Saturday, 27 February 2010


Brassaï (Gyula Halász), French - 1899-1984
'Woman at the corner of Rue de la Reynie and Rue Quincampoix 1933'

Marie-Louise told me about her aunt Jeanne who had recently died. It seems that when Jeanne was a little girl in the last century she met someone. She had gone shopping with her mother, but being little and curious, she had let go of her mother's hand and wandered off. As one might expect, Jeanne almost instantly got lost. Very, very lost. At which point, she stopped where she was and turned about looking for her mother. But with all the people hurrying past and with her being so little, she could not see her mother. She walked to the wall at the corner and stood with her back to the wall.

At first she simply gazed in shock and wonder at the people passing by. She noticed a man with a hat pulled low over his face and a long overcoat. She noticed two young women arm in arm, both chatting and glancing at the shop windows. A woman with a pram and a sad look on her face passed by. She looked in the direction the woman with the pram had come from as if mothers would come from that direction. Her mother could not be seen however and she was about to cry when a cool, gentle voice cut through the noise and bustle and she smelled a delicate scent of roses.

"Are you lost my child?" the voice asked.

Jeanne turned to find a tall woman (they were all tall when Jeanne was that age) with pale skin and green eyes and a warm blaze of red hair. Jeanne thought she had never seen anyone so beautiful, though she did not say that. The woman wore a long dark red dress and a green coat over it. There was something wild in her eyes, almost like the look of a tiger eyeing up its lunch.

"I can't find my mummy," Jeanne told her.

"What a shame, let me see if I can help you find her," the woman said softly and now there was something very clearly dangerous about her.

"She has a lucky horseshoe like mine," said Jeanne, showing the woman her little burnished steel pendant.

The woman frowned and withdrew her head. She seemed to become a little nauseous, but smiled despite her apparent nausea and stood up straight. She reminded Jeanne of a kind of wild flower then - tall and beautiful, but utterly wild. The woman seemed to stretch up and up as if she were growing like a plant. Then she returned her gaze to the little girl again.

"I will send out someone to find your mother my child, but in the meantime, why don't I get you something to eat?" she asked.

Jeanne smiled and nodded. The woman took Jeanne by the hand and led her across the street into a small dark cafe where they sat by the window. The woman called over a waiter and explained that Jeanne had lost her mother and would someone go out and find her.

"Certainly Maitresse, should she be brought back here?" the waiter asked her smoothly.

"She should sir, for her child needs her," the woman answered.

The waiter bowed and left. Without being asked he brought back a large plate with all kinds of wonderful things on it. But Jeanne frowned when she saw it, for she could only see dead insects, stones and twigs upon the plate. The woman called the waiter back and whispered a word. The waiter bowed frantically and seemed very scared. He took the plate away and brought another plate. This had wonderful food upon it and Jeanne asked if she might have something.

"Of course, my child," the woman said.

Jeanne ate a cake and talked to the woman who listened with a smile. Jeanne told her about her mother's dresses and her singing. She told the woman about her friend Sophie and her school. The woman asked her if she'd ever seen a unicorn and Jeanne shook her head.

"Would you like to, my dear? I can show you a unicorn and a thousand wonderful things. Should you like to see them?" the woman asked her gently.

Jeanne nodded vigorously and the woman smiled broadly.

"Finish your food my love and we shall go and see them. Your mother will be here when we return," she said.

Jeanne never told what she had seen, but long after she had gone home with her mother she did not forget. She went on to university and got a job, but every evening she would go to the corner of Rue de La Reynie and Rue Quincampoix. She would buy a baguette and get a little cheese from the shop there. Then she would stand and wait for the red haired woman to appear. She never married and became pale and thin. Her beauty faded and one evening she went out and left the little horseshoe pendant on her dressing table. That was the night she went missing and was never heard of again. But she had left a letter for her sister's little girl with the horseshoe pendant in the envelope with the letter. It is to be hoped that she is happier with the faeries than she was in our mundane, dull world.


bad penny said...

Oh My God - that sent a shiver right down my spine !

Griffin said...

Heh, heh, heh... that's 'cos I am a Fiend!!