Forever Yours

15 June 1858

Dear Robert,

I see not much has changed these twenty-three years. Still you have that astonishing capacity for kindness which I remember from our youth. I do not deserve your forgiveness, let alone your apology. You were well within your right to leave me as you did last month and to ignore that letter I desperately sent after you. It was wrong of me to let you suffer all those years, knowing how I troubled your mind and yet doing nothing to ease such worry—it was perfectly cruel.

I feel owe it to you to detail the circumstances which led to my failure to respond to all the letters your sent by in those first few years after we left Langford Academy. What follows is explanation of the major events which followed our parting in 1835.

On that fateful day in March of 1835, we parted ways in the morning, neither of us knowing it would be two decades before we met again. While you went off to morning classes, I was called to the headmaster’s office, where I was met by the headmaster himself, several cross-looking professors, and in the center of their menacing circle, my wicked older brother. He had exposed our relationship to the faculty of the school. Naturally, I was portrayed as the predator and you as a victim of my lust. I was given no opportunity to defend myself, simply told that I should pack my belongings and be prepared to leave the school immediately. Under the watchful eyes of my brother, I did as instructed, noticing he packed his trunk as well. This, I believe was one aspect of his plan to expose us he had not anticipated: he was made to leave the school as well, for fear that he may spread the scandalous secret of what had happened between you and me.

That very afternoon we boarded a train to Whitehall, and we arrived home just in time for supper. While Damien was welcomed home by sympathetic parents, who lamented that their brilliant eldest son had been brought down by rumors attached to his shameless little brother, I was turned away. My father awaited us in the entryway when we arrived home, and when I stepped cautiously up to the door behind my brother, he looked at me and said,

“You are no son of mine. Now you get the hell off my property before I call the sheriff, you filthy sodomite!”

And with that he slammed the door in my face. I have not seen him nor my mother since.

That night I slept in the train station, and early the next morning, I gathered what little money I had a bought a ticket back to Langford, arriving that evening. For the next three days I took a room at Charlie’s tavern, and Charlie, bless his heart, refused to accept any payment I offered him. On my fourth morning there, Charlie presented me at dinner with two letters. A man, who based on Charlie’s description was my very own father, had hand delivered them to the tavern that very morning.

To this day I am not sure whether he came all the way to Langford to deliver those as a final act of kindness toward his estranged son, or whether he were simply in the city and desired to rid himself of letters which associated him with a “filthy sodomite”. Instinct tells me it was more likely the latter.

The first of those letters was from you. I read it with a heavy heart and a strong desire to write back, but fear compelled me to keep my silence.
The second was from the headmaster of Langford Academy. He wished to discuss the matter of my expulsion from the school and the “surrounding circumstances”, and urged me to contact a man, I believe his name was Mr. Underwood, who would act as a liaison between us.

That the school was not outright threatening to press criminal charges, but rather desiring to discuss the circumstances with me, came as a surprise, and, though I had my reservations, I contacted this Mr. Underwood.

When we met, Mr. Underwood had another man with him who, evidently, represented the interests of your family. They informed me that neither the school nor the Royal Family would press criminal charges against me, despite irrefutable proof that “immoral acts” had taken place between us, if certain conditions were met. The conditions were that I must leave the city of Langford, that I must never speak to anyone of my relationship with you, and that, most importantly, I may not contact you in any form ever again. If I were to agree to such conditions, I would also be awarded a substantial sum of money, presented as a regular allowance over a course of fifteen years, generously provided by your family.

These two men threatened that if I did not agree to the terms I would be charged for my homosexual activity and sentenced to hard labor. And I knew that even if I survived this punishment, I would emerge from it penniless and disgraced. On the other hand, the deal they offered would keep me out of jail, keep my name from further damage, and provide me money enough to carry on my studies, should I spend it wisely. Thus, I agreed to their terms.

A week after this meeting I left Langford. A few months later, en route to another small town, I passed briefly through Whitehall. Remembering that first letter you had sent me, I stopped out at the post office, where I inquired as to whether any mail had arrived addressed to Frederick A. Burke. As I expected, my father had requested my mail no longer be delivered to his home, and thus it had piled up at the post office in the time I’d been away. I was handed by the post master a stack of three letters, each of them from you. I read them with great pleasure, delighted to read your kind words, but I did not dare respond, for if I did, I would violate my agreement, and if this were discovered your family may act upon threats to charge me for my moral crimes.

Over the next several years, I moved around quite a lot, trying to find a new purpose. In that time, I hit some very low points. I took to drinking heavily, and squandered that allowance from your family, my only income at the time, on liquor and cigars. In these years, I would travel once or twice a year to Whitehall for the sole purpose of visiting the post office. There I would always be greeted by at least one letter from you. I would sit and read your letters, and I would sob to hear what anguish you were in and that I was the cause. Reflecting on it now, I believe I read these letters as a sort of penance. It would have been much easier to put you out of mind—to ignore the letters you continued to send and live in ignorance of the pain I had caused you. Instead, I read them, and I let the guilt weigh heavy upon me. Then, I would drink in a wild hope I may forget my sorrows. In this, I was never successful.

By 1841, I had cleaned myself up. I had cut back on my drinking, though I did not and have not to this day fully broken the habit. I took the money your family continued to pay me, and I enrolled at Langford College. As a part of our agreement, Langford Academy had not disclosed the reasons for my leaving the school and had even falsely marked that I completed my studies there. I was accepted to the college with ease, and with nothing else to give my life purpose, I dedicated myself completely to my studies. I graduated at the top of my class and went on to study law at the same institution for another three years. In 1847 I was awarded my Doctor of Law and I began a clerkship for an attorney in Langford. After two years in that clerkship, I returned to my hometown of Whitehall. By then the rumors of my “immoral conduct” had mostly dispersed, and I was able to start a successful law practice of my own, the same practice at which you found me one month ago. I started that practice in the year 1850, and when I arrived in Whitehall with these intentions, my first act was to visit the post office and ask if, by any chance, any mail addressed to me had arrived there in the ten years I had been gone. I was handed a single letter, written by you nine years before, on the eve of your wedding. That letter brought me great comfort, for it gave the sense that, although you still longed for me, you had moved on with your life, just as I had.

And that, my friend, brings you up to the present. I tell you all this not to defend my actions. If anything, I feel this tale only worsens my position, for it shows that I failed to answer your letters out of a selfish interest in money and reputation. I simply felt I owed you the entire truth of what happened after we parted ways at Langford. Now that you have it, it is left to you to decide whether you may forgive me.

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This is the longest one so far I think... We finally get to hear what Frederick has been up to in all these years! Thanks for reading. Subscribe for more and let me know what you think in the comments.

~ Celia