Letter 5 - The Ball in Marseille

Miss Maitland Bristow
14 Bathurst Mews

30 June 1902

Dear Maisie,

Your Peter was looking at my letters? I'm quite sure you are mistaken. I've had word of Miss Highmore and her family all the way here in Paris. I'm sure she's everything Peter could hope for. Just to imagine Peter and myself together would be . . . it doesn't matter. The fact remains that I'm nothing more than a runaway, Maisie.

As for the ball, I shall leave nothing out! The seamstress and Madame Fifi spent hours picking out fabric and embellishments for the dress. The neckline was uncomfortably low and the corset tight, as usual. The hairdresser arranged my hair so that it fell in a waterfall of curls around my shoulders. We arrived in Marseille to Admiral Jean Baptiste Fortescue's mansion. The Admiral himself is a pompous old naval man, said to have served under Napoleon III. Mr. Westley and I entered the grande ballroom to find lively music and dancing already underway. The moment I entered the ballroom I was shocked at the boldness of the men with the women. They stood so close, whispering and laughing as they danced.

As I stood in the doorway a handsome young man walked straight up to me and, without warning, possessed my face with both of his hands and kissed me on each cheek. This is not in jest! I'm sure my colouring matched the heavy rouged cheeks of the other women! The young man seemed to notice my unrest and I said to him with my hand on my cheek, "I'm sorry, sir, but we are not accustomed to such familiarities in London." The admiral's son (for that was who was causing this great disturbance within me) then took my hand and kissed it and re-introduced himself to me as Julien Fortescue, no doubt trying to rectify his mistake (while only making it worse, naturally). I said I was pleased to make his acquaintance and off he went to greet his other feminine guests. Oh, Maisie! I felt like such a ninny!

I daresay my pride was a bit wounded at the sight of the young Mr. Fortescue greeting all of his guests in that very same manner, even the men. Madame Fifi says it is but a customary French hello, nothing more. Near the end of the evening my eyes caught Julien's and before I could look away he started making his way toward me. He asked for a dance and although I had every intention of denying him, before I could say no he had his arm about my waist and was sliding his other hand up my arm to meet my hand. He drew me in closer until I could feel him breathing. He asked in his broken English how I liked Paris, as if his advances meant nothing. All at once I knew I did not want to be in his arms a moment longer. The emotions of the past few weeks all came together at once, mingling with the intensity of the night. Feeling a man so close, but not having him be the one that I want, missing my terrible family, missing London and missing you, I excused myself and ran off to the balcony. The tears came in a constant flow. What I wanted more than anything was to be rescued from this place and come home. Then I heard the slow and steady pace of Mr. Westley coming to fetch me to take me home. Upon seeing my condition he said, "What can I do to ease your burdens, Adeline?" Knowing it would be unwise to return to London so soon, I said, "Do you know much about the family who occupied the Bellefeuille Estate in Dorset?" Mr. Westley looked down at the ground and replied, "I shall see what I can find." The next morning I found a note on my pillow (in rather atrocious handwriting) that read:

Bellefeuilles of Dorset --

write Sir Hugh Rothschild
73 Palace Court, Kensington

I miss you without measure and hope this little clue can help you to find your Rabbit. I shall write my mother as you suggested about the child. And do say hello to Peter for me.


Adeline Westley

23 rue Saint Paul

1 comment:

Andrew C. said...

Jan Marie had to remind me which child we were talking about at the end of the letter.

Does Maisie know what man Adeline DOES want? Now I'm curious.