All Bedlam Courses Past (part seventy-five)

Pastel drawing of bird flying away from bonfire






All Bedlam Courses Past


Chapter Three
An Object in Motion
(part seventy-five) 







The start of a speech that would have done. They were hurting not Élucide Gremot, but Bertrand Sartain, a man who would never in return hurt them, or any soul in the world. They were stubborn, and stupid, and wrong about her family, who owed them nothing.

She cried instead.

Verbena jumped to hug her, crying too.

Lawrence, she saw this, while angrily balling a handkerchief to her face, had a red and shamed look on his, which he ought to. She moved, awkward in Verbena’s embrace, onto the front porch, where Shad put a sheltering hand on her elbow.



Honoré would not come down, he was overdone by the excitement; he was having his last afternoon with Gilbert, and Clotilde never left Honoré.

But along with Bertrand and Madame, the children were there. New Wedgewood graced the table, not simple of design or cheap, but blue. A pinstripe linen, cream on tan—that Rutherford’s fabrics manageress had scorned the notion could not, in an hour on the Singer, be turned into a cloth—lay below.

Uncle George and Fannie, arriving at dinnertime on the dot to say: “We can only stay for coffee”, had thrown off the schedule—for a first omen. Polly Nachfolger, sharing a love seat with Dr. Signorelli, sighed at the clock. Even Mrs. Koker had joined in this contrivance, of too-few perches in a small room…what could be done…?

But while heavily rumored to spark, and wholly endorsed if they did… Today the mood was gloom, silence, possible resentment.

“Will we meet your parents?”

Élucide answered Madame, “Travel is such a rush, isn’t it? Once things are less busy.”

The telling pause occurred, marred by Mariette’s fidgeting. “Well. You will sit with me and advise me what to write, when I send my card. Child!”

The child slipped to the floor, landed on a turned ankle, shrieked as a three-year-old will, for having brought trouble on herself. Élucide grabbed a small hand, and smiled with detectably false rue. “I’ll take her outside.”

On the paved patio above the steps, they crumbled a roll. They waited, clucking, for a moment or two. The chipmunks, Mariette felt, had gone away. They had gone away. They were gone.

“Oh no, now…chin up, lovie. Chipmunks are shy little things. Let’s see if they’re hiding down below!”

Either side of the steps were grated doors, storage for gardeners’ tools, latched. Whether one should be unlatched, and peeked into… But the mesh, hard-pressed by the rhododendron, had a nest fixed on, of mud and pine straw.

An ovenbird…didn’t they…? Maybe not. “An ovenbird,” Élucide said. “A nest. Babies.”

The nest broke away as Mariette crushed fingers into it, and in pursuit of science stomped on the fallen remains.

“Where are the babies?”

“Oh, they’re all big now.”







Pastel drawing of bird flying away from bonfireAll Bedlam Courses Past (part seventy-six)















(2023, Stephanie Foster)




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