Jean-Claude Beauvais, a story
Book 001 Prologue Born in New Jersey
Chapter 3 - Early Days in New Jersey
“Welcome to Planet Earth.” Bjorn smiled.
“I wanted to swim today. You know... some, this morning and some more, this afternoon.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“Four tutors are coming today. I can meet them and talk to them with Grandpapa, in his office. Then tonight, we can pick one. If I don’t meet with them, he will tell me about them, and we could pick one.”
“So what’s the problem?”
“I can’t be swimming and in the office checking the tutors, at the same time.”
“Ah! I see. You have to prioritize.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means you have to separate what’s important from what’s not important. You got the idea?”
“Yes. I understand… and I am sorry.”
“Why are you sorry?”
“I’m not going swimming.”
“There’s an expression in French and it’s the same in English. ‘There’s always tomorrow!’”
“Time for me to go.”
He pushed away from the table. He leaned forward, as if to share a secret, “You’re in charge. Do it your way.”
He stood up, “One more thing, Control the day; don’t let the day control you.”
He pushed the chair to the table, “Remember, ‘Control your day.’”
He walked toward the kitchen and disappeared in the flurry of waiters.
Mister Murphy arrived and went direct to the piano, sat, and started playing. He looked around, saw me, smiled, and nodded.
The waiters opened the doors to the outside as the guests arrived.
I heard birds singing… Sunshine… Clear skies…
“A lovely day for a swim… Control my day.”
I took the stairs, two at a time. Into the swimsuit, towel around my waist, and down the back stairs, outside to the beach, dropping the towel and flying into the crisp Appalachian water. A little of that, went a long way.
Out of the water, refreshed, and ready to attack the tutors. I dried and sat in the Sun for a few minutes until I stopped shivering.
Up the back staircase to 401, through the shower, a touch of spray. I had to smell ‘proper.’
I want Aunt Odie to be proud of me.
Into my clothes, straightening and preening, combing my hair, double-checking my shoes and fingernails. Adjusting my bib and Eton.
One more check in the cheval… I left 401 properly.
Marley, the elevator man, inquired, “How was the water this morning?”
“Delightful. Thank you, Mister Marley.”
I went to the Grand Dining Room.
I read the comics in the newspaper.
I looked around. Some waiters cleared tables; others did set ups for lunch. Most of the tables were empty.
I moved to watch Mister Murphy play. Mister Murphy motioned to me, inviting me to sit on the bench. I slid on the bench.
“Thank you, Mister Murphy.”
“Thank you. Pat.”
We laughed, having arrived at an understanding.
Pat got up and raised the top on the piano. He turned to me and made motions about sound coming from inside the piano to his ear. I looked at the piano mechanisms. Pat returned and played a popular tune. Watching the motions, listening to the sounds… spectacular.
I had never heard anything like this before. I turned my head, focusing my ear toward the sounds, a new delicacy.
Pat motioned for me to put my ear against the piano case. I moved to the curvy side of the piano, bent over, and put my ear against the casing. Pat played. I felt weak. As I listened, the real world disappeared and another world, from I don’t know where, took its place.
I never forget that moment. When Pat was done, I motioned to Pat’s wristwatch. Pat pulled up his sleeve. 8:20.
“Good Bye. Thank you, Pat.”
“À bientôt! Jean-Claude.”
I went to the front door.
Daniel saw me, “The carriage will be here in a couple minutes.”
“See those four over there,” he pointed to four carriages, rolling up the hill toward the hotel.
“Would you like to escort her into your Grandpapa’s office?”
We watched as the carriages approached.
“Water was kinda cool this morning?”
“Yes. Refreshing. A fine way to start the day.”
Daniel opened the front door into the Grand Foyer.
The attendants opened the carriage doors; the guests walked from the carriages.
Daniel called, “Jean-Claude. Her name is Madame Mallien, in the yellow dress.”
I went to the young lady in the yellow dress, “Madame Mallien?”
“I am Jean-Claude Beauvais. Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you, too,” she said.
“My grandfather would like to see us in his office.”
I led her into the office, past Aunt Gizzie at the switchboard, to Grandpapa’s office door.
Grandpapa was on the phone, making arrangements. He stood and motioned for her to sit. I sat in my chair.
Concluding, he hung up the phone.
“Just a second.” He picked up the phone again. “Gizzie. No calls until we’re done in here.” He hung up the phone.
Grandpapa, stood, leaned across the desk, and introduced himself, “I am Beau Beauvais. Welcome to Lake Pennyworth Place.”
“I am Madame Josephine Mallien. Nice to meet you.”
Grandpapa and she talked for a while and then she had to go back to the city on the return train.
After she left, Grandpapa and I agreed she was quite pretty but she didn’t quite ‘look’ right.
“I am Jan Wilson. Nice to meet you.”
