A woman's predicament upon return of her long lost lover.
|<I>London, June 12, 1804</I>
It has come as a great surprise to hear from You after such a long time. Fourteen years in all, if I am not mistaken. How very cheeky of You to even suggest I might not remember You any longer! However, as I am certain You are well aware, I am married now. I have children of my own, am very happy and settled in my life and am kept very busy indeed. I do not have much time to ponder on the past.
I am overjoyed to know that You are happily married, as well. I hope that like me, one day You are blessed with beautiful children, who will give You more happiness and evoke greater pride in Your heart than anything else this world could possibly offer. Before my two precious girls I could not picture myself in the role of a mother, now I would not want to lead a solitary life any longer. My eldest – Emma – she is my little scholar. She was born with the mind of her Father, the most precocious little girl I have ever laid my eyes on. She can name every single flower and tree she happens upon, leaving me gasping with astonishment. And Charlotte, my little one… well, she seems to be the mirror image of me with a charm that endears her to everyone who lay their eyes upon her.
I inform You with great sadness that my Father, God rest his soul, has passed away mere months after Your departure, having been stricken with a disease that no physician could find a cure for. My Mother, always strong and healthy, followed him shortly. She simply went to bed one night and never woke up. Nothing seemed to be wrong with her; the physician said she died of a broken heart. It was a time of great distress and I was very lucky to have met Dr. Chamberlain and have won over his heart, indeed he was my Mother’s very physician. A year prior to our meeting he had tragically become a widower and we were a solace to each other, finding happiness in a world we thought would never be kind to us again.
From time to time I would hear bits of news about Your person. I understand You have made a great career for Yourself as a brave soldier and loyal subject to the Crown. I do have to admit, however that it pleases me to know that Your warring days are over. The event that brought it all about was most unfortunate I am sure, but I am certain Your wife would not have a wink of restful sleep were You to resume Your old life of warfare, even though God knows we all need it. England is a gem, sought over by many. I suppose brave men like You enable us all to live in relative peace.
As for Your request for a meeting, I am afraid I shall have to decline. Again, keeping in mind that we are both married and have little in common any longer, I do not believe it would be prudent or proper. Maybe someday we might both be attending a picnic or a celebration where our paths shall cross. However, I would not dare go any other way about it. Nor do I think I would want to.
I am very happy and grateful that You had the courtesy to send me a word of Your good fortune. I hope You are happy in Your new life.
Mrs. E. Chamberlain
<I>London, June 16, 1804</I>
I am beginning to feel a discomfort over Your insistence. I do not feel flattered at all! Your assertion is the cause of great distress and apprehension to me.
Please Sir, I beg of You! You simply have to forget the things past. There is no point in dwelling on what was or might have been had our lives taken different turns. They did not and now we are where we are. Both of us married. I happily, and I believed so were You. However, if I am mistaken, I am most certainly not the person You should be confiding in. Being miserable in Your union, You must know how hard You are making things for me and I am greatly distressed over Your persistence of meeting with me and causing the unhappy circumstances should it be found out. I have heard – and will not disclose my sources – that Your wife is very young and You have brought her to England from Portugal. You must give her a lot of attention, I should think. The poor thing must be out of her wits trying to adjust to the new land, language, people and customs. Be kind to her, Richard, for kindness always rewards grandly.
I have no time, no reason or wish to see You again. I will not even consider it!
Let us make this the last of our correspondence. I hope You find it in Your heart to indulge me and forget all about my person.
Mrs. E. Chamberlain
<I>London, June 19, 1804</I>
I am warning You! You are forcing me to turn all Your letters to my husband and humbly admit that I have been corresponding with You. As I had told You before, You are putting me in great distress and I am afraid I will have to put a stop to it, since You don’t have enough sense to stop it Yourself.
You seem to forget the circumstances under which we have parted all those years ago, I however, have not. I do not wish to put myself in a position of a fool again, nor will I allow you to ruin the happiness that I have now achieved.
Please, please I beg of You, do not contact me again!
