Letter 46 - Rabbit

Miss Adeline Westley
23 rue Saint Paul

14 July 1903

My dearest Addie,

I am so sorry for my neglect! I have scolded myself soundly, but it is nothing close to what I deserve for deserting you at such a time! Please forgive me, dearest. How terrifying it must have been to have your first proposal of marriage come from a deranged fellow holding you captive! I do not understand him in the least, nor should I wish to; but I am grateful for whatever imbalance motivated him to spare you the greater horror. I shudder to think of what might have occurred had Mr. Rousseau not come to your aide as quickly as he did. You once wrote that it would have made little difference to whom you were married, but I am sure you have realized how grievously wrong you were in that opinion. I begin to see your "Vaughn" in a new light. As you have granted him your faith, so shall I grant you mine. If you love him, Addie, I wish you every happiness! As for Peter, you are right to give him up. He has abandoned us all, and is rarely to be seen in the Mews. Dad, on the one occasion I was weak enough to complain of my brother's hurtful absence and lack of correspondence, assured me that he is of the age when a young man must strike out on his own, and so feels the fetters of family obligations keenly. Dad is certain Peter will come round once he has had his bitter taste of freedom. I am not so sure. My dear brother grows colder by the hour, or so I must judge according to the time I saw him last, since he does not appear again to banish the impression from my mind. It was a fortnight ago, I think, when James and I were walking along Fleet Street on some little errand, that we encountered Peter emerging from the Daily Telegraph office. How delightful, I thought, that in all of London we should happen to meet my beloved Peter! I expressed something of my delight, but I was not received in kind. For himself, Peter appeared greatly preoccupied, and failed to notice our presence even after I had spoken to him! I laid a glove on his arm and he turned so quickly and with such a fierce look in his eyes that I was quite afraid of him, Addie! His countenance softened when his eyes lighted upon me, but the effect of this change was only to convert his expression from murderous to indifferent. "Well, Peter, who were you expecting to see? The Whitechapel Murderer?" I tried to make light of it, Addie, but, search as I might, I could find no hint of brotherly feeling in his face, and my heart sank very low. Peter ignored my flippant question and glanced shrewdly at James, than back at me. "What are you doing here, Maisie?" was all he had to say. I introduced Peter and James to one another, as they had not yet met, and we exchanged a few strained pleasantries before going our separate ways. I could not but notice that James had been a shade less friendly than usual during these interactions, and as Peter disappeared from view James turned to me and said, "Your brother is a dangerous man." The idea was absurd, of course, Addie, and I laughed accordingly and told James he was far too cautious and that, as a police constable, it was his duty to see a potential criminal wherever he looked. "Perhaps you are right," James conceded, after which he relaxed visibly. But his words have haunted me since, Addie. How came my stubborn, studious, warm-hearted brother to this pass? How could he regard me with so little affection, and leave me so quickly with so little regret? I can scarce imagine a worse impression for him to have given James, and I had fostered such hopes of friendship between them! I shall follow your lead, then, and cut him loose. He will not be kept, so I haven't much choice in any case, the ungrateful wretch!

Now, Addie, you asked for good cheer, and I do have news which I hope will raise your spirits and give you much to think on. I wanted to reply to your letter first, but I have been fairly bursting with this new bit of intelligence--James has succeeded in discovering the identity of our mysterious Rabbit! He came to me only last night with the news. It would seem that Elyse Bellefeuille, born to Luc and Marie Bellefeuille in London 1861, married one Charles Reginald Westley at St. Mary's in Stoke Newington, June of 1883! As extraordinary as this may seem in itself, that our Rabbit should be your own aunt, and that you should have been unaware of your uncle ever having been married, I must go on and bewilder you further. Your uncle applied for and obtained a divorce from his wife a few months after their marriage, after which she was promptly registered in London as being joined in a civil marriage to Walter Thomas Westley. I knew your mother's Christian name was Elyse, Addie, but I am so accustomed to think of her as "Mrs. Westley," or indeed as simply "Addie's mother," that I am sure I never knew her family name. Can it be that you never knew it, either? In any case, Addie, it would seem that you have been lied to as regards your maternal grandfather, who died little more than a year ago! What a shame you should never have known him! It is making me dizzy to consider all the aspects of your life this revelation may affect, dearest, and I am sure you must be in a right state over it. I suppose you will write to your mother? I must dress for an engagement tonight, and so I will post this now and compose a longer letter tomorrow. I am eager to hear your news, and hoping that this letter finds you well, or at the very least, better than I left you last.


Maitland Bristow

14 Bathurst Mews

Narrative 45 - March Sunshine

(The narrative which forms "March Sunshine," as it falls within the chronology of Letters so far, is a flashback. The events described take place in early March 1903, giving us a brief glimpse of Peter's life during this time. The action of the narrative is, chronologically, sandwiched between events mentioned in Letter 34 - A Walk in the Park. The reader would do well to review Letter 34 before continuing with "March Sunshine," and possibly review Narrative 42 - Baisers de Vierge to better orient him or herself within the chain of events influenced by the action that occurs.)

