Virgulle’s Vestral 49

Thursday 24th November 2011

The art of having one’s cake

MARS bars I had been introduced to by Tom. The fermented seeds of the cacao tree would, I began to realise, be my undoing.

The next day, Isobel and I followed the usual routine and I remained silent until it was time for tea. In addition to the usual shortbread biscuit, I chose a large slice of chocolate gateau, thanking Frances with a smile and adding:

“Please can you bring me some papers and a pencil?”

If Isobel was surprised by my impulsive indulgence, she did not show it, but continued sipping her tea and smoking her cheroot, while I started to sketch what I could see: the rubber plant, a vase of dried flowers, the trail of ivy beyond the window. Often I ripped sheets of paper from the pad Frances had given me, frustrated by my lack of skill.

With but a few minutes to go before the end of our hour together, I put the pencil down and looked at Isobel.

“I wish to become better when using a pencil. To do this, I will draw many hours every day. And I wish to learn how to paint pictures. I must stop being a waster of time.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” she replied, with a curl of the lip.

When Frances escorted me back to my rooms, we took our preferred route, past the ornamental pond, along the path to the summer-house and back up through Isobel’s rose garden to the terrace.

“What’s got into you today, Virgulle? Why the sudden change of heart?”

“It has become a… a… what is it in the chess game, when both players are not able to proceed?”

“Stalemate.”

“Yes, we are a stalemate. I may never leave this place. Therefore, I will do things to cease the boredom. And I shall agree to answer Isobel’s questions about Rheta – if she agrees to allow me to become a painter.”

“You old sly boots!”

We walked on, Frances seemingly amused by my antics, though I knew she would report our conversation to Isobel and the other invisible observers of my behaviour.

Not that I cared. All I now wished for was to be trapped no longer in a dilemma of my own making.

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