I found this letter-writing handbook in the boxes of books from my grandmother’s attic (amidst dozens of “good manners” books), and it’s an amazing read, not only because it is wonderfully outdated, but also because it was clearly written for an aristocratic public. Several of the return addresses in the template letters are to French castles—and there are lots of helpful templates for every situation you might encounter in your daily life, such as:
1. Asking Prince Napoléon to be your daughter’s godfather:
2. Writing a recommendation letter for little orphan girls:
3. Addressing your condolences to a friend who just lost her fortune:
4. Writing about your statue which is about to be erected:
5. Writing to a friend whose scheming talent you need to arrange a marriage:
There is a template letter for asking a father for his daughter’s hand in marriage, the second paragraph of which starts with “My notary is at your disposal to provide you with exact information regarding the state of my fortune”:
There are also template letters for more ordinary people and situations.
6. How to write to a lady if you are a servant girl:
7. How to announce the creation of a new corset if you are a dressmaker:
8. How to properly thank a friend for writing you a volume of poetry:
9. Quoting word for word: ‘How to end a letter in which one indulged in grim and austere considerations’
10. Ditto: ‘How to end a discouraged letter’: “I would ask you, sir, to preserve me your friendship which I would like to secure as I give up on everything else.”
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Steve loves games, always has, since he was a little boy and he went round his friends house and they played board games after dinner with his parents.
His parents never let him play, never even bought a single one into the house. Didn’t really ever agree with spending time with their son, as a family. Occasionally the nanny would sneak one in for Steve, play with him for a couple of hours. She introduced him to hide and seek one day and he loved it. Couldn’t get enough of the hiding and the finding. He’d been good at it, she couldn’t ever find him when he hid behind the curtains. Always made him laugh when she was behind the sofa. But then one day she never came back, and Steve was left with memories and a longing and no one to play any games with anymore.
And then one day he’s thrown into babysitting a couple of his friends brothers and their friends and they’re playing Dungeons and Dragons. And they invite Steve to join. And his heart swells because he hasn’t played any games in over 12 years and someone is smiling at him and asking him to play. So he sits down and listens. Learns.
It wasn’t like any kind of game he’d played before. It was a lot harder, had a lot more instructions and seemed to go on forever. He didn’t quite get the hang of it the first few times they played, but slowly, with a little help from Dustin, he managed to start understanding how to get further than he ever did before.
He was their go to babysitter before he knew it. Even considered them as friends. D&D was their favourite game but they played others, had days were they’d rifle through the cupboards of whoever’s house they were at and find the first thing that didn’t make them groan with boredom. It took a long time for him to explain why he didn’t have any in his house when that was the chosen residence of their carefully planned destruction for the day. They’d all looked shocked, couldn’t understand why. He’d shown them to the pool and ordered pizza to stop the questions.
Then one day Max’s brother turned up to pick her up before they were done. Steve had told him he needed to wait, that they were at the end of a D&D run they’d started 4 days ago and hadn’t had the time to finish. Billy had protested until Steve invited him in.
Billy had watched on, laughed at the way Steve got so into a game he was playing with a bunch of kids. But the way Steve smiled without a care in the world pulled at Billy’s heart. He’d never seen him like that. He’d never been around him long enough to realise he didn’t need to pick a fight with him. The guy was just sweet and kind. Billy couldn’t hate him, he’d never really begun to.
And then Billy starts turning up a little early every time they meet, saying it’s fine, tells them to finish the game, that he doesn’t mind waiting. And really he means watching, because he can never tear his eyes away from Steve’s smile, from the passion flowing out for whichever silly little game they’ve got spread out before them.
It kind of just becomes ritual that Billy will be there with them, waiting for them to finish so he can take Max home. So Steve invites him to stay one day, when he’s dropping Max off. Billy brushes it off at first, tells Steve he isn’t childish like the rest of them. But Steve just raises an eyebrow and Billy walks into the living room and stays for the rest of the day. And then the next time, and the time after that, until the weekly games night just isn’t the same without him there.
And years later, when Billy has moved in with Steve and they’ve been dating for longer than they haven’t. When their weekly board games nights have become board games weekends, when they’ve all been round to the Harrington-Hargrove household on a Sunday and played Twister with varying degrees of success and Hopper has gone home with a twisted back, Joyce telling him he should never have agreed to play in the first place, Will, Jonathan and El laughing in the back seat, Nancy and the rest of the kids making their own ways home. Billy looks at Steve and tells him to go hide. Steve just looks at him, laughs, says they’re too old for Hide and Seek, but inside his heart is beaming. He knows that his nanny had always pretended not to find him even though his toes would always stick out beneath the hem of the curtains, knows she hid behind the sofa every single time because it made him laugh, made him feel like he was winning. After all of these years he still loves it. It’s still his favourite. And Billy starts counting down from 100 and Steve knows he’s serious, runs out of the living room with the broadest grin on his face.
Steve considers the sofa in the study, leather bound and high backed. But there was a gap beneath it. Too obvious.
He wanders into the kitchen, considers ducking behind the counter. But all Billy would have to do was walk in to see him, so he walked further.
He went to open the back door, considered standing behind the shed. But it was cold and it was dark. The indoors was more appealing.
He ran upstairs, well aware that half of his time was gone. 100 seconds seemed so long until that was all you had.
He ducked into the bathroom, stepped into the shower and pulled the curtain across in front of him. But it rustled too loudly, Billy might have heard that.
He dashed into the spare room, the one that Dustin crashes in far too often. There was a shoe on the floor and he tripped, left the room incase Billy could tell he was there too.
He ran into their room, his old room from when he was a small kid. He considers just hiding under the covers, waiting for Billy to find him there. But he would be seen far too quickly, would shorten the game.
He climbs off the bed and heads towards the wardrobe, thinking he might just duck in there. But then he sees the curtains and something in his heart tells him he can’t turn away. So he curls in behind them, the same one’s that had been in here years, and stops. Waits. Knows his toes are poking out just beyond the hem.
He hears Billy yell he’s coming, the adrenaline kicking in like it did when he was 4.
Billy keeps calling his name, for 5 minutes, telling him he’s going to find him. Steve keeps smiling. He feels young again.
Then Billy calls his name again and Steve starts to feel his smile drop, his heart break. The volume and the distance of Billy’s calls hadn’t changed since the first. He hadn’t moved. He was still in the same place. He wasn’t looking for Steve at all.
Steve leaves it another 5 minutes, hopes that he’s wrong, that Billy will actually come looking.
But he doesn’t, and then the calls stop. So Steve leaves his hiding place and heads downstairs, ready to give Billy a mouthful because how dare he ruin such a special memory for him.
But when Steve walks through the door into the living room all of his arguments fly straight from his lips and tears start welling up in his eyes instead.
Because there, in front of him, one knee knelt on the floor, the other up in a right angle, was Billy Hargrove, holding a ring out in front of him, a massive smile lighting up his face.
Will you marry me? was left hanging in the air between them, Steve trying to fight back the tears as he fell down in front of Billy and nodded his head and said the word ‘yes’ over and over again.
And they kissed and they cried and Billy put the ring on Steve’s finger and they sat on the floor together and admired it, their hearts bursting with happiness, beating an excited rhythm in time with the other.
And then Billy asks Steve if he was hiding behind the curtain and Steve smiles, lets a tear slip down his cheek.
Because he loves games, but he loves Billy Hargrove just a little bit more.
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