(Disclaimer: Not my characters.)
Mortimer brought in a letter one afternoon, addressed to Eugene. It chanced to be one of the latter's good days—days that were growing more frequent with him—and he was sitting by the window, enjoying the soft autumn breeze and talking with Lizzie, as Mortimer came in. Eugene's face lit with interest, and a touch of amusement, as he took the letter and looked over the envelope.
"From Rebecca," he remarked. "At that boarding school of hers in Paris."
"Of course—I thought I recognized the handwriting," exclaimed Mortimer. "How did she know you were here?"
"Heaven knows. I thought you must have written to her."
"I never thought of it," admitted Mortimer, looking embarrassed. "I apologize, Eugene. I should have—"
"Nonsense, my dear fellow. You had more than enough to do looking after my graceless self, without having to concern yourself with my graceless relations. Nor do I expect you to carry around the address of my sister, whom you've scarcely seen since she was in pinafores, in your pocket. But someone must have let her know. My father, I suppose." He had opened the envelope as he spoke, and now held out its contents to his wife. "Lizzie, would you do the honors?"
Lizzie had been studying the letter with some curiosity. She had occasionally heard Eugene speak of his younger sister, usually in the same amused tone he had used just now, but knew relatively little about her. She unfolded the letter and glanced briefly over the single page with its large girlish scrawl, before beginning to read aloud.
Eugene, you wretch—
Lizzie stopped, startled. Eugene chuckled faintly at her wide-eyed expression.
"Go on, Lizzie, and don't mind the young harum-scarum. She can be a little . . . vehement, at times."
With a slight frown between her brows, Lizzie began again:
Eugene, you wretch,
What do you mean by going and getting yourself hurt, and frightening me so? And never even sending a line to tell me? Father wrote the other day and mentioned your accident in the most shockingly offhand manner, and with hardly any details at all, so I hardly knew at first if you were dead or alive. Wasn't it just like him? I cried half the night—I did, truly—and got the most fearful scolding for keeping the other girls awake. (Not that they wouldn't have been awake anyway, trading sweets and things, but that's not officially known.)
Eugene snorted. "And our correspondent is chief of traders, I have no doubt."
I wouldn't even have your address, if I hadn't written immediately to M.R.F. and demanded it.
Lizzie broke off again. "I thought you were the only one who called him that, Eugene."
"Rebecca picks things up quickly . . . and usually blurts them out in the parlour before company, as I know to my cost," Eugene observed reminiscently. "What else does she say?"
Lizzie turned back to the letter.
And to go and get married too, without me there! I do think you are the horridest brother who ever breathed. Father says Lizzie is very pretty and very sweet (Lizzie blushed slightly), and so I am sure she is far too good for you.
"Excellent judge of character, our Becky," murmured Eugene, aside.
I long to meet her, and condole with her on having married such a scapegrace. Of course, I shan't be able to come to England until Christmas, and I shall have to go home when I get there. But I shall descend upon you and Lizzie as soon as ever I can get away from M.R.F., and then you shall answer for your crimes, depend upon it. Until then, I remain,
Your loving sister (though what you really deserve is a hating sister),
Eugene laughed until he had to lean against the window and catch his breath. "She'll be the death of me," he gasped.
"She will at that, if you don't calm down, Eugene," Moritmer cautioned, helping his friend into a more comfortable position on the window seat.
"Eugene, dear, would you like me to write to her?" Lizzie asked.
"I can dictate something," Eugene replied, recovering himself, "but I think Mortimer had better take it down, if you would be so good, Mortimer. I have things to say confirming her opinion of your superiority, which you might object to writing, my Lizzie."
"Indeed, I should," Lizzie responded warmly, pressing his hand. "But do send her a few lines, by all means. She sounds quite worried." Beneath the liveliness of the style, her woman's heart had glimpsed the genuine concern of the writer, and pitied the anxious girl so far from home.
Mortimer had fetched pen, ink, and paper, and was setting them up preparatory for writing. Lizzie rose to leave the two of them to their composition, but had not quite left the room before she heard Eugene begin to dictate:
My dear young nuisance . . .
Lizzie shook her head, but could not help smiling to herself, as she slipped out.