15 April, 1804
I must say, being stuck here is most dreary, and not at all fitting with my current temperament. You may remind me of all the reasons I am confined to our estate, most of which involve that unfortunate incident with the goat and the Baron, but I deny them all voraciously, and with a very good face I must admit. Unfortunately, Uncle Phillip has always been able to see through my very best faces. You always laugh at me then, but someday I will be able to outwit him, and I shall have the last chortle.
The point being, I am most put out, being stuck here with nobody but Roberta Morse to talk to, and you know how silly she is. There is simply no one of your caliber to talk with, except perhaps Peter, but he simply mopes about like an imbecile. It’s silly, really. Ever since you and Peggy left, the company has been dreadful. I do hope there’s a ball soon—we could do with some liveliness, even if there’s nobody around to enjoy it with.
So in light of my predicament, I urge you to tell me everything about London; the sights, the smells, the sounds, and most of all, the people. I am so jealous, you can’t even know. I imagine all the teas and balls and dances you must be attending at this very moment, all the ladies fawning over you, and simply turn green. A shade that never suited my coloring, as you very well know. So the only solution, my dear Stevie, is to tell me everything so that I won’t stay green for long.
I do hope that I can convince Uncle Phillip to take me to London, preferably soon, because this was supposed to be my Season. It’s simply a tragedy that I am missing it, despite all that nonsense with the goat. Who holds someone back on such a minor account as that?
I misspoke when I said nothing of note was happening. Apparently a small gathering is to take place in a few weeks, a country dance, but I shall have nothing to wear. Unless, that is, you could find me a shade of rose pink crinoline by next Tuesday? And Steven, I swear to the high heavens, if you send me one more length of sky blue and cream, I shall cut you the next time we see each other in public. You know very well I can’t carry those colors of in the dimmest of lighting, despite your fixation with them.
Your loving cousin,
18 April, 1804
My Dear Jamie,
You might say the incident with the goat was minor, but I think the Baron’s squire has a different opinion. And that is to say nothing of the maze debacle, so I still think you should count yourself lucky that being left behind was all the punishment Uncle bestowed upon you. Nevertheless, I realize what a great disappointment this was to you, despite your stoicism, so I shall do my best to enliven the monotony.
To be honest, Jamie, I find London quite dull and grey. There is always a stench in the air, as though dirt and sweat were mixed together in a great vat and then heated until a fog rose. It’s rather unpleasant, and you might call me silly, but I do miss the country air. Truly, I do think London would suit you much better than I, as you were always excited at the prospect of the never-ending hustle and bustle. I will say that out social calendar has been much busier than that of home. We had tea out at least three times, a few carriage drives, and have been to a ball once already. It’s been exciting, certainly, but all the people sometimes put a strain on me. You know how exceptionally stiff I become when the ladies approach me (and it is rather unkind of you to describe them so, Jamie), and I simply never know quite what to say.
Peggy, of course, has a great many admirers. I have done my best to make sure all the gentlemen that engage her attentions are worthy of her, but it is rather hard to pick and choose when half the ballroom clamors for her kind words. She enjoys it most of the time, I believe, but sometimes she does feel quite tired afterwards. She and Gwen Stacy have struck up a firm acquaintance, which I think does her much good. She needs a female companion, and Miss Stacy has a spark that reminds me of your quick wit. I can see why Peter is quite taken with her, although I do know how dismayingly vacant he can be when in the throes of amour. I’m enclosing a short letter from Miss Stacy to Peter; see if it doesn’t make him more verbose.
As for your crinoline, I’ve found a lovely shade that I’m putting in as well, and hopefully it will be to your tastes. I did see quite a stunning crimson, but I know you detest anything too scarlet, so I decided to let it alone for now rather than face your incorrigible wrath. Do give my love to Peter and Uncle Phillip, and tell him he shouldn’t be so hard on you, even though your mischief sometimes carries you away.
My warmest regards,
25 April, 1804
You are bluffing me, I know it. London cannot possibly be as horrid as you describe it, and therefore the only solution is that you are lying to make me feel better about being left behind. And I beg you, Steven, do not feel you must make up such things to keep me from jealousy. I really do desire to know all about it, so the next time you must relate the true nature of London.
The letter from Miss Stacy did indeed cheer Peter up immensely, and he was even in a mood to go riding with me, which provided much amusement for the both of us. He can be such a clot sometimes, but generally much more amusing when he is fortunate in his affections.
