Author's Note: Yes, yes. I am not dead. I have not abandoned this fic. Life just got in the way for a bit. For those who hadn't noticed – this underwent a major re-write. Everything is renumbered so you are not going mad if you thought Chapter 12 was what I posted right before Thanksgiving. It is now Chapter 11. The first 4 chapters got the biggest tweaking. It is probably worth your while to go back and read the new Prologue – lest you be quite confused when we get to the Epilogue.
A special thanks to FoxFire1 for the beta – as always, it is appreciated. That and if you get the jokes maybe the rest of the readers will! Thanks also to GreyMoon74 for poking me every now and again to make sure I was still alive and slaving away on this.
Enjoy! Review if you like! But mainly refrain from throwing things in my direction for how long this took! Gratzie! (01-22-04)
Chapter 12 – A Captivating Correspondence
Mrs. Harker's lively past, and her witty note, gave me much to think on. As recommended in her missive, I settled my dealings with Mr. Bly by sending the remainder of his wages along to his sister. Van Helsing may have had a point about her shrewdness, for it was clear in her response that she saw my 'repentance' for precisely what it was. Yet there was much to be read between the lines of her letter. She mentioned our next meeting as if it were a certainty and that ending quote clearly necessitated response. Rather than rush to compose an appropriate rejoinder, for I had nothing to gain by either speed or further insincerity, I did something I rarely do; I waited. Early the next week, I happened to meet her taking part in the daily spectacle in Hyde Park (1). She looked genuinely pleased as I maneuvered my mount next to her rig. She was addressing a woman in the coach opposite, with whom I was unacquainted. Quickly finishing her conversation, she turned to me with a look that can only be described as relief. Before I could chide her for forgetting decorum and failing to introduce me, another carriage came rushing over, the horses kicking up a cloud of dust and nearly running me down. It is impossible to describe my lack of surprise, to see Lord and Lady Godalming, smiling warmly at me all while spinning a reason from thin air for Mina to join them and send her own buggy home. She, of course, acceded but not, I think, without regret. Being denied conversation in person, I turned to my ink and paper.
28th of April, Eighteen Hundred Ninety-One
Mrs. Wilhelmina Harker
What a pleasant surprise to see you yesterday! You looked quite fetching in your riding ensemble, as I would have told you in person, had
Lord Godalming not attempted to drive his carriage through me. I may be misreading the portents, but I am getting the distinct impression he
does not care for me. I cannot imagine why he should have taken a dislike for me. For the time being, I am reduced to communicating with
you from the relative safety of my study; for, while a horse could fit in here, I am sure at least one of the servants would notice him as he
navigated the stairs from the foyer.
I did not recognize the quote that ended your note–An interesting thought that. I appreciate the advice concerning the disguising of pride.
It would never do to veil it as the first thing another might guess and, in accordance, with your sage counsel, I have sworn off humility
entirely. May I inquire the name of the name of the man that penned those words?
Your no longer humble servant,
She was not as prompt as before and a few days passed before I received an answer to my note. Any worries that I had made too bold a move were erased when her messenger, yet another scruffy errand boy, delivered not only a letter, but a small parcel, wrapped in plain brown paper. It proved to be a slim volume beautifully bound in rich scarlet leather, the lettering carefully worked in ornate, curling gold lettering. I looked to the letter for explanation.
30th of April, Eighteen Hundred Ninety-One
Mr. Dorian Gray
Please excuse the delay in responding to your charming note. As you have probably discovered, I have taken the liberty of securing a copy
of De La Rochefoucauld's "Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales", which I referenced in my last letter. This copy is the fifth, and
final, edition to appear during his lifetime. I believe this edition to be far superior to later ones which, in their attempts to make the
language more accessible to the modern reader, butchered the beauty and eloquence of his phrasing (2). I am sure you will find much to
admire in his writings and philosophy. Your decision to eschew false humility brought to mind maxim 196. I am sure you have other
avenues for amusement, yes?
I, of course, paused to check maxim 196. It read 'What keeps us from abandoning ourselves entirely to one vice, often, is the fact we have several'. I began to understand why her wit did not endear her to society; she often hit a little too close to the mark for comfort. I, however, was enchanted by her odd little sense of humor; it well suited my own tendency towards cynicism.
