May 7th, 1821

I spent the afternoon in the garden today. It was warm and windy. All the insects were out. Bees and butterflies. Caterpillars and grasshoppers. They were all going somewhere, doing something, making sounds.

I took off my shoes and walked slowly, feeling the soft grass and hard ground under my feet. Dirt under my nails. I paced around the small pond like a moth around a lantern, reducing the world around me to a circle of water, clearing away my loud thoughts,…

…feeling satisfyingly insignificant.

May 6th, 1821

For weeks now I have not eaten the meat served at dinner. Aunt Emeline has noticed it a couple of times but I did not reply to her inquisitive look.

My thoughts worry me a little. I do not find normal to kill other beings to satisfy our palates. Father once told me that in some foreign countries, they do not eat meat and live longer than we do. I wish I knew more about it.

Maybe my compassion is exaggerated but I respect life in an absolute way. In the eyes of each animal, big or small, with fur or scales, I see a spark of life and it is beautiful. We are no different outside the frame of society. Am I being irrational? Is the simplicity of my reasoning too naive? Influenced by my young heart? My romantic mind?

I found back a sentence by Plutarch I once scribbled at the bottom of a boring book Emeline gave me.

Plutarch says: “For a little piece of meat, we steal a soul of light and the time in which it was born and for which it was rejoicing“.

It overwhelms me as it brings to my mind all the pain we humans generate without a second of remorse. I burst into tears reading the quote again and feel a profound loneliness.

Hector the cat looks at me, blinks slowly then jumps on the bed and buries his little round face in my warm neck damp with tears.

May 5th, 1821

Mr and Mrs Coley left the manor late this morning. I did not go out of my room until they were gone. I do not want to be around them although Margaret is a nice person. But she is the one who should endure Mr Coley’s inner demons. Not me.

I called Sonia and asked her to see if a letter from my father had arrived. I heard her hasty footsteps in the corridor. She did not say a word when she came in, gave me a badly contained smile and handed me the letter as I was seated in an armchair by the open window. Sonia was smelling of lemon. I closed my eyes for a second. She now looked embarrassed. She apologized for not having washed her hands with black soap before coming in my room. I took her hands and put my face in them, slowly breathing, letting childhood summers memories infuse my thoughts.

Sonia stayed and played with my hair as I started reading my father’s letter. I think I see her as a sister. Aunt Emeline would be horrified to know that. It confuses and worries her when people do not fit in a category, are more than what they are hired for, all their masks at once, or none.

My father’s letter is descriptive as always. He is not good with sentiments. With the expression of sentiments I shall say. But between his well-put lines I can almost always read his love, worries, pride, sadness, age.  He says he is going to come visit us next month. I think his love for me is unconditional. We are different. I know how opaque I am to him but his acceptance moves me and makes me love him more.

Sonia’s fingers are still in my hair as I write in my journal. She starts to hum. The air is fresher now, the soft wind plays with the curtains and as they touch my knee with each breeze, I feel the heaviness of sleep coming over me…

 

May 4th, 1821

The reception party last night did not go exactly as I expected it to. Emeline had seated me at a table between Richard Davis, a young and very talkative man with long hands, and Benjamin Coley, one of uncle George’s best friends, a dark haired man with large wrists. Two married men. I do not know why aunt Emeline did not seat me between two bachelor gentlemen. I am guessing her plan for me that evening was not about finding a groom but improving my high-society self.

The questions I have been asked by my table neighbors were about subjects I have no knowledge about nor interest in.

I laud the right to ignorance, boredom and the absence of opinion.

Women looked at me with their powdered faces turned towards the person seating next to them, their red lips making silent comments. I do not think of myself as better than them nor do I deny their inner depth. They are just used to their learned attitudes and pretended sentiments too much.

After the dinner, men gathered upstairs in George’s smoking room and women went to Emeline’s backhouse. Mr Coley’s wife, Margaret, played the piano as always when she comes to visit Emeline. I heard it from the garden. I watched the surrounding darkness slowly growing and the contour of the trees and of the distant church fading before going to my bedroom.

Hector the cat scratched at my door so I opened it to let him in. Mr Coley was standing there, holding Hector. Half smiling, he handed me the cat and grabbed my arm, his fingers slowly pressing on my skin. He looked at me with too much intensity and did not losen his grip for long seconds. What I saw in his eyes was desire. Nothing more. No poetry, no sentiments, no passion. Just an angry lustful desire. I looked at him straight in the eyes with detachment, frowning in thought, until he let go of my arm.

He opened his mouth to say something and I closed the door before hearing his predictable excuse.

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