20th Thread: My mother and her husband floated down the river at sunset.

Emily Mary Osborn Gouvernante:GovernesseSchjerfbeck portrait long colLemaire_Jeanne_Scène-dans_train
The luxury of their boat, according to the maids whispering in the hall, was astounding. When I was in bed, irked by my day, I would imagine her and her husband on the deck, while the musicians played, and courtesans danced. They reclined on sofas covered with soft cushions, feeding each other sweets, and sipping ice cold lemonades. Dressed in magnificent brocades, they laughed merrily and tickled each other. At stopovers, people from the gentry visited them, laying at their feet the treasures of the desert: jewels, candied dates, vials of cordials, camel shawls embroidered with gems. My meals of rye porridge and olives were served by the servants in the kitchen.

When she visited us, she acted as if she were not my mother, but a fairly friendly acquaintance. She did not miss me, while I would have given everything for her to return. My brothers were at my grandparents getting pampered, they weren’t expected to take care of my spoiled cousins. My aunt employed me as a companion, when the children were in bed, boring me daily with her accounts of impudent maids and suppliers. Meanwhile, my mother and her husband on their boat, floating down the river in the sunset, listened to the poems of the nomads. My father had died in battle. Why? Why him when others had returned? It is the mercenaries who must die, not the generals.
Anthony_Cleopatra_on_boatAll I hoped for was marriage. I thought at last my life would be worth living. My mother and her husband were also eager to get me off their hands. She made sure that I had property inherited from my father, we have to be grateful for her foresight: I will pass my inheritance onto you unless I am widowed and need it. Stop squirming, hair plucking is not so painful and our maid is quite skillful. I was young when they arranged for my marriage, I had just turned 15. Managing a household, dealing with servants and dishonest merchants, welcoming snotty acquaintances was overwhelming. And my husband was no help, I only saw him at night. Listen, it’s not easy being a young bride. He was twice my age and, used to courtesans, he expected me to conform to his every desire. Fear and shame paralyzed me. If you marry, you will have to go through the same. It is the fate of honest women. Would you like me to describe the details?

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