A day has passed.

Margaret has taken one night for weeping, alone in her room, but now her eyes are dry. To her surprise, she does not even feel particularly sad.

When Baptiste had first left her, in the early days of her blindness, she had been utterly desolate. She had locked herself in her room for a week, sobbing without restraint, refusing to eat or speak. She had thought often of her father’s dagger, still locked in a drawer in her room with her mother’s keepsakes, but despair had brought with it a certain lassitude, and she was, in any case still weak from the fever. She had never had the strength to use it.

As the dawn breaks this morning, Margaret is glad of that. She does not wish to die. Baptiste has been gone for a year now, and she has become accustomed to his abandonment. The pain of it has become worn out, faded with time. She is not even sure if she still loves him. His marriage to Angela is the end of an old hope, and that does hurt, a little, but there is also a certain freedom in it too.

With nothing left to hope for, she can decide what she will do next.

Now rings the bell, nine times reverberating,
And the white daybreak, stealing up the sky,
Sees in two cottages two maidens waiting,
How differently!

And so, as the villagers feast and celebrate the wedding that is to come, and Baptiste and Angela prepare to make their ambivalent vows, Margaret invites Jane to her home for a conference. She and Jane and Paul talk long into the night, making their own plans for the future while the music plays in the valley below.

The next morning, they begin to pack.

They sell the cottage on the hill, and Jane’s small house in the village, and with the money, they buy a small apothecary shop in the neighbouring town. Margaret is sad to lose her mother’s garden, but she has taken cuttings from her favourite plants, and her new home, behind the shop, has a garden too, and far fewer memories.

Jane will teach Margaret everything she knows about the healing properties of plants. The apothecary shop has all the equipment they will need to compound tinctures and teas, cordials and cosmetics, and once Margaret’s garden is established, they will have herbs and flowers that are the envy of the country. Margaret’s flowers always produced the best essential oils.

As the wedding bells chime in the distance, Margaret and Jane and Paul leave the village for the last time. Paul drives the cart piled high with their belongings, and the women walk beside it, Jane leading Margaret, and Margaret supporting Jane.

They walk well together.

The roads should blossom, the roads should bloom
So fair a trio will find their home!
Should blossom and bloom with garlands gay
So fair these friends shall pass today!

[No! I do not ship Margaret and Jane! 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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