I know your frustration at my position. I, too, wish things were different. But to be angry at my situation is also to be angry with Father. How can I blame him for trying to better our prospects? I hope you believe, as I do, that my education was a far more valuable gift than any investment. That I cannot do with it, as you have always wished, something more than help children conjugate verbs and crayon maps of the world, is simply the lot I have inherited. It is best that I accept it. Please don't think me weak for my resignation. I still share your spirit of fight, only I haven't the means to indulge it right now.
I am here in England and I've not had word from you for months. Your duties no doubt prevent you from writing, but no longer can I afford to hope you will one day appear at my door. We've always known you have obligations to your family & your career. What point is there in my wishing you will awake one day able to extract yourself from the life you've led for years? I understand clearly now that it will never happenI will never again see you.
I cherish the time we had together. Not for a moment do I regret our conversations on that shaded bench, the walks in the gardenit still makes me laugh to think that you, of all people, know the name of every plant and shrub. Who would have suspected your love of nature? It's awful really; I cannot see a flower without thinking of you. But when you left, I could no longer stay in Strasbourg. I could not face your family alone, with only the faintest hope you might return for a day or two in several months.
I know you worry Alice will consume my life, and you think I must look after myself. And these past few weeks, in my mind I've listened again to all your arguments. But, dearest, I have to ask myself: what life? Alice is, in truth, the only companion I've ever known. For nineteen years she has been my life. To tend to her is to tend to myself. Please understand.
I suppose I must finally come to it: Professor Beazley (Father's colleague in the Department of Anthropology, and yes, the "jungle man" of whom I sometimes joked) has agreed to look after Alice and me. The University has granted him Father's position and he has made intelligent investments with his family's large estate (if only he could have advised Father) that should keep us quite comfortable. We are to be married within the month.
Will it really be so difficult to teach him a thing or two of charm? Perhaps a short lesson in the art of laughter? Never have I known a man so ill at ease; only reading and writing, and the occasional mapmaking, seem to relax him. Maybe if I constantly keep a book propped before him we might forge something of a normal house! No. Oh, Max, what is wrong with me? I shouldn't joke at his expense. After all, if he hadn't proposedwell, Alice and I would soon be wandering the East End. Can I really ask for more?
Max, please do not imagine I've chosen Professor Beazley over you. I have simply chosen to care for Alice rather than wait for the impossible. I wish I could tell you this in person, but I haven't that luxury. Perhaps this will make things easier for you. Perhaps you've always known this would happen. Long before I did, I think you sensed there was little hope for us. But for me this marks a change, a painful awakening. There is no one but you to whom I can write, no one but you who would understand.
Isn't it strange? I will be a married woman by the time this reaches you.
Elsa sets her pen down, folds the letter, and tucks it between the pages of her morocco journal. Edward will soon be home. She will post it in the morning, after he has left for the university.
Behind the tall glass windows of the sitting room, dusk is falling. Elsa stands, strikes a match, and lights each branch of the candelabrum. The shadows move across the curtains, the burgundy wallpaper, the thick lacquer of the walnut armoire. From every corner, elegance gleams. And carefully, like a child cautioned against sudden movements, she gathers her black skirt and inches toward the divan. Elsa still cannot consider this place home. It reminds her too much of the houses she has worked in, of the vast, chandeliered dining rooms, the cold carpeted entrance halls. In Strasbourg, in Max's house, she moved with even greater caution, always kneeling to straighten the corner of a rug, fluffing each gold-fringed pillow as she rose from the sofa, as though the prudence of her movements might make up for, or disguise, the negligence of her emotions.
Excerpted from Easter Island by Jennifer Vanderbes Copyright© 2003 by Jennifer Vanderbes. Excerpted by permission of Dial Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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