Sequence: Give a Dog a Bad Name (part one)
Give a Dog a Bad Name and Hang Him
Give him a table where he can hear/and a chair that bears his weight,
and remember he’s doing a favor for you/when he gets his story straight
F.F.M., Arizona Republican, 1921
Not too many people liked hounding an orphanage.
Of course, the work done to the Chateau d’Auclaudet was needed. The mission had been able to make use of the original galleried hall, divided into a cafeteria and vocational workshops, and the two chapels, which had become schoolrooms. Six bedchambers had been partitioned into twelve; each could hold four or more orphans. All the servants’ quarters in the cellars were suitable―wired for electricity, given a coat of paint―for housing the mission’s offices, and the caretaking staff. The laundry and the kitchen, having been at the turn of the century somewhat modernized, had now been expanded to institutional capacity—though the ranges remained coal-fired, the water pumped from a well.
The old chateau had been erected in the reign of Louis Treize, its stone walls, after three hundred years, proving themselves still cannon repellent. The new chateau, the 1765 addition to the family compound, constructed over the ruins of a gatehouse, and on a rise above the Deûle valley, had been used by the occupying Germans for artillery practice. The last marquis of the Auclaudet line, a young man known publicly as Monsieur Carrière, had by then fled, his trunks sent away already. He’d expected war, and had, before the formal declaration was announced, crossed the border into Switzerland, on a summer day of 1914.
He remained, fourteen years on, at his second home in Lucerne. It was M. Carrière who presided over the mission’s European dealings; Carrière who oversaw its finances generally. Carrière wrote checks…but more often, he collected them. The chateau had been in a state of disrepair (or continual repair) from the time the mission had first been gifted it.
More than a few live shells were extracted from pits in the chateau’s ruined floors. Phlegmatic, bare-headed workmen, wearing aprons and gloves, had loaded these onto the straw-padded beds of wheelbarrows. Gently, the shells had been rolled downhill; sent by truck, then, to the ordnance depot, where gloved women dismantled them.
Metal scrap had been exceedingly dear in 1919…and hunger can afford so much, of wisdom.
The terraced garden, overlooked in pre-war years by M. Carrière from his study, seemed unrecoverable. Golden sedum, now frothing in rebellion over stone troughs, spread like a lamp’s aura among wild grasses and crabbed box topiary grown feral, where craters undermined the low walls. These had fallen into severed chunks, drowned now in fecundity. Carrière’s mind was to leave it, let the ruins speak to that generation coming this land’s war-taught language.
Give a Dog a Bad Name
(2016, Stephanie Foster)