Marie Beguine (A Forrester Maid)

Marie returned to the maid’s chamber, leaving Amelie alone once again with the young man the Colonel had brought into the house.

She wasn’t sure if she liked this Johnny Holiday, though she had to admit that he was a handsome fellow, tall and strong with a smooth complexion.

He was just the sort of young man that Amelie was fond of, and Marie thought it was dangerous to have him living in the house, even if he was in the guest quarters.

Amelie had already asked her for the key to his room, and she would have to give it to her even though Nils, the head butler would be upset with her if he found out.

Marie would much rather face Nils’ anger than Amelie’s.

Marie was worried for the Colonel’s older daughter. She had not been herself for months, neither of the girls had, but Amelie seemed particularly unpredictable, she even seemed to be surprising herself. There were times in the past few months when she had come to Marie to ask her what time she had come home, who she had gone out with, what if anything had she said about the things she was doing.

Amelie had become paranoid, and she drank strong liquor throughout the day. This troubled Marie.

The other servants had noticed as well, but none of them were as close to Amelie as Marie was. They enjoyed their gossip, but Marie thought of the girl as a daughter. She wanted her to be happy.

The common wisdom was that she had driven her husband, Bjorn Elmquist away, but Marie believed that something terrible had happened to him, though she did not know what it might be.

Amelie had begun to behave strangely shortly after the two of them were married, and it had been a short engagement. Bjorn was a gregarious and fascinating man, Marie loved to eavesdrop on him when he was regaling an audience with his stories, mostly the Colonel, who ardently admired him.

This new young man, this Johnny-boy, he had been hard on Amelie, and Marie did not like that. He had exacerbated her nerves causing her to spill her drink. Marie was happy to come in and clean things up, but she could tell that Amelie was deeply embarrassed by the mishap.

And it would not have happened at all if Johnny Holiday had simply been more polite. He must be something extra special to the Colonel to think that he could get away with that kind of behavior in the Forrester Mansion, Marie thought. And if that were the case all of the staff should know to let the boy have plenty of space.

It would be best if Nils handled his needs while he was a guest at the mansion, Marie said to herself.

She wanted nothing to do with him.

Day One – Nils Vindhler, the Forrester’s Butler

Nils stood at the window overlooking the front yard, which afforded him a long view of Mount Curve.

He watched a convertible approach the house from blocks away, spotting it just as soon as the car began its ascent of the ridge.

This would be Johnny Holiday, he said to himself, the first and only appointment for Colonel Forrester today.

He watched as the young man came to a stop along the street in front of the house.

He is early, Nils remarked to himself.

The young man allowed the engine to idle as if he was not sure that he would stay.

Nils watched as he sat in the car, smoking a cigarette.

The Colonel told him that he was from the newspaper and had given Nils instructions to prepare a room for him, along with several other things. Nils took care of that business and gave instructions to the staff regarding him.

From the corner of his eye he observed the dogs watching the car as well. They were good boys, silent and steady as Nils had trained them to be.

He watched as the young man finished his cigarette and got out of his car, observing his manners as he straightened his belt and tie, smoothed the front of his shirt with his hands, while brushing the stray ash away. Then he adjusted the tilt of his hat.

His cloth was poor, but his manners told him that the boy cared about his appearance.

That speaks well of him, Nils thought.

He displayed a steady gait and sure footedness as he came to the door, moving beyond Nils’ line of sight.

Nils listened while he knocked, three short taps, forceful so as to be heard, but not demanding.

He was polite with the maid who came to the door. Nils listened while he waited in the hall.

He went to a vestibule where he could observe Johnny Holiday further.

Nils watched as he examined the furnishing, while giving none of his thoughts away.

He has a placid, observant disposition, Nils thought.

Just as he about to enter the hallway and greet the young man, Celene, the Colonels daughter, came into the hallway. Nils stopped to watch their encounter.

It was unexpected, Celene was not herself; she had not been of sound mind for some months, staying out late, dancing and drinking with irreputable people.

That fact disturbed Nils, but there was little he could do about it. The Colonel’s daughters were not his responsibility.

Once again, the young man was polite, while Celene was playful, intrusive and silly, in her spoiled-childish way.

He played along with her games, he seemed to be enjoying himself while at the same time attempting to keep his composure, and to control the situation.

This speaks well of him too, Nils thought.

Just as Celene was taking her games a little farther than Nils liked, pretending to faint and fall into the young man’s arms, Nils entered the room and broke up the play.  

Day One – Colonel Albert “Guy” Forrester

He listened as the young man walked away, escorted by Nils. There was a stiffness to his gait, an unsteadiness that made the Colonel wonder if he was slightly drunk, or merely hungover, though it was possible that he was simply nervous.

The Colonel followed their progress with his ears, standing at his work bench, still as a statue.  His hearing was sensitive enough to discern the difference between their footsteps as they went through the grass. He listened as they crossed the drive and reached the house, where Nils opened the door to the guest suite for him, once again, leading from behind and inviting him inside.

Johnny Holiday, an absurd name, the Colonel thought; it was a name that lacked gravitas. People would be inclined to take him lightly.

When the door closed behind them, the Colonel turned his back to the table. With a few concise steps he neatly cleared the detritus from both the table and his tools; he was as efficient as a waiter decrumbing a table.

He returned everything to the work bench and resumed tending to his flowers.

He examined the contents boiling in the cauldron, stirring the aromatic brew with a long handled wooden spoon.

It was hot outside, but he enjoyed the scent of herbs, and flowers with undertones of pine wafting from the pot in steaming waves, adding to the humidity in the garden.

He watched the dark clouds gathering in the Western sky, considering the day ahead, and that it would soon be raining; he would driving right into the storm on his way to the Chalet in Kensington, on the banks of Lake Roland.

The Colonel had enjoyed his conversation with Holiday, though he kept it to himself. He found the young man to be both honest and insightful, and though nervous, as most men were in his presence, Holiday did not wilt under pressure.

There is promise in him, the Colonel thought, as a cool stream of air blew across his face carrying with it the scent of flint.