Riding through the plains of northern France, the handsome
son realised the importance of this day. A small salty tear rolled down
his cheek as he thought of how, on this September morning, his father
allowed him the life of a man for the first time.
The carriage, led by his fathers driver, continued through the
plains of Germany through Frankfurt and Weimar. The son felt
warm knowing that the old driver would accompany him on his first solo
journey. It was in Gera, Germany that the son was surprised to find
the driver bidding farewell. It was here that the son was to find his
own way. He was led to a square where, as he was told, a new caravan
would be arriving for him.
The young man skipped around the German square, so uniformly cobbled,
waiting to greet the caravan with virile delight. Soon, evening faded
to night and the young man decided to find a room to sleep.
Down the stairs from an old wooden bakery, an old peasant woman was
sweeping up flour and feathers. She led the man after his inquiries
to a hotel on the square where he was given a room and a chest for his
clothing. The young man paid the clerk, locked his room and pulled the
chest on his mattress where he soon fell asleep.
The bed was soft and he slept well. He was offended, however, upon waking,
that there was no coffee served. After walking about the confines of
the hotel, in sleepy morning confusion, he scolded the clerk and ordered
him to fetch coffee. The young mans German was good enough to
scold. He complained until the man went to find some beans. As the young
man waited, he sat on the steps of the square in the warm morning sun
scratching his sore eyes and smoking a pipe. Before the clerk
returned, two wagons pulled up and summoned the son. Hurriedly, he jumped
in a rickshaw following up the entourage and they left the square and
Through the wide hills of Germany they rode and the young man thought
there would be no end to the repeating countryside, until the caravan
stopped beside a stone gate. The figures climbed out of their respective
compartments and led the young man to the officer at the gate. The young
man was not confused, nor was he afraid. He had accompanied his father
on over a dozen voyages. Twice they had taken the same route from Paris
The officer expected what was soon provided the young mans
trading papers. But, wisely, he did not hand the papers until making
sure with a glance that the new caravan was on the other side of the
border waiting for him. The officer handed them back in the usual way
and the young man approached the wagons, rickshaws and carts of the
The most beautiful rickshaw was to be his the last one in the
line. When he tried to open the door of the oak, two-man rickhaw, interrogations
began by the parties smoking pipes atop a wagon.
"Wasnt it to be a man?" a Slovak voice questioned as
the young man presented his papers.
"Its a pleasure sir." The driver of the third coach
said upon realising that the young man was indeed the awaited jewel
The young man returned to the rear and opened the rickhaw door. There
was another sitting in the deep red cushions.
"Bon apres midi!" the young man said loudly, realising that
the man in his rickshaw was asleep. He jolted the unanimated body with
the tip of his cane and the figure awoke, confused, spilling his tumbler
of brandy upon the cushions."
"Its okay, you dont have to change cars Im
alone." The young man bellowed.
The sleepy figure came to his senses and shifted positions to allow
the young man to enter. "Ah! I remember you." He cried.
"Have you got anything to drink?" the young man asked.
"Some brandy." The large figure began to pour from the bottle
into a new tumbler. The young man was not interested in the tiny glass
he was handed. He tossed the little tumbler back in the other mans
lap and reached into the compartment for the bottle. The young man pulled
the cork and drank the remainders.
"Wheres your father this trip?" The man, who introduced
himself as Ivan, inquired.
"In Greece." The young man, who introduced himself as Salvador,
"Without his papers?" reinquired Ivan inquisitively.
"Hes there on pleasure
where are your papers?"
"What are you talking
" The young man interrupted Ivan
mid-sentence, "Draw the curtain its dark and I dont
know you might have to draw my knife."
The young man played with Ivan threatened him a bit, until he
took the curtains apart. The incoming sun revealed the figure of Ivan
to be large and stocky, carrying a hard-boned, Slovak face. He was not
much older than the young man maybe five years. The young man
remembered Ivan from his last journey to Bohemia. It was around the
young mans sixteenth year. He remembered Ivan to be polite and
helpful, honest a bit over-instructive. It was because he had
been instructive that the young man decided to be a little condescending
for it was his voyage now and he was to lead the party.
"I am happy to have you stay with us during your stay in Prague,"
Ivan stated, "however, I wish that your father had come for he
was always the most wonderful of guests."
