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02 December 2008 @ 11:32 pm
Letters and Conversations: New York  


Olivia Hayes and Elizabeth Van Der Meer: 4:00 P.M. in Mrs. Hayes’ bedroom.

“And you’re still not pregnant?”

“In case you haven’t noticed, I won’t be producing an heir to the Briton throne. And don’t tell me you want to be Grandmother this young.” She laughs her mother’s laugh, a dark haired copy—really, the woman should be proud.

“You flatter me, daughter dear, but I think you miss my meaning. Of course you’re not required to conceive immediately but eventually—well, we don’t want to rely on whatever bastards your cousin produces?”

It’s a hint of crudeness from the great Elizabeth Doisneau (because really, she will always be Elizabeth Doisneau) and Olivia flashes a smirk.

“Of course not. But you have Jean-Pierre and Georgette. They won’t be eternal children, you know.”

“I had simply wondered if some sort of problem had arisen from your incident.”

“What incident is this?” She gives an airy laugh, challenging leave-it-be and turns to her mirror, strips pearls off white-Holland throat.

Mother puts hands on her shoulders, turns her round.

“You know what incident I’m speaking of. If you attempt to toy with me, Olivia, I can promise you will wish you hadn’t. I taught you every one of these tricks, your grandmother and I both. You hold relatively little power within this family, which will not always be the case but wait-your-turn. You’ve made a suitable match and you are rising but you are not complete yet. Wait your turn.”

“If there is a problem related to the incident, there isn’t much we can do about it, Mother.”


“Then I don’t see the purpose of this conversation.”

“To remind you, my dear, that your actions have consequences. And to impress upon you how lucky you were. Imagine the alternative.”

“My record, since William, is impeccable,” Olivia breathes.

“Oh?” Challenge, lock your eyes, don’t-look-down.


“In that case, simply a reminder.”

William and Olivia Hayes: 9:00 A.M. – in the breakfast room

She is a prize. She is—

He notices the angled white wrists laced in Two Hundred blue, a virgin’s corset waist, sharp New York bones—

Eyes too dark, too small, hair too dark, the nostrils flare, eyebrows thick, jaw a trifle square.

He likes to weigh faults and virtues. It’s an old game.

“Good morning.”

“Good morning.”

“Any word from the undecided guests?” She speaks in business. He likes that. Virtue.

“Elizabeth Bonneville will attend.”

“Any word from our families?” she hisses, look saying I-have-no-patience-with-this-idiocy.

Temper. Fault. Check.

“None from those of yours we haven’t heard from. Mine were never in question.”

“Ah.” She shifts.

“My niece Cordelia will be arriving from Boston and—“


“Well, of course she’s only recently come out a month ago and before that she was at Miss Tyler’s and her mother’s dead, as you know.”

“What exactly should I do for her?” Olivia purrs. Back to the lady. Quick transitions. Virtue.

“Simply guide her. She only needs a woman to—show her what must be done. Not too very much. She’s quite naïve, you know.”

“It would be my pleasure.” A little smile spreads across Olivia’s lips.

“Of course.”

“And you hope to make a match for her?”

“Soon. Of course there will be men when we convene.”

“Naturally. She’ll fall in love with some sweet boy barely out of university and it will go neatly. I know girls, William.”

He nods.

“That would be optimal.”

Olivia slips out of her chair and stands behind him, her cold lips near his cheek, her breath, long fingers tangled on his shoulders.

“Do not worry. With a mentor like me, she will end up excellently,” she breathes.

And steps away.

He stands. His wife is blank.


Notes for my New York absence—James Cole to Miss Harper

Tell Field-Marshal Allenby that appealing to my instincts as a patriotic Englishman will not take him very far in this deal. I have no patriotic feeling and he won’t win without me. I don’t care who wins this war and these supplies will go straight to the fucking Kaiser if he doesn’t take my asking price.

Get rid of Nellie Walker—that’s the redhead. I don’t care how you do it but I don’t want to see her skulking around here again. I’ve had enough of her.

Cable Edmond: tell him I’m on my way, as promised, so he can stop cabling me about it. Also tell him I am coming and then leaving. I may be interested in remaining knowledgeable about New York politics but I have no intention of investing myself in them. That’s his damned affair.

Send Celine a bracelet. Something she’ll like. You know her taste better than I do, really. I’ve left a thousand pounds for the purpose. Attach a card with my signature. No message.

Book me a suite at the Saint James in Gramercy. The biggest one they have. Throw as much money as you need to at them. I want it reserved for me by the time I land.

(On the letterhead of Nicholas Gansevoort)


I’ve been thinking about you. You and those lace stockings you like to wear, you wearing just your pearl necklace, you and that French perfume you have on your neck, your legs, your thighs—

Damn it. I want you more than could ever possibly be a good idea.

Meet me at the Schoonmaker at eight?



Please do not send any more letters like that one to my house with the daily mail again. Do you know how easily William could see it?

I will see you at eight.