Letter IX [Sent]
29 Oct, 17--
Dear Madam de G--------,
I beseech that you overlook the impertinence of this letter, for while I do not wish to flout the rules of civility, circumstances have arisen that have prompted me to risk impudence at a sudden attempt to renew our previous correspondance. I write to you about a most serious concern, one that I feel I can only address to an esteemed person, such as yourself, with great experience and wisdom on the matter.
I dare not presume that you remember me from my stay in L--- some six years ago, when I was in residence with the M-----------s. I was then a tutor to their two children, now of age, and a frequent visitor to your estate where I was privileged – having followed your writing on the subject of church and education – to speak to you at length on the subject. We exchanged several letters in the year following, and I remain forever grateful for that kind communication.
I now find myself, Madam, in a position to solicit advice once more – I have taken up a new role as governess to a young child of a prominent member of this country's nobility. Yet I find that, and here I hesitate least I speak out of turn, the household exercises little religious devotion. The staff prays to be sure on Sunday, and I have that day as my own (per my request), but my pupil has been given no Christian instruction and cannot be persuaded to read nor listen to the teachings of the Bible.
The chapel here is all boarded over – to the extent that you cannot see within its confines, the light being blotted out of our Lord's home – and, as far as I can tell, neither the Master nor his daughter set foot in church. I have been told, however, not to interfere with this decision and that my ward must not be instructed in religious teaching that she does not desire.
What, then, am I to do? If I persist, as I feel I must, then I go against the instructions of my social superiors whom I ought to show obedience. Conversely, should I adhere to this directive, the child may grow up – forgive my language –quite godless. This is a moral uncertainty I feel that I am too inadequate to answer.
I must plead, Madam, for your discretion on the matter and implore that your answer contains your most candid thoughts, whether these are a rebuke of my actions so far or not.
Might I also inquire, if you are kind enough to offer a response to this letter, as to the situation of the neighbourhood at L--- that I was once so taken with. I ask specifically after the D-------s and whether they are still at L---------- P--- in the autumn months. I have a correspondence with the family but have no heard from them in some time. There is no need to mention this; I am merely interested in satisfying my curiousity.
Ms. Charlotte B------
Letter X [Sent]
29 Oct, 17--
Dear Lady F-----,
I am extremely rejoiced, and delightfully surprised, at receiving another book and letter that you have had the goodness to send me.
That volume of d'A------ posits a delightful read and will, as you say, make excellent instruction for my young pupil particularly as the library is unfortunately sparse in the way of fiction. It was opened to me only yesterday, and I was at first amazed by the sheer number of volumes its shelves boasted. Yet, upon closer inspection, these are all dedicated to instruction. They have a very large section on gardening, for instance, with several volumes dedicated to the simplest of plants – the humble buttercup has three to its name!
The greatest subject, which takes up four of the grandest cases, is the art of social etiquette. I am sure I will learn a much about to trappings of courtly behaviour and so forth, but find myself disappointed that I shall have no little snippets of Madame de La F------- or M------ to spend my evenings pouring over. I will ask the Master if I may procure more, however; for the child's sake – who seems more familiar with philosophy and bee-keeping than I! She was most amazed when I recited a few lines of poetry from memory -
"Tant que sa faveur vous seconde,
Vous etes les maitres du monde,
Votre gloire nous eblouit;
Mais au moindre revers funeste,
Le masque tombe, l'homme reste,
Et le heros s'evanouit."*
Having found that the young Mademoiselle has such pleasures for poetria, I think she has a mind most conducive to those natural rhythms of language that versification provides. I was most astonished when she immediately repeated to me the poetic words I had uttered, verbatim, with much more of a performative measure than I had afforded them.
"That was quite dramatic," I applauded her, "you are ready to be Montreaux's Cléopâtre."
"I do not know what that is." She replied very gravely and, indeed, she seems to take lapses in her knowledge very seriously.
I explained and then asked – "did your former governess not have an interest in theatre?"
"The last Madam did, but she was not with us for very long."
Quite startled by this revelation; having thought that, since the sad passing of her mother, my ward had had but one caretaker prior to my arrival, I asked, "you have had two governesses?"
She seemed a little surly and didn't answer. I prompted her again and this time she replied, in an irritated tone, "I have had more than two Madam."
"This has not been mentioned to me," I replied, now trying to think as to whether I had been told explicitly that she had only one governess or if I had made that assumption myself. "Why have you not spoken of them before?"
She was silent and, once more, I had to repeat myself. Only then did she say, reluctantly – "we do not speak of those who are gone. I should not have spoken of it, that was naughty." She stared at me very coolly. "One day, when you are gone, I shall not speak of you anymore."
Rather than being shocked or angry, as I suppose I might have been by this final declaration, my heart went out to the poor child.
"I won't be leaving anytime soon." I said, attempting to soothe her.
I do not think it worked.
I then followed up with more questions about those who had held my position, but this time her taciturnity was resolute on the matter and I could not make her utter one word more.
Your ladyship may be surprised that I have taken the time to transcribe this conversation between Else and I, but I did so in the hope to show you what a funny little creature she can be. Though undoubtedly precocious, she is very set in her ways and appears to adhere strictly to a set of rules that have never been imposed upon her. I suppose that is sometimes the way of children. I do feel that the freedom of fiction, with its imaginatively possibilities, will therefore be beneficial to her young mind. Let me thank you once more for the volume; and reassure that your generosity, while highly appreciated, is entirely uncalled for – a letter from your ladyship is sufficient to cause sublime delight and such presents are more, I assure you, than I might ever expect.
Ms. Charlotte B------
* As long as his favour helps you,
You are the masters of the world,
Your glory dazzles us;
But at the slightest loss,
The mask falls, the man stays,
And the hero vanishes.
- Jean-Baptiste Rousseau, Ode A La Fortune
YOU ARE READING
Dangerous LettersHistorical Fiction
Dear Reader, This letter serves less as a preface to what you are about to read, and more as a cautionary warning. For this is a dark, terrible tale and though I must suffer further as its caretaker, you need not burden yourself with what lies with...