We agreed Mister Wilson would probably be a lot of fun, but he didn’t look like he fitted in.
“I am Nancy Sullivan. Nice to meet you.”
I thought she was pretty. Grandpapa said she was sexy. I didn’t connect with her.
“I am Maurice Denois. Nice to meet you. I am sorry, but the train was late.”
They talked and talked. Grandpapa was sold. I had reservations.
Grandpapa pulled his watch, flipped it open, “Almost dinner time. You’re welcome to stay for the night… dinner and lodging on me.” He slid his pocket watch into its pocket.
“Food’s not bad and the beds are the best money can buy.”
Grandpapa laughed, “or so those lying salespeople tell me.”
“Yes. Mister Beauvais. A pleasure.”
They shook hands, a maneuver Grandpapa understood.
I still had reservations. Just a lingering, uneasy feeling.
Grandpapa picked up the phone.
“Gizzie, I need a key to an open suite on the fourth floor.”
“Of course, I want one that’s ready to go.”
“Jean-Claude, get the key from Gizzie and show Mister Maurice to his room.”
“You can settle in for the evening… clean up for dinner… and all. You’ll hear the dinner bell.”
Silence on the way up the elevator.
“441… Here it is.”
I inserted the key, opened the door, and showed Mister Denois about the suite, flipping lights on, as I proceeded.
“This is your sitting room... your bedroom is in here. Your bathroom… Your dressing room...”
I opened the drapes.
“These doors,” I opened them, “open to your balcony, overlooking the golf course. Quite pleasant at night, sitting outside… and the golf course is relaxing in the moonlight.”
“Jean-Claude, you’re such a good salesman. I want to stay.”
“May I ask you a question?”
“Sure. Why are you coming here to teach me? Why aren’t you teaching somewhere else… where you can go home at night to your family?”
“My wife died, when someone hit her bus. In an instant, my whole world disappeared. My father urged me to move to America. Give myself a fresh start, in the new world. Here, I am… and now you know why I am here to teach you and why I am not with my family.”
“I am sorry to hear about your loss, but thank you for telling me.”
We both stared at a group of golfers, wandering the course with their caddies.
I resumed telling Mister Denois about the hotel, “There’s a staircase at both ends of the hallway. The back staircase goes down to the basement, by the swimming pool area and an outside door. If you ever get lost, pick up a phone. My Aunt Gizzie will send someone to retrieve you.”
“You are quite a tour guide as well.”
I knew when I was being stroked. Bending at the waist, one arm, fore… one arm, aft, I bowed, “Thanking you, sir, I remain sincerely, Jean-Claude Beauvais.”
We shared a laugh.
“Excuse me. The dinner bell will sound soon. My Aunt Odie gets wild, if I am not ‘proper.’ I must go and clean up for dinner.”
I ran down the hall to 401 and picked up the phone.
“Grandpapa please, Aunt Gizzie.”
He said, “Yes.”
“I like Mister Denois, Grandpapa.” Pause… “See you at dinner.”
I washed for dinner, checked my nails. On with my shirt, my britches, suspenders… garters… socks and shoes. I finished with my Eton and bib.
Ooops! Hair. Do the hair. Look in the cheval… back and forth, both sides, anterior and turning again, posterior. Ready for show time!
Right on cue, came the dinner bell.
I sat beside Grandpapa’s empty chair.
A Red arrived at the table announcing, “Mister Denois.”
I pointed to the chair beside me.
“My Grandpapa will be here shortly.”
Grandpapa came into the Grand Dining Room, backwards, delivering a few last words to someone in the Grand Hallway.
“Ah. Here I am holding up dinner.”
He tapped his chest with his closed fist, in contrition.
“If dinner is awful tonight, blame me.”
Smiling, he waved his hand.
The dinner began.
Grandmamma, a woman of few words, arrived and sat down beside Grandpapa. She rarely came to a meal, from the kitchen.
Up went Grandpapa’s hand. A red arrived.
“No house wine. We’re having 1910 Coteaux-Aix-en-Provence.”
Dinner proceeded as it always did.
“Grandpapa. Why is the top of the piano down?”
“When guests are dining, the music accompanies the food. If no one is here,” then it’s concerto time.”
“Pat played this morning with the top up.”
“You listened to the music, this morning?”
“I put my head against the side of the piano and heard the music as I never heard it before. So fine.”
“You plan to play piano?”
“I never thought about it… Maybe… Some time.”
“Grandpapa. I need a watch and a clock.”
“Oh. You do now,” he looked at me, “where did those ideas come from, all of a sudden?”
“I was talking to Bjorn this morning and he said that I have to take care of the important things first, while I had time.”
Grandpapa looked over the table to the Norwegians’ table, “You hear this, Bjorn?”
“Le Dauphin says you told him he has to take care of important things first.”
“Yes. Beau. He’s a fast learner.”
