‘Letters From Emily’ Chapter One – Full
For the original post go here << This is a summary of the upcoming plot, without spoilers hopefully. Below is the full chapter. I hope you enjoy this – it’s been somewhat more fun to write than I imagined it would.
Morning – March 22nd, 1834
It is with sincere regret that I must pass on news of such a delicate and sullen nature that I know all too well how your poor heart will suffer, however as your only remaining family I find it is but my duty to inform you of the tragedy which has befallen during your absence. I am afraid to tell you, dear brother, that your wife Emily passed away last night. I shall spare you the details of her passing unless you request them of me, but know that she spoke only of you in her final moments.
It pains me deeply to imagine how great a hurt this news has brought upon you. Yet I must content myself with parting unto you my greatest, and most sincere, condolences. Brother, I entreat you to keep strong your mind, and think only of your best memories of your beloved Emily until next we meet. I shall be returning to Devon by the first train tomorrow morning.
Keep strong, my dear William, and know that I am always
Your faithful and ever affectionate brother,
Evening – March 22nd
O, what horrid news your letter brought to me this morning. It seems my whole being is crumbling; but my brother you know me better than anyone and so I must thank you for your kind words. You know only too well how my heart aches so at times of sorrow. This very sheet is sodden with the tears I have been shedding over the loss of my sweet wife. And yet I must not forget your advice; I shall cease my weeping and compose myself, at least until your return.
To think, I had only eight days to pass until my return to Leeds, and to my Emily. But alas, my business is not yet done and I must make haste to finish so I can come home. I thank you, Charles, for your coming to Devon tomorrow; I am afraid I shouldn’t last much longer than a day without some familiar company.
O but my Emily! How she spent her last breaths speaking of me and yet I could not be by her side! I promised her I would be with her until our last. I understand your wanting to protect me from any unnecessary pain, but please dear brother tell me, did she suffer much? Was it quick or did unforgiving Death take His time in taking away my sweet angel? O, Charles, forgive me for putting such questions to you, yet save the answers until tomorrow when you arrive to me.
Bless the Heavens for such strong men as you, my Charles. I only hope I can find half the strength that you posses to aid me through these bitter times. Until tomorrow then, I remain
Your thankful and indebted brother,
William Averly’s Journal
Evening – March 22nd, 1834
Today seems somehow darker now that I know I have forever lost my darling. I feel near death at the ache in my breast! To breathe has, of today, become a chore. I write this simply to remind myself of Charles’ words. O, my brother, you have been so good to me since the passing of our mother. Since childhood you raised me as both brother and father, our own being lost to us in battle so many years ago. I must learn how to be strong like you. For Emily, and for myself, I must remain a man.
Night – March 23rd
It has been one whole day, and a few hours on top, since I received the news of my wife. I write this now as I cannot sleep and I wish to record every detail of Charles’ visit. He arrived by train this morning. I met him at the station and O how I had to work to not collapse into him as he once again offered his condolences for the loss of my angel! The journey home was short yet strained on my part. I burned to ask him questions about my dear Emily’s death – it pains me just to write the word! – and of the events surrounding her final days. Yet I knew I could not open such a subject as that until the proper time. Instead, we passed the journey talking of other events that had passed in Leeds since my leaving its borders two months prior.
“He has been insufferable. Lord Terrence Stockly has always been an intolerable fool, but it seems lately he has done all in his power to make the whole town despise him. All the children are frightened of him and I am afraid some of the women are as well. It is all I can do to stop my Bethany from shrieking whenever he appears in our presence.”
“But pray, Charles, whatever can he have done since my leaving you to have made him so feared and hated by all?”
“Dear William, it almost seems wrong of me to speak to you on such harsh matters as Lord Stockly’s behaviour at such a time as this. Yet if it will please you to speak of other matters than the one I am here to discuss, then I shall waste no more time in telling you everything I can.
“As you know, Lord Stockly owns a number of properties and businesses throughout Leeds, among other counties. Not three days after I left you at the train station, he increased the rent on every building he owned. The townspeople struggle daily as it is to satisfy his lust for gold, but this latest increase has all but turned our beloved Leeds to poverty. I am grateful that, though Lords by title ourselves, our families have not been held in contempt along with Lord Stockly. His actions have been barbarous at best, and my poor Bethany and her women companions do all they can to help. You will know of course how she loves to bake, and as her sister is a seamstress, and their friends talented in so many other aspects, they work tirelessly to make life simpler for the local people. But I should stop before I lose my point. As it stands, Lord Stockly is reducing our Leeds to dust before our very eyes and is taking every drop of gold as it falls.”
