All Bedlam Courses Past (part sixty-six)
All Bedlam Courses Past
An Object in Motion
Embracing Gilbert, he had told him, “Adieu, adieu…”
Gilbert, dabbing at his eyes, but not, like Honoré, beset by a flow of mucous, a ringing in the ears, and a vague dizziness, had said, “No, my dear brother, things are only as they were. We will write.”
Through all their day of conversation, Honoré had not attempted it, luring his friend to scheme with him one more time. Life had gained in comfort…and he liked his comforts. Some fermentation from warm fires and feather beds had caused a practical turn of mind. There was nothing fair about this, that your errors came to you plainly at last, when…
Your father was dead. When the friend of your life was leaving, and you knew, if he did not, that the tie was severed.
I was hurt by someone who didn’t want me.
Yes. That was the answer. Let her go, let the score be settled. Honoré had not brought himself to ask, what does Anne look like? Has she got poxy…
She was too sly for that. But fat, even, or…
He remembered her hair. He couldn’t ask. Couldn’t care, but very privately, inside himself. In any case, Gilbert could not describe a woman.
Clotilde leant to fumble in her bag of needlework, so that he waited for her to sit upright, brandishing some object. Only a skein of yarn came out, snarled. He could not look for torture, at her plucking after the lead, drawing this loose, dropping it, finding it…
“Here is a funny thing.”
“Something Mariette has done?”
“When I first knew you… I mean, at the table, with my father. All at once I took a notion I would follow you, I would run down the road and catch you and say, I will go with you. And then, because I was a girl, and I was dreaming, I had you say to me, of course, come along. That was all a thought I had, just there, while I watched you eat.”
“You didn’t watch. You had your head down, looking at your hands on your lap.”
He had made her smile. But she contradicted him. “I did watch, Honoré. You were bent over your plate, starving. And you were listening to Papa.”
“And to the Abbé La Roche.”
“And when I made my confession, I was unhappy…no, miserable, terrified. I told myself God was punishing me for those bad thoughts. Because it was more than my mother could do, you see, to speak to me herself. My confessor asked me if I understood. And I told him I loved you, it was very wrong, I should not. I was married.”
La Roche had looked shocked…this talk taking place in the house of Paquette’s mother. The priest had closeted himself with the girl in the only bedroom; the five refugees, Clotilde, Henri, Thérèse, small Jean-Louis, their mother, their dog and cat, Mme Paquette, her servant, and a neighbor, all were sheltered under one roof.
(2023, Stephanie Foster)