At length the bell,
With booming sound,
Sends forth, resounding round,
Its hymeneal peal o’er rock and down the dell.
It is broad day, with sunshine and with rain;
And yet the guests delay not long,
For soon arrives the bridal train,
And with it brings the village throng.

Margaret is harvesting rose petals today. This is not an easy job for a blind woman, and she works slowly, reaching carefully into the bushes to pluck each rose, feeling her way to avoid being pricked.

Later, she will lay the rose petals out in the sun to dry, and later still, she will infuse some of them into oil, for perfumes, and boil others with sugar to make a syrup. By the end of the day, the whole cottage will sing with the fragrance of roses.

In the distance, Margaret can hear the church bells ringing. She went down to the village with Jane yesterday, to listen as the bridal procession came by. The wedding will be today. As she pulls the petals from the blooms – rose de Rescht, for the truest, deepest rose scent – Margaret feels a brief pang of sorrow. It is unlikely that she will marry now.

“What should I do with these?” Angela’s sweet voice sounds beside her, and Margaret comes out of her reverie. Angela smells of the lavender that she has been picking.

“Just tie them into bunches and hang them up from the porch. They will dry fast in this weather.”

Angela’s footsteps fade as she heads for the house.

Angela’s father did not survive the summer, but he lived long enough to forgive his daughter for leaving Baptiste only days before their wedding. She had not intended to jilt Baptiste, she later explained, but with the threat of destitution no longer before her, she found that she could not bring herself to wed a man for whom she felt no real affection. And, she privately confided to Margaret, she rather relished the chance to live without being beholden to any man for her survival. Their own agreement was a different matter.

And so Angela had moved into the cottage after the funeral, where she was welcomed heartily by Margaret, who took great joy in the renewal of their friendship, and in the sweetness and humour that Angela brought with her.

Margaret, Angela and Paul live frugally, but comfortably in the cottage. The garden blooms as it has never bloomed before, and Angela’s skill in the stillroom has brought the household unexpected prosperity. Margaret’s flowers and herbs, transformed by Angela’s art into soaps and perfumes and candles, fetch good prices in the village, and, increasingly, in the neighbouring towns where Paul takes them to sell on market days. Jane is a frequent visitor to the cottage, bringing news from the village, and advising Angela on beekeeping and the properties of herbs.

As for Baptiste, he is long gone from the village. He did not renew his suit to Margaret after Angela’s rejection of him, but instead returned to his travels on the continent. He is said to be doing well for himself, but if he sends letters, they are not addressed to anyone at the cottage.

It is not a life such as the poets would write about. There are no grand passions, no thrilling romances, no cruel betrayals, no vengeance, no despair. Instead, there is friendship, and loyalty, and market days, and quite a lot of work in the garden. It is all entirely prosaic and not at all dramatic.

Margaret and Angela find it far more comfortable this way.

They are content.

[This is completely unromantic! 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

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