Miss Adeline Westley
23 rue Saint Paul
17 May 1902
Oh, Addie, how can you stand it? Every time I think of your father I just want to smash his smug face! And I know it’s not ladylike, and Ms. Beale would have apoplexy if she knew I was thinking any such thing, but I can’t help it. I hate him! I hate him! How could he do this to you? And I’m selfish, Addie, because I hate him all the more for taking you away from me. I can’t imagine this summer without you. Peter will tease my life out for being home all day long, and I have no hope of convincing dad to let me come to see you. At least you are safe from that horrible old man. Dad warned me not to cause a scene at church when I saw your family, and I bit my lip the entire sermon to keep from standing up and pointing at him and calling him a bastard to his face! I’m sorry to talk so rudely of your family, Addie, but you know I love you. I miss you so! You must write me as often as you can, and tell me of life in Paris.
Life here is boring at best, and not worth relating except for the little adventure I had two nights ago. Dad and Mum and Peter had gone out for the evening to a play at the Britannia, so I betook myself to my favorite haunt on Holywell Street Strand, the secondhand booksellers with no name on the shoppe. Dad had expressly forbidden my going out alone, but you know how I hate to be cooped up, and I wasn’t going to sit and watch some silly play with Peter and his new girl-about-town (Frances Highmore of the Hoxton Highmores, and her name is the least obnoxious thing about her). Anyhow, I was browsing amongst the shoppe’s newest acquisitions from an estate sale and I found a dog-eared copy of Wuthering Heights, an early copy by “Ellis Bell.” You know how I love the story, and this particular copy seemed to have a story of its own, so I bought it (for much less than it is worth, I daresay) and went straightway to the park to peruse it further. I found, much to my delight, that it was inscribed with a sweet, cryptic note on the blank half of a page near the end of the book: “To my little Rabbit, whom I love with all my heart, and who holds my future in the depths of her fathomless eyes.” It is signed illegibly and dated “Oct. 1848.” How charming, don’t you think? I was immediately absorbed with the idea of discovering who this “Rabbit” is, and who loved her so much. I was thus distracted when I gradually became aware of a group of revelers making their way through the park. Indeed, it was now dusk and I could hardly see to read, so I got up to make my way home to the Mews. This action placed me in the direct path of the aforementioned revelers, and as they gained on me I realized that Stuart Hill was among them. His voice is difficult to mistake, as you might well remember. I dropped my head and increased my pace, but they had seen me and called out for me to join them if I would. I wouldn’t, of course, but this was hardly a polite way to respond, so I feigned not to have heard and kept walking. Stuart must have recognized me, because he called out, “Ah, the lady is an intellectual, and not to be disturbed – see, she carries a book.” Of course he makes sport of all the girls who attended Cheltenham, and one might say he can hardly be blamed for adopting his father’s prejudices when he had no mother to raise him properly, but, Addie, I was so mortified I couldn’t speak. To be mocked in such a way, in public, no less, just made my blood boil. And so I regained my voice, and turned around to face him, and did not reign in my temper as I should have. I called him a dotty old man, and said that if he had any modern sensibility he would know that an educated wife was a treasure he could only hope to aspire to. What possessed me, I don’t know, and from the moment it left my lips I regretted it and I am sure I went scarlet as a beet. His reponse was nearly the death of me. He smiled and said, “Well, then, I suppose I’ll have to rethink my intentions to propose to you, dear lady.” It was too much to be borne, so I just turned and ran for it, I am heartily ashamed to tell you. If I ever meet him again, I will likely drop dead from shear humiliation.
My dearest Addie, I must finish up so I can post this today. I don’t know if I will survive without you, so we must wrack our educated brains and come up with a way to get Dad to let me come to Paris. I miss you more than I can tell. Write soon.
Maitland Avery Bristow
14 Bathurst Mews