Our coach arrived at my accommodation as Charles spoke those words, and I was conflicted as to whether I should continue listening to Charles’ account of Lord Stockly, or whether I should encroach upon the subject of my Emily. I found that, despite my previous desire to speak only of her, I could not let Charles drop the subject so quickly. I urged him to say more and so the following conversation ensued.
“Already people are having to leave their homes. You will of course remember Tom Jacobs, the shoemaker, and Jonathon Barlow who runs the coach house? They both have been forced by Lord Stockly’s actions to relinquish their homes unto him as they are unable to pay the rent he asks of them. This will mean that along with his home, Mr Barlow will lose his couch house also. But do not fret, William, for I see it growing in your eyes. I have myself purchased an abandoned building and have provided the necessary provisions in order to renovate it into a shelter for those unfortunate victims of Lord Stockly’s relentless actions. It is possibly this act that has redeemed us Averly’s in the minds of the townspeople. They regard us with as much, if not more, pleasantness as before Lord Stockly began his rampage.
“It will not be enough. The shelter is almost full to capacity and, though I am currently employing men to renovate another like this first, I fear the issue will not be resolved until Lord Stockly is stopped. Once my visit here is over, I shall be meeting Lords Hock and Renley to discuss what should be done. I have informed them of your situation and they are content to leave you out of the proceeding unless you should have a particular desire to be involved. They have agreed not to take action until receiving word from me upon this. But let us leave off that business until another time. I shall remain here as long as I am needed and Lord Renley has kindly agreed to keep me informed by post of Lord Stockly’s actions. I have left Lord Hock and Bethany in charge of the shelters and so I am entirely at your disposal.”
“Charles. O my dear Charles, I have not words sufficient to thank you for putting your own business on hold for mine. You were correct in suggesting that your account of Lord Stockly would upset me, however I am glad you have told me. Though disturbing news indeed, it is still news of my treasured Leeds. Please accept my request to join you and the other Lords in forming some plan against Lord Stockly; to know my wife had been exposed to such a cruel man tears at my heart, and though she is gone,” I could barely speak the words but Charles’ hand on my shoulder gave me the strength to continue, “though Emily is gone, I wish to do all I can to stop him for the sake of your Bethany, and our town’s inhabitants.”
We spoke no more on the subject of Lord Stockly, the air having grown tense at the prospect of losing our Leeds to him. We sat silent for minutes and I ordered my young servant boy to fetch some tea from the landlady’s kitchen below. When it arrived, a different silence descended. An oppressive silence that rang in my ears. We sipped at our cups and then, as I made eye contact with Charles, I knew we must begin the real talk for which he had travelled here. My heart began to clench once more at the thought of listening to Charles’ account of my late wife’s final moments. But I remembered his words and kept strong; for it would be the only way my soul would survive such torment.
“And so, brother, shall we talk now of Emily?” Charles proposed.
“Yes, I am ready.”
“First, allow me to address the questions which you put to me in your letter. No, she did not suffer much. I took the liberty of attaining the services of the best doctor in Leeds, no expenses spared. He saw that she was in no pain. As to how quick she passed, she fell ill and expired within three hours.”
“Three hours! How quick a change must have occurred! Yet I cannot but think there is more to this than you have said thus far. Pray, Charles, tell me how she passed. You say she fell ill, but I know not of such an illness as would take a life in so short a time. What was it that took her life?”
“As you ask it of me, I shall tell you all that is in my power to say. The cause of death was poison.”
“Yes, brother. Yet allow me to finish as there are other details which I should impart to you surrounding your wife’s last hours which may deem to be of more significance when my telling of them are done.
“She was found by a young servant girl at around 8 o’clock on March 20th. She was sent to call her Lady to dinner and it is in this way that she came across the terrible scene. On hearing her screams, another woman attending her, along with myself, made for the sound of the cry. What a shock it was indeed to enter your wife’s chamber and see her flat on the ground and pale as the very sheets she lay beside. I sent immediately for the good doctor and flew to her side. She was conscious and so I lifted her onto her bed and attempted to piece together what had happened. On her bed table was a wine glass with some remnants of the fatal liquid inside. I made sure to keep this as evidence for the inquest into her sudden illness.
