Saturday, March 10, 2012

pastoral - 2. the recruiting officer

by quinette de quieroz

illustrated by roy dismas and rhoda penmarq

special thanks to Prof. Dan Leo for his editing efforts

click here to begin pastoral

click here to begin the 14th princess

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."

"how pleasant."

"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.

3. the escape

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait for the Masterpiece Theatre production!