Whew! That post yesterday was probably too much (however sincere and heartfelt), but weʼll relax today and return to the medieval days of yore in which we indulged last weekend.
We started on what little I have written of my Villon novel last weekend, and as I promised/threatened on Sunday, hereʼs the rest of chapter I. Enjoy.
Strange that he could still recall being innocent of all this. His innocence seemed so distant, so long ago, yet still clear in memory. Sometimes, when he bothered to recall. And other times when recollection chided his present state. Memory as conscience. Had some philosopher considered that? Had he read it, heard it at lecture, or was it actually his own, true insight?
He didn’t know.
Right now, the wine had filled his head, and the tavern, even the table he crouched against, wavered a bit in the uncertain lack of light. Quite early for such a feeling, but tonight was unique, or at least original. And he drank down the rest of his cup. He would need this warmth tonight.
Memory as conscience. No guilt without recollection. One must remember in order to learn. A lesson, and experience forgotten is no benefit, no lesson at all.
Thoughts tumbled shapelessly.
What could he remember? What had François learned? How had his experiences shaped him, wet mud dole clay, to become who he was at this critical moment on this unusual dark night?
Conscience? How could he in good conscience even be here? And what would conscience have to say tomorrow? Could he be about to kill conscience or rather prod it into hysteria? Whom or what could he blame for that which he was about to perform, what he was to become part in, who he was trembling to become? And what right had conscience to complain at all at this point? He had considered this and worse many times, as his fortunes waned and the dicecup drew him ever deeper under the shadow of his worst compatriots.
François realized he was staring across the smoky space at the flambeau nearest the door. The flames and we and intermingled, gold and red yellow white orange, wavering and vanishing, trembling and soaring, diminishing. He felt his soul strangely drawn into the bright mystery of fire, chaotic beauty.
Until raucous laughter cackled from the dicers near him. The wine had begun to work long ago: their voices clamored too loud for this narrow space, echoing inane annoyances that apparently no one attended. Words themselves were lost in simple noise, their bellowing all vowels, the clarity of consonants mislaid — sharing the same weary jokes. Again.
The active flames seemed sweeter. He recognized the wine had worked on him as well. Did he wish to be too drunk to do the deeds this night intended?
Again he felt his heart quicken with cowardice.
Suddenly, across from the dicers, still intent on their gaming, loud as they were, a trio at a more distant table burst into song — an old melody — barking a rondeau in honor of wine, good friends and long revelrous nights.
Mine, thought François unselfconsciously. He had composed the lyrics years ago to amuse his companions — Guy impressively — early in his wastrel life. He’d heard it sung repeatedly, among others, since. Drinking songs, parody poems, caricatures of University figures and Parisian notables, and his first masterpiece — his Romance of the Devil’s Fart that Guy had so assiduously copied so many times, the fluorescence of his student days. Nights, rather.
And now, as Christmas and the year’s demise approached, he had made his choices. What advice, drink, sloth and violence had begun became fullblown crime tonight.
As if on cue, an actor in a mystery, Colin appeared at the tableside.
“Did you have to hide your self all the way back here? Get up, François. We are going. The rest are at the Mule.”
Making a face, François drew his lean body afoot and followed his friend (and master now) through a twisting path between tables to the door. And out into the cold toward robbery and betrayal.
And thatʼs the end of chapter I. (I was trying to keep them short for interest, Janet to the contrary on the interest part.) Iʼll do a little more from chapter II tomorrow.