from daphne, countess of v----------, to renaldo, marquis of y------------ :
no sooner had i posted my last missive to you, my dear friend, than i immediately regretted my decision to forego the marquise of l...............'s invitation to whist. for, headache or no, what was i to do for the rest of the evening? i took up madame de p-------'s new novel, which i had begun reading in the coach on my journey here. but whereas on the journey i had found it a welcome distraction from the bouncing of the carriage, on my sofa i found it merely tedious. the moon, shining placidly through my window,
seemed to mock the transports of high-minded love of madame de p----------'s most vociferous heroine, and i found myself staring at the moon - and at my feet. ah! how tiresome life is! why can we never find such lovers , such delicious adventures as exist in the pages of romances? i feel i am boring you, as much as i bore myself. perhaps i shall find the energy to put my shoes on - yes, my friend, put my own shoes on, without even summoning my new little maid - have i described my new maid? the laziest little wretch in the world, whom i am obliged to abuse in the worst way, to get her to do anything at all - i, the most easygoing person in the world. right now she is sleeping. easier to let her sleep, than to attempt to rouse her.
well - i shall go for a walk in the moonlight. when i return, i shall decide whether i have anything of enough interest to you to continue and actually post this letter
a curious encounter! i managed to get my own shoes on - quite nicely, if i say so myself - but i was not up to the task of putting my own hair up, so throwing on my oldest cloak, i covered my head with a shawl - like a gypsy! - and descended the stair - surely you remember the winding stair of my cottage here - and arrived at the garden. i was gratified to be able to see, in the moonlight, that my dear colin - no doubt assisted by his faithful friend clovis - had kept the garden up quite nicely. you smile, my dear friend - i do not mean it looked like a setting around a gazebo at versailles or fontainebleu - but it had a rustic charm - and no nasty weeds or roots to trip over - and looked quite lovely in the moonlight - what more can we ask for in the evil world, i ask you? so i was immediately put into a good mood and was strolling in the darkness quite contentedly when suddenly -
a huge dark form rose up before me! for a moment i thought it was some dreadful beast wandered down from the mountainside - but i then i saw the silhouette raise what was clearly a cigar to its mouth, and on coming closer i beheld a huge loutish fellow in what was apparently intended to be some sort of military garb, though far from the most smartly cut.
if i was a bit disconcerted by his sudden appearance, he seemed not the least surprised by mine, but gazed down on me - have i mentioned that he was a great towering brute? - with the solemnity of a bear beholding a butterfly. he turned his shaggy head away from me just enough to avoid blowing his cigar smoke in my face.
finally as close to him as i was going to come, i saw that he was not completely hideous - if someone had taken a washcloth to him and found him a tailor. i bid him a good evening. he responded with a crude attempt at gallantry that i will not record on this page - much as i know you, my insolent friend, find amusement in such things. i turned his "pretty compliment" aside, without apparently, wounding his sensibilities or disturbing his composure, and suddenly realized who he must be.
"ah, you most be the officer from general b-----------'s army, here to disturb the eternal peace of this happy valley."
"not at all, madam, not at all. to whom have i the honor of speaking, by the way?"
"i am the comtesse de v----------. these grounds you are taking your ease on belong to me."
"ah, a comtesse! how rude of me to have spoken so rudely to a comtesse. and how gracious of the comtesse not to threaten me with a flogging, eh?"
"here in the happy valley we attempt to avoid all unpleasantness."
"and you, sir, are - "
"just as you surmised, madam, i am lieutenant z--------, of the ----th hussars of the army of the revolution. i am afraid i have no other title or recommendation." (have i mentioned that the fellow was speaking french, but of a more barbarous sort that i had ever heard from the most rustic servant.)
"oh," i replied," no matter how many times i have had it explained to me, i can never remember the differences between a hussar, or a dragoon, or a cuirassier, and all that."
"no matter. in any case i am here in the humble office of a recruiting officer."
"but thirsting, no doubt, to return to the field of battle."
he laughed good-naturedly at this. "time enough for that. no, i find the happy valley here quite to my liking. tell me, comtesse, why are you walking out here all alone, with a shawl around your head like a camp follower?"
"here in the valley, we avoid ceremony almost as much as unpleasantness."
"indeed. so it is liberty hall, eh? everything is permitted?"
"not quite everything."
" you say you own these grounds. tell me, do you still own anything else, or have you fled the revolution with the clothes on your back?"
what effrontery! i almost slapped him. any thought that i had that he could even begin to impersonate a gentleman vanished. "thank you, but i am as much in possession of my fortune as i am of my wits."
"ah." he gazed at me as if i were a horse he had just been assured had nothing wrong with its left foreleg.
i could not help adding, "in fact - i - actually my factotum, have even made some investments which have turned out quite well."
"oh, i see. no doubt next you will tell me that you are a special friend of m de barras himself. "
"i am afraid i do not have the honor of any acquaintance with that worthy personage."
he fell silent, puffing on his cigar, and i took the opportunity to upbraid him.
"i understand you are here to dragoon the likes of my poor shepherds and gardeners, my colins and clovises, into your army. i must tell you i think this is pure folly, as the poor lads are not bred for such pursuits but for the arts of peace."
he threw back his head and brayed like a donkey. "haw, haw, haw! so that is what you are doing out here - you came out to console poor colin and clovis! haw, haw, haw!"
and then the brute committed the final, unforgivable act - he yawned in my face.