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the braithwaite letters 16-18

May 17, 2017 10:10PM
my apologies for the last long silence, my computer died on friday before I could post. Hurrah! I got all my data back

Chapter 16

“I don’t trust that young man, Marjorie, my dear,” said Miss Pecksniff.
“Which young man?” asked Marjorie.
“That Mr. Alistair. The way he kept looking at you put me in mind of the way Clement would eye up a new maidservant to see if he could be bothered to seduce her, and if she was likely to be willing, or if he would have to coerce her. Or a horse, to decide whether to buy it or not.”
“Are you sure? He was amiable enough.”
Miss Pecksniff shuddered.
“I’m sure. Whenever you weren’t looking at him, his eyes narrowed and he looked as though he was calculating your value. Hard blue eyes, you know.”
“I … did not warm to him. But I had nothing specific to go on. Thank you, Emily.”
“I’m just glad you believe me and do not write it off as the imagination of an ageing spinster.”
“I expect that you are very observant of the way people behave,” said Marjorie, reflecting that a companion had to be ready to react properly without irritating the family or their guests and hence lose her position, a more delicate balancing act than for a servant, who had only to obey and say nothing unless spoken to.
“I have been too bitter, lately, to observe,” said Miss Pecksniff. “I have grown to the habit of jumping to conclusions, as I did about you, at first. And about choosing the most uncharitable thoughts. Your governess did me a service in making me take the plank out of my own eye. And your generosity! It has overwhelmed me.” She swallowed hard.
“It is no sin to cry, Emily, if you want to,” said Marjorie. “I have cried many times over my situation, married to a beast like my late husband, wondering if he would kill Penelope the next time he knocked her down. I imagine at times life looks bleak for you, with your own company and the years lonely?”
“Oh Marjorie! I am so lonely, and only myself to blame, for quarrelling with Drusilla; Drusilla Pigeon is my cousin, you see, and a closer connection than our cousins the Farringdons, for I am twice removed from the Farringdons. And it was all so petty!”
“Tell me about it.” Marjorie put an arm around Emily Pecksniff.
“Oh Marjorie! You know Drusilla sews, of course, for the poor, and you have been kind enough to offer to help. Well, Drusilla is a good woman but she does like to be ‘the doctor’s wife, such a good, caring woman’ and is inclined to jealousy if other people are doing as much. You were very wise to ask her to head a sewing circle, because that will make her feel as though she is in charge. And she could make life difficult if she chose to. And it was because I had made Rev. Forester a new surplice, I had some black fabric, and his was so threadbare, and Drusilla asked if I was setting my cap at him before his wife was even cold in her grave. And I had no such idea, I assure you! It … it was why I increased the stipend of what I give to the parish for the rector’s salary, because it would help, without being something public that Drusilla could sneer at. And … and I have been guilty of pride that I can give from the income of what dear Ruth left me.”
“I have an aunt a bit like Mrs. Pigeon,” said Marjorie. “She is well-meaning and charitable, but she does like to be in charge! And if someone else is doing something, she will interfere and make things intolerable, all with the best motives. And indeed, her comment may not have been meant seriously but with the sort of heavy badinage my Aunt Cassandra is given to.”
“Oh, I am glad you understand,” Emily was relieved. “Because Drusilla is a good woman, and compassionate, and I would not want to spread spite about her. But we did have sharp words, and perhaps sharper on my part because I resented that she had married, and I was unlikely to have a husband, even a country parson, and certainly not Mr. Forester, who is quite ten years my junior. If she were merely joking … and I believe you may be correct.”
“Why, if you are only ten years older than Mr. Forester, you are not at your last prayers; for he is not yet thirty, I believe. And my Mama met and remarried Papa Giles, who is a most amiable husband to her.”
“He is not, then, your father?”
“Oh no, if he had been my father, I should never have been married to the likes of Solomon Braithwaite, who was a crony of my sire. Oh, we Brandons have such scandals, my real father was hung for piracy. It is very lowering that what most moral people see as a terrible crime, he merely saw as aggressive business practices.”
“Dear me, lowering indeed! You may count yourself fortunate, I dare say, to have lost both husband and father, and if it does not offend you for me to say so, I can be almost glad not to have married, with such unpleasant men about.”
“Oh, Emily, at least you are independent and can choose, if you wish!” said Marjorie.

