Lida Broadhurst

Clerk, newly-hired, strides to the counter.   Rubbing his hands,  showing  bright glint of smile, he says, “"Yes, yes, Madame, I can assist you."

Smile waning like moon, he listens, as with heavy accent, she reveals a tale, tangled as seaweed.  Heavens, he thinks,  I’ve got to deal with a mad woman, while the others  chatter long at lunch, insensitive to my plight. 

He casts his mind through remembered manuals, but this figure does not shine as any example.   He begs her to repeat her story, hoping for sense.    But he hears only the same babbling torrent. 

She stops to breathe, deeply, deeply, disturbing the thin fabric of her gown, long and edged with something green.

Perhaps if he were to relate what she has said to her, a solution might be found.  "Now, Madame, you planned to board our ferry, your sisters could not accompany you, your mother being distraught.” 

She mumbles something, of which he catches only one word. From this he tries to create a soothing  remark.   "Yes, of course you are ravishing, Madame,"

She shakes her head. 

He forces brief nervous smile.  "Your pardon, he was so ravishing," imagining shipboard intrigue.

He hears only unintelligible rant, thinks unbalanced woman, fine one to cast blame for an unpleasant journey.

Suddenly, he understands.  Gulping, he whispers, "Oh, he ravished you.  Frowns, “Surely, not one of our sailors.   They’re so well-trained. “

She glares, and he continues, "No of course, they are not trained for that."

He tries again, "Oh, a wandering animal.  A bull?.”  His mouth smirks, "Well I have heard some of the local residents so described.  But tourists get such delusions,”

Her eyes are javelins, and hastily he says, “No, no Madame is not a stupid tourist.  You purchase gowns in Istria, and your perfumes are created by…”

He sniffs delicately, and she draws away from him, spitting words. 

He blinks,  "You are a princess.  Forgive me, which kingdom did you mention?"

Almost undone,  he gazes at floor, puddled with what he thought dirty water, realizes it should have dried months ago.  Months, the word frightens him, dries up his thoughts. He takes a step closer, sees her stomach swelling gently like waves.  A child.   What might it inherit?

No footsteps draw nears, and it is he who is damp. With relief.  Makes his voice airy, as if  bothered by minor dilemma. "Oh, Mrs. Montague."   He gropes for words to explain a myth revealed unraveled.

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