<I>London, July 31, 1804</I>
Not for a single moment do I believe that our meeting this morning was a play of circumstance. You have arranged it somehow and I know it. I will find the culprit who has had a helping hand in it and will express my utter disgust to them, I promise You that.
I may only presume that You have confronted me today as I have not replied to Your numerous letters over the past few weeks. I have not read any of them, not one. I burnt all of them, thankful that my servants are loyal enough not to mention any of it to my dear husband.
I am especially upset by the fact that You had cornered me in the presence of my mother-in-law and my children. I feigned a blinding headache afterwards and I hope I was believed, although upon a careful inspection, any fool would have seen how upset the encounter with You had left me.
The sadness in Your eyes nearly broke my heart, dear Richard. However, it was nowhere near the pain I had felt when You had turned Your back on me and chosen a different mistress to share Your affection – the life of a soldier.
This will be my last correspondence with You. Should You have the audacity to write to me again, I shall not respond. Please, do not force me into drastic measures. I do not want to distress my dear husband or cause any trouble for either of us. You have left me wondering for fourteen years and that alone tells me that You have not thought of me as much as You’ve been telling me in Your letters.
Go in peace, dear Richard and let me be.
<I>London, August 18, 1804</I>
I have had many a sleepless night in the past two months since You have made the first contact with me. Despite my initial distress upon seeing You last night at the ball, I calmed down somewhat, when after careful – and hopefully discreet – questioning of Mrs. Sinclair, I was reassured You have been invited to the ball purely for the reasons of being her husband’s friend and nothing else. Of course, I never disclosed my predicament or fears that You have somehow arranged for us to meet.
I will give You the benefit of the doubt, dear Sir, and hope that this does not happen again. Should I be mistaken, however, I hope You simply nod Your greeting and afterwards ignore me.
Having said all those harsh words, however, I have to admit that I was very happy to see that You seem to be doing well. Your limp has greatly improved since I have laid my eyes on You last and I have noticed many pairs of ladies’ eyes following You closely as You made Your way through the Sinclair house.
One word of warning, dear Sir, if You don’t mind. Young Georgina, the niece of Lord Ashford… You might do better to avoid her advances, which were so evident to all present. She is but trouble to many, especially to her poor Mother. She has broken more hearts than one so young should consider it proper. A scandal has broken out involving her and another married man a year ago, but her uncle seems to have nipped it in the bud, as they say and smoothed things over. The man in question was never seen again, presumably paid off and moved away to the country, taking his family with him. I was more than surprised to see Georgina at a public event last night. I can see why men would look at her longingly, however, do not forget that her face is all that is beautiful about her. Her heart is dark and vengeful. You would do well to stay as far away from her as you possibly can. Anyway, I will not lower myself to common gossip and continue with this line of talk.
I find You to be still very dear to my heart, Richard, and I want the best for You. Associating with the likes of Georgina – never mind the influence of her family – You might do Yourself more harm than good. Again, let me encourage You to pay more attention to Your young wife, who I believe was not present at the ball last night. You might be hurting her more than a person deserves, despite the fact that You have mentioned before that she is ‘difficult’. How difficult can someone so young be? She wants love, Richard, and you of all people should know how that feels. Please, for Your own sake, stay out of trouble.
Well, I can’t think of anything else to say, Richard. My children are calling to me and I have to go. Again, I hope You do well and will be looking forward to hearing of Your success, which undoubtedly will follow in the months to come.
<I>London, August 18, 1804</I>
My dear Richard!
As I am writing this, I believe You are reading my previous letter. I tried to catch the servant boy, whom I had sent on an errand of delivering my correspondence to You, alas, I was too late. I wish I had not been quite as hasty as to let it out of my hand so quickly.
You see, I was greatly distressed by our meeting yesterday. Even more so, I was utterly embarrassed when You asked my husband if You could have a dance and in order not to appear rude, I could not refuse.