Deepwells Manor
25th July 1815

My dear Cousin Drusilla,

I thought it was time, indeed more than time, for me to apologise for taking offence at what I now think may have been a jocose comment on your part, which I took too seriously. I feel my position as a spinster very deeply, but I am not one who runs after every man, and I was hurt. I should not have been so foolishly thin skinned. I do hope we might put it behind us? I should like to be a part of your sewing circle.

Your cousin, Emily.

Rose Cottage
25th July

Dear Hester,

If we had laid money on the matter, you would have lost, and I am imagining your squeak of outrage over the idea of gambling and enjoying the thought.
You said that Emily would never forgive me for making fatuous comments about her chasing the vicar; well, Hester, technically you are correct, but it was not a forgiveness but an apology she sent me, for being thin-skinned and for taking offence where none was intended. Which is going even further.
I do believe it is all the influence of Mrs. Braithwaite, and I should love to hate her for managing Emily so well, except that she is far too sweet a little woman to hate and it makes me feel quite guilty that she brings out my worst side.
I believe I might even enjoy the sewing circle.

Your sister, Drusilla.

The Blue Boar
25th July

Dear father,

As you may see, I am back at the inn. Forester smiled at me and told me I no longer need to be mewed up in a rectory and trammelled in my choice of language or behaviour in front of his children as Farringdon had left, and I had very little choice but to comply. I know I hadn’t sworn very much, and I don’t know what he disapproved of about my behaviour. I only pinched the arse of his serving wench, it wasn’t as if I’d swived her and got her with child. And I suppose that priggish brat Harry told his father. I tried a convivial wink but he had the impudence to look shocked. I would have loved to have slapped him! Especially when I discovered that he had introduced something most unleasant into my bed, and when I sent for the maid to clean it up, she laughed at me and said it was only Master Harry’s sculpture of dog dung, and nothing to be in a taking about. That child is offensive.
Well, when I am married to Mrs. Braithwaite, I shall certainly make sure that her children obey me and do not copy the rectory brats. They won’t be visiting once I have charge of the household, I can tell you!
I made a formal morning call on Mrs. Braithwaite this morning, and I ventured to drop her a hint about the impudence of the rectory brats, but all she said was that they were lovely, lively children, perfectly natural and with open, honest natures. Children should never be permitted to be honest, how would anyone ever keep secrets? As for lively, the idea of that being ‘lovely’ is quite ridiculous. I fear I may have to work harder on the widow than I had realised, but once we are married, she will soon learn to obey me.
The call went well enough, but that evil Pecksniff besom stared at me fixedly, until I became quite unnerved, and certain I had a smut on my nose, or a pimple on my chin. I praised her for having the gardeners weed and prune and discover what plants might be extant in the so-called rose garden, rather than be profligate and have expensive designers in, and she declared that she wanted it restored to the glory of Mrs. Farringdon’s time, and if necessary she would have roses imported from Holland to replace any that have been lost. Such sentimental nonsense! She will have what grows and otherwise it may as well be laid down to gravel which is cheap and easy to maintain.
I have had to go about the fiction of seeking a house in the neighbourhood, as that was the excuse I gave, and both the rector and the doctor presented me with a list of places to look over. Very tedious! However, I can pretend to go off to see them, and spend time at dalliance with the widow instead. I asked her if she had thought of the idea of providing her children with another father, and she said she had certainly considered the idea. I fancy she may play coy for a while, but if I can fix my interest with her before she is into half-mourning it will overcome her scruples, I think, to put off black entirely.

Your dutiful son, Tobias.

