The 19th century was a more romantic time. Long before e-mail and text messaging, in the era of Jane Austen, relationships developed slowly, in the fullness of time…
I was very happy to see you last spring at high tea in honor of our grandmother’s birthday. It is always wonderful to share your company, dearest cousin, and you may remember that on that occasion you were in the company of a certain gentleman, Roland Masterton, who impressed me greatly with his wit, good manners, and dignified carriage. Of course, we spoke not a word to one another, and yet I do believe we shared a glance. And if I may be so bold, I dared to believe that our glance, shared in a fraction of an instant as mother poured his tea, contained the unmistakable glimmer of mutual interest.
Dearest cousin, it would give me joy greater than you could imagine if you might arrange some undertaking in which I might have an opportunity to share a moment’s parlance with Mr. Masterton. I ask this in the greatest confidence, knowing that you would never betray my trust by sharing this disclosure without my approval. Let me know by return post if I have overstepped the bonds of friendship and family in making such a bold request. Dare I dream that Mr. Masterton and I may one day take tea together?
I remain, trusting in your discretion and friendship, your most humble, faithful and obedient cousin,
My great and good friend Reggie,
It was with great pleasure that I recall an evening perhaps six months ago when I attended a birthday celebration for that great antique lady, your grandmother. It was a stately affair and a quite congenial assemblage of company. I would like to inquire further concerning one of your relatives who made a distinct impression upon me that evening. I believe I shared a glance with your cousin, Elizabeth. She cut a most elegant figure, although I did not presume to dance with her, or to speak with her directly, as I was not certain if my advances would be welcomed by her or by your esteemed family, whom I have taken to my bosom as my own.
Would it be possible for you to arrange some circumstance in which I might one more be given the privilege of Elizabeth’s company? I propose this only to you, Reginald, and would not presume upon our friendship but I know that you will keep this in deepest confidence. Of course, if I have trespassed upon your trust by proposing this to you, let me know and I will speak no more of it.
The matter will be entirely closed between us, as I will forever remain your most faithful and humble friend and servant,
You simply cannot imagine my delight in receiving an invitation from you this afternoon – a mere two months since last I wrote. A picnic on the lawn at Pemberley! I am delighted to accept dearest cousin and, although it is three months hence, I shall think of it as twelve short weeks ‘til then. I have already begun the embroidery on a thank-you pillowcase that I will present to you at Pemberley!
In the interim, please rest assured that Aunt Miranda and I will bake some delights for the occasion. Could you by some stratagem ascertain whether Mr. Masterton enjoys sugar cookies? Or might he prefer pie? And if so, what flavor pie would be preferred? I apologize for being so forward, but a proper pie of the appropriate flavor is always a picnic favorite. If sugar cookies are desired, our family recipe awaits. Aunt Miranda and will put our heads together to determine the proper recipes for the day. Please answer me by return post, as I am desirous of getting these important preparations underway within the month.
I remain, forever, your most affectionate,
Thank you so very much for the wonderful picnic at Pemberley last week. What a marvelous day, my dearest friend! It was a particular delight to meet so many of your friends and family. Of course, I fervently hope to have made an impression upon your cousin, the incomparable Elizabeth!
Shall I describe in detail the way the sun fell upon her magnificent brown locks that day, as we feasted upon her magnificent sugar cookies. How could she have known that sugar cookies are my most favorite dessert? When Eliza’s cookies were presented, I confess I blushed to the root — and this most unseemly from a man of 24. My passion shames, me dearest Reginald.
Of course, your Aunt Miranda came swiftly between us, but before our parting, your cousin and I shared a most promising exchange. Addressing me directly, she inquired if I would like a sugar cookie. To which I replied, “Yes, I would, indeed.” Aunt Miranda then intervened and yet, in that moment, I detected a mutual bond of like-minded souls, sharing a moment of peace amidst the chaos of modern life. My only regret is that, unlike a flower, when pressing a sugar cookie into a book, the result is most unsatisfying. I was unable to consume the entire cookie for fear of losing that part of Elizabeth which is all I have.
But, enough talk of treasured baked goods. Please tell me what you can of your cousin’s feelings. Is there a possibility that she (and her zealous chaperone Aunt Miranda, of course) might accept my invitation to attend a cricket match at Ashwood in three months?
Rather hoping to impress Eliza with my skill as a batsman, I remain, evermore, your passionate and obedient servant,
I write in a fit of nervous passion to share with you the burdens of my heart.
Last month, as you know, Aunt Miranda and I attended Mr. Masterton’s cricket match at Ashwood. She has scolded me repeatedly since then for an unfortunate event which occurred late in the match, when, quite unexpectedly, Mr. Masterton, exhausted from his manly exertions on the pitch, sat with me for but a moment, at which time I offered him my handkerchief to wipe his brow.
