From All Souls' Rising by Madison Smartt Bell Bell Pantheon
Books, October 1995
Copyright Madison Smartt Bell 1995
Arnaud had brought her the girl as a gift, he said, a lady's maid, a touch of luxury to color her days on the plantation more pleasantly, to heal her longing for France. She had smiled at the present, however brittlely, and given the girl some name which suited this imaginary character and which she could not even remember now-- Arnaud had taken to calling her Mouche, and this was the name that had stuck. Now Claudine sat before her mirror, biting her lips as she examined at her bloodshot eyes, and struggled to stop herself from trembling visibly, for she had woken shaky and nauseous. She watched Mouche, deeper in the looking-glass reflection, fumbling uselessly with the dress that she, Claudine, meant to wear that day.
Interesting excuse for a lady's maid, certainly, a bossale fresh off the boat and fresh from Africa; Claudine was to be assisted in putting on her clothes by a girl who came dressed in nothing but a gloss of palm oiland perhaps a string of cowries around her hips. To this objection her husband had replied that since the girl was unschooled, Claudine would have the opportunity to train her altogether to her own liking. That had been six or seven months ago, and in the intervening time Claudine had been able to teach Mouche to cover her own nakedness, at least some of the time, but not much more. On several occasions she had suggested that the girl was not biddable and might be better sent to the cane fields, since she was young and strong. But still she hung about the house. By this time she had learned enough creole to fetch things on demand and carry simple messages; she helped a little in the kitchen, or pulled the ropes that turned the fans.
Claudine studied her in the mirror, as the black girl fidgeted with the ribbons on the dress laid out across the just-made bed. Mouche's underlip shoved out like a cushion, her mask of uncomprehension, and in the misty recesses of the mirror Claudine could see the whites of the girl's eyes. Her stomach heaved, and she put her fingers across her lips and held her breath. The heat swelled into the room like fog; the white cotton shift she'd tried to sleep in was creeping with sweat where her thighs touched the chair. When the spasm passed she twisted around and snapped at the girl.
"Leave it," she said. Mouche started, flinched at the sound of her voice. She jerked her hand away from the ribbons as if she had touched a coal.
"Leave it," Claudine said. As she stood up, another wave of nausea hit her and she had to bend over, holding the chairback. She saw herself in this posture in the mirror, her hair hanging down in strings; she looked old, sick, she looked how she felt.
"Leave it," she said. "I don't feel well, just go." She straightened up and made her way as far as the bedpost while Mouche scuttled toward the door. A bolt of pain shot through her head from one temple to the other, like a nail. "Only bring some water, she said, as Mouche backed away. "Et ma petite chose."
As Mouche scraped out, the jerks of her legs pulled her calico tight over her pregnancy. She had come in the same lot as that infanticide of whom Arnaud had lately made an example, but hers was no child of shipboard rape. She was more newly swollen.... Claudine sat on the bed's edge, swung her legs up. She lay. The pain kept a distance from her so long as she did not move her head; her stomach boiled, then subsided. She sighted down the length of her legs at her toes. It was quiet in the house except for the whisper of the slaves' bare feet on the wooden floors and the sound of insects working, working... they would gnaw until they had carried the whole grand'case back to the jungle in their jaws.
Mouche carried in a tray, a carafe and two glasses; she set it down on the stool beside the bed. Claudine waved her imperiously away, and blushed with relief as soon as the girl was out of the room. Ma petite chose-- if Arnaud had seen them bringing it to her he might well have prevented it. She raised herself on an elbow, pain ringing through her head like a shot, and drank the glass of rum in rapid birdlike sips, then poured water into the glass, thinking that perhaps her husband wouldn't know.... Her intestines clenched, snaked against themselves, abruptly as a bullwhip cracking back on its own length. She dropped back onto the bed in the spasm, her knees drawn up. After a time her belly relaxed and faintly she began to feel the glow.
The headache was not gone but she felt now that it had been wrapped in a cloud of unmilled cotton. Mutedly she heard the sound of Arnaud's boot-heels crossing the gallery. She lay half in a trance, watching a long-legged spider stitching a web to close the gap between the partition wall and the ceiling above the bed's head. Arnaud was turning about in the main room... she heard him stop at the bedroom door.
