CONVERSATION: Edmond and Catherine
“And the children. Of course. The future of us all.”
It’s a low, clipped voice, an Englishman’s voice, wry and sarcastic. The woman laughs, rough, deep in her throat, not a lady laugh.
“My son,” he goes on, “and don’t give me that expression, Catherine, we both know he’s my son. Your granddaughter. Granddaughters, both of them, the other has potential too from what I hear.”
“Naturally she does, untrained. We’ve left her too late. She’s willful.”
“So are they all, trained or not, Catherine.”
They laugh again.
“They like to think,” Edmond adds, pouring himself a drink, “that they go their own directions. We must let them keep the impression---that they’re oppressed but smart enough to elude it.”
“James views himself as a great rebel. But he’s a talented young man. He’ll come round.”
“He seems to have been more of a hindrance than a benefit to you. I have never understood why you bothered, Edmond.”
There is a light clinking of metal, tea-spoon pushing into Catherine’s cup.
“No son of mine’s a use picking rice with his whore mother on some Indochinese bay.”
“Whore? In front of me?”
“You’re no woman to me, Catherine, and you should accept it for a compliment.”
“I am flattered.”
She sounds exactly like Olivia, or is it the other way round? The words, the inflection, the little smirk.
“You could have have real children, your blood all the same. You wouldn’t have had to pick him up.”
Catherine sniffs and shifts in her chair. Edmond should be offended but he isn’t. Their children aren’t parts of them.
“I’ve no time to circle round a wife who couldn’t understand---”
“I offered you Elizabeth.”
Her tone is clipped, pointed.
“I offered you Elizabeth,” she repeats, “And she would have had you.”
“Out of her endless obedience only. We know where Elizabeth’s loyalties really are.”
“Don’t tell me you were looking for a doting wife, Edmond.”
“And beyond that, I don’t want information in my house being sent back to you and your people at all times. That would be why you’d plant her in my bed.”
“Not at all.”
“Even without it, you know where Elizabeth is drawn and I as well.”
A sigh. Catherine’s. They pause.
“Nothing ever goes as it should.”
“Not enough, no. I am sorry about William, I mean that.”
“It shouldn’t have happened. Not now.”
“And nothing ever happens---”
She draws out her breath and returns to sharp.
“Your son is coming to the funeral?” Edmond asks.
“He should and I think he will---he’ll be burdened with conscience if he doesn’t. I think the right appeal would bring Pia as well.”
“You want her, then?”
“At least for a few days. I’ll need them all, everyone I can have and nobody like one’s own family.”
“She seems more loyal to her mother---”
“She is Doisneau. That is all,” Catherine snaps, takes a breath, “She should not have existed but as she does, she must be of us. You should know that, Edmond.”
And he does.
ELECTROGRAPH: Olivia to Pia
Pia STOP Grandfather dead STOP Youve been told I expect STOP People at house morning night STOP It is hell STOP Lot of talk over you coming or not funeral STOP Mother and Grandmother seem to want thought should know STOP choice yours but please do things getting in mess want you here STOP Olivia
LETTER: Elizabeth to Teddy
Father is dead. It was unexpected---the doctor says it was a heart condition he must have been unaware of. He was in his study when it happened and his heart failed immediately and without, I believe, pain. He was fortunate in that, at least. It was a comfort for me to know it was quick and I hope it is for you as well.
The funeral is on Sunday. I know I have told you not to return but for this it wouldn’t be right for you to stay in Paris . I cannot order you to come and I wonder if it is unnecessary to ask in the way I am. Surely you’re not a man who would let petty pride keep him from his father’s funeral. Are you?
We must be together, all of this family, whichever side.
I’ll see you on Sunday (your daughter as well)?
All my love,
NOTE: James to Olivia
I’m sorry to hear about your grandfather. Out of all of them, he seemed a fairly decent man.
Have you found anything more? I’ll be at your house tomorrow with Edmond to pay my respects as you’d call it and I’ll have you meet me at four-thirty on the back stairs if you have and we’ll go somewhere to discuss it.
CLIPPED FROM SEEN AND HEARD BY DAISY GABLER
All of New York gathers round the mourning of New York’s best and it is said that a certain society hostess closely related to the dead has turned the funeral into a social event---some are attending who never met the dead. How gauche. Good thing the lady would never admit it. In fact, a good source says that she’ll be using the event to marry off her brunette debutante daughter to Western Oil---but no lady of New York would ever do that, my darlings. Would she? There’s nothing for good connections like a funeral even if we don’t talk about it and we may be seeing Paris’ most notorious in New York as well.
in my heart: blah