All Bedlam Courses Past (part twenty-four)

Pastel drawing of bird flying away from bonfire






All Bedlam Courses Past


Chapter Two
Avarice Creeping On
(part twenty-four)





With a pert acquiring of the thought, Miss Brent hopped aboard, asking as she hoisted a skirt cut above the ankle, and climbed without the cabman’s aid, if it were not better she carried on as guide and translator.

It was. The American boldness charmed Madame. And proved her right, for as she’d said to Gilbert, one can always find one’s way.

“The monument is worth seeing. You go down Maryland Avenue. It isn’t finished, but you can watch them at work. The national museum has some rooms open.”

Things were in flux and growing, the American capital becoming grander. This was not a fault. Miss Brent laughed. “Come back in a year!”

A town that sweltered, half-abandoned, radiating empty light from a squat conglomeration of colonnaded marble, was a town not wholly (Mme Sartain was inclined to feel) committed to standing as a nation’s heart. Paris was as lively in the summers as in winter, and Madame liked to suppose that, had a president been shot in her own city, to linger painfully, the legislators would keep vigil, at the least.

Of course the Americans did, in their way. Her questioning of Gilbert informed her that Mr. Garfield continued his doctors’ treatments, that he must therefore die…and that those who hoped to gain by his death, hoped also to hear news of it at a distance.

“Why,” Bertrand asked, “is it like that?”

He pointed to a platform-surrounded object, in appearance a factory chimney.

“It will be an obelisk,” Miss Brent answered. “Think of Cleopatra’s needle.”

“But… Cleopatra’s needle is from Egypt. I mean…” Hunkering in awareness of his great aunt’s eye, Bertrand faltered as to what he meant.

Mme Sartain said, “America is a new country. And so their things are new.”

Miss Brent cocked her head, and said nothing.

“Can you go inside?” Bertrand asked her.

“When it’s ready. That’s what they have in mind.”

They passed, and Bertrand stood on the floor of the cab, twisting to watch the monument recede. Madame, with her fan, tapped the boy’s shoulder. He sat. Bertrand was biddable by nature, a reader, a city child whose activities were studious and musical, largely hers—as she was a woman of fifty, and by default, his only companion.

They were to lunch at the embassy. Gilbert’s M. Montrose had promised a concert, instruments to be taken up at six, audience seated at five. Gilbert had told her the lunch was one scheduled for others…for the chamber group performing, and some students of municipal planning from Lille.

“He says the more the merrier.” Gilbert uttered the phrase like an unwarranted threat, and shrugged over the claimed connection to Yves Amédée. “Madame, that is the story he gives me.”







Pastel drawing of bird flying away from bonfireAll Bedlam Courses Past (part twenty-five)















(2023, Stephanie Foster)




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