Imprisoned: part two
“But,” the other said, “I have seen these things many times. He attends well, and he does as we instruct. So, I think today, or in a day or two…”
“Well,” Tweedloe answered, “you may say so.”
Honoré heard wheezing, accompanied by a slow series of hammer blows, the gold ferrule of Tweedloe’s stick striking the floorboards. “I will take you at your word—but you must help me with these infernal steps, Bellet.”
It was true. Honoré knew Bellet. He had spoken with Bellet. But he had been lost between dreaming and consciousness; until this day, he had not understood that he was awake. So many days must have passed, and he had done nothing much for Tweedloe. He felt his courage falter. And after what had seemed an exceptional overture, composed of thuds, heavy exhalations growing louder, and the shuffling gait of Tweedloe’s approach to his cot, Honoré heard the peevish demand:
“Will you take away that screen?”
Hands belonging to the unseen Bellet grappled its two sides, and Honoré watched the screen back away, revealing a sloped ceiling and a bedchamber of small proportions. His sick room was otherwise in use as a lumber room. He saw a rolled carpet, buckled at the center and pushed into a corner. Chairs were stacked, some standing, others overturned on top, folded draperies laid among the upended legs.
Now the screen was gone, Honoré felt heat, a bellows-like fanning against his exposed arm, and one side of his face. A stove seated inside a fireplace was drawing air, its pipe clinking with the regularity of a ticking clock. Tweedloe, at present, withheld his attention from Honoré. He looked with disdain at the chairs, at the square table flush to the wall, supporting the cracked globe of a lamp, a nautical print, and other oddments.
“This is unacceptable, Bellet. I told you so last time.”
“I will fetch the chair, Monsieur Tweedloe.”
Bellet folded the screen. He propped it against the table and exited, thudding down the steps Tweedloe had found controversial. Tweedloe leaned on his stick.
“Do I see an expression of comprehension, Gremot? Or, have I put myself out for nothing?”
Honoré considered that speaking sense was a thing he had not tried this day. He might be unable to do it. And though without doubt it was to Tweedloe’s intervention he owed his life, he had an uncertain impression of Tweedloe’s mood. Either incurious, or unwilling to be patient, Tweedloe had turned his face away to listen for the return of Bellet. And then, pivoting slowly, he loomed over Honoré, grunting as the stick bore his ominous weight.
(2017, Stephanie Foster)