“It angers me to make this admission to you, yet I must inform you that your Emily was in the company of another without supervision before the servant woman went to her. Some thirty minutes before she was found, Emily had the displeasure of a one on one encounter with Lord Terrence Stockly.”
“Stockly! For God’s sake, brother, what do you mean by this? You mean to say he had some hand in the death of my angel? Was it — murder?” I leapt to my feet at this and shook my fist as though at Lord Stockly himself.
“I must apologise with all my being when I say this, but I cannot say if this is the case. At any rate, all we knew at the time of the doctor’s arrival was that she had been alone for some time – the accounts of the housekeeper and servant girl place it at around twenty minutes – with the very man that we have, just today, vowed to fight. The doctor assessed her symptoms, examined the wine glass and eventually gave her some morphine and took me to one side, out of the hearing of the women. I asked him why he had done nothing more for her, and he regretfully explained that there was no more to be done. It was already too late.”
I could hold in my emotions no longer. I sank to my knees and wept for my sweet girl. Charles extended a hand to my shoulder but it was little comfort. I wept for some moments, living my Emily’s last moments as Charles told them me. I managed to compose myself enough to retake my seat on the couch. O, even then I doubted I could hear him out to the end, yet I knew I must, and so I urged him on.
“Your heroic actions will never be forgotten, dear Charles. I shall be ever indebted to you for coming to the aid of my darling girl. Please, tell me more.”
“Your thanks are not necessary, but I am grateful for them. I shall show my respect for you by retelling everything that passed between Emily and myself before she expired. After speaking to the doctor, I sent the women away to keep busy so as they should be elsewhere when the time came. I stayed with her by myself until the very end, as I know you would have done had you been there. If there had been more time I should have sent for you to fly direct to her bedside from Devon, but alas there were but hours left for her on this earth.
“We spoke of you. Of our William. It seemed to content her, and I admit that even given the circumstances I was somewhat cheered as we shared our fondest memories of you. She talked of your wedding day; the first time you took her sailing; how happy you had looked leaving for your new position here in Devon; the first tea we three took together. She remembered it all so well, even in those last fateful hours.” Charles paused for a moment to capture my gaze. In that look was all the years of brotherly love and respect he could afford to me with eyes alone.
“The time of her death was pronounced 11.27pm on March 20th.”
All the sound of the room, the building, the entire street, seemed drained into an abyss of nothingness. Now that Charles had finished his story, it seemed so final. My heart felt as though bleeding into my breast. The same breast that heaved now with sobs as I registered the truth: my wife was dead!
One a.m – March 24th
The very paper that I write this sentence on is already curling from my tears. I can see the tiny white rings forming like halos around the darker circle of my despair. I continue this now that I have recovered my strength sufficient to complete this entry.
After I had cried my fill of tears in my brother’s arms, he went outside and spoke to the servant boy he had brought to accompany him from Leeds. Within minutes he returned with a bottle of fine red wine and two glasses that I recognised from the landlady’s kitchen. He poured us each a drink, and after a small silence, we drank to Emily’s memory. The wine helped me recover my spirits.
“William. There is one last thing that I must tell you. Are you well enough for me to say it now, or shall I wait until later after we have eaten?”
“Your kindness is unmatched, Charles. I believe I am of sound mind enough to hear you.”
“Very well. Your wife’s final words contained two things: a goodbye to you which would bring tears to the eyes of the strongest men, as it did to mine, and an instruction. First her words. They were as follows: ‘Charles, please tell my William, my husband, my soul, goodbye. Tell him to know that I am never gone, not whilst I remain in his heart and mind. Tell him to be not afraid to cry, for he shall never be tarnished as a man, but revered as the sweetest, humblest man to walk this earth for showing the truest feelings of his heart unto the world. And one final thing. Tell him I shall save him a seat beside me in Heaven, but not to hurry to my side. I shan’t go anywhere until he comes to me.’
O, how her words touched my very soul! And Charles’ retelling of them all the sweeter for his charming intonations, flecked with the least hint of sadness. My brother, if only you knew how I love you the more for the tenderness with which you treated my love’s words!
