Another etching by Henri Boutet done sometime in the 1880’s-90’s. This one is called Discovery and the accompanying line at the bottom reads (very loosely translated from French): “She attended a ball. It was successful and now the love letters are flying in!” IMG_0222

Although I’ve been unable to tackle huge chunks of The Kitchen Mistress I have been doing small things like writing the love letters that Aleksey sends to Katherine even though he’s right there in town. Was he particularly romantic? We would certainly characterize that behavior as romantic in today’s world.

But a man could not pick up the phone and call to talk to the woman he met the night before in 1890. Nor was every man automatically invited to pop in for tea the next day. So with his heart pounding for the babe he danced with three times the night before, he wrote letters. I suppose the one sure way make sure a woman knew what a man thought about her was to get it down on paper and into her hands before the rest of her suitors did.

Of course, tightly laced rules and manners loosened up for people who did not run in high society circles. Women and men in “lower” segments of society might have run into each other heading to the mines and the dress shop. They might have been freer to converse than the courting couples who were closely supervised by their leisure class elders. Some of those boundaries are explored in The Kitchen Mistress as Katherine and Aleksey rekindle their prairie friendship.