"Tell me," Ivan continued, "Do you still live above the
Crillon?" Ivan asked.
"I havent live in Paris for years
I live in Spain
Andalusia." The young man lied. "And I havent seen my
father for years either. He has been in Greece with his mistress since
I was sixteen."
"Hmm," Ivan considered "However did you end up in his
line of work?"
"Actually, Im a matador." The young man said proudly,
"I am taking this run for the pure thrill it has nothing
to do with my father."
"But certainly your father arranged this expedition
you with his papers."
"Not at all," replied the young man, "I have my own papers,
which, in fact, supersede my fathers in privilege."
"At your age! Thats amazing," laughed Ivan mockingly.
"That brandy was quite stale, dont you have anything else?"
Demanded the young man.
"Some absinthe." Said Ivan, handing the bottle to the young
He didnt appear fond of the young man, but as his host he was
required to feign affection. The young man took this opportunity to
openly slander Ivan and make demands as he pleased.
In the late afternoon, the coaches ceased and the door of the rickshaw
carrying Ivan and the young man was opened. The party was led to the
top of the road where the city of Prague could be seen in the distance.
Golden light shone on the rooftops of Prague and the surrounding hills,
which were usually a rich green, appeared bronze with fertile wheat.
The party drank wine together until the young man impatiently ordered
everyone back to the coaches to continue on. The trail ahead was paved
and smooth and the remainder of the journey took less than an hour.
The coaches and wagons round the castle atop the largest hill in Prague
and they entered a courtyard where olive trees lined cobbled sculptures
and fountains. There was a feast planned to welcome the trader and when
the party left their carriages, an even larger entourage flooded from
the doors of Ivans mansion to greet them.
Wealthy and successful jewel traders always received this royal treatment
when visiting a foreign country. A traders voyage was always arranged
so that his stay would be accommodated by an affluent host. The host
fed and entertained the trader, took him into the jewel markets each
day, and, as custom went, when the trader left the country, he would
offer his host several beautiful jewels in return for the favour.
A large and beautifully faced woman led this new entourage and approached
Ivan. She spoke in a robust German voice and claimed that the feast
had finished preparation and the guests were waiting to begin.
"Good, Im starving." Agreed Ivan. "How do you feel
my lad? Are you ready to eat?" he said, nudging the young man.
"There will be plenty of time to eat on this trip." Replied
the young man. "First thing we do is go down to the markets."
"Im afraid you arrived a bit late. The markets are closed
this evening and tomorrow is Sunday. We wont be able to go until
"Im afraid that time wont allow such idleness."
Returned the young man. "I must leave on Tuesday. We must go to
the markets tonight."
"If you insist you are the guest
we will ride down
together after we eat."
"Im afraid Ill be going now." The young man affirmed,
climbing in the rickshaw and ordering the driver, out the window, to
The little oak cart immediately left Ivans courtyard. Ivan was
upset that his driver did not ask his permission before leaving. He
turned to the old woman and ordered her to hold dinner and offer the
guests more to drink. He then ordered his entourage to return to their
coaches and follow him down to the center of Prague to the markets.
The coaches rode unbalanced and swaying recklessly down the steep road
to the lesser quarter of Prague. They hurried to catch up to the young
Finally, his wagon could be seen stopping near the gates of the market
and the following coaches caught up and halted. Ivan climbed out and
greeted the young man. The markets were indeed closed for the evening
and only the last of the vendors could be seen loading their carts with
their beads and trinkets.
"Hmmm, I guess the markets are closed for the night." Affirmed
the young man. "Oh, well, Im famished lets go
Ivan and his group cursed the young man silently and reboarded their
coaches to head back to the palace atop the hill.
From the Bohemian skyline, the entourage could be seen marking up the
hill like a little brown trail of insects crossing a plain. When the
group rearrived, the courtyard was absent of festivity and greetings.
Quietly they marched inside, clicked off their boots and entered the
anteroom where dancing and drinking was taking place.The young man was
introduced as Salvador to the crowd and everyone was excited to get
their turn to make acquaintance with the handsome son.
Rather than mingling and showing an interest in the strange faces in
the room, the young man insisted that dinner be served.
