it was you who suggested this holiday, and, indeed, how we ought to spend it.
Everything is so peaceful here. When the weather is fine and we are not otherwise engaged, we often walk together down the little path to the cove, and Thomas and James take Cecy and I out in the boat. As we float between sea and sky, all within arm's reach of one another, I at least begin to believe that we are indeed healing. We cannot be who we were, but we are slowly re-creating ourselves, arranging our broken pieces into a new and beautiful whole.
As I write, Cecy has come in from the veranda and lain her head on my shoulder. She asks me to tell you that she thanks you on her own behalf for relieving her private fears about the coming event and putting her at her ease. She grows rounder and rounder as the days go by, and none of us can keep from resting our hands upon her curves. We all wish to remain here until the end of her confinement, but someday soon we must rejoin the world.
James and Thomas have gone walking together, so I will leave them to thank you in their own time and in their own way. Until we meet again, I shall always be
Your loving daughter-in-law,