Letter 13 - The Shaming of Rousseau

Miss Maitland Bristow
14 Bathurst Mews

3 October 1902

Dear Maisie,

I am almost speechless upon reading your last letter. I wish that I were there to sit with you and offer you some alleviation. How could you have ever predicted the atrocious intentions Mr. Rothschild had for that evening? You must stop being so hard on yourself, Maisie. All that matters now is that you are safe and sound. Thank heavens for Peter.

I am not sure it is best to share all the events of my evening with Mr. Rousseau in light of your recent trauma. I'm sure what I will share will amuse you, though.

Madame Fifi insisted on helping me get ready for the evening. She was appalled when I would not change out of my afternoon tea gown for dinner. I simply did not care enough to make any sort of statement to impress Monsieur Rousseau. Besides, I rather like my tea gowns. I wore my hair in a simple chignon and spent little time on my appearance in general. When Mr. Rousseau arrived, he looked a bit confused and asked, "Are you not yet ready?" To which I replied, "I'm quite ready, sir. Is there something the matter?" Mr. Rousseau was quick to respond that I looked very fit. I handed my daisies to Madame Fifi and off we went.

We arrived at some fellow's home whose name I did not bother keeping track of. We were ushered into the parlour where there were two other couples. They were prattling away in French and as we sat, Mr. Rousseau immediately joined in the conversation. From what I could tell it was about a lecture given at La Sorbonne. I didn't speak a word, Maisie. After a couple of hours of this, I was quite put out. The evening was coming to a close and I began to say my goodbyes in French when Mr. Rousseau, in the presence of everyone in attendance said, "Tut, tut, Miss Westley, (as he lightly slapped my hand) you put zee accent in all zee wrong places! Forgive her!" I was so embarassed by it I could not speak. I did not say a word to Mr. Rousseau the entire way home.

Upon my arrival at Mr. Westley's estate, I went straightway to my uncle and told him of my disgust concerning Mr. Rousseau and that I would see no more of him as a suitor, nor would I as a pupil of his. Mr. Westley tried his best to discourage me, stating that Vaughn Rousseau could greatly elevate my status here in France. He said that I would soon be known to all of Paris as a most difficult girl. He admonished me to be mindful of my father's grave debts and that if I were to be married, there would be no way for his gambling friend to collect me. I could feel the tears beginning to pool in my eyes. I could see his regret in speaking so plainly to me. I could think of nothing more to say, so I retired to bed.

The next afternoon, I walked slowly down the hall where I customarily greet Mr. Rousseau. I hoped above all hopes I would walk into the library to find it empty. I hoped Mr. Westley had seen the futility of his plans for me and my weaselly French tutor. As I turned the corner and approached the library, I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. I stood in the doorway and opened my eyes to find a furious Mr. Rousseau standing with his arms crossed. This time there were no daisies and no chocolates. He said, "sit." I was not entirely sure what to say, so I sat. For the better part of an hour Mr. Rousseau lectured me on the proper etiquette of a French lady--which included attire, dinner manners and most importantly, the befitting submissive nature of a woman to her escort. Maisie, I was so unnerved by this that without restraint I responded, "Monsieur Rousseau, first and foremost I am not a French lady, I am a British lady. I am ever so sorry to have granted you the kind favour of my company last evening--it shan't happen again. I am not your child to reprimand, Mr. Rousseau. You may save your lecturing for your own children, should some poor woman ever have the misfortune of bearing you any!" And with that, I slammed my French book down onto the desk and left the room.

I shall tell you more once you have regained your spirits. Please, Maisie, try not to let your evening with Mr. Rothschild weigh so heavily on your heart. Maybe there is some way I can come stay with you for a short time. Mr. Westley would be most agreeable to the thought in light of my recent unladylike behaviour. Please respond as soon as you are able. I am filled with worry about you.


Adeline Westley

23 rue Saint Paul

1 comment:

madame cameo said...

men can be jerks in every century!! keep your spirits up girls!!!