Gregors, maybe you can take him into town tomorrow to pick out a clock and a wristwatch. You have time tomorrow?”
Gregors nodded and added, “Sure, after the morning swim.”
Everyone laughed, except Mister Denois, who didn’t understand the joke. I explained it to him.
“No thank you.” I felt full.
Grandpapa saw me fidgeting. He pushed away from the table, “Looks like it’s time for Men’s Talk.”
We rose to leave. Grandpapa stopped, looked back to the table, “Mister Denois. Enjoy whatever you want. Dancing in the Grand Ballroom, in a little while.”
I noticed Aunt Odie looking somewhat funny at Mister Denois. When Grandpapa and I rose to leave, Aunt Odie rose, too, but she didn’t leave.
Grandpapa look out a cigar in the Grand Hallway, and licked it.
“You said you like him. Right?”
“Yes. Grandpapa. He’s okay.”
“Odienne likes him, too.”
Grandpapa ignored my question.
We walked to Grandpapa’s office and sat down
I continued, “I wasn’t too sure of him at first. I asked him why he wasn’t teaching somewhere else. He told me how his life changed abruptly, just like mine did. I understood in a way.”
He lifted a cutter from his desk drawer.
“Wanna try him for a couple months?”
“I’ll hire him for two month trial.”
He cut the cigar.
“After a couple months, I’ll know if you’re learning any English. You’ll have to work with Mister Denois.”
He licked the cigar, looked at me, and grinned.
“I understand you got your skinny French ass cooled in the lake, this morning. Pretty funny stuff.”
“Grandpapa. My ass is very French.”
He looked at the cut in his cigar.
He reached for the match, struck it, and chuckled, “Still very funny.”
He put the flame to the cigar and lit it, making billows of smoke.
“You gonna do that tomorrow, too?”
He shook the match and tossed it in the ashtray.
“You’ll have an audience, watching you.”
“You’ll have them all buzzing in the Grand Dining Room.”
“Grandpapa. All part of the show, the Lake Pennyworth Place show.”
“So right you are… and Bjorn is right, too.”
“He said you are a fast learner and you are.”
Grandpapa picked up the phone,
“Gizzie. Get the tutor, Mister… hold on a second…”
He looked at me, “What’s his name, again?”
“Denois… Maurice Denois.”
“Gizzie. Ask Mister Denois to step into the office.”
Putting down the phone, Grandpapa went on, “They gave him a nice room, didn’t they?”
“Along the hall, overlooking the golf course.”
“I’ll ask him if he wants the golf course side or the beach, lake side.”
“Welcome, Mister Denois. Maurice. Right?”
“Not sir. Everyone calls me, Beau.”
“Please call me, Maurice.”
“I’ll hire you for a couple months and if you guys work out okay, you’ll be stuck to each other. You can have the suite you’re in now, or you can to a suite facing the lake and beach. The beach tends to be noisy in the summer.”
“The suite is fine, Beau. I will need to get my things in the city. A couple trunks and suitcases.”
“Just tell Gizzie where your trunks and bags will be. She’ll get them picked up. Go to the city, and when you have your affairs in order, come back on the train, and go to work.”
Grandpapa looked up and said, “Questions?”
Mister Denois said, “No.”
Grandpapa yelled into the open door, “Gizzie. In the morning, call Silverburger…” he paused, “whatever his name is. Tell him Maurice is hired. Send the bill.”
Grandpapa puffed again and reached in his pocket, pulled out a wad of money, and handed it to Maurice.
“Here’s some pocket money to keep you going.”
By this time, Grandpapa had a full head of steam in his cigar. He tapped it on the ashtray, rose, and headed for the door. He motioned me to follow.
“Come Maurice, tell Gizzie about the trunks. Jean-Claude and I are going for a walk.”
We approached Aunt Gizzie at the switchboard.
“Gizzie… You want to get some trunks picked up for Maurice. He give you the details.”
Grandpapa slapped Maurice on the back, “Maurice, have a pleasant evening… Dancing and music in the Grand Ballroom… Make yourself at home.”
Grandpapa and I left the office while Maurice and Aunt Gizzie buzzed about trunks.
Once outside, for our evening walk, we walked around the side of the building on the golf course side.
Grandpapa said, “This side is quiet in the evening, before the band starts. The other side is still noisy.”
We stopped and sat at a table outside the Grand Ballroom. A waiter arrived, but Grandpapa shooed his away.
“What was good about the day?” he asked, as I expected.
“I found a tutor to teach me English.”
“Bjorn told me I had to separate important stuff from the not-so-important stuff.”
“Yes,” he said, with a little puff, which sat still in the evening air.
“Meeting the tutors in the office was important. Swimming, not-so-important. I went for a fast swim, cleaned up, in time to meet the tutors. I even heard the piano with the top up. That was special. I controlled the day.”
