grazie a Camille per la sua revisione.
“Listen, Oscar” said the
General de Jarjayes.
“Yes, sir” answered his
youngest daughter, colonel of the Royal Guard, raising her eyes from the book
on her knees.
“Next week Lady Isabelle de
Winter will pay us a visit”.
Oscar’s eyes filled with joy.
How much time had passed since her eldest sister’s last visit!
“Oscar, Lady Isabelle will be
accompanied by Lady Gillygham, a dear friend of hers. Do you remember her?
Well, they will stay with us for two weeks, perhaps three. I know you’re
used to living alone, but then, your sister doesn’t come from London
everyday! I want you to go with them to pay homage to the queen, and... well,
I want you to be their guide during the whole visit” he said, concluding his
“But... father... I’d be
happy to do it, but I’ve my duties with the regiment.”
“Oscar, you’ve very little
trust in Girodel! I think you may stay at home without troubles, the captain
is able to take your place for a few days!” her father cried, annoyed.
“Yes sir” Oscar said,
bending her head.
The next morning Oscar left her
room very early. She felt a strange worry, but it hadn’t anything to do with
her sister’s visit. No, it was not that. Oscar was looking forward to seeing
Isabelle. She remembered that when she was a child, Isabelle, unknowingly to
their father, used to come to visit her, talking about everything, till...
till Lord de Winter took her away, to England.
Oscar had sweet but painful
memoirs of her sister. But now the trouble was not Isabelle. The trouble was
her father. He treated her as if she was a child. She knew that he loved her,
and that he was proud of her, but sometimes he acted as if his daughter, whom
he had made a soldier, was nothing else than a child who had to be guided
through her whole life.
“Good morning, Oscar” said
Nanny “today you’re an early riser!” Nanny was smiling but suddenly her
eyes became anxious.
“Oscar, can I do anything for
you?” she asked.
“Nothing, thank you. I’m
going to ride. I want to do a long ride” she answered without returning the
“But André is still sleeping!
Do you want me to wake him up?”
“No, it’s not necessary. I
want to go alone.”
“Oscar, but... you seem so
strange, this morning....”
But Oscar didn’t hear her
Nanny. She was already in the stable where she was saddling her white horse.
grumbled Nanny “Why do I never find you when I need to...”
Oscar was riding with all her
energies. When she didn’t want to think, she used all her strength for
Suddenly she felt that her
horse was tired, so she dismounted: sometimes, she thought, when we are taken
by our own troubles, we don’t care about the living beings around us... it
was very strange, but this thought caused a cold shiver to creep along her
spine. It was so unusual! Her thoughts after all were only a common place she
had heard so many times!
The countryside was very
beautiful in these days of ending March. She was thinking about Fersen. He was
still in America, even if the War of Independence had ended some years before.
“Why are you not coming
back?” she cried.
Oscar had heard at Court some
soldiers referring that he had been wounded during the final battle, and that
he needed expert treatment.
“Oh, Fersen” she whispered
“survive and come back, come back to me”.
Her eyes filled with tears, but...
were these really tears for the Swedish gentleman?
Oscar was still sad when she
returned to her mansion. She was entering the hall when she saw André,
standing in front of her, waiting for her. She raised her eyes, still filled
with tears. His dark green eyes were gazing directly into hers but none of
them said anything. That silence was a symbol of the distance that the Swedish
count had brought between them.
Oscar’s daily duties made her
feel better. She was going to leave her soldiers only for a few
days, as her father had ordered,
but she was so attached to her job that she suffered even because of a short
separation. Her work was the one thing that allowed her to resist, to survive,
regardless of her feelings.
The days passed rapidly.
“Tomorrow Isabelle will come
home” Oscar thought, looking out of her window “I’m happy, still...
she is the woman I could be, if I were to become tired of being a
This was a strange thought. It
had been some time now that these inopportune ideas had started coming to her
mind. Well, now it was time to do some exercise with guns, surely André was
already waiting for her, and she wanted to distract her mind....
What a day ! Oscar thought,
looking at her wine glass. What a joy to see Fersen again, how much time since
his departure for America! And now, now he was sitting in front of her, with a
glass filled with red wine between his hands. The night was so calm, so bright,
very different from her heart, still out of control since that afternoon.
Fersen had a tired, perhaps
melancholic face. His eyes were the eyes of a hopeless man. Oscar didn’t
deceive herself. She knew that a face was impressed in Fersen’s mind, and
that face was not hers, but, in spite of it, she couldn’t hold back her
happiness. Perhaps... perhaps, staying away from Marie Antoinette, Fersen
would be able to see her with different eyes...
“I will be very happy to give
you hospitality for as long as you want. You know that your company to me is a
pleasure” she said, looking at the glass she was holding between her hands.
“Thank you, mademoiselle
Oscar, I accept your proposal” then he laughed “I think that you’re my
only friend at Versailles. All the others amused themselves, during my absence,
gossiping about me and...” he couldn’t continue. Even her name meant
“It was long ago. At
Versailles people change quickly. I think that you’d recognise very few
persons in the lounges of the Court” she whispered slowly.
“Yes, but... it’s very
likely that if I went to Versailles, every new guest would understand why my
name was so famous”.
They remained in silence for a
few moments. The fire in the chimney was extinguishing and Oscar’s hopes
were growing fainter as well... much time had passed, but Fersen’s feelings
were even stronger than in the past.
The next morning at last the
awaited guests arrived.
A very luxurious coach, with a
black eagle holding a snake in its beak pictured on the doors, came through
the gates of the Jarjayes property.
“My sister is arriving”
Oscar said to André, while, raising up behind the window, she deposed her cup
of tea. André didn’t reply. Oscar was talking
as if to herself, absentmindedly. Since Fersen’s arrival they were more
distant than ever.
The coach stopped in front of
the old door.
“Oscar, I’m going to help
my grandmother to take in their baggage”.
Her eyes were sad. She didn’t
think of her sister, at that moment.
“Oh... Dear Oscar! How are
you? How much time has passed since our last meeting!” Isabelle, entering
the hall, ran to embrace her youngest sister. “You’ve grown up! You were a
child when I went to London”.
“Yes, Isabelle” Oscar
replied with a little smile “many years have passed since you left our
“Oh Oscar, may I introduce
you to Lady Pamela Gillygham? She’s a close friend of mine, and... I told
her many things about you, so she is very curious to meet my little sister!”
“I’ll be at disposal to
both of you”.
“Mademoiselle Oscar, you’re
very chivalrous” replied lady Pamela with a charming smile.
Oscar studied her new guest.
Lady Pamela Gillygham had to be a little younger than herself. She had dark
red hair and grey eyes. She wore a very elegant travel dress and had a very
strange way of scrutinising her, from down to up.
