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TO MADAME DE LAFAYETTE.
October 1st, 1777.
I wrote to you, my dearest love, the 12th of September; the twelfth was the day after the eleventh, and I have a little tale to relate to you concerning that eleventh day. To render my action more meritorious, I might tell you that prudent reflections induced me to remain for some weeks in my bed, safe sheltered from all danger; but I must acknowledge that I was encouraged to take this measure by a slight wound, which I met with I know not how, for I did not, in truth, expose myself to peril. It was the first conflict at which I had been present; so you see how very rare engagements are. It will be the last of this campaign, or, in all probability, at least, the last great battle; and if anything should occur, you see that I could not myself be present.
You may, therefore, my love, feel perfectly secure. I have much pleasure in thus reassuring you. While I am desiring you not to be alarmed on my account, I repeat to myself that you love me; and this little conversation with my own heart is inexpressibly delightful to me, for I love you more tenderly than I have ever done before.
My first occupation was to write to you the day after that affair: I told you that it was a mere trifle, and I was right; all I fear is that you should not have received my letter. As General Howe is giving, in the meantime, rather pompous details of his American exploits to the king his master, if he should write word that I am wounded, he may also write word that I am killed, which would not cost him anything; but I hope that my friends, and you especially, will not give faith to the reports of those persons who last year dared to publish that General Washington, and all the general officers of his army, being in a boat together, had been upset, and every individual drowned. But let us speak about the wound: it is only a flesh-wound, and has neither touched bone nor nerve. The surgeons are astonished at the rapidity with which it heals; they are in an ecstasy of joy each time they dress it, and pretend it is the finest thing in the world: for my part, I think it most disagreeable, painful, and wearisome; but tastes often differ: if a man, however, wished to be wounded for his amusement only, he should come and examine how I have been struck, that he might be struck precisely in the same manner. This, my dearest love, is what I pompously style my wound, to give myself airs, and render myself interesting.
I must now give you your lesson, as wife of an American general officer. They will say to you, "They have been beaten:" you must answer,--"That is true; but when two armies of 'equal number' meet in the field, old soldiers have naturally the advantage over new ones; they have, besides, had the pleasure of killing a great many of the enemy, many more than they have lost." They will afterwards add: "All that is very well; but Philadelphia is taken, the capital of America, the rampart of liberty!" You must politely answer, "You are all great fools! Philadelphia is a poor forlorn town, exposed on every side, whose harbour was already closed; though the residence of congress lent it, I know not why, some degree of celebrity. This is the famous city which, be it added, we will, sooner or later, make them yield back to us." If they continue to persecute you with questions, you may send them about their business in terms which the Viscount de Noailles will teach you, for I cannot lose time by talking to you of politics.
I have delayed writing your letter till the last, in the hope of receiving one from you, answering it, and giving you the latest intelligence of my health; but I am told, if I do not send immediately to congress, twenty-five leagues from hence, my captain will have set out, and I shall lose the opportunity of writing to you. This is the cause of my scrawl being more unintelligible than usual; however, if I were to send you anything but a hurried scrawl, I ought, in that case, to beg your pardon, from the singularity of the case. Recollect, my dearest love, that I have only once heard of you, from Count Pulaski. I am much provoked, and am very miserable. Imagine how dreadful it is to be far from all I love, in this state of suspense and almost despair; it is impossible to support it; and I feel, at the same time, that I do not deserve to be pitied. Why was I so obstinately bent on coming hither? I have been well punished for my error; my affections are too strongly rooted for me to be able to perform such deeds. I hope you pity me; if you knew all I suffer, especially at this moment, when everything concerning you is so deeply interesting! I cannot, without shuddering, think of this. I am told that a parcel has arrived from France; I have despatched expresses on every road and in every corner; I have sent an officer to congress; I am expecting him every day, and you may conceive with what feelings of intense anxiety. My surgeon is also very anxious for his arrival, for this suspense keeps my blood in a state of effervescence, and he would fain require that it should flow calmly. O, my dearest life, if I receive good news from you, and all I love,--if those delightful letters arrive to-day, how happy I shall be!--but with what agitation, also, I shall open them!
Be perfectly at ease about my wound; all the faculty in America are engaged in my service. I have a friend, who has spoken to them in such a manner that I am certain of being well attended to; that friend is General Washington. This excellent man, whose talents and virtues I admired, and whom I have learnt to revere as I know him better, has now become my intimate friend: his affectionate interest in me instantly won my heart. I am established in his house, and we live together like two attached brothers, with mutual confidence and cordiality. This friendship renders me as happy as I can possibly be in this country. When he sent his best surgeon to me, he told him to take charge of me as if I were his son, because he loved me with the same affection. Having heard that I wished to rejoin the army too soon, he wrote me a letter full of tenderness, in which he requested me to attend to the perfect restoration of my health. I give you these details, my dearest love, that you may feel quite certain of the care that is taken of me. Amongst the French officers, who have all expressed the warmest interest for me, M. de Gimat, my aide-de-camp, has followed me about like my shadow, both before and since the battle, and has given me every possible proof of attachment. You may thus feel quite secure on this account, both for the present and for the future.
All the foreigners who are in the army,--for I do not speak only of those who have not been employed, and who, on their return to France, will naturally give an unjust account of America, because the discontented, anxious to revenge their fancied injuries, cannot be impartial,--all the foreigners, I say, who have been employed here are dissatisfied, complain, detest others, and are themselves detested: they do not understand why I am the only stranger beloved in America, and I cannot understand why they are so much hated. In the midst of the disputes and dissensions common to all armies, especially when there are officers of various nations, I, for my part, who am an easy and a good-tempered man, am so fortunate as to be loved by all parties, both foreigners and Americans: I love them all--I hope I deserve their esteem; and we are perfectly satisfied the one with the other. I am at present in the solitude of Bethlehem, which the Abb? Raynal has described so minutely. This establishment is a very interesting one; the fraternity lead an agreeable and a very tranquil life: we will talk over all this on my return; and I intend to weary those I love, yourself, of course, in the first place, by the relation of my adventures, for you know that I was always a great prattler. You must become a prattler also, my love, and say many things for me to Henriette--my poor little Henriette! embrace her a thousand times--talk of me to her, but do not tell her all I deserve to suffer; my punishment will be, not to be recognised by her on my arrival; that is the penance Henriette will impose on me. Has she a brother or a sister?--the choice is quite indifferent to me, provided I have a second time the pleasure of being a father, and that I may soon learn that circumstance. If I should have a son, I will tell him to examine his own heart carefully; and if that heart should be a tender one, if he should have a wife whom he loves as I love you, in that case I shall advise him not to give way to feelings of enthusiasm, which would separate him from the object of his affection, for that affection will afterwards give rise to a thousand dreadful fears.
I am writing, by a different opportunity, to various persons, and also to yourself. I think this letter will arrive first; if this vessel should accidentally arrive, and the other one be lost, I have given the viscount a list of the letters I have addressed to him. I forgot to mention my aunts; give them news of me as soon as this reaches you. I have made no _duplicata_ for you, because I write to you by every opportunity. Give news of me, also, to M. Margelay, the Abbe Fayon, and Desplaces.
A thousand tender regards to my sisters; I permit them to despise me as an infamous deserter--but they must also love me at the same time. My respects to Madame la Comtesse Auguste, and Madame de Fronsac. If my grandfather's letters should not reach him, present to him my respectful and affectionate regards. Adieu, adieu, my dearest life; continue to love me, for I love you most tenderly.
- General Lafayette