Good day. My name is India Millicent Prendergast. I am twenty-nine years of age, the only child of Mildred and Franklin Prendergast. I reside in London with my dear cousin, Lady Heloise Snuggs. I have lived with Heloise, who is in actuality my second cousin as she and my mother share a maternal grandmother, since my parents died when I was eleven years old. Currently I am employed in the position of secretarial assistant to Sir Martin Luckthorn. I can’t imagine there’s more to say beyond that but, as I have been told I need to expand on my background and circumstances, I will do so. Although I think it’s rather foolish.
As I have already stated, Heloise has provided a home for me since the death of my parents although it scarcely mattered where I officially resided. I spent most of my youth boarding at Miss Bicklesham’s Academy for Accomplished Young Ladies. My parents, while respectable, were not wealthy but left some savings to assist in the continuation of my education. In many ways, Miss Bicklesham’s was a home for me as my parents were rarely in residence at the house provided to them by the Fellowship Missionary Society. The thought has occurred to me on occasion through the years, before as well as after their deaths, that they were more enamored by the lure of travel to exotic lands then they were committed to spreading the doctrine of Christianity. Perhaps that is why, while I certainly consider myself a good Christian, I am not concerned with the trappings of religion and do not consider it necessary to attend regular services. I believe Sunday services should be reserved for those whose souls are sorely in need of redemption. Mine is not. I am certain God is aware of that.
After my schooling, I briefly held a position as a governess as there are few options available to a young woman of good family and excellent education. Unfortunately I found children were not to my liking. Nor, I will confess, was I to theirs. This realization was not the least bit upsetting but rather came as something of a relief. I then accepted a position as a teacher at Miss Bicklesham’s. This employment too did not last overly long. Apparently I am lacking in the sort of patience teaching high-spirited young women requires. While I expected them to approach their studies with dedication and resolve, their sole purpose seemed to be to avoid furthering their education altogether. I found that intolerable.
I became an employee of Sir Martin strictly through chance. He placed an advertisement for someone to sort his collections of books and assorted antiquities, provide secretarial services and general assistance. And while I firmly believe there are places women belong and places they do not, I also felt I was exceptionally qualified for the position. Sir Martin agreed and I have been in his employ for the past eight years. He seems most content with our arrangement but then why wouldn’t he be? I organize his collections as well as maintain order in his life. I manage his household staff, order his meals, oversee his finances and handle his correspondence. I am at once secretary, librarian, curator and, in many respects, wife. Sir Martin has not yet reached his forty-fifth year, is unmarried and has fallen into that category of bachelor referred to as confirmed. He appears quite content with that state but then he does have me.
As for myself, I have accepted that I shall never wed. That does not distress me. My observation of men—either as brothers of classmates or their fathers—does not endear them to me. Indeed, they seem, for the most part, to be concerned with little but their own interests, needs and desires. Aside from Sir Martin, who is an amicable sort, I have never met a man I did not find lacking in any number of respects I should require in order to share a life with him. I see that as a failure of men rather than an indictment of my standards.
I do not, in some secret part of my heart, desire adventure. Either that to be found in travel or in the attempting of some farfetched deed. Heloise, however, is the worst sort of impractical dreamer as she already seen fifty-two birthdays and refuses to accept that, when all is said and done, most people do not end their days happily ever after but rather content. She is enamored as well by romance. In this too we disagree. My parents were said to have had a great romance but as they died young leaving a child they only minimally provided for, romance seems a particularly irrational and foolish venture.
I am a practical, sensible woman with a realistic view of the world around me. In my mirror, I see a woman of ordinary appearance, neither especially unattractive nor particularly pretty, with little to set her apart from the other faces in the crowd. That too does not distress me.
I disdain overt emotion. I think it’s futile. I have never, to the best of my recollection, cried. Even when informed of my parents’ deaths I don’t remember shedding tears. What would be the point?
Still, while not prone to sentimentality, I am unfailingly loyal to that handful of people I consider friends or family. I do consider Sir Martin a friend and most certainly Heloise is family. The only family I have. I cannot imagine the distress I would feel should I lose her . . .
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