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L'Etranger: Chapter Ten
L'Etranger: Chapter Ten

L'Etranger: Chapter Ten

Mitzi1776Mitzi Danielson-Kaslik

“What on Earth was that?” I shouted in alarm.

“Blanchelande. “ Reget looked distinctly annoyed by the sudden intrusion.

“Is he okay?”

“Obviously,” he said definitively. The colossal bang sounded again and I bolted towards the stairs.

“It sounds like he’s on the roof.” I started up the stairs ``Come on!” I shouted back to Reget.

I cantered up through the halls with their blood red carpets and paintings with eyes wide. I passed Emilie who I am sure saw me, though did not acknowledge it. For some reason either unknown or exterior to me, I felt genuine fear for Blanchelande’s safety, though I knew my feelings for him could not be love, perhaps just a tender curiosity, a kind of warmness of the heart open to the possibility that he might not be quite as others perceived him; not entirely evil.

My heart is most definitely open to the strangest of possibilities.

I ran up the stairs, throwing my parasol to the side so that it fell in a whirl of pinks to lie beneath the portrait of Emilie. It was my illusion, a place where I could turn my eye away from reality - the time for turning away from one’s reality has passed. Reget followed me, cantering behind.

Soon, the staircase came to an abrupt end and I found myself standing, half stilted by the ceiling. A wide doorway in the roof was lodged shut.

“He must be up there!” I shouted back to Reget. With a deft, swift motion, I forced the doorway above me open and found my head and shoulders protruding out and into the hot midday sun of Haiti. My head and shoulders were within a courtyard which had been created on the roof of the chateau, a kind of mediaeval training ground in stone laid out in black and white squares which half resembled a chessboard. Directly across from me, I could see the back of Blanchelande, his blue and silver over jacket upon the floor, duelling an imaginary figure in the heat, brushing blonde curls from his face which seemed to be dripping with sweat. His silver blade appeared ghostly in the light of day as it flashed around, a spirit under the sun’s glare. He reminded me of a white knight on a chessboard, endlessly compelled to the next square. “Give me a push.” I called back down to Reget who was still in the chateau. I felt his massive hands grasp onto legs and push me up sharply so that I found myself strewn upon a black square of the rooftop.

“Blanchelande!” I shouted, quickly finding my feet. He did not see me at first - he seemed to be regarding his opponent (the air of the colony) with such intent that it would have been half impossible to awaken him.

“Is he dead yet?” Reget shouted, hoisting himself up after me. That utterance seemed to awaken him from his trance for he switched around without hesitation to look for the source of the noise.

“Oh,” Blanchelande turned to see Reget “it's you.”

“It is.” Reget smiled back.

“Good afternoon, Elodie.” Blanchelande smiled, bowing deeply, rapier still in hand.

“You know, Blanchelande,” Reget smiled, advancing on him, “you really must be careful sending Elodie out on her own - “

“Mademoiselle La Roche, to you.” Blanchelande shouted back indignantly.

“Okay.” Reget smiled, glancing to me slightly. “Either way, according to your line of thinking, anything could have happened to her. What if the uprising had begun while you had been up here duelling with the air?” I was surprised by the elaborate manner Reget had adopted for this moment in time; his behaviour seemed almost to replicate Blanchelande’s, for he seemed to play on all of Blanchelande’s worst fears, picking at them one by one, like grapes from a vine.

“The uprising isn’t here yet.” I laughed gently.

“It will be soon.” Blanchelande said with such surety that I felt he must have some enchanting power to be able to see into the future, like old gyspys in fairs that travelled around and read palms like I read books. Books and hands both have stories to share, just as portraits do.

“Well, either way, I brought her back for you, Blanchelande.” Reget smiled.

“I see.” he half nodded.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Practising for the uprising.” Blanchelande nodded proudly.

“Ha!” Reget exclaimed with hilarity. “You don’t stand a chance.”

“I will after i’ve practised.”

“Okay.” He laughed “And who are you going to pratice with? No one on Haiti fights with a sword like that.”

“Its a rapier and in Saint Domingue lots of people used to fight with them.”

“Used to. Its all with pistols and muskets now.” he replied.

“Well I fight with a rapier.” I smiled.

“What?” both men exclaimed in surprise.

“Theirry and I used to practice in case either of us would ever get into a duel.” I laughed “It was all quite fun really, so if you - Blanchelande - have a rapier to spare, I could always duel you.”

“Truly, Elodie, there is no need for that.” Blanchelande said in his usual self congratulatory tone.

“Yes, there’s no need for that.” Reget echoed.

“Oh come on,” I smiled. “Let me, I'll be target practice at best.” Both men continued to look at me utterly bemused. “Reget, can you help me get this skirt off?” I looked to him “And Blanchelande,” I said “fetch me that rapier in the corner.” Blanchelande looked at me startled, it was clear he wasn’t accustomed to receiving commands. Or perhaps he was startled by the closeness to Reget that I would allow him to undo my skirt. Reget approached me valiantly, as if he were most accustomed to being asked to undo a lady’s skirt. Blanchelande, on the other hand, did not seem so confident in duelling me.

My hoop skirt and pink petticoats fell to the chessboard floor so that I was standing in the centre of them in my white stockings, appearing to myself half like the male ballerinos of old Paris.

“I’ll keep these on.” I smiled, looking at my high heeled shoes.

“Right.” Blanchelande whispered, smiling. He seemed at least half beguiled by my sudden lack of proper clothing, bewitched almost. “Reget,” he swallowed “thank you for your service in bringing Mademoiselle La Roche back to me, but your duty is done, you may stand down.”

“That’s just an aristocrat’s of telling a tragic mulatto to fuck off.” he sneered, turning away from us with a sweeping step before heading off back to the trapdoor that led to the chateau.

“I’ll see you soon!” I shouted after him.

“Oh yes.” he replied with a jovial wave of his hand. I laughed after him while Blanchelande appeared decidedly disconcerted.

“So?” my eyes returned to Blanchelande, flitting over to the rapier. “Let's duel.”

Author Notes: L'Etranger is now published and available to buy:

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About The Author
Mitzi Danielson-Kaslik
About This Story
16 Oct, 2023
Read Time
5 mins
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