Monday, May 31, 2010

May 31, 1780

It is ever the same, no sooner do we solve one problem when another rises to take its place. Having escaped the eyes of Paris and the malice of the Marquis de Menars I am presented with more domestic tribulations in the form of a letter from my steward who informs me that the money I have been living on is quickly reaching it's end, though we are far from replenishing the coffers, as it were. The King's offer, naturally, springs to mind and I cannot help but muse that the Duchy would not only provide sustenance, but be a powerful position from which to gain other favors for more than just myself. I had hoped that the reacquisition of the land in Limousin would help, but that is tied up in legal disputes and looks to be long from resolution as the surveyors continue their work. As much as I have avoided those charges which others seek, it is one of the only ways to sustain my estates.

The other, of course, is to marry, and that brings me to the point. I received the letter on Friday last, and it put me in such a gloomy mood that I was ill-inclined to do anything, which could not go unnoticed by my guests. They were very understanding and T- did his best to console me, but he knows how desperate our situation always is. This morning F-; that is, the Marquis de Franconville-aux-Bois, came to me during my informal Lever, and proposed a most surprising solution.

He asked if Marianne might leave us, and seeing him so in earnest I dismissed her for the time being. He reiterated the very things which have been worrying  me for so long; the danger from being unprotected by a large and powerful family, having no position with the court, the lack of heirs for my family, my age, my inability to be with Thierry openly in society and the chance that I may lose him if I marry. These things have preyed upon my mind constantly over the years, and now the fact that I must answer the king, coupled with the lack of money and the apparent danger from unsuspected sources...Well, just as I was in as deep a despair as possible, F- made his offer.

His family, though not very large in its immediate branch, is connected as well to the Counts and Dukes of Lauragais and Villars, they have money, and it would be fairly simple to acquire a charge or at least a position with many of the departments. At first I did not understand his meaning, but presently he made it clear that his intention was that should we marry, he and I, that he could provide a solution to many of my problems.

Hardly knowing how to make answer I asked him the question I had never dared to confront before "Have you spoken to R- about this?" His determined demeanor dropped at this, and his color rose. He said "He is aware." For my part I could only feel ashamed at being so direct, and said that I would have to speak to Thierry, at which he was very understanding. I did not see either him or R- for the remainder of the day.

T-, to my great surprise, is considering the possibilities, to which I am not sure what to think.

Olympe, Comtesse

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Dog in the Eighteenth Century

I was doing some research on dogs in the 18th century and came across this article from the CW Journal called "The 18th Century Goes to the Dogs". It details the interactions between people and dogs at the time, and how those interactions changed the attitudes toward and treatment of animals, which became more like the favored companions we know and love today.

Reinette agrees that this is an article well worth reading.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Vote for your preference!

Ta-da! My very first poll ever, set up to find out what you would most like to receive as a Blog-anniversaire present when Letters From the Enlightenment turns one year old on June 30th. I will be picking two or more people, so feel free to pick more than one idea; or leave a completely new idea in a comment!

Friday, May 21, 2010

May 21, 1780

I have been doing quite a lot of embroidery of late, and my poor fingers have developed a rough spot that I find strangely fascinating. I wonder if this is what it is like to be a needlewoman? It has been decided to go to Riom, where instead of stopping at Chateaugay, we will all stay at my home Portaberaud, probably for at least a few weeks. F&R had thought that we might spend the summer there, but I know myself, and after a month or so of familiarity with my mother and brothers I will wish to be farther away. Perhaps by then Christine will be back for her sister's wedding, and we may meet up in Paris, though it is a trial in the summer months.

We are packed, and within moments shall set out for pleasure's sake again. It is good to be well! It is good to be amongst friends! It is good to be home in Auvergne!

Olympe, Comtesse

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Anniversary upcoming

May 18th marked the first anniversary of the Diary, but as that began offline the official date for the first year anniversary of the Blog is fast approaching in June! What is a Countess to do? We must have a party of course! When? How? Where? Will there be fabulous gifts, you ask? Mais oui!

Check back soon for more details...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

May 13, 1780

Opme is such a peaceful chateau, I can easily imagine my own mother wandering the gardens here just after my birth. There is something sacred about sleeping in the room where one was born, as if you could touch the past. I visit the stables and think of my father there with the horses I'm told he loved so much. My only memory of him is of following him there to see a new arrival. It was autumn, and I was not quite five years of age; he died the next January.

Thierry, F-, and R-, are all with me now. The coming summer has made the roads much easier to travel on, and so their journeys were all as uneventful as one could wish. After the endless activity of Paris we take great delight in doing as little as possible. Until yesterday evening the weather was very fine, and we took most of our meals outside, but last night it rained and today threatens with more clouds. Thierry and I have had a most joyful reunion, and I fear that at times we have left my other guests too much alone, but they do not seem to mind. Thierry is somewhat pensive and talks little of his work, though the Ferme has not released him and may in fact promote him to a better position soon.