Before it slips my mind, I must thank you for the crinoline. With the proper guidance, you can always be persuaded to find the perfect shade, and in this instance you did so beautifully. I believed I looked very well at the ball held at Lady Rhodes’ home yesterday night. It was exceptionally exciting, even though I danced a mere five or six times, far below my limit for dancing as you well know. Much to my dismay, most of the attention was fixed upon a young lady by the name of Natasha Romanov, who, it is true, was the reason for the ball.
Miss Romanov has been a dear guest of the Rhodes for a few weeks now, and the ball was thrown in honor of her arrival. She is remarkably lovely, having a porcelain complexion that would be the envy of Duchesses and hair of a most unusual auburn shade. Despite all the attentions being paid to her however, she remained quite cold and barely spoke three words all night. Whenever I saw her dancing, she appeared determined to be stoic, despite the charms of her various partners.
The worst struck however when Peter, appearing as quite the fop, asked her to dance three times. Indeed, I was as shocked as you must be right now, reading the very words. Just that morning he had been mooning about, floating on the kind words of Miss Stacy, and yet the evening of the ball all his attention was for Miss Romanov. Suffice to say, when he stumbled his way back over to me, smiling most foolishly, I was quite short with him, relation or not. However, even my infamous temper did nothing to dampen his spirits, and he persisted in his affections until Uncle Phillip ordered him quite sharply to accompany me to dinner. And I can tell you that did nothing for either of our tempers, for there is nothing so mortifying as being forced to attend a meal with one’s own relation. I can tell you now, reflecting back, I feel quite sorry for the gentleman who attempted to engage me in conversation, for I was needlessly impolite with him. I refused to speak to Peter for the rest of the night, and even now, the next morning, I am in no mood to humor his whims.
To make matters even more displeasing, Uncle Phillip has informed me that we are to attend afternoon tea with Lady Rhodes and her guest. I am dreadfully afraid I shall be quite rude with Miss Romanov, so perhaps it would be best to beg off with a headache.
Well, I have just returned from the tea, and I must say I was quite wrong to judge Natasha so viciously. But I suppose I must start from the beginning—you always say I muddle things up in excitement when I attempt to tell stories.
I had nearly concocted a believable story about the loud noises from the kitchen ringing in my ears when Uncle Phillip came in and informed me that no illness, conceived or otherwise, was going to keep us from tea. Naturally, you do not try to bluff Uncle when he is in such a temper, so I had no choice but to follow half-heartedly and hope that Miss Romanov had begged off instead.
When we arrived and I saw Lady Rhodes and Miss Romanov seated in the drawing room, I was determined to be quite discouraging for the duration of the visit. However, as soon as we sat down to tea and Uncle Phillip had turned his attention on Lady Rhodes, I realized it would be quite rude to ignore Miss Romanov so completely; you must be laughing at me now, I think, for you know sometimes I can be nothing but rude. I did not wish to displease Uncle any more than I have already, however, so I attempted to engage Miss Romanov in conversation.
My efforts to make dialogue on the ball last night and the loveliness of the countryside were met with sparse answers and blank looks, and I was reduced to remarking on the remarkable fair weather. My dear Steve, I can imagine you chuckling even harder, reading all about my ridiculous bon-mots on the brightness of the sun and the lack of clouds, and I admit I was close to complete exasperation. However I had the good fortune to ask where she had traveled from, and learned that Miss Romanov had just returned from Russia.
“And is it very cold there?” I remarked, because the weather seemed to be the most prudent topic so far, but I swear Stevie, something in her eyes lit up with happiness, and she nodded emphatically.
“Oh yes, but that is something I love very much about it. I enjoy the severity of the cold, and the land is sparse with ice and snow, but it is very dear to me.” At this, she seemed to sag a bit, the light in her eyes dimming. “Of course, it is very unlikely that I shall see it again soon.”
“Why not? It seems you are very fond of the place.” I replied, and she nodded again, a smile touching her lips. It is very remarkable how a smile transforms her face into something warm and lovely, and I realized that I had not seen that particular expression grace her countenance before.
“My step-mother does not wish for us to return, and I am in no way to disagree with her.” She shrugged, and I felt a surge of pity for her; it had become very clear that England did not suit her well at all. I queried again about her homeland, and her father, and she brightened immediately and began to talk with much more enthusiasm. We spent a good half hour in engaging conversation that way, and at the end she smiled very sincerely at me and asked if I would call her Natasha. Needless to say, I am very sorry to have garnered any dislike at all towards her, provoked as I may have been. Uncle Phillip was intolerably smug during the ride home, so I merely sniffed at him and pretended that his opinion meant nothing in the world to me.
In closing, I must repeat my plea for more information, because if I know anything about you, it is that you would never wish to cause me any unhappiness. But I assure you, dear cousin, that an accurate depiction of London would give me nothing more than the greatest pleasure.