He was quite pleased with the meal. His garnet bracelet dipped in the
thick sauces as he helped himself to more potatoes and soybeans. A pretty
girl was seated beside him and she kept saying, "Salvador, please
eat my bread, you need it more than I do." She was flirting with
him and her hand kept feeling the patterns of his clothes as she asked
questions like, where was this made?" When she felt the pearls
on his necklace, the gossamer thread broke and the pearls fell asunder
to the floor. The young man grabbed for them and the pretty girl handed
him some. Her face lit up with romantic delight when she handed him
a blue pearl and he handed it back. She was expecting to keep it, however,
he resnatched it out of her hand and, placing it on his tongue, swallowed
This was his usual behavior with young ladies. He had the wealth to
offer them lavish gifts but he felt, as he was clever, intelligent and
unusually handsome, that he didnt need to offer any gifts or other
affections to win the company of a woman. The pretty girl resumed eating
her food. She was pouting a little bit after the young mans exhibition
of selfishness but every once and a while during the remainder of the
meal, she would play with him to show that she was still interested.
After the meal, the guests returned to the anteroom to listen to the
music and dance and drink. The young man remained at the table, smoking
a pipe for a few moments, and then he joined them. This time, he was
a bit lighter in spirits and he walked about the room talking to people
who gathered near the walls.
After he was thoroughly bored with the talk of every guest standing
near the walls, he sought out Ivan. Ivan was immersed in conversation
with a lady, who, though he could only see her from behind, looked very
alluring with finely cropped golden hair and a pleated rose dress. He
approached the couple but was not noticed. The lady had her back turned
and Ivan did not take his eyes from her face. She was almost a tall
as Ivan who was already very tall and when the young man
stood behind her, he could barely glance over the top of her head.
He was now standing very close but Ivan would not look up to take notice
of him. The young man on a whim took a pair of haemostat-like
tools from his dinnercoat pocket and reached toward the clasp of the
ladies pearl necklace with them. With a quick, expert twist, he noiselessly
broke the clasp on the pearls and they fell asunder to the anteroom
floor. The couple turned around and Ivan yelled out, with a smile, "You
seem to have a distaste for pearls this evening, Salvador."
When Ivan noticed that his lady friend was undauntingly furious, he
too grew angry and said, "I believe you have done this lady great
harm. You had better spend the remainder of the evening repairing her
The young man took no notice of these words. Instead he bent to the
floor and retrieved one blue pearl from beside Ivans foot. He
then kneeled beneath Ivan and, pressing the pearl into his hand, said,
"This, my dear host, is the first token to repay your generous
Before Ivan could speak the young man stood, and bowed to the lady.
He then looked at her face, which was unusually well formed and beautiful.
She was pretty in not a cute way, but an undeniably beautiful way that
caused the young man to grow shy and even reconsider his previous action.
Meanwhile, Ivan was fuming with anger. He wanted to ring the young mans
neck but before he could take any action, the young man disappeared
through the crowd into an adjoining room.
The young man found himself in a small and lavishly comfortable velvet
room where he was alone except for three people sitting on red
cushions talking and a fiddle player, who was playing a slow Russian
ballad in the minor key.
The young man, who considered himself ideal in both mind and body, did,
however, have a great problem with his eyesight and he squinted hard
to make out the faces of the three talkers on the other side of the
room but he couldnt discern their faces. He was interested in
other people. Not so much in what they said, often people would talk
to him for a half-hour and the young man wouldnt care to remember
even a word of it. He was more interested in how they looked. He would
muse to himself about strangers what they wore and the forms
of their faces inventing stories about who they thought they
were and what they did with their lives.
After the fiddle player stopped the ballad, a mandolin player and a
man with a small drum climbed raucously into the room and the three
started a new tune this time a very loud piece. The young man
was forced to make room for the new musicians and he stood and took
a seat on the cushion adjoining the places of the three talkers
who were now, due to the loud music facing forward and silent.
The young man then noticed the girl in the middle of the two men. She
was apparently Jewish, with long black hair and dark eyes a natural
beauty with innocent charm and full feminine lips and cheeks. Her eyes
were as wide and bright as two full moons and the young man grew very
interested. This feeling bothered him because he almost never experienced
it and he, suddenly, only cared about this strange girl being
close to her and never leaving her side.
