from renaldo, marquis of y----------, to daphne, countess of v--------------:
my dearest friend - the delight i feel on hearing from you is sorely tempered by the distress i feel on your behalf. and on poor colin's and clovis's behalf! i recall many happy hours spent with them. please assure them, and the other swains and shepherdesses, of my most heartfelt sympathies.
p s inspired by their plight, i was moved to compose this attempt at verse in a centuries old tradition. i fear we may be entering a new dark age, in which such civilized amusements are no longer even attempted, and i lay this humble sprig upon the pyre of art and beauty.
sunset: a pastoral
see how the little bumblebee flits from flower to flower all too unsuspecting this is his final hour
before the fleecy cloud above has crossed the placid sun our industrious little friend his labors will have done
ah colin! as you pipe your tune cast your wandering eye upon your humblest companions beneath the cerulean sky
and sigh to know and sigh to sing the pitiless truth the setting sun will bring
from daphne, countess of v--------------, to renaldo, marquis of y-------------- :
my dear friend, thank you so much for your lovely verses and the sentiments that produced them. i would have shared them with poor colin and clovis, but alas - the poor boys have seen fit to flee the area, rather than submit to the martial embrace of the recruiting sergeant - the fellow i wrote of before. they came to me the morning after the night i described to you, to bid me farewell, and of course, they were nowise loath to beg a few coins from me, as well a few handkerchiefs and other trinkets i had in my pockets. i pointed out that possession of such things was as likely to get them hanged as thieves as do them much good as barter, but they persisted so piteously that i relented, and waved then on their way - wherever that may be.
i do not believe either of them has ever been out of the valley in their lives, and they would seem to be easy pickings as wandering innocents even in times of peace... i say no more. good luck to them, and of course i will miss them both.
on the afternoon of that same day, i encountered the fearsome soldier again in the drawing room of the duke. i could not forebear twitting him about the defection of colin and clovis - and others? - omitting any mention of providing them with funds - but he seemed to find more amusement than frustration in the situation. he exhibits little - in fact no - sympathy for the victims and intended victims of his depredations , at the same time he makes no pretense of being a firebreather or anxious to return to the toils of war, but is openly content to relax on the duke's cushions and drink the duke's wine and brandy. i inquired as to the success of his enterprise:
... and so, sir, you have found enough children to feed into the maw of mars to justify your enterprise?
perhaps, madam. that is for my superiors to say - assuming that i can find them again, or they me.
ah! do i understand then, that you do not even know where to deliver your captives?
i know where i am supposed to deliver them. whether i find anyone there to deliver them to - that is the fortune of war.
this war - it seems a very inexact science. how much more satisfactory would it not be to reap the predictable fruits of peace.
oh, it is not so inexact as that. i was speaking generally. in the present circumstances i fully expect to find my battalion. if we were meeting more resistance... (he shrugged, and helped himself to more wine)
so you would welcome more resistance?
i do not welcome anything, except sitting on this excellently soft divan, sipping this noble wine, and listening to the music of your voice, madam.
not exactly the sentiments of a hector or an achilles, sir. perhaps you should follow after colin and clovis, and take up the trade of wandering minstrel.
is that what they told you they were going to do? ha, ha! wandering chicken thieves, more like it. i hope you gave them enough to get a few miles down the road before being impressed or hanged.
why, sir, i would never dare to defy the noble conqueror by abetting such behavior. but i can not help but hope the poor things do not come to too much grief.
oh i wish them no harm myself, madam. no harm at all ...
at this point he lapsed into a moody silence. i had expected him to take up the charge of his previous attempts at gallantry, but instead he finished his glass, stood up abruptly, made some excuses about writing letters, took his leave of our host, and exited. well! an unpolished fellow, but considering the tedium i find myself wilting in, his company was not completely without amusement of a sort.
i will write more later, if anything worth writing about transpires...