The Ladies Of Eastgarrow – Episode 16

It was some days before Em and Thomas met to talk. The weather was by now too cold to sit on their log, but Thomas knocked on the door of the little parlour that Jenny and Em shared with Cook.“You look unhappy, Thomas,” she said, pouring him tea from their earthenware pot.He turned the cup around several times in the saucer before he spoke.“I am sure what I have to say is ridiculous,” he began.“Go on.”“Celestine had some papers with her the other day. Did you see them?”“The correspondence between Mr Delaine and the French lawyer, yes.”He looked up at Em.“I think that she wrote the letters.”Em frowned. “You mean, she wrote back to Paris for Mr Delaine, because his French was poor?”“No, I mean, the letters only two that came from Paris.” He leaned across the rough surface of the table. “She left them in the study, Emma, and ran away. It was because I would not sit close to her as we worked. I would not return her flirtation.”Em felt a wave of embarrassment.“I know the errors she makes in her French,” he went on quickly. “She will never be a good linguist. She cannot place pronouns where they should be, and always makes the same errors, over and again. She says she wants to sing with me, or walk in the garden, rather than learn.”He looked very uncomfortable as they sat looking at each other. Both knew what the other knew that Celestine was hopelessly, fruitlessly, in love with her tutor.“Why would she pretend to be a Parisian lawyer,” Em asked quickly, “and how would she pass off the deceit?”“That’s easy enough. Invent a seal unknown to the household, have the letters carried away and posted by someone in the village, paying them for silence. Was it a game, do you think? She was fond of Mr Delaine, but still ”“But such a cruel game. And why ask for the correspondence now that the poor gentleman is dead? Unless to hide the game from my Lady, perhaps. There’s no other reason for . . .” Em stopped short, and turned pale. “Thomas, I have a question about Miss Celestine, too. It’s another puzzle. It makes me feel anxious, and disloyal.” She felt tears coming to her eyes, and suddenly his hand was on hers.“Tell me,” he said.“I don’t think she spent that day in September at Hastings, you see. The household at St Leonard’s did not see her, my sister says. I didn’t believe her, not until I found the harvest posy. Each year she attends the fair and brings back her wheaten posy. I’d forgotten all about it this year, because Mr Delaine died that day and everything flew from my mind. But I looked for the posy, and this year’s . . . it’s old, and dried up! It’s the posy from last year, taken out of her keepsake box. I couldn’t think why she would say she had been at the fair when she had not. I thought that perhaps she went elsewhere, and didn’t tell her mother, and ”“And she was pretending to have been there, hoping the young ladies at St Leonard’s would have no cause to mention it, and that other events would overtake her story?”


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