Letter 15 - An Admirer

Miss Maitland Bristow
14 Bathurst Mews

23 October 1902

Dear Maisie,

I'm glad to hear your unfortunate event has not troubled you too much more than it should.

The little note you discovered that belonged to my father is most curious, indeed. I have racked my brain trying to think; who in this household could be invading my privacy? Madame Fifi (who's surname is Lafayette ... Fifette Lafayette ... and to think she is bothered by my calling her "Fifi") takes the post down in the latter part of the afternoon. I suppose she could be prying through my letters before she sends them. But if I am honest, I cannot imagine her ever doing anything that would displease her "Charles." It is rather strange that she addresses Mr. Westley by his given name, but she has always seemed more like the mother of the household than hired help -- even instructing Mr. Westley himself as to where he should be, and how many minutes he has to spare to avoid tardiness. No, nothing seems out of place with Madame Fifette. The other servants in the house do not bother with me much. There is Andre, the cook, who loves to make me the soup his mother made for him when he was just a boy: Soupe a l'Oignon au Fromage. I request it once a week, I love it so! I cannot fathom that anyone should have cause to do me such harm. Nevertheless, I will have to be vigilant and careful. On the subject of mysteries, I still have yet to discover anything about the painting of the little girl. I snuck into Mr. Westley's study last evening to take another look at her. One thing is certain -- she is beginning to haunt my thoughts. Mr. Westley's home is quickly transforming into a place that disquiets me.

I must admit to you, I laughed out loud at the hilarious thought of you squeaking around the abbey floor like a brown church mouse! I do wonder what Stuart could have wanted with you. Not only did he ask Peter where you were, but he troubled himself to speak with your mother, as well. Perhaps it was to apologize. Whatever the reason, you musn't hide from him any further so that I may be relieved of my dire inquisitiveness!

Well, now that I am certain you are recovered from your recent woes, I shall recount to you a piece of news I left out of my last letter so as not to display inappropriate cheerfulness. At the dinner party with Mr. Rousseau, after much of the evening had passed and just before we departed, the man sitting to my right (who I had not taken much notice of) leaned in and whispered, "Miss Westley, is it?" My heart began to flutter as it became clear he was not a Frenchman, but an American, Maisie! And a handsome one at that! I answered, "Yes?" And then he gripped my hand firmly and began to shake it as if we were old school chums, "My name is Eduard Steichen, it's nice to meet you," he said. I immediately cursed myself for wearing my tea gown. He could see I looked a bit puzzled as to why we were shaking hands and he said with a smile, "I'm sorry, I just couldn't let the evening pass without introducing myself to the only beautiful woman in France who cannot abide to be kissed when greeted." My face flooded red with embarrassment and delight -- embarrassment that Julien Fortescue had indeed made my reputation for me as I feared -- and delight that this stranger had called me beautiful. "I'm here in Paris for awhile trying to decide if I am a painter or a photographer. What I do know is I should very much like to take your portrait." I stole a quick glance over to his companion for the evening, who sat and beheld this entire amorous exchange between the two of us. She shot me a wicked look and I smiled sweetly back.

Maisie, I must be off. Mr. Rousseau is eagerly awaiting my arrival in the study--just as eagerly as I await his departure. At least Mr. Westley was benevolent enough to cut back my tutoring to only three days per week.

It is my opinion that you should don your best dress and go find Stuart straightway and ask him why it is he needed to speak with you so desperately! And then write me with all due haste!


Adeline Westley

23 rue Saint Paul


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