Tuesday, November 3, 2009

November 3, 1779 The servants



Having written last early in the day I could not have know it, but this Wednesday has proven to contain more activity than one may find at the Comedie Francais!

I sat at my dressing table this morning, finished my journal entry around 11am. Usually Marianne and Pauline are already there to assist me, though sometimes it is only Pauline of late, today I was amazed to find myself quite alone. I rang for someone, and by and by Pauline arrived, quite red in the face. I asked why no one was prepared to help me dress, and was perhaps sharper than I meant to be in my tone, for all at once she began to cry in a torrent of apologies and I gathered from her appearance that she had likely been crying already. I am I admit not always sure how to treat those in distress; I try to give to the poor, and consider myself a fair mistress, and though my steward handles most of the income from the estates I do talk to my tenants to find out how they are treated.

At a loss for what to do I invited her to sit down on a chair, which she did, her eyes cast low. I explained patiently that I was not really angry with her, especially as I had no fixed engagements for the day, but that I only found it disappointing that as late as I have grown accustomed to rising no one was available to help me dress. At this she wiped her nose with her hands, and her hands on her apron (a disconcerting habit), and proffered her understanding that I had been very kind to bring her to Paris with me and she would do her utmost etc etc.

She then inquired very calmly if I intended that we should return to Auvergne at the end of the year as planned. Perhaps hoping to strengthen my own resolve through the admission I said that I did, and she promptly burst into tears again. Quite at a loss I could only assume that she had grown fond of the city, as country girls are wont to do I understand, and I mentioned that we might return again in the spring. "Not I." She said. Whereupon I, seated with my back to my dressing table and my hands folded in my lap, assured her again that I was not so angry that I would not bring her back. To this she answered that her mother would never let her return.

At this my heart dropped into the pit of my stomach and I asked her why not with some trepidation. After a moment she admitted to me what I had feared; she was with child. Pauline, the child of fifteen that I brought with me from quiet Saint Saturnin, seemed to have fallen prey to the iniquities of the city, and I felt in some way responsible. As I opened my mouth to ask who the father of this child was Marianne came rushing in, rather disheveled. It took her only a moment to realize what our conversation was about, and her guilty conscience showed plainly in her features.

I rose to my feet and with an anger I had not known I felt remarked how well she had looked after Pauline, as I had charged her when we left home. Probably I felt some guilt myself, but I now saw more that I should have realized sooner. The late arrivals, the tousled appearance, the new ribbons every week with which they adorned themselves; they both had lovers under my own roof. I asked Marianne how long she had known of Pauline's...I could not bring myself to say the word disgrace in front of the girl, upset as she was, so I left it unfinished. Marianne stammered an excuse, averting her eyes also. "There will be no lovers in my house." I declared, thinking how like a miserable old maid I sounded, even as the words came out. I instructed them that they must forswear the company of those they had so warmly welcomed, and that I should like to know the name of the father of Pauline's child. Pauline sniffled, and Marianne stood as stiffly as a statue, her eyes on the ground.

I turned and appealed to Pauline herself to tell me the name, and when she did I was ashamed to find that I did not know it. The man, it turns out, is one of my footmen; or rather, one of those hired for me by Mme Le Sang-boeuf for l'hotel de Sully during my stay in town. Both of my maids were then dismissed, though I had to call Marianne back again as I had forgotten I still needed to dress.

While she dressed me I forced the rest of the story out of her. It turns out that Pauline was not upset about being unable to return to Paris, but that she had hoped to find a solution to having the baby, or at least to have it here and abandon it anonymously before returning to her family who would then be none the wiser of her indiscretion. I suspect very strongly that the plan was that of Marianne's, who I wonder at more the longer we are here, as she has grown increasingly more sullen and inattentive.

I then withdrew to the library where I tried to look over my new books, but found that I had to deal with the problem before me. I called on the footman in question, Robert (I am finding that Roberts are never any good), and received him with all of the disapproving dignity that I could muster. I asked him if he was aware of the condition of my maid, and he pretended not to know. I then informed him that she had named him as the father, and though I feared that he would deny it, he did not. I then asked him if he was married or free, and in another fortunate turn he was free. I then dismissed him and called for Abbe Girard, who presently arrived. Explaining the situation to him I asked if he could marry the couple without bans that very afternoon, and as there was a child involved he said he would.

Marianne was sent to the orangerie for some blossoms, as it is too cold to find them in the gardens now, and I sent for Pauline and Robert. He in his livery and she in her nicest caraco were married in the library, while I, Marianne, and a footman named Guillaume stood witness. Marianne looked very sour the entire time and I had half a mind after this affair to dismiss her, but reasoned that I would be short one maid in due time as it is. It being nearly dinnertime after the ceremony I informed the cook that there would be three more at table and invited the Abbe and the couple to dine with me, which they did.

I gave the Abbe Girard a large donation to take back with him, but do not doubt that the news shall be all over town tomorrow at the latest. The couple retired for the remainder of the day, and I returned to the library to write another letter to Christine and attempt to find some solace in a book, which eluded me. I shall now have to write to Pauline's mother and explain all of this to her, which is an obligation I love not. I shall ask Pauline to enclose a message of her own, as I feel is only right. I hope that I have acted in accordance with good principles and sound judgement, but I fear it will reflect badly on me nonetheless. May tomorrow hold less excitement.

Olympe, Comtesse

4 comments:

  1. omg! it is great! i love your work! its just fascinating, couldnt stop reading. and of course, looking forward to your next posts!

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  2. Thanks Emmeline! I've enjoyed your posts as well. Hopefully this month I'll have more time and can write more often.

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  3. yeah. same with me... too much work here and there... and unfortunately posting has to wait...

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  4. I completely understand, fortunately I think life is going into a calm spell for the time being. We'll see if that bears out; and of course I have a new book now to read and post about!

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