Twice the Colonel wrote Dearest Emily, and twice he tore the sheet on which the words were written. He longed to be ardent, but still it was so necessary to be prudent! He was not quite sure of the lady. Women sometimes tell their husbands, even when they have quarrelled with them. And, although ardent expressions in writing to pretty women are pleasant to male writers, it is not pleasant for a gentleman to be asked what on earth he means by that sort of thing at his tune of life. The Colonel gave half an hour to the consideration, and then began the letter, Dear Emily. If prudence be the soul of valour, may it not be considered also the very mainspring, or, perhaps, the pivot of love?
I need hardly tell you with what dismay I have heard of all that has taken place in Curzon Street. I fear that you must have suffered much, and that you are suffering now. It is an inexpressible relief to me to hear that you have your child with you, and Nora. But, nevertheless, to have your home taken away from you, to be sent out of London, to be banished from all society! And for what? The manner in which the minds of some men work is quite incomprehensible.
As for myself, I feel that I have lost the company of a friend whom indeed I can very ill spare. I have a thousand things to say to you, and among them one or two which I feel that I must say that I ought to say. As it happens, an old schoolfellow of mine is Vicar of Cockchaffington, a village which I find by the map is very near to Nuncombe Putney. I saw him in town last spring, and he then asked me to pay him a visit. There is something in his church which people go to see, and though I don’t understand churches much, I shall go and see it. I shall run down on Wednesday, and shall sleep at the inn at Lessboro’. I see that Lessboro’ is a market town, and I suppose there is an inn. I shall go over to my friend on the Thursday, but shall return to Lessboro’. Though a man be ever so eager to see a church doorway, he need not sleep at the parsonage. On the following day, I will get over to Nuncombe Putney, and I hope that you will see me. Considering my long friendship with you, and my great attachment to your father and mother, I do not think that the strictest martinet would tell you that you need hesitate in the matter.
I have seen Mr Trevelyan twice at the club, but he has not spoken to me. Under such circumstances I could not of course speak to him. Indeed, I may say that my feelings towards him just at present are of such a nature as to preclude me from doing so with any appearance of cordiality.
Believe me now, as always, your affectionate friend,