the groundskeeper - 4. the green dress of lady dodsley
by nanette nanao
illustrations by danny delacroix
editorial consultant: Prof. Dan Leo
marthe passed away. this event shocked me as no other before or since.
"the first death is the most final." did some wise and ancient philosopher say that or did i just write it now? it just "popped into my head" as i sit here.
no doubt the last - one's own - will be even more final.
charles and berthe had been kinder to me than marthe had, and after being taken up by mademoiselle i had spent more time with charmian, but marthe's sudden - sudden to me - demise had an effect not only on my feelings but perhaps on my fate.
"good god, what are you blubbering about?" these were the first more or less harsh words i can remember mademoiselle uttering to me. "stay away from me, please, until you can compose yourself in a more civilized manner."
and so i did - compose myself in a more civilized manner, before returning myself to mademoiselle's company. and how long did it take me to do so? ten minutes? an hour? a day? did this little event i am describing even happen?
my old acquaintance the philosopher the baron de b------- (of whom more later - perhaps - if i continue this memoir) spent long hours boring myself and others on the subject of the porous and self-regenerating (was that his phrase - self-regenerating?) nature of memory. i had quite forgotten his lectures until now - when the circumstances - the winter sun through the window of the comte de f----'s chateau - the green dress of the englishwoman lady dodsley - suddenly spring back into my brain as framed as any painting -
yes, lady dodsley - of all those who - or should i say, whose pictures - come back to me from that time, somehow i think you are the most likely to still be alive somewhere - even if you are over a hundred years old - for what could happen to you - you who seemed above even boredom - who had a dozen or so houses in the somnolent english countryside to escape to if need be - what could mere time do to you?
and your green dress - and your white hat! even if by some chance - and no one is entirely immune to chance - you perished a week or a day after i saw you last - surely the dress and the hat are preserved in one of the aforementioned country houses - immune to dust and time and fashion -