Considerations Beyond Understanding: episode nineteen
Considerations Beyond Understanding
A voice from out the Future cries,
“On! On!”―but o’er the Past,
(Dim Gulf!) my spirit hovering lies,
Mute, motionless, aghast!
“To One in Paradise”
Edgar Allan Poe
Kneussl arrived early, as forecast, during breakfast. For the Fordyces, Greta’s hosts, he was able to be charming. No, of course, he would not disturb them; no, he would not take tea or toast. He thanked Mrs. Fordyce for her kind offer. He would wait in the hall.
Muriel Fordyce wavered over her own teacup. In a moment she had bolted, unable to ignore this visitor, leaving her husband to entertain Greta. Colonel Fordyce applied himself to marmalade, poured another cup of tea; he lifted the pot, suggesting a willingness to pour for Greta. She shook her head. She didn’t want tea in the morning.
The Colonel thought of a remark:
“You say you hope to do a bit of traveling on the continent. Wise thing…set off at once.”
This advice—if it were advice—seemed to hang between them. The colonel cocked his head towards the window. Greta ventured, “I think he wants to. Herr von Kneussl.” She paused. “Leave right away. Is it raining, you mean?” She tried to size up the length of time polite manners required her to remain seated.
Colonel Fordyce, suffering—unfortunately undisguisedly—in like manner, the two of them listened to his wife’s airy regaling of Kneussl with conversation. From the breakfast room they could hear Muriel’s murmur, a low confidential tone; Muriel’s skittering laughter; Muriel, emphatic and more highly pitched, so that “worried”, and “one does what one must” came through clearly. Kneussl only once or twice prompted her with a comment.
Greta, coming to a decision, stood; the Colonel stood. She offered a weak early pleasantry―“Thanks so much…that’ll just hold me”—indicating toast and marmalade. More (she would have to think of a few) would be exchanged before she got away. Albeit life with the Fordyces was awkward; life with Kneussl was bound to be worse.
The evening before, Colonel Fordyce, looking very much a man burdened by duty, had held fast to one of two brown upholstered armchairs on either side of the fireplace. Greta had been placed, at Muriel’s insistence, in the other. Muriel, with a Bloomsbury-esque attitude of informality, had folded in her silk pyjamas like a descending parachute, onto the rug. She’d propped her head, chin in hand, on her husband’s footstool. She’d wanted Greta’s Hollywood stories.
(2014, 2018, Stephanie Foster)