A Letter from Vienna
Letter from Charles Chipping
Burgher Platz, Vienna
July 24, 1896
Dear Miss Kathy,
I am writing from Vienna, having already endured one full week without you and dreading the next two.
Vienna is now the dreariest city in the world.
It's been a long seven days since you've been here, Miss Kathy, and for all I know you may have forgotten all about me already. I may be nothing but a distant memory, just a dull school-teacher who was too shy to dance a waltz and too awkward to ride a bicycle. By now you've settled back into your regular life in Bloomsbury, working in Miss Flora's bookshop, helping out at the church, and perhaps occupying your time with a young man who cares for you and makes you happy.
If you have indeed forgotten about me, Miss Kathy, then there's really no need to finish reading this letter. It contains nothing but the ramblings of an old fool with a broken heart.
But if you insist upon reading further then I must tell you at once that those two weeks with you were the most glorious weeks of my entire life.
I am in love with you, Miss Kathy, madly in love with you. I love you with all my heart and with every fibre of my being. You are in my thoughts at every moment. I see you around every corner of Vienna, stepping off every curb, walking in every park, and coming through every doorway. You must believe me when I tell you that I spend most of my time walking through candy shops and hat stores and thinking about you.
I was fascinated with you as we sat together on our mountain in the Alps. I thought of you as I walked through the valleys and passes of Switzerland. I daydreamed of you as I hung over the railing of the ferryboat into Vienna. And then I rejoiced every morning as I awoke to the thought of spending another day with you.
Over and over again I've remembered our last moments together on the railway platform, and I've punished myself over and over again for not making my feelings clear to you right then and there.
I'm afraid I have very little to offer you, other than quiet days at an ancient boys' school and quiet evenings with the happiest man in the world.
If I don't hear from you, Miss Kathy, then I'll understand completely how you feel. But I hope you'll always remember that you've brought a joy to my life that I had never known, and you've given me memories that will stay with me forever.
Yours ever,
Charles "Chips" Chipping
Letter from Katherine Ellis
34 High St, Bloomsbury, London
July 27, 1896
My Dearest Chips,
Oh Chips, I love you too!
The postman knew that I was hoping for a letter from Vienna, so when it came he brought it directly to Flora's bookshop. I was so thrilled that I knocked over a jar of ink and two stacks of books!
Oh, Chips, for the next two weeks I'll be completely useless in the bookshop, but then I've already been of little use to Flora since the day we returned. All day long Flora finds me leaning against a shelf with a book in one hand, a pencil in the other, and a faraway look in my eyes. I've been ignoring customers, mis-shelving books, and daydreaming about you and Vienna and the waltz and the champagne and the whipped cream and all the wonderful sights and memories that you and I shared.
I've written you dozens of letters, Chips, all of them in my mind. Sometimes in those letters I've admitted straight out how I feel about you, or I try to make you jealous by speaking of some young man named Freddy or Willy or David. And sometimes I just make clever smalltalk while trying to drop a hint that I want to see you again. In fact, I've even considered asking you to recommend a history of Brookfield for a customer! Oh, Chips, the limits to which a foolish young girl will go!
I remember your face on the train platform that day. I couldn't decide if you were torn with indecision or just anxious to finally be rid of me. I almost gave you a kiss as I boarded the train, to make it perfectly clear to you how I felt and to encourage you to do the same. Flora was ruthless with me on the ride home, for she had been looking forward to planning our wedding at Saint Raphael's Church here in Bloomsbury, but I had disappointed her by letting you "get away".
Oh, my dearest Chips, I'm talking like a silly schoolgirl now, not like the sophisticated young lady that I ought to be, the one who has climbed the tallest mountains in Switzerland, who has travelled the great cities of Europe, and who has waltzed in the famous ballrooms of Vienna. You must now decide if a distinguished schoolteacher at Brookfield can allow himself to marry such an absurd and brazen young woman and then inflict her upon his unsuspecting students and colleagues.
Oh, I hope you can, Chips! I am absolutely beside myself with joy! You are the sweetest and most wonderful man I've ever met, and I want more than anything to live the rest of my life with you at Brookfield.
Write soon to tell me that you still love this ridiculous creature that I've become. I'll be here in Bloomsbury leaning against a bookshelf, ready to celebrate with a bottle of champagne and a waltz around the shop with Flora.
With all my love,
Kathy Ellis