The Mirrors (part ten)

Oil painting of Luna moth with female figure



The Mirrors
(part ten)



Charmante stooped for the angel, its porcelain, for all the bustle of its recent life, unharmed. The moth’s remains she brushed off above the waste can. She could dare one more question. Too many would be too much out of order, plain nosiness. And as to her Dumain connection, she might not avoid invoking Esta…

Without permission, she had no right. She could tell Carmine only what he thought to ask.

She sat, facing him across a corner of the table. “What sort of conversation were you having with Rothesay when he told you the story?”


This younger brother, did he suppose himself victor?

He had struck the watching Dumain as contained, palpitating, but mildly (but he must do that). He inventoried this carcass he’d inherited, its nerveless limbs fallen to pin small, scurrying things…

Perhaps the legacy wasn’t well described in such terms. Perhaps Rothesay was avid for money only. Dumain followed, and his relative pottered, bright-eyed like a jaybird, spotting this proof and that.

There’d been the angry moment when destroying the rooms seemed best, and Dumain had tried it. He had ripped the guts out of Aunt Lil’s portrait. The effort sapped his energy, and after a rest he saw from the stairs the mad effect, the hatchet winking on the foyer rug, the paper and plaster gouged, Lil’s right eye on a twisted strip of canvas leering up at him. Clyde might at any time come through that way…

Grandfather’s warden traversed the living quarters as he liked, as he pleased.

Others…Leonce…would read into this the family’s grinding defeat, enjoy a fresh blood-letting turn of the wheel. Dumain had found the number in the directory then, hired the downstairs furniture taken. He had carried the painting up to his bedroom; he had put Lil in the hearth, her face to the bricks.

Dumain retained some sense of time’s passage, and knew these events playing as moving pictures against an encroaching opacity were old. He knew there had been a year, 1919, and it had been the end of the world.

On the grounds of his home, the living came and went.

They scaled the wall, got on their haunches, peered close for what darkened the bricks. Or the young on a dare, curious, but ignorant of the place. Dr. Dumain, the suicide, grew forgotten. And so the years went. Leonce, if he had died, had not returned.

Rothesay arrived.

The first time, he walked the rooms with a woman. She held a notebook showing diagrams and footages. Bedrooms, west-corner, east-corner…bedrooms streetside, garden side, attic…

Rothesay inquisitive…she had not curbed his listening at walls with his stethoscope, his shining of a penlight into crevices, not at all. She had yawned at it, while the noise shimmered around Dumain’s self-sense, forming words:








“You’re taking on renters?”

“I hadn’t thought of it. Probably you’re right, though. I could make do upstairs. You could take the front half, this floor. And the other apartments would give an income.”

“Oh, please,” she said. “But, come to think of it, why not? You, now…you’re straight onto me.”

The woman bantered; Rothesay feigned himself disingenuous. She tapped his shoulder. “Do you think there’s real danger of a hidden cache, druggies’ gear, envelopes of compromising photographs?”

“They were sharing a house, keeping secrets from each other, the servant with freedom to search Dumain’s rooms…so, at any rate…” He cut off, for she hadn’t, now they’d settled something between them, taken him up. “If you had anything…useful, we’ll say, more than compromising…you would need to hide it. In that circumstance.”

“And is that why the fire? He’d given up? He was going to put a stop to it all?”

“Well, I don’t know. How would I know?”

Let injustice lie, Dumain thought.

On another occasion, there was a young fellow with reddish hair, a ninny. Great waves of noise shouted Dumain from the premises, knocked him to the clouds, aswim on a tide of furniture vans, of Rothesay’s trunks and boxes, then of his drilling in the walls. The tide receded. Dumain was sucked indoors again.

Rothesay, living in his attics, was feeding pipes through holes. The boarder was kept on hand…on hands and knees…and never alacritous enough at the coupling and the feeding up. A pipe dropped, to clatter behind the lathwork its path to the cellars. Rothesay at fault.

He was silent, and Carmine said, “No help for that. Shouldn’t make any difference, though?”

“You’ll need to go to the basement and see if you can’t retrieve it.”

Dumain had followed the young man. Carmine’s reluctance colored his step, the lifting of his hand and the resting of it, repeated on the bannister down to the ground floor. He brightened here, in a way Dumain faintly smiled at. He made for the kitchen, and the woman who cooked, postponing odium with small talk.

Such people, simple in their emotions, as his cousin had been…

As Carolee.

Dumain deplored it, that he had such fits, reluctant to call by name those who had leeched his life away. Afraid of spooks, one would think. He wasn’t being fair to his old playmates.

Carolee would not have loved him, even if he had been her father’s protégé, and at the manor they had ridden together, the three of them, himself able to sit a horse properly, take a fence…win her respect.

Too natural, then, for a lonely pair to fall…

Compatible. He had alleviated her boredom. He was not handsome. Could he have been charming?

And given a role to play, a pretense…if she had allowed it…

Loved by someone, he might not have been repulsive to himself.






The Mirrors

Oil painting of Luna moth with female figureThe Mirrors (part eleven)
















(2020, Stephanie Foster)




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