Friday, October 1, 2010

A Letter from the Camp--the Rose Garden

It's been a while since I wrote a letter from the camps--the eighteenth century regimental camps, that is. I was terribly busy after our last event and plum forgot. But I shall remedy that situation post haste.

For ease of reading--my eighteenth century persona is an officer's wife from Philadelphia who has joined her husband while he is encamped just outside her city.

Dear Mrs. S--,

I was quite disappointed that you were unable to join us when you passed near the encampment, but I can understand quite well why you would prefer to hasten home to your husband rather than fall in with our rough company! I do believe that, in all the maneuvers and machinations of putting this army in precisely the right spot (a topic of which I am gaining not a little understanding but still find quite bewildering) this is the finest ground upon which we've been fortunate enough to stake a tent. We have, as my husband the Lieutenant claims is the correct terminology, appropriated the estate of a fine gentleman with a brick house and expansive grounds. They use his lawn for a parade ground and his gardener's shed for an infirmary. It has, to be sure, angered the gardener, who had to move his tools into the kitchen, which angered the cook, but what is there to be done about that?

Yesterday perhaps produced the most frustration of any day thus far in my brief sojourn with the army. We were fortunate enough to receive a portion of a cow, also "appropriated" along with several chickens, and so planned to make a grand feast of it. But this meant that I had to spend nearly all day at cookery, and it was quite exhausting, which I would have been content to ignore had our dinner been a joyous occasion. It was, instead, quite unfortunate. Several of our men were ill and did not wish to eat, and several others such louts that they masticated their meat and disappeared. After this, there was an incident of rowdy drunkenness in camp which my husband the Lieutenant had to subdue. So I went to bed disappointed and discouraged.

This morning, however, dawned so bright and lovely that I could not remain unsettled. Instead, I stole away from the main camp and explored the gardens. With each step, my resentment seemed to melt away like the golden morning burning away the last of the dawn's haze.

I came first to a large pond ringed with flowers both decorative and useful, many beginning to fade in the face of autumn. The scent was deliciously sun-baked--bright herb and mellow water-flower scents mingling together.

After circling the pond I found the paths to the other gardens, all laid out in the most formal of fashions. Surely a masterful gardener designed this plan, for each segment of the garden was like a room in a beautifully appointed house, each having its own scheme of color and, even, personality.

I sat for quite some time in a boxwood garden surrounded by tall pines, intoxicated by the smell of damp loam and the evergreens before moving on.

It was then that I found the rose garden.

Such a rose garden, my dear Mrs. S--! Such an overflowing bounty of roses to which I have never seen an equal. I was walking along the lawn and I scented the place before I saw it--it was bordered by a long pergola on the side from which I approached, and so I saw the whole thing at once, like opening the door on the most beautiful room you have ever seen.

I wandered among the roses for what ought to have been hours for the number of petals I brushed and leaves I caught between thumb and finger, enjoying the waxen texture. And the scent! Oh, the scent was the most enchanting and bewildering enjoyment in the world. They are at their last, of course, the roses--and so their scent seems all the stronger as their swan song.

As I walked back to my canvas home, appointed with naught but a straw mattress and a worn-out rug, wearing a poor linen gown and a battered straw hat, I thought: This is the most civilized I have felt since leaving Philadelphia.


Audra said...

This is my first time coming across one of your letters -- and I love it! I'm wild for places like Sturbridge Village and Williamsburg -- so much so my wife is considering doing local reenactment stuff with me! ;)

I particularly giggled over this line: It has, to be sure, angered the gardener, who had to move his tools into the kitchen, which angered the cook, but what is there to be done about that?

Atlanta said...

How fun! doing letters first-person is always an interesting exercise.

Sharmon said...

Loved the letter! I felt like I'd taken the tour of the rose garden, too. Good imagery and humor.

Rowenna said...

Thanks, ladies! The rose garden is beautiful...and smells like heaven!

Audra--if you were in the Midwest, I'd totally shanghai you into joining our reenacting organization :)