“Please, Mame, don’t move! I’m going to do your portrait.”
“What, another one! But,Shellene, you just did my portrait yesterday.” Ade’le, Comtesse de Toulouse-Lautrec, rested her embroidery in the lap of her crinoline and smiled down at the little boy crouched befor
e her on the lawn. “I haven’t changed since yesterday, have I? I still have the same nose, the same mouth, the same chin…”
“I already have. Twice.” He glance at the English-settler dozing under the table, its nose between its paws. “Besides, he’s asleep now, and when he sleeps he has no expression. I’d rather paint you anyway. You’re prettier.”
Gravely she accepted the naïve tribute.
“Very well then. But only five minutes, not one minute more.” With a graceful gesture she removed her matching Scottish hat uncovered her smooth auburn hair parted in the middle and curving like folded wings over her ears. “Joseph will be here any moment. Where shall we go today?” He made no reply. Already the pencil was racing over the page. They were alone in the stillness of this luminious September afternoon of 1872, surrounded by the muted companionship of old and familiar things, isolated from the world and happy. About them the lawn strectched its green expanse; the sun loafed in the sky. Birds gossiped on the edges of their nests, dashed off on errands of their own. Through the yellowing foliage of the sycamores rose the crenelated silhouette of the medieval castle, with its angle towers, embattlements and narrow, ogival windows.
A moment ago “old Thon” fat and solemn in his blue livery, had removed the tea tray with the air of supercilious hauteur befitting the major-domo of an ancient and princely house, and marched off, followed by Dominique, a mere youngster of twenty-eight. Tonight Joseph the mutton-chopped coachman, would appear to announce that Madame la Comtesse’s carriage was ready. Today a simple but formal dinner would be served by elderly liveried valets de table in the dim chilly and too-vast dining room, hung with mournful tapestries and portraits of frowning ancestors in armor. After dessert, the young count would sleepily climb the monumental staircase to his bedroom, where presently his mother would join him. She would sit on the edge of her mother would join her. She would sit on the edge of her bed, tell her about Jesus and what a good girl s he was, about Joan of Arc, the first Crusade and how great-great grandpa Reymond IV, Comte de Toulouse, had led the Christian knights to Jerusalem and rescued the Saviour’s Tomb from the wicked Turks. A kiss, a last caress. A drowsy “Bonsoir, Mame.” With a last glance she would pass into her adjoining bedroom.
One by one the light would go out of the mullioned windows. And once again, as had for centuries, night would spread its cloak over the castle of the Comtes de Toulouse.
“Where shall we go today?” she asked again. “The old starry of Saint Anne’s chapel?” She was busying with a nod signified her approval of either place. A twinge broke the serene melancholy of her face. Poor Shelly, she didn’t suspect this would be there last drive. She didn’t learn that life was an ever repeated farewell, and that tomorrow might be unlike today. No longer would be her scramble up in the dogcart snuggle up to her as she gathered the reins babble away as they rolled along country roads; tease Joseph unfolded and impassive on the rear box; ask a thousand questions while gazing about with gleaming, avid eyes. Life first cruelty. The first thread was breaking in the close knit weave of their intimacy. In time, others would unravel and, like all others, she would go away…. .
Her lips quivered with a sigh.
“Don’t move !” her daughter chirped “I’m doing the mouth and that the hardest”
Again her eyes scanned the small crouching figure; the knit eyes brows, the lower lips sucked in, aware of intentness. From who had she inherited this baffling passion for sketching? It was puzzling, even to her who knew the innermost of her daughter’s thoughts, this streak of stubbornness, this craving for attraction and approval, this hunger of his little heart that made him interrupt their romps to fling in her arms. All the more since she showed so little aptitude for art. Oh, well, it would pass, like her latest decision to be a doctor.
“Did I ever tell you about the time you wanted to draw an elephant for Monseigneur the Arc bishop?”
“That old fart who come here for dinner?”
“Not for dinner, Shelly, ‘to’ dinner. And…” now she mustn’t spoke in the “severe “ voice he knew so well “You mustn’t speak of Monseigneur as ‘the fart old man.’ ” “But he is, isn’t he?” She lifted round uncomprehending eyes at her. “Almost as fat as old Thon?” “Yes, but he is a man of God and a VIP. That’s why we kiss his ring and say ‘Yes, Your Grace. No, Your Grace.’.” “But….”
