Penelope Clay to Adelaide Hampson
12 Camden-place. Tuesday, December 13
My dear Addie,
You must have wondered at my hesitation in replying to your last two letters. I was made uneasy by the first, in which Marianne’s attack of migraine was detailed and your apprehensions imparted, but gratified by the account in the second of her apparent recovery. She has ever been something of a delicate creature, but I suspect not a few of her symptoms may be merely nervous. Your Mr Sandison with the able assistance of Nurse Thomas will no doubt be fully capable of sensible treatment, but I also recommend a firm hand and not too much patience with a sometimes headstrong, willful little Miss.
The delay in writing has been occasioned by our settling in to a very good house in Camden-place, a partial crescent on the side of Beacon Hill and thus affording admirable prospects. Sir Walter and Elizabeth are delighted with its prominence. Quite the best house in the crescent, and elegantly and tastefully furnished. Sir Walter remedied a few minor deficiencies, particularly a scarcity of full-length looking-glasses. There is no library, but neither Sir Walter nor Miss Elliot seems to feel the loss; Sir Walter (as you may guess) has brought with him the one book which he finds indispensable – and is daily occupied in discovering, or happily and contemptuously not discovering, the lineage of those deemed prominent in this Bath season.
There are two drawing-rooms, giving ample space for the entertaining which will I hope now be anticipated. Not, as you will appreciate, Adelaide, for my amusement – for you know the simplicity of my tastes – but as diversion for Miss Elizabeth, who is still mourning the loss of her position as mistress of Kellynch-hall, which has damaged her self-esteem and left her feeling ill-used and unfortunate, and consequently out of temper.
There have already been several cards left and calls made, although Sir Walter has hesitated to return them. He warily advises against precipitately adopting too wide a circle of new acquaintance in Bath early in the season. We have, however, been seen several times in the Pump-room and Elizabeth and I have patronized the shops in Bond-street, Milsom-street and in the colonnade. Elizabeth has ordered two bonnets from Miss Gregory’s milliner’s shop, and a gauze cloak which is quite the newest thing. Miss Elizabeth, of course, must be in the latest mode; I have to content myself with some new apricot ribbon trimming for my grey velvet. Coquelicot is no longer in fashion and good lace is beyond my purse. Lace, however, is not necessary to the happiness of plain Mrs Clay – however requisite it may hereafter be to the wardrobe of a Lady of more distinguished name!
Monday morning, December 19
Six more days have added to my negligence, but I have some surprising news to impart! Mr William Elliot has called at 12 Camden-place. You will recall him – the cousin and heir to the title about whom we once heard so much and of such ill repute. Do you not recall the gossip about the break with Sir Walter on the occasion of the “young puppy’s” mercenary marriage? How great the astonishment to find that the young man has now lost a wife, gained a fortune, and rediscovered his due respect for familial ties. He seems intent on making himself agreeable and, after some initial suspicion from Sir Walter and decided chill from Elizabeth, he has dispelled all acrimony with an easy charm of manner and openness of address. All is explained and all is now forgiven.
Mr Elliot certainly seems sensible, well-bred and amiable, and though Sir Walter laments that his looks have suffered sadly in the last ten years I think him handsome enough.
In one of Sir Walter’s looking-glasses I caught him looking intently at your sister, though he glanced away hastily when he found himself detected. It seems that the heir apparent does not share his cousin’s prejudice against freckles!
I can only speculate at the reasons for his sudden desire for intimacy with the Elliots. He perhaps now feels that riches alone cannot compensate for the loss of a spouse, however unsuitable? Perhaps there are other motives. You may expect me to be curious and vigilant.
I hasten to seal this much delayed letter and rely on your forgiveness.
Yr. affectionate sister,