“Oscar, tell me” Isabelle
said, bringing a cup of tea from the tray on the table, “who’s that young
man I caught a glimpse of in the hall ?”
“Well” Oscar was unsure
whom her sister had seen “Was he blond or brown?”
“It seems our visit will be
very exciting !” Isabelle laughed, with a glance towards her English friend
“my father’s house is full of beautiful men !”
Oscar flushed. She was
embarrassed and angry with her sister: why did she have to say such things!
“Well, Oscar, he had dark
hair, shining green eyes and...”
“He’s André” Oscar
interrupted her, abruptly.
“André!? Our little André?
“Yes, that’s him.”
“Oh Oscar, I can’t say
anything other than...”
“Than that many years have
passed since your last visit!” Lady Pamela concluded for her.
Oscar knew that Lady
Gillygham’s phrase wanted to be a help, a way to change the subject, but...
there had been a flash of curiosity in the Lady’s eyes when Isabelle had
asked about André and... Oscar didn’t like it.
Wonderful, Oscar thought, in
order to complete the scene Fersen was coming in for his breakfast! Well,
during eleven months and 29 days in a year there wasn’t anybody visiting her
or her father, and now? Now it seemed as if the whole court had changed its
“Dear sister, Lady Gillygham,
I have the pleasure to introduce you to Count Hans Axel of Fersen. He belongs
to Sweden, but he has just returned from America”.
“Did you fight with the
English army, against rebels?” Lady Isabelle asked, ignoring that Fersen had
bound himself to the French cause.
“No, Milady. I’m afraid I
was on the side of the ‘rebels’ ” he replied, smiling.
“Oh, it’s a thing of the
past, now” said Lady Pamela. “Paris is supposed to be very beautiful at
this period of the year. Isn’t it?”
It seemed to Oscar that this
English lady made it a duty of hers to avoid unpleasant subjects. Oscar
couldn’t help but asking herself what her behaviour concerning involving
arguments would be.
That afternoon was spent with a
visit to Paris. Oscar had to accompany her guests but she didn’t want André
with her. It was useless for both of them to suffer, she thought. Fersen
stayed at home with André. Oscar understood that they wanted to exercise in
fencing. She regretted the necessity of accompanying her sister. It would have
been much more amusing to stay with her friends...
When she returned to Jarjayes
Palace, André and Fersen were coming back from their ride as well.
“What a beautiful horse”
said Lady Isabelle, approaching the one of André. “You must be a very good
rider. It does not seem to be a very tranquil horse”.
“It has been my horse for so
many years now that I couldn’t possibly have trouble with it”.
“You’re too modest. Don’t
you think so, Pamela?”
Oscar turned in order to
observe the Lady.
“Yes, I know horses very well,
and I understood at first sight that yours was a passionate, impetuous
Oscar flushed, at first because
of embarrassment, then of rage. What was that...that “woman” saying? But
Lady Isabelle merely laughed, while André turned his horse towards the stable
without a word. Fersen, on horseback, was looking at the scene, not
understanding the cause of the electricity lingering in the air.
That night, in the darkness of
her bedroom, Oscar thought about the waves of anger that, in the afternoon,
had clouded her mind. Her sister had told her that Lady Pamela was a widow,
for her husband, Lord John Gillygham, had been a man very much older than her.
Lady Gillygham hadn’t felt much love towards this man, but according to Lady
Isabelle, she had nevertheless been a
thoughtful wife, always
grateful to him because, though being noble of birth, she did not have a great
family estate to bring to her bridegroom, who instead was very rich. These
news didn’t console Oscar. Lady Pamela was considered in the best way by
English nobility, and everyone hoped that, very soon, she would find a new
husband because she deserved every happiness.
Oscar knew that social
conventions in England were different from French ones. There was a greater
spread towards middle classes. She was worried. She didn’t want to think
about the cause of her sadness. She felt that an important piece of her heart
was growing away from her, causing her a great suffering. Moreover, her sister
had become too thoughtless, and she herself was not accustomed to spend so
much time in the company of women...
Anyway, it was time to sleep.
Oscar looked at her ceiling: why hadn’t her father made the same choices
with all the sisters?
The next morning, when Oscar
went down for breakfast, she found only Fersen. Nanny came in with brioches
“Good morning, you’re the
last, today!” the old woman said, smiling.
“What do you mean? Where are
the others?” she asked, abruptly.
“Well...” Nanny stammered.
“Lady Isabelle went to
Versailles with your father, in order to meet your mother.” Fersen answered
in her place “While Lady Pamela asked André to accompany her for a ride.
They left an hour ago”.
Fersen stared amazed at
Oscar’s face. She stayed with the cup between her fingers, her eyes opened
“Is there something wrong?”
“No... nothing, don’t worry”
Then she added, smiling “We could go for a walk. This seems a very fine
“Well” he stopped her
projects “today I’d like to go to Versailles. I have thought it my duty to
pay homage to the queen”.
“Oh... yes. It’s your duty”
whispered Oscar, stammering.
Every day was becoming better
than the precedent one!
The morning was very long.
Oscar read some pages of her book, but often she let her mind wander. Words
seemed to dance in front of her eyes. At the hour of lunch hour, Nanny entered
“Oscar, what do you want to
eat?” she asked.
“Oh, nothing. I’m not very
“What are you saying? You
must eat something! You’re becoming thinner every day...”
“Is André coming back? I
want to practise for a duel” Oscar interrupted her Nanny, looking out of the
“No, and I don’t think
they’ll come back soon. Lady Gillygham wanted to do a long ride in the
countryside” Nanny replied.
Oscar nodded, but she felt a
heavy weight on her breast, so she couldn't prevent from adding:
“André should remember that
he’s my attendant!”
Nanny raised her eyes with
surprise. She knew every one of André’s faults, but this time he had obeyed
an order given by the General!
In the early hours of the
afternoon, Lady Isabelle came back. She found Oscar alone, with a strange
sadness in her eyes.
“Oscar, what happens? You
look so strange!” she asked with a sweet tone in her voice Oscar remembered
from her infancy.
“Nothing” she smiled.
“Oscar, don’t take
everything into your heart. I’m your sister, I love you. Tell me your
Oscar remained in silence for a while. Then she said, with a great sadness:
“Oh, Isabelle... I’m so lonely... when I see other women of my age with a
family, children... well, I revise my choices...”
“No, Oscar. You’re so lucky!
Do you think you could accept the life I’m leading? You need freedom,
you’re so courageous, proud, skilful. Do you believe your abilities would be
of any use in the life of a common woman? But...” she stopped abruptly.
“But?” asked Oscar. “Dear
sister, I don’t have the right to ask you this question. But... well,
you’re a young woman, a very beautiful woman, and there are many young men
at Versailles. Did you meet anybody agreeable?”