Deepwells Manor
Deepwells, Suffolk
26th July

Dear Mr. Brady,

Thank you for sending on the factory accounts of the last few years, my brother-in-law has forwarded them to me.
I confess that I am quite shocked at the amount of income generated by pressed tin geegaws, and I fear I had greatly underestimated the size of my late husband’s business. The Wedgewood range is greater than I would have anticipated, and more popular than I might have guessed. I certainly feel more confident about using the allowance I have received to date to invest on my own behalf. I have had no difficulty in understanding the break-down of the proposed investment into the spangles and other haberdashery findings; and I have to thank you for finding a haberdashery warehouse ready to sell up. I am grateful to you for assuring me that this is owing to the death of one partner, and the age of another, not because the business is ailing. I will certainly consider your sister as a manager, I am very happy with your managing of the business. I would consider, if things go well, taking her as a partner, though I should like to meet her. Perhaps I might travel north now that I am settled, and the children happy.
Thank you for reminding me to have a good legal agreement drawn up as to my finances when I remarry. I will certainly not leave my daughters with the same financial uncertainty that I have had for these last months.
I am in communication with my family solicitors, and I believe I may dispense with the services of Craven, Pickles and Fawcett or whatever their name is.
I confess that I am elated that I was able to follow the accounts, and am not as stupid about money as I feared I might be. Indeed, I began to find it quite fascinating; I may well make a nuisance of myself taking more interest in the mill!
Thank you once again for your kindness and patience, and for going the extra mile.

Yours sincerely, Marjorie Braithwaite.

Other correspondence, being purely businesslike in nature, might be understood to have passed, between Marjorie and Mr. Pennyweather of Knightly and Pennyweather of Gray’s Inn Road, Mr. Brady and Mr. Val Braidwood and sundry persons wishful to sell a haberdashery.

13 Boar Lane

Dear George,

Truly? Me? To be manager of a haberdashery? I won’t let you down in your recommendation that I can do the job, Mrs. Braithwaite will have no cause for complaint. She deserves luck, nasty old man as her husband was. At least forcing himself on the mill girls was not one of his vices, but it has been hard since he sacked us both for trying to get better conditions. At least the poor woman won’t be turning up to find half the hands have her husband’s bastards .
I will take great delight in making her rich on her own account, I doubt the old skinflint let her have a new bonnet, of her own choosing, anyway, from one year’s end to the next. I shall not be unhappy to be taking a good wage for doing so either!
Now do not scold that thinking of new bonnets is a frivolity. It is not. The Good Lord did not say at any time that women had to be dowdy, only modest. I cannot bear seeing women who do not make the best of themselves, it seems to me to be an insult to God that they neglect themselves and call it piety. I love the idea of these spangles Mrs. B has suggested, all girls love pretty things, and they will catch the light to add sparkle and glamour to a gown or a fan as much as those made from more expensive metals. And it’s not as though common small round and flower-shaped spangles and paillettes of the normal kind were not made of base metals most of the time, and steel ones for mourning. I don’t know how they used to get the coloured ones, but I’ve seen pink, green and blue ones on old costumes. Coloured laquers perhaps? But with modern costumes tending to insist on white, then silver- or gold-coloured are likely to be more popular, and the yellowing of shellac would give tin a gold colour, I think. Now there is less embroidery on robes, there is less call for the small sequins, but spangled bodices have been shown in fashion magazines. I wish I knew more!
Do you think Mrs. Braithwaite will be interested in helping out with the school? Financially, I mean? Because educated workers do make sense as well as it being the Lord’s work to educate all. I expect she belongs to the established church but I don’t see why we shouldn’t ask.

Your sister, Rose.