I was angry, furious really. If I didn’t chance an embarrassment to my husband, and myself I would have flatly refused Your invitation, giving You a piece of my mind, which to my shame would have been anything but ladylike.
Of course I was afraid my husband would realize my great distress, but he didn’t. He was ignorant to my discomfort even after I had returned to him, standing by his side, trembling like a leaf on a tree, beaten by the hardest of the late autumn winds.
When I stood near You Richard, when I felt the warmth of Your body so very close to mine even though not touching, my heart skipped a beat. The years evaporated magically and I was left standing in front of You, my heart bursting with the same feelings that I had felt for You all those years ago.
Your beautiful eyes holding my gaze unwaveringly, Your gentle hands brushing against mine so tenderly…oh, Richard! I looked at Your soft lips and wished I could throw my arms around You, press my trembling body against Yours, tasting Your breath on my face. I almost lost my head, Richard; I almost did the unforgivable and disgraced my entire family and myself by forgetting myself.
I saw You looking at me carefully. I know You have realized that my distress stemmed from the old feelings we have had for each other a long, long time ago. I did not appreciate Your smug grin, Your knowing smile, the way You discreetly measured my person with a hunger that is reserved only for the most intimate of moments between a husband and wife.
I wish You had spoken to me, however. All the while we were dancing I expected you to engage me in a conversation, but not a word came out of Your mouth. Are You at all aware how hard that was on me? It was as if… as if… Good Lord, I wish I was not only a simple woman with a simple mind, but rather a scholar, who could weave words into a beautiful metaphor and explain how painful Your silence was to me. My chest was tight with fear and pain and most of all memories of the old days. I have also realized that on our first meeting since You have returned to London, You have not said a word. You simply tipped your hat, bowed and stared. Until I have given her Your name, my Mother-in-law thought You to be a mute or even an imbecile.
Why do You torment me so, Richard? Why all those letters, full of emotion and compliments, reminiscing upon the past that will never return? Why the passionate remarks, which despite my determination not to allow them to touch my heart, have done exactly that? When You finally stand before me, however, not a word is spoken.
I have noticed Your hands were steady when You touched mine at the ball, Richard. And I know You were aware that I was trembling like a foolish child. My face was red with embarrassment, I could feel it. Your haughtiness was very hurtful, Richard. Why? I beg of You, tell me why?
No, on the second thought, do not tell me why! No more letters! No more chance meetings, please!
If You cherish the times we have had together when very young, please, forget about me now. I am content in my life. I love my children and would not know where to turn should anything occur that would throw me off balance. Like I said before, Richard, I am but a simple woman, despite the fact that my Father was a great man, intelligent and righteous. My husband is much like him, I have to say and it would pain me greatly should I disappoint him in any sort of way.
So, please, dear Richard…please…
<I>London, August 31, 1804</I>
I have been very foolish in my assumption that You have finally realized the distress you were casting upon my person with your insistence. I believed I had finally reached you with my pleas, and You have forgotten about me.
I have not realized it before, but You are a very cruel man, Richard! The ultimatum that You have given me just won’t do. I will not meet you in secret! I do not believe for one moment that You want to see me just one last time in private. If I was to yield to Your request, I do believe more would come and I’d be trapped. My previous letter was to explain myself to You, not to encourage You into this sort of behaviour. I am aghast!
A man of Your grand status and beautiful appearance should have no trouble in finding a mistress, if that is what indeed You are looking for. It is to my great distress that I realize You will be breaking a fragile heart of Your young wife, Richard. But I will not be the culprit in Your dirty games. I refuse it!
Feelings that I had for You all those years ago have long since faded. Even though I had had a taste of what was, it was only for a few moments. Afterwards, I had realized how foolish I had been to give in to them, even if it was simply for a short time. I should never have written the letter confessing of my distress to You. I truly didn’t mean to excite You into believing that anything more can transpire between us.
Can You ever forgive me, Richard?
<I>London, September 13, 1804</I>
Why are You so insistent on seeing me in pain? I have cried throughout the night, walking through the house like a ghost, oblivious to anything or anyone around me. Your letter, which I have received yesterday, did not pacify my already upset heart and mind.
