by | Mar 4, 2024 | Uncategorized | 1 comment

in between thumb and forefinger, gripped a small envelope bearing a seal.

The doorbell rang at 13 Rue Thibaud and François, the butler of the house, tutted so loudly it echoed through the hallway.

“Who can that be at this time?” He grumbled, his default mode at any time of the day. Through the frosted glass of the outer door, he could see the caller was slightly built and, even with the distortion of the fenestration, somewhat in need of a wash. His prediction was confirmed as he cast his eyes over a scruffy young man of about sixteen, standing on the doorstep. The youth held out his hand which, in between thumb and forefinger, gripped a small envelope bearing a seal. His palm formed a cup to receive his anticipated reward.

François snatched the package and was about to close the door in the grubby face of the messenger. However, on examining the seal, he froze, cancelling his actions and examined the urchin closely – but not too close. The air from outside was wafting the boy’s odour into the vestibule and it wasn’t pleasant.

“Where did you get this from boy? Did you steal it expecting a reward? You’ll get that alright, the back of my hand. Speak up!” The old man’s perspective had soured further towards this unwanted pest.

“Please Monsieur, I was given it by the writer himself. In the street. He said a Franc now and one from the re, res, re-sip-y-ent,” he stammered in reply.

‘A Franc indeed? I’ll add my foot up your arse to accompany that cuffing!” Growled François, simultaneously raising his hand and lifting his foot. The boy cowered but didn’t run. The flunky shoved a hand deep into his pocket and fumbled around trying to locate a coin. Finally he pulled out a single, copper sou and placed it into the boy’s still outstretched hand. By his expression, one would think that the butler had added further to the lad’s collection of filth with a turd.

“A miserable sou? One twentieth of my promised wage?” The boy groaned.

“I’ll have it back in exchange for my earlier offer if you don’t clear off.” François sneered, this time slamming the door shut. Through the glass, he could see the lad hadn’t moved. “I mean it. Now before I call the gendarmerie,” he continued.

“Don’t worry I’m going. A curse on you, you old bastard. You and this whole household.” With that, he disappeared from view, his profanities fading with distance. With a curl of the lip, François turned on his patent leather heels and made for his master’s study.

“What was all that fuss about man? Can’t you keep the noise down?” Bellowed the Marquis from behind his substantial Louis XIV desk.

“Forgive me my Lord. It was  an undesirable youth. He left this for you sir, from a very important source. I took the liberty of looking at the seal. You may want to open it immediately.

“Thank you Francoise, I’ll be the judge of that. That will be all.” The Marquis took the envelope and slapped it several times on his other palm, without viewing the seal.

“There is one thing, my Lord. The waif demanded payment. He was quite aggressive sir. I had to recompense him for his inconvenience and to avoid an awkward situation. As you will see, the source of the correspondence is controversial,” the butler uttered, remaining rooted to the spot.

“Awkward? Controversial?” The Marquis took one look at the seal and his face drained of colour. “Oh my God man! Why didn’t you tell me?” He gripped the little envelope with both hands as if it was alive.

“I did my Lord, a moment ago,” Francoise replied, “Along with the boy’s demand.”  he shuffled uncomfortably on the spot.

“Yes, yes. Alright. How much was it?” The Marquis clutched the letter to his chest with one hand and fished in his waistcoat pocket with the fingers of the other. He pulled out a silver five Franc piece and handed it to his servant. “Here, this’ll have to do.” Francoise could hardly believe his luck. A week’s wages in exchange for a sou! He hoped the correspondence would continue. He would be able to retire, he pondered, as he bowed his head and reversed out of the room.

The Marquis immediately tore open the envelope and pulled out the card from inside. He held it up and his already pallid face turned translucent with horror. 

1 Comment

  1. Kenneth Childs



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Receive an email notification for new posts