The Mapping of Love and Death

The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear

Book: The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jacqueline Winspear
earned all the rank I want to pull, so let that be a lesson to you when you are in your dotage.” He began to laugh, but the breath caught in his chest and he started to cough. Maisie reached for a glass and filled it with water from a jug, but Maurice raised a hand. “It will pass. Please. It will pass.”
    The housekeeper returned, pushing a wooden trolley set with two decanters, crystal glasses, a plate of plain water biscuits, and a wedge ofthe pungent blue-veined cheese Maurice favored. With a reminder to Maurice to have no more than one glass, she left the room.
    “A decent pour for us both, if you would be so kind, Maisie.”
    Maurice took a sip of the single-malt whiskey and closed his eyes. “I have always believed in the medicinal properties of this particular eighteen-year-old distillation.”
    “I won’t argue with you, Maurice, even though I am inclined to agree with your doctor.”
    “So am I, Maisie, but that this stage of my life it does me a power of good to flout rules.” He paused, lifted the amber liquid towards the setting sun, and turned to Maisie. “And what about you?’
    “About me? Well, this morning I went to see Edward—”
    “I’m not talking about work, Maisie. It’s your life I’m interested in.”
    “My life? But my work—”
    “Your work is not your life.”
    “But…” Maisie faltered. “But your work was most of your life.”
    “Granted, it might have seemed like that, but there was more. My life here, my life in Paris, my garden, my friends, associations. How about you?”
    “Well, I…there’s my friend Priscilla, and her children.” Maisie took a sip from the schooner she had half filled with cream sherry. “What do you want to know, Maurice?”
    Maurice Blanche rested his glass on the trolley, then looked at his hands, turning them over, frowning and smiling in equal measure. “They say the face tells all there is to know about a life, but I personally believe much can be deduced from the hands. There are lines and scars, bumps and calluses; indeed, the hands are both the sketch and the final work of art.”
    Maisie looked at her hands. She had always been somewhat embarrassed by them. They were hands that told a story of hard manual laborwhen she was a child, hands that had scrubbed floors, had polished heavy oaken furniture. Later, they had soothed the sick, and had rested on the foreheads of the dying. She realized that she had no recollection of her hands as a schoolgirl, and she was uncomfortable with the conversation’s direction.
    “I saw Khan this week.”
    Maurice smiled, aware of the change in topic. “How is my dear friend?”
    “We sat together for a while. He seems old, yet at the same time, he seems not to have aged since I was a girl.” Maisie paused for just a few seconds to take a sip of sherry. “And you will never guess who I saw there.”
    “I think I can.”
    “This one might stump you, Maurice.”
    “Might it have been James Compton?’
    Maisie’s widened eyes underlined her surprise. “How did you know?”
    Maurice again waited before speaking, as if gauging his words with care. “Now, Maisie, you know better. I have to observe that, in personal matters, you do not have the breadth of vision that is at your disposal in your work. You have made a decision about James, that he is a certain kind of person, and that—given his character, as you have interpreted it—he is not worthy, perhaps, of an audience with someone you hold in the highest regard.”
    “I just didn’t think he was the type.” Maisie felt her neck grow hot, and knew how her words sounded.
    “Again, you know better.”
    “You’re right, I do. I’m sorry. But James Compton—”
    “Is a lonely man in crisis, and if I were to commend anyone to your good graces, it would be him.”
    “I feel as if I had just been reprimanded by my teacher.”
    “You have.”
    Maisie looked at Maurice, and they both began to laugh, though Maurice soon held up his hand as

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