Defining Moment

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In Which We Read More Letters

March 9, 18––

Dear Eustace,

What a deal I have to tell you already, not the least of which is the incalculable amount that I miss you! To-day I explored Godfather Cadogan's private study. At least I, unlike you, have no need to fear that my intrusion is rude, as the dead have little or no regard for propriety. (I hope you know I am teasing.) I do not know if you noticed or not upon that awful day, when my godfather was killed, and when you had your most severe fit, but his library is very tidy, and all o'er-hung with drawings like your own, of your dear mother. I will try and describe some them to you.

They appear to have all been drawn over a good deal of time, challenging my initial opinion that he did them all at once in his solitude and grief. It seems to be more after the fashion of keepin g her alive with him, although it is impossible to know whether or not my theory is correct.

The first one I laid eyes upon, and that being perhaps because I think he thought it the best, and had it most prominently displayed, is very like the one you have. It is bigger I know, but whether it is more finely done I cannot say. Her eyes are your eyes, and her hair seems to be blowing, as if in a light wind. She is very beautiful. Another one shows her lying full length among some tall grass, as if from the view of someone laying beside her (these are all cleverly done, and very good art. I think it ironic that both Mortimers should have turned out to be scribblers and doodlers, for it is not as if we are blood related). Her face is propped upon her hand, and she looks down, as if examining something in her hands. Did I say that the first picture I mentioned – the one like yours – is the only one where she seems to be looking at you? In all the others, her eyes are either cast down, or looking off somewhere else. That is very queer, don't you think?

The others are various drawings of her twining flower chains, braiding her hair, stroking a bird perched upon her finger (that one looks so dear!) or doing various elements of work around what looks to me to be a dairy, but from your tale, I know to be a place for shearing sheep and making things from their wool.

There is some thing I must tell you that is greatly important. Phillip has been arrested, and charged with my godfather's murder. At first I could not believe he had done it – but you, O my wise scholar, I'm sure have fathomed the depths of his heart from the beginning as I never could, and will not find this hard to believe in the least. He was taken away from here, for I heard that we have no proper prison in this town, and is to be tried summarily, and most likely, sentenced severely, perhaps to death. Pray for his soul with me. It does trouble me so.

Yesterday I discovered a great many rooms I didn't even know about here, one of which was a huge dining hall. I have taken to eating my meals there. It is so strange to be all alone in that great airy room. I will draw you a picture of it – tell me if you knew about it already.

Also, I have recently discovered a volume of Shakespeare, and have been devouring it with great interest. I especially like "Romeo and Juliet" and "As You Like It". I did not much like Titus Andronicus, which was first in the book, and I very nearly did not read more, but soon I was removed to "fair Verona, where we lay our scene," and began to think much better of it. Though I haven't read it yet, I suspect I will like Henry V too. I wonder how accurate it is? I remember doing that part of the timeline with you. What a glorious battle, that battle at Agincourt! In reading about Harry the King, thanks to you, I shall feel as if I am meeting an old friend.

Write and tell me all about the Adirondacks. What are they like? Are you actually on a mountain, or just nearby one? Is America very different from here? I long to hear how you are doing.

Your Dear,

Maggie

Post Script: I have not gone to your study since you left. I feel it would not be right, to rub the bottle when I know very well the genius is not within. I hope you rest and recover, and come back soon. The room will need airing. – M.


April 30, 18 –-

Dear Maggie,

I received your letter this morning. A fat little orderly came in, bearing it upon a tray, of all things! You would laugh to see him trundle about his work, huffing and puffing, and saying, "'M sorry, sir," about every little thing. His name is Dustfried – I am not making that up. Are you laughing yet? I certainly hope so.

To set your mind at rest, for I know it will be a while before you get this, I will describe my surroundings to you first of all. It is beautiful. That's it. I could go on and on, and tell you of the lofty violet peaks, the living woods of tall trees (not like the trees back in England), the ice-cold rushing springs that babble their ways down the slanting and rocky ground into valleys where they form glassy lakes, the wonderfully pleasant weather... but I will spare you, and leave it at that. I feel a thousand times well already. It is such a lovely place. I only wish you could be here.