Peter Bristow skimmed carefully down the agony column of the Daily Telegraph. After a most intriguing message in the 8 February Telegraph had been submitted to his notice in early March, Peter had gone to some lengths to locate copies of that most prodigious periodical for each day of the preceding week, as well as the week following. The issue he currently perused, dated 6 February, had been collected from a fishmonger's ice chest. It was accordingly rather ill-used and odorous, but it was nonetheless legible, and therefore suited Peter's purpose. He passed over the usual rubbish--"One gold and paste cufflink found outside Bond Street Station, rightful owner apply 151 Camden Street after 8 o'clock to claim;" "Mother too harsh with dear Jackie, please come home, all forgiven;" "Gentleman in red waistcoat greatly wishes to make acquaintance of lady in emerald velvet frock who occupied top box last night Savoy opera"--and then, just below "Lost tin dispatch box in hansom cab, blue and gold paint, ever so important, £10 reward if returned unspoiled, apply 15 Middle Temple Ln," Peter found what he had been seeking: "BH, advise against proposal, procure lure prior to fishing, AR." Peter relaxed in his chair, gazing at the paper at arm's length for a moment before laying it carefully on the surface of the desk. He extracted a similarly abused copy of the Telegraph and smoothed it out alongside its fellow, reviewing the message of 8 February with renewed interest: "BH, trouble swallowing? Request advice, AR." There the series of messages had ended--at least up to the present date. The preceding dialogue had lasted for little over a month, since the beginning of the year, to be exact, and was no more illuminating than this final pair of notes--a lot of cryptic nonsense about big game hunting, grand prizes, birds in the bush--the entire conversation would certainly have appeared inane if not for the way in which it had been brought to Peter's attention. The question, then, was why anyone had thought it important that he should follow this lead?

These thoughts were interrupted by the bell, and Peter rose to admit his housekeeper. Mrs. Ward was a solid little woman, and despite her rather dull appearance Peter thought it likely she was more shrewd than most of her acquaintance gave her credit for. Offering him the morning post, she went directly to work in the kitchen with only a solemn nod in greeting. Peter returned to his writing desk and shuffled through the small stack of correspondence, pausing as his fingers found a paper of superior quality. Separating the fine ivory colored envelope from its neighbours, Peter could not suppress a thrill of anticipation as his eyes fell upon the return address, written in a familiar and distinctly feminine hand. He removed the note inside, and read:

27 February 1903


How very altruistic of you to write. As a token of our childhood friendship, I am delighted to report to you that I sustained only minor bruising and humiliation. Do not trouble yourself any further for my welfare--I know I shan't trouble myself any further for yours.

Kind regards,

Adeline Westley

Peter had dropped the note in digust and swept it to the back of his writing desk before he realised it. He should be pleased, he knew, that Miss Westley was in spirits enough to write such a reply, and that she at least claimed to have been little harmed as a result of her abduction. He was not simple enough to believe, however, that she would have divulged her greater hurt to him, or any man, no matter what her spirits. Upon reflection, he did not even know why he had written her--he should have known her response could never have provided answers for his exhaustive inquiries. Nevertheless, it was more than vexing to receive such a reply. Had she but written more, no matter the content, he might have gained a better knowledge of her precise state of mind, and thereby gleaned a better picture of her experience. She would keep this from him, however, and it irked him to such a degree as he could not account for. He retrieved the letter from where he had tossed it and read it over again carefully. "Why cannot a woman be civil!" He had exclaimed this to the heavens, but it would seem that it had fallen on other ears, for Mrs. Ward presently appeared at his side and asked him to repeat his instruction. "Pardon me, Mrs. Ward, I was merely applying to the powers that be for civility from a particular woman. You needn't be troubled yourself, as you are most commendably courteous to me, and I thank you for it." Mrs. Ward nodded and turned away, mumbling as she went, "Poor girl must be besotted." Peter, who had not missed her meaning, and experienced a piquant sting of irritation at the liberties his servant had taken, responded rather shortly, "Perhaps you ought not to read over a man's shoulder, but I can assure you that she cares nothing for me." Mrs. Ward continued on her way back to the kitchen, shaking her head, "I could not help but see what was right before my eyes, Mr. Bristow. But womenfolk are not so simple as you seem to think. I'll lay you won't find a woman who could write such a fiery note to anyone she did not care for, and I've five daughters who would say the same." Peter looked up to watch her retreat, and found his fit of temper subsiding rapidly. After all, she was a good, honest woman. A hard worker, and really an excellent person in all respects. Tucking his yellowed Telegraph issues carefully into a drawer and rising from his desk, he crossed to the window and drew the blinds. It was a fine, clear day, and Peter suddenly felt rather enthusiastically disposed to walk out and enjoy the rare March sunshine.