The Impresario (part twelve)
The prisoner’s advocate begins to feel himself followed
It seems to him a certainty the footpad is that fellow
Who gives his name in fraudulent humility as Pierre
“Only that.” And loiters round the guardhouse.
The advocate turns on a heel, making the jailer’s victualer
Behind him stagger, dropping the joint
Wrenched from a boiling carcass, possibly of mutton
“No harm done, good monsieur, no harm done,” the jailer’s man
mutters, taking it up at once, and smearing on his blouse
A swath of grease in the shape of the letter X
The advocate sees indeed
Two figures skulk in his train
“By my fortune!” He swears his strongest oath;
This wealth coined from trade in Tuscan terracotta.
New elevated by fortuitous marriage to baronial rank
He is entitled to the sword he draws
And shows his stength of arm in balancing the point
At Pierre’s throat
“Begone from here, thou rogue!”
“Worthy lord…and you as well, my worthy jailer’s cur.
I dare not bow. Yet witness what I plainly state before your ears.
I mean to second your good promptings, good monsieur.
Shall I tell you your advice? You will trust me better.”
“Tell me…!” The merchant-baron lowers his sword
His sputter interrupted by the turnkey
“I cannot wake the prisoner!
…Pardon me.” He laces fingers at his waist, and bends his knee.
“I speak out of turn, monsieur le baron.
I apologize, if it please your excellence,
I shall begin again…” Clouting the turnkey on the shoulder,
the advocate presses past,
to enter the cell with a shake of the head. Pierre’s boy,
who had been silent, crosses before him like a shadow
And most extraordinary to the advocate’s eye
Kneels on the filthy floor of stone.
Throwing back his cowl he croons, “O, my poor love!”
Caressing the prisoner’s hand in his own
(2017, Stephanie Foster)