During her separation from her husband, before the divorce hearings in December, Helen Pairman (whose story is told in the 13 East Preston Street post) wrote a few letters that her defence entered into evidence, which meant that they were printed in newspapers across the country. In the end, it was decided not to discuss them in court, so Helen’s private correspondence was revealed to her friends and neighbours (and, now, you) to no purpose.
June 12th, 1876
My Dear Husband—I implore of you to forgive me for my imprudence, but do not continue to think that I am guilty of the crime who have accused me of. I am not. For our dear children’s sake, take me to our home again where I promised to be a good and faithful wife, and devoted to you and our children for life … I own my imprudence and my folly, but I am not guilty.
June 25th, 1876
John, for the love of God, send down my children to me, If only for five minutes, if you hope for mercy here or hereafter. Jack, Jack, my heart is breaking. Oh! Send them down to me. Send Alick and the baby, for pity’s sake.
July 28th, 1876
Dear Jack—Forgive me calling you by that name after all that has happened, but I cannot help it. Perhaps you will think this all sham, but God knows it is not. Forgive me trying to see you the other day; my heart was aching to see you, if only for the moment. I do hope you will forgive me for it. I wanted to give you a note I had written, but I could not find courage to do so. Oh! Jack, Jack, how I pity you. I do believe your heart is sore as well as mine. Jack, forgive me all the ill I have done you. My misery is more than I can bear. I do hope God will forgive me for what I am going to do. He knows I cannot help it. I cannot live any longer in the state of misery I am in. I have tried to get something to do, but no one will take me on account of the accusation that is in brought against me … Forgive me, dear Jack, and as you hope for mercy in your dying hour, let me see my wee bairns to-morrow. If it should be wet, let them come on Monday at six. I know you will be in then. Kiss my boys for me.
August 18th, 1876
Dear Jack, for God’s sake don’t be so cruel … I am nearly mad with anxiety … Even you would be satisfied if you could see me now. I am sure you cannot be dead to all feeling. Have some little pity for me … Jack, you do not know what torture I am in night and day. I appeal to your pity. I know your love for me went long ago, so there is no use in appealing to that, although God knows I love you, but there is no use in speaking about that now … Do, Jack, have pity. The children promised to come down themselves, and they never came. Do, do let them come. You do not know what I may have it in my power to do for you someday, and God knows I will gladly do it. I am your wife yet.
PS—Jack, you had no right to take the photograph that you gave me when I was a girl out of my work box. It is mine, and you must return it. It is your photograph I mean; please send it to me.
August 20th, 1876
I have to thank you very much for letting me see my children once again. I have a strong conviction that I have seen them for the last time. I cannot account for it but I feel it. Ah! Jack, be good to my wee boys, and if you can, don’t let them quite forget their mother. Speak to them sometimes about me. Ah! It is hard, hard that another is to have charge of my darlings, and she such an enemy of mine: but I suppose I have forfeited my right to them.
[This is perhaps a reference to Flora McLauchlan, the Pairmans’ maid. Later in the year, during the trial, the defence attempted to suggest that Mr Pairman had allowed Flora to take Mrs Pairman’s place at the dinner table, implying that she had taken her place in bed, too.]
I got your message from Bob, he says you are quite sure of making out your case against me; but so is Begg and Skinner sure of mine against you; they have not the least doubt on the subject.
Now, Jack, I really believe it to, and you see how I am writing against my own interest in doing what I am going to do, but you will accept it as a proof that I DO really love you, and God knows I do, I would not have come to this decision. I give you my promise to withdraw my defence, but I must get a way out of Edinburgh before you make it public. I don’t know what to say to my agent about it. Skinner is from home just now, I do dread his coming home and his influence over me. I MUST get away and hide myself somewhere before they get hold of me again, but how it is to be done I know not: want of funds is the main thing; and although I have told my mother that there is a great necessity for my leaving, she does not seem to see it. I thought I could have helped you by raising money on that house, but Bob tells me that neither you nor I can do that.
God help you, poor Jack; I don’t know what to do. If there was any way I could help you how glad I would be. If you can suggest anything tell Bob he will see you on Wednesday or Thursday night. I have told you just know that I am going to withdraw my defence, so that it may ease your mind; but, for God’s sake, don’t tell your agent or the others will be sure to get hold of it, and I am telling you candidly they have the very greatest influence over me by working on my jealousy about you. They say you have long wanted to get rid of me because you are after another woman, and will marry her directly you get a divorce. Now, you know best yourself whether it is true or not, but God forgive you if it is. I don’t think I can stand it just yet.
Ah! Jack, Jack, my last happiness gone for ever. Oh! if God would only take me away what a relief it would be. I would be at rest then, and you might remember me with a little love. It is dreadful to think that I may have to live for years without anything to live for, and without hope of ever being reunited to you all. You have the children, but I have nothing but memory; but whatever happens to me, whether evil or good, believe that I will ever hold you in loving remembrance. I do think you loved me once, and I will never forget that.
Now, I am going to ask you a favour. Will you let Jackie down to see me to-morrow before he goes away? He can easily make a message down by bringing my paper shapes — they are in the draught-board box and in the work-bag under the table. Do let him come, dear Jack.
When I leave Edinburgh in a few days, I will never come back. I have suffered too much pain here ever to wish it, and my heart is longing to see my boys once more. I must ask you once more to forgive me all the ill I have brought on you. May God bless you and my children, now and always. Think of me with as little harshness as you can, if ever you think of me at all; and believe me yours till death.
(signed) Helen Pairman
PS—Will you give Jackie the enema in the box, as I need it just now. H.P.
[On 29 September, the following month, Helen wrote to Mr J Robertson, her husband’s agent, with a formal offer to withdraw her defence and spare everyone the trouble of a court case. The suggestion was that she would agree to this if Mr Pairman allowed her access to the children. The offer was rejected.]