“Oh, Isabelle! It’s not so
easy. I don’t know. I’m so confused...” she murmured.
“No Oscar. It’s simple.
When you’ll meet your man, you’ll have to decide, and your decision will
influence two lives. You have to be careful”.
“You seem to know everything...”
“No, I don’t know anything”.
That evening, they all met in
the sitting room. André and Lady Pamela had come back in the late afternoon,
while Fersen had arrived some minutes earlier.
“Did you have a pleasant
ride?” Isabelle asked her friend.
“Yes, we have had a long
tour. Your country is very beautiful, now” she said to Oscar.
Oscar nodded, but didn’t
reply with a word. As soon as she managed to, she glanced at André. He seemed
so calm, indifferent. He hadn’t talked to her during the whole day. And she
believed she knew him! Well, these were his troubles, she couldn’t care
about him as well. Fersen, instead, had become more animated compared to the
day before. Oscar looked at him. If only she could know how his meeting with
the queen had been... He was happier, but Marie Antoinette had always had this
power on him.
When everybody went to sleep,
Oscar remained, alone, by the fireside. She felt cold, even if it was April.
She brought a bottle of cognac and a glass. How wonderful! With her house full
of guests, she found only the company of alcohol! Tears started sliding down
her cheeks. Suddenly she felt the warmth of a blanket on her shoulders. She
“The fire is extinguishing,
and the night is still cold” a very familiar voice said, simply.
“Thank you, André. You’re
very thoughtful. I suffered your absence, today” she whispered, flushing.
“I’m sorry, Oscar” he
replied, without adding a word. She tried to discover his thoughts, but his
eyes were calm and limpid as ever.
“Well, it’s time to sleep.
Good night, André” she concluded, discouraged.
“Good night” he answered
while she was going away, then added in a murmur “my dear Oscar”.
Entering into her bedroom,
Oscar found her sister waiting for her. She was sleepy, she wished to
crawl into her bed, not to talk, but...
“Dear Oscar, I didn’t tell
you that, today, I talked to the queen. She is a very kind person... I
didn’t think she could be so sweet, and she told me that she holds you in
high regard. You’re very lucky”.
Oscar didn’t say a word. She
knew that her sister hadn’t finished yet.
“Today, she invited us to the
spring ball. I think lady Pamela would be very happy to go” Isabelle
hesitated “Well, what do you think about André: could he come with us?”
“André?!” Oscar was upset
“Lady Pamela has a great
regard of him. She thinks he’s ‘extraordinary’, so she said. They have
many things in common. Well, Oscar, I know André is your attendant, but do
you think he could look after us at Court?”
“André may come with you.
I’m sure he’ll be happy to help you and Lady Pamela, if he can” Oscar
“Oh, then it’s all right! I
was a bit worried, because I know you’re a bit jealous of your friends”
Isabelle laughed, leaving her alone.
So Lady Pamela needs André’s
presence, Oscar thought. But... but wasn’t she of any importance in her own
house? Was it possible that everybody had the right to upset her way of life
without further care?
Two mornings after, Oscar and
Fersen went out for a walk. They were silent. A sweet wind was blowing among
the trees. Oscar didn’t understand the cause of her sadness. Fersen’s mind
was far away, probably at Versailles, with the queen. Oscar knew it. Would she
really never know the happiness of love? Fersen had the same troubles. What an
irony that both of them suffered for love when happiness could have been so
near! But... she felt that her sadness was not about this. She felt something
deeper in her heart: a strange pain whose cause she couldn’t understand…
“Mademoiselle Oscar” Fersen
said “when I paid homage to our queen, she was so kind to invite me for the
great spring-ball. I’m fighting against myself. My wish is to accept her
proposal. Every moment near Her Majesty repays me for a life of suffering. But...
tell me Oscar, do you think my behaviour would mean useless pain for other
people? I don’t want to be the cause of suffering for
Oscar was tired, she found it
difficult to think. She couldn’t help anybody. She couldn’t even help
“Go, Fersen. Your happiness
is our queen’s happiness. Don’t worry. Both of us will have so little
joyful days in our life, that we deserve these few moments...”
“Thank you, Oscar” Fersen
said, full of joy “Your words make me happy” Then he stopped abruptly.
“But Oscar, what’s your trouble? You’re a model for all of us. Why do
you say you’ll suffer for your whole life?”
Oscar was still silent. She
“Don’t worry. This is a
strange day and I’m a little discouraged. Tomorrow I’ll be all right”.
Fersen was thoughtful. Why did
his friend seem so down?
Oscar instead was thinking:
“Why is everybody talking about that Ball? Well, I’ll stay at home
The days till the evening of
the Ball passed rapidly.
Oscar didn’t see very much of
either Fersen or André. Fersen was often at Court, André accompanied Lady
Pamela wherever she wanted to go.
In the gardens of Versailles,
some days before the Ball, Isabelle told Oscar that, the day after, she and
her English friend would have to travel back to London. Along with her
disappointment, Oscar felt a sense of relief. Finally she’d be able to
recover her usual life!
“Oscar” André said that
same night, during one of the rare moments they had together “I have to tell
“Tell me, André” Oscar was
sitting at the piano, but she broke off her music, looking with anxiety at her
“This morning your father
asked to me to take your guests back to London. He was worried about the last
uprisings in the north”.
Oscar started to play the piano
“Oscar, did you listen to
me?” André asked, because Oscar didn’t seem to care about anything else
than the music.
“I heard you, André”, she
said, finally. “If my father told you to do it, you’ve to do it. What’s
the question?” Then she continued to play, hoping that her music would free
her from her thoughts.
“Oh, Oscar, are you sure you
wouldn’t like to come with us?” lady Isabelle asked her sister, just
before leaving the house.
“Don’t mind, Isabelle.
I’ve many things to do before returning with the regiment. This evening
I’m very busy”.
“But this Ball seems to be
the greatest of the season! Are you sure you won’t regret staying at
Oscar smiled, but didn’t say
a word. She didn’t want her sister to persist any further.
“Dear Isabelle, it’s time
to go. Mademoiselle Oscar, obviously, prefers her documents to our frivolous
company” Lady Pamela said, with a little laugh. Oscar had two flames in the
place of her eyes. Just as she was about to explode, the calm, warm voice of
André interrupted her in time.
“Oscar is not as serious as
you, lady Pamela, describe her. But, luckily for her soldiers, she has a
strong sense of duty. I’m sorry you can’t come, Oscar. If I could help
you, I’d be happy to do whatever I can”.
Oscar’s rage was under
control, so she was able to reply: “Thank you, André. But I’ve to do my
work alone. I’ll be happier to know you’re looking after our guests and
that they are having a good evening”.