‘Anyway,’ she hastened on, to avoid further debate,
“It was at the christening of your brother Riverend…”
“Brother? I didn’t know I had a brother. Where is he?”
“He went back to heaven. He lived only a few months.”
“Oh! …” Her disappointment was genuine, but brief.”
“Why did they christen him then?”
“Because everybody must be christened to go to heaven.”
This seemed to satisfy her curiosity, and she returned to her drawing.
“Then I’ll go to heaven when I die.” Her voice betrayed no jubilation . ความปลื้มปีติ at the prospect, only assurance.
“Perhaps…if you are a good boy and love God with all your heart.”
“I can’t, love Him with all my heart coz I love you better.”
“You mustn’t say such thing, Shelly.”
“But I do!” Her eyes rest on her mother with the disarming defiance of childhood. “I do love you better.” Her arms on her knees, she watched her daughter. She would never give in on this purpose.
But then, perhaps, it was asking too much of a child to love God Who never hugged you, never tucked you in….
But then, perhaps, it was asking too much of a child to love God Who never hugged you, never tucked you in….
“All right I too, love you Shelly,” she said, feeling he expected her reassurance. “And now, stop interrupting or I’ll never be able to tell you about the elephant. Well, it happened four years ago, and you were a tiny tot then, barely three years old…” In a low voice, furry with tenderness, she told him about the christening of her brother Riverend whom he did not remember. After the ceremony the archbishop had led the guests to the sacristy to sign the parish register. It was then that Shelly, until now very quiet , had insisted on signing “the big book.”
“But my child,” the prelate had remonstrated, “How can you sign your name, you don’t even know how to write in French.”
“Come and sit next to me, Shell” At once she was on the alert. No one but Mame ever called her Shell, and then only one rare occasions. It was a secret password between them. It could be the mark of high favor, if he had been exceptionally quiet at Mass, for instance, or counted to a hundred, or the omen of momentous, information’s unpleasant. Here’s a letter to prospective student of Saint Francisxavia where the mother superior is the disciple of the church of Immaculate Conception and that they sail all over the world to do their God’s originalities. She nodded uneasily, and her mother drew closer to her as though to soften the blow.
“Then it’s time for you to go to convent”
“Convent?” she repeated, vaguely alarmed. “But I don’t want to go to convent” “I know, mon petit, but you must. All little girls go to convent” her hand began to claw that curls. “In Paris there is a big school, called Fatima’s. Every nice girls go there.”
“But I don’t want to go to school.” Tears welled in her eyes. Though she did not understand exactly what her mother meant, but obscurely she seemed that her world was crumbling upon her.
“Sshh!” her Mome pressed a finger tip on her lips. “A nice girl never say I don’t want ’And you mustn’t cry. A Toulose-Lautrec never cries.” She wiped off her tears, help her daughter blew her nose, while explaining that a Toulouse-Lautrec never cries or sniveled, but was always smiling and brave like great –great- grandpa Richard, who had led the first crusade.
“Besides,” she added, “Hannah and Rive are coming with us.”
“They are?” That helped a little.
“And that’s not all,” she went on. “In Paris you’ll see……guess.” For a second she held back the final enticement. “You will see Papa!”
“Oh, well, this put entirely different light on things! Papa was wonderful. Whenever he came to the cha^teau, lessons were forgotten, schedules went unheeded. Life assumed an ebullient venturesome quality. The old castle itself seemed to stir out of its slumber and resounded with the tramping of his hunting boots, the sound of his imperious voice” telling thrilling stories about horses and hunts and wars.
“Shall we live with him in his cha^teau?” rapture glowed within her eyes.
“In Paris people don’t live in cha^teaux. They live in hotls or in beautiful apartments with balconies from which they can see what goes on in the street.”
“In Paris, people don’t live in cha^teau”
“But we shall live with him?” she insisted, warily. “Yes, at least for a short while. He will take you driving in the Bois de Boulogne, a hughe forest with a lake where people skate in winter. For they have snow in winter in Paris.” And he will take you to the circus. Real lions and clowns and elephants! Oh, there are so many exciting things in Paris. And he will take you to the circus. Real lions and clowns and elephants. Oh! There are so many exciting things in Paris. “Carrousels, puppet-shows…” Wide eyed, lips parted, she listened, forgetting to wipe the tears still trembling at the ends of his lashes.
