La Maréchale d’Aubemer, Nouvelle du XVIIIème Siècle, or The Widow of Field Marshal d’Aubemer: A Novella of the 18th Century, posthumously published in 1867, is a novel by the author and memoirist Madame de Boigne, born Adélaïde d’Osmond (1781-1866). Mine is the first English translation, available here for the first time anywhere.
In Chapter 11, Gudule sits beside an old soldier at dinner. He has much to say about his adored young colonel…
THE WIDOW OF FIELD MARSHALL D’AUBEMER: A NOVELLA OF THE 18TH CENTURY
Country air, exercise, and a manner of living closer to her own habits restored Mme de Saveuse’s health. She had recovered her bloom, and sometimes her gaiety, but not the serene equanimity of her temperament; she had frequent relapses into sadness. Lionel was more than ever under the thumb of the Princesse de Montford, who could not have ruled him more painfully. For two years she herself had submitted to the yoke, having been dominated by Henri; she compensated by exercising an absolute and capricious tyranny over M de Saveuse. The fact that Princesse Simon’s name came up incessantly in Lionel’s conversation forced Gudule to think about the sorrows that she considered her to have caused her, never without astonishment that such a woman could inspire tender feelings. This thought came to her first with regard to Lionel, but quickly passed over him to settle for a long time on Henri, whose superiority she made no bones about acknowledging. These purely philosophical reflections did not alarm her, but captivated her mind, and filled her leisure, so much so that she was constantly occupied in seeking to explain M d’Estouteville’s passion for Mme de Montford. And yet it was the only thing she did not talk about to Mme d’Aubemer, who, for her part, did her best to hide Lionel’s conduct, and gave her the niece the greatest proof of her affection in sparing no effort to keep this husband, who was becoming more and more insufferable to her, at Magnanville. One morning when the two ladies were working side by side, lost in their thoughts, the Maréchale broke the silence by asking Mme de Saveuse when her love for Lionel had begun.
“In truth, Aunt, I don’t really know. I was always taught to consider him my future husband.”
“But, after all, you must have had a pressing reason to refuse the poor Chevalier d’Aubermer with such a high hand.”
“As to that, I can answer more clearly. I wanted to stay at Saveuse with my grandfather, and never leave Mama.”
Mme d’Aubemer raised her eyes and looked at her without speaking. Gudule blushed a little.
“It’s true, Aunt. But that wasn’t to be presumed. And now I’m told it’s my duty.”
She turned her head to hide a few furtive tears, and the Maréchale, sorry to have provoked them, hastened to change the subject.