Chapter 35: A Letter to Charlotte

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Dear Charlotte,

I have asked Father Sean Simmons to write this letter to you on my behalf as I find myself unequal to the task. How fitting is it not? You were my hands as a botanical artist for the past two years and now, this brave man of faith, is here for me, writing these words in my last hours. He has administered to me the last rites of our Catholic faith and now I am ready to go Charlotte, on that last and greatest of adventures. Do not mourn me because the truth is, I go peacefully. It is my time.

I have asked Father Sean to write this letter because I need you to know something. You have not been just "my hands" for the past couple of years, but I realise now, that you have become – my heart! All my discoveries, achievements, publications and any fame I might have come by in my career - are all like so much drivel when I sit it beside the great privilege and joy I have found in our relationship over the past two years. You are the child I never had, the daughter I never knew I wanted or needed!

I must once again beg your forgiveness for oftentimes being blind to the great treasure I have in you, and running always after the opinion of history which I stupidly thought was the measure of my life. This, I believe, lies at the root of my greatest failing as a man and as your friend – my failure to speak up in your defence when you were unjustly tried for the theft of Lady Watts' ruby necklace. I have no excuse. I am a miserable human being for allowing the greatest injustice to be perpetrated against my dearest friend. I do not deserve your forgiveness, but I do regret, more than I now find bearable, my failure to act on your behalf when you most needed it!

I now bequeath to you Charlotte, all my possessions and worldly goods including all manuscripts and intellectual property of whatever kind, to be used or disposed of, as you see fit. I have asked the Commandant of this French garrison and his lieutenant to independently witness this clause of my letter, in the hopes that, should my wishes be tested in a court of law, this gift to you will endure. It is my last will and testament. You are my sole beneficiary.

Finally, a personal note my dear. My whole life has been driven by a sole passion – a career which has spanned the globe and consumed me completely. But such a life - if you don't mind me saying so Charlotte, as I say it as a father to a daughter - is not the life for you. You are warm hearted, generous, forgiving and noble-spirited. You will need people to love you and be loved by you. Open your heart to love when it finds you Charlotte. It may not come again and it is, in the humble opinion of this old man, the one thing in life that really matters.

May God bless you and keep you,

Henri Le Bas. 

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