Posted on 2014-10-31
To my dear Henry,
We are all presently overcome with grief. A most unexpected messenger came to us today with unbelievable news. It was Mr. John Thorpe whom you no doubt remember from Bath. I had never hoped nor expected to see him again but he felt obligated to deliver personally the message that my brother James is dead. He was shot fatally, and by his own hand although it was an accident. Mr. Thorpe said James was inspecting a pistol that a mutual friend had offered to sell when it unexpectedly fired.
Henry, I do not know what to believe. This whole thing feels like a nightmare. James had been so despondent since Mr. Thorpe's sister broke their engagement. He had lost his appetite, I know, and his studies had suffered, but he seemed at last to be lifting his spirits. His most recent letter home was almost cheerful.
And now this! Henry, how I wish you were here to comfort me. You would know exactly what to say. I am at a loss how to deal with this tragedy, yet I know my parents are much more afflicted than myself. I know you cannot leave Woodston but please write me as soon as possible. I remain...
To my dear Henry,
I can scarcely hold my pen. Harriet is dead. It seems impossible and yet I have seen and held her body. You will not believe me when I tell you how it happened, so random, so strange. She was playing with a neighbor's dog, frisking about like usual. I do not know why, only that the dog bit her. It was just a scratch and had it been on her arm or leg, I would not be writing to you. It was on her neck, just a small nick, and yet her blood flowed from the little wound too quickly for us to save her.
I am in a state of shock, and do not know how, even if you were here, I might feel better. They say the Lord does not give us more than we can barely, but I wish He did not have such great faith in us!
Is that wrong for me to think? You would know better than I, better than my father in this trial. Though I may be wrong, I am still yours, etc.
To my dearest Henry,
After our recent tragedies, I feel I must begin this letter by stating that no one else has died. Your letter about Harriet was very moving; I read it aloud to everyone. It was so well written, in fact, that I believe my parents might have agreed to hurry forward our wedding day were it not that Charles is presently so very ill.
Like the rest of us, he was deeply affected by the losses of James and Harriet. Charles is prone to "walk away his troubles," as my mother describes it. He went on one of his long rambles and was caught out in a storm. By the time he found shelter, he was soaked to the skin. The temperature dropped and he caught a chill. He is even now moaning through his fever.
Sally, Mother and I take our turns with him, nursing him back to health, or so I hope. Harriet was his favorite, and he does not struggle to be healthy again as he ought. I fear for him. I fear for us all.
They say that bad things come in threes, but is that not unnecessary? Things are bad even if there is only one out two of them. Why must there be any more evil or sorrow in the world?
Oh Henry, how I miss you! But do not think of coming until Charles is better. Until then, I am always...
This is horrible. Jane is now ill. She had taken to sitting with Charles when our mother is with him, and now she is sick too. It is much worse with her. She can barely breathe or sleep.
Mother is exhausted with trying to care for both of them, and we have sent George and Matthew to stay with the Allens. Even Richard is gone to collect the last of James' belongings.
I confess, I am tired too. Sally is not looking well, and so I am spending more time with our patients so that she may rest. Do not think the less of me for keeping this letter short, there is so much needing to be done.
Jane is calling. I must go.
Luke is dead. He fell from his horse and broke his neck. My mother is too grieved to rise from her bed.
If bad things come in threes, then we should be done, should we not? But no! To make our troubles even worse, Richard is in the custody of a magistrate. He writes that James did not die as we were told. He was not examining a second-hand pistol but dueling with Mr. Thorpe! When Richard heard the truth he sought out Mr. Thorpe -- not with any malicious intent! -- but before he knew what he was doing, he had beaten Mr. Thorpe senseless. It is unclear the extent of Mr. Thorpe's injuries, if or when he will wake. Henry, Richard is always gentle. He would never do anything violent, and yet he admits he did it! What is happening to us?
I do not feel as if I will ever smile again.
