|tetsubinatu (tetsubinatu) wrote,|
@ 2011-12-22 22:55:00
Sometimes Juana dreamed of her school days, of endless days of tedium broken only by the bells marking the seven sacred offices and of Sister Teresa's perpetually disappointed face when Juana would run in the cloister, or talk when she should be listening.
Enrique and all her new friends worried so, for her, and she could never make them see how fervently she preferred her new life to the old. A convent sounded so safe, so suitable - but she had never wanted to be safe or suitable, never felt as if she could breathe amid the low murmurings of the nuns and their measured tread within the confinement of the convent walls.
Mondays, deportment; Tuesdays, music; Wednesdays, arithmetic; Thursdays - she could have screamed (did scream once or twice when she was little and thought that it might make a difference) at the predictability of her days. Never a new taste, a new face, a new thought - and how did the rest of her classmates seem so content with this blancmange of a life?
She had thought when she was younger that the outside of the convent would be better, but when Maria Josepha had returned to the convent a widow after only two years outside the walls and taken her vows as a nun Juana had learned better. To be a wife was just as tedious as life within the convent, Juana had learned, only lonelier and subject to a mother-in-law rather than to the mother abbess.
Juana was made of sterner stuff than Maria Josepha, she had thought; it would be better for her. She would not accept a husband who had such an unkind mother - better yet, he should be an orphan. He would teach her to ride beautiful horses such as her father had owned, and take her proudly on his arm to glittering balls and concerts. She would be able to run and dance and even sing whenever she wished and he would only laugh and call her his darling. So she thought on her good days.
But then there were also days when the rain or the heat was oppressive and she wondered whether her husband would beat her like the husband of Maria Augustina, who had arrived at the convent with several broken ribs and never, even yet, spoke above a whisper.
When Juana dreamed of her convent days she would awake knowing herself the luckiest of women. To have found her Enrique - to share his life - was better than any conventional marriage she could have anticipated. The energy which the nuns had deplored was an asset in her new life; the passionate nature which had thrown itself with useless ferocity at the nuns, at her companions and against the convent walls gave her strength to persevere, bringing admiration and friendship from the men surrounding her.
Cadoux wondered how Smith, of all people, had been lucky enough to win such a wife. Such a mess of a man, Smith, and never for one moment still! There were times when Cadoux wanted nothing more than to find the wind-up key that must surely animate Smith and throw it away! On and on, he went with his insufferable dogs and horses and the endless flow of people around him - superiors, inferiors, locals, staff - anything to keep the man from the solitude of his own head, it sometimes seemed.
Cadoux would not even speak of his attire. One shuddered at the mere thought. But clearly Smith's man was far too busy committing petty larceny and coordinating the needs of Smith's sprawling ménage to have a moment for such crucial matters as laundry or replacement of buttons. It was clear where his master's priorities lay. Oh he was clearly a competent officer - but his character was quite another matter!
So for Smith to have acquired a wife - such a wife - was really quite inexplicable, although his treatment of her thereafter was quite to pattern. Kincaid, a good fellow, was clearly smitten and had been there at the time - so why the senorita had chosen Smith remained a mystery. Cadoux, previously prone to choosing his own bivouac with an eye to maximum distance from wherever Smith had ended up, found himself increasingly circling the Smiths, drawn in by the sheer puzzle of it all.
There came a day when he danced with Mrs Smith, his hand around her waist, her face animated with the joy of music and good company as she chattered of 'Enrique' and his fellow officers. Cadoux looked across the room to see Kincaid's face as he watched them and knew that his defences against them all - the whole messy household - were crumbling with every measure they danced.
He withdrew a little, kept to himself for a while. Sometimes he would drawl a mild criticism in his most languid tones just to see Smith's eyes spark in annoyance, or Kincaid's knowing smirk at the pair of them.
And then one day his horse scrambled out of a brook towing Smith behind him. Somehow it was not as horrific an experience as it might have been only months before, especially when Smith ended up in the thick of it with him. Cadoux felt the battle-rush hit him and grinned at his uninvited guest before he turned to his duty.
It was enough. After the battle Smith was just as manic as ever but somehow Cadoux had joined the ranks of his intimates, invited to share a bottle or a plundered ham as the case might be, and Cadoux found it impossible to refuse, impossible not to enjoy the feeling of belonging, of comradeship.
From that time on he bivouacked with the Smiths when at all possible, taking his turn with the others to dance with Juana whenever the opportunity arose and accepting her motherly reproaches whenever he scared her. The noise and inconvenience of the household did not impair his own man's ability to keep Cadoux' uniform in good condition, after all, and the cooking and conversation were quite exceptional under the circumstances.
He might still have wished for the wind-up key from time to time, however.