Letter 41 - Brillant

Miss Maitland Bristow
14 Bathurst Mews

15 May 1903

Dear Maisie,

First and foremost, you must forgive me. I did not mean any offense in proposing that Stuart may have had a deeper involvement with Mr. Collins' death. It certainly was a most fantastic thing to suggest any foul-play on Stuart's part, and I do trust your intuition in the matter. Furthermore, you must heed your mother's advise, Maisie. You mustn't allow your disappointment over Mr. Hill to destroy any chance for other amiable prospects to make themselves known. What about this constable--Mr. Murphy, is it? He seems to provide a rather stark contrast to Stuart Hill in both honesty and transparency. It is my advice that you abandon any more fruitless thinking of Mr. Hill straightaway!

As for my own news--I have little. I have entreated Vaughn for some time now to escort me to one of his lectures at La Sorbonne, and yesterday he finally obliged. We entered the grand amphitheatre in the latter part of the afternoon--Maisie, it was exquisite! I turned to Vaughn to remark on its loveliness, unable to keep myself focused in one direction as there was so much beauty and artistry around me, "This is magnificent, Vaughn ... " But he did not respond. He was completely engrossed in shuffling about through his notes for his discourse. Students began to stream into the great hall and take their seats. I touched the sleeve of his shirt, "I know you shan't need it, but I wish you the best of luck ... " Maisie, it was as if I were invisible. Vaughn adjusted his spectacles and looked up, seeing his professor. He hurried in his direction, leaving me standing there quite alone. "Professeur Barrère--" His voice echoed, then trailed off as he left my side. I must say, I felt most bewildered at the sight of the amphitheatre filling with not only what looked to be students of Vaughn's age, but also many older gentlemen. I took a seat at the end of one of the long, wooden benches. Two young men took their seats beside me, and immediately began to comment on the forthcoming lecture.

"What do you make of Barrère choosing Rousseau for the conference?"

I was most interested to hear the other man's answer. Not merely because this conversation was the only English being spoken within earshot,and my command of French is not yet such as enables me to speak or understand much at all when it comes to medicine, but because it suddenly seemed so pivotal a moment--after all, what do Vaughn's colleagues make of this man I have paired myself with? I had never thought much beyond my own measure of him, but here was an opportunity to learn something of the way he is regarded in the wider world.

"It seemed clear at the start of the year it would be Rousseau, do you not agree?"

"I do. 'Tis a pity the man has such an air about him--I should like to have benefited from such brilliance."

Brilliance? The echoing chatter in the amphitheatre began to lessen, until a silence fell upon the crowd as Vaughn approached the podium. He addressed the students and many visitors of La Sorbonne with much poise and confidence. I daresay, however, that much of his oration was quite foreign to my knowledge. I was only able to comprehend the emphasis being placed on Vaughn's cholera research, and that he seemed to possess many resolute opinions on the subject. The audience was rapt. I felt such a range of emotion as I sat listening to him. The first, and most pronounced, were respect and pride. However, it did not take long for other feelings to fight their way in. As I sat watching him, I could not help but remember the words of your last letter, Maisie. It is true, I have not yet mustered the nerve to require a full account of the events that took place the night I was taken. Perhaps that is the source of my unrest. I hadn't long to dwell on it, however. After only half an hour, Vaughn dismissed himself to resounding applause. I clapped along with the general commendation and smiled widely at him as he made his way down the aisle to find a seat beside me. The two students to my left reached across me to congratulate Vaughn. Vaughn slid his arm around my shoulder, saying, "May I introduce Mademoiselle Adeline Westley?" The two young men, one of them appearing decidedly uncomfortable upon learning that I was intimately acquainted with the man whose "air" he had criticized, nodded politely and turned their attention to the podium, where a new speaker had taken Vaughn's place. I folded my hands in my lap, glancing in Vaughn's direction to find him most perplexed by the lecture in progress. He leaned in close to me and whispered, "Surely this man cannot refute the evidence that it is water-bourne!" I managed a simple smile, wishing I could offer a more relevant response. I have always known Vaughn to be a clever man, Maisie, but not until that moment had I realized what a superior intellect he possesses.

I haven't much more to relay to you, Maisie; perhaps a few weeks time will provide more apropos occasions to pen down. Do write soon, dear.


Adeline Westley

23 rue Saint Paul


Thora said...

So, I guess I am kind of annoyed with this letter. Why? Now that I know that Rousseau didn't save Addie I am really upset about her hanging out with him and admiring him so much. So I guess I am not that excited to hear about his "brillance".

sunrabbit said...

That's okay, Thora. I should think Rousseau is an acquired taste. :) Thank you for commenting! We have been slower than usual posting new letters lately, so we appreciate your continued patronage. :)