The Great Task

A Note to the Reader from Miss Esperanza Gorst:

Lady Tansor. Purseus Duport. Randolph Duport.

These three persons have become the principal and constant objects of my attention in this house, to which I have been sent for reasons that — at the time of which I am writing — have not been fully revealed to me. Thus I continue to wait, and watch, as I have been instructed to do.

Two months ago, my ward, Madame de l’Orme, had come to my room as I was about to retire for the night.

‘I have something to tell you, dear child. You are to go to England — not quite yet, but soon, when certain matters have been arranged — to begin a new life.’

‘Buy why?’ I asked, my heart thumping with apprehension and bewilderment. ‘And for how long?’

‘As to the last,’ replied Madame, with the strangest smile, ‘if you are successful in accomplishing the task I shall be asking you to undertake, then you may never return here — indeed, I hope, with all my heart, that it may be so.’

As I listened in astonishment, she went on to tell me that, for some weeks past, regular advertisements had been placed in London newspapers setting out my qualifications for a place as lady’s-maid.

‘Lady’s-maid!’ I exclaimed, in disbelief. ‘A servant!’ Had my guardian gone mad?

A week or so later Madame came to me as I was sitting reading in the salon. I saw immediately that she had something of the greatest importance to tell me.

‘Are you ready, dear child, to begin the Great Task?’ she asked flush with excitement.

She promised to send me three ‘Letters of Instruction’, the last of which would finally reveal the goal of the Great Task, and how it was to be achieved.