In the darkness of her coach,
lady Pamela was annoyed. Why had André so passionately defended that strange
woman dressed like a man? Was she possibly deceiving herself when she thought
about André’s feelings?
But the story was not to end
there. She still held two cards in her hands: that Ball and the journey to
Calais. She needed André, she loved him, and she knew that only beside him
she would be happy.
At the great Ball of Spring it
was a custom that all the guests were allowed to dance and to amuse
themselves, even if they didn’t belong to nobility. So both André and
Fersen were busy with more than one dance at opposite sides of the same hall.
Lady Pamela danced many times with André. She understood that he considered
himself her body-guard, so she succeeded in staying with him as much as
possible. André didn’t enjoy himself very much. He thought that Lady Pamela
was a very kind person, but the Balls of Versailles were nothing new to him,
so he didn’t share his companions’ enthusiasm. Fersen, however, at first
was seen with suspicion, but soon many young ladies tried to have an
invitation of his, even though his eyes stared at Marie Antoinette’s face,
enlightening only when she returned his gazes.
Lady Isabelle took the occasion
to stay with her mother, whom during her visit she had met only once and for a
“Dear mother, it’s a very
wonderful party. And our Queen seems so happy. Sometimes I regret to have left
Madame de Jarjayes didn’t
know what to say. She knew that the French situation was difficult, but it was
a very unpleasant subject, and it would have led to the love-affair between
Fersen and the Queen. Moreover she wanted to ask her daughter something much
“Isabelle, what do you think
of Oscar?” she asked.
“Oh, my dear mother... Oscar
is so courageous and proud, but... I think she is unhappy. I don’t mean to
say that my father made a mistake, but I think Oscar is suffering because of
her situation: she is a woman, with female feelings, who acts like a man...”
“Oh, it’s exactly what I
think. I’m worried about Oscar. I fear that in the years to come her
situation might even worsen”.
“I tried to convince her to
come with us, tonight. But she didn’t want to. I’d like to see her dressed
as a woman. I’m sure she would be the most beautiful Lady of Versailles”.
Her mother laughed: “I fear
that our wish won’t be fulfilled very soon. Oscar is too stubborn”.
Marie Antoinette, after a dance
with the King and many glances to Fersen, was waiting for her favourite
moment, when she’d give the choice for the dance to women. It was a new
diversion that she had heard was usual at the Balls in Venice during the
It was midnight when she made
her announcement with a charming smile.
The women flushed, as ever in
these occasions, and low laughs echoed through the ballroom.
It was with a bit of
embarrassment that the most noble and old Ladies of France made their
invitations to men that, like themselves, where very noble and very old. But
it was much more amusing, and the queen knew it, to observe young, rich and
beautiful dames do their proposal to young and beautiful men, surely not
always their husbands.
Murmurs of surprise accompanied
the passage among the guests of a woman of exceptional beauty. She wore a
marvellous light grey silk dress, draped around a goddess’ body, and in her
wonderful blond hair shone a tiara covered with diamonds, whose flashes had
the same colour of her eyes.
The unknown goddess stopped in
front of one of the most beautiful men of the ballroom, the man many women had
thought to invite, and formulated her invitation. At first her partner had an
astonished expression on his face, but when they started to dance, his eyes
were fixed into hers and they seemed to dance as if they where alone in that
“Who are you? I waited for
you all my life” he said, smiling.
She didn’t reply.
“Tell me, sorceress coming
from nothing. Are you sure we never met before?” His smile was ever more
marked. She flushed and a flash crossed her eyes, but not a word went out from
He stayed in silence for a few
minutes. Then he said: “Nevertheless I’m sure I know you. It’s as if I
knew you since I was a child...”
“All right” she exploded
“you amused yourself enough, André” she said with a tone of rage in her
voice, “I wanted to make you a surprise, but now I’m regretting it...”
“Are you sure, Oscar?
You’re dancing with the most admired gentleman of the Ball...” he said,
pressing his arms around her waist.
“André, what are you
doing?” she stammered.
“I’m dancing, nothing
else” he replied innocently.
She shot him a strange look,
then flushed again: “André, are you... well... are you surprised?”
André didn’t answer
immediately. After a while he said, thoughtfully: “Well, I thought that you
would look even worse, dressed as a woman. But I believe this result is due to
a very hard work of my grandmother...”
“But... how dare you?! I’ll
kill you!” she was really furious.
“Not now, Oscar. You’d ruin
our Queen’s Ball...” he smiled.
Oscar returned his smile. She
was happy between André’s arms, too happy...
In the opposite side of the
room a woman with dark red hair was looking at them with a strange expression
pictured on her face.
Oscar and André went out in
the gardens of Versailles. Oscar shuddered at the cold night air. She was not
used to be so uncovered, her naked shoulders were crossed by shivers.
“Are you cold?”, André
Oscar replied, embarrassed.
André smiled. Even dressed
like a woman, she was always his independent Oscar! He took off his coat and
laid it on her shoulders.
“Thank you, André...” she
flushed again. Every gesture of her companion had this effect on her face
since their dance.
“You can’t be without male
clothes, not even at a Ball” he laughed.
Oscar smiled: why didn’t André
put his arms around her shoulders, she was thinking, she’d have been surely
warmer! Laughs and joyful voices arrived from the ballroom.
“Could you take me home?”
she asked, without looking at him.
“All right, Oscar”.
When they arrived home, they
warmed up facing the fire in the chimney.
“André, will you leave for
Calais, tomorrow?” she whispered.
“Yes, Oscar. You know it”
he answered, his eyes fixed in hers.
“Your travel will be
long...” she murmured.
“Oh, Oscar, I’ll be back
soon” he smiled.
“Oscar, what is the matter...
why are you crying?” he said astonished.
Oscar didn’t answer. Her
tears ran along her cheeks, even if she wasn’t sobbing.
approached her. His hands were on her face, in order to dry her eyes.
Oh, André! Is it really
possible you don’t understand? She leaned her head against his chest, her
arms around his neck.
He gently moved away her face,
fixing his eyes to hers. Then he embraced his Oscar, and his lips kissed hers.
It was so sweet, so tender, so... wonderful!
Oscar remained embraced to André.
She felt his arms around her body, his fingers in her hair.
“André, I love you” she
whispered, simply. Her tears fell on his breast.
“Don’t say anything. I
know. I love you too” he murmured, caressing her back from her shoulders to
“No, André. I’ve to tell
you something... once I believed I was in love with...”
“Oscar, it isn’t
necessary” he said.
“I’ve to tell you! I
believed I was in love with Fersen. I know you understood it. But... but I was
so foolish! That wasn’t true love, I was dazzled, confused... When I feared
to lose you, all became suddenly clear, simple. André, don’t leave me...”