“Thank you, Charles. Your recital of her words was beautifully spoken.”
“It was my pleasure simply to hear them spoken from her lips, but to echo them to you with my own is an honour.” With this we shook hands and shared a moment of mutual compassion. “There is one more thing that I must do, and then we shall go out to dinner and talk of better times. I made a promise to your wife, and I shall waste no more time in fulfilling it.”
Charles again went to his servant boy and within moments he had returned with a box in his hands. In the transferral from his hands to his masters’ I perceived that its contents were of no slight weight. At this my interest was piqued and I had not long to wait before Charles came to me and placed the box in my own trembling palms. He took his seat opposite me once more as I examined the box. I looked to him and he nodded that I was to open it. Inside were bundles upon bundles of parchment paper. Lifting the top one I recognised the seal of our family crest, broken, and what was my surprise when I turned it over to see my name written in my dear wife’s script! I looked to Charles to explain. He did so without hesitation.
“Her final request of me was to retrieve this box of letters, to read them, and if I felt that you would benefit from seeing them I was to pass it on to you. She asked that if I felt that your opinion of her would not be besmirched, I was to allow you to see them.” His words confused me and I began now to wonder what on earth could be in these letters that would ever change my adoration for her. I had no words to express my thoughts, and seeing my struggle, Charles continued to explain. “These are letters she has written since your departure these two months gone. Forgive me, brother, for reading letters directed to you without your permission. If it were not your Lady’s dying wish, I would not have read them for the world. However, as it stands, I have seen them and am content in the belief that you will think no less of her after you see them than you do at this very moment.”
“And do you, brother, think any different of her knowing the content of these letters?” Charles paused in thought, and the set of his jaw and brightness of his eyes told me even before he said the words that he did not.
“In my eyes, she is not tarnished in the least. If anything, my admiration of your strong, delightful wife was confirmed. She remains to me the same endearing young woman that you married and that I have grown to love as dearly as you, my William.” I almost cried again at the affection that he showed to me. I clasped his hands once more and shook them to pass on my gratitude. O, Emily! My sweet Emily! What could you have possibly put down in these letters to ever think I would love you the less for it? And yet Charles’ words ring on my ears still and make me doubt my own mind. I must be exaggerating in my sorrow the weight of her warning. Surely it must be but a woman’s feeble heart that makes her doubt my faithfulness to her. But it is late. Tomorrow I shall go to work, and in the evening shall I begin reading the last inscriptions my darling ever made.
Afternoon – March 24th
Charles, gallant knight as he is, travelled with me to my place of work this morning to inform my editor of my recent loss. I was still due to be on lease in the Devon branch six days, yet against my previous assumptions, my editor agreed to transfer me back to Leeds, given that I could complete the final articles and send them securely by mail by the agreed deadline. As a gift of his condolences, he also advanced me half of my total salary so that I could arrange the funeral. O, the funeral! I had not even thought about it until then. I must make arrangements. I have never been so glad for Charles’ company. He has agreed to aid me in every way he can throughout the process.
As I write this, we are on a train back to Leeds. We have decided to return and arrange the funeral as our first priority. Once the ordeal is over, Charles and I will begin proceedings into the business of Lord Stockly. Until then, I plan to read over Emily’s letters and try to decipher the events leading to her death. I hope to discover in them some clue as to her murderer – a rage bubbles in my breast as I write the word – and also of the meaning behind her worry for her memory. I know if I should discover that Lord Stockly has had any part in her death, I should surely lose my sanity and state as man as my anger explodes from within me and takes it upon itself to exact revenge. Even now as I simply write of my concerns I see Charles glancing at me. How deep must my hate run if the motion of writing is sufficient to betray it on the surface!
I shall no longer think on it. Instead I will turn to her letters. On going through the box I can see dozens of parchment bundles. Every seal has been broken. I guessed this had been Charles’ doing. Charles’ work had extended to placing each letter in chronological order. I must remember to thank him later. But for now I shall read the first of her un-sent correspondence to me and, once I have finished, I shall attach the letter to this entry. I think I shall do this for each of her letters. Perhaps, in keeping a strict account of her words, I might be able to understand why my sweet, darling girl was taken from me.