Chapter 17

“Reverend Forester, I need to speak to you about the resources of my husband’s business,” said Marjorie. “I have been going over the books, and although I will lose my stipend on my marriage, I will be able to invest what has come to me as a loan to expand the business, and to purchase a haberdashery business for my own. I want to make sure that there is a marriage settlement written permitting me to keep this, to will as I please.”
“Naturally. There is enough for a small shop?”
“No, my dear sir, there is enough for a wholesale haberdashery warehouse as well as a loan to the factory. The six months’ worth of stipend is in the matter of thousands, Rector.
Charles sat down suddenly.
“Did you wish to break our informal arrangement?” he asked.
“Not in the least. But I want to make sure that whatever happens, my daughters are cared for. I want your permission to have my solicitors draw up an agreement for you to sign, giving me full rights to the returns on my loans, and on my haberdashery business. So far as I can see, my late husband took out as much of the profits as he reasonably could, rather than reinvesting, presumably in order to be a part of the fashionable world. Unlike my father, he wanted me dressed well, to show off to other men his wife’s finery. And to be honest, I have so many gowns and bonnets that I will be able to refurbish and make them over for many years and still make it look as though you purchase me half a dozen new bonnets and gowns a year. So long as I look well in them, I am not concerned about them being new. Or even of the highest kick of fashion. By such economies, I can make sure that there will be enough for all the girls to have a good season each if you are happy for me to extend my own holdings. I believe I have a head for business that I never realised, I was amazed how easy I found it to go through the accounts, even without Mr. Brady’s detailed explanations.”
“It seems foolish for me to take control of your finances if you are able to extend your wealth,” said Charles. “I have no head for business myself, and I was, frankly, worried about any monies for the upkeep of Pen and Jacyntha being frittered away. Is there an account set up for them?”
“Yes, and their income will not cease when they have a stepfather, being heirs of their father’s body, and the agreement with his solicitors having been set up that way. I am not quite sure why they capitulated so easily, unless that Craven fellow hoped his son would confuse me enough that I would let them play ducks and drakes with it.”
“It wouldn’t surprise me, my dear girl, if he hadn’t decided that his son might as well marry an heiress like yourself, and take control of the income for the girls,” said Charles, grimly. “I wonder if that was why he wanted to send him? Though you’ve not heard from them since, have you?”
“Oh Mr. Forester, you are probably correct! It makes perfect sense, for they would know the figures, and I did not, and if I had thought I might be worth a few hundred, then I would certainly have had no qualms about that being added to your own savings. Well, not qualms exactly, but one never knows what might happen, and if I should die, and you very properly remarried again, and made a mistake and married a harpy, my own poor girls would be quite at her mercy.”
“Yes, I can understand that, and thank you for explaining that it is not that you mistrust me,” said Charles. “I … I confess to being hurt that you would not trust me, even though I know I would be terrified to handle such sums.”
“Oh Reverend Forester! I am terrified too, but also elated, because it will be such fun to invest and speculate! I am sorry to have given you a moment’s pain, for I would not wish to do so.”
“I suggest only speculating with such things as you understand, my dear. And it was only a momentary pang, I assure you.”
“Oh, I am glad. As to speculating, I shall be cautious; and I do know that it is possible to purchase directly from abroad at a fraction of the cost of notions like feathers in haberdashers. I am not precisely sure how to set about such things, but I can learn. And I hope that Penelope and Jacyntha might wish to learn too, but we shall see. If Beth or Lottie take an interest, why, they will be my daughters too. But because Braithwaite was in the habit of taking out as much as he did, I think that David’s share should perhaps be largely ploughed back into the business to increase his own holdings. Which will obviate any chicanery by old Craven as one of the trustees.”
“Yes, that makes perfect sense,” Charles nodded.
Marjorie hesitated.
“I want to go to Leeds,” she said. “I need to see for myself, and to meet the woman who is going to run the haberdashery. I am going to write to London to have a solicitor accompany me; and I thought I would take Emily Pecksniff to chaperone me, and she loves being a companion. I am sure the children will be happy to remain with Maddy; I do not think it would do any good to David to drag him to see a factory he is too young to understand.”
“Yes, indeed; it cannot do him any good. I … I will miss you. I wish I might accompany you, but really, I cannot do so.”
“No, I am cognisant of that; I would not ask you to do so, for even if I were wealthy enough to keep us all comfortably, you would hate to leave your parish work in any case.”
“Thank you for understanding that,” he took her hand to kiss, and did not let it go. Marjorie was surprised to find that this made her feel unaccountably fluttery inside; an extraordinary sensation she had never felt before.
“I will not be gone long,” promised Marjorie. “I will not stay in Leeds above the week, and it cannot take more than a week to travel each way, even taking it easy. I have looked on Paterson’s roads, and it is about 175 miles. If I do not have to worry about the children, I should manage twenty or maybe thirty miles a day as it is the summer. I think it will be easier to travel for a longer time for fewer days.”
“Yes, I would agree with that, but it is you and Miss Pecksniff who will be doing the travelling. Have you asked her yet?”
“No, but I wanted to check that you did not mind.”
“It is not my place to mind, and though I wish I could go with you, as your husband, I agree that you should go as soon as possible, and not wait for our nuptials.”
“Thank you. I will write from every stop I make. I purpose to ask Mr. Pennyweather, who will be acting for me, to hire a coach and team. I believe I have worked out a fair route, stopping at Huntingdon, Falkingham*, Lincoln, Crowle, Selby and Leeds, six days travelling. The worst leg will be Crowle to Selby, which is on less travelled, and probably poorer roads, but I do not think it is any easier to go across country to join the Great North Road. It will be very busy as people travel north to escape the metropolis, and I doubt an hour will go by without seeing two or three other carriages, and that risks accidents.”
“I think you are very courageous to travel, having already been in one bad accident.”
“Alas, there is no choice. And Val’s coach did much to reconcile me to travelling again. A hired carriage and job horses will never be as comfortable, but it is of no moment, and we might take bricks to heat if need be, and blankets and cushions. And one day I may consider the luxury of a carriage and horses, but to have a carriage one must really have four horses, and that takes quite two hundred pounds a year. We will have to see how my business acumen develops!”
“And if it does not, it does not matter.”