I beg of You, Richard. I cannot see You, I truly cannot. Do You even realize the grievance that I would cause to my husband and indeed myself, were I to give in to your demands?
Are You at all aware of how unstable the position at Court is to men who serve the King? With the King’s failing health the Court is in uproar, everyone attempting to promote themselves to the heights they could never dream of before. There are spies everywhere! Should any of them find out of our correspondence, let alone have the knowledge of our meeting – if indeed we were to meet – my husband would be ridiculed beyond anything I would ever want to bestow upon anyone, even my greatest enemy, let alone my dear husband.
Why am I asking You that? Of course, You know the instability of one’s position with the King. You are one of his closest allies now. You are the one who whispers in his ear and arranges things to be exactly as You want them to be. The poor man’s brain is rotting away and you are taking advantage of the situation. I’ve heard of it. And You should know that people are not happy with your actions. But, again… I am certain You are well aware of that, too.
You are a ruthless man, Richard. Ruthless and cruel. My heart bleeds with the thought of the handsome young man I had known so long ago. You were the purest and the kindest of people, Richard. What happened to You? Who broke Your heart in a way that makes You punish everyone else?
With the greatest Humility, I beg of You, again… Let me go in peace, Richard. Let me and my family be.
<I>London, October 1, 1804</I>
I will meet You, Sir. I will see You again, exactly as You have requested of me.
Please, do not let anything bad happen to my dear husband! I have heard of the plot being hatched and tongues wagging behind his back. A gentle soul that he is, he is completely oblivious of how close he has come to be out of favour for something that is not his fault. You know it, as well as I do, that the theft of the small fortune occurring at Court was none of his doing. He would never belittle himself to the level of a common thief. He needs none of other man’s money or jewels. Nor is he lusting after anybody else’s wife, I am certain of it. I cannot reveal to him what I had heard, for I do not think he would believe me if I did, as well as I have promised I would never reveal where I acquired the information. He would think me a foolish gossip, which might be true. However, I am terrified!
Unlike so many other men, he has never lost his honour and I detest any man who would suggest otherwise, even You! But, in order to make things right again, I will see You as You have informed I should do.
Allow me to designate the meeting place, however, as it is very hard for me to lie to my husband more than it is absolutely necessary. My uncle, Lord Guildford has a manor in Hertfordshire, Richard. It is near Hoddesdon and I can safely make an excuse of visiting him with the girls and spend sometime in the country. He is of frail health, my uncle, and I could nurse him until he felt better. I am certain my daughters would be of great comfort to him, seeing that he has never been blessed with children of his own.
I shall depart for Hertfordshire immediately. If you are determined to see our meeting take place, please be kind enough to send me a letter to my uncle’s house and inform me of when and where you will be expecting me.
Need I beg for Your discreetness, Richard? I would not have to do so in the time past, but now, having changed as You have, I simply do not know any longer.
<I>Hoddesdon, October 5, 1804</I>
I am lost for words, Richard. Absolutely speechless!
What in God’s name was our meeting about? Is that all You wanted from me? A few stolen moments of silence and tears? That was all?
I cannot believe all those letters I have received were from You. You have written extensively, painting images with Your words, complimenting me on everything You could possibly think of. And when You see me in person, Richard, You do not utter a word. You do not touch me. You look at me longingly, and yet with so much disgust in Your eyes that I felt my heart breaking with terror.
And of all the places, we met at the cemetery. For God’s sake, Richard! What cruel turn of events has twisted Your soul into… into…oh, I do not even know whether You have any soul left.
I have seen Your hands tremble when You laid Your eyes upon me. I have seen You gasp when I spoke Your name. I am not the one to play games, and I cannot say with complete reassurance that I knew what You felt, but Richard, I truly believed Your heart was as soft as butter when I approached You.