We continued walking, around to the back door, by the swimming pool.
We went up the elevator to the first floor.
“I have a little work in the office. Go enjoy the music.”
As Grandpapa headed toward the office, I walked into the Grand Ballroom. Maurice and Aunt Odie were dancing. I sat down at an empty table for the rest of the tune. Gregors waved me to the dance floor, between tunes.
“Dance with a few ladies. You’ll make them happy.”
I danced the next couple of tunes, with the guests. I showed off some of my fancy polka steps. The ladies were adoring.
I excused myself and went outside on the golf course terraces. I felt like being alone.
The band played… still, too loud.
I walked around the back of the hotel to the other side, to the Lake Terraces, outside the now closed Grand Dining Room. I removed a chair from a table, set it down, and sat in peace. At last... Quiet.
A few scattered couples sat enjoying their moonlight solitude. At the far end of the terrace, I noticed something… Something moved. I went to investigate.
“Bjorn? Is that you?”
He turned, “Yes. Jean-Claude.” He returned to what he was doing, “How are you, tonight?”
“Fine. A little tired, but fine.” I pointed at what Bjorn was fussing with, “What’s this?”
He patted the side of the black metal object, “This, Jean-Claude, is a telescope.”
“A telescope…” My mind whirred for a second, “for looking at stars. What can you see?”
“Tonight I looked at the mountains on the Moon.”
I got excited. “You’re kidding me.”
Bjorn pointed, “Look in there.”
I peered into the machine, “Wow! Super!”
Bjorn looked in the scope and turned some wheels. “Let me move it a little so you can see something more interesting.”
Backing away, “Now, look at it.”
I looked again, “The dark part is moving.”
“The dark part is the Earth’s shadow on the Moon.”
Bjorn showed me the wheels to turn to look around.
I felt like I was in heaven… almost in heaven. I didn’t want to stop looking.
“I have to put this away and go to bed.” He took the telescope apart, depositing the parts in the case.
“Next week the Moon will be closer to the Earth. It’ll look almost twice as big.”
“Wednesday or Thursday.” He closed the latch the telescope case with a snap. “I will check the calendar tonight. Ask me tomorrow at dinner.”
“Okay. I’ll remember.”
“See you in the morning. Good Night.” He picked up the case and walked up the terraces to the building.
I waved, “Good Night, Bjorn.”
I went in the kitchen to see if I could find a cookie, and found Grandmamma and Grandpapa, sitting and laughing about something.
Grandmamma said, “What a delight to see you, Jean-Claude.”
I hugged Grandmamma. Grandmamma hugs were wonderful. She always smelled nice… of vegetables.
Grandpapa said, “Tell your Grandmamma, you need her out of this kitchen.”
I took my cue from Grandpapa.
“That’s right, Grandmamma. I asked Grandpapa why you don’t come to the table to eat.”
She hugged me again.
“And what did he say?”
“He said, ‘She’s busy in the kitchen.’”
“I told him that I need all the family I can get. I need my Grandmamma.” I saw on Grandpapa’s face, I was on the right track.
She pulled a hanky from nowhere and wiped her nose. Grandpapa pulled his handkerchief, opened it, and handed it to her. She wiped her nose. Grandpapa winked to me. I tried to winked back, but both my eyes blinked.
With her runny nose, came tears, she said, “You’re so sweet.”
Looking at Grandpapa, she said, “Okay, Beau. You win.”
Grandpapa replied, “Time to be a Grandmother, not a kitchen manager.” He removed the unlit cigar stub from his mouth, put his arm around her, and delivered a loving kiss.
“Grandmamma in the Grand Dining Room would make my family complete.”
I looked at Grandpapa, “Maybe we could have a sip of the 1910 for the occasion?”
Grandpapa always gave a reward. He said, “We will have 1910 for her first dinner in the Grand Dining Room. He turned to me, “Now you want to run off to bed. Don’t you?”
I hugged and kissed Grandpapa and Grandmamma, and forgetting about my cookie, went to 401.
In bed, I pondered the day… replaying Grandpapa’s talk about ‘the show’…
Sleep snuck up on me.
I heard the train in the distance. I kicked off the comforter, stretched, pushing my toes as far as I could.
The front windows let in the morning Sun, dimmed through the drapes. The less brilliant windows to the golf course were more accommodating, first thing in the morning.
I sat up in bed. No clock…
I got up, pulled the drape in the nearest front window, and looked outside. There were people outside. I had to pee.
Into the shower… my morning ablutions… checking my nails. Some extra pencil, for sweet Aunt Odie.
I finished dressing with care, and went to Breakfast.
Pat, rotating with the piano, played with the top down.
Aunt Odie sat at the table.
She looked up as I said, “Good morning, Aunt Odie.”
“Good morning, Jean-Claude.” She looked me over, dithered with my bib, and checked my nails.
