The Mirrors (part thirty-four)

Posted by ractrose on 29 Jan 2023 in Fiction, Novels
Oil painting of Luna moth with female figure




The Mirrors
(part thirty-four)



She turned an armchair to face the window, saw a fenced lawn, a gated square, a wellhead, center. Godfrey’s ghostly face. She knew Charleton and Joseph had spoken here. Could anyone tell a secondhand story, tell it so potently the listener found herself walking at a man’s side, seeing the sights he saw himself, hearing a voice she would recognize, in tenor, in accent…?

Joseph Dumain’s. Accent, degraded Carolina. Tenor, sneering. Nothing in the flow of consciousness was hidden from the mirror people—the living, the dead, the dreaming, the musing, were one. No way to be certain, for the fog raised between their world and yours, whether you had the right to your information, or ought to conceal the knowing of it.

William, telling Marian to stop the car on Lafayette, had left them. No one asked why he refused a room at the institute, would not have Marian deliver him to his door. He preferred making his way where a man walking in the dark would trouble few, to his sister’s house without odd company.

More to the point, recognizable company. What taking up with Dumains meant to the Wright family, Charmante had learned. It would be a fault against her in Jane Breedlove’s book…

A chime sounded. Half-past six. Coffee was brewing, the institute staff starting the day’s work, noises of routine. Someone pushed a carpet sweeper.

A tap. “Mrs. Demorest.”

What about me? Chamante asked herself.

Susie entered. “I took away your things last night. You all were in some mud! Now here, these are from Veronica.”

The garments seemed Veronica’s uniform: cardigan, pintucked blouse, plaid skirt. Charmante’s cotton stockings were being washed, and she had no substitute. But Susie read her thoughts. “I’ll run over to my room. Look at that waist quick, and see if you need a safety pin.”

“Oh…bring one. Thank you.”


Warming plates on a sideboard held scrambled eggs and grits. Cold ham. Biscuits, soft butter. Coffee in the pot, orange juice and milk in pitchers. Sorghum syrup in its own bottle.

Charmante carried her plate and cup, and found Mr. Carmine alone.

“Hello! How are you feeling today?”

“Mrs. Demorest. I’m embarrassed.” He gave her an under-the-lids glance, and said lower: “I have a lapse of memory. I almost think I was not well yesterday, but… Was it yesterday?”

“It was a very busy day.” She said this as to a child. She admonished herself, but went on just the same: “You haven’t done a thing wrong. You do feel better though?”

“Ready to take myself off. I don’t care to look Veronica in the eye.”

“Now, really, I promise you…”

“Carmine. You haven’t come begging employment of Miss Dumain?”








The tone was tolerant jesting. That Rothesay had walked in, approached them unnoticed, to exert pressure she knew Carmine would feel as such, was not what alarmed Charmante.

“And Mrs. Demorest…I’m surprised. I make no mistake in supposing I still employ you?”

“I’m at fault,” Carmine said. “She was trying to help. I don’t know what occurred… I got out of bed yesterday, and I…”

“Mr. Rothesay, I may be late. But I’ll start at ten, as usual, if I can.”

Rothesay, his first open rudeness, turned unanswering and took a seat next to Carmine, tapping him on the knee. “Today we have opportunity to try what we’ve discussed. I believe there is great healing power in the mirrors, as you know.”

He gripped his son by the elbow. They stood to leave, Carmine leaving the better part of his breakfast.

There was nothing to call out in warning.

You could not charge a respectable physician, before a crowd of students, a handful of sober administrators, with being a man possessed. To Esta, Dumain was a sinister figure, who had peered at her hungrily. Esta had never met a powerful white man on his own level.

Charmante didn’t flatter herself…she had not either.

But Rothesay’s affable manner, his facility with phrases that put you in your place, but could, if you weren’t careful, sail right over your head… Dumain had been this way. Dumain, the young man of her vision and Meeker’s story, winning easy friendships, making his persuasions with humor. Plausible, forgiven.

Was Dumain angry she was here? Did he suspect her of undermining his purpose—of seeing his purpose, for Carmine? Did he mark how she’d separated them; did he vow to put a stop to this woman’s interference…?

Or was Rothesay only Rothesay, Charmante wisest now to clean his house one further morning, feed poor Carmine, write her apology and resignation in the afternoon? Be done with it.

Veronica walked up. “Are you going over to the house? I might go with you.”

“I don’t know anyone in this part of the city. I don’t know what would amount to a safe haven, if you aren’t here at the institute. If I needed to bring someone out of the house…”

“Susie’s here.”

Charmante felt defensive. Tricked, in a way…Susie was a servant. So am I, she wanted to say. That is not at all what I was thinking.

Veronica must, being adventuresome, be amoral. Not amoral in the soul, but in that doing right for her meant parsing pros and cons, planning campaigns. When the bold charged to the confrontation, they were consumed by whatever happened next.

The reticent, the meek, thought better of who it happened to.






The Mirrors

Oil painting of Luna moth with female figureThe Mirrors (part thirty-five)

















(2020, Stephanie Foster)




%d bloggers like this: