You’ve talked a lot about living like a decadent widow, and yet Richard lives!

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Adelia! Darling! Kisses. You are beautiful, as always. I would like to know your secret! It’s really too much, too much unfair how bad going black is on you. It always makes me look like a perfect ghoul.

Where did you keep yourself, you bad guy? You have? Wonderful. I find the seaside terribly invigorating, don’t I? I don’t even mind coming home to find sand in my jewelry. It is always reminiscent of pearls, I think, and of appreciating what one has.

I find a great consolation that my Jaspeth never called me semi-precious stones. We sometimes see women in pearls and amethysts, don’t we? The poor brave little darlings. I guess you have to pity them, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. A bare neck is always more attractive than one surrounded by mediocrities. But listen to me, chatting, as I’m so desperate to hear about every little thing you’ve done since the last time we met.

If you forgive me for saying it, I have been absolutely mesmerized by every last update on widow life! You bring such glamor to the occupation. Other women, you could say their husbands are dead, but only you have made widowhood an art. I can’t go a day, it seems, without hearing about your sternly chic new gloves, your contemplative retreats in Villefranche-sur-Mer, resetting family diamonds in jets – everyone, honey, but simply everyone said mourning made you. What glamor!

Not the merry widow, of course, but mysterious, distant, fragile, cool, like an iceberg in a hat. I was told you were all the rage in some fashionable circles. Girls who only hung out last season with husbands started dropping veiled hints about poison in port bottles and longingly talking about hunting accidents, and it’s all thanks to you. Their voices all take on the same sepulchral tones. It is quite remarkable.

Call me back, Adelia, my darling, I have Phone powers of memory weakened these days, I’m afraid – is that a lock of Richard’s hair you take with you in this charming little locket? Ah, Richard, he could afford to give it so easily. What unexpected luck for you, this widowhood turned out to be such a social triumph. I am simply struck with envy and, of course, the greatest grief. Tell me, which of his ships was he piloting when they were hit by this terrible storm? Was it the Tidefall? Or the Ridotto?

I thought so! Thank you, you have allayed my worries perfectly, as you always do. A fortress in a storm, Adelia, that’s what I’ve always called you. Oh, my dear, I hope it wasn’t in bad taste. I’m only talking about metaphorical storms, darling. However, I fear losing my mind. Because what do you think I saw when I was in Sanremo last Thursday, if not the Ridotto, anchored in the port, complete with crew and a captain who could have been Richard’s twin?

I said pretty much the same thing, Adelia! That’s why, of course, I hardened myself and walked down and asked her bluntly, because otherwise I wouldn’t know a moments peace for the rest of the visit. Well he denied it at first, but I was sure you would like to know, because if he was Richard, he must have played a terribly cruel trick on you, and whatever anyone says about me, I’m a real lioness when it comes to my friends, especially a close friend. So of course I insisted on seeing the ship’s manifesto, and at that point it all came out.

I was surprised, I have to tell you! I berated him in no uncertain terms, you know, not only for being a stealthy but also for docking in Sanremo without paying me a call. Everyone who goes through Sanremo gives me a phone call; I’m as much of an institution there as the casino – and you won’t believe what he told me, Deels, my dear, but he claimed that you knew exactly where he was all the time. Isn’t that the strangest thing? Not only that Richard should be alive, I mean, but that you should have known since all this time that you went on and dyed all your hats black.

Actually – and forgive me, honey, if this frankness hurts you – but if we’re absolutely right, nothing of your several ex-husbands have passed away, haven’t they? Neither Richard, nor Thormund, nor Charles? Everything is fine, in fact, and rather prosaically alive? Which I am afraid means that you are not a widow of any kind, and none of the men you married have ever disappeared under fascinating and mysterious circumstances, and you are not yourself. nothing more than a divorcee like all of us! It’s almost a shame, really, although of course I’m very happy that Richard didn’t drown after all, because I’m so love you. But I’m afraid you might look very washed out in this season’s colors now that we all know you aren’t allowed to wear black. Very washed out indeed.

Oh, my dear, I certainly didn’t mean to offend. She left pretty quickly, didn’t she? I certainly hope this is not the case ruin she socially.


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