All Bedlam Courses Past (part forty-four)
All Bedlam Courses Past
Avarice Creeping On
Then, lower: “And you know, Aylucide, even the little girl who came to get the wash, that time we stayed at Pumble, had such a pretty name. If I’d thought, I could have gone back on Myra. She was only three, how would she know? I almost believe she’d have a better temperament if her name had been…
“Hush! So Moult must’ve had a blood calling going on, to make him love all that cold and gloom.”
“Affinity,” Manfred said. “The way of it when one is attuned. But I’ll not spoil things for you, with my ignorance. Certainly a talk you’ll prefer having with Mr. Ebrach in person.”
They were on the lowest, and broadest terrace of Alarica’s rear landscape. Urns planted with azalea cornered the stairsteps, myrtle shaded benches and pavers well-stained with the brown ghosts of blossoms. From the earliest noise of their descent, a gardener had hewed to this spot, and to the clearing of a very few leaves.
“Manfred, you’ll have to get me out of it.”
“Well, but you won’t queer the pitch,” he whispered back. “Regina…she will tell you so…adores company. You and your Sartains make me look like I have people.”
A surprise interrupted: Honoré’s son flew past. Where the steps ended, a dirt path led to the Buckley wharf, the fascinating river…and Mrs. Buckley’s boat, staff, and lunch.
“Pickens, get that boy. Don’t let him go fall in the water! We’ll all be along in just a minute.”
Mrs. Buckley, saying so, stood pat, with complicated secrecy steering the Sartains ahead, tangling the efforts of Pickens to make round with his broom.
“This is something I wanted to tell both of you,” Regina said. “I was waiting til after lunch, but Aylucide…”
“Sugar. Did I say? We were in New York.”
They were at the wharf, Manfred brushing aside Mrs. Buckley’s pilot to leap the little gangway. Élucide, handed up and nodding thanks, spotted actual place-markers, cards tucked under goblets. The invitation had been verbal, and Manfred’s. Either he had made free with names, without the license of Mrs. Buckley’s having met her guests…or…
Realistically, there was no or.
Pickens ushered up Bertrand, a child fluent in the correcting and directing motions of adults; Manfred practiced bearing his dove’s weight on an arm. Just as Élucide would have bet, he half-bowed to Myra next, and spoke her name. Myra raised a pinkening face.
She flushed deeper.
This was amusement, yes, not altogether at the girl’s expense. When you were waiting lunch, you were audience to such preliminaries as kept it from being served.
(2023, Stephanie Foster)