This story is based on a portion of The Premature Burial by Edgar Allan Poe. The names Victorine Lafourcade, Julien Bossuet, and M. Renelle, as well as the outline of the plot belong to Poe but all the dialogue and the actual text of the story is my own. If you want to read the original tale, I found it in The Complete Tales & Poems of Edgar Allan Poe compiled by Castle Books. I hope you like my version!
Also, for those of you who don't speak French, M. is the abbreviation for Monsieur (Mr.), Mme. stands for Madame (Mrs.), and Mlle. stands for Mademoiselle (Miss). I use some French phrases, but not enough to make the story incomprehensible. For those of you who are interested in the meanings of the phrases, I'll put translations at the end of each chapter.
A country estate outside of Paris, 1810
This was the shrill cry that Mademoiselle Victorine Lafourcade awoke to almost each and every day. Her maid, Georgette, would then continue her morning routine by throwing open the luxurious blue velvet curtains somewhat violently and continuing to scold her mistress.
"Young girls like you should be up with the sun. It keeps you healthy!"
"That is not true," Victorine murmured lazily as she rolled over so the window was to her back. She closed her eyes and tried to fall back asleep.
"Leve-toi, Victorine! Maintenant!" screeched Georgette. She tore the blue and white comforter off of Victorine's motionless body and then removed her sheets, revealing her slender body enrobed in a white silk nightgown with lace trim and pearly buttons at the neck.
"Georgette!" Victorine exclaimed, thoroughly annoyed. She sat up quickly and jumped out of bed. "There! I'm up! Are you happy now?"
Georgette frowned and hurried over to her mistress' dressing table, pulling out the plush chair upholstered in sapphire colored fabric. White ribbons tied in bows were attached to each of the chair's legs. Georgette turned to her mistress. "Assieds-toi! I will not be happy until you are cleaned, dressed, and ready for today's brunch, which, might I add, will be attended by Monsieur Renelle."
Victorine sat at the dressing table reluctantly. "Who?" she asked, quite uninterested.
"Monsieur Jacques Renelle!" Georgette cried, exasperated. She picked up a silver handled brush from the table and quickly unclipped her mistress' silky blonde hair and started to brush it. "He is only one of the richest bankers in the Paris! If you ask me, your parents are looking to marry you off to him."
"I didn't ask you," replied Victorine.
Georgette huffed and went to her mistress' wardrobe and threw open the doors, opting not to respond any further to Victorine's statement. "Choose a dress, or I shall choose for you."
"The green silk," Victorine answered immediately.
"Which is that?" Georgette asked, sifting through Victorine's large collection of garments. She found it fairly easily. "Que c'est jolie! Did you get it last week in Paris?"
Victorine nodded, running her fingers through her golden locks.
"How did you like the city?" Georgette asked, removing the gown from the wardrobe.
Victorine recalled her trip to the capital a week ago. "It was wonderful. There were so many interesting places and people." She smiled to herself, twirling a lock of hair around her finger.
"Oh? Anyone in particular?"
The younger woman turned around in her chair so she faced Georgette, biting her lip. "Yes, actually. I met a man named Julien Bossuet. He is a journalist; he lives in Paris."
"You don't usually talk about any of the young men you meet, Victorine," Georgette said, smoothing the dress and raising an amused eyebrow at the slightly younger woman.
"That is because they're usually all the same. There's never anything to tell." Victorine stood and quickly shed her nightgown and donned her underclothes. She turned so that Georgette could lace up her corset.
Georgette began tightening Victorine's corset and continued inquiring about her new acquaintance. "So, this Monsieur Bossuet, he is different from the other men?"
"Yes," sighed Victorine, her blue eyes sparkling. "He doesn't talk about his money or his belongings, like all the rich men Maman and Papa introduce me too. He talks about things that really matter. He doesn't try to tell me what I think, he asks me. He is a real gentleman." She paused. "'Tis no matter, it is likely that I shall never see him again." She spoke more quietly. "I miss him, though. He was a good friend to me."
Georgette tied the strings on Victorine's corset and fetched the dress from where it was spread on her mistress' bed. "You'll find a good man here in the village, I'm sure."
Victorine turned to face Georgette. "I doubt it! The last man I met, that Monsieur Jolet, was horrible!" She shivered at the mere thought of the man.
"Everyone thought he would be a good match for you, n'est-ce pas? What was the matter with him?" asked the maid, holding out the silk dress for Victorine to step into.
Victorine frowned. "He was very…well, forward." She paused. "No, he was worse than forward. He was an animal, a brute! And he is supposed to be a well-bred gentleman. Nothing could be further from the truth!" She turned toward Georgette after the dress was buttoned up. "Well?"
"Parfait," said Georgette. "You look lovely." She gently pushed Victorine toward the dressing table and sat her down again. "But you are not done yet, my dear." Victorine had to sit for another fifteen minutes as Georgette tied her hair into an elaborate bun complete with diamond pins in her hair. She added a matching necklace and earrings and then quickly applied makeup to Victorine's face. She stepped back when she was finished.
"Now may I leave?" Victorine asked hopefully.
"Yes, yes, go, you're already late," Georgette said, pushing the young woman out the door. She called after her as she started walking down the hall. "You'd do well not to tell your parents about your Monsieur Bossuet during the brunch, Mademoiselle! The only man they'll want you to talk about is Monsieur Renelle."
Reveille-toi! = Wake up!
Leve-toi = Get up
Maintenant! = Now!
Assieds-toi! = Sit down!
Que c'est jolie! = How pretty it is!
N'est-ce pas? = No?
Parfait = Perfect