Jane died last night. I cannot write anymore. - C
To my dearest Henry,
I am very sorry for my last letter, so incoherent it was. It was very imprudent to send, but with four of us dead, surely Father's income may go a bit further now even after the bills are paid. And if my greatest luxury is writing to you, who can find fault with that?
I was attending Jane at the end, and called my father to her when I could tell the rattle in her chest was hastening her end. She was so pained, never with a moment's comfort in her last week. None of the doctor's remedies had any effect for her.
Father was so deeply affected at her death that it unnerved me to be there with him. When she breathed her last, he pulled her into his arms and would have choked the life from her were she still with us. If ever we should be blessed with children, I must hope we are not likewise cursed to lose them.
In death, Jane finally looked peaceful, but it was not a peace I could share. Bad things come in threes. What comes in fours? When will it be done with our family? Will we know peace again in this life?
We are all worn out at home. Sally cut her hand this morning while preparing bread for toast. Mother has gone to see Richard and so the maid was sitting with Charles or otherwise Sally would not have done it. The doctor gave her a few stitches after he examined Charles and now she is to rest and not use her hand. I almost envy her respite.
Mother writes that Richard is in very low spirits. Mr. Thorpe will not recover and my brother is a murderer.
I regret the day a Thorpe was ever introduced to a Morland. They have brought us nothing but we are not better without.
Is that wrong of me? I confess I do not trust myself to know right from wrong these days, we are so plagued with misfortune.
To my dear Henry,
Richard has hanged himself, saving the county the trouble. He would never have done such a thing except that he was convinced, having killed Mr. Thorpe, that he had no hope of the afterlife. Oh, we are wretched! Mother is too ill to move. I do not know when she may be brought home, or who will be able to do it, reduced in number as we are.
Charles does not rally yet neither does he decline noticeably. Sally, however, burns with fever and her hand is achingly tender. The wound looks angry and the doctor is worried.
I must put down my pen. A servant from the Allens is come with a note for us.
Oh, most dreadful news! The boys have been attacked by a bull. What they were doing in that field no one knows. How could the Allens be so thoughtless? They have no children of their own but surely they have some sense? Why did my parents ever leave the boys in their care? How can we ever trust them again?
Henry, it is worse than we first suspected. The boys will not survive the night.
To my dear Henry,
I am pleased with Eleanor's news, but forgive me if my heart is too heavy for rejoicing.
It is only Charles, Sally and I remaining. I do not count my parents because they are so brought low by their grief. Mother remains away, and I have not seen Father since he went to see Matthew and George.
Even that small number I cannot hope to last the week. Sally's entire arm is now swollen. She is in constant agony. Between the fever, the chills, and the pain, she is not lucid. She keeps calling for Harriet, and does not remember where she is. Charles continues to do nothing; he does not improve; he does not decline. Oh, would he just decide whether he should live or die!
Forgive me! My nerves have been frayed past endurance. I am so very tired in mind and body. I am sick at heart of all that my family has suffered. It makes me a poor, unkind nurse. I know it is wrong to think, but if only Charles had died straight away! It would have spared us so much pain. Jane would not be dead, nor would my parents sent Matthew and George to the Allens. Nor would Sally have cut her hand. It would not bring back James or Richard or Luke or Harriet, but is it wrong to want to save the other four?
Write to me soon. I do not trust my own judgement anymore.
H- Sally is gone from us. I was in the room with her but she was thrashing about too violently for me to hold her hand and comfort her. I -
Charles is awake. I must tend to him.
Charles is awake no more. Thank God, I may rest. He fought me at the end when he realized what I was about. My arms are scratched, my wrists are bruised and sore. I did not expect him to be so strong after being abed so long but at least I shall have some peace.
I am very sorry Henry, but I am afraid I must now lie down. I do not feel well. I must confess I have not felt well for days.
Henry, what have I done? You will not marry me now, not because I believe you change your mind, but because where I must go there are no husbands and no wives. I am afraid Richard had the right of it. I must hurry before the maid notices anything amiss.
Adieu. Tell your sister that I wish for her every happiness that I am denied, and know that I am ever and always your beloved Catherine.The End