The men on her side looked identical to one another. They even wore
almost identical outfits tan and black striped trousers with
deep red cloaks. Their noses were long, bony and wicked. Their eyes
seemed to dart forward so much that they gave the impression
that they werent even fastened in their skulls. The mens
eyes seemed to hang over their faces about to drop.
The lovely girls face was pale and full. It contrasted beautifully
against the black of her hair. She was also wearing a black petticoat,
which covered the forms of her body. It was a bit warm in the room that
night for a petticoat, yet it still looked fitting on her body. The
identical mens faces were also pale, yet in a horrid way that
looked sickly against their cropped red hair. The three only sat, facing
forward, silent for a moment before the identical men turned and began
yapping into the girls ears, loud enough to cover the music of
The young man usually introduced himself happily to strangers in a room
but this time he was shy and quiet. He laid his head down on the pillow
beside him quietly and, drawing pictures on the fabric with his finger
as a child does, closed his eyes and fell asleep.
The young man awoke to a caressing of his neck and shoulders. He did
not wake suddenly, but slowly and comfortably as the warm hand moved
up and down his spine. Lifting his head and, with one hand rubbing his
eyes, he turned to the new stranger beside him. It was Ivan. He was
beside the young man, waking him with warm affection. The young man
looked around. The lovely girl and the two horrid twins were still next
to him on the cushion talking. The band was still there playing, yet
the song was quiet enough for talking over. Ivan began speaking first,
"My dear lad, do you realise that that gorgeous mademoiselle whose
necklace you destroyed will probably never return here? Or at least
not until youve left the grounds?"
"Does that cause you distress?" The young man spoke up.
"Not me as much as it will you. She would have been a very good
person for you to know. She is French and very influential in the courts
"I get enough of the French in my own country
is she doing here? A fixture in a Bohemian palace?"
"Unlike your in country, our aristocracy puts more importance in
beauty than in blood. That is why many of the plain ladies from good
Bohemian families have moved on to Vienna or Berlin. We welcome all
the lovely people from North-western Bohemia. Even the Slovakians are
welcome here - as long as they are charming and witty. Some times we
have more young ladies here than we do horses in the stable. See! Its
a wonderful place for a young man like you or me to bide our time."
"Tomorrow, Ill invite the lovely woman back for some sport
in the garden. You can then make amends with her."
"May I ask? Why exactly are you interested in a reconciliation
or for that matter, even an initial meeting, considering Ive
never spoken to this women."
"Ill be honest
." Ivan said. "At first I didnt
care for you too much. I, of course, was polite as any host should be;
however, it was very difficult for me to bite my tongue while listening
to you. While you were sleeping, however, I thought about things and
I realised that you are indeed very interesting. I think you and I are
alike more than you think. Whether this is the case or not, I guess
doesnt matter as soon you will be back in Spain
well, any hope for a friendship I may have will be in vain. But still,
as your host, and perhaps as a friend, Id like your stay here
to be more than comfortable. Id like you to have all that a young
man like you or I is seeking in life."
"Well, thank you for your sentiment
." The young man
"I was just speaking with the lovely girl beside you." Ivan
interrupted, continuing in a hushed whisper, "She said that you
didnt introduce yourself. I can only imagine that it was because
you were dreadfully tired."
"I didnt even notice her."
"How could you not?" Besides the lady, with whom I was speaking
earlier, she is no doubt the loveliest being in all of Bohemia."
The two clowns beside her have no chance courting her and that
is what they intend to do. She will never give her heart to anyone
neither, I will add, will the woman from earlier."
"Well, I will admit that the both are nice-looking, but why do
you keep speaking of these women? I have come for jewels for
money and conquest."
"But this, my lad, is a feast and we never speak of such things
this late at night except of course when we are gambling. I still
have about five years on you, so do let me teach you a few things."
The young man took Ivans hand off his collar and, pretending to
ignore Ivans last comment, began to speak. "The women from
earlier, her name
"Aurelle" Ivan offered, "
is her name."
"The woman from earlier
" The young man continued, "She
is your affection? Your blessure?"
"Not at all. And this brings up another story. Do you want a drink?"
Ivan said handing a fresh whiskey to the young man. "My affection
is the young lady with the two cousins
there." Ivan said,
tipping his glass in the lovely girls direction."