“Oh. My.” She held my hand and said, “We have to do something with these nails.” She rolled her eyes up to meet mine, grinned, and said, “Just kidding.”
I hugged her.
A Blue delivered a domed platter, one of Mister Allison’s fine pastries.
I sipped my coffee.
Aunt Odie looked out across the lake, her eyes all dreamy. “I think Mister Denois is a very nice man…” She let out a breathy sigh.
“and I hope he is a very good tutor, as well. I have a language to learn.”
She returned to Planet Earth, “You’ll do fine, sweetie.”
“What time is it?”
She looked at her wristwatch, “Almost eight o’clock.”
I thought aloud… “I’m supposed to go with Gregors to town in a little while. I think I already missed swimming, this morning.”
“Perhaps we can go for your second fitting this afternoon. Get it out of the way. I know you’ll hate every minute of it.”
Time to try a rerun of last night’s lesson…
“I don’t hate doing it. I know it pleases you. Le Dauphin wants to please you, too… you know.”
She melted, “Oh, Jean-Claude. You’re so sweet.”
Grandpapa would be so proud of me, Jean-Claude Beauvais, the showman.
Mister Murphy raised the lid on the piano. I excused myself from Aunt Odie and went to peer in the piano. He continued to play. I sat beside him and listened intently. After a while, Gregors came in, spotted me, and headed to the piano.
“Thank you, Pat. I have to go. See you at lunch.”
Gregors and I went outside to the white convertible with my name on the door. So hoity-toity… the illusion. Gregors opened the door, I thanked him, and sat in the car.
Gregors said, “Off to the clock shop,” over his shoulder.
The car started down the hill, toward the train station. I hoped a train would pass.
Two or three deer on the other side of the tracks scattered as the car motored along the road to town. Gregors said, “They must have found something good to eat.”
The car stopped at a clock shop.
We went inside a world of all kinds of clocks, big ones as tall as the ceiling, wooden ones, glass ones, shiny metal ones, all ticking away… a fascinating place... Gregors introduced me to the clock man.
“I am Jean-Claude,” I said in French.
Gregors translated. “I am Sam. Welcome to Sam’s Clock Shop.” We shook hands. Grandpapa would approve.
As Gregors and the clock man talked, I found the clock I wanted. It looked friendly, almost smiling.
“Excuse me. I pointed, “I want this clock.”
Gregors, my translator du jour, said it in English.
“Let me show you how to operate the chime.”
He took the clock from the case and opened the back. “See this little lever?”
I looked. He turned it so I could better inside.
“Up is on and down is off. This other lever,” pointing, “changes the chime from one style to the other.”
I said, “It looks friendly.”
“He said, ‘Time is friendly when you have lots of it.’”
Gregors was good at translating. He didn’t miss an exchange.
I went to the watch display cases. I pointed to one watch.
Gregors pointed to a sign, “Women’s Watches.”
Puzzled, I asked, “There are different kinds?”
Gregors took me to a different display case. “These are for men. See if you like one, there.”
I pointed to the one that looked interesting.
Gregors and the store man talked. Gregors pointed out that that watch’s mechanism was trash. Gregors suggested that I look at the top shelf. “Those are the good watches.”
“I like the second one.”
The store man put the watch on my wrist after he wound it, and set the time.
“You can get the official time at 10 megacycles on the radio.”
Gregors assured the clock man that his brother, Bjorn, would show me 10 megacycles on the radio, tonight.
We left Sam’s Clock Shop.
I followed Gregors out to the open car. As he put the clock carton in the trunk, I reached to open the door, to get in.
I pulled my hand from the door handle.
He closed the trunk lid, came around, and opened the door.
I walked in, and he closed the door behind me.
He drove to a quiet spot and stopped.
He turned to me in the back seat.
“Your Grandpapa would be very unhappy if he ever saw you reach to open or close the car door.”
“It’s all for the show.”
He never had to repeat the message. I never forgot it, either.
We headed for home. I saw Father Winifred and waved. He waved back.
“There’s Father Winifred.”
“He’s going someplace, with his kid.”
“His kid?” I asked.
“His name is Dashiell.”
The name, Dashiell, sat in my ears for a while. A pleasant sounding name... I never knew a ‘Dashiell’ before.
“Gregors. Do priests have children in America?”
“Some do… Father Winifred does.”
“Oh. They said some things were different in America.”
I settled in the seat and waved back as people looked and waved at the car.
We went to my room with the treasured clock. Gregors took it out of the box and put it on the table, beside my desk, fussed with it, and set the time to almost ten o’clock.
When the clock struck the hour, the chime sounded,.
I sat and listened to my clock, ticking. I watched the big hand move a tiny bit, with each tick. In a little while, the clock would chime the quarter hour.
I heard the 10:10 train chugging past the station. The whistle sounded.
