Cezanne's Quarry

Cezanne's Quarry by Barbara Pope Read Free Book Online

Book: Cezanne's Quarry by Barbara Pope Read Free Book Online
Authors: Barbara Pope
that she believed in the saints and the Virgin Mary. It gave her comfort to think of them watching over her. She knew I was not here to tear down religion. I’m a deist, not an atheist. It doesn’t have to be like it is, here in France. Here, if you declare yourself a republican you feel it necessary to reject not only the Church but any semblance of religious feeling. And yet men of your party like your women brought up by nuns. So they’ll obey you, I suppose. But whom do they obey in the end? Their anti-clerical husband, or the parish priest who has the power to save their souls? Solange and I were striving for middle ground where science and religion, and men and women, could truly meet.”
    Although he did not like being lectured to by a foreigner, Martin had no riposte for this. He knew from his own experience that what Westerbury was saying was not far off the mark. But how in the world did a foreigner and a Parisian hatmaker come to believe they could change things?
    “As for money,” the Englishman continued, “it really wasn’t an issue. You don’t fall in love with a milliner for her money.”
    Not unless you yourself are penniless , Martin thought. Then he asked, “What about other men?”
    “Solange was faithful to me, I’m sure of it. We told each other everything.”
    Martin gave Westerbury time to go on, but the Englishman chose silence. He picked up his hat and ran his fingers around the brim, turning it slowly. All that could be heard was the scratching of Joseph’s pen, and then the scrape of the clerk’s chair along the wooden floor as he shifted his position. Given Westerbury’s eagerness to expand on other topics, Martin was sure the Englishman was lying about this one.
    “Even if what you say is true,” he paused so that Westerbury could absorb his skepticism, “we will still need a list of all your acquaintances.”
    “Surely you don’t believe that any of them would—”
    “Please give their names and professions slowly so that my clerk can record them accurately.”
    Resigned, Westerbury began describing his circle quietly and mechanically. The only women who attended the salon were an aspiring artist and the wife of a law professor, who attended with her husband. The other men, a dozen writers and professors and a bookdealer, seemed respectable enough, and probably all republicans.
    When Westerbury stopped, Martin laid down his pen and waited. Westerbury kept turning his hat slowly in his hands. Finally, Martin insisted that he did not believe the list was complete. When the Englishman shrugged, Martin pounced. “What about Cézanne?”
    Despite Westerbury’s best efforts, Martin detected a flinch. Even Old Joseph turned around, sensing a dramatic confrontation in the offing.
    After glancing from Martin to his greffier, Westerbury began. “We knew Paul Cézanne, but he was not, precisely speaking, a member of the circle. If you knew him, you’d know he is a misanthrope, a bear, someone who. . . .” The Englishman groped for the right words. “Someone who is not really fit for the kind of world that Solange wanted to create. She liked laughter. She loved what you French call esprit . She thought that if we all took ourselves too seriously, we would never agree on anything. Cézanne, God knows, takes himself very seriously.”
    Martin wrote down and circled the artist’s name several times. “Then why was he a friend?”
    “There you go,” said Westerbury, pointing his hat at Martin’s pen. “There you go. Here’s an example of something that Solange and I could disagree about without getting angry with each other. She thought he was a misunderstood genius. She felt sorry for him. She wanted to encourage him. She was that way, you know, generous. There was nothing to be jealous of. I would not have minded even if . . . even if she had agreed to sit for him.”
    “Quite generous of you,” Martin mumbled and looked up in time to see Westerbury scowl. “And what,” he

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