"Then I," The young man insisted, "have a few things
to teach you
for you spent the entire evening speaking to another
"As I said before, these two ladies are, no doubt, the finest in
Bohemia perhaps in all of Europe. Of course they know this and
are in dreadful competition. They are both worthy of marrying any rich,
powerful man. What is interesting is that they have never accepted a
proposal from anyone and many have proposed."
"Hmm, so they are snobs. Nothing interesting there." Said
the young man.
"As I said, they are in competition with each other that
is their only interest. They care little for men. All purposes behind
their flirtations are to win the sole affections of the Prague aristocracy.
When a man chooses one over the other, the chosen one triumphs."
The band was now disassembling and it was necessary for Ivan to speak
quieter so the lovely girl in the room would not over hear.
"The night is winding down, my boy." Ivan said, "So I
will get to the point. "I am in love with the girl in this room
that is why I spent so long speaking to Aurelle tonight."
"You see, when you give too much attention to one of the young
ladies we have been speaking about, the other gets jealous and
as history has proven tries to win the man over to her side.
Youll see, tomorrow, Aurelle will be flirting relentlessly with
these two fools beside Katherine."
"Katherine?" The young man questioned.
that is the name of the lady beside you."
"Oh." The young man said, feigning indifference. "So
you love Katherine," The young man began again, "But you flirt
with Aurelle so that she will love you?"
"Exactly!" Ivan confirmed.
"Then what? You can never leave Aurelles side for that of
Katherines because then the latter will have won and she will
no longer need your affections
for she will have achieved what
she was seeking."
"A delicate balance, my boy. If I play it right, I can marry them
The young man laughed. "Well I must say, I care about more than
I have only been here for a few hours but I am
already, uncontrollably drawn to Miss Aurelle." The young man lied.
"I know." Ivan attested, "And she is celibate and available.
But if you want to win her you must play the game I have just explained."
"Well I wont be playing any games
as you know, I must
leave Bohemia by Tuesday lest I lose my trading papers and my
"Plenty of time, my boy. Besides, as I have said, Aurelle too is
French and she will be returning to Paris soon - even sooner if you
utilise the charm that I know is in you."
"This talk is getting dull." The young man yawned, "Have
you any cards? I would like to gamble."
Im afraid the evening is about over. But tomorrow will be a beautiful
Sunday. I hope you will join us in the garden for sport and the luncheon
Monday we will begin at the markets." Ivan concluded.
The two identical monsters climbed off the cushions, dusted off their
trousers and left the room as the last, lone mandolin player finished
his last tune and put his instrument in its case. The lovely Katherine,
who was then alone, stood, looked at the curtains briefly and walked
over to the two men talking.
"Guten Nacht, Ivan"
"Oh Katherine wait
will you be joining us tomorrow?"
Katherine then turned to the young man. "When do you leave Salvador?"
"Thats very early, well I hope to see you tomorrow."
"Indeed, I will be here."
"See you tomorrow, Ivan." Katherine said kissing Ivans
cheek. She turned back quickly with towards the young man and offered
her eyes, with a blush, as she left the room.
The young man woke earlier then the rest the next morning. With no one
in sight he climbed on a rickshaw and ordered the driver to take him
down to the Karls Bridge. There he watched the golden sun play softly
on the water. The streets around were quiet except for church bells
and a few lone carts. The young man strayed from the bridge to walk
the streets a bit. He entered the Jewish quarter where the synagogues
were beginning to gather crowds. There were no bells on the synagogues
and except for a few men chatting in the streets, all was quiet.
He walked a bit further and found an open café where he could
drink coffee. The smell around the café was putrid that
of rotten vegetables or eggs. It was hardly tolerable. The young man
asked the barmaid what caused the smell and she said that some new houses
were being built with a technique that used whole eggs mixed with the
lime and mortar. "The eggs will make the stone strong enough to
withstand all future wars." The lady claimed.
When the young man returned to his rickshaw, the driver was sitting
on the edge of the bridge sketching pictures. They smoked together and
after, the two returned up the hill, by the castle, to where Ivan lived.
Everyone was in the back garden when the two returned. They were drinking
coffee and beginning a game that looked like the French game of petanque.
