Silk & Scarlet Prologue

 
The Havisham Arms, Cambridge, 14 March 1841 (never sent)

Der Sir

Oi am riting to u to mak my riting betta. Oi hop u wil eccscuze my por spellin.

Sinserly

Rose Webster

***

The Havisham Arms, Cambridge, 28 May 1841 (never sent)

Der Sir

I am lerning to spel better. I hope this letter finds you wel.

Sinserley

Rose Webster

***

The Havisham Arms, Cambridge, 19 Feburi 1842 (never sent)

Dear Sir

I hav today lerned I hav ben sucsessful in acheeving a position as ladees maid with Lady Caroline Faringdon. I wil be moving to her howsehold in London to resid in her residense. I wil continu to rite to you from my new residense.

I hav herd you hav started an inqwiry agency. I wish you much luk in your new position also.

Sincerely

Rose Webster

***

Farringdon House, London, 13 June 1842 (never sent)

Dear Sir

I hav begun my new position. I wil now be writing to you from this adress.

Work as a ladys maid is difrent to the Havisham Arms. There is much to do but Lady Caro is pashent with me. She adoors rising peeple above their circumstanse. I am honored to be one of these peeple. She is determind to help me acheeve a beter posishun in life. She alredy does so by helping with my dikshun and my enunsiashun. She has also provided me with pens and ink so I may continew my study. My writing has goten beter and I am reading. I canot belive it. Me, reading.

I hope this finds you wel.

Sincerely

Rose Webster

***

Nice, France, 25 December 1843 (never sent)

Dear Sir

Merry Christmas.

Lady Caro has taken her household to France. I write this during my half-day off. I am looking over a blue sea the likes of which I haven’t seen. I wish I had the words to describe it. It is so pretty. I would never have seen such a wonder if not for Lady Caro.

Lady Caro says we are to stay for another month. It is winter and very cold. I am very much fond of the sea. It is so blue—

I wish I had the words.

Lady Caroline has helped with my education. I am better at my writing and my accent is also better.

Lady Caro hosts the most amazing parties. I watch them from the parlour sometimes when I have completed my work. She knows just about everyone in Europe and they all seem to admire her greatly.

Lady Caro says there is no greater amusement than those who are positively green with envy and she says living well is the best revenge. I cannot believe anyone should ever have slighted Lady Caro.

There is a young man who seems quite interested in me as well. We spend time together on our half-days. I am hopeful he might wish something more.

Yours sincerely

Rose Webster

***

Vienna, Austria, 22 March 1844 (never sent)

Dear Sir,

We have removed to Vienna.

I must confess, I find I hold a great fondness for the Austrian capital. My half-day will often find me wandering the streets, perusing the music and book shops, immersing myself in the grandeur of this elegant city. On occasion, I will while away an hour or two in one of the numerous coffee houses, watching the Viennese as they got about their daily lives. There are often lively discussions in these coffee houses, and though I only know enough German to make sure Lady Caro’s garments are correctly pressed, I find myself listening intently, fascinated by the passion with which they speak and the wild gestures they make.

I have, sir, discovered words to at least partially describe the wonders I see.

I feel my writing has improved greatly. I am often penning notes for Lady Caro, and I faithfully write my family, though truly only my father reads and writes, and only well enough to run the tavern. My sister is learning her letters, and our correspondence helps her with her studies, much like my letters to you helped me—

Lady Caro is calling me. I will have to end this abruptly.

Yours sincerely

Rose Webster

***

Venice, Italy, 23 February 1845 (never sent)

Dear Sir

Venice is in the middle of its Carnevale.

The streets are a mad riot, revellers streaming through its alleys. The air is thick with the scent of frying pastries and icing sugar, spice and wine, but beneath is the ever-present sourness of the canals and I am reminded such colour and spectacle hides ruin and decay.

…I beg you ignore me, sir. I am melancholy, and it is colouring my words.

Lady Caro has commissioned several masks be made so she may roam the streets with the other festival goers, her identity concealed beneath gold-painted porcelain and the voluminous robes many wear. I accompany her, and she allows me wear one of the masks she had not chosen for the evening. I have never worn such a fine thing, not in all my days. The masks are delicate, the porcelain almost translucent, and the detail with which they are painted astounds me. Such talent exists in the world, and I am lucky to experience it.

I am lucky in my employment, and I am lucky in my employer. Lady Caro is ever gracious and ever encouraging, and I do not know why I feel so, why I am so out of sorts and restless, why my thoughts turn to melancholia when my situation could be so very much worse.

Again, sir, please ignore me.

I hope this letter finds you well.

Yours sincerely

Rose Webster

***

Wallachia, 7 August 1847 (never sent)

Dear Sir

I have not lately found much time to write. I find I do not hold the passion for it I once did. It may be the atmosphere here in Wallachia had discouraged me from recording my feelings and thoughts in a manner which can be easily seized by any who seek to know them.

