Letter 17 - Eduard Steichen

Miss Maitland Bristow
14 Bathurst Mews

14 November 1902

Dearest Maisie,

What an adventure your two weeks with the Hills will be! I cannot wait to hear all the details. I wonder what sort of fellow Richard will be. I know Stuart has always found merriment in your harassment, but it is curious that he should work so very arduously at it, is it not? I do hope however, that in pairing you with his cousin, he does not intend to play some new practical joke. Whatever the case may be, you shall make the best of things, I am sure. You will no doubt have a wonderful holiday.

As for cheering you up, I can only relate that which cheers me: many times a week now, I see Eduard. When he first came to call, it was Mr. Westley who greeted him--not Madame Fifi. Mr. Westley invited Eduard to sit down, and they spent the entirety of an hour conversing. Mind you, I was eavesdropping in the hallway, so most of what was said remains a mystery to me. I was able to catch Eduard expanding on the progression of the photograph, and speaking briefly of America. Mr. Westley seemed notably uncomfortable at times, however. He rarely interjected and seemed unimpressed. At one point, Mr. Westley began to delve a bit further into Eduard's personal life--which surprised me. Although much of the conversation, as it were, was quite stifled by the clatter of dishes being washed in the kitchen, I did manage to catch Eduard saying quite casually, “The courtesans keep at their attempts to snare me, but I intend to remain above it. The Photosecession Group would not approve. ” I made an audible gasp, and quickly covered my mouth. Maisie, it seems I have been a dullard when it comes to Eduard Steichen. Apparently, he is quite well-known for his art here in Paris, despite the fact that he is an American. My Uncle's tone shifted, and he firmly responded, "How convenient that must be for you, Mr. Steichen--to have so many ... options. Certainly you realize, Adeline is not to be mishandled. I hate to think upon what should happen if she were." After their exchange, Mr. Westley came to find me. I quickly scurried down the hallway and acted as if I was just on my way to come find him myself. When I saw Eduard, I felt suddenly more nervous than I had been prepared to be. He lounged in the armchair as if he had sat in it his whole life—showing no sign of restlessness or worry. His features are striking, with a look that seems to trespass into my very thoughts. It was as if I was playing a part in a play that he had seen a hundred times before: a handsome woman walks nervously into the room awaiting his company for the evening. Unlike my outing with Mr. Rousseau, I had spent a rather long time getting ready for this occasion, and Eduard smiled approvingly. We walked to Champs Elysees. The lights of the city were a sight to behold; and so, evidently, was Mr. Steichen. Everywhere we went, ladies whispered to each other, smiling at Eduard. On two occasions men approached Edward (paying me no mind) to ask his opinion on the Exposition Universelle’s display of moving film. They would chat for a few brief moments, and then Eduard would politely excuse us. When at last we had a moment of peace, I asked him when he intended to take my portrait, to which he replied, “As soon as I feel inspired to.” “Well that may take ages!” I replied. We both laughed. We dined at Café du Cirque. He spoke of America and of his decision to come to Paris. He asked me about my family in London and I donned a smile and lied, “My father and mother are certain some time here with Mr. Westley shall prove beneficial to my education.” He asked what business my father is in, “He is an architect,” I replied, (which is true, of course) wanting to add that he is a drunk, and a gambler and a terrible waste of a man—but of course I did not. Come to think of it, most of what I told Edward was a lie—a beautiful fable of a life I often wish was mine. Since then, Eduard has shown me all around Paris. He has spent many hours humoring my Uncle and his incessant questions. Our evenings have been nothing short of magical. Eduard is a gentleman; handsome, intelligent, well-known, and seems to enjoy my companionship very much. As of yet, I can only find one flaw in him . . . he is not Peter.


Adeline Westley

23 rue Saint Paul

1 comment:

CT said...

Oh but I am enjoying this novel so much!!! thanks!!! Both Adeline and Maisie are so likable and charming and real!!!! thank you so much for a deligthfull story!