She shut her eyes as the door squealed open; in the dense humidity the wood had swelled into the floor. Without sight she could yet sense Arnaud's eyes dispassionately stroking over her from toe to head, then shifting to the carafe and the pair of glasses. Perhaps he would lift the glass she had used and smell the dregs. Instead, he left the room, dragging the door shut behind him.
A giggle-- it was Mouche's voice. Some muttering from her husband, then a higher squeal from Mouche, as if she had been pinched. Mouche was protesting, in her rudimentary creole, and Arnaud reassuring her-- don't worry, she's asleep like a dead thing. Another titter and a sound like fabric ripping. Claudine could hear them as plainly as if they were in the room with her, though in fact they must have been two rooms away, in the cubicle used for the doctor or for whatever other infrequent guest might happen by.
Mouche giggled and tittered through the whole affair, bouncing, as Claudine could too well picture it, like a black rubber ball. Arnaud was silent, grim at the work. Of course, she was unsurprised. Often a creole husband would defile the marriage bed itself, although of late Claudine had seldom strayed far enough from their bed for this particular insult to be probable. But certainly she had always known why the girl remained in the grand'case despite her near-perfect uselessness, why she had been purchased to begin with probably, and who had put the child in her belly. But to do it here and now-- such carelessness could only be born of an unutterable contempt. She, Claudine, had conceived no child. Arnaud, however, had been sure to prove that this was in no way his fault; her husband's face looked back at her from every yellow brat in the yard.
A giggle and a grunt-- perhaps they had only been resting, perhaps they were beginning again. Claudine bared her parched eyeballs, stared at the ceiling. Ouais mon homme, she thought, t'as ta petite chose toi aussi. As she framed the words she almost laughed, but bile backed up in her throat instead. From the other room came a snicker, then a deep sigh, close to a moan. The sighing went on, at an even rhythm, like a saw grinding back and forth on the crying emptiness of a barrel. When finally it ceased, the noise of the insects rushed up to fill the gap like a string section in an orchestra.
Claudine dozed a little, along with the fatigued lovers, possibly. The sound of the insects still hummed at her ears, but at the same time she thought that she was dreaming, a dream of lying beside Arnaud in the next room, or in that other bed in Nantes, the great carved wooden monstrosity where he had murdered her virginity, left her stabbed and bleeding in her tenderest recess while he amused himself with better-experienced whores of the town. But when she woke she found him standing in the doorway, looking down on her with the whetted expression he wore when some slave had particularly offended him.
It was considerably later. She knew because the color of the light had changed, a bar of sunshine had advanced in its position on the wall. Arnaud crossed his feet, propped a shoulder on the door frame.
"Will you be dressing yourself today?" he inquired. "Will you be rising at all?"
"J'ai mal à la tête," Claudine murmured. She stretched out a hand and felt the dress that was crumpled partly under her.
"Indeed," said Arnaud. "Encore une fois... ou gueule de bois, je dirais."
Claudine passed over the allusion to hangover. "I can't seem to find my maid," she said, more acidly. She hiccupped, tasted vomit on the back of her teeth and swallowed it back. "Perhaps she's otherwise engaged?"
Arnaud's fruity lips pulled back against his teeth, his thinnest smile. "I'll call her for you," he said. "On my way out."
Claudine swung her legs to the floor. She gathered her hair behind and twisted it, tightening the skin across her face.
"I shall be gone for quite some time," Arnaud said. "That little errand for the Sieur Maltrot, tu comprends. The journey must be overland, it will take several weeks. I'll take Orion with me but no others. No doubt you'll manage well enough. I've left instructions with Isidor."
"No doubt," Claudine said. She reached her hand as far as the bedpost; the movement seemed steady enough. "I wish you a safe journey," she said stiffly, peering up at him from her bloodshot eyes.
"Eh bien, mon bijou," Arnaud said. "Á la rencontre." He smacked his palm against the tight fabric of his riding breeches, and spun out of the door frame and away.
Claudine stood up, she drank a glass of water, cleansing her throat. She did not feel so ill as she had earlier, though her head still dully hurt. She called out for Mouche and while she waited she rinsed the rheum from her eyes with a splash of water from the carafe, and changed into a fresh chemise.
The dress was still wearable despite being slept on. She shook it out and had got partway into it by the time Mouche arrived to help her, with her multiple thumbs, achieve the complex fastenings. Claudine sat at the mirror then, allowing Mouche to brush out her hair, though the girl was so afraid of pulling that her strokes were uselessly weak. Claudine could smell it on her skin, the sickening melony musk. Her hardened belly pressed into the chair back.
