In which Julia writes a letter

Since this is the month we bid farewell to Julia–at least for  now!–I thought we would celebrate with a look back at some of the exclusive extras I’ve written that aren’t available in the print books. Feel free to add your own favorite memories of Julia, Nicholas, and the gang of unruly Marches in the comments!

It’s always deliciously intriguing to peek into someone else’s correspondence. Here’s a letter Julia wrote to her aunt during the investigation published as SILENT ON THE MOOR.

From the Correspondence of Lady Julia Grey

From Grimsgave Hall, Yorkshire

Dearest Aunt Hermia,

How silly you are! I cannot imagine why Portia has embellished her letter so, but I can promise you things here in Yorkshire are not nearly so dire as she imagines. I think her quarrels with Jane have left her peevish. I do not know what you hear on that score, but I beg you to invite Jane to tea and speak firmly to her. Goodness knows I do not approve meddling in the lives of others, but something simply must be done about the pair of them.

The estate of which Brisbane has taken possession is called Grimsgrave Hall, and the name, I confess, is rather apt. It lies at the edge of the moor, where I am told there is very good hunting for grouse, although at present it is rather empty and well, moorish. It is an old house, although not nearly as old as Bellmont Abbey–17th century, I should think and in its day it must have been a handsome place. (Really, Portia ought not to have used the phrase “godforsaken pile”. It could be quite nice with a bit of fixing up.) True, one of the wings has crumbled to ruin, but I suppose that could happen to anyone. There is a pretty little pond in front of the house, and despite what Portia says, I do not believe it is stocked with the bodies of depressed housemaids who have drowned themselves. It is a bit weedy to be sure, and gives off a rank smell when the wind is blowing, which as we are on a moor is rather constant. But, as I say, we have no cause to believe it is the site of serial suicides, although that would explain why the staff are so few in number. The rooms are quite modest, we are told, since the old wing fell down, and the Hall can be kept clean with very few pairs of hands. Of course, it could use a few more hands, as the beds are a little damp, if I am to be honest, and one has to exercise caution in sitting lest great clouds of dust or colonies of spiders be disturbed. Accommodations on the whole are acceptable, if rather medieval. Portia and I are sharing, and the bedroom is furnished with a chamber pot. I shall draw a veil upon that delicate subject and leave the rest to your imagination.

The occupants of the house were a bit of a surprise, although perhaps not the “catastrophic disaster” to which Portia refers. The previous owner, a very civil elderly person called Lady Allenby, is still in residence with her daughters, Hilda–who I must own is rather nasty and says as little to us as she possibly can, preferring to occupy herself with her poultry–and Ailith, who is a little too pretty for comfort. (Did Portia really call her “angelic”? I must speak to Portia about her standards.) In any event, they are rather comfortably ensconced, at least until Brisbane fits a cottage for their use, and we do not look for them to leave for some time. The house is equipped with a very excellent cook-housekeeper, the rightly-named Mrs. Butters. She is a bustling, energetic sort of person with a very light hand for pastry. I will endeavour to secure her recipe for Scottish shortbread, as it is much crisper than Cook’s and just the thing on a brisk afternoon with a cup of tea. There is a scullery maid called Jetty, but she is a bit simple–as scullery maids so often are–and has little sense and limited  conversation. She occasionally shrieks for no reason and throws her apron over her head, but Mrs. Butters does not seem to be alarmed by this, so we have learned to continue eating our meals and ignore her. (Yes, dearest. We take our meals in the kitchen. I did say “medieval”, did I not?)

Valerius has taken it upon himself to look into the drains of the little village nearb. I cannot think it a very nice hobby, however, it keeps him happy and occupied, and with Valerius one can hardly ask for more.

I am a little alarmed about Florence. She has grown quite stout, although the trip to Yorkshire seems to have upset her. She merely picks at her food and keeps looking at me reproachfully. I suppose I ought to consign her to your care when I travel, but I thought the moorland air would be good for her. As usual, Grim has been a hardy and stalwart companion, and I have got quite accustomed to carrying him along. I only hesitate to take him on sea voyages. You know what birds are.

As for Brisbane himself, he is proving impossible as usual. I hardly know what to think, for one minute he is pleased—demonstrably pleased—to see me; the next he is quarrelsome and peevish. Perhaps you are right and he is dyspeptic. It would certainly explain a lot…

I must dash. Miss Ailith has taken me to meet an acquaintance of hers, a Gypsy woman who lives in a cottage upon the moor, and I have promised to call upon her today. She reminds me of you a little, dearest, although I cannot think why. Perhaps it is because when one is with her, there is the oddest sense that all one’s troubles are really not so terrible and that all will come right in the end. As you can tell from that bit of sentimentality, I miss you dreadfully. Do give my regards to the other ladies at the meeting of the advisory board of the Refuge for Fallen Women and give Father a kiss and Bellmont a pinch from me.

With fondest affection, I am your loving niece—