A letter from Christine came, redirected from Sully, in which she confirms her plans to be back in France this summer for her sister's wedding. Though Paris is very uncomfortable at the height of the season, I think they nevertheless plan to marry there, and so we will have to decide if I will go to Paris, or if Christine will travel here to Auvergne. Feeling much recovered I am only hiding away at Opme for my own pleasure, and may go to Riom with Thierry soon, so that he may visit his family, and I mine.

Olympe, Comtesse

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

And I Quote...

"Wicked people are always surprised to find ability in those that are good."
- Marquis De Vauvenargues

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

May 4, 1780

So much has happened that I must relate. To begin, I am once more at home in Auvergne; to be precise, at Opme Castle which being so far removed from society is the ideal place to recuperate. Pauline, who is with me, as well as Marianne now, is I think glad that we did not travel all the way to Saint Saturnin, but I will return to that shortly. The doctor has given strict instructions that I am to spend some time away from the city, for both my health and safety.

I did, as I mentioned in my last entry, suggest that the footman, Robert, be given some of what he insisted was medicine. At first he objected that he was not ill and it might do him harm, but when it was pointed out that the medicine clearly belonged to him and therefore was used for something he began to change his tune. He began by claiming that the medicine was not his, but was reluctant to name the true owner.

At this point F&R came to me to acquaint me of the situation, this was on the 24th of April, and I insisted on seeing him myself. We waited until night, and then I was surreptitiously returned to my residence at the Hotel de Sully, where Robert was confined to an inner room to prevent his escape. His face when he saw me was full of guilt and not a small measure of surprise. I threw off all pleasantries and demanded to know what was in the bottle. Clearly it was not medicine at all, and if he did not want us to test its contents and effects on him he should tell us the nature of the elixir and the name of its owner. He bargained with us that he did not know its contents, and had not believed it was of such a nature as to do me lasting harm, but that he had been approached by a lackey who offered to pay him to slip some of it from time to time into my food and drink.

My pulse raced, I asked him the name of the lackey, but he insisted he did not know. Asked who the man worked for, Robert hesitated a moment before claiming he was ignorant of that fact also. Surprising even myself, I turned to R- and told him that he should ask his servants to beat Robert until he either became unconscious or confessed the name of the person paying him. He sat tight-lipped and pale until the men arrived with canes, at which point he shouted that he would tell us all.

He asked for protection from the man he offered to betray, but I demanded to know the name first. He said that when he began to realize that it was a much stronger and potentially deadlier concotion that he had been given, he requested of the lackey more money. The man told him that it would be in his best interests to see to it that I succumbed to the poison. When queried as to why this was Robert hesitated a long time. At last he said that somehow the servant or his master had found out about his marriage to Pauline that I enforced, and that they also knew him to already be married. I closed my eyes at this; my poor Pauline!

He continued, saying that the man had insisted that with me dead he could disappear with whichever wife he chose and they would give him enough money to begin a new life somewhere far away, perhaps even in America, and no one would ever know. So it was that he began poisoning me again, just when I had seemed to recover; but he became suspicious that once the deed was done he would never see the money he had been promised. Another meeting with the lackey, and another demand for money, this time rebuffed more forcefully; but when the lackey left Robert followed him...right to the home of the Marquis de Menars. I knew that such a man would not suffer the loss of the duel with good grace, but I had not thought him capable of this!

Robert begged me to protect him, but I spoke not a word to him and left the room, F&R trailing after. In the library I outlined a plan. It was not generally known that I was so well-recovered, though my residence at my cousin's home was an open secret. We would let it be rumored that I had succumbed and send Robert unexpectedly to Menars to collect his reward, if the Marquis gave him the money then it was sufficient proof of his guilt and he could be publicly accused. However, if, as F- pointed out, he refused or feigned ignorance then we would have no proof upon which to condemn him. As we risked only a false rumor and letting Menars know that we were aware of his treachery, it was determined to put the plan in motion.

On the 25th we began the rumors by sending the servants gossiping, and Mme le Sang-Boeuf was dispatched to inquire after the prices of mourning clothes and jewelry. It did not take long before servants were bringing the news to their masters and mistresses at their Levers. That evening Robert was sent, under the watchful eye of F's men Menars. As we had feared, he refused to awknowledge any part in the plot, and Robert was sent roughly away, causing quite a spectacle in his fury as he shouted hysterically from the street. He was bundled away quickly again, and F's men returned to tell us of the unfortunate outcome.

That night I came away to Opme, leaving Robert with instructions to await my return. Whether he runs or stays the Marquis' men will find him, and if Menars was willing to assure my death he will do even more to cover it up. Robert is as good as dead unless he flees very far and very fast. He did one good thing though, he assured me, before we set the plan in motion, that Pauline had no knowledge of the poison and was not to be blamed in any particular, of which I am glad.

Soon F&R and Thierry are all to meet me here, and we will decide what is best to be done, for the Marquis is not likely to refrain from trying again so long as I remain unprotected.

Olympe, Comtesse