The Chainmakers

The Chainmakers by Helen Spring

Book: The Chainmakers by Helen Spring Read Free Book Online
Authors: Helen Spring
she noticed, as she poured herself another glass of red wine. She gazed contentedly around the big kitchen table, another wonderful meal, perhaps better than any so far, and for the first time it had been cooked entirely by herself under Therese's expert supervision. What fine people they all were, and how she had come to love them.
    She stopped her thoughts in their tracks. Was it true? Did she really love them, all of them? Even Sylvie? How could she feel so strongly about people she had known for a mere six weeks? It was this place, and the wine, she decided, realising she was a little drunk. Life at La Maison Blanche made you suspend your judgment, made you forget the future and live only for today. It seemed she had become closer to these friends than to any people she had ever known, yet how could that be in only six weeks? She considered them in turn, examining them closely over the rim of her wine glass. Big noisy Jacques, who had shown such gentleness as he plaited her hair into a thick braid when she sat for his painting called "En Repos". This was a beautifully executed portrait in soft delicate hues, with an ethereal quality which made Anna feel the girl in the painting was not herself, but some transient spirit which had inhabited her body just long enough to be captured on canvas. Anna admired Jacques's work more than any other, even Robert's.
    Then there was the quietly spoken Alphonse, who to her astonishment had asked, with help in translation from Robert, if she would sit "a nu". When Robert explained this meant without clothes Anna was horrified, but as soon as she made it plain she would not agree Alphonse had been quite amenable, deciding instead to paint her in the farmyard holding a pitchfork, and in the company of a goose. Jacques had joined the discussion and expressed the view that Anna was too slender to sit successfully "a nu". 'Not enough flesh, ' he said dismissively, and Anna began to realise that these men truly saw her with a different vision.
    It had been pleasant sitting for Sylvie, who remained quiet and reserved. Therese had volunteered the information that Sylvie was from the Balkans, although she didn't know exactly where, and inferred that her strange manner was due to some dreadful events in her childhood. Sylvie preferred to paint outdoors, and Anna had enjoyed sitting in the sun on the terrace, where she prepared vegetables as Sylvie daubed her canvas with strong strokes of vibrant colour. She had created an impression of the courtyard at La Maison Blanche, and Anna saw that the essence of the place had been captured on canvas. During the long hot days Anna had felt a sense of mutual understanding and respect grow between them, and although she did not understand Sylvie's painting, when she looked at it she felt a powerful impact, and she was aware that Robert and Jacques regarded Sylvie as the true genius amongst them.
    And Robert... ah... Robert! Anna regarded him gravely over her wine glass as he conversed enthusiastically with Jacques and Alphonse. He was, she decided, like herself, slightly intoxicated. Since they had been at La Maison Blanche she had watched him gradually relax, day by day. As he lounged in a deckchair with a book, or sat painting a still life hour after hour, as his fair hair grew longer and became even lighter under the warm sun, she saw him become slower, friendlier, as if the casting of his English clothes had unloosed his limbs and his mind from some long constriction.
    Robert suddenly became aware of her gaze, and leaned across the table. 'Ah, tomorrow,' he said pointedly. 'Tomorrow at last I shall have you to myself for two weeks. And you,' he said turning to Jacques, 'Can take your turn at still life.'
    ‘No, landscape I think,' Jacques replied, stifling a yawn. 'And what do you intend? Where will you paint?'
    'I want Anna to sit for the third picture in a triptych, I have already painted her at work and in a domestic scene. This one is to be out of

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