Mathilde Alanic: Shine! (part forty-one)
When she woke, a wan morning light was shining through her window’s upper glass. Her bleary eyes were attracted by a square of paper near the door, a notecard, its mauve hue standing out against the parquet. Curious, Annie heaved to her feet.
Wednesday evening, 9 o’clock
I am taking tea with Winifred. But the sybil is too busy, it appears, in her colloquy with the gods, for one to dare disturb her. I scribble these five lines to offer again my sympathies, and to say farewell. I leave in two days for the Midi. Then on, as far as Naples, stopping wherever the country sings to me.
Good luck! Good health!
And with all my esteem,
N.B. You know that my invitation persists. I’m very serious! And if this sounds appealing to you, will you fly away ? ? ?
Of this affable, offhand communication, the postscript stood out. Annie blinked the words into focus, read them again with a dull apprehension. Was this destiny, intervening?
“Winifred, in my place, would believe so.”
The thing was striking, regardless. Yes, Annie said to herself, Winifred would find an occult correlation between this letter and my awful dilemma…
And Christiane’s smiling offer would make escape—what Annie’s conscience advised—easy. That was wisdom, wasn’t it, to seize on an opportunity almost miraculous?
At once her pride rebelled. But how absurd! How awkward, ridiculous, imbecilic! A thousand persuasions spoke against it. What reason could she give for flitting off, and with no time to craft a proper excuse? Her leaving would cause any number of difficulties. Corrections were due on the second proof of her book; she had these to finish, attach and return. And Alban’s story would have to be carried through to its denouement.
Then, perhaps, one could see…
But accomplish so much, and everything else would calm down, return to order…minus mountains from molehills, minus theatrical displays. Annie was sure of herself. She would not weaken.
Decided, she buried the note at the bottom of a drawer. And at the usual hour, headed for the rue de Saint-Simon.
On the way, she tried to occupy her mind only with the sorrows, as she supposed them, of her ancestral uncle. Hated by the Blues, suspected by the Whites, Alban had dared a visit to town, to learn by chance, there, of his foster sister’s death. Charlotte de Vauquois had been a victim of the drownings at Nantes. She was the secret saint of Alban’s lonely heart. His mind could fathom now only a world bereft, filled with horrors.
He reached the footbridge near the mill, and found himself unable to move forward. He leaned over the river, swollen with heavy rain…
There were troughs, he knew, hidden by reeds, deep enough…
For a sleep eternal. How it tempted!
Ah, Annie thought. If one could be sure of that end. If all were truly over. Alban’s case was like her own. She loved without hope, condemned to silence.
But now she had arrived at the house, and her broodings vanished.
(2021, translation, Stephanie Foster; 1922, Mathilde Alanic, Rayonne!)