Forgive my absence. I have been rather preoccupied as of late. As Mr. MacBeth has relocated to the island, I am in the process of landscaping the bare spot where the carriage house used to be. I greatly enjoy the challenge and have extended my efforts to other parts of the estate. The observatory now boasts some lovely new picnic areas for guests.
Gardening is a creative, earthy task. I find that it helps me to focus my thoughts more clearly. As you know, many cares weigh heavily on my mind. Mr. Plutonian and I have met to discuss his offer. His country home is charming; it looks rather like something out of a fairy tale. The atmosphere there is one of peace and tranquility. Perhaps this, along with Danyell’s company, is why I was able to discuss the matter so rationally even in the presence of the Dame Sans Merci and that dreadful Merricks woman.
Mr. Plutonian entertains doubts as to the fitness of my ward as his heir. Mary’s recent illness and subsequent “feral” behavior, as the demon puts it, render him determined to learn her true nature before giving in to any such condition. If the matter is as he suspects — a suspicion he did not share with me — then he feels inclined to submit to my demand. If it is otherwise, well, then I suppose renegotiation is in order. He proposes to dispatch Merricks to make the inquiry. Obviously, both Danyell and I quickly objected. Reason momentarily gave way to the customary threats. Once we were assured that Merricks would not harm the child, I consented. Mary and I both want to know the cause of the condition for which the physicians could offer no explanation. We want to know what to expect. If that Merricks woman is to be the investigator, however, you can be certain that I shall stand guard with my weapon aimed and at the ready. I do not trust that vile woman.
Mr. Plutonian also insists upon an officiant of his choosing for the ceremony itself. That officiant is none other than Miss Ember in her capacity as the Dame Sans Merci, whatever or whomever that happens to be. I really begin to think that Miss Ember is possessed of a devil, as well, so little does the Dame resemble my kind neighbor in action or demeanor. Obviously, I refused this condition. I objected most strenuously to the notion of being married in any sort of demonic ceremony and by the person who poisoned my tea. Thus, we find ourselves at an impasse.
It is well, I suppose, as I have not yet absolutely consented to the proposal. Should I so choose, I am free to refuse Mr. Plutonian’s offer and allow him to take our contract to the courts. While I fear the outcome of a trial, I am told my Danyell that his company can back me financially in any proceedings. He thinks he can starve the cat out before a verdict of any sort is reached. While I am loathe to enter into any sort of public scrutiny with regard to my short-lived and unsuccessful career as a tradeswoman, I am giving this option a great deal of consideration.
Meanwhile, my uncle (who is not my uncle by blood, you will remember) insists that I refrain from making any sort of compromise with the demon. He vows that he will marry me, himself, rather than let me fall prey to the likes of Mr. Plutonian. I suppose it is a noble gesture, especially if it is so very much a sacrifice as he seems to consider it. He always adds statements like “if it comes to that” and “if I must.” Truly, I find such statements offensive. He has professed his love and his physical desire for me, and yet to marry me would be a burden only to be undertaken in the direst of circumstances? Pray, what else did he intend? Did he want to make me his harlot? Was that his aim? I am astonished!
I do wish the silly men would stop with the marriage proposals. Why they think the only way to deal with a woman is to marry her is beyond me. That said, if I must make a choice, I would rather be married for fortune than for affection, at least in consideration of the fact that I cannot share Mr. Robonaught’s ardor. If I marry the demon, whose sole interest is in my estate, then my heart shall remain my own to guard or give as I see fit. Naturally, however, I feel trepedation with regard to the fate of my soul. If I marry my licentious uncle, well… I actually think that he might try to restrict my actions more than the indifferent demon would care to do. Jealousy can be a monster in and of itself, and he does now know about my affection for Michael. The situation seems less than desirable, especially in light of his tendency toward violence. Should I follow Danyell’s advice, then this whole sordid mess would be made public and dragged out for years, the outcome uncertain and yet possibly favorable to my continued independence. Of course, that option also carries the possibility that I might lose the case and my freedom. How is one to live in the world, dear Diary, if these are the choices in it?
And so I garden. I dig at the earth. I plant bulbs. I bathe my plants in fresh, cool water. I grow new life and prune the old, forming nature into a more beautiful version of itself. I find solace in this simple activity. As I breathe in the fresh Highlands air and wipe the perspiration from my brow with dirt-caked hands, I can dwell and think on these questions with a greater sense of peace. I am a human woman, a natural part of this planet, and born of soil and seed as surely as any plant. Should I choose incorrectly, should social calamity befall, certainly very little can change this very basic fact of my being. Whatever happens, my work in this garden shall stand.
I think, my dear confidante, that I have come to a conclusion.