Deepwells Manor,
July 28th 1815

Dear Diana,

I am determined to go and see the factory in Leeds for myself, and I have worked out what I hope will be a good route, though of course I will discuss it with the coach driver. I felt it sensible to have Mr. Pennyweather hire a coach and driver, and keep him for the time we are travelling.
Of course I am nervous of something going wrong, but I should think a coachman for hire should be a good and careful driver, and without someone urging him on through unsuitable weather and poor roads, there should be less risk. There will be one difficult section but I have deliberately arranged to have a shorter stage for that journey.
I have induced Emily Pecksniff to accompany me as a chaperone; she actually enjoys being a lady’s companion. Her mother ran away with a most unsuitable bridegroom, which is how she comes to be a poor relation, and she loves the opportunity to pretend to be family of the folks at the manor, poor little thing. She understands all about unsuitable fathers, and we have had a lovely coze where we proceeded to be a pair of veritable cats about the vices and bad habits of men.
Emily has never travelled, and said rather wistfully that it would be very exciting. I’m not sure I’d describe travelling as exciting myself, but I was not about to spoil her pleasure in anticipating the trip. We pored over Paterson’s Roads together looking to see if any inns were named in the places I had calculated as best to stop. I am not sure how well we shall fare, but we will at least have a man with us in the person of Mr. Pennyweather to intimidate inn-keepers at need on our behalf. And if we have to spend the night in the coach, it will not be the first time for me, since Braithwaite was sufficiently often inclined to argue with the inn-keepers or object to the price that there were times we could find no other place to stay. I would not do so by choice, however.

Your loving sister, Marjorie.

Deepwells Manor

29th July 1815

Dear Mr. Brady,

I am expecting my solicitor to arrive in the next day or two, in order to come to Leeds. Please be good enough to arrange rooms in a good hotel or inn for Monday 7th until Monday 14th, for myself, my companion and my solicitor. All being equal we shall be leaving on the first of the month, and should, therefore, be with you six days after that.

Yours, Marjorie Braithwaite.

The Blue Boar
Deepwells, Suffolk
30th July 1815

My dear father,

You will never guess what that wretched woman has done! She has arranged for some London solicitor to come here, with a carriage, with the intent to travel to Leeds. I have drunk tea with her more times than my stomach likes, foul stuff that it is, and she has done nothing but quiz me on how my house hunting has been going. I have had to make up such a lot of rubbish about the houses I have supposedly seen, and then the wretched woman called me on one of the places on my list when I described it minutely from my imagination, and said “But I thought that Steepgables farmhouse faced south, which is usually a disadvantage at this time of year.” And I had to pretend I had got confused with another farmhouse I just made up. Who would guess she was familiar with these wretched places.
I do not rightly know what to do now. If I ask to escort her to Leeds I will lose my credible story as seeming a house in this neighbourhood, but if I stay here, I will have to wait three weeks or so for her to return. Perhaps I will urge her not to go, and declare my passion for her. Women are fools for that sort of thing. And then she will send her solicitor on and you will have to distract him.

Your dutiful son, Tobias.

