Imprisoned: part eight
“Will have,” Amédée prompted now, “a natural appeal for the enlightened thinker?”
“I don’t mean to put words in your mouth, Monsieur Gremot.”
His own words had scattered away, in any case. Honoré nearly shrugged, and caught himself. He nearly reminded Amédée, in defiance, “I will not be staying for long in Paris.” But not surrendering the Progressiste, Amédée had opened a drawer of his desk, and folded this away inside; from the same drawer he removed a square book, bound in blue leather.
“It occurs to me that you may go with your work to one of my competitors, and…although I have nothing for you today, I may come to regret, tomorrow, not having paid you a retainer.”
It was charity. And tyranny as well. Amédée tore away the cheque…forty francs―a sum too generous, and too much wanted, for Honoré to have refused it, placed this on the desk, and by resting his two hands there, one on either side, enclosed it with a sort of fence. Honoré bristled. He would not stoop to pick up money. But he shifted his portfolio to the left, pressing it under his arm; thus leaving his right hand free to receive the cheque, if Amédée would at least hand it up to him. He tried to force himself to be agreeable. He parted his lips, to offer some polite expression.
Amédée said, “If you accept this, Monsieur Gremot, we will have entered into a contract, you and I. Whatever you learn, you must it bring to me directly, and to no one else. And you must remain in Paris for the war’s duration…because it may be that at any time I will have a job for you.”
Honoré had liked to believe the chiming clock a messenger, the stranger who’d spoken of the battlefront, one of God’s angels―humble, as his grandmother had taught him so many years ago, in the manner of their appearance; their words mysterious, their purpose to be obeyed in faith. For the all-seeing one has sent them to guide us, when we were not even aware that our hearts had asked for this. Yet, he would have to abandon the plan he’d been foolish enough to share with Amédée.
(2017, Stephanie Foster)