Saturday, January 18, 2014

the groundskeeper - 4. the green dress of lady dodsley

by nanette nanao

illustrations by danny delacroix

editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo

click here for previous chapter of the groundskeeper

click here to begin the groundskeeper

click here to begin the 14th princess

time passed.

marthe passed away. this event shocked me as no other before or since.

"the first death is the most final." did some wise and ancient philosopher say that or did i just write it now? it just "popped into my head" as i sit here.

no doubt the last - one's own - will be even more final.

charles and berthe had been kinder to me than marthe had, and after being taken up by mademoiselle i had spent more time with charmian, but marthe's sudden - sudden to me - demise had an effect not only on my feelings but perhaps on my fate.

"good god, what are you blubbering about?" these were the first more or less harsh words i can remember mademoiselle uttering to me. "stay away from me, please, until you can compose yourself in a more civilized manner."

and so i did - compose myself in a more civilized manner, before returning myself to mademoiselle's company. and how long did it take me to do so? ten minutes? an hour? a day? did this little event i am describing even happen?

my old acquaintance the philosopher the baron de b------- (of whom more later - perhaps - if i continue this memoir) spent long hours boring myself and others on the subject of the porous and self-regenerating (was that his phrase - self-regenerating?) nature of memory. i had quite forgotten his lectures until now - when the circumstances - the winter sun through the window of the comte de f----'s chateau - the green dress of the englishwoman lady dodsley - suddenly spring back into my brain as framed as any painting -

yes, lady dodsley - of all those who - or should i say, whose pictures - come back to me from that time, somehow i think you are the most likely to still be alive somewhere - even if you are over a hundred years old - for what could happen to you - you who seemed above even boredom - who had a dozen or so houses in the somnolent english countryside to escape to if need be - what could mere time do to you?

and your green dress - and your white hat! even if by some chance - and no one is entirely immune to chance - you perished a week or a day after i saw you last - surely the dress and the hat are preserved in one of the aforementioned country houses - immune to dust and time and fashion -

with a younger version of yourself - one perhaps actually titled "lady dodsley" - at this very moment contemplating it with a smile and and an upraised eyebrow as her freckle faced maid holds it up to the sunlight streaming through the casement as outside in the bracing british air the current lord dodsley bounds and bounces over the hills in quest of poor reynard…

but of the baron de b---'s lectures themselves - except that he delivered them - and the phrase "self-regenerating", what remains?

"self-regenerating." indeed.

are these memoirs only "self-regenerating"? in my memory it seems that mademoiselle never was quite the same to me after that, but, really, how likely was that? would i have taken up enough space in her mind that her attitude had any room for change?

i may have actually spent more time in the drawing room with mademoiselle and charmian and aristide and polyceute , and less in the kitchen with marthe gone.

or i might not have. my ability to talk to animals, and mademoiselle's amusement at my ability, certainly continued after marthe's death.

so perhaps poor marthe's passing, which just (almost) brought a tear to me eye after all these years, really had no effect on my existence after all.

where was i?


"yes, where is she?" nanette said aloud, and stopped pecking at her typewriter.

lulu, her regular day guard and new best friend, turned from the window.

"problem?" lulu asked.


"want me to look at it?"

"if you want."

lulu took the freshly pecked page over to the window - through which a pale winter light shone - and nanette went over to the bed and lay down with a yawn.

"well, what do you think?"

"i'm still reading it."

"take your time."

"it could be shorter. not so many words."

"i told you - it's supposed to be like that. like proust."

lulu came over and sat on the bed beside nanette.

"you could just write something like -

'the cat died.

i was sad.

i cried.

the old lady told me to stop sniveling.

so i did.

but maybe she didn't really care.'

- see. like james patterson would do it."

"but it's not supposed to be like james patterson. it's supposed to be like proust." nanette sat up and stretched a little bit. "the books on the top shelf over there - there're proust."

"i know, you told me. i tried a few pages."


"it wasn't my style. i like james patterson better."

nanette sighed and took the page out of lulu's hand. "besides, we have to get a certain amount of words. so proust is good that way."

lulu got up and went back over to the window. "you're doing o k with the words. i'll talk to zelda tonight, see if i can find out more about the other girls are doing."

"thank you. i appreciate it."

lulu braced herself against the windowsill. "want to go out?"

"there's nobody out there?"

"sari's out there with minette. but it looks like they are heading back in."

"all right."

"if it's too cold we can come back in."

"you know i do everything you tell me."

"we don't have to -"

"just kidding. sure, let's go."

to be continued

No comments:

Post a Comment