“My dear Mrs. Braithwaite! I have heard the news that you are leaving us, and I cannot believe it! We shall be bereft without your presence!” declared Tobias Craven.
“If you have been told I am leaving, it is not true, Mr. Alistair,” said Marjorie.
“Oh, I am so glad, I understood from that Pennyweather fellow who arrived at the inn that he was to drive you on to Leeds.”
“Why, yes, that is true, but I am not leaving, merely making a trip to Leeds. I shall be back in a matter of a few weeks, and maybe by then you will have found a property which suits your most exacting tastes.”
“Exacting tastes? Why what can you mean?”
“Well, you turned down Snooks Roost because it was too large, and it has, as I recall, six bedrooms; and Honeysuckle Cottage on Peddars Lane was too small, which has three bedrooms, the farmhouse you confused with Steepgables was the wrong aspect as it faced north. I should have thought that Steepgables farmhouse itself would have suited you perfectly, since it faces south and has four bedrooms and room to add another wing should you need it in the future, and the farm is being sold separately, as I know, because my mother and stepfather are considering purchasing it to add to their acres here.”
“I … I did not like it,” snapped Tobias. “But my taste is neither here nor there, I cannot bear it that you should be away for so long, cannot that Pennyweather fellow settle your business?”
“No, he cannot, and I really am not sure how to take such foolishness as to say that you ‘cannot bear it,’ as though you were a moppet scarce breeched like my David.”
“I cannot help how I feel! I am filled with passion for you, and I will not be parted!” Tobias cried, grabbing Marjorie by the arms. “I am inflamed whenever I think of you!” he added, and crushed his mouth onto hers.
Marjorie struggled and tried to pull away, kicking out at him. Tobias tightened his hold on her; really, she didn’t need to be that coy!
Marjorie was sobbing, clenching her teeth together as he tried to open her mouth with his.
She was almost swooning, and then, miraculously, the encircling arms were gone.

Chapter 18

Charles came into the morning room with the intention of a last long chat with Marjorie before she left, early next morning, to find her struggling with the man he knew as Mr. Alistair.
Without a pause he grabbed the man’s collar, choking him until he let go, and then spinning him around to drive his fist into the man’s face.
“Marjorie! My darling!” he cried.
“Oh, Charles!” Marjorie cast herself into his arms, and sobbed into his jacket.
“There, there, it’s all right,” said Charles, stroking her hair with one hand as he held her firmly against him with the other. “Silly clunch! I won’t let him hurt you.”
“Oh, Charles! He tried to kiss me!” Marjorie gazed up at him.
“Not very well, I see,” said Charles, looking at her bruised lips. “Kissing an unwilling female is just low. Not that I’ve ever been one for the petticoat company, but I’m not an idiot. Now when a lady looks up as charmingly as you are, a gentleman might advance his face slowly, and if she draws away, he might pretend to have been examining the delightful freckles dusting her nose. And if she does not, he should brush her lips with his, like this.” He proceeded to do so. Marjorie felt her pulse quicken and her lips open; and Charles gently pressed the kiss to her lips. Marjorie clung to him, her heart hammering, and marvelled at how good a kiss from Charles could feel. She gave a little cry of disappointment as he lifted his lips from hers.
“I hope I was not too forward, Mrs. Braithwaite,” he said.
“Oh Charles, I … I like you being that forward, and please continue to call me Marjorie,” Marjorie said, shyly.
“I thank you for making me free with the liberty of your name,” he said, gravely. “I … I came today to ask if you would accept a betrothal token. It belonged to my grandmother, who was Scots, and she called it a ‘Luckenbooth’. I am not superstitious, and I prefer the other meaning of it, that you have captured my heart; but if it does bring you luck on your travels, I will be well pleased.” He took a small, battered jewellery box from his pocket and opened it, showing a brooch made up of garnets around a pair of heart shapes interwined, whose tails twisted to the side. “It is not valuable, but it was left to me when my grandmother died, not long after Rebecca, so it is not jewellery which has belonged to my first wife. I thought that was important.”
“Oh, Charles, how deeply you think about things! It is beautiful. I will wear it and think of you always,” said Marjorie. “Perhaps you would pin it on for me?”
“I would be honoured,” said Charles. He was swift and deft in pinning the brooch to the bosom of her gown, and his gloved fingers did not touch her intimately at all. Marjorie’s breathing became quite fast nevertheless, and though of course it was proper that he should have avoided touching her, she was scandalised to realise that she had asked him to pin the brooch to her dress in the hopes that his fingers would brush against her.
There was a groan.
“Bother the fellow,” said Charles. “Marjorie, I will bid you adieu, and wish you a safe journey; leave this room and retire upstairs and I will get rid of him from your house.”
Marjorie murmured an incoherent thanks, and fled.

The Blue Boar
31st July 1815

Dear Father,

You find me with an aching head and sore face, and most out of sorts. I fear I have failed in my mission.
I went to the Manor with the intent of impressing the widow with my passion. I think she may be completely frigid, because even when I kissed her hard she did not open her mouth, and she was trying to kick me, forsooth! Her husband must have had to tie up such an ice box to get any children on her, which has its attractions, but that’s not so easy when wooing a widow who can refuse, rather than being given a virgin by her parents, and she has no say in it. I’ve wasted all this time for a woman too stupid to realise what I can give her! And while I was trying to show her that she would enjoy it, that damned rector came in and hit me. He has a fist like a steam hammer, and I am pretty miserable, I can tell you! Anyway, when I came to, the widow had fled the room, and Forester told me that he was betrothed to her. I wager that will not be popular with her family; he took the bribe and saw a way to get the lot. Of course clergymen are supposed to be continent, so I suppose he doesn’t have much in the way of urges that he can live with her being frigid, and it means a mother for his ill-conditioned brats as well, and the advantage of not having to see as much of them if they are in the nursery of a bigger house than the rectory. I’m going to write to the baron, though, and let him know what’s going on under the nose of his sister and her husband.
I suppose I might as well come home, as I’ve burned my boats. But not until my head stops throbbing so much.

Your dutiful son, Tobias.

The Blue Boar Public House
Deepwells village, Suffolk
31st July 1815.

My Lord,

It has come to my attention that despite placing a careful watch on your niece, your sister and brother-in-law have been grossly deceived by the duplicity of the local clergyman and your niece. I have been informed today, the 31st inst., that they are betrothed.
I felt certain that you would wish to know of this right away, in order to prevent such monies as she has accrued to date as part of her portion from going away from the family and into the pockets of some nobody.
Your niece also plans to go junketing off to Leeds, though I cannot see what need she has to do so; no woman, after all, can understand business, so there is nothing for her to do there.
My father is one of the trustees, and I assure you he will do all in his powers to prevent your niece from being profligate.

Yours sincerely, Tobias Craven.

It might be noted that Adam Brandon’s comments on this subject, when the letter arrived, were brief, pithy, pointed and largely from the Anglo-Saxon heritance of his native tongue, and his words were sufficiently derogatory of Tobias Craven that it is a wonder that the younger man’s ears did not merely burn, but to actually burst into flame.

By hand
The rectory
31st July.

My dear Marjorie,

I had to pen a brief word to you before you departed, to let you know how deep my regard is for you.
Also I did not wish any secrets between us.
As I was helping ‘Mr. Alistair’ to get up, his pocket-book fell out of his pocket, and in picking it up, I noticed that it was inscribed with his name upon its cover.
His name, my dear, is Tobias Craven, and he has been living under a false name, which tends to confirm my suspicions about his aspirations to your fortune, more than to your sweet nature and beautiful self. I have wrestled with whether to tell you this shocking fact or not, but decided that no good would come of concealing it, even if it shocks and frightens you at first. I hope and trust that I have done the right thing.

Your devoted Charles.

“What is it, my dear Marjorie?” Emily asked as Marjorie gave vent to a gasp.
“Why, that lying, scheming little … fraud!” cried Marjorie, high spots of colour on her cheeks marking how indignant she was. Or perhaps it was reading a tender letter from the man she was learning to love that brought the colour; but Marjorie would claim it was indignance. “I told you how that fellow Alistair manhandled me; and how Rev. Forester rescued me. He has written what he did not have the chance to tell me, that he saw Alistair’s pocket book and the name on it was none other than Tobias Craven!”
“Who is that?”
“Oh, I forgot, you do not know, you have become so very much a part of the family! He is the son of the senior partner of my late husband’s solicitors, and the older Craven wrote that he should visit me, and I refused to countenance such a visit. He has followed me under a false name.”
“Dear me! The perfidy of some people is quite unbelievable! Well, my dear, I did warn you, did I not?”
“You did, Emily, and I took your warning to heart, and I was foolish, perhaps, to see him alone, but I did not think he would behave so badly and I did not intend to ask him to stay. However, as Charles, Mr. Forester, also called and hit him, that distressing incident has made me alive to the depth of his regard. I … I am going to marry Charles, Emily.”
“You hardly have to tell me that, Marjorie; you have been smelling of April and May, and it will be an ideal solution for the children too. I am glad you have found a man who is better than so many other examples we have known.”
“Indeed, yes, and I hope and pray we may find one as convivial for you!”