I did not mean to be so forward, although I must confess, I devoutly wished him to take it. Father and mother, enraged by Aunt Miranda’s account of this foolish affair, consider my impulsive behavior an affront to family honor, and I am now heartily sorry for my emotional recklessness.
While I admit that I desired Mr. Masterton to accept my kerchief as an innocent token of fond friendship, I have no desire to be assigned to that low class of woman whom we both abhor.
Please visit us at once Reginald. I am sick at heart. Please bring me the comfort that only a cousin’s reassurance can bring.
I remain your most affectionate cousin,
Dearest friend Reginald,
I fear that something dark has come between us. I have not heard from you for three months since the cricket match at Ashwood. I hope you did not think it beastly of me to step off the cricket pitch and pass a moment with your cousin in such a base and sweaty state. The angel Elizabeth offered me her handkerchief, which I impulsively took as a token, feigning the part of a medieval knight tilting at tournament. I shall keep her kerchief about me always with the remnants of the sugar cookie she presented to me at our second meeting: a shrine to her perfect memory.
I can only hope that, by my well-intentioned yet perhaps too brazen public acceptance of Eliza’s token, I have not scandalized your family in some way. Please, alleviate the pain of my heart and let me know posthaste whether I am still welcome in your circle. I fear that if I cannot see Elizabeth again, I know not what I shall do.
Your nearly despairing friend and servant,
Imagine my surprise this morning when a servant delivered the enclosed card from Mr. Masterton. A fine card it is, do you not agree? I share it only under the absolute condition that you return it to me by return post. My servant will wait for it.
Mr. Masterton has asked my permission to allow him to greet me after church next month. This comes a mere four months after his cricket match at Ashwood where I was, I am certain, too forward in offering him my handkerchief. How shall I respond to his request? I am inclined to allow such a meeting – properly chaperoned, of course. But am I progressing too rapidly? Too boldly?
Failing to hear from you, I fear I have committed a most hasty and perhaps desperate act. I ordered my servant to present your angelic cousin with my card, proposing a direct meeting with her after church in two Sundays. Am I too rash? Is this proper? My fervent longing for the company of your cousin is beyond my power to deny or conceal. You must write to me with good counsel within the fortnight, friend. It is urgent.
Has Mr. Masterton gone mad? After church this morning, he appeared before Aunt Miranda and I, requesting a private audience with me. He was disheveled in appearance and quite antic in his manner. What can he be thinking? Aunt Miranda was scandalized and escorted me to our carriage immediately. Is Mr. Masterton quite well? I really do wonder at his behavior today, although I must confess, he did look quite handsome despite his wild and agitated state. I flatter myself to think that I have moved him to such an extreme.
I beg you to send Mr. Masteron the tea cookies that I have packaged with this letter. I am told they are good medicine for colic. Please send me more news of Mr. Masterton by return post.
I write to you from the bow of a great ship, as I sail to India with a heavy heart. I will remain on the sub-continent for several years, searching my lost soul for the reason why I approached your lovely cousin without an escort after church two weeks ago. I am at a loss as to why I confronted her in such a heedless and unbridled manner.
I cannot imagine that my darling, sweet Elizabeth could find it within her sweet soul to forgive me for being such an impetuous fool. I can only say that it was my passion for her that possessed me at that moment, driving away all reason and propriety. It is, indeed, a weakness with me that I sometimes act from my heart and not my head; but rest assured that my feelings and intentions with respect to your lovely and divine cousin are of the purest and most honorable stuff, as befits a lady of her station, breeding and beauty, inward and outward.
Why, oh why, did I behave in such a rash and heedless manner? That such behavior should have been on display in a place of worship, I am profoundly ashamed. In penance for my impetuosity, I have taken a position with a pious missionary, the very Reverend Thomas Jacob Dimplethorpe, who, while we labor together among the impoverished heathen in India, will attempt to purify me, and make me, once again, worthy of numbering myself among your divine cousin’s suitors.
Until my spiritual renewal is attained, I remain your most humble, and faithful servant,
I write to inform you of some very troublesome circumstances concerning your cousin Elizabeth, who has, apparently, not eaten in the last two weeks.
Elizabeth has taken to bed with the vapors, increasingly weak and apparently unable to speak or describe what ails her, although I surmise that her fading condition is the handiwork of that imbecile Masterton fellow, whom I chased away after his abominably boorish behavior after church last month. Has the man no breeding at all? Fie on him!
Now, I have learned that this dimwit Masterton has sailed off to India with that egregious charlatan Dimplethorpe to attend to some savages. Off to India? I fear for that blasted corner of our noble Empire with Masterton and Dimplethorpe in cahoots.
You have truly bungled this situation, Reginald. And now, poor Lizzie is wasting away as I write. If we are unable to fetch this moronic Masterton fellow within the year, I truly fear for Eliza’s wellbeing. Fix this, Reginald. Do what you must, but do not compromise your dear, suffering cousin by disclosing to Masterton the source of her anxiety.