"Oh, give it up," Claudine snapped, and grabbed the gilt-backed brush from Mouche's hand. "I'll take coffee on the gallery. In ten minutes."
When Mouche had gone, Claudine arranged her own hair as best she could, not troubling much about the back. Done, she got up and wandered about the room. The idea of Arnaud's lengthy absence rather cheered her. She opened a drawer at random and poked through a jumble of his things: tarnished brass buttons cut from a worn-out coat, a locket with some unknown infant's portrait, a barber's razor. She picked the razor up and touched the flat of it to the inside of her wrist. For some reason she'd expected cold, but of course the metal was as warm and sticky as the suffocating air inside the room.
Her dress had a puffed sleeve that just covered the shoulder, leaving the whole white length of her arm bare. Standing before the mirror, she touched the blunt corner of the razor to the skin just below the ribbon's gather, and drew it swiftly all the way down to her wrist. The stroke made a faintly pink crease on her blue-marbled skin, which quickly faded to its normal pallor. She turned the razor over and set the sharp edge against the same soft spot below the sleeve, only to see how the least touch of it would feel, but she must have twitched, for without meaning to she nicked herself. She gasped, a sharp intake of breath. An infinitesimal star of blood bloomed on her inner arm, no bigger than an asterisk.
The merest scratch. She wet her finger and dabbed the place clean. For a moment she studied her arm, the network of veins below the skin that gave it its milky bluish cast. The arm seemed more fully hers than it had before. It thrilled her. The razor had a little leather case; she sheathed it and tucked it into her bosom, out of sight. In the main room, Isidor was shuffling round the furniture with a feather duster, wearing as always that cast-off coat from which the buttons had been cut, his version of a butler's uniform. He came to attention the instant he saw her, but she passed through without noticing him, and went onto the gallery.
Presently Mouche appeared with coffee on a tray. Claudine heard Isidor whispering to her as she passed through the inner room. Perhaps he would have taken the tray, but Mouche seemed bent on performing the service herself. Claudine took her cup, stirred in her sugar. At the first sip her brows broke out in perspiration.. She turned to order Mouche to work the fan, but the girl was standing too near at her elbow, or else it was through her natural inborn clumsiness that she overset the tray.
The china pot burst in a thousand shards, sending out a circular wave of coffee. In slow trickling stains, it browned a crescent of spilled sugar. Dangling the tray from one thick fingered hand, Mouche gaped at the wreckage, at the numerous black ants that had flipped up through the floorboards and were training on the sugar spill. Claudine turned blue with fury. Her chest pulsed, the razor shifted uncomfortably between her breasts. She leapt up and seized Mouche by the ear and wrenched it, and so dragged the girl off the gallery and around the back of the house toward the barns, screaming all the while for Isidor to come quickly and to bring some cord.
Claudine held the black girl's head twisted low, at her own waist, while she dragged her stumbling through the dust of the compound. Of course Mouche was much stronger than she, but they had played this scene together often enough before that she knew her only choice was submission. At a rear window of the house popped up the sallow face of Cléo, the mulatress housekeeper. Claudine yelled again for Isidor to hurry with the cord as she hustled Mouche into the shed where Arnaud had kept his mastiff penned.
Isidor crept into the stall with a bundle of coarse twine. His flat face was prickling with an anxious sweat; Claudine could smell it. At her breathy instruction he tied Mouche's wrists together and secured them to an iron eyelet on the wall above her head. "Tighter," Claudine insisted. "Tighten it--" Isidor's face pinched shut, but he pulled on the knots until Mouche's hand's began to swell.
"Leave us," Claudine ordered. "Maintenanty." Isidor retreated and Claudine stood for a moment, catching her breath. Mouche was slumped against the wall, her cheek laid against the rough half-logs. There was a rip at the neck of her calico smock, perhaps from Arnaud's greedy hand, that morning. Claudine went to the tack room and came back with a riding crop, tan leather braided around whalebone. For a moment she hesitated, contemplative, as though she anticipated a touch of love. Her left hand closed on the tear at the girl's neck, and she jerked it down, baring Mouche to the swell of her buttocks. Her back was dotted with marks of old beatings, maggoty white blotches on the dark skin, some encrusted with drying scab.
