The House of Gremot: part three
He let his weight fall against the newel post, and wrapped an arm around it. But Fromisch caught his other arm, saying at the same time, “Let loose that post. I’ll take you on over there myself.”
He meant this in the purest practical sense…taking a grip on Honoré’s wrist, slinging the arm round his neck, catching Honoré by the waist and carrying him in the manner of an injured man, Fromisch propelled him at a brisker clip than he had traveled for many months. A woman mopping circles on the common room floor straightened as they came near; with a reddened hand she stretched for the door.
“Thankee, Abigail,” Fromisch said.
And to Honoré: “You’ve not seen Lovas? Well, I can’t think of anything much I’ve heard. A lady and a priest…”
It was not the start of an anecdote. Fromisch cut himself short, and changed tacks. “You got no family in the county, do you, Jerome?”
Confused, Honoré repeated, “A lady and a priest?”
“Well. Now and again…it’ll be a widow, lot of times, wanting to donate some particular thing. A good pair of boots belonged to her husband, it might be, or a winter coat. Sometimes a religious article. So she asks Mr. Lovas to find her an inmate…you get my meaning?”
It was a heart-sinking possibility, then, that Anne had not come for him; that he was to meet a stranger, a woman of his own faith bearing a missal or some such, for the disposal of which Mr. Lovas had thought of the devout Jerome. Briefly, he saw Maier costumed (and quite capable of it) as a priest…but, if she had not left Maier, if she had not given Maier up, both as lover and as guiding light in criminality, Honoré hoped never to see Anne again.
Now the door at the end of the path was pulled open, and McCutcheon came out onto the stoop. He watched, edging back the corners of his mouth, and said nothing, while his hand on the doorknob worked to and fro. When Fromisch brought Honoré near enough for a private word, McCutcheon stepped down and put his face close, as though Honoré’s ears could in that way be excluded.
“Mr. Lovas has some papers to show Jerome. I’ll go ahead now and tell him again.” On this peevish note he stopped, and reversed himself; with an ironic sweep of the hand, he allowed Fromisch to hike Honoré over the threshold first.
And did not go ahead. McCutcheon came in on their heels, lowering his voice. “Father Zaide is one of those Jesuits. And she hasn’t said a word in English. She only talks to the priest.”
The House of Gremot
(2017, Stephanie Foster)