I won’t repeat myself by saying how much I enjoyed your company (which I did) or how I’ll miss you until your next appearance (which I will) or how I convey my availability to help your family however I may (which I do). Instead, I think I’ll beguile you with a story. A very dull, domestic sort of one about how I made the acquaintance of pleasure reading.
As you know I married young. You might have guessed that I was a chatty girl inclined towards noise and giggling and trained to natter on in fashionable style for hours on end, and told that this was something that every man not only wanted, but welcomed. My poor Nolan hadn’t the heart to break it to me that he was not among the admirers of the chatty for nearly a year. Instead he first suffered, then hid, then became cross until I cried. (In those days I cried rather than became cross. I leave it to you to say whether my current tactics show much improvement.)
The poor man finally explained that his ears could only take so much before they wore out, but he liked company well enough and found the sight and presence of me quite lovely and comforting. So a bargain was struck: the parlour rules. At table, I could talk to him all I liked. I got the dining room, and he’d play along like a good sport. He got the parlour. In the parlour, if he wished to chat, he’d chat, and if he tired of talk, I’d not take offense if he asked me to let him be. Should he wish to show me affection, he might, but I would not reach for him uninvited while we were there. We’d keep quiet company. It sounds rather harsh, put like that, but it was strangely freeing to be allowed to be with a person and not be responsible for keeping talk afloat. My etiquette master would have had kittens had she known.
So there we were, bookends of an evening, he with his scraps and sketches and colors, and I left for the first time in my life with time that was my own. You see, the time we ladies fill in the mornings when we visit each other only looks as if it were our own; our embroidery is very much about show and spectacle, and every stitch is remarked upon and made to convey impressions. A lady’s world is built of woven illusions and whispers.
At first, I dutifully made baby clothes, but that became increasingly ridiculous for obvious reasons. Then I tried charity projects, but I felt dreadfully dull with my hands going and my mouth stopped. My flirtation with music did not long endure, and the less said about the watercolor fiasco, the better. Nolan finally took pity and found me a volume of folk tales, which took up alternating space with my amateur tapestry efforts. And here we are.
You are not Nolan, of course. But perhaps his parlour rules might interest you? You seem a man in dire need of a parlour.