All Bedlam Courses Past (part twenty-two)
All Bedlam Courses Past
Avarice Creeping On
Lecomte, however, was witness to the recent past; he was not Guiteau’s biographer.
“But you see, if these stalwarts were agreeable to him, Guiteau would be another thing, a thing more…what? He is a messiah, perhaps, since he has been cast out and made the martyr. He will be hanged for being misunderstood. No, monsieur, what I want to say to you… In Martinique, there are these differences of color, and they cannot be reconciled. It may be that you know this yourself, in Paris, how a person speaks, when he means to speak to one he will not address. And this lobby talk I was hearing, I know this talk.”
Lecomte added, uncertain: “Béquette.” And glanced up with meaning, while his hand sliced the air, dismissing. “Or, I should say…”
The story was somewhat famous, in that history had dealt with it, and the modestly educated Gilbert, who knew no more than Lecomte which English king they ought to be thinking of, found he could guess at it…
This way of speaking.
“Yes!” Lecomte nodded. “If only this obstacle, this factionist Garfield who promotes his own, who profits by the help of others, but who breaks his promises to them, if only…”
“He were out of the way?”
Honoré’s letters encouraged Gilbert to believe his lost friend well, under Clotilde’s eye; well, and alert to American politics. Another of Amédée’s kindnesses had been an extra week for Gilbert to view the dying president’s Ohio by train (“That should be enough”), en route to Cookesville, Indiana. He would put to his friend these questions of Guiteau’s background, of this Oneida colony…which Honoré, after all, had lived nearby.
The American Capital
Two generals were engaged in long-drawn maneuverings to bring their respective camps to a timely meeting.
Mme Sartain, under escort of Gilbert, her nephew’s more intelligent friend, had crossed the water. She made bivouac in their landing port of Baltimore, on the grounds that Washington was said very expensive; and as to what sights might be taken in, to the benefit of Bertrand’s education—
Gilbert’s eyes could well view them first.
It was time…of course, it was more than time…that the child be united with his mother and father. Mme Sartain was not to be parted from Bertrand, not for the practical question alone, of who would accompany him to America if not his great aunt, but for a jealous protectiveness towards her careful work in molding him. She had reared the child for seven years.
She could not entertain that his natural parents, one of whom had never seen him, did not love Bertrand, did not regard him first and heir. Yet they had managed to produce another, a daughter called Mariette.
This, as to legacies, made complications. Madame would have to know Mariette, know whether Paquette, Sartain, Gremot…or (who could Honoré’s mother have been…?) some Dutch-tainted strain were dominant there. Her late husband’s portion was hers to give or withhold.
Letters from Clotilde, in her earliest American days, had arrived in lonely prattle, and wretched spelling. But at about the time the pair settled into the house of Honoré’s (dubious) friend Ebrach, Mme Sartain had been surprised by a letter enclosed within a notecard. The card apologized, its French direct and copy-bookish; its terms, though Mme Sartain could not have known it, echoing Fern Gremot’s long-ago introduction of herself to Honoré’s father.
Your niece Clotilde has been delivered of a daughter. My cousin Honoré has chosen the child’s name for a dear friend, and for his sister, thus: Marie-Claudette. As Clotilde lacks strength, I have offered my assistance in writing to you this happy news, and I use the excuse to introduce myself to you.
The letter—all the sentiments of Clotilde unbottled, by childbirth and competent assistance at the pen—spoke more fully of American happenings than any received by Mme Sartain theretofore.
(2023, Stephanie Foster)