All Bedlam Courses Past (part nineteen)
All Bedlam Courses Past
The Peculiar Nature of Logical Science
“Richard, I have a letter to show you,” Miss Gremot said. “You know Honoré’s aunt is coming to stay.”
Her eyes shared this with the receptive Ryan-Neville, who leaned on a post, a congenial friend to everyone’s business. Richard wished he had a plug of tobacco working, to spit in the lilacs.
Carolina Melvin took up. “Miss, I got Calvin cut cloth for me, and I got Libby help with the fine work. All it’s handstitched, not machine done.”
Élucide, letting nothing of her mind pass her lips, waited to get the whole.
From the basket Carolina drew a fancy sort of woman’s jacket, blue, tapered to the waist, trimmed with a ruffle that lengthened to a skirt behind, cut to frame a bustle—
These touches notable to Richard only for watching the women point them out. Mrs. Jerome made sounds of awe and delight, the child burbled in mimicry, and Élucide picked with a fingernail at the trimmings. “I can’t even tell which is Libby’s and which is yours.”
Carolina beamed pride. “Now, Miss, that ain’t your color. I’d do you a rose pink. Blonde gal wants blue.” A smile for Mrs. Jerome.
“Actually,” Ryan-Neville said, “why not try it?”
Her face flashed no, but she seemed for his sake to give way. She folded the jacket aside, rising with the aid of Ryan-Neville’s elbow, donning it with his valeting hands tugging sleeves. Élucide wore mustard yellow, a preference of hers. Who’d ever tell a woman she looked best in that color, Richard allowed himself to wonder…
And yet, what flattered Miss Gremot was to produce an effect. The blue, with this yellow, did.
He retreated to stand behind Unversaght’s chair.
Strange luck now came Richard’s way. The springs of a screen door sang of emergence, adding a refrain of pesky-thing-worked-through; tapping heels conveyed a flight of steps, tucked off the vanishing of the veranda’s curve.
The servant arrived, kitted in heavy whites and carrying a tray.
Unversaght’s arms and legs convulsed. “Yes, put that down. Is the water hot this time?”
The girl rolled her eyes. It was liking her rebellion that inclined Richard to politeness. Expecting no thanks, he stooped to move the accumulation on Unversaght’s wicker table.
She didn’t thank him. She placed the tray, measured and poured (“I never saw water get any hotter than boiling, Mr. Unversaght”) some scheduled component of the patient’s care. Richard backed around the curve, dropping a tonic bottle into each trouser pocket, and made off through the garden.
All Bedlam Courses Past (part twenty)
(2023, Stephanie Foster)