The mountains here have the funniest names (not so funny as Dustfried, though) such as Goodnow and Whiteface. There is a section of the mountains called Essex, and fortunately, that is where I am located. It makes me feel as if I am more at home, rather than being in a place called something outlandish like Saratoga or Franklin (some of the other sections).

The convalescence ward that I am in is very interesting. It is built, of course, on the side of a mountain, out of undressed timber and stone. That may sound rustic and terrible, but I am reveling in it, as it reminds me of my early childhood in the country village. My room has a large window that looks out over the mountainside, and down into a small lake in the valley below. I keep inside almost always, because it is a convalescence home, and I must convalesce at least a little, but I have gone out twice to sit beneath a tree and breath the fresh air. However, it it made me so terribly tired that I haven't attempted it again. Instead I have been reading a good deal, and talking with the other patients in my ward. At first I was quite shy, not being used to people, but there is a chap in the bed next to mine named Walter (isn't that a coincidence?) who I talk to a good deal. All things considered, I am getting on quite well, and know you are being a dear girl and trying not to worry too much.

Thank you for telling me about the pictures. I wish I could see them. I do find it hard to explain that my father loved my mother so much that twenty-three years after her death he would paper his library with drawings he made of her, but could not bear the sight of me, because I bore her likeness in flesh. This is not to get you to feel sorry for me – far from it. I am comforted to know that he was not all hard heart and stopped-up emotion. I only wish that he yet lived – and that I was well – and could get to know him.

I did not know about the dining hall. I never explored when I first came to live there – I was forbidden to. And since I never saw the outside but once, I really had (and still have) no real idea of the size or dimension of the structure.

I don't mind that you shut up my library, but neither would I mind if on a sudden whim someday, you decide to go in there and make some more sketches for the timeline. Whatever you like. Supposedly I have been forbidden to think of (though if you can think of a way to prevent thoughts from coming into one's head I would think you a brilliant girl indeed): "any deceased relatives, which might cause agitation, any far away dear ones, which might cause agitation, any past circumstances which have proved traumatic, which might cause agitation, or any grand ideas and schemes yet unfulfilled, which might cause agitation." I nearly laughed aloud when I heard this, and am chuckling again as I fill my pages with nothing but those taboo items.

I must go, supper is about to be served, which we can either take in bed, or in the great hall, and I am going to take it in the hall, as today I feel stronger. Tardiness is not tolerated, for though lenience is usually extended to the infirm and invalid, I daily have to remind myself that I have not joined the army by accident, because of how efficiently things are run here.

Write back, and tell me about your adventures in France with King Harry. Look up for yourself whether or not it is accurate.

I pray for you every night,

Eustace


May 22, 18––

Dear Eustace,

Your letter was delivered this afternoon to the front door, which, as I recently discovered, has a doorbell. It astonishes me every time is has rung (which has only been twice, counting this time). It was brought by a little boy with a dirty face and an puppy which he had tied to a string.

"'Ere's for you, miss," he said, taking the coin I gave him, and scampering off. I have seen no more of the coffee man – rumor has it that he was implicated as an accomplice in the assassination, and has disappeared. Whether he is in prison or merely deemed it meet to move on from this place I know not. But, since there is no more coffee man, there has been no more coffee – nor anything else, for that matter. I have taken to going out shopping myself, and it is very exhilarating. At first I was a bit irked by the amount of people gawking and exclaiming,

"You're Mortimer Cadogan's goddaughter?" but now I am quite over it, realizing how strange it must be to them, and knowing they only mean well. I have not really made any friends (and I have yet to meet a Roger, Quinna, or Olivia, though I did come across an Olivia in Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night"), but am enjoying it greatly.

I met a man in the park – where I walk when I am finished with my shopping, but can't bring myself to return home just yet, as the weather has been extraordinarily fine – who owns a print shop, he says. His name is Burns, and he was there with a lad I assumed to be his son. They were just taking air as I was, and we began a conversation by mutually agreeing that it was too fine a day to be inside.

