A Letter from the Mendes house, Lisbon,To Dona   Violanta, wife of Don Manuel Fernandez,Sunday, September 19th, MDXXXVII  (1537)

 

 

 

My dear Violanta,
By the time you would have read this letter, if I were to send it at all, I will no longer be here. I am leaving our beloved land of birth, Portugal, never again to return… I am surrounded by the worst of chaos which I myself have created, my various fancy dresses and the best of my garments are spread all over, the fine silk fabric, my starched underwear, my whale bone expensive corset and the indulging mole fur – everything that by midnight was packed in impeccable order, on which my servants labored for two whole days, in the huge travelling boxes, now standing wide open in front of me, with their heavy spiral iron keys hanging out, awaiting impatiently to fulfill their purpose. For the last few hours I have been searching with desperate fingers inside the boxes, amongst the fabrics and the dresses. Only just now have I found that which I was looking for… Do you remember it, Violanta? The white lace cotton? My dear mother’s cotton nightgown? … I am now finally holding it safely in my hands, close to my skin. I am cradling it, the tips of my fingers caressing the lines of the soft embroidery, trying in the darkness to guess the shapes of the flowers and their colors by their touch… I could not have left this place without it. Imagine, Violanta, that even now, after a whole decade has past since that horrible night, I cannot fall asleep in my bed before my fingers feel the coarse, comforting touch of the embroidered flowers, between the silk white pillows of my bed. Apart of Rachella, my nanny, I have not told this secret to anyone, ever. Yes, I hold such secrets as well, Violanta. Imagine, that even my dear Francesco, who slept by my side for six years, died without ever knowing it…