“Oscar, I promise you that
everything will be different when I’ll come back. But I’ve to go. It’s a
duty towards your father.”
The morning after Oscar woke up
very early. She dressed and then went to André’s room. She knocked. André
was preparing his baggage. His hair was loose and he was wearing only his
white shirt above his pants.
Oscar approached him with some
embarrassment. He was bent down on his baggage, so she sat down on a chair,
“Oscar, don’t look so
sad” he said smiling, “within ten days I’ll be back...”
Oscar smiled, but her eyes were
again filling with tears.
“Oscar...” he embraced her
“don’t worry. You’ll have so many things to do with the regiment, that
these days will seem very short”.
“Don’t joke, André” she
said between tears “I’ve just discovered to... and...” she didn’t
“Sometimes you’d better end
your phrases” he laughed. “I want to hear your sweet words...”
“André!” she cried, angry.
“I prefer you angry...
everything other than sad”.
He finished his work.
Everything was ready.
Lady Isabelle and Lady
Gillygham were waiting for Oscar in order to tell her goodbye.
“Goodbye, Oscar. I hope
I’ll be back soon. Sometimes you should come to London. I’d be very
“Goodbye, mademoiselle Oscar.
I’ve to thank you for your hospitality. You made me feel at home... I
believe I’ll have a safe journey with your André, and it hopefully will be
also amusing... he’s a very kind person”.
Oscar flushed, her rage was
about to burst out... but one glance of André reassured her.
When they remained alone for a
moment, André kissed her goodbye.
“Don’t mind, Oscar, I’ll
be back soon. Take care of yourself”, he said.
“Good... goodbye André. Come
back to me as soon as possible. I’ll wait for you” she said, trying to
keep back her tears.
“Oscar, you look strange
today. Why are you so thoughtful?” Fersen asked when they met for supper.
Oscar had a sad smile, but
“Surely your house seems very
empty, today...” he looked at Oscar with a thoughtful glance “it has to be
many years since last you were here without André... he’s your best friend,
“Yes, he’s my best friend,
even if I’m not sure I’m worth of his friendship...”
“Why do you say that? I think
your friendship is the best I have ever known... I’d like to have such a
friend” he said, lost in thoughts.
“You’re wrong” Oscar
smiled “You don’t need a friend. You need something much more unreal...
somebody to love”.
“It’s strange to talk to
you about these subjects.... but you’re right. I need a woman to love,
everybody needs someone to love... my trouble is I will never see my love
returned... the way it should be. But you, Oscar… Will you always be a
soldier? Will you succeed in making us forget you’re a woman?” he asked
with a smile.
Oscar responded to his smile.
No, she couldn’t possibly succeed in her attempt. She had not even been able
to hide from herself that she was a woman, so it was obvious that very soon
everybody else would notice the change in her, too. She felt so transparent!
Her love would have to be discovered soon...
That day and the following ones
were boring and empty. Oscar spent her time counting the days it would take
the coach to reach Calais, and every night she went to sleep hoping it was her
last night far from André. But many days went without any news.
It was three weeks now, and
Oscar was very worried, as a letter from Isabelle arrived.
I’m sending you a brief
message. During our travel towards Calais, near **** we were attacked by a
group of outlaws. They wanted our jewels and money. We were really frightened,
but we did what they wanted. One of them wanted to take me as a hostage but
André showed resistance and was involved in a fight with their leader. Just
when he was about to overcome his adversary another of them stroke him with
his rifle, then they escaped. Lady Pamela and I are all right, but I’m
afraid André is not. That blow made him unconscious and he lost a lot of
blood, so Lady Pamela decided to take him with her to London, where very
expert doctors are looking after him”.
Oscar read the letter three
times before she was able to understand what had happened. She
realised only that André was
ill... hurt... and that he needed her help. He was in London...
Her decision soon became
operative: when Oscar made a choice, she realised it immediately.
The first thing she had to do
was to explain André’s situation to Nanny. The old woman was shocked: her
little André was in danger, hurt, ill.... and so far away from her! As she
understood that Oscar would leave for London, it didn’t help to console her.
The travel was long, and Oscar would have to pass through those dangerous
regions... but Oscar was firm: she had to treat André and take him back.
Her father was surprised of her
decision as well. He didn’t think it was necessary: Lady Pamela was able to
look after him, and Oscar’s duty was to be with the Regiment.
Still, when everything was
ready, Oscar left her house. She was anxious: Lady Isabelle had written that
André was still unconscious.... André don’t give in!
Three days after her departure
she reached Calais. Never before had she been so far from her house, but, she
thought, what was her house to her when André wasn’t with her?
Her crossing towards Dover was
quiet. The Channel, with its transparent ripples, seemed indifferent to the
troubles of the people who fared it...
Two more days remained, then
Oscar arrived to London. It was a city very different from Paris. There were
many busy men on the streets, it seemed as if everyone had something very
important to do. Oscar thought they were appearingly like many bees in a hive.
They weren’t like the people of Paris. In the streets she saw many less
beggars, and, in general terms, it seemed there was less extreme poverty. The
first thing she did was to go to her sister’s house. When Lady Isabelle saw
her, she was filled with joy.
“Oh, Oscar! What a beautiful
surprise you’re in London! But... why have you taken this long travel upon
you? I hope you were not worried about me or Lady Pamela” she said.
“Dear sister” Oscar
answered “your message reassured me about your health, but I’m worried
about André. I came because of his situation... you told me he was hurt... I
want to see him”.
“You can reassure yourself.
Our André is in the best hands. He’s in Lady Pamela’s house, and very
skilful doctors are looking after him”.
“It’s really good news for
me, but I want to see him. You’ve to tell me where I can find Lady
Gillygham’s house” Oscar said, impatiently.
Immediately after Lady Isabelle
had given Lady Pamela’s address to Oscar, she went out, in order to reach
‘her’ André. When she arrived in front of an old and big palace near
Westminster, she trembled at the idea of being so close to him. A young maid
answered at her knocks.
“Yes, Milord?” she said.
“I’m Oscar François de
Jarjayes, colonel of the French Royal Guard. I’m here to see your mistress,
Lady Pamela Gillygham”.
“I’m sorry, Milord. Lady
Pamela is not here. If you want, you may leave your visiting card” the maid
“I’m in a hurry and I must
meet Lady Pamela. Tell me where I can find her” Oscar replied impatiently,
with the tone she used with her soldiers.
“I’m sorry, Milord. I’m
not allowed to tell you of her whereabouts” the servant answered with a
smile “Lady Gillygham needs quietness. She said she would receive her
visitors after her return”.
Oscar was really disappointed,
but she remained calm and asked:
“Could you tell me if her
guest, André Grandier, is with her, and how he is doing?”
The maid was visibly doubtful.