The big hand approached the 3... Closer with each tick... The mechanism started. Something inside snapped, and a whirring sound began. The chime sounded. The big hand arrived at the 3.
I was out of my clothes and into a bathing suit, in a flash. Wrapped in a towel, I was in the lake, splashing… “Give them something to talk about.”
The water was warmer but still not warm. I swam a couple laps, got out, dried off, went upstairs, showered, and dressed for lunch.
“Check the cheval. Both sides, anterior and posterior. Straighten my shorts so Aunt Odie doesn’t have a fit. Nails?” A last look in the cheval… “Okay. Ready for lunch… and the tailor.”
I went downstairs.
A guest in the elevator asked, “Warmer, today?”
“A little. Not so refreshing. Thank you for asking.”
Grandpapa was at table when I arrived. He and Aunt Odie discussed my clothes.
As I sat down, he said, “To the tailor, after lunch.”
I endured an afternoon of a poke here, a pull there, mark this, and loosen that.
“Okay. Change into this.” The tailor pinned and marked; Aunt Odie cheered him on, until at last, all the clothes were marked and pinned for adjustments, and set aside to further alterations.
We arrived in time for the 4:10 train.
“Gregors, please, may we stop for the train?”
Gregors looked in the mirror to see Aunt Odie’s reaction. I saw her rolling her eyes.
“Yes, Jean-Claude,” he pulled the car over.
I stood, to better see the train.
“So big… so powerful.”
Gregors said, “Maybe, sometime, your Grandpapa will let us go to the terminal and see the really big ones.”
As the train left, Gregors followed the carriages.
On the way up the hill, we passed a carriage with a boy in it… a boy with very red hair.
He saw me; I saw him. We waved.
The car stopped under the porte-cochère, at the door.
Aunt Odie and I walked into the Grand Foyer. I went into the office to Aunt Gizzie, “Who is that boy in the carriage?”
Looking up at me, from what she was doing. “Ah… 204. Wilson, Freddie, 10 years old, New York City. They’re from England.”
“Thank you, Aunt Gizzie.”
I gave her a little hug.
“Maybe I can meet him.”
I went to 401 to clean up for dinner.
Once in 401, I listened to my clock. I reached the radio and turned it on. I danced to the radio and until it was almost time for dinner. Quickly, I washed, put on my shirt, adjusted my suspenders and britches, straightened my socks and garters, and put on my Eton and bib. Before the cheval, “Both sides, anterior and posterior. Nails. Shoes.”
“I have to dust off my shoes.”
“Fix the hair. Turn off the radio.”
Grandpapa wasn’t at the table yet. I sat and talked to Bjorn across the aisle, about the Moon and the telescope.
“The Moon will be nearest tomorrow night at 10:10. I’ll set up, about 9:30. We can watch it together. If I get to town, I’ll stop in the library and pick up a Moon book with lots of diagrams and pictures. We will have a Moon Watching Party.”
“Sounds great. I’ll see you at 9:30.”
Grandpapa arrived and sat down. Grandmamma did not show up for dinner.
“Grandpapa. Is Grandmamma coming to dinner?”
“In a week or so, she’ll be out of the kitchen.”
Dessert arrived. No Freddie Wilson.
Grandpapa announced, “Time for Men’s Talk.”
We rose and went to the office, passing Freddie and his family, on their way to dinner.
Freddie and I… eye contact… We exchanged smiles.
Grandpapa and I rolled into his office… a giant locomotive full of steam, pulling a skinny caboose.
Grandpapa selected a cigar.
“What did you like today?”
“Today I liked the clock store.”
“Did you find a clock?”
“Yes… and a wristwatch, too.”
“Gregors stopped on the way home, so I could see the 4:10 train.”
He wet the cigar.
I continued, “Last night, I went outside to get away from all the noise… all the excitement in the Grand Ballroom. I walked around the back of the building to the terraces outside the Grand Dining Room. I sat and looked at the lake at night in the moonlight. I saw something at the end of the terrace. I went to look... Bjorn had his telescope set up and he was looking at the Moon. He invited me tomorrow night at 9:30, to see the Moon.”
“When we were in town, this morning, I saw Father Winifred walking with his son. I hope to meet him.”
“Ah… Dashiell. He’s a good boy. You’ll meet him, but I don’t think he knows any French… not with a name like Winifred.”
“And a boy with red hair arrived, this afternoon... someone about my age… someone to play with.”
Grandpapa yelled, “Gizzie, whose kid arrived this afternoon?”
She echoed, “The Wilsons and little Freddie.”
Grandpapa looked at me, “Freddie’s a good boy, too.”
His eyes rolled back to the desk drawer, searching for the right cutter, “Anything else?”
“I danced to the radio, while I waited to come downstairs for dinner.”
He made his cut. The cutter dropped in the drawer. He slid the drawer closed. He looked at the cut, wet the cigar, again, and looked over to me, “What didn’t you like about the day?”
