I’m posting a section a day of my epistolary romance novella The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo. You can read it online for free here (click on the “Perilous Life of Jade Yeo” category to access the other posts), or you can buy the ebook at Smashwords or Amazon. The ebook contains the complete 23,000-word novella.
Thursday, 18th November 1920
Our last day in Paris. Hardie took me out to lunch, then we went for a walk in the Jardin du Luxembourg. It was very very cold, but startlingly pretty despite the weather: orderly European gardens with wide gravel paths, statues, flowerbeds. It would be lovely in the summer. (How European it makes me feel to write that!)
“It is nice to meet outside a hotel room for once,” I remarked.
“I am fittingly reproached,” said Hardie. “I have not been very gallant, have I?”
“No. But you have been very instructive,” I said to comfort him, but Hardie was not listening.
“My dearest, if you would come to me in London, preferably auntless, there would be no need for these sordid assignations in hotels. Diana and I would welcome you into our own home–”
“Oh no no no,” I said, alarmed. “Of course I shan’t see you in London. I have been perfectly happy with the sordid assignations. I simply meant that it is nice to see these gardens, and not be cooped up in a hotel all day. I’ve not had many chances to see the city. Aunt Iris doesn’t much like to go out for anything besides shopping.”
Hardie looked away, so I knew I had hurt his feelings. For a celebrity he has an awful excess of sensibility, and is very anxious about one’s opinion of him. Perhaps it comes of being an artist.
“I am sorry,” I said. “I like you and Diana well enough, but I should find it very odd to continue my relations with you in a sort of three-person marriage. I had a conventional upbringing, you see.”
Hardie’s expression wobbled between affront and amusement, but finally settled on a smile.
“‘Well enough’! Heartless little animal,” he said. “To fall back on your ‘conventional upbringing’ now, when for the past week you have been–”
“Yes, yes, but that was all for the purposes of artistic development,” I said. “I thought it would be an educational experience. It is all grist to the mill. You ought to know, being a writer.”
Hardie made a face.
“May we at least be friends on your return to London, little Caliban?” he said. “Or would that occasion too much disruption to your continuing artistic development?”
“Friends, yes,” I said cautiously. “But you know I don’t like parties, or clever people in large groups.”
“If you will come to tea with me and Diana once in a while, I shall provide buns and biscuits and beverages, and never invite anyone clever at all,” promised Hardie.
He is something of a cad, but he can be rather sweet for all that. It is funny to think of how dazzled and shy I was when I first met him. I am not in the least intimidated by him now, but perhaps that is what happens when you have seen someone in the nude. I felt I had been bullying him enough, so I gave him a kiss on the cheek when we parted.
I shouldn’t object to seeing him socially, and I would like to talk to Diana and find out what she really thinks of things. But I am happy to put a period to our romance.
It has given me lots of material, and one feels one understands some things better now. I shouldn’t have liked to have been a virgin my whole life. But I do not love Hardie even one little bit, and if I don’t love him, it might have been immoral to continue fornicating past the point that it was educational.
Besides, my mother and father didn’t sit with me for afternoons and afternoons teaching me my times tables for me to become a concubine.
I should have said that to Hardie! Imagine his face. I’m sure he would never think to describe me as his concubine, or his previous lovers as members of his harem. But all the high-flown poetising about passion overcoming staid convention in the world cannot change the fact that very few women harbour girlish dreams of becoming second wife. My grandmother was a second wife and she thought it was rubbish, and my grandmother was a very sensible woman.