She didn’t know whether to answer or not, but, finally, she said:
“Mister Grandier is with her,
and... well... just before their departure, the doctors said he was a little
better, compared to his conditions during his first days in London... but his
wound is very serious, and, when he was here, he was unconscious. This is
everything I know about him...”she concluded respectfully.
Oscar was amazed: André was
seriously ill... unconscious... it was horrible! She had to see him, to
discover where he was hidden... She returned immediately to her sister’s
home. She was deeply troubled when she asked her sister: “Isabelle, I went
to Lady Gillygham’s house, but there wasn’t anybody, neither Lady Pamela
Lady Isabelle laughed:
“It’s typical of Pamela! She wants to cure our André by herself! I think
she is a bit in love with him...”
“But... but Isabelle!”
Oscar stammered “what are you saying? You have to tell me where I can find
them!” she cried, furious.
“Oh, Oscar! Calm down. I
think it’s a great occasion for André and... well, they make a wonderful
couple. You’ve to be happy for them”.
“You’re impossible! I’m
not happy. André is my attendant, my best friend, my...” at this point she
stopped and turned away.
“I don’t understand your
anxiety, but, if it’s so important.... the fact is that I can’t help
you” Lady Isabelle said, shrugging her shoulders.
“But... there must be
somebody whom I can ask about her present residence...”
“Well, Lord de Winter is a
close friend of her lawyer.... perhaps...”
“All right” Oscar
interrupted, abruptly “when will Lord de Winter be here?”
“Oh, he has gone to Edinburgh
for affairs.... I think he’ll come back within a week, I think.... but
Oscar! What’s wrong with you? Why are you so anxious? Aren’t you happy to
be in London? I could show you around this beautiful town. These will be
unforgettable days for you...”
Her sister proved to be right.
Oscar didn’t ever forget those days of waiting and uncertainty, but still
they passed, and finally Lord de Winter was back.
“Isn’t Lady Pamela here in
London?” Lord de Winter replied to Oscar’s questions “If she isn’t
here... well... it’s very likely she’s to be found in her country estate,
“Is it far from here? How
long is the journey?” Oscar asked anxiously.
“The roads are not the best
ones. Yorkshire is one of our wildest districts. Probably it’ll take you
four days. But... is it so important?”
Oscar didn’t reply. In her
mind she was already organising her trip.
In the coach, over ruined
roads, Oscar made her way up to Yorkshire. Every halt of the driver, made in
order to give the horses recovery from their tiredness, upset her. She wanted
to go even faster, to arrive as soon as possible... that hostile country
seemed like a bad omen to her, and to be so lonely during the whole day made
her thoughts gloomier.
They were not very far away
from Lady Gillygham’s county when, while their coach was passing through a
dark and isolated wood, a group of bandits attacked them. At first Oscar,
completely lost in her thoughts, didn’t understand the cause of their stop,
but then, from the window, she saw four men armed with rifles and guns
approaching. She left her seat just in time to see her English driver rush off
like a thunderbolt. She was alone, but she wasn’t someone who didn’t react
Another group of outlaws had
hurt her André and now her rage was double: she had to take her revenge for
both incidents, so she grasped her sword and waited for her adversaries to
Sometimes, when we have too
much trust in our skills and when we are dominated by our emotions, we don’t
consider situations objectively. Oscar was one of the most able and clever
fighters, but even she, opposite to four men as skilful as enormous, was
destined to fail.
Her rage was too intense,
because she didn’t believe English men to be very able with swords, but,
especially, because she had almost reached André and, instead of being
reunited with him, they were again being separated.
Tied in a cold cell, she
reflected upon her bad luck: after so many years in which she had been so
close to her happiness and yet incapable of capturing it, now that everything
seemed clear and she had finally understood the beauty of love... now she met
one obstacle after the other.
A tear ran down her cheek...
another pursued its companion, then another...
“André, I need you...
don’t you see I can’t live without you? Oh, my dear André, I wonder
whether you have recovered... I pray your wound is not too serious... I want
to be with you... André!” she screamed against that hostile English sky she
saw through a little crack of the wall.
In another dark and isolated
room, André was rising from his long fight against death. A loving hand
helped him through those first moments of disorientation, and then, after some
days during which he was always uncertain whether he was asleep or awake, he
recovered his strength and started to think about his return to France.
Certainly it was a premature thought, but his wish to stay with Oscar was so
strong that he considered a few weeks of rest enough before undertaking his
When he told Lady Pamela his
intentions, she didn’t agree with him. She tried to convince him to stay at
rest longer, or, even better, to go to Scotland with her in order to continue
A few days before her
conversation with André, Lady Pamela had received a message from Lady de
Winter, in which her old friend had announced Oscar’s intention to visit
her. Only because of Isabelle’s haste, in fact she sent her message the day
before Oscar’s departure, had Lady Pamela had the possibility of doing what
she did: only few months earlier she would have been incapable of organising a
kidnapping, but.... too much love changes the most firm principles, and she
arrived to believe it wasn’t a very bad action, since she didn’t want to
hurt Oscar but only to gain time enough to prepare their departure for
Lady Pamela thought, in fact,
that the more time she and André spent together, the more chances would grow
he would return her feelings. But, some days after Oscar’s kidnapping, just
the day of her conversation with André, an unforeseen event took place: the
driver of Oscar’s coach arrived at Thornfield and told lady Pamela about the
Lady Pamela and André were
having tea in the library when the maid announced Mr. Manson’s arrival. Lady
Pamela didn’t understand who he was till he started to tell his story. He
told that he had been accompanying a young official of the French army to
Thornfield from London, when they were attacked by a band of bandits. The
French gentleman had been kidnapped, while he, after a long duel, had
succeeded in running away.
In short, the cause of his
visit to Lady Pamela was to obtain a repayment for the costs caused by the
trip, because, well... after all his passenger was directed to Thornfield!
“An official of the French
Army?!” André said in a whisper, then, crying with all his strength,
“What was he looking like? Tell me immediately!”
“Oh, he was a very handsome
gentleman... with long blond hair and blue eyes... a thin form... his name was
Jargette... Jerjais... something like that” he answered, very happy of the
interest called forth in his listeners.
“Coward! You left her alone
in order to save your life! I’ll kill you...” André tried to raise
himself, turning towards the lady “Lady Pamela... it was Oscar. I’m sure.
And she was kidnapped.... we have to search for her... we have to find...”
the strong emotion caused an unbearable suffering in his still weak body, then
he started to breathe with difficulty.
“André! How are you, André...”
Lady Pamela cried, hurling towards him “Maid... maid! We have to take Mr
Grandier to his room... help me!”
