[Hello! This is my eighteenth-century imitation novel, Eleanora (see Islandia, chapter 7). Let me know if you’d like to read more!]
Mrs Marjorie Waldgrave to the Rev. Joseph Harlowe
Adlebury Hill, February 2
I had just completed my perusal of your fine letter this morning, seated as I was with my dearest Charge at her studies, when I came upon a most astonishing piece of intelligence, and I declare that the shock was such that I near fainted! You must forgive the prattling of a poor old woman such as I; my nerves are not what they used to be, and with the events of these past few hours I find myself scarce able to write at all! But your wise counsel is praised throughout the county, and so lucky are we to have you as our village preacher to guide us in worship, and to advise us when our hearts fail us! I feel sure that you will know precisely what must be done in this most shocking matter.
How bewildered was I, to encounter a messenger fresh from the Palace, informing me that the Duchess of R- was brought to bed of a fine daughter! You may only imagine my surprise at such an intelligence. My quiet retirement in our small rural village is well known. I have not been welcome at the Duchal Court these four years, on account of this same Duchess; you know, as I have confided to you on many an occasion, how my heart aches when I think of the many happy hours I spent there as governess to my dear Miss Alexandrina until her fourteenth year. The Duke’s marriage brought this happy life to a premature conclusion. You know, of course, how astonished we were to find the Duke attached to so ungracious, so unseemly a lady! It caused a great row in the household; none but the Duke himself approved of the new Duchess, and so enamoured was he that he defended this woman against all, his own mother and sister included! O, ’tis a mercy that his noble father is not alive to see it!
The Duke’s sister, having been so ardently opposed to the marriage of the Duke and Duchess, has been no more welcome at the Palace than I. Poor Creature, banished from her own home on so tenuous a base, and at so tender an age! Our happy house, so often like to a loving family for me, was split up near overnight. I accompanied Miss Alexandrina to her new residence, and for many years we found our comfort only in one another. Only the Duke’s Mother, the Dowager Duchess, was permitted to remain in her establishment. O, he does not deserve her! That a mother should continue to love so disobedient a son with such vehemence! But she has remained with them all this time, at the expense of her daughter’s company, and despite the nips and prods of that naughty Duchess, to manage the Estate while they go on with their idle ways! My poor Miss Alexandrina has spent many an evening sobbing for her poor, ill-used Mamma, whom she is not even permitted to visit. So far does the Apple fall from the Tree!
But, O, what further tidings awaited me in this bewildering document! The aforementioned Duchess barely survived the birth of her daughter by an hour, and perished before sunrise! Such are the machinations of fate. All that poor woman’s sins are now forgotten in death, and it is left to the Almighty to judge her. To my astonishment, the Dowager Duchess of R-, that long-suffering sainted mother of so unworthy a son, summoned me to her presence. O, how I tremble to think of it! I, who have so long been shut up with my beloved charge, summoned to so great a Personage! I beg you, kind Sir, to counsel me in this matter, to send me a few kind encouraging words that I may take with me in all my trials.
Dear sir, your most faithful humble servant,