With a little strangled shriek Claudine lashed the riding crop across the patchy skin, and again on the backstroke she hit, and again. The inch-wide loop at the crop's end raised an oval welt if she struck well, and still she felt it was insufficient, every time. Though Mouche gasped and pressed herself more nearly to the wall, the blows were not strong enough to force her; she was only shrinking from the sting, and Claudine wished she had the strength to manage a bullwhip, she wished she could flay the bitch to the bone. Anything to change the timbre of her insincere cries so they no longer would remind her of the selfsame moaning Mouche had given up when she was covered by Arnaud. The crop could barely scratch the surface of Claudine's deepest indignation and as Mouche arched her back and twisted her neck, uttering those unconvincing doglike yelps, their eyes met, and Claudine recalled in spite of her loathing how her parents had sold her to Arnaud for the money they believed he possessed, believing stupidly that all creole planters were richer than Croesus, how whoever had sold Mouche from her home would have made a better bargain, receiving a few sticks of tobacco or an iron ax head in exchange for her life, something real to the touch and to use. Oh, the intolerable thought-- the strokes of the crop must wear it away, but they would not, and still their eyes were locked. That crackling connection brought them to a communion larger than themselves; all over the island masters and slaves were expressing their relation in similar ways, and it was nothing to lop an ear or gouge an eye, even to cut off a hand, thrust a burning stake up a rectum, roast a slave in an oven alive, or roll one down a hill in a barrel studded with nails. All these were as sacraments, body and blood.
Panting and biting her lips in frustration, Claudine bent the whalebone double; when she released it, it hummed across the room like a dragonfly, rebounding from the wall. She made a catlike swipe with her bare left hand, scoring the flesh with her nail points, and Mouche gave a shout of surprise of surprise at this, but still it was not all she wanted. Besides, she had torn her nail; it dangled from the finger where she wore her marriage ring. She bit it off, with a tingling taste of her own blood, while Mouche's melting brown eye still watched her through a slit. Exhausted from the encounter, Mouche breathed on that same sighing pattern. Claudine thought that while her power over the girl was absolute, Mouche did not fully recognize this truth. Yet she would make her know it.
She picked up the crop and stalked back to the house, snapping the leather loop into her palm. The torn cuticle was stinging her.... "Isidor," she cried. "Open the storeroom."
Isidor came shuffling, reluctant, shaking his bowed head, with Cléo hovering around him, wringing her long yellow hands. "Eh Madame," Isidor muttered, "Eh Madame, the Master told me--"
"Open it!" Claudine said. "You will take your orders from me."
"Madame, he hasn't the key," Cléo said.
"Liar," Claudine slapped her with all her force, enough to smash the mulatress's face sideways. The shock of palm on cheek was sweet to her. Cléo had once been her husband's fancy, before Mouche, before that other "lady's maid" who finally had run away to the mountains, abandoning (of course) her string of halfbreed children. Claudine inhaled, swelling her bosom against the sheathed razor. "The master is gone," she said. "I will be obeyed. Do you hear me? Fetch a pry bar."
She turned her back. In the big gilt-framed mirror that was the main room's most significant ornament, she saw Isidor and Cléo, who still cupped her hand over her face, exchange a shivering look. Cléo went out to the gallery then, and Isidor left by the back door. She waited, confident now, for his return, and kept her back turned to him when he came. There was a clatter of metal on metal; Isidor grunted, and then came the tearing as the wood gave way around the lock.
Inside, the storeroom was dark and sweltering; it was the stomach of the house. It held all she had to hope for. A white woman could not run to the mountains, though Claudine did have her mad fantasies; she would have gone away with that ridiculous little doctor, even. Along with special tools, the room held a military musket and a fowling piece, powder and lead, a meager store of wine and the bottles of eau de vie which Arnaud tried to keep from her. She took one from the shelf and broached it. The liquid seemed quite tasteless in her mouth, though further down she felt the burn. She stroked her fingers over the curving slats of a powder keg and sniffed the acrid tang of it. For some of her husband's friends it was a sporting pastime to pack the anus of a wayward slave with gunpowder and blow it by a fuse, faire sauter un nègre, they called it, to make him jump.
Lolling against the rear shelves, she nursed from the long slim neck of the bottle. The white brandy was a spiritual essence, so infinitely superior to the crudely distilled rum she could usually obtain. The bottleneck seemed to curve into her hand, glimmering like starlight in the shadows; each time the rim met her lips it was like exchanging kisses with a swan. Each swallow was an inspiration; she could feel her feet levitating from the floor. Transported, she set the bottle uncorked on a shelf and wandered out into the midday blaze and heat, empty-handed, for she had dropped the crop somewhere, and had even forgotten about it.