Two more days passed till André
could talk again to Lady Pamela. His conditions had worsened, but he insisted
he speak with the English lady. With a trembling voice, almost a whisper, he
“Lady Pamela... you have been
always very kind to me... you tried to save me when I was wounded, and... some
days ago you offered me a stay in Scotland... therefore, in the name of that
which I dare call our friendship, I pray you: try to save Oscar... you must be
acquainted with many people in this county. It’s not possible that any of
them can’t help us... I... I...”
“André... don’t tire
yourself out... I understand... André, be quiet...” Lady Pamela said, in
“No... I have to tell you...
save Oscar! I pray you... I’ll be happy to do whatever you want if... if you
can release Oscar... the rest of my life would be in your hands...
Pamela...” he concluded, at the end of his tether.
Tears appeared in Lady
Pamela’s eyes. André’s words were those she wanted to hear, but she
wasn’t as happy as she had imagined she would be.
Oscar was being held captive in
her dark cell for two weeks now. During the first days she had tried to escape
but her kidnappers, whom, she noticed, tried to treat her the best they were
able, succeeded every time in avoiding her attempts.
But that morning she had a
surprise: when she awoke, she found the door of her room was open and there
was no sign of her kidnappers. She was amazed, she didn’t understand why
they had gone away and why so suddenly, after they had always talked about a
ransom. But another thought filled her mind: she had lost a lot of time... now
she had to find André... to know how he was.
It was almost two months now
since he had left the palace Jarjayes in order to escort her sister... never
before had they been separated for such a long time.
She had to reach the nearest
village, and it required a long walk, but, finally, she found a horse and
arrived in *****.
She had no difficulty to find
Thornfield , Lady Gillygham’s estate. It was an old towered castle that
dominated an enormous park separated from outside by a high wall of grey
stones. Filled with excitement, she rang a big bell on the black gate. It made
a deafening and horrible sound, still nothing except its echo answered the
Oscar walked around the estate.
That wall was so high that she would be able to climb it only with difficulty.
completely dark when she ended her reconnaissance, so she had to
return to her Inn. Her sleep was restless, but when it was almost
sunrise she had a flash of inspiration: during her walk around the wall she
had noticed, in the area most distant from the castle, an old and high oak
whose branches arrived just over the high wall.... it was the only way for her
to come inside the
It was very early, the sun
fought with the moon in the sky, when Oscar reached the old tree.
It was not a very difficult
task for her to climb up and overtake the wall.
The fields were still covered
with dew, when she walked into that strange park. She didn’t have a plan,
but her steps took her near a little lake hidden by the morning fog. She was
thinking about what to do when she saw a familiar figure on the opposite
shore, lying on a garden’s chaise longue and with a blanket on his legs. Mad
with joy, she ran around the lake.
“André!” she cried just
before flinging her arms round his neck.
“Oscar!” he exclaimed,
trying in vain to hide his happiness. Then he added, with false indifference
“I’m very happy to see you... but you shouldn’t have undertaken such a
long trip... I’m better now...” his words stood in stark contrast to the
expression on his face and his still weak conditions.
Oscar withdrew surprised:
“André, what are you saying?! I was so worried about you... I had to know
how you were and... oh André... why don’t you make it easier for me? Is it
possible you’ve become so cold... André, look at me...” she said in
despair, while tears suddenly sprang from her eyes.
André’s heart was beating at
breakneck speed, but what he was doing was necessary.
Oscar was free because Lady
Pamela had paid a huge ransom, and now she had his word about their future, he
had promised not to leave her... he knew it was the most important thing he
could do for her... often she spoke about the sufferance of her loneliness..
and how she felt ‘alive’ now that she had somebody to look after... so he
thought... it was a choice he had made... nobody had forced him... and yes, it
was the right choice, because Oscar was free...
But now he was suffering as if
his heart was being ripped out from his body, and he could hardly prevent his
tears from falling down his cheeks, but he had to do it...
“Oscar, in this last period
of time many things have happened. I believe that some of them will seem
strange to you.... but... well... things are not exactly the same as they were
in Paris...” he said, lowering his eyes.
“André, I don’t understand
you... I know you were wounded... unconscious for a long time... tell me what
else happened... I made a long travel to find you... am I not worth any
explanation?” she asked, while her sobs made her words torturing for him.
“Don’t you remember me? I’m Oscar... your Oscar.”
André felt the impulse to
extend his arm and caress her face, but, suddenly, a woman’s voice said:
“Mademoiselle de Jarjayes...
I didn’t know we had the pleasure of your visit....”
“Lady Pamela” Oscar
answered angrily, hiding her tears “according to you, my visit would never
have been allowed! I tried to pay my homage to you, but you didn’t want to
meet me... it’s easy to understand why!”
“Quite the contrary, I’m
happy you’re here. You could
have stayed with us for awhile.... what a shame we are going to Scotland, next
Sunday, and that we could stay so little all together...”
“No! You’re joking, lady
Pamela, I don’t believe in your words.... André!” Oscar cried, dazed.
“Oscar, I didn’t have the
time to tell you all the news” he said, flushing. “Pamela suggested I
spend some weeks in Scotland with her... I accepted, because now she is really
the most important person in my life... Excuse
me, but I didn’t believe such a thing could happen so fast...” he
concluded in a hurry.
She ran away, towards the high
gate, now open. She wanted to be far from them, alone with her suffering. André!
No, André, you don’t know what you’re doing, she said to herself. But
what if this woman really was his love? He had forgotten her, she wasn’t so
important to him after all!
She fell to the ground in an
unknown field, her face buried in the cold and wet grass, sobbing without
Meanwhile, André, still near
the lake, was silent. Lady Pamela had gone back inside but he didn’t want to
return. He felt awfully bad, Oscar’s gaze in his mind... he remembered her
scream of joy when she had seen him by the lake. Oscar... his Oscar! He had
fought against himself to avoid embracing her... not to kiss her lips, caress
her hair... but he wasn’t rich, all his estate was his
honour and if he lost even
that, he would be less than nothing. Oscar was suffering, he thought, but she
was free, save... without lady Pamela it wouldn’t have been so. He knew only
one way to repay her... and now she had his word. He closed his eyes. His mind
ran again towards Oscar... she called herself ‘your Oscar’... Her
beautiful blond hair... but especially her eyes... His headache forbade him
think.... he was tired. His mind was so confused... a heavy fog covered all
Lady Pamela was in her boudoir,
standing in front of the window. Through the glass she saw her park. She loved
Thornfield... she remembered it was her husband’s favourite estate. He had
liked that wild country, the sullen people of the village... her husband...
when they were alone she used to catch a glance in his eyes... she smiled: he
had been sweet and tender to her. She knew he had loved her but... André? Did
André love her? She never saw that glance in his eyes. Was it right to marry
somebody who couldn’t return you? Formerly, she had hoped her presence could
cause a change in his feelings, but that morning...
