Something rather more a period drama, I think. Also an experiment in first-person writing, once again. It's not my favoured type of writing but it's something I'd like to work with.
'My Dearest Clarabel,’ the letter began. There was a strange splodge of dark brown in the space before the end of the line, as if something liquid had been dripped onto the paper. My mouth twisted in distaste. She’d cried over this. Ugh.
‘I couldn’t hope to see you again; my husband, Mr Hendricks, has imposed a curfew on my behaviours and I am to be within the walls of our estate by 5 of the clock every day.’ No wonder. He was the biggest cuckold this side of London and Margaret had been foolish enough to let him realise it. Silly girl.
‘I remember those nights we spent together,’ the missive continued. ‘I was so young and innocent, and you were so experienced.’ I snorted. Old, she meant. ‘I never thought that I could find such solace in the arms of another woman, but you showed me that the terrible truths of life are-‘ and there the writing became unreadable. Splodges of ink stained into the paper mixed with tears. Whatever she had wanted to say quickly became a mystery. There was a little more.
‘I want you to know that you have my (another unreadable portion, then) Father’s war chest- -a thousand pounds- -buried in the Somerset countryside by the great- -and it’s yours.’
I felt my heart leap up into my throat as I read, then reread, those tortured words. Oh, the foolish girl; why did she not blot the wasted liquid falling from her eyes? I didn’t want her tears, they meant less to me than the water in the well. I held the paper up to the lantern, trying to bring back the pattern of ink through sheer willpower alone, but it was no use. I clenched my fists, creasing the paper, and felt a great rage sweep through me. I could barely make out the last few words.
‘Of course, dear Clarabel, should you ever chance upon me again without my husband’s vile interference, know that your company would be of great solace to me in this time of need. I will be at- -for at least a month, and I know it’s a place you may have chance to frequent.’ Idiot woman; it was as if she had deliberately done this to spite me. I narrowed my eyes; had she done this on purpose?
‘I remain, forever, your dear Margaret.’ I let the paper hang limply in my hands and stared around the room. The twilight was barely held back by the lantern’s soft glow, and I could see the darker corners of our sideboard, table and the grandfather clock as black patches amidst the blue. The gentle ticking measured out my life as I considered the best course of action. In the back of my mind a needy young woman loitered, desperate for soft physical affection and wearisome in her efforts to attain it.
Finally, I plucked a pen from the small bureau drawer and, having found some ink and paper, began to write.
‘My dear Margaret, it pains me to see you in such straits. I shall, of course, extend an invitation to you to join us, and your husband also; Mr Randall will be delighted to host Mr Hendricks on some sort of hunt, he tells me, and I am certain it will be quite a challenging one, as there is a deer that has been seen in the woodlands. Such a prize would look astonishing over your mantelpiece. I await your reply with urgency. Clarabel.’
As I sealed it mechanically with the candle from the lantern, I pondered how I might proceed. Kershaw Randall was not a man to let a quarry get away from him, and if I told my husband that a deer had been sighted it might be an overnight hunt before he gives up. That would leave me many hours to extract from dearest Margaret’s body the information I required.
A noise from the top of the stairs brought me back from my reverie. Feet stamped around, then:
“Mrs Randall, are you to be absent from our bed this night, or shall I warm a place for you?” He stomped away before I could answer, and I weighed the question in my own mind, for I was quite unsure; the new maid that had taken up the position in the kitchens had such a rosy complexion, it was almost fearfully difficult to pass up.