I was thrilled by the description of which you spared me in your letter. The Adirondacks sound beautiful. I wish you could draw them for me, but I won't ask you to if you'd rather not.

I wish I could write longer, but the boy is standing upon the step to post this for me, and I don't wish to keep him waiting. I promise I will write more next time. The days pass so slowly without you.

Maggie


June 14, 18––

Dear Maggie,

Thank you for your letter, I didn't mind it's lack of length; I must beg pardon in advance for following your example, as I underwent an arduous procedure yesterday, and am still feeling poorly from it. As I know you will enquire as to what sort of procedure, I will endeavor to give you an apt description without frightening you. Well, to keep it simple, they tried to induce me to have a fit, so that they could observe what happens to me. Apparently the notes sent by the doctors and nurses as to my condition were not thorough or conclusive enough, and so we begin again here, deciding whether or not I really have a hole in my heart. I joked that I knew I did, for I write love letters to a lass back home as often as I can, and that it was all Eros's doing. Nobody but Walter, who has hemophilia, I discovered, not a heart condition as I originally thought, found it to be very funny. So, as you can imagine, it was not very pleasant. They pumped my chest, then made me pace about the room rapidly swinging my arms, then hold my breath til I felt ready to burst, and do all manner of maddeningly purposeless things until finally I began to feel weak, and fainted upon one of the nurses. I suppose you know what followed, although I can't say I do, and I awoke to find an entire flock, no, a herd of medics clustered about me, and making worried comments and notes on their writing boards.

Enough of that. I'm glad to hear you are getting out and about and meeting people. Just because I never did does not mean you should not; you don't know how guilty I felt, nor how often I longed to urge you to leave me for your own sake, but did not, my own selfish heart winning out and keeping you there in the library with me day after day.

Now that you know how I love you, I believe I am forgiven for my selfishness, and will be forgiven for the liberty I take in

Kissing your name each time it's written –

Eustace


July 5, 18––

Dear Eustace,

Today I am missing you most dreadfully. Last night I had a dream that you were here with me, and we were taking a walk near the house where I was born. It is a lovely house, and I have been wishing to go back there for sometime. When my godfather was killed, I rather hoped I would be sent there, but I'm sure someone else lives there now, and I knew you would not want to leave your library behind. But anyhow, the birds were twittering, and the breeze was blowing in your hair. But when you opened your mouth to speak, you did not have your own voice, and you were saying all manner of horridly gloomy things, predicting your own death, and mine. I willed myself to wake up, and at last did. When I fell asleep again, I dreamed of my dear mother, which was so refreshing. What bizarre things I must have been thinking!

The weather here is quite warm, and when I went out to purchase a bonnet (which I am in desperate need of, mine being in tatters – though I am such a miser I can't bring myself to spend the money), I almost wished for a great floppy hat like the one hanging in my godfather's plant-room. Give me a more intellectual name for that – I have taken to calling it a plant-room for lack of a better term.

I must tell you what has happened regarding the prosecution following the murder. In a great irony, it turns out that my father's friend James Melville, Phillip's father, is a lawyer and is heading the prosecution against his own son. I was summoned as a witness, and it was a terribly long day. The sergeant and his constables offered their evidences, I gave my account, and the inspector presented his findings. The defense was short – the trial well-attended, as it was not only the quarter session, but before the assize judges of the Exchequer Court. Phillip pled guilty to the charges, and with a good deal of emotion, James sentenced him to the only proper punishment for murderers; death by hanging. The coffee man was also there – his name, I did not ever discover, nor did I did not hear his fate, but it has been rumored that he is being sent to the hulks, for his complicity has been absolutely proven.

I cannot begin to describe what a great weight has been lifted from my mind by the conclusion of these proceedings. Now there will be no more interruptions and questions that have been a part of every day here, and I can rest in peace at night, knowing for certain the assassin's fate and praying for his soul. Oh, Eustace, how wise you were to warn me about him! And I very nearly did not heed you. I tremble to think what could have been the outcome, but I know very well it is profitless to fear what only could have happened, but did not.

