Miss Maitland Bristow
14 Bathurst Mews
30 January 1903
Maisie, forgive my procrastination in writing you. I have inhabited the confines of my bedroom for more than a week now, and only within the last few days have I been able to piece things together. My memories of the recent past are vivid, but incomplete at best. I recall a time, a few days ago, perhaps, when the door to my bedroom was cracked open slightly and I overheard Mr. Westley consulting with Mr. Rousseau, "Get me the Chair of the department." I immediately recognised Vaughn's choppy voice: "Well, I shall check into it for you as soon as I return but ... " Mr. Westley interrupted him: "You will go now. And you will give the doctor my calling card, and tell him I expect to see him on the morrow." To which Mr. Rousseau replied, " ... of course." Shortly thereafter Madame Fifi came in with some tea and biscuits. "How do you feel?" she asked kindly. I felt weak, and winced in pain as I opened my mouth to answer. Madame Fifi stopped me, "I am foolish--please forgive me, ma cherie, do not answer, just rest." I placed my hand to my jaw--it was tender to the touch, and swollen. Madame Fifi left the tray on my bedside table before she left and instructed, "Rest now, the bruises will heal." Bruises? At once the memory of a handsome, older man reared up in my thoughts--I can place him now--he was the staggering, drunken man my father brought home back in London. Only here he was clean-shaven--not the bearded, liquored man I have etched in my mind. His voice was raspy and low, "You think that wise of you, bunter? Best to break you in now, love." He approached me, raising the backside of his hand--then the memory hastily vanished. I let out a gasp--then grimaced because of it. Slowly the memories came leaking back into my consciousness: I was in a small room, in what I can only imagine was a tawdry hotel. The man paced the width of the room, then approached me, his smooth, fluid hands brushing down the side of my face, "I'd fancy nothing more than to unrig you tonight--but seeing as how I'm a gentleman, I'll wait until the vicar makes it official tomorrow." Moving backward, he shut the door. I recall crying ... no, 'twas more screaming than crying. I do not seem to remember much more, Maisie. I must have fallen back into a deepened state of sleep after these jarring memories had begun to fade again, as I did not awake until the doctor arrived the following morning. Madame Fifi introduced him, "This is Docteur Laroche." The doctor smiled hesitantly, and went on to explain, "I understand your uncle was expecting Docteur Janet, but he is a very busy man, as you can well imagine." He fiddled with his bag, "I am a former student of his ... " I am quite certain my unwillingness to speak unless it was absolutely required of me made this fellow uneasy--unless it was the sight of me that so disturbed him. The doctor sat beside the bed and took out a tablet with which he began to write. He paused and asked, "Now tell me, Adeline, what do you remember?" I tried without great success to relay what I had remembered thus far. He sat for a few moments, quiet and pensive. "Would you object to some alternative form of calling up your memories?" I was hardly enthused to relive any more of whatever it was that happened to me, but I was tired, so I simply said, "I trust you will do what is best."
Dr. Laroche held up a small, silver lancet case just inches from the bridge of my nose, and asked me to expend all of my efforts in concentrating upon the object, without deviation. I did as he asked, but must have faded off to sleep again, for I do not recall what next he asked of me. When I awoke, Dr. Laroche praised me, "Very good, Adeline, I will report to Mr. Westley and the brigadier my findings, and I wish to you an expeditious recovery." With a quick glance back in my direction, the doctor left. I was left alone in my room and, as puzzled as I was about the mysterious events that had transpired a few nights past, I was not distressed. If I'm honest, I was quite the contrary. The doctor shuffled out, but I heard bits of his report to Mr. Westley as he tarried in the stairwell, "She suffers from dissociation amnesia. It will pass. As for her physical health, I read Dr. Patrie's report. All things considered, it is indeed extraordinary that, apart from the bruise on her face, she was not defiled." Brightening his tone, he mused, "She is an exceedingly attractive young lady ... " My uncle replied, "That is rather out of your field of expertise, Monsieur Laroche, is it not? You needn't trouble yourself with any future appointments in this household. Madame Fifi, show the man his way out." Madame Fifi quickly peered inside the room, closing the door. I slowly sat up in bed--it seemed it was the first time I had been awake in days. A large black object caught the corner of my eye, and I turned to find that Dr. Laroche had forgotten his bag. I bent down and found the doctor's tablet. It was scribbled with notes detailing the incident. I read them through, Maisie, and it did not take long for the truth of the transcription to be made clear to me. I had gone missing and fallen into the hands of my father's creditor, and somehow had come to be returned to my Uncle. I read from Laroche's notes:
Patient recalls a loud rapping at the door, whilst being held outside in the cold.
Patient states that her uncle answered the door.
Patient claims a "ragged Frenchman, speaking mottled English" asked, ' Reward for the mademoiselle?'
Mr. Westley solicited the stranger for more information; the Frenchman answered, "Un homme--a man--in the alley near a deserted bâtiment told me where to find the girl."
Patient states, "The Frenchman transferred me into Mr. Westley's arms, as he received the reward that was offered for my safe return."
Patient also adds that her uncle questioned the Frenchman as to any descriptive details regarding the man who had come to her aide.
Patient states the Frenchman answered, " Je suis désolé--I do not know ... he did wear un chapeau--like your king ... comment est-ce qu'on dit ... un homburg?"
I tucked the papers back into the satchel and lay back down, calling on Madame Fifi to alert Doctor Laroche to his missing bag. I am left alone here to sort this all out--and I doubt very much I shall be successful. The very last thing I can recall before this ghastly turn of events is having tea in the parlour. Despite the fact that I have hardly moved from my bed, it has been a most arduous week. Julien and Vaughn sent notes to express their condolences, but I had Madame Fifi dispose of them straightaway. I am grown tired of weak-minded men, Maisie.
As for your theories, Maisie--I can concede that perhaps I was a tad hasty in condemning Mr. Westley--but you are not here. You do not feel the unrest that is mine every time I am in his presence. As for your thoughts that I may not truly belong to my mother: the idea is, well, unthinkable. She has not been very forthcoming concerning my uncle, it is true, and has seen fit to all but abandon me here in Paris, but I know my own mother. What does any of it matter, anyhow? Perchance Mr. Westley is my father--what of it? Who in this place cares enough about the truth to tell it? Even Stuart and Peter are keeping things, now ... indifferent Peter.
Forgive me for my brazen tongue, dear friend. It would seem my faith in love and the happy ending have diminished somewhat. It is not to say I am afraid--for I am not. I suppose that is the most tragic part of all this, the realisation that eventually I will have to make a choice. I will have to choose from amongst these feeble misters, and answer "yes" to marriage, and go on to make the best of things. My heart has been broken, and for the most inexplicable reason, I blame Peter most. Why, Maisie? Why has Peter remained silent these many months? Does he not understand it is he who has hurt me most of all? It does not matter. Perhaps this loathsome stranger will come for me again. And really, why should that be so terrible? My future with Julien or Vaughn would prove to be just as wretched and miserable, if for less despicable reasons. So, shall I close my eyes and draw straws for my fate, then? Merry women we shall surely be, Maisie--both of us in wedding white. Be happy that your Stuart is the choice of your heart. Do not let Peter quash that happiness. Peter is not aiming to protect you, Maisie. He hasn't the virtue to protect anyone.
I will be easily encouraged by your next writings.
23 rue Saint Paul