“Grandmamma missed dinner.”
“A couple more days and she’ll be at the table.”
Striking the match, “Anything else?”
“You’re fidgeting. What’s the matter?”
I want to talk to that new boy, Freddie.”
Out came a puff of smoke.
“The Wilson boy… He’s a good boy. Doesn’t speak a word of French.”
“With my English and his French, there won’t be much to argue about. We’ll get along fine.”
He turned the cigar in his mouth, “Could be.”
He read from his pad, “Your dance class… tomorrow at 10. Gregors will take you.”
Taking the cigar out, he looked at the cut, “Mass on Sunday. We’ll leave at 10:15.”
“Your tutor, Mister Denois, will arrive over the weekend. Odienne has her eye on him.”
“They were dancing all lovey-dovey, in the Grand Ballroom, the night he stayed over.”
“Let’s go outside and get some fresh air.”
He rose from his chair.
“You want to walk or ride?”
He picked up the phone, “Bring the carriage to the door.” Without listening for a reply, he hung up.
“Perhaps you’d like to ride with your friend, Freddie?”
“That would be super.”
“They will take a few minutes to hitch the horses and bring up the carriage. That will give you enough time for you to ask Freddie if he would like to take a ride with you, after dinner. Be sure to ask his parents’ permission, too.”
“Thank you. Grandpapa. I’ll be back in a flash.”
I went to the Grand Dining Room. I spotted Freddie’s red hair. I stopped a waiter, a patient man. I explained about Freddie’s French, and my English.
“You want me to translate?”
Jean-Claude returned, beaming.
“So you are going to take a ride,” pushing his lower lip out, “and leave your poor Grandpapa all alone.”
“That’s Okay. Tomorrow I have four weddings. I’ll be busy, running the floorshow. You go have a good time.”
He raised his forefinger in warning. “When you take someone in the carriage, don’t touch the door. Remember the carriage is a show. The attendant or doorman will operate the door.”
“Another thing… your guest always gets in first.”
“I’ll remember, Grandpapa.”
“Tomorrow night, I have business, in town. You know where I am, if you need me.”
I got up and gave him a hug.
He hugged me, “Okay. Now. Out of here… Scoot.”
“Bye. Bye. Grandpapa.”
I went out to the porte-cochère to wait for Freddie. The carriage was there with the door opened.
I asked Daniel, “The carriage has a door, or a gate?”
He replied, “I think it’s a gate on an open carriage and a door on an enclosed one. No one ever asked me that before. I’ll find out if anyone knows.”
I watched the horses, as they stomped, waiting to go.
Daniel looked at me and motioned at the carriage.
“I have a guest, coming with me.”
Daniel closed the door and stood beside me.
“Who’s going to ride with you, this evening?”
“Freddie with the red hair?”
“He doesn’t speak any French.”
“We’re even. I don’t speak any English.”
“What are you going to talk about?”
“We’re going to go see the train.”
The front door opened. Daniel and I turned. Freddie arrived with his full mane of flaming red hair… and freckles all over… even on his hands.
I motioned Freddie into the carriage. He walked in, I followed, and Daniel closed the door.
The carriage master turned to me for directions. I looked up. Mimicking Grandpapa, I said, “To the station. We want to watch the 7:45 train. Then we’ll return.”
“Yes. Monsieur Beauvais.”
Freddie and I tried to talk. We were going to the train station to see the train. He and I made Choo-choo sounds and giggled a lot.
The ride was relaxing. We did talk. I had no idea what he said. I was certain he had no clue what I said. Communication was far less important than companionship. We, together, happily talked and talked.
The train arrived. What a glorious show!
Bell ringing… whistle tooting… smoke billowing… steam escaping in great plumes from the wheezing locomotive.
The fiery, iron throat coughed steam, cinders, and smoke as the train speeded toward New York City. The floorshow over, Freddie and I returned to the carriage. He pointed to the name on the door and to me with a questioned look. I nodded. He bent his wrist and twisted it, indicating ‘quite hoity-toity.’ I nodded again.
He seemed more at ease on the way up the hill. I pointed to the ponies, in the stable. He nodded. We arrived at the front door; Daniel opened the carriage door; Freddie left the carriage, with me behind him. The door closed and the carriage left for the carriage house.
Freddie and I went inside to the Grand Ballroom and sat at my table, next to Aunt Odie’s empty chair. A Red poured a glass of house wine for me. Another brought a soda water for Freddie.
I looked at the Red, with the soda water.
The Red explained, “His parents rule.”
“Then I want soda water, too.”
Aunt Odie returned after the tune was over.
“Hi, Aunt Odie.”
“Hello, Miss Beauvais.”
Freddie seemed excited to have someone to talk to in English. Aunt Odie and he talked during the next tune.