It was actually a game that began in Bretagne. The young man was forced
to play it with his parents during their vacations to the coast in the
summer. A rather dull game, it consists entirely of throwing metal balls
across the yard for hours. The young man was only eight when he was
first taught the game. His family would travel to Finistere every summer
to visit relatives and the whole group would picnic on the beach and
play petanque. The young boy would always run away unnoticed mid-way
through the game and pick crabs on the shore. This was his favorite
thing as a child lifting up large rocks and chasing the crabs
as they scurried away. After he caught four or five large ones, he would
take them into the summer cottage and put them in the closet. He planned
to take them back to Paris at the end of the summer and raise them as
pets. Of course, a young boy gets distracted easily and often he would
forget that he put the crabs in the closet until his family complained
of a deathly smell. His father would search the cottage until hed
find the source of the smell. When the crabs were discovered, dead,
in the closet, the young boy would go out to the garden and bury his
pets. Later trips to the Bretagne coast would be consumed by the boys
interest in digging up the garden to find the bones of the crabs buried
Ivan was jumping around like a boy of twelve when the young man entered
the garden. The young man was not impressed by people so eager in the
morning. Mornings for him had a tranquil, almost sad grace to them.
He looked around for Katherine, the lovely girl from the previous night,
but she was nowhere in sight. He was not hungry. neither was he interested
in the game. He sat down at a bench that was warm catching the
autumn sunlight and tried to read a book that was in his pocket.
Later in the day, fully aware that Katherine had not arrived, the young
man began to feel sick with the burden of pleasures lost.
He thought of how miserable Sundays were in Paris, though and, feeling
the warm sun on his face, he decided that he was really happy to have
made the journey his first alone, truly alone and he felt
this freedom and, after finishing his third glass of absinthe, went
for a walk in the streets around the castle.
When he returned to Ivans estate, the young man was nervously
excited to discover that both Katherine and her much less interesting,
competitor, Aurelle, were gathered in the garden around the tea table.
The young man remembered Ivans silly, half-drunken talk from the
night before and before disregarding it, thought of how games of attraction
with women were, in their own way, always silly and half drunken and
those who were earnest always failed with their intentions. He decided
not to dismiss Ivans previous words completely, due to his better
knowledge of the two women and, as importantly, the few extra years
he had on the young man. According to Ivans advice
He thought, If I am interested in Katherine, I had better bide
my time visibly courting Aurelle. Thats a bit silly. He
mused on this while the newcomers took notice of the important guest
and gathered around to ask questions about how he found his previous
nights stay on the estate and how it felt to be in a region as
beautiful as Bohemia.
He answered all of these questions more courteously than he would have
the previous night. He felt more complacent in the midday sun that was
then upon his face. He also felt closer to Ivan then after the two had
shared their thoughts the previous night. The young man was happy and
enjoyed the company and attention of the guests on the estate.
It was soon after that that Aurelle led him away into the woods.
She had asked him to take a walk and the two had gone along the edge
of a pond. They were still in the city of Prague but Prague had many
parks and large estates bordering the castle where one could feel far
away from everything. It was not this easy in Paris where the long urban
streets stretched into the horizon. Even in the Bois surrounding Paris
there were beggars and whores giving the atmosphere a dirty, urban feel.
The only place the young man felt this sense of calm in Paris was in
his fathers courtyard. He would often sit up in the pear trees
there and make up little songs. He dared not sing them aloud, lest his
father heard them from his nearby office, however, he would make them
up and mumble them softly to himself.
The young man and the tall young lady walked around the pond talking
together, comparing their lives, the places they originated from and
their plans for the future. Aurelle was sweet. She looked much younger
in the golden midday light then she had the previous evening in the
anteroom. She was kind. She laughed, and never brought up the necklace,
which the young man had destroyed. He was glad that she never brought
it up. She was a very pretty lady yet there was something about her
face that kept the young man from feeling any attraction for her. In
fact, there was something repelling about her and even though he enjoyed
her company then, he felt that if he was forced to spend a long period
of time with her, the two would end up in a terrible battle. She had
hard Slovak features that were perfectly symmetrical, yet suddenly very
unappealing to the young man. He had never liked women with hard features.
The two sat talking for almost an hour. There was a dock over the pond
where they sat and the young man removed his shoes, rolled up his silk
trousers and strolled his feet in the water. Aurelle did the same after
some hesitation. Finally Ivan approached from the thicket and, after
beginning to call Aurelle back to the game, resisted, wished the two
a pleasant time and said that he would return later when lunch was served.
