“Perhaps there is more to your story than all that you said last night,” said Theo, opening a drawer in his writing-desk. “I have been debating whether it would be wise to give you this so soon after your return, but I trust you can grapple with it in a collected manner.”
From the drawer he took a letter. Peter eyed it warily as Theo explained.
“Lady Meredith’s maid sent this my way. Her name is Ava. She said in a note added for my eyes that she found this on Lady Meredith’s desk shortly after the latter was sent off to marry Silas Grumbacher. This was,” Theo added with distaste, “the very morning after the incident at the ball.”
“I know,” Peter said, his voice rather dry. “Rose heard it from one of the tailors. I thought the information outrageous. I didn’t know what to make of it.”
Theo nodded and, from inside of the brown envelope, drew a small bit of folded parchment. It was visibly fine stationary, with a pattern of flowers adorning one of the corners.
“The letter is addressed to you,” said Uncle Theo. “It was signed, but never sealed—written with feeling, but for some reason never sent. I expect you to approach this new information as a man your age should. Lady Meredith’s faults were many, but a person does not react in the way that she did if not driven by a deep fear.”
Peter took the letter from his uncle and drew a shallow breath. He recognized Meredith’s neat, feminine handwriting, though there was something urgent in the way she shaped her letters this time, as though she had been unable to gather her nerves while she wrote. There was a great smudge of ink that covered part of the missive, making it impossible to make out the final sentences of the letter.
Sensing Theo’s eyes on his face, Peter began to read.
I know it is futile to say I am sorry, the letter said, yet here I am groveling on paper.
I’ll tell you what will become of me if we don’t marry. You are a better person than I; hear my wretched plea for one…
A trail of ink blotted the ending of this sentence.
He’s coming in the morning, were the final legible words on the sheet of paper.
“She wrote this…to me?” Peter asked, unable to tear his eyes from those five ominous words, He’s coming in the morning.
“She wrote it,” said Theo, “but did not send it. It was Ava who found this paper, after Lady Meredith left with Grumbacher. Ava sent it my way because your mother would have been too livid to have any sympathy. I don’t know what she expects me to do about it; I’m not certain what she expects from you, either. I do believe you are old enough to behold all available pieces of the puzzle.”