Angela’s voice is firm. “That is a very kind offer Margaret, but I don’t want a cottage. I want a husband, and I want security. You must know that there is no way for you to marry Baptiste, even if I did release him from our engagement. I’m not going to make myself part of some half-baked plot which is as likely to leave me with nothing as not. I am truly sorry to cause you pain, but I cannot release Baptiste. I cannot break this engagement. Nothing you say will change my mind.”

“Then you are willing to marry a man who hates you?” Baptiste’s voice is harsher than Margaret has ever heard it. “Because rest assured, Angela, I will hate you forever if you keep me from my love.”

Angela’s voice is sad. “Then so be it.”

“So be it indeed.”

Margaret is not sure what happens next. She hears Angela’s cry, cut abruptly short, and a scuffle. Something warm and wet splashes her wrist, and she smells salt and iron. She can hear Baptiste breathing hard and fast beside her.

She cannot hear Angela at all.

Suddenly, she is afraid.


There is no answer.

“Baptiste, what is going on?” She can hear the panic in her own voice.

Baptiste laughs, breathlessly. “Why, nothing, my love. I fear that Angela is overset. She ran inside. Come, let me escort you home.”

His hand is warm and a little sticky in hers. She pulls away instinctively, and trips over something soft and warm and covered in linen.

She cannot see the thing on the ground, but Margaret knows exactly what has made her fall. “Baptiste,” she whispers, “What have you done?”

Baptiste’s laugh is a little manic. “Why, nothing, my love. Come, let me help you up.” He grasps her hand.

It’s amazing how being blind suddenly makes you deaf and stupid as well. Margaret had not thought that Baptiste would think that way, too.

She pulls away again, and he grabs for her as she begins to fall. Terrified now, she fights Baptiste as he tries to catch her, and they fall together. Something sharp pierces her side.

She hears Baptiste’s voice cry out, but it is far away now, and getting further. He can be no threat to her at that distance, so she stops fighting.

At eve, instead of bridal verse,
The De Profundis filled the air;
Decked with flowers a simple hearse
To the churchyard forth they bear;
Village girls in robes of snow
Follow, weeping as they go;
Nowhere was a smile that day,
No, ah no! for each one seemed to say:—

The road should mourn and be veiled in gloom,
So fair these corpses leave their homes!
Should mourn and should weep, ah, well-away!
So fair these corpses pass today!

[Eek! I thought you said Baptiste was sweet and gentle! Take me back!]

[Take me back to the start]


Jacques Jasmin, Poetry, and Railway stations

Jasmin is the name of a station on the Paris Metro 9 line, in the 16th arondissement, not far from the Bois de  Boulogne.  It was built in 1922, and is named for the Rue de Jasmin, which in turn is named for the 19th century Occitan poet and barber, Jacques Jansemin (or Jasmin, as he is known in French).  Occitan was the language of the troubadours in the middle ages, and Jansemin’s poetry was credited with reviving this poetic tradition (though he himself felt that his own poems were far superior to those of the troubadours).  Occitan, or langue d’oc, is the dialect spoken in the south of France, particularly Provence and Gascony, as well as parts of Italy and Spain.  Modern French derives from the sister dialect, langue d’oïl, and most of those who now speak Occitan use French as their official language. I suspect that Jansemin’s use of Occitan to write poetry was in some ways a political statement, given its association both with the south and with rural peasantry.

Jansemin wrote a variety of poems, of which L’Abuglo de Castèl Cuillè (The Blind Girl of Castel Cuille) is one of the better known.  His poetry was popular with the English romantic and pastoral poets, and the translation I have used in this story is by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  You can read the original Occitan here, and Longfellow’s translation can be found here. The translation seems to be a fairly accurate one – while I do not speak Occitan, it is similar enough to French and Italian that I can follow it in the English translation, and I saw no obvious dissimilarities.

I found the poetry lovely but the story immensely frustrating, and kind of awful about disability. I wanted to give Margaret some agency in her life, and the opportunity to make better (if perhaps less romantic) choices… and perhaps some worse ones, too. I hope I have achieved a less infuriating result on this score than Jasmin did.

I would like to thank Alison Uren for beta reading and Loki Carbis for help with coding. Any problems that still remain in the story are entirely my fault!


Michel-Ange – Auteuil fleur9left Jasmin fleur9right Ranelagh

Leave a Reply

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