If you have not abandoned the arts as amusement, perhaps I will see you at the opening of new gallery in Peckham Road next Tuesday (3).
It is to be known as the South London Fine Art Gallery and is said to be beginning with quite an impressive collection, on loan from
numerous subscribers. I am glad of the opportunity to view works rarely seen outside of the homes of collectors. Considering our mutual
appreciation of the visual arts, I thought perhaps you were planning to attend. In any case, I hope you will take pleasure in perusing De La
P.S. It may also interest you to know that Lord and Lady Godalming have another engagement that afternoon that prevents them from
attending the opening.
Indeed, it interested me a great deal to be informed of the intended absence of the Godalmings at this gallery opening and I arranged my calendar accordingly. It proved a very providential decision. I received the most charming letter from her after our meeting at the gallery.
5th of May, Eighteen Hundred Ninety-One
Mr. Dorian Gray
Mr. Dorian Gray,
First, my apology, for I simply cannot bring myself to call you Dorian, despite your insistence yesterday. Let me again express my thanks for
coming to my rescue. Mr. Netherfield (4) would have held me captive all afternoon if not for your swift intervention. I must admit I was
surprised at your extensive knowledge of art – really you should be a lecturer on the subject. I found your comments regarding the painters
of the Northern Renaissance quite amusing. I had suspected that your tastes ran more to the artists than the art but you proved that
assumption incorrect. I am not sure which was more amusing; your commentary on the art or the 'connoisseurs' admiring the art. This
season promises to be interesting. If you continue to provide such delightfully improper conversation, I will consider any redress owed me
It is said no good deed goes unpunished and that would seem to be the case with your kindness to me. Mr. Netherfield is a long time
acquaintance of Lord Godalming and he wasted no time in complaining to Arthur about your conduct. I think Arthur intends to confront you
in some way. I hope he won't be too tiresome about the whole thing.
The warning was kind but unnecessary as 'Arthur' seemed content with scowling at me whenever he noticed Mina and I together, which became frequently. We sought each other's company as a retreat from the pretense and political maneuverings of society events and could often be found talking quietly together at teas, balls and the like. I am not sure what spurred him to action but I received an interesting note from him after one such meeting.
19th of May, Eighteen Hundred Ninety-One
Mr. Dorian Gray
Mr. Dorian Gray,
I will not insult your intelligence by prevaricating. I am concerned about the new closeness between yourself and Mrs. Harker. Be careful.
You are a man with quite a reputation and not a few enemies in London. I am watching you carefully and will not hesitate to give you cause
to regret any misconduct towards her or any harm to her reputation.
He would not have been pleased at the delight I took in his thinly veiled challenge. It took only a moment to devise the perfect response, on which served the dual purpose of annoying him greatly and amusing Mina. How could I resist such a temptation?
20th of May, Eighteen Hundred Ninety-One
Mr. Dorian Gray
I am sure you can imagine how irritated Arthur was to receive your reply so I will not give you further cause for amusement by repeating
any of the things he said. I am instructed to write and accept your invitation to join you in your box at the Royal English Opera House this
Oh dear, Arthur is trying to read this as I write. I am looking forward to the evening. Hopefully there will be a minimum amount of
bloodshed. Do humor the dear – he thinks it his duty to protect me.
(1) During the Season it was common for those of a certain standing to take a turn through Hyde Park, on horseback or in their carriages, in the morning. As it was yet another opportunity to see and be seen, it is not at all surprising to find Dorian there.
(2) All of Mina's details and opinions on the various editions of De La Rochefoucauld's work are based in fact.
(3) The South London Fine Art Gallery did indeed open for the first time on May 4th, 1891. The particulars are as described in Mina's letter.
(4) Mr. Netherfield is, of course, a reference to Austen's Pride and Prejudice, which is not in this time period but far too fun to pass up. Netherfield was the residence of Mr. Bingley, his sister, Miss Bingley, and Mr. Darcy. The name always struck me as odd and not a little pornographic.