Letter 40 - Education

Miss Adeline Westley
23 rue Saint Paul

7 May 1903

Dearest Addie,

I hope you have asked some of your "ever-mounting" questions of your hero. What little interest can be roused in me has been excited by the idea that I may soon know how you came to be rescued, and why Mr. Rousseau did not convey you to your uncle himself. I am sure you were quite overwhelmed at finding yourself alone with such a formidable man, and one you have discovered yourself to be so indebted to, yet I do wish you would find the courage to question him. Perhaps it would put my mind at ease were I to know more intimately the details of what he has sacrificed for you, for I must ask, Addie--are you truly happy with Mr. Rousseau? His actions were admirable in looking for you, fighting for you--I cannot deny the romance of it. Perhaps love is not the thing of spontaneous passion and invulnerable feeling I had used to think it was ... perhaps we must learn to love. The gradual and steady affection as must result from careful teaching could not fail us as thoroughly as its more wild and impetuous cousin has already done. If you can grow to love Mr. Rousseau, I cannot advise against it. Yet it is tiresome to be so practical, Addie, and I worry that you may allow him more influence over your delicate affections than he deserves. I do not know. I feel as if I have very little of conviction left in me, and I must strive to find new beliefs that may fill the void, and serve me better than their predecessors. I am sure I should be grateful for such wisdom as I have gained, but I feel nothing like what I should. If this is what it is to be wise, I could almost wish that I had remained foolish. I have spent much time walking and thinking--or riding and thinking--these last weeks. Mum often attempts to persuade me to spend more time in company, as she is quite staunch in the belief that it will soothe my hurts more efficiently than solitude. Of course, she also thinks I am a right little fool to have broken my engagement in the first place. She has never lamented the loss of "such a fine match," for which I am grateful (it is all I hear from anybody else!), but she is convinced that I have only thrown him over out of boredom and that I am now enjoying the drama of my situation too well to give it up so soon. Mum has chided me repeatedly that if I will not have Stuart, I should at least do him the courtesy of not pretending to pine away when I could just as easily call him back. She is determined I shall have a full social schedule this summer, and certain that a new and exciting courtship will prove the cure for my despondency. I have not the courage to tell her that I do not wish for comfort or companionship unless it is Stuart--my perfect Stuart returned to me as he was at Ambleside, when I loved him without doubt or reservation. How really very sad that I should hold so to the ideal picture of a man--even after I have been thoroughly undeceived, and know how false a picture it must always have been. Dad seems to understand my wish for quiet, and I sometimes wonder if he is not suffering a bit himself. Dad and Stuart got on famously, and I think he had looked forward to having him as son-in-law. I have only seen Peter on two occasions since the dissolution of my engagement, and was extremely grateful that he neither exulted in nor regretted the separation. I had dreaded telling him of it, but Dad was kind enough to intervene when Peter inquired rather resentfully after Stuart's health. I might have imagined the minute start of surprise he exhibited when first he learnt of it, and thereafter he avoided the subject admirably.

I haven't much else to tell, but that P.C. Murphy has been coming round of late, and I fear he means to court me. Mum is quite charmed by him, and insisted on having him to tea the week following his first visit to the mews. I will allow that he is a decent sort of fellow, and always seems to have my comfort in mind, but I cannot think of any man with much interest of late. I do admire his character, however. We were left alone for a few minutes in the parlour before tea, and he hastened to communicate privately with me before we could be interrupted. "I must confess to you, Miss Bristow, that I did not have any engagement which would have prevented me from staying to tea last week. I did not like to speak falsely, but it seemed to me that you asked for my company because your excellent manners required it, and not because you wished it. I admire your kindness, but I did not wish to impose on you at such a delicate time. I hope I was right, and that you will forgive my bending of the truth to that end." This was unlooked for, Addie. And I must admit, to the recent particular distress and confusion of my mind, it was a welcome relief to encounter such a willing candour. I expressed something of this to Mr. Murphy, and he seemed rather pleased to have met with my approval. It was a pleasant afternoon, but my lighter spirits did not outlast his stay, and the evening seemed rather worse than usual by comparison.

And now, Addie, I must scold you. I can assure you that Stuart had nothing to do with the deaths of the two Mr. Collins, and I am rather shocked that you would imply any such thing! He may be less virtuous than once I believed him to be, but I cannot comprehend his being a killer. The real Mr. Collins died in an automobile collision--Peter was aware of it as well--so that cannot possibly be laid at Stuart's feet. As for the false Mr. Collins--a man who deals with the sort of fellows who frequent Wapping Wall can hardly expect not to be murdered. He was an odious man, and no doubt had some equally abhorrent business to conduct. And while Peter may be aware of some ill-judged behaviour on Stuart's part, I cannot think he would befriend a man unscrupulous enough to have been involved in such violent activities, much less facilitate a connection between that man and his own sister, no matter how impermanent he may have thought the attachment likely to be. As much as it might satisfy some part of me to vilify Stuart, I cannot really believe him capable of cold-blooded murder. But as for the main of your advice--you are right, of course. I cannot trust Stuart on faith alone. He is not God, but a man, and so he must earn my trust--or do without it. On this I am resolved, and I know it must be right. I only wish I could feel some return of happiness, but I feel instead as if I have nailed shut my own coffin, and must now cope with the darkness. Yet why should Stuart be light and life and happiness to me? It is not fair, Addie. Write to me soon, dearest.


Maitland Bristow

14 Bathurst Mews


Anonymous said...

Well I am frustrated with both girls right now! Addie needs to get real about Rousseau and Maisie needs to find a way to get back with Stuart. I am wondering what will happen to change the unfortunate situations that both of them are in?....

Thora said...

That "Anonymous" comment is me, Thora! I don't know why it did that!

Mema Cactuslou said...

When's the next letter?