Golden Parisienne

