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The Star

Will he arrive in time?

Dusk absorbs the colors of the countryside. The gallop of the horse squirts the mud from the rain-soaked ruts. Already he has passed Freudenstadt. The clouds weave a fine tapestry that gently unravels.

Alexandre Calame. Orage à la Handeck. 1839. Musée d'Art et d'Histoire Genève.
Alexandre Calame. Orage à la Handeck. 1839. Musée d'Art et d'Histoire Genève.

Franz looks at his watch for the hundredth time.

Will he arrive in time?

A badly filled bag with a few belongings, a bouquet of wildflowers, a book or two. A quick salute to the dumbfounded servants. His mother, on the porch, who understands nothing...

The gallop of the horse resounds in the advancing night.

It was at the ball, in Munich. The aerial crinolines seemed to glide over the parquet floor of the chateau as over the ice of a pond. Franz had registered himself in the dance card of a certain Baroness de Kempf. Out of spite. The object of his ardor had already filled hers with young officers who chuckled like morons as they paraded their sabers to the side.

Franz pulls on the reins and brings the horse to a walk. He is angry with himself for slowing down his race but he cannot constantly maintain a breakneck pace. He raises his head. As he passes through a clearing, the stars are revealed like a shower of diamonds. He notices one, a little brighter than the others.

Will he arrive in time?

Madame la Baroness de Kempf. Instead of the romiere he imagined, Franz discovers a young girl, almost a child. She cracks a smile.

Charles Wilda. Le bal. 1906. Collection particulière
Charles Wilda. Le bal. 1906. Collection particulière

- This is my first ball. Don't be mad at me, sir.

Franz cannot say a word. She is as beautiful as she is shy. He holds out his arm to her. The orchestra begins a quadrille.

They dance. Their eyes constantly seek each other, their hands brush against each other, join. In a crossroads, he asks her for her first name.

- My name is Lisa.

Will he arrive in time?

The star that Franz follows with his eyes seems to move at the same time as him. He got off his horse. A weak moonlight casts excessive shadows on the trees. Everything is blue, everything is gray, everything is silver. A few fireflies float above a field of alfalfa. The horse regains strength by blowing its nostrils.

Another night. The ball, the castle terrace.

“You are not serious, officer. We missed the polka.

– Call me Franz.

- This is fine. So, Franz, we missed the polka. But I don't blame you. Instead, you offer me a shower of stars.

– Lisa, do you want to go back to the ballroom?

He shows a star that seems to be there only for them

“Not yet, Franz. I'm fine here, I'm fine with you.

Lise's cheeks take on a light vermilion color.

Will he arrive in time?

Arnold Böcklin. Ruines au Clair de Lune. 1849.
Arnold Böcklin. Ruines au Clair de Lune. 1849.

A fire in the distance. Franz approaches. Gypsies warm themselves in the shade of their carts.

– Come on, traveler.

An old woman motions him to sit down

- I'm not staying, says Franz.

- I know, says the woman. You must hurry. She is waiting for you.

The woman hands him a small glass of plum brandy. Franz thanks her and continues on his way.

The moon has disappeared behind the mountain. The Black Forest is aptly named. Franz is back on the horse and he stings. Gallop again, into the night. The star is still there, above him.

Franz took Lisa to the Kniebis. An inn in the mountains, in the middle of the spruces. They have been in love for two months. They take long walks, they pick armfuls of flowers. Franz hunts fallow deer. She's been coughing for a while now. At first slightly, then, that night, real fits that exhausted her. They call the doctor. They know.

Will he arrive in time?

The gray mass of the sanatorium stands out in the distance. A few smoky torches illuminate the entrance. Franz jumps off his horse. He knocks like a madman at the heavy oak door which opens ajar. He almost bumps into the nun who opened the door to him and recognized him.

- Where is she?

– On the first floor, bedroom 8.

Giovanni Segantini. Pétale de Rose. 1889. collection particulière
Giovanni Segantini. Pétale de Rose. 1889. collection particulière

Lisa is lying on a bed in which she seems to be drowning. She turns her head. She smiles.

– Franz, you came. You should not have.

Franz places the flowers in a vase which he fills with fresh water.

Lisa tries to sit up on her pillow. Her voice is so weak.

"Did you bring me our star, my Franz?" Go get her, please.

Franz goes to the window. He scans the sky, in vain.

Lisa closed her eyes.

© Fabrice Roy 2018

Dans ses conférences d'histoire de l'art, Fabrice Roy conjugue le passé au présent, dans une évocation poétique et ludique du 19ème siècle français...


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