Letter 170

Madame de Volanges to Madame de Rosemonde

I go, my dear friend, from wonder to wonder, from sorrow to sorrow: one must be a mother to conceive my sufferings all yesterday morning⁠—If my cruel uneasiness has been since alleviated, there still remains a piercing affliction, of which I cannot see the end.

Yesterday, about ten in the morning, surprised at not seeing my daughter, I sent my waiting maid to know what could occasion this delay⁠—She returned instantly much frightened, and frightened me much more, by telling me my daughter was not in her apartment, and that since morning her waiting maid had not seen her. Judge you my situation! I had all my servants called, particularly the porter, who all swore they knew nothing of her, nor gave me any intelligence on this occasion. I went immediately into her apartment; the disorder it was in soon convinced me, she did not go out until morning, but could not discover anything to clear up my doubts. I examined her drawers, her bureau; found everything in its place, and all her clothes except the dress she had on when she went out: she did not even take the little money she had.

As she did not know until yesterday all that is said about M. de Merteuil; that she is very much attached to her; so much, that she did nothing but cry all night after⁠—I also recollect she did not know M. de Merteuil was in the country; it struck me she went to see her friend, and that she was so foolish as to go alone: but the time elapsing, and no account of her, recalled all my uneasiness⁠—Every instant increased my anxiety; and burning with impatience for information, I dared not take any step to be informed, lest I should give cause for a rumour, which perhaps I should afterwards wish to hide from all the world. In my life I never suffered so much.

At length, at past two o’clock, I received together a letter from my daughter, and one from the superior of the convent of ⸻. My daughter’s letter only informed me, she was afraid I would oppose the vocation she had to a religious life, which she did not dare mention to me; the rest was only excusing herself for having taken this resolution without my leave, being assured I certainly would not disapprove it, if I knew her motives, which, however, she begged I would not enquire into.

The superior informed me, that seeing a young person come alone, she at first refused to receive her; but having interrogated, and learning who she was, she thought she served me, by giving an asylum to my daughter, not to expose her to run about, which she certainly was determined on doing. The superior offered me, as was reasonable, to give up my daughter, if I required it; inviting me at the same time, not to oppose a vocation she calls so decided.

She writes me also, she could not inform me sooner of this event, by the difficulty she had of prevailing on my daughter to write to me whose intent was, that no one should know where she had retired⁠—What a cruel thing is the unreasonableness of children.

I went immediately to this convent. After having seen the superior, I desired to see my daughter; she came trembling, with some difficulty⁠—I spoke to her before the nuns, and then alone. All I could get out of her with a deal of crying, was, she could not be happy but in a convent; I resolved to give her leave to stay there; but not to be ranked among those who desired admittance as she wanted. I fear M. de Tourvel’s and M. de Valmont’s deaths have too much affected her young head. Although I respect much a religious vocation, I shall not without sorrow, and even dread, see my daughter embrace this state⁠—I think we have already duties enough to fulfil, without creating ourselves new ones: moreover, it is not at her age we can judge what condition is suitable for us.

What increases my embarrassment, is the speedy return of M. de Gercourt⁠—Must I break off this advantageous match? How then can one contribute to their children’s happiness, if our wishes and cares are not sufficient? You would much oblige me to let me know how you would act in my situation; I cannot fix on anything. There is nothing so dreadful as to decide on the fate of others; and I am equally afraid, on this occasion, of using the severity of a judge, or the weakness of a mother.

I always reproach myself with increasing your griefs, by relating mine; but I know your heart; the consolation you could give others, would be the greatest you could possibly receive.

Adieu, my dear and worthy friend! I expect your two answers with the greatest impatience.