All Bedlam Course Past (part forty-two)
All Bedlam Courses Past
Avarice Creeping On
Temperance, she might have said, the dry laws, and why [asked naively] do we not enforce them countywide? These posturings were the political game, the sniper’s blind built of sticks and straw; her father knew it, Élucide knew it. She gave Bertrand a shrewd look, wondering if he were a figure in his city, if he involved himself…
If they could have that satisfying talk. A mute person seemed hovering, a balding young man entrained to a porter and luggage, two women, and a child.
He had her eye; he spoke: “Mademoiselle Gremot, n’est-ce pas? Je vous présente…”
The hand presented only his phrase-book, while he looked faultingly at the porter. Bertrand dug for a coin. One of the women, saying, “Gilbert ne peut pas gérer les présentations. Je m’appelle Bérénice Sartain. Vous m’attendez.”
“Oui,” Élucide answered, after letting the words echo into sense. “Mon grand plaisir. Madame, je vous présente Monsieur Bertrand Sartain, qui visite de…”
“New Orleans,” he said. “Mais, croyez-vous que dans la maison de mon enfance, on ne parlait que français? Je peux très bien faire office d’interprète…”
Gilbert fell in a few steps behind; and only a sort of dread shot in the direction of Mme Sartain, as Élucide was quizzed on her age, and her father’s importance, suggested he was other than a tutor, or poor relation.
“Mademoiselle, you have some affairs in Nashville?”
“No, madame. But a friend has come as my escort, and he has certain pursuits…”
It was as well she had left that ellipsis.
Bertrand, relating his visit to Kentucky of many years past, and the marvel that both Lawrence, so young then, and his cousin Marguerite, younger! were dead—why, long dead, now—did not allow Gilbert’s shy person ingress.
But when they had chosen their hotel, and been given a sitting parlor to take coffee in while their bedchambers were made up, Madame said: “He will like to know whatever you can say of Honoré.”
Élucide and Gilbert passed awkward seconds nodding at each other.
“Gilbert! Can she guess who you are, if you don’t tell her?”
The child was scooting his chair to the door, edging it open… At last he put his head through the gap.
Élucide’s eyes wandered, and Gilbert, slighted, cut his story short.
She answered what she thought he’d asked. “Honoré has his spells, it can’t be helped, but he does earn a living, editing Mr. Ebrach’s magazine, which…”
“A sort of, what is it? Periodical.”
“American Health and Well-Being is a bimonthly bulletin on matters of…” She frowned at Gilbert. “Health and well-being. We are wholly supported by our sponsors.”
“But I understand he is a spiritualist.”
All Bedlam Courses Past (part forty-three)
(2023, Stephanie Foster)