I am content now in every possible way, except in your absence. Dear dear Eustace, how I wish you were here, that we might clasp each other in our arms and cry upon each other's bosoms, something I have been having a great urge to do of late. Do not think I am desponding – I only love you so dearly and find this separation hard to endure.

Write back to me, and tell me how you are getting on. I pray you are growing stronger every day – my, what an awful amount you are subject to at the hands of those nurses and doctors! It rather makes me think of the police inspector overrunning this place looking for "symptoms and proofs."

Remind me what hemophilia is – I tried to look it up, but have yet to locate any information on it. There is a great medical text in Godfather Cadogan's study, but I cannot make heads or tails of the information. Poor Walter. Whatever it is, it cannot be pleasant.

If you will not accept my deepest condolences and most profound pity and wishes for a swift and complete healing, accept them for Walter's sake, and tell him about me. It will do you good to talk of "deceased relatives, far away dear ones, and grand ideas and schemes yet unfulfilled..."

Trusting they will yet be fulfilled,

Your own,

Maggie

Post Script: Remind me to tell you in my next letter about what I have been doing to the garden. I have not the time now, but you would be so pleased to see it, and the honors I have done to Scrabble's little grave. – M.


August 13, 18––

Dear Maggie,

The day before you dated your last letter, July 4th, was a most outlandish and uncomfortable day here. As you may recall, that is the day that the Americans celebrate their defeat of King George's army in their colonies, and it was celebrated here with an astonishing amount of noise and festivity – too much, I think, for invalids who need to be resting. Now, had it been Guy Fawkes Day, or any other such holiday, I might have been able to tolerate the commotion, but it seemed to me to be an uncalled-for rejoicing in the defeat America's foes, and a good deal of conceited extolling of America's virtues. Nevertheless, I tried to keep up a good spirit, and have to admit that the fireworks set off over the lake were quite splendid.

Thank you for the information about Phillip's trial. I cannot begin to imagine the grief felt by Mr. Melville, in trying and convicting his own son. I know I join you in praying that these events will finally bring him to a place where he can admit his need for a Saviour. Phillip too, is not beyond aid, while he yet lives. I am certain that by the time my letter reaches you, the deed will have been done, and his spirit will have departed thither where he will be judged according to every consideration of his heart, whether good or evil.

Are you yet to Shakespeare's histories? You won't be surprised to know that those are my favorite works of his. Beware Henry IV, however, for at one point the title character gives quite a rail against a particular character, ending with, "No, on the barren mountains let him starve; For I shall never hold that man my friend Whose tongue shall ask me for one penny cost To ransom home revolted Mortimer!" (Don't worry, I don't think he means you, or your namesake. Let's hope not, at any rate.) On to other matters.

I was sorry to hear of three things: the first, being that you have been having gloomy dreams of me, which cannot be a good omen. I know I tend to have that presence which haunts after my departure (!) but I hope that I do not haunt you too terribly. I am feeling alright today, although I spent a bad night last night, and did not sleep a wink. I can't say whether or not this convalescence is having any effect upon me, but it is an very beautiful place to be, so beautiful that I don't mind whatever happens here.

The other things I am sorry to hear of were that you have been neglecting yourself so much as to wear a bonnet you described as being tattered... (I am teasing you yet again). Tell me what sort of replacement you chose – I will enjoy imagining your sweet face framed by something new. Lastly, I am deeply offended that you think I would refuse the pity and well-wishes that you confer now upon Walter... I have been telling him of you, and it seems to do him (and me) good.

Hemophilia is a condition where the blood does not coagulate. Thus, at the smallest injury, a hemophiliac is at a very real danger of bleeding to death. The other day Walter showed me a great bruise he has upon his leg – it was nearly the size of a tea saucer, and looked very painful. But he does not complain, and is a jolly companion.

I am supposed to remind you to tell me of your escapades in the garden. I am sure you have made it quiet a paradise. Take pains to keep is so, that we make walk in it should I return. Put a cowslip on Scrabble's grave for me.

Forgive me, I must close, I am so tired. All my love,

Eustace


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