Your long suffering Aunt Miranda
I have spent, as you know, the past year on the Indian subcontinent, where I have done my best with the reverend Dimplethorpe to alleviate what suffering I have seen. I have taken this duty upon myself in penance for my heedless and precipitous behavior at church and at cricket so long ago.
My tenure here will be resolved in another year. I pray that you will honor me with the privilege of an audience upon my return. I do not dare to hope that I am deserving of your company, but I devoutly wish to share a word or two with you, and upon bended knee, make my most humble apologizes.
Your most humble, penitent and contrite suitor,
I have received a most troubling letter from our mutual friend, Roland Masterton. He appears to have gone off to India out of a misplaced notion that he has in some way offended me. Where did he get this idea? Was it from you dear cousin? Or is this some mischief on the part of our Aunt Miranda?
Please reassure Mr. Masteron that, while his behavior toward me has been admittedly, and dare I say flatteringly, impulsive at times, I am inclined to forgive him for his lapses of etiquette at cricket and after church two years ago. I only wish now that Aunt Miranda had not come so hastily to the defense of my honor, and that I had taken a moment to hear what Mr. Masteron had come to church service to tell me. He has certainly redeemed himself in selfless devotion to his missionary work with the Reverent Dimplethorpe, whom Aunt Miranda also despises, despite his sterling reputation among the more devout in our congregation.
I am wasting away, Reginald. You must appeal to Mr. Masterton and speed his return to London. It is most urgent. I must see him within 5 years!
I sail home within the decade! In the meantime, I continue to keep a treasured talisman at my breast: your sacred sugar cookie.
I am joyous at the prospect of Mr. Masterton’s return from his long journeys.
3 years! How time flies!
Our ship did founder as we rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and I shall not be home for many months.
Until then, I must suffer the low company of gypsies and pirates. Pray, give me news of Lizzie, or, between you and me, my friend, I shall drain the rum from every tavern on the Cape and forget myself in the bosom of a naked savage.
Please deliver my enclosed note to Elizabeth personally.
Your bumbling servant arrived very early this morning, confused and juggling two envelopes from Mr. Masterton — and unable to remember which of the two was for me. Alas, I opened a message clearly meant for you. I do not believe that Mr. Masterton intended me to read of his intentions to drink Cape Town dry of rum! Or to fornicate with the local savages!
What fever could have possessed him to describe his intentions in these brutish terms? I will take to bed until you can explain to me what has possessed Mr. Masterton to scribble such low thoughts either to you — or to me! I am most disappointed and grievously compromised.
Your servant has tragically bungled the delivery of my missive to your cousin. She has clearly received the wrong letter. And now, I am mortified to learn that my angel Elizabeth regards me as nothing more than a worthless, philandering rum sot!
That you would entrust such a sacred task to a nincompoop is an affront I cannot bear. I have no choice but to challenge you, Reginald, to a duel.
I am sure that you will give me satisfaction on the Ashwood cricket pitch at daybreak next Tuesday.
What can you be thinking to fight a duel with poor Mr. Masterton? It is most ungracious to welcome home a man who has been saving heathen souls in India by dueling with him.
I have dispatched letters to Mr. Masterton via my servant that shall be waiting for him at the docks upon his return. I hope he is not too diminished by his wanton consumption of rum, which was, no doubt aggravated by your brutish handling of our delicate correspondence.
Never write to me again.
I write to you as I lie upon the field of honor. Reginald’s shot was swift. His aim was true. It struck me in the heart.
Reginald’s bullet would surely have been my doom, had I not kept at my breast these past four years your fossilized sugar cookie. I send it now to you as a token – with Reggie’s bullet still lodged within! You have saved my life, Elizabeth. Fly to me my dearest and we shall be wed!
It was joyous to see you looking so well at Reginald’s funeral two weeks ago, though propriety would not allow us to share more than a glance on that unhappy occasion. You did, after all, kill my cousin.
I look forward to our reunion after a suitable mourning period of 5 years. ‘Tis but a moment ‘til then.
And now, that same relationship as it might play out today…
LIZZIE: Hey, Reg. Great party. Hot guy.
ROLAND: Yo, Reggie! Who’s the hottie? Great boobs.
LIZZIE: Tweeted me. I’m sexting.
ROLAND: Her pics are hot. Asked her to chill. Possible BJ.
ROLAND: She flaked.
ROLAND: What a waste…
LIZZIE & ROLAND: Of an entire hour!
3 responses to “A Retro Romance…”
Love this sketch! Superb writing! Please post the tag of modern day texting equivalent. Please, I can’t wait!
You’re absolutely right, Stew. How could I forget the tag? I shall do it forthwith!