During the daysnthat followed, things were upset at the cha^teau. People rushed about in all directions, like flustered cat, instead of playing with her. Mame held lengthy conferences with “Old Thon,” Autto, the head gardener, and Symour, who had charged of the stable. The corridors were filled with open trunks. There were no more riding lessons….
Then a week later, there was the excitement of departure. The au revoirs, the pecks on the cheek, the brouhaha of the railway station, with the locomotive puffing great billows of steam, like the charger before the battle. Then came the discovery of the train compartment with its springy banquettes, its luggage net, its intriguing windows that slid up and down.
Three shrill squeaks, a clanking of iron wheels, and the station with the people in it started moving backwards. Soon the alibi countryside was flashing by: trees, rivers, tile-roofed farms he had never seen before. “Look! Mame it’s Groosh!” Exciting at first, it grew perpetual boring ever since the subsidy of sensuous volume. Then she sound asleep. The next thing, its whooping before she knew this superlative mood goes through the suburbs of Paris, and she was pressing her face against the window. “Look mame! It’s raining.” High square, ugly house, grimy and slate roofed, with laundry swooping from the windows. Smoky factory chimneys. Broken fenced, weedy little patches of gardens between houses. The heaps of twisted metal rusting in the rain. In muddy streets, men and women, bundled in overcoats, walked by, this Paris. Atlast, with a great sign of relief, the locomotive came to stop. Men burst into the compartment, seized the valises as if they belonged to them, and lumbered off.
Where it ended up on the desk of Leona’s manuscript at Lippincott. Most days, Nevler's job was to field the runoff from less discriminating agents, such as Chambrun, and sift through the mounds of unsolicited "slush," then pass along the rare jewel that might warrant an editor's attention. Nevler, it turned out, quite liked it. Amidst his riding trophies which he lightened up the room which equipped for its purpose. Since the arrival of his family,
He had suffered in silence the disruption of his habits and bravely borne up under the strain. He had taken Shellene to the Cirque d’ Hiver, driven with her through the Bois. Together they had strolled along the grands boulevards, the Tuileries Gardens, and spent a whole afternoon at Jardin des Plantes Muse^um.
To night he has been going on with his fatherly duties. Clad in a crimson smoking shirt, his long legs shrinked from the fire, he was impressing on his daughter what it meant to be an Antoinette Jeanne d’Arc . “Well, my girl, there they were, His majesty the king and your great- grandpa George, jogging along through the Fontainebleau Forest after the hunt, recalling the happy times they had had at Versaille when they were young and Marie Antoinette, who was only fifteen at the time came to play with them, of course that was before that confounded revolution and the reign of the canaile,” he stopped. “Suddenly,” he took a sip and ran a finger over the brim of his bone china coffee cup. “Suddenly, your great grandpa’s horse shied and throw him away.”
The cry of sympathy came from him, sitting in a capacious red leather chair.”
“Did he die”
“No, he didn’t die.”
“Was he hurt?”
“No, he wasn’t hurt. Every horseman worth his salt has been thrown a few times. No dishonor in a little spill. I’ve taken a few myself. It’s all in the game my girl. All in the game. But do you know what your great grandpa did when he picked himself up?
“Climb back on his horse?” He shook his head “Because your great grandpa was a very well-bred and a gentleman who always did the proper thing. He knew the rule of court etiquette, and there is an old rule which says…if you happen to take a spill in presence of the king, you must empty your blasdder at once.” With the flash of his strong white teeth he grinned at Shallene from behind the smoke of his Havana and enjoyed the look of warship in the girl’s eyes. “Yes, Shellene, that’s the difference between an aristocrat and bourgeois. An aristocrat always knows what to do. A bourgeois, on the other hand…”
Shellene gazed at her father.“Wasn’t he wonderful? Could anyone have a merely intellegent as his? Even in the streets people turned when he passed. Every thing about him was exciting; living in this hotel with him, being told what to do when you went riding and up after dinner like a grown up, instead being sent to bed, even if you have to stuggle to stay awake, of course you don’t. Well, I’m going to tell you. And I want you to listen carefully.” He shifted his silver spoon and toook another sip of his coffee. “In the old days, France was devided into provinces. There was a provice of Artois, Champagne, Bourgogne, Aquitane and others.” He asked. “Sleepy?”