Ce´cile Volanges to Sophie Carnay at the Ursuline convent of...
As you see, my dear Sophie, I am as good as my word, and not spending all my time on frills and furbelows; I shall always have time for you. All the same, I have seen more finery in one single day than in the whole of the four years we spent together; and I do believe the high-and-mighty Tanville* will be more humiliated at my first visit to the convent – for I shall be sure to ask for her – than she doubtless supposed we were by all those visits she used to pay us, en grande toilette.1 Mamma asks my opinion about everything; she treats me less like a little schoolgirl than she used to. I have my own maid; I have a room and closet at my disposal, and I am writing this at the prettiest little secre´taire;2 I have a key to it and can lock away whatever I wish. Mamma has said that I should go and see her every day when she rises; that I do not need to have my hair dressed until dinner, because we shall always be alone; and that she will tell me each day what time I must join her in the afternoon. The remainder of the time is my own and I have my harp, my drawing and my books, just as I had in the convent; except Mother Perpe´tue is not there to scold me and if I choose to fritter my time away, that is my affair: but as my Sophie is not there to giggle and chatter with, I may as well keep busy.
It is not yet five o'clock; I am not to see Mamma until seven: there is plenty of time to write, if I only had something to tell! But they have not yet breathed a word. And were it not for all the obvious preparations and all the women who keep coming in to do things for me, I should believe no one had the least notion of marrying me, and that it was simply another piece of our dear Jose´phine's nonsense.† But Mamma has told me so often that a young lady should stay in the convent until she marries that, now she has taken me out, I think Jose´phine must be right.
* A pupil at the same convent. † A tourie`re3 in the convent.
A carriage has just pulled up outside the door and Mamma has sent word for me to come to her rooms immediately. Could it be him? I am not dressed, my hand is shaking and my heart is thumping. I have asked my maid if she knows who is with my mother. She said: 'It's Monsieur C—, for certain,' and laughed. Oh! I think it must be him! I promise to come back and tell you what happens. That is his name, anyway. I must not keep him waiting. Farewell, for a little while.
Oh, how you'll laugh at your poor Ce´cile! I was so embarrassed! But you would have fallen into the same trap. When I went in to Mamma's room I saw a gentleman in black standing beside her. I curtsied to him as prettily as I could, and stood there, unable to move. You can imagine how I studied him! 'Madame,' he said to my mother, and with a bow in my direction, 'she is a charming young lady, and I am more than ever sensible of the honour you have done me.' I was overcome by such a fit of the shakes at this boldness, my knees gave way; I found an armchair and sat down, flushed and taken aback. No sooner had I sat down than suddenly the man was kneeling in front of me. At that point your poor friend Ce´cile lost her head; as Mamma said, I was absolutely panic-stricken. I got up and gave a loud shriek . . . just like that day when there was the thunderstorm. Mamma burst out laughing, saying: 'Whatever is the matter with you? Sit down and give Monsieur your foot.' My dear, the gentleman was actually a shoemaker. I cannot tell you how embarrassed I was! Luckily there was no one there except Mamma. I think when I am married I shall not employ that shoemaker any more.
We are very worldly-wise now, don't you think? Goodbye! It's nearly six and my maid says I have to dress. Goodbye, dear Sophie; I love you just as much as if we were still in the convent.
P.S. I don't know by whom to send this letter so I shall wait for Jose´phine to arrive.
Paris, 3 August 17**