Aunt Odie turned to me and said, “He says you two went to see the train in the carriage.”
“Yes. We had a good time.”
Aunt Odie and Freddie talked some more.
At the end of the next tune, Freddie’s mother came to the table. Freddie and his mother left my table. I excused myself, walked on to the dance floor, and danced a lilting waltz, showing off, lightly floating across the floor.
After the first dance, I looked. The table was empty. I sat down, asked a Red to take the soda water, and bring a glass of house wine with an ice cube.
Aunt Odie arrived and sat through the next tune.
I looked at my watch, “Almost 9:30. We’re having a Moon Watching Party, tonight.”
Her face grew serious. “You’re doing what?”
Bjorn and I are going to look in the telescope.
“You ought to come see the most incredible thing. Outside on the Grand Dining Room Terrace.”
“Okay, but only for a minute. I’m about ready for bed.
We went through the Grand Dining Room to the outside. I saw Bjorn hunched over the telescope, looking.
“There he is.”
I pulled Aunt Odie’s hand, leading her through the tables, to Bjorn’s telescope.
“Ah. There you are.”
He looked up to the Moon, “It’s so close tonight. Just look up there. See how big it is.”
“Why is it so big tonight?” I asked.
“Because it’s so close to the Earth.”
“Isn’t it lovely, Odienne?”
He pointed to the telescope. “Look in the telescope. You can see the individual rocks.”
I looked in the instrument.
“Wow. Just like being in heaven.”
Aunt Odie said, “I want to take a peek, too.”
Aunt Odie looked and backed away from the instrument.
“You guys have a good time. I’m going to bed in a few minutes.”
Bjorn and I looked at the Moon until I yawned.
Bjorn said, “Time for bed. Big day tomorrow.”
“I’m ready for the Sandman, too. Thanks for letting me see the Moon.”
As Bjorn put the telescope in the case, he said, “Next week, we’ll see Mars.”
“For sure. I’ll tell you what night, tomorrow.”
We left and went in the pool entrance. We took the back elevator. I got off at the First floor, went to the Grand Ballroom. Everyone was gone. I was on my way to the front elevator, when I heard Aunt Odie’s voice in the office, laughing. She was on the phone. She put her hand over the phone, “You go up stairs, sweetie. Remember… Dance class in the morning.”
She added, “Maybe you and Freddie could go to the movies, tomorrow afternoon.”
“I don’t think I’d understand much of the movie.”
“What do you mean? You already know how it goes and how it ends. The good guy is the nice looking guy in white. The bad guy is the ugly guy in black. The bad guy attacks the good guy’s girlfriend. The good guy and the bad guy have a show down. The good guy wins and saves the pretty girl. She rides off in the sunset with him on his white horse. Movie over. Everybody goes home.”
“Okay. Maybe. We’ll see, after dance.”
She leaned toward me and kissed my forehead, “Good Night, sweetie.” She returned to her phone call.
I went to 401, listened, and danced to the radio. The clock chimed a couple times. I checked the time against the radio at 20 megacycles… two seconds fast.
I turned the clock chime off, curled up in bed, and listened to the clock tick…
I heard noises. I stayed still for a moment, listening. I pulled the comforter down to looked at the clock, 7:03.
I leaped out of bed and into the shower. Scrubbed the nails… dried and began dressing… into the Eton, checked both sides, anterior and posterior. Hair. Fix the hair. Looked again. The bib. Ready to roll… I rode the elevator down to the Grand Hallway, and walked into the Grand Dining Room, with my dance bag, in my hand.
I sat as Bjorn was getting up.
He walked to my table, “I almost missed you. Mars. Tuesday night. About 9 o’clock.”
“I’ll be there. Thanks, Bjorn.”
“You’re welcome, Jean-Claude.”
He turned to leave, stopped, turned to me, “By the way, Odienne said you going to the movies this afternoon. Gregors will be out with your Grandpapa, so I will take you, if you decide to go. Gotta run!”
“Bye, Bjorn.” I thought to myself that’s a nice sounding name, Bee journe… very nice sound.
The domed dish arrived. The Blue pulled the cover. My favorite, almond pastry. “Thank you.”
I sipped my coffee, looked at the paper, and enjoyed some of the pastry.
I didn’t see Freddie.
Pat played the rotating piano while I finished most of my pastry. I rose and went to sit on the piano bench. I thought about asking Pat to open the piano top so I could hear the good stuff, inside. I tilted my head to listen. He saw me looking in at the strings. He stopped and lifted the lid.
I listened to the sounds. So fine. So beautiful.
After a few tunes, Pat said looked at his watch and said, “I have to go. My wife and sister-in-law are going to Black Rock Falls. I’ve been elected the chief driver.
“Bye. Bye. Jean-Claude.”
“Bye. Bye. Pat.”
(continued in next Chapter 4 - Index)