Very likely she would not have returned to the shed then, if she had not heard Mouche singing. The voice was deeper, stronger, than the girl's speaking tone, and the words came from the savage language of her birth, if there were words. Claudine could make out no divisions; it was a singular liquid sound, like a long wave rippling all the way back to Guinée. She hesitated on the threshold of the shed. Mouche had shimmied all the way out of her dress and was naked. Her swollen fingers bunched, like over-ripe fruit borne of her bound hands. She sang to herself with her eyes closed, the crinkly puff of her matted hair rucked up against the wall. The voice came out of her essential African self, and Claudine recognized that after all she was still untouched in her identity; it was infuriating. Rage shimmered across her brain from pole to pole. After everything, still the girl did not know, but she would make her know.
Dizzily she stepped through the doorway into the shed, blinking with the change of light. The stitched edge of the razor's sheath pinched a fold of her skin; she reached into her bodice and drew the blade out bare. Mouche sang on, unaware of her, until Claudine took her shoulder with a certain gentleness and turned her so her back was to the wall. Her eyes rolled open an instant before the voice ceased, as Claudine let the razor decline through a slow curve and come to rest against the point just below the sternum where the taut rise of the belly began.
Mouche's throat worked, silently now, and Claudine saw her eyes widening and saw that she had understood, at last. She herself had no further intention, but to make her point, but when Mouche saw there was no limit, that truly nothing could stop her now, Claudine could no longer stop herself. Or possibly it was her hand or the blade itself on its own agency that was not stopped, because she had not, herself, intended anything more. Only Mouche's body opened down the plumb line to her center and beyond, like a banana peel splitting down its seam. The blade furrowed through a whitish layer of fat; there was no blood, oddly, until the viscera slithered and slapped down tangling over Claudine's feet, and then she bled. An awful scream was uttered from somewhere, Claudine couldn't tell where, for Mouche was singing again now, and that was what Claudine could not bear. Maddened, she swung wildly at the neck, spinning herself half around, and as she came back, blood from a severed artery showered her, drenching the front of her dress. She stepped back and looked down, inexorably, at the snarl of vitals on the dirt floor. Something else was among them, pulsing inside its membranous sac; it was not exactly independent life, but it still lived a little, as her organs were still slightly living, though Mouche was surely dead. It was the thing, Claudine was confident, that she had wanted to uncover, and she had a desire to open it further, to see and know more, and more, but she did not gratify this wish.
Outside in the yard she stopped, a few feet from the door, to look down at the blood that covered her. She dabbled two fingers in it, noting that Mouche's blood was just the color of her own, precisely. She made a print, an oval dot, over the place where she'd nicked herself that morning, then stroked a double line down her cheek with her two fingers. The movement dragged down one side of her mouth and when she took her hand away her face stayed fixed in that position, catatonically, as it might in a victim of apoplexy. Isidor stood in the middle of the yard, staring at her, with Cléo several yards behind him. The two gave forth no expression, but stood unmoving like obelisks in a desert. She began to walk, passing Isidor, advancing toward Cléo. When their eyes met, Cléo dropped to her knees like someone had clubbed her, and let out a terrible groan. Claudine passed her blindly by and went into the house.
In her delirium the thing came to her and told her that the work of destruction she'd begun would be unending. It had not yet developed to a human shape; it was something different, primal, beaked and gilled, but the story it had to tell was evolutionary. It informed her how the island would be burned from one end to the other, and how the fires that started here would rage their way in looping circles round the globe: Africa gutted by Europe would come home at last to Europe's womb and fester there, while the New World, which now seemed so vast and desolate, would be covered end to end with warring peoples.
The thing was damp and clammy and always slicked with putrid blood, though sometimes it showed her different visages, a monkey's face, or an elephant's trunk, the face of her husband to be sure, or more infrequently her own. She knew that it was part and parcel of her hallucinatory host, all born of delirium tremens, and she knew that drink would stop them all, but she did not drink. For days at a time she lay in her own ordures on the bed, or wandered through the empty house-- Isidor and Cléo had run away, and no one else came near. Like a ghost she walked within the walls, alone or in the company of the thing, which held her finger in a wet webbed claw, or slithered ahead of her on flippers. If the thing was absent she saw other phantasms, sulphurous fires that swept the cane fields hedge to hedge without consuming them, berserk slaves who danced in clouds of lurid flame, uncaring-- she saw Mouche roaming the compound as a headless zombi, her stumped neck a fountain of blood, singing that same song from the wiry flutes of her severed trachea.
