All Bedlam Courses Past (part twenty-eight)

Posted by ractrose on 26 Mar 2023 in Fiction, Novels

Pastel drawing of bird flying away from bonfire






All Bedlam Courses Past


Chapter Two
Avarice Creeping On
(part twenty-eight)





“They are on the stage, so I discount whatever name Monsieur gives…but it is for today, Allen. She is Madame.”

“Christ Jiminy!” Allen barked. “Get on, mister, or don’t! Beau! Take up!”

Gilbert offered Lecomte his hand. Tossing his cigarette to the waters, Lecomte patted Gilbert above both elbows, as (but without kisses) an officer dispatches a soldier to cross enemy lines. The black man yoked himself by a coil of rope, waded deep, and the vessel began to scrape from the sandy bottom.

“Guess Frenchie’s walking,” a reporter said.

“Got the right idea. Allen! What time next week we putting ashore?”

“You want hurry, grab them poles and pitch in. Gotta make against the current.”

Gilbert through this exchange had inched to the last step. A pole poked his midsection. “C’mon, boy. Take hold.”

Rising, from a kneel on bruised shins, he saw the woman sway hips around the vanishing Allen. She impressed Gilbert as playing at this, while her eyes told the men, dare it.

Reporters circled to the tray she bore, seizing glasses and dropping coins. Gilbert’s mind went to a blank space, seeking his own whereabouts…

“Allons! Peut-être tu me feras une faveur.” Mme Allen had caught his sleeve.

At the pilot-house door, she swept her skirts aside. Gilbert lowered a cautious foot… bringing a pffft from the immediate rear.

“Guindé!” With the tray, she chivvied him in the ribs.

“What all? She got that sardine in here!”

Allen muttered this from the wheel. Then, loudly, to Gilbert: “We only going up a ways, mister, to the shoal down the poorhouse. River dang shallow.”

This to Gilbert meant little, than an apparent thaw in relations. He longed to ask why he should be here. But something gaining notice, from the first glimpse of golden curls, burst from its recess…

It was seeing her in the company of Allen. Allen was dandyish, black-haired, thin and short.

“Doctor Ashburton! Opens door.” The name came falsetto, the action a playful narrator’s. Falsetto again: “Oh, come inside, sir, there is not a moment to lose!” Baritone: “Mrs. O’Brien, you must show me to the patient at once. If it prove another case of the same cruel savagery…”

The woman interrupted. “Please.”

The room encompassing both Honoré’s newspaper and Gilbert’s lodgings had been paid for, rent plus bribe to watchman, by Honoré; and in those days Honoré had patronized the theaters of Paris with she whose name Gilbert had avoided knowing…


…for refusing officially to know any of it…

But she who had commanded Honoré’s heart, as Clotilde, his wife, did not.







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















(2023, Stephanie Foster)




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