Aurelle was very talented at reciting poetry. The young man played with
the opal ring on his right hand while half-listening. He was about to
offer the ring to her to make up for her broken necklace. Before he
had the conviction to do so, however, she began to speak directly and
blatantly affectionate towards him. He realised what was happening and,
keeping the ring on his sweaty finger, insisted that the two return
to Ivans garden.
Much later that day, as could be guessed, Aurelle confessed her attraction
to and for the young man. He replied to her in the natural way when
a woman is so forward. He thanked her and kissed her cheek. He almost
made the mistake of giving in to her wishes and reciprocating the vow
he resisted in the end. Her disappointment was apparent but she
continued to follow him about the garden acquiescing to his commands
Later, after the young man noticed Ivan having a lively conversation
with Aurelle, his suitor disappeared from his shadow. Ivan met him by
the stove where a fire was being prepared for the dinner and the host
directed a few unasked for words to him.
"Aurelle is a sweet girl. She appears eager but you must understand
that she has never, nor will she ever belong to any man."
"Fascinating!" mocked the young man.
"She does, however, show a deep interest in you and I must warn
you that if you return the affections, she will have achieved her wishes
and be finished with you altogether."
The young man wondered why Ivan would incite such scandalous gossip
with a relative stranger such as himself but he kept silent. These were
indeed bizarre people; after all, he only came to empty his purse on
a cartload of jewels. He would then be returning to Paris where he would
forget all about Ivan and his silly companions.
The young man, however, could not easily think about the jewels in the
market place not after he had set eyes on the young Miss Katherine.
Katherine, however, belonged to Ivan and his entourage and there was
no good in obsessing about a woman when he was travelling hurriedly
on important business.
The sun set early that autumn evening and the moon was full in an almost
cloudless sky providing, with the warm air, a perfect evening for remaining
in the garden during and after dinner. For the feast, the young man
was seated by Ivan next to Katherine, adjacent to an old
couple who were visiting from Vienna. The young man was nervous to eat
beside the young beauty and it took several glasses of wine before he
spoke to her. He asked, "Dont you ever go home?"
"You want me to leave?" Katherine replied.
"No, but I dont understand why all these Germans, Austrians,
French and even English are here."
"I, also dont understand why the English are here. I wish
they would stay on their little island, however, I am from the rather
dull town of Weimar and I prefer to spend as much time as I can here
unfortunately, I will have to go back this Thursday."
"Ill be passing through Weimar but I leave Tuesday
its a pity you cant ride with me."
"Cant you stay until Thursday?" Katherine asked with
hope in her voice.
my trading papers will be revoked if I dont
pass the border by Tuesday night."
"Strange business youre in
but Id like to go
back with you even all the way to Paris. It sounds like a beautiful
"Actually, its a dreadfully wet and unsightly boring town;
but Id like to take you to Spain. We could go to Andalusia
on a clear day you can see across the sea to the coast of Africa."
"It sounds beautiful but much too dreamlike. I have never travelled
farther south than Germany and I fear that if I saw a land so beautiful,
I would never want to leave."
"There is no reason to leave. You can swim in the sea throughout
the year; your body will become bronze from the sun your mind will be
clear and strong and you will find a happiness that you have never known."
The young man continued to speak and Katherine listened, charmed by
his stories of the southern countries. She then spoke about her life
in Germany and her hopes for the future and the two grew soft in spirits
together and truly happy on that rare autumn night in the ivy laced,
Bohemian garden with the moon steady over the stones of the courtyard
The young man worried about being too affectionate, for, as Ivan told,
Katherine was his love and Ivan promised the night before that he would
go to any length to win her. The two young people, however, naturally
grew close to each other and that evening, their bodies came to touch
as they sat on the stone wall talking. Ivan didnt seem to notice
the couple together though. He could be seen occasionally taking walks
with Aurelle in the grass as the other guests moved inside with their
drinks and laughter. Later, two girls, the older sisters of Katherine
came outside and called Katherine into the house. The older sisters
were pleasant, slightly drunk from wine, much more plain in appearance
than their younger sister, regardless, they took Katherine away from
the young man for too long.
