LISA Corsetry Website
Souvenirs de Sophie
By Fred Pody ©
A Translation by K.J.
Jörge has provided the pictures, in no particular order, which accompany these translations
In homage to "The Memoirs of Paula Sanchez" which appeared in the magazine Bizarre during the Fifties.
CHAPTER ONE - THE GREAT CHANGE
It should finish in this way. I was relieved.
Three groups in front of the solicitor in an office in Mende, an old and blasé solicitor, or perhaps, professionally disinterested, not wishing to take sides with any party.
The first party:
My father and mother who could no longer who could no longer tolerate me, having lost all hope of having a pretty and well behaved girl fitting in with the neighbours,
rather than a a tomboy preferring fights with my mother or outraging the well-to-do neighbours and "good manners"
My aunt, who hated the manners and outdated ideas of my mother, which she categorised as "middle class and provincial."
It is true that my aunt Florence was very young, just ten years older than I. I was one month from being sixteen, my aunt was only twenty six, but what class, an elegant,
slim, sophisticated Parisienne. Like a fashion plate, but more real, less "vacuous." And, in fact, she often spoke to my mother of her lack of ambition, her acceptance
of her husband's wishes and above all her old fashioned and dull tastes.
And I was in the middle of all of that, the third party being just me, and the origin of the problem, my continual arguments with my mother, the anger of my father when
by chance he deigned to come to the house. And then, I couldn't stand this miserable, backward provincial town any more, this little town with its shabby feuds within
the little group of notables and their feeble ideas, old games and their little fads. I wanted to go away, far away, to a big town, to see the modern world, the parties,
the shows. To live freely, like my aunt, whom I admired without knowing her well. She never returned visits from her sister.
To leave…. But in 1890, sixteen-year-old girls could not just leave home, it was completely impossible. What forced my mother to decide was the nomination of my father
as ambassador to Chile in South America, at least… I don't know how far away, but on the other side of the Atlantic. My mother would accompany him, but did not want me
to leave France because of my schooling. The solution was obvious. That Parisian sister whom she hated. Why not get rid of the burden which I had become? This sister
who loved so much her liberty, a scruffy kid on her arm would be just the job for her. Furthermore, I had given them a pretext to make me responsible for this
"heart- rending" decision. As was my wont, I had vanished into the park to join my pal Daniel for games. Daniel and I were the same age and had much in common, notably
our attitude to our respective families. He hated as much as I did the receptions, the dances, the elegant society functions and all the rest. Physically, he was a very lively
boy, but not very tall, pretty slim and not very broad. He even had the same size waist and had lent me clothes of his, which fitted me perfectly, and were more convenient
for playing. The dresses my mother wanted me to wear I did not like. They were dull, heavy, awkward and restricting. I felt much more at ease in Daniel's clothes
when running through the woods.
On this particular day it had rained, and we
were not very clean. I had brought Daniel in through the large drawing room to
avoid the dining room where my mother was.
But I had completely forgotten the reception being specially held this afternoon. Mother had demanded my presence to be introduced to a Prefect or Sub-Prefect or
Sub-Something-Else who was visiting us just before taking the train to Paris. Alas, I was introduced, Daniel as well, but not at all in good clothes and not very clean.
Even worse, our interruption in this assembly caused a great silence, shortly followed by cries from my mother. The sweet and delicate girl I should have been was just
a dirty, scruffy tomboy. My mother quickly ushered me out of the room; Daniel was made to leave and fled to the park. My parents admonished me severely and more…
They told me that they were getting rid of me, and would no longer be responsible for my education. Their idea was to dump me into the hands of my Aunt Florence.
They could thus leave with a clear conscience and were delighted at handing a poisoned gift to my aunt.
To be sure, my parents had described me as a
model of seriousness and politeness, very sweet and feminine, never making a
noise or commotion, always happy, quiet
and only asking to be of assistance. I would be a perfect help in keeping her Parisian home etc., etc. Turn all this flattery into the opposite and you will have a little
more realistic portrait of me. The signatures were quickly done. The solicitor, a little surprised at the speed of the proceedings, insisted on explaining the contract in
"Sir, Madame," said the solicitor, addressing my parents, "You must be aware that you are relinquishing all your parental authority. And you, Miss Florence, you have taken
over a considerable load - you must provide for the needs of Sophie until her marriage, but in addition, you will be responsible for all her actions, both civil and financial.
You must also provide her education. Her true parents are giving you full authority to decide whatever seems to you best for her, and you can take these decisions
without referring to anybody. This gives you an absolute authority over your protégée, but by the same token, you will be solely responsible for her future resulting from
"I understand perfectly, Sir." said Florence.
My parents, relieved at getting rid of an
encumbrance, secretly rejoiced at dumping this load onto my aunt. I said nothing
for fear that this chance of parting might
vanish with the refusal of my aunt. And my aunt, why was she smiling? Was she stupid not to have understood? Something was not right, it was too easy, and I saw my
mother leave the office a little puzzled by the ease of the affair, and the absence of discussion. Everything had been accepted, almost without reading the contract.
"Come along Sophie. Follow me."
"But, Aunt, I cannot. I've brought nothing
with me. Let me join you in Paris in a week or two when I have all my things in
"Don't be silly, Sophie. We leave immediately, you have been put in my care, and you must obey me. You will come with me exactly as you are right now."
"But my things? My… Aunt, wait…"
I went back into the office seeking help. My
parents had already left. I was alone. There was nothing else for me to do but
to follow her. I had got what I wanted, but
also I was very apprehensive, and my heart beat wildly.
The journey was long, three days in dusty
coaches, trains, one more coach and then a little coach drawn by one horse and
driven by a fairly large woman. I was extremely
tired and it did not surprise me. In the evening, arriving at last at Chantilly, near Paris, we stopped in front of a finely wrought iron gate shutting in an estate enclosed by
high stone walls.
My aunt hesitated, then signed to the
coachwoman to follow the road beside the wall. We stopped in front of an iron
door set into the surrounding wall.
"Get down and wait here. Someone will come to get you. You are simply not presentable in that dress. I would be ashamed of you in front of my staff. The least of my
servants is much more elegant than you. She turned around and I stayed there, alone in front of the door. It was getting late in the evening, and the light was slowly fading.
It was still just light, but the shadows were getting darker, I could now no longer distinguish this door in the dark, the opening in the wall seemed to resemble more and
more the entrance to a tunnel.
There was a noise of metal turning followed by a muffled grinding. A face appeared out of the gloom.
"Follow me," said the face.
In the park, only the open fields were light. Under the trees, it was already night. We walked on for a while, crossing a bridge and then a very dark path in the woods.
I followed the woman who guided me very closely. In a small clearing was a little single-storey building. A hunting cabin, a little kitch with steps made to imitate
trunks of trees, and walls of planking. The interior was rustic with a massive table of hewn wood, a large stone fireplace, and hunting trophies hanging on the panelled walls.
It appeared warm and comfortable, with thick skins draped over several chairs and a woollen carpet covering most of the floor.
The woman left me without a word of
The house was small and I quickly found the
only bedroom. I was soon in bed, too tired to explore the place properly.
The pictures, in no particular order
Return to Original Fiction Page
Return to LISA's Main Page