14 Bathurst Mews
4 July 1903
Friend of my heart, I have suffered greatly in not hearing from you for so very long! Even so, how can I be anything but pleased with the new friend you have found in Mr. Murphy? I find myself once again the jealous admirer of your good fortune. Oh! How providence finds you even in the wake of Stuart Hill! I understand your reservations concerning Mr. Rousseau, but I would ask you to consider it from my own point of view. Mr. Hill's adoration came to you in a deluge, and however it tormented you to deny him, here you find yourself again, so easily the recipient of new love. It is different for me. Who will have me? Where have I to rest my head?
I'm writing you this letter at the dusk of day, knowing reading would be less healing than penning you the story of today's events.
Today's forenoon found me waiting outside in the garden for Vaughn. He was uncharacteristically late. He had requested my company on this occasion nearly two weeks prior, and despite his great efforts in remaining quite nonchalant about the day's significance, there was little to be left unforeseen. I had envisaged the scene many times over in my mind these last weeks, and had decided that 'yes' would surely be my answer. I've mulled over every possibility, Maisie. I am not blind to the valley that divides Vaughn and I, nor am I naive about my circumstances here in Paris. I have no parents here, no inheritance to speak of, and therefore, no other avenue left to travel. My uncle is growing restless with my occupancy, and it is time to move forward.
The sun streamed down its welcome warmth, and I seated myself to bask in it, expecting Vaughn every moment. The breeze swept through the blades of grass, and up over the shallow hills of the field. Not seeing much reason to resist the desire, I lay down in the quiet meadow to wait--to wait for Vaughn to pass through the gates of the garden, and reshape every dream I have held dear since I was a young girl. I closed my eyes, and it was not Vaughn that I saw. The ghosting thought of Peter stirred such angst in me, it seemed to take root inside my very heart. The conviction that logic and reason could stifle what I feel for him--however foolish I may be for feeling it--has failed me. What torturous road I wend my way down next in the name of good sense matters little. His kind hand in mine, leading me away from here, has been my only request of God and his angels--however unanswered that supplication shall remain. There is some peace in braving that truth, Maisie, and the simple truth that he still has all of me.
Upon the sound of Vaughn's approach, I was in a condition I could not altogether conceal from him.
"Adeline, get yourself up off the ground. What childish behaviour is this?"
I stood slowly, Vaughn extending his hand to help me up. Vaughn was unusually tense, not taking any notice of my shaken mood in the least, and we barely spoke as he lead me off the estate. He escorted me to the entrance of the Jardin des Plantes, and we walked side by side. He was clearly out of sorts. Uncertain as to what I could do to appease him, I suggested we rest on a nearby bench that was shaded by a flowering Japanese Cherry near the aviary. Despite my sympathy for whatever troubled him, I felt that after all I had conceded in my heart and mind to this man, I needed to ask him what exactly transpired after my abduction. The cherry blossoms drifted aimlessly to the ground around us as I collected my courage.
"Vaughn, I need you to relay the story of my rescue in its entirety ... "
He was visibly irritated by the request, "Adeline--we have been through this."
"But we have not--"
The very mention of it caused him such anxiety, that I immediately regretted the question. He folded his hands, his knuckles white with the pressure. He was on his feet now, "Mr. Westley had called the authorities, but I could not sit and do nothing. I went to the streets. I--I paid a man in La Chapelle and he said he had seen a girl of your description."
"But why did you not bring me home yourself? I do not understand."
He grasped my hand, squeezing it tightly. He then gripped my shoulders, his gaze piercing through me and the frustration plain on his face. He dropped his head but maintained his grip, "Adeline--I paid the Frenchman to bring you home. You were in danger ... and I was hurt in the process of your rescue ... " It seemed a most magnificent account, indeed. And there I sat, at the crossroad of my future and all that had passed. Was this truth? And it soon became clear that it made little difference. It was at that moment I chose to lay down my arms, and hand him my confidence, with the fondest of hope that he would prove to be a worthy steward of it. And I looked upon him, perhaps for the first time, with a semblance of love and a deep desire to requite him for his sacrifices. I placed a tender hand on his cheek, "Thank you, Vaughn. We need not speak of it again." Smiling, I let my gaze trail away with the pink blossoms down the path. What happened after this, Maisie, I know you are keen enough to predict. My gaze meandered back in his direction to find him kneeling down beside me. With a glimmer of vulnerability in his expression he asked, "Adeline, marry me." But what followed, I could not have foreseen, nor will I soon recover from. A physical pain struck me at his words, Maisie. My sight went black, Vaughn faded away, and I found myself back in the brothel with that horrible stranger. I lay prostrate on the bed, trembling, while he lowered his face so that his hot breath scorched my ear and whispered, "Marry me." I can only guess that it was the first time I had awoken since losing consciousness in the alley near the flower market. His hands were busy at my hips, my waist, slipping under me to the small of my back, pulling the fabric back and forth across my body. I lay gasping for breath, and in my fear and confusion attempted to understand what exactly he was doing. He was dressing me, Maisie. He seemed to fancy every part of it. At last he slid my arms into the lace gown as I sobbed. He pulled me to my feet. His face was striking, handsome, and inches from mine. He looked down at my bare shoulder, and slowly pulled up the sleeve of the white dress.
"Don't be frightened," he breathed, as I stood shaking.
He leaned in. Not wanting him to draw a whit closer, I assembled my courage and whispered, "I'm not your unfortunate woman."
He laughed, seeming genuinely amused, then came in close, "You think that wise of you, bunter? Best to break you in now, love." The familiar sight of his raised arm gave way to the impact of his heavy hand against my face. I wanted desperately to create some illusion of bravery; but with the very breath knocked from my body, I had to call upon all my faculties just to keep myself erect. The man paced the width of the room, then approached me, his rough hands brushing down the sides 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." He seemed quite pleased with himself, and smiled broadly as he paced slowly backwards, his dark eyes locked on mine, and shut the door. The screams felt as if they were torn from my throat, but upon realising my cries would remain unnoticed in this place, I allowed the screams to dissolved into sobs as I collapsed upon the wide, wooden planks of the floor. My cries had hushed to a near silence by the time I felt the fear loosening its grip as I drifted to sleep. Everything shifted to black again, and the daylight and the park broke through. I found Vaughn standing over me on the pavement, frantic, "Adeline--ah, you are alright." But I was not alright, Maisie. He helped me back up to my former seat on the bench, and asked with trepidation, "What was it?"
"--We will most certainly need you to be seen by Dr. Laroche immediately. You blacked out, Adeline."
Moment after moment of silence ensued, as I attempted to gather control of my emotions. Vaughn moved in closer, and knowing him as I do, I knew he considered his unanswered proposal to be the most pressing of matters. I could not bear to hear the words again. I was in such mental anguish, all I could do was whisper, "No, Vaughn ... no." He stiffened, "You need more time. Of course. Let us return to your uncle's and have some tea, then." He stood and turned, walking briskly back to the entrance of the park, leaving me to steady myself, alone. I nearly fell to pieces, Maisie. Where can any goodness be found?
There is no engagement as of yet, Maisie. I know Vaughn will not be satisfied with my response, however, and will no doubt broach the subject again soon. I am anxious to hear your news, Maisie. I am in such need of your good cheer.
23 rue Saint Paul