The Fountain Coaching Inn
1st August 1815

My very dear Charles,

It has been a very long and weary day, for we have had to become acquainted with Mr. Pennyweather, and he is a shy and private man. However he does not seem to mind our chatter, and sits smiling genially. Emily is much excited by travel and has been looking out of the window often to see how the scenery changes. Having lived all her life in high Suffolk she is not unnaturally marvelling at the desolate flatness of the fen country. When we set off tomorrow it will be early enough for her to see the mist upon the fens, which has its own stark beauty, as I recall when Braithwaite brought me this way once before (and I believe I am using the route he chose then, though I barely recall it, other than the odd vignette, for he took me to his house outside Leeds before deciding to leave his business to managers to reside in London.) She has been exclaiming over how flat it is, and how wet, too, after so unsettled a June and hardly less damp July. It has been a fine day to travel, and not too hot, which is a blessing. A coach in August can be quite miserable. I was hoping that we might make a detour to Ely on the way back, which will mean a day’s delay, but worth it to see the cathedral. Diana has described it so well, I confess a desire to see it. Apparently the locals call it ‘the ship of the fens’ because from a distance looking over the fens, especially when the fields are well flooded, it looks like a great man o’ war standing out of the mist and water as though floating, being built on the only real eminence in the fens. It must be quite a sight.
We crossed the river over an old pack bridge to enter Huntingdon, and the embrasures of the bridge were occupied by sheep, letting us pass, as they have been used for time out of mind. Of course my thoughts went to the old stories of Robin Hood, if he was Robert of Huntingdon. The outlaws seem to have happily skipped over distances which are now tedious, for they had adventures in Sherwood Forest, Huntingdon, Nottingham and even Wakefield, and distant Endor, all of which lead me to suppose that perhaps the stories were about different outlaws put under the one name for convenience, because it seems a lot of travelling about for no good reason. And in a time before good leaf springs too! I cannot think that travel was undertaken so light-heartedly in the medieval period as the Merry Men seem to have done. However, that is by the by, though Emily thought my theory sound.
Our wise coachman has brought us right into the town to lodge on the High Street at the ‘Fountain’ since he pointed out that the ;George’ is on the outskirts, where people might more readily come and go, and though we only lay over for one night, and are some of those coming and going, it should be less busy at the ‘Fountain’ than at the ‘George’. I bow to his superior reasoning. The inn is not much to look at, but is a secure building made of brick, or at least a brick façade, and the rooms are clean and the beds inviting. Emily and I are sharing a bed for economy and for mutual reassurance. One never knows who might be staying in a coaching inn. I have to say I have lodged a chair under the door handle and I have the poker from the fire beside me, for we plan to be up earlier than any chamber maid is likely to be abroad, and we shall have our morning wash if we may, or take a room to have it on the road when we stop to breakfast if we must.
Our coachman says we shall stop at the ‘Angel’ in Peterborough for breakfast and a change of horses. It will be another long day to get to Falkingham, but after these two long legs we shall then have shorter ones. On the way back, I think we shall rest over at Peterborough rather than pressing on to Huntingdon, and go thence to Ely for our sight-seeing.
I am making sketches in my commonplace book of any interesting scenery as we drive, and of the places we stay, though doubtless I shall miss recording any of the most interesting features by virtue of not having time to go looking for them.

With all my affection, Marjorie.

Marjorie sealed the letter with a wafer, and blew out the candle as she climbed into bed, listening to the steady breathing of Emily Pecksniff, already in an exhausted sleep. It was long, however, before Marjorie slept, as she lay, wondering what it would be like if Charles lay beside her, not Emily, and conscious of imagining the touch that had not happened on her breasts.

the braithwaite letters 16-18

Sarah WaldockMay 17, 2017 10:10PM

Re: the braithwaite letters 16-18

BeclynMay 20, 2017 03:09AM

Re: thank you! Art installation roflmao (nfm)

Sarah WaldockMay 20, 2017 01:52PM

Re: the braithwaite letters 16-18

AlidaMay 18, 2017 07:06AM

Re: [evil grin] (nfm)

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Re: [evil grin]

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