You stared at me like a small child; it was as if You were frightened of me. Why? I wanted to talk to You, Richard. I decided to demand an explanation of Your behaviour, but when I saw You standing in front of me, even more handsome than I remember, strong and yet vulnerable… You were too slow fleeing, Richard. I saw the tear that ran down Your cheek. I saw it and it almost killed me.
Did You hear me calling after You? Did You see me fall to the ground and lay there like a wounded animal, weeping and reaching out after You, knowing You would not return?
Why do You insist on hurting me like this? Why, Richard? Very well, if that is what You want, I will grant You Your wish. In Your letters You expressed the desire for an explanation of what had transpired years ago, when I suddenly disappeared from Your life.
It was my Father who had forbidden me to see You any longer, Richard. I could not go against his wishes and demands. I hoped that in time he would come to terms with my love for You, but at the first sign of my rejection – which I must say was a simple act of pretension for my Father’s sake – You had fled London and indeed, England.
I had hoped You would return, especially upon hearing of my Father’s death, of which I know was brought to Your attention. I had written letters to You, Richard. Many letters, but did not know where to send them. I still keep them in my chest, each of them sealed. I could not bring myself to read them now; it would have hurt me too much to do so.
I waited, Richard. I waited for months, lying awake at night, crying myself to sleep in the wee hours of the morning, wondering where You were and if You indeed were still alive. I thought of Your soft lips and tender kisses, with which You used to cover my face; running Your fingers through my hair; whispering the sweetest of words, igniting the passion in my heart. I thought of the stolen moments that we had in the country, hiding in the small clearance deep in the forest, embracing each other. I thought of Your trembling hands caressing my neck and touching the parts of the body that should not be touched prior to the wedding night. I thought of the afternoon when I was willing to give myself to You fully, regardless of shame and consequences that might have followed. I remember how strong You were, Richard, for both of us. I can still recall the hurt that settled in my heart when You told me we should not give in. I remember the soft kisses that You planted all over my trembling body, leaving me shivering with a desire so great, I thought I would go mad. You told me You would wait for me as long as You had to. Do You remember Your promises?
My Mother did not die of a broken heart grieving for my Father, Richard. I know people whisper about it and so You may know it already. Upon my Father’s death, she realized that all of the money she believed my family possessed was practically gone. Whatever little was left she had to use to pay off my Father’s gambling debts. We were to be destitute, Richard. Of course, she could have asked for help from her brother, but she was too proud for that. She had made arrangements for me to live with my relatives, reassuring me everything would be all right in the end.
She had trouble sleeping ever since my Father’s death and so she would occasionally take the sleeping powder, which helped her to have a restful night and regain strength for whatever troubles were in her way the following day. I should have known better than to completely ignore the odd behaviour she displayed one particular evening. She talked to me about my future extensively. She hoped I would be strong enough to overcome any hurdle that might be in my way to the happiness that she believed I deserved. She kissed me that night, Richard. She kissed my hair and then she kissed my cheek. It had been years since she had given me a genuine hug. She cried as well that evening, but my simple mind convinced me that it was all due to stress and she was just crying her grief out in the open.
That night she took more sleeping powder than she ever had before. In fact, she had taken enough to kill three grown men, let alone a slight woman like herself. I was the one who found her and in my panic I called on Dr. Chamberlain, swearing him to secrecy in keeping my Mother’s suicide to himself. The doctor was kind enough to oblige me, and had called upon me many times since, almost every day, checking on my health and my well being.
I suppose it was a natural progression that I should accept his advances and when he asked my uncle for my hand in marriage, I saw the relief on my uncle’s face. It was all I needed to know. I could not refuse, as I had no one else to turn to. You were gone, Richard and nobody else would have been kind enough to take care of me.
I realized my mistake on my wedding night. My husband had revealed himself to me then, and to my utter horror there was nothing I could do to change things back to the way they used to be. I would gladly undertake any obstacle, shame or disgrace in place of my marriage to Dr. Chamberlain. But, it was too late. I made my bed, as my Mother had put it so often, and now I have to lie in it.
