Letter 49 - The Hook

Miss Adeline Westley
23 rue Saint Paul

3 August 1903

My dearest Addie,

I have behaved like a fool, Addie, and I only hope you do not hate me for it. I did not think before I wrote, and it surely has cost you. Of course, it never once occurred to me that there was any question of your parentage. I thought it rather scandalous, of course, that your mother should have married both of them in quick succession, but I was far more intrigued by the idea of your French heritage than I was concerned about your mother's fickle behaviour. It is clear to me, now, however--and I cannot bear to see you compare yourself to her! I will allow that parallels may be drawn between your marriage to Mr. Rousseau and your mother's marriage to Mr. Westley. The comparison ends there, however, and it was your mother's decision to become involved with her husband's brother that was damning. You have not made any such choice, nor will you. I thus beg you to refrain from berating yourself for a sin you are not capable of committing! I also beg forgiveness. I have caused you suffering at a time when you should be rejoicing, and I am sorry beyond words. I offer you congratulation on your engagement, dearest! There was a time when I would perhaps have been less glad, when I would have encouraged you to refuse Mr. Rousseau and wait for your devastatingly handsome soul mate to materialise. I am wiser now. I must nevertheless submit that Mr. Rousseau is hardly the one man in the world who would have you. A man need only lay eyes upon you to be affected by the graceful beauty of your face and figure, and an hour in your company would serve to demonstrate to him your sweet nature. Nay, less than an hour! You must marry as you see fit, of course, but you ought to do it with a full knowledge of the truth of your own attractions. In any case, however, I respect your choice--and will do my best to love your Vaughn as a brother.

As for me, I have been invited to County West Meath, to celebrate the harvest holidays with the Murphys! I shall spend September and October at Deireadh an Turais, the Murphy family farm. It is the very thing I wished for, Addie, and what I think will best cure me of my doubts concerning a permanent attachment to James. It is not him, of course, that I doubt--but my heart is irritatingly stubborn in reserving some affection for one who has proven himself entirely unworthy of it. James will accompany me by train, of course, to Mullingar, and then on to a smaller village where we will be met with a carriage to convey us the remainder of the way, for it is quite in the country, lovely and green and remote--as James describes it. A perfectly serene, romantic location! James has been granted leave from the police force for the first fortnight, so that we may be always together. He assures me that I will become great friends with his younger sister, and will not want for company even in his absence, but I know I shall always want for your company, Addie. If only you could join me this autumn, my happiness would be complete! I will finish your letter tomorrow, dearest, for James is not on duty tonight, and he has just arrived for our evening walk.

It is odd, Addie, how at times a very simple action can signify a singularly complex reaction in a human heart. Allow me to explain. As James and I have been riding together nearly every morning for some weeks, it has become a matter of routine for us. He was unable to join me this morning, however, so I went out alone. Upon returning to the stable I removed my bowler and found a shiny brass hook in the precise spot where I am usually constrained to hang my hat over the edge of the half wall. Indeed, I was so accustomed to wishing to find a peg in that spot that I had hung my hat on the hook before my consciousness fully noted the novelty of its existence. I snatched the bowler off again and stared at the hook, bewildered. Dad wandered in from the arena to find me in this puzzled state, and laughed heartily at my expression. "You did this," I accused, but he shook his head and laughed again, saying, "It was installed early this morning, by a fine young working man who asked my permission but refused my offer of compensation. He said he had already been paid handsomely, having been commissioned by a certain young man to place it in exactly the spot where you now see it." I could not suppress the smile that came to my lips, Addie, nor the name that came to my mind. I did not realize, however, that I had spoken the name aloud until Dad said, "Indeed. And since you are using his Christian name, I begin to wonder how soon I might call him 'son'?" He was teasing me, of course, but I could not hide from myself the fact that the idea was far from abhorrent to me. I should not like to think of James as merely a salve to soothe the wounds inflicted as a result of my unhappy separation from Mr. Hill, and yet he has rather wonderfully served that purpose. He is so very honest, constant, solicitous, and adoring! We have never had a quarrel, nor have I ever had reason to doubt or censure him. He might very well be the perfect man, Addie, which would in turn make him the perfect husband. All this, however, had seemed somehow still to be wanting--until I saw the hook. It was only a bit of burnished metal, Addie, but what it signified! That he should truly know me so well, and think of me so minutely, as to provide this little thing that I was in want of ... it is beyond rational explanation, and yet I cannot help feeling that he has passed some sort of test which up to now he had managed to avoid altogether. I had never mentioned my frustration at having nowhere to hang my hat, Addie--he could only have observed my actions, and guessed correctly. The typical damsel may fall into raptures upon being presented with a lovely piece of jewelry, but it has taken a bit of hardware to stagger me. You may think me silly, Addie, but I feel that I have received a sign. I have suspected for some little time that James would propose, and, truth be told, I was not altogether comfortable with the prospect. I did not know if I truly wished to marry him, yet I could not bear the thought of never seeing him more. The memory of my engagement to Mr. Hill, and the accompanying pain of its dissolution, still plays vividly in my consciousness, and I could not wholly wish to be exposed to the possibility of such a catastrophe again. In short--if my heart were not given it could not be rejected, and so far I had avoided the terrifying technicality of any such official declaration on the part of either James or myself. I am no longer afraid, Addie. If James has recognized and provided for such a small and unnamed want--what could he not do for me? And yet, that does not justly describe it, either, for it is not having my little wants fulfilled that concerns me ... I suppose it is simply that, although James has ever seemed to anticipate and comply with my preferences, I had never felt, as I do at this moment, precisely "gone on" him. I thought perhaps I would never feel that way about any other man, after being used so, but I seem to have been happily mistaken. It is a lovely feeling, Addie. It is as if the last piece of the puzzle has finally clicked into place, and the result is quite good enough to go forward with. Should James ask, I shall no longer be hesitant to answer.

Furthermore, you needn't think that I will be absent on your wedding day. Even now I am plotting the most effective way to exercise my powers of persuasion upon Dad. He is a dear man, and has quite a weakness for his only daughter. I am sure he will allow me to go with such a momentous occasion in the offing! You must think on our reunion, and if the idea does not cheer you as much as it does me, then I shall consider you a hopeless case. Please write soon, and say you forgive my thoughtlessness.


Maitland Bristow

14 Bathurst Mews


Lorin said...

Hi! I am one of your niece's best friends. I like your writing. I want to be a writer (like Sierra) when I grow up.

sunrabbit said...

Thank you, Lorin! If you like this story, you should start at the beginning with Letter 1. :) Do you write stories too, maybe on Fictionpress like Sierra?

Kristen said...

Ohhhh, I loved Patricia Wrede's book that was done the same way! Have you read Sorcery and Cecilia? The authors even mailed there parts to eachother like real letters :)

sunrabbit said...

No, Kristen, I haven't read Sorcery and Cecelia, but I've heard of it. That is cool that the letters were actually mailed! Michelle and I didn't mail our letters, but we were on different sides of the country when we started writing our letters--we did it to amuse one another and because we were each going through some withdrawals (I had just started working and was missing my kids, she had just moved across the country and was missing home). It started out as fun, but then took on a life of its own, and we had to keep up with the story as it unfolded. Have you read all the way up to The Hook, or did you just read this last letter? How did you find us?