But always the thing returned, and when she least expected it-- she never learned to expect it, but she might wake to find it settled on her navel, wiggling in a puddle of afterbirth and staring down at her with a dolphin's black eye, or during her solitary ramblings through the house it might come on her suddenly from out of the other rooms. It had a metamorphic power and it showed her all its changes from a dot of plasm to a fish into a being like herself, but it let her know that her own being was futile as some ancient extinct beast. It showed her many marvels of times to come or that had been-- men who flew like birds and cities where the light of stars had been pent up within the rooms; it revealed to her stupendous weapons of war that could kill hundreds of men at a shot or engulf one of the great cities altogether in a cloud of poison flame, and it showed her how every human being still held a knife at another's heart, while under their trampling feet the earth itself cried murder. She implored the thing to give her peace, and when that failed she threatened it, and finally made it promises-- she said that she would take it into her own body and carry it to its term, but it made no answer to any of her proposals.
Then it went away. She lay there, dreading its return. Her body had died, it seemed. If she raised an arm above her head it would remain there tirelessly; if she bit into her finger or her wrist she could feel nothing, though she saw the toothprints bruise. Still the thing did not come back, and one afternoon she woke to a shadow of sensation. She felt a finality in its absence, though she dared not trust it. For the first time in many days she could feel her body, face her reflection, smell herself-- a nasty smell. She felt hollow, burnt to a husk, like a bit of bagasse blown off the cane fields. Curiously she regarded herself in the gilt-framed looking glass, her dress hanging in brown-stained rags from her shrivelled body. In a week she had aged ten years. Behind her the broken door of the storeroom lolled like a tongue from the head of a corpse.
All the children had disappeared from the yard, the chickens were gone too, and it was deathly still except for a fringe of dust that a small breeze carried low across the parched and cracking earth. A red-headed, wrinkle-necked vulture stood on the ground near the door of the shed. Claudine expected it to evaporate when she approached, but it only shrugged its shoulders at her and clawed a few steps away, and finally when she came too near, it lifted itself on its ragged wings and flew to the shed's roof tree, where three others roosted. She stooped and flung a clod at them with a hoarse cry, but only one was moved to flight, lifting higher and higher on a spiral till it was only a small cross circling in the sky. She waited for it to disappear utterly and so prove itself delusional, but it remained there, slowly turning. She knew that she ought to go into the shed and face whatever was there, but she did not go.
Inside the barn, she washed herself at the horse trough. There were horses still in the stalls; they hung their heads out and whickered at her, but they didn't seemed panicky or restive so she knew that someone must be tending them. The water was reasonably fresh as well. She peeled off the sodden rags of her dress and abandoned them. Her body came clean, staining the water. She thrust her head under and scrubbed her scalp. When she sat up, wringing out her hair, she thought she saw a flicker of human movement, felt an eye upon her, though she hardly cared. She pushed her head under the water again and tried to breathe in, but her body repelled itself and she sat back, spluttering. This time she saw the boy jerk his head back into a vacant stall and she darted after him and trapped him there. A little mulatto, about twelve or thirteen, she didn't know his name but she thought she'd seen him working as a groom. His teeth were chattering and he wouldn't look at her.
"Yes, I am a madwoman," she hissed at him, and pinched his cheeks and drew him close. "I'm a witch, or worse. You must do anything I say, anything, do you hear?"
The boy's eyes squinched shut, he trembled to his toes.
"Harness the horses," she snapped, releasing the folds of cheek and pushing him away. "Bring the coach to the front of the grand'case."
She watched him scurry off, not knowing if he would obey or not, if he had even understood her through his terror. Naked and dripping she went to the house, where she found some dried beef and chewed it ferociously, floods of flecked saliva running from the corners of her mouth, as if she were starving-- she was starving, of course. She dressed herself as she might for church and packed a small portmanteau. The coach was waiting when she stepped onto the gallery, the boy astride the left horse of the pair. She climbed in and ordered him to drive to Flaville plantation, and when he hesitated, told him that she knew the way.
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