The young man fell off the wall. He had been pushed by Ivan. Ivan was
stepping into a role like that of the young mans old school friend,
which wasnt entirely welcome considering that the young man was
in Bohemia on business and he didnt really look forward to making
friends, or lovers, and leaving them behind in the fertile northern
valleys. Ivan nevertheless was playful and persistent and after the
young man expressed a desire to be left alone that night, Ivan boxed
him in the shoulders and cheek and sat down beside him on the grass.
"Aurelle, has certainly fell for you." Ivan said laughing,
"Katherine is, I must say, indifferent to your presence, but the
fact that you were talking to her for so long made Aurelle extremely
jealous. Thats good for her! The only way to win a girl like Aurelle
is by making her jealous - the same with Katherine. The only reason
I spoke to Aurelle for so long is to upset her lovely, black-haired
I just tell you this so you dont think Im
trying to court Aurelle with my obvious attentions to her."
"I dont care where your attentions end up." The young
man promised, "You just have to understand that Im not here
to win anyone Im here to win a fortune, thats all."
"My dear Salvador," Ivan continued, "Id rather
not continue in these word games with you. As your host and, I feel,
a new friend, I think I can share with you information on a clear level
without fear that you will repeat my confidence to others nor
use it against me. I do not say that as one who is suspicious, only
as one who has seen the truth become twisted, resulting in an ugly mess
of gossip and misunderstanding. Misunderstanding is my only fear. I
do, I am certain, feel that we are on a level of confidence. I just
hope that if you feel confused by anything I say, you understand that
it is a simple miscommunication and with a few questions asked and answered
between us, we can clear any matter up."
"I have not felt there to be any word games between us." The
young man contested, "I have offered myself to you as clearly and
honestly as possible
now do tell me what you are talking about."
"Youre aware that I seek to marry Katherine. It is for this
that I pay such attentions to Aurelle as I do." Ivan lied, "If
I were to openly propose to Katherine, she would no doubt refuse."
"Not if she truly loved you
." The young man trailed
off in a mumble.
"My naïve boy, Katherine is not a girl with a heart. She is
a girl from a fine somewhat cruel - family in Berlin." Ivan
lied again, "She seeks only power and the power she seeks is the
attainment of the eyes of men. Prague is a small city - ears are few
and open. If I were to propose to her, she would be regarded by all
in Prague as the most desired woman. It would goes as far as the daily
paper and it would go as far as the castle interior. She would have
no use for me after this. Here is where I ask a favour
stands, we both know, where you are to offer me jewels upon your departure.
But what Id like even more than that is for you offer your affections
to Katherine. The result will be certain
Aurelle will fall in
love with you and ask to accompany you on your journey to Spain. Katherine
will show no further interest in you and come Tuesday, you will leave
Bohemia, alone, with all your jewels and no harm done."
"Firstly, why do you ask this of me? Certainly you have other friends
to help you in this."
"Simply because you are the most handsome young man in the gates
of Prague." Ivan laughed nervously with his statement of flattery,
"and because you are a stranger."
"But you said leave alone?" The young man questioned,
"What if I am actually in love with Miss Aurelle? You object to
me taking her back to Spain?"
"Not at all." Ivan continued, "and I know that she would
love to accompany you. I do ask, however, as a favour to me, that you
leave Bohemia alone and call for Aurelle at a later date after
I have proposed to Katherine."
"Well, actually I havent decided how I feel about Miss Aurelle.
But I believe that I would like her to return with me to the south."
The young man lied.
"Then simply leave Bohemia this Tuesday and send for Aurelle when
you reach Frankfurt. Word will arrive here by Friday and I assure you
that Aurelle will leave immediately to meet you in Germany. The two
of you can travel on alone from there on."
The two men devised their plans together unaware of each others
true intentions. Meanwhile the guest retired indoors some to
read by the fire, others to sleep in the guestrooms. Some of the attendants
boarded their private coaches and rode down the hill to their private
homes in various parts of the city. The old Viennese couple continued
to dance, asserting that the fiddle player drink vodka to stay awake.
They danced long after the fiddle player passed out in the kitchen
long after the young man, Ivan, Aurelle and Katherine went to sleep
in their respective rooms.
(Back to Part One)
© David Payne (Continue
to PART THREE)
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