Friday, 6 September 2013
I saw him painting the sign when I was an old man. I sighed to see it, but I was not surprised, that's change for you, comes along when you least expect it. But I still remember Miss Celia Montplaisir the woman who had lived where Parlour Lane used to be.
It was a large 19th century house, all red brick and big sash windows. Around it was a large garden with four trees, some bushes just inside the high walls and lots of flowers. The masterpiece - or as I should say, the mistresspiece of the house was the large living room. Celia always referred to it as the parlour until everyone in the neighbourhood did too. It had a fabulous chandelier with over a thousand lustres that was held up by what looked like a small dragon that snarled and stuck out it's forked tongue just below the high ceiling. There was also a grand fireplace of a rich red and black marble. The fireplace itself had a tiled floor and was large enough for Colonel Martyr-house's wolfhound, a large animal with the manners of a lamb.
Every August the 5th, Celia had held a party for the children of the neighbourhood. Every Christmas she had a party for the families of the neighbourhood. Most people thought her very rich, but as I knew only too well, she was not nearly as well off as she appeared. I had my suspicions about where her wealth came from, but Celia was such a lively, lovely woman that even having suspicions gave me guilt. Still I had always listened to my grandmother when I was a boy and she had told me much of what she knew. She had grown up the daughter of a woodcutter and knew about the forest beings and spirits. So when I saw Celia's green eyes, her rich auburn hair and the slight quality of something wild I could not help but think of faeries. She was drawn to reds and greens, nut-browns and tree-bark greys in the colours she wore. Everyone fell under her spell, everyone was amazed that she was unmarried.
Even as I grew up and aged I remember noticing that Celia remained as youthful and fresh as she had always been. Colonel Martyr-house had flirted with her but without words she had kept him friendly and not too close. She had a soft spot for children, their amorality, their wonder and imagination, which she encouraged and fed. Strangely, even at her parties I never saw her eat or drink. Yet she must have burned up energy constantly.
She was always moving as if to be still even once was to freeze forever. She went to the market and bought food and wine like everyone else did. I believe she loved me as a boy, she encouraged my stories and my drawing. At one August party, she fetched a small harp that the teenagers would have sneered at but for her. She played and sang with such a fine clear voice that everyone fell silent the better to hear her. Even the birds in the garden were silent. The song was a gentle ballad of a lover and her lad. She had loved him truly and he had betrayed her love. All of us were moved to tears at her sorrows.
She was utterly central to our lives; in our neighbourhood as well as in our town. She seemed to be everywhere, charming the most awkward, persuading easily the most recalcitrant. Nobody wished to upset her and now I wonder if there was a measure of fear in that. It was always unwise to displease the faeries as my grandmother used to remind me. Celia in town would gather children to her, she would feed them cakes of honey and buy them tea while she drank her strong black coffee. She would tell them ancient tales that in her words seemed fresh and exciting as the best tales are.
I went to the city university at eighteen to study and never forgot Miss Celia Montplaisir. So you may imagine my surprise when I returned after three years of work and study to find the large house and garden had gone and in its place a wide area of grass. I asked after Celia but it seemed as if I had dreamt her, for nobody seemed to remember her. She had gone as if she had never been there at all. I was sure then, though I never dared to utter it, that Miss Celia Montplaisir was and had always been one of the Fair Folk. For we are in the modern age and with all our human cleverness and technology, nobody actually believes in faeries any more. Was that why she left? Did she finally find love perhaps? I do not know. I will never know. How can I when it appears that I am the only one in our town who remembers her?