There is discord here, and unrest. I am uneasy. The people in the marketplaces whisper of revolution, and the servants here are reluctant to speak further of such things, but I know it to be the truth.

I hope we are soon to leave. I should not like to be here should war break out.

I hope this finds you well, sir, and your inquiry agency thriving. We do not often hear of the goings on in London, but I am certain you are vastly successful.

Yours sincerely

Rose Webster

***

Florence, Italy, 3 November 1848 (never sent)

Dear Sir

We have returned to Italy. This time, we visit Florence. I understand why this city was the birthplace of the Renaissance. The light here is astounding, a myriad of colours melding together to bathe us in a fascinating glow. Every evening, I stare at the sunset, the sky a mix of yellows and oranges, pinks and reds, slowly fading into a cornflower blue, then a cobalt, then finally inky black. The sunrise is just as mesmerising, and I am unable to begin my work until the sun is fully hung in the sky, the colours replaced by a never-ending blue.

Lady Caro has kept society here, as she does in every place we visit. We encounter many English lords and ladies, and it is almost as if we are back in London. Then, I hear the lyrical flow of native Firenze and I am reminded again we are far from home.

Here, though, there is a difference, in that Lady Caro is being courted. Sir George Carring often seeks her company, and she is seriously considering his suit.

Lady Caro has, of course, attracted male attention. She is beautiful, a beauty of laughter and warmness, and she is never without companionship. Many men have wanted to make her their wife, but she has never looked on any with seriousness. This courtship, though, is different. Something about Sir George speaks to her, and she has always said she had a desire for children. With her fortune finally guarded from any potential husband—she has been working for some time with a horde of solicitors to see her assets will always remain hers— she sees no reason not to encourage Sir George. If she accepts, it means we will return to London.

I must confess, I am hopeful we will return to London. I have loved our travels and would never begrudge them, but I do miss home. If in London, it may be I would even be able to visit Cambridge and my family. I write letters, and my sister does as well as she can, but as you know we are not the most learned of families and I’m sure it is laborious for my sister to read my letter and then write our family’s response.

I should also like to learn more of you. As I mentioned, English society flourishes in Florence, and I have heard a little of your fame and cleverness. That you were able to solve the mystery of the seven stiches; discover the location of Lady Brin’s son, taken from his bed in a locked nursery, and return him to his mother; and bring to justice the murderer of that poor woman, the seamstress—I misremember her name. I should remember her name. It is awful that I do not.

Perhaps one day I will discover your cleverness myself. Perhaps soon we will return to London, and I will read of your cases in the news sheets, and I will think to myself that forever ago, I knew you.

Yours sincerely

Rose Webster

***

Faringdon House, London, 11 June 1849 (never sent)

Dear Sir

We have returned to London. I beg your forgiveness for not writing upon our arrival, but it seems I do not compose these letters as often as I once did. I shall rectify that now.

It’s strange, but these letters have become my way of recording my life. I know you shall never read them, and I will never send them to you, but it brings me comfort to record my thoughts and actions in the written form.

I still cannot believe I can record such in the written form.

Lady Caro intends to introduce her fiancé to her family next month at her family seat. I have not often to Faringdon Abbey, and I am looking forward to reacquainting myself with its halls and corridors. I am particularly looking forward to wandering the topiary maze, relearning its mysteries and playfully scaring myself that I might become lost among its hedges.

I have seen your cases reported in the papers. The recounting are quite…breathless, are they not? It is hard to ascertain the truth of the thing, when they are so clearly exaggerated. However, I have enjoyed reading of you and I have amused myself greatly by imaging you in each situation, your stern impatience having made a great impression on the girl of sixteen I once was.

I shall write again before we leave for Faringdon Abbey.

Yours sincerely

Rose Webster

***

Farringdon Abbey, Yorkshire, 12 July 1849 (sent by post)

To the Honourable Nathaniel Evans

Dear Sir

I beg you remember our former acquaintance fondly. As you may recall, I was employed at The Havisham Arms in Cambridge as a barmaid during your time at University. I am now in the employ of Lady Caroline Faringdon as lady’s maid.

I write now to engage your assistance. My employer’s fiancé, Sir George Carring, recently passed away, in circumstances that can only be termed foul and suspicious. The constabulary have been engaged, but they seem baffled and cannot explain which villain is responsible for Sir George’s demise. Consequently, they cannot provide Lady Caroline with any comfort or closure on the loss of her fiancé.

I know of your expertise, sir, and your ability to solve cases others cannot. I implore you to bring your formidable talent to Yorkshire, and would be obliged, sir, if you would travel to Faringdon Abbey at your earliest convenience. You will, of course, be compensated at your usual rates.

I enclose details of Sir George’s death, as relayed to me by Sergeant McCloud of the West Riding Constabulary. I have also included his direction, should you wish to contact him before your arrival.

Please advise via return mail if you condescend to take our case. A direction will be then be sent, so you may easily undertake the journey to Faringdon Abbey.

Yours, etc

Rose Webster

 

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