From an undated scrap written at some time either late in April or early in May of the year 1869:
“I want to kiss Mr. MacBeth. That must be the reason for this new… condition… that I seem to be experiencing. I feel my chest rise and fall more quickly and more heavily every time he is near. My lips become parched. Almost of its own accord, my tongue darts out constantly in order to wet those lips, so dry are they now. I feel no indication of a swoon. No hint of headache. No black abyss appearing around the edges of my vision. Instead, I feel quite exhilarated.
“Mr. MacBeth and I have been alone together many times. We have danced. We have shared intoxicating beverages and talked late into the night. Our hands always grasp one another a bit longer than is appropriate. Our eyes always gaze too deeply for our own respective reputations.
“And still, he has not kissed me! What is a girl to do?
“I had thought that my gift of wine and strawberries would have been indication enough. A giant, flying, soot-spewing, steam-powered dirigible I’d thought it. And behind the blimp, a trailing sign had screamed in bold type: “Kiss me now!”
“No boldness on my part seems to work, however, and so I am left with only one disheartening conclusion: Mr. MacBeth does not want to kiss me.
“It is really no surprise. With so many well-bred ladies and so many mysterious creatures of the night about, I can hardly expect to attract the attention of a gentleman. I offer no dowry. I posses no great beauty or intellect. And no one ever marries the governess.
“It is well for me, too, I suppose. I have no charms with which to draw men. What of it? Certainly, they would not marry me. They would only use me. And who would employ a ruined governess? My short stature, my weak chin, my round belly, and my spindly legs – these flaws are godsends. They protect me from the whims of men. I should feel grateful.
“But I do not feel grateful! I feel not one pint of thankfulness. Instead, I feel only empty and ugly. I long for kisses, for gifts, and for plentiful dance partners. My eyes ache for dark, furtive glances. My skin burns for a lover’s touch. However wrong these feelings may be, they will not be repressed.
“Mr. MacBeth, above all other gentlemen, inspires these feelings in me. Yes, I still feel the sting of jealousy whenever I witness intimacies between Captain Wytchwood and Miss Dragonash, but encroaching on those unrequited emotions are newer, more heated ones. These do not stem from the Captain.
“Mr. MacBeth’s knees are certainly glossy. His thighs are muscular. His blonde curls seem always in need of a good tousle. His mischievous eyes stand ever ready for a friendly wink. Add to these physical attributes his talent as a writer, his charming conversation, and his prowess on the training field, and is it really any wonder that my heart goes into palpitations whenever he draws near? And now we are land partners. Oh, dear!
“Captain Wytchwood often speaks wistfully of what might have been, but he never once indicated regret for choosing someone else. He has found his happiness. No matter what my wishes or regrets (and there are many) may obviously allow, the captain always stands firmly. That is why I answer his queries with questions of my own. I veil my speculations in half-truths, pride triumphing over honesty. No matter how sadly I gaze at the captain or how brazenly he teases or flirts, I shall never favor him with a true portrait of my feelings. “Love” is a word I shall never utter, at least not to him. Nor “jealousy.” Nor “heartbreak.” I am resolved to restrict myself to strict friendship. As time passes, the lies almost become truth, anyway.
“With Mr. MacBeth, everything feels fresh and exciting. The air between us crackles with electric promise. A future seems possible, and no exotic others stand in my way. He admires my talents just as I admire his. We learn from one another. We laugh together. Always, I feel slightly dizzy from the anticipation of what seems likely to come.
“Had my past experiences with men extended beyond a spin or two on the dance floor or some vaguely bawdy talk of which I cannot possibly know the full implications, I would probably be unable to control my impulses. As matters stand, I simply do not know what to do next. A kiss would be the logical choice. A kiss would feel magical, I am sure. I long to give and exchange such a token of affection. Yet fear and maidenly embarrassment render these early days of our attachment (dare I call it that?) sweet, as well. For now, at least, I am spared the need to struggle with shame or inadequacy – let alone the censure of society.
“My breeding and education have prepared me for life as the wife of a gentleman of means and the mother to his children. Now that my circumstances are reduced, I find it difficult to cast off my thoroughly ingrained restrictions in order to embrace the freedoms of the working classes. Poor women can marry where they choose, let virginity be lost when it will. With no property or titles to pass down and no wealth to bring in, neither partner need concern themselves with the wider world. Let poverty be ever so dreadful, it never can rob the poor of love the way it robs us — I mean, the wealthy. If only I could cast off my notions of propriety, I feel I might be very happy.
“But what would happen to me if circumstances were not so happy? A mistress has no rights under the law. As sweet as these early, promise-filled days feel, I worry for my future. Should I give myself to Mr. MacBeth and trust myself to his keeping, he would lie under no obligation to me or to any offspring that may be conceived of our union. I might find myself alone and unprotected, lessened in the eyes of others not only for having taken, but also for having lost my man.
“It is all for naught, anyway, all of this endless speculation. Mr. MacBeth has not kissed me. No man has ever kissed me. Whether I am too ugly or too brazen or too chaste or too anything else, I cannot fathom. Something just seems to chase the young bucks away. I may fantasize and fret all night long, but somewhere in my mind, I always remain sadly certain that the attentions of men are for other women to enjoy.”
* Again, I end abruptly. Forgive me, Diary. When I write on scraps, I seem to forget my manners.