Jerome: part three
Inside, an ember of indignation flared. He lifted a hand and rested it on his stomach. He had the right, as any man had the right, to decide his own fate…to leave this city, if he liked; to make a new start, if he chose. He had not begged Broughton for counsel. He had not come here to have his ambitions judged. He had asked a simple favor. Why should Broughton throw additional obstacles in the path, when he had tacitly refused to help in clearing the first?
“Why, monsieur…” Honoré cut short his answer, and said: “I see.”
He recalled the picture he’d had (and with which he now rebuked himself), of reading his work aloud to Broughton, of Broughton’s fingers on his blotter interlaced. Of his old employer kind, attentive in his corrections: “I’m afraid I don’t quite like it. But I have a suggestion, Gremot.” As Broughton had been, once.
Honoré felt his eyes fill. After wiping them with his sleeve, he pitched his weight against the scrolled armrest, with all the vehemence of humiliation. His weight was not much to alter the balance of things, and Honoré struggled…to rise from his bed in the mornings, to rise from such upholstered chairs. He could not stalk from the room, as he would have liked. Broughton was on his feet ahead of Honoré, and placing two fingers on his shoulder, rather than assist him up, gently pressured him back into his seat.
“You must allow me to give you supper. You have come a long way.”
Determined to stand, Honoré threw into it his most strenuous effort. “I must always have supper at home.”
When Broughton proffered the letter, he waved this off with the back of his hand. “Monsieur, I do not need it. No, you have been all the help you can. I thank you, Monsieur Broughton, that you have opened your door to me.”
He’d been shaken, and made somewhat sorry, by what he’d seen on Broughton’s face. Yet as Honoré descended the stairs, he reminded himself that Broughton had for many months ignored him. Asked for a small service, a mere courtesy of the sort due to friendship, Broughton had balked him. Then, finding they could not be amicable, Broughton would like to atone with an act of generosity. Well, it was no use being kind in this commonplace way! Honoré had not come to have supper. Broughton was happy to think himself right and have Honoré agree to be wrong.
Feeling sad, and unsettled in his mind, he looked up from the street, and could locate, now that he knew, the single red bloom, knocking against the rail as the wind stirred it.
(2017, Stephanie Foster)