My husband is not a kindly man, like I was led to believe, I am sorry to say. He does things to me sometimes that leave me trembling in fever for days afterwards. He is a perverted and disgusting little man, who holds the knowledge of sins over many, and thus was able to advance in his career and success. People fear him greatly, although I believe and somewhat even hope that one-day, he will encounter a person who will not simply turn a blind eye and submit to his demands. One day, Richard, someone will do him harm like he has been bestowing upon others, including me.
I have lain next to him in bed many a night, Richard, thinking of You. I would close my eyes and ignore his dirty hands, slobbery kisses and the hurt he was causing me. I would think of You, of how You used to make me feel and at the same time I would regret my decision to listen to You and not give in to our passion in the woods that wonderful afternoon.
I thought I was blessed when my daughters were born. And truly, any woman would be proud of them, as she should be. However, my husband’s cruelty has taught them to be discourteous to me, as well. They have not a word of kindness for their poor Mother. They consider me a fool, possibly rightfully so, however, I am still their Mother and they should treat me with respect. Not having learned it from their Father, however, they do not know any better and they make my life harder than it already is.
And so, my dearest Richard, I am but a miserable soul in this world of cruelty and ignorance. I pray every day that Death might visit upon me, and for a while I even prayed that you might return and there would be a sliver of hope, yet.
The way you looked at me, Richard…the way you seemed to be repulsed by me, I cannot bear it. Not for one more day. I have always loved You, my dearest Richard. You were always the one in my heart. When my children were born I cried with joy for bringing a beautiful life into this world, but at the same time, I wept with sorrow that it was not your children I held in my arms.
When alone in a room or out on a walk, I would talk to You, Richard. I would pretend you were right there by me and I would talk to You. I would tell You of all my troubles and hopes, I would reminisce on the days when I was happy, when indeed, we were happy together. I would close my eyes and pretend that when I open them, my dear husband would be sitting in a chair opposite me, smiling. You, Richard. I would picture you sitting there, happy to see me, love in Your smile. All just for me.
If my foolishness to obey my Father had hurt You so much that You cannot bare to look at me anymore, I do not want to live. I would be prepared to do anything for you, Richard. God forgive me, but I would even leave my children and flee to wherever You wanted to go. I would not care if I had no money or food, no place to call my own. You by my side would be all I needed, Richard. You alone!
If I had hurt You, Richard, I am truly sorry. I meant no harm to anyone, least of all to You. I tried to be obedient daughter; instead I had stabbed myself in the heart. This poor old ticker has been bleeding long enough. The pain is too great for me to bear any longer.
I will follow my Mother now. By the time You read this letter, I will be at peace and I hope You will forgive me. Nobody knows about us, I have not told anyone, so You may rest assured nobody will blame You.
Think of me sometime, Richard. Spare a little thought for a foolish girl, who grew up to be a foolish woman, denying herself the only thing that was her true passion and ruining a great love story before it even began.
I began this letter as a reprimand for your behaviour. But as I was putting the words on the paper, I realized that it had all been my fault, not Yours. I realized that the disgust in Your face was not that at all, rather fear that You would become enchanted with me again as You once were. The tear gave it away, You see. I have never seen a grown man cry and to see Your moment of weakness is simply too much to bear. I could not go on pretending any longer. I cannot go back to my husband, for I would kill him eventually. Even if they were to hang me afterwards, I would kill him before I let him lay his dirty hands on my person again. I cannot do that, however. Despite the cruelty of my children, I could not curse them into losing both parents at once. The loss of me will not harm them. In fact, I doubt they will even grieve for me at all.
Never mind, that. I finally got a chance to tell You how I have felt all these years, Richard. My dearest! My one and only! Be good to Yourself and others, Richard. You deserve happiness more than most. I shall look after You from Heaven.
I am empty now. I have no words to say, no thoughts to share. I die with Your name on my lips and Your smiling face in my heart. You have not said a word to me since Your return from abroad. Speak to me when You come to visit my grave.
Farewell, my darling…