This is the close of Chapter 3. On Monday we'll meet our fourth and last major character.
She was to leave by train again the next morning. Her new position was as governess to the daughters of an eminent surgeon who was in some sense a protege of the count. “He knows only that you are an orphan whom I have had educated at the best schools. And that is all he is to know. I hope you understand the importance of discretion. If you are responsible for starting rumors, the lawyers may decide to cut off your allowance or confiscate the savings I have put aside for you.”
It had been mid afternoon when she left the count’s house. Drained nearly to numbness, it had been easy for Natalie to avoid any display before the servants, mutely following them out to the waiting car. Her final view of her father had been from the doorway of the library, when the long instincts of her convent education caused her to pause, turn, and bob a parting curtsey in his direction. He stood before the windows, looking after her, but the light of the window was behind him and she could see nothing of his expression.
She had given no thought to where they were going until the car stopped before the white stone facade of the Hotel Bristol. Four floors of balconies looked down on the wide boulevard with its double line of streetcar tracks, each pair of tall wood and glass balcony doors flanked by columns and covered by a classical lintel. The sum of all these columns, lintels and arches, piled up in profusion and capped at the corner facing the intersection by a round, pillared tower, was opulence overbearing in its magnificence.
For a moment she stared dumbly through the car window at the doormen in his blue uniform, the shining brass buttons of his uniform matching the polished fittings of the hotel doors. After all the talk of discretion, surely this could not be for her. But then the footman was getting out from his seat next to the driver, unloading her bags, and opening the door for her. A bellhop swooped in to take her things. She followed them through the doors into the lobby, an expanse of patterned marble floor with a cut glass chandelier above and a massive dark wood registration desk presiding over all. The count’s footman spoke in a low tone for a moment to the desk clerk, who nodded.
“Of course, of course. His excellency’s usual room is available.”
He made a note in his book and gave a pair of keys to the footman. The footman in turn gave one of the keys to her with a slight bow. “Ask them for anything you need. The car will come to take you to the station at seven tomorrow morning.”
Another bow and he was gone.
She had just begun to contemplate the implications of the apparent routine being observed by desk clerk and footman when, with a “Follow me, miss,” the bellhop set off with her bags.
Two Poem Drafts
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