Mathilde Alanic: Shine! (part thirty-six)
A young man approached, elegant in rich and sober garments well-fitted, the vest cut square over the dazzling shirt, to doff a silver-buckled hat to the Le Goël family. They all stopped to exchange a few courtesies. The modulated voice and chosen expressions, the ease of gesture and pose, showed Annie he had been educated at a good school, proud and faithful as he was to the traditional costume.
And something else was revealed, as the beautiful face of Annik went scarlet under the blue-eyed gaze, a study in disinterest, that hardly dared linger here…
Jean Drezanno had just left, when a newcomer seized M. Le Goël by the back of the jacket.
“Well met, my second in command! Kergrist has the air of a big resort! Do you like the lanterns? They are putting them everywhere!”
M. Le Goël beamed. “M. de Kervenno…if you approve, that’s enough!”
From the day before, the white yacht of M. de Kervenno had rested near the bridge of Kérisper. But in Kergrist, as in Paris, the occasion had not come for Annie to meet the chatelain; she was not yet known to her employer’s host. M. Conan had for three days been invisible, taken here and there on archeological excursions by the friends arrived at Carnac.
Kervenno proved a vigorous man, his eyes a rare blue, his face weathered by sun and sea, creased at the temples. He seemed to be without arrogance or artifice…and without reserve, he turned gallantly to the three women.
“How is Mme Le Goël? Well, I can see you are fresh as a rose! And this princess of beauty who refused the crown? It would have been nice, eh, to be queen of the regatta? You have something to answer for, little Annik! Mademoiselle?”
He saluted Annie, intrigued.
M. Le Goël murmured, embarrassed: “A friend of my daughter, hmm!”
“Blonde and brunette! Ah! The little coquettes know their worth!” And M. de Kervenno, giving his hands to the two young women, added: “How flattering to call oneself neighbor to such lovely creatures! Don’t you think so, Patrice?”
Annie, disconcerted, saw before her M. Conan, accompanied by two men. He did not recognize her at first. Their eyes met, and still he looked puzzled. She quickly put a stop to the inoffensive charade.
“You didn’t know I had a taste for dressing up, M. Conan? My kind hostesses wanted to see what I’d look like in these beautiful clothes, but…I think, awkward and ungainly.”
“Not at all!” cried M. de Kervenno. “I count myself duped! I had taken you for an authentic Bretonne!”
“The error is not much,” said M. Conan, with a certain effort. “Mademoiselle is a native of Rennes.”
Proceeding to a proper introduction, he named her Mlle Annie Le Goël, woman of letters, whose novel would soon by published in the Voix de Paris.
M. de Kervenno greeted her again, politely, but with a visible cooling at the title. “Our country also has its novelist, Zénaïde Fleuriot. Go to Locmariaquer, and you will see his house and his grave.”
Then turning to the waterfront, populated with square and triangular sails in their whites, yellows, reds, and greens, bright as butterfly wings, he became exasperated, grumbling to himself. Yachts, two-masted synagots, even rowboats, rocked peacefully, their images mirrored on the calm waters. And a stupid breakdown was keeping his dear Flèche in port.
“Will you at least come visit?” he said to the group. “You, mademoiselle, may use the description in one of your stories. And we will have a bite to eat on board!”
Annie hesitated to follow her hosts, already making off at this flattering invitation…for M. Conan remained on land, though he urged her to take her place in the dinghy.
“Go! Everything is useful to see!”
Was he not well? What troubled him privately? His voice and gaze both seemed to her clouded. She worried for him. Nor did the delicious Spanish tapas, the adaptable furnishings of the ingenious floating house, make her forget this preoccupation.
(2021, translation, Stephanie Foster; 1922, Mathilde Alanic, Rayonne!)