And regarding herself... she
was full of disgust against herself: never before had she gone so far as to
organise a criminal action... a kidnapping! And, moreover, she had deceived
André because she had let him believe that she had obtained Oscar’s
liberation by paying a ransom... she knew that André’s promise of remaining
with her was his way of thanking her for her help. Would she find the courage
to build her future life upon lies, upon cheats?
Wasn’t she worth of a
complete and clear happiness? Were André’s affection and gratitude enough
for her, didn’t she in truth need his love?
Oscar was preparing her
baggage, she wanted to rush off. Since that morning she had never stopped
crying, reminding herself of André’s words: Pamela, he had said, and then,
she is the most important person in my life... she was battered: instead of
telling her he’d come home soon, her André had left her alone...
Still... her departure would
have brought the whole story to an ending: they wouldn’t have other
occasions... was she sure it was the right choice?
Oscar took her head between her
hands... she didn’t want to be mistaken, for André had made his choice
clear to her... but... somehow it was as if that wasn’t her André, as if
something had happened... in his
eyes she had seen the same flame as in Paris... still, he was ready to go
away... with the only company of that woman... She felt rejected, but his
eyes... his eyes told her things very different from his mouth...
“All right” she said to
herself, recovering her old determination “I’ve to make another attempt.
I’ll send him a letter, I have to save our love... it’s too immense to die
without a reason...”
In the afternoon, André
reached Lady Pamela for tea. He was worried, his mind was completely out of
order, and he felt tired, tired of thinking... acting... and the thought of
Oscar tormented him.
“André, how are you?” Lady
“Not fine. I’ve a horrible
“I know. Well, I was hoping
you could listen to me for a moment. I’ve to tell you an important thing”
she said, seriously.
“Sure, Pamela. Tell me... if
I can help you...”
“Dear André, I understand
mademoiselle Oscar’s visit threw you into confusion. Your meeting has to be
the cause of doubts... concerning our trip... more so, our future life...”
“Please listen to me André,
I’m not finished yet. I know you made me a promise, but I don’t want a
husband who doesn’t love me
the way I love him. I want you to be sure of your choice but I’ll accept
every decision. It’s important both for you and for me. Take your time to
clear your mind. I can wait for you, I’m used to wait...” she ended in a
“You’re right, my mind is
about to explode, my thoughts are incoherent, but I made my choice carefully
and with responsibility... you have my word and...”
“No, André. I’ve your word
no more, you’re free to decide. Perhaps, one day, I’ll have the courage to
tell you the whole truth, but now it’s enough for you to know that you
don’t have any duties towards me. I only wish that you shall tell me your
decision tomorrow. That’s all” she turned away, she wanted to hide the
tears sliding down her cheeks.
When André came back in his
room, he found a message on his table. He broke the seal and read:
My dear André,
I’m ready to return to Paris. You can’t understand how happy I was
to see you safe and fine. I don’t want to upset your life, I think you’re
the man most worth of happiness... but it’s obvious to me that I don’t
know something very important about your stay in Thornfield. I saw something
in your eyes you couldn’t hide... remember I know you very well... So, I
couldn’t leave England without a last attempt: my hope is that you’ll
remember our holidays in Arras, our rides at
Versailles, our last night
before your departure to England, and only then decide if I’m worth knowing
what you’re hiding from me.
I’m at “Crossed Keys”
Inn, I’ll leave tomorrow at midday, and if there is something strong enough
to take you back to me, it means ours was a true love - otherwise, you have my
best wishes for your future happiness.
It was a horrible night for
everybody: one woman feared the failure of her hopes, another one was seeing
her only chance of happiness disappear without knowing the cause... rejected
in her loneliness, in her haughty despair, and a man was fighting with voices
from his past against what he believed was his duty.
The morning after, Oscar woke
up more tired than she had been going to bed. All her baggage was ready. She
looked at the pendulum clock in the hall. It was 7 o’clock. She went out in
the garden: her impatience, her fear of what the midday hour would bring was
so great that she felt her legs heavy. She looked towards Thornfield manor:
the high grey wall returned her glance. It was like a prison that separated
her from her happiness. The pendulum beat the time. One minute after another:
it was ten, eleven, thirty after eleven. From Thornfield, no signal.
“André, come to me! Where
are you? It’s time... you’ve still twenty minutes... I can’t wait for
you any longer, this is going to kill me. André...”
But the minutes passed and
nobody arrived at “Crossed Keys” Inn. At the
twelfth stroke, her heart stopped. Everything was over, her life was
She boarded the coach. She
didn’t look behind her: she breathed with difficulty.
That morning, when Lady Pamela
reached the dining room for breakfast, she found André in.
She knew his decision
immediately. She smiled at him.
“Pamela, I’ve to tell
you...” he said, sadly.
“Not a word, André. I know.
Make me the gift of this last morning” she replied, keeping back her tears.
“It’s my best wish...
Pamela, you’re one of the best friends I have, you....”
“Yes, but not the best” she
smiled “Don’t worry, André. I didn’t want a love reduced to the halve.
I hope there will be another chance for me”.
André smiled, too.
They went out for a ride. They
talked about the country, horses, common memoirs... no words were said about
the future, his departure... When they came back, it was late in the morning.
In the hall André looked at the pendulum clock: a quarter after twelve!
“Go André” Lady Pamela
cried “Hurry up: you’ve to reach her... probably she is still at the
André ran towards the door,
but suddenly he came back, knelt down, took her hand between his and kissed
“Good luck, Pamela, and thank
you for everything” he said.
“It was a pleasure, André,
but... you’ve to go, don’t waste time!” she smiled.
When André arrived at the Inn,
Oscar wasn’t there. The owner told him mister de Jarjayes had left a little
time before. So, he was late... he sat down on a chair, his head between his
hands. She was gone...
Oscar was on deck of the
ferryboat. The Channel shone under the sun of June. Nothing could touch her,
now. She hadn’t any wish, any hope, any idea for her future left.
“Excuse me, Sir”, she heard
a voice behind her back, “weren’t you the man who, just a few days ago,
flung his arms round my neck?”
She turned amazed: in front of
her stood André, an amused smile on his mouth.
“André... André!” she
cried, tears, again, on her cheeks.
“Yes, it’s me.” He
embraced her. “Are you all right Oscar... can you forgive me these last
days? One day, I’ll tell you...” he murmured.
“Oh, André... I don’t want
to know... We’re together!” she buried her face in his shoulder.
“Don’t hide your face.... I
have to kiss you” he whispered sweetly.
Oscar laughed, every bad
thought had left her: she was happy... happy!
The Channel flew indifferent,
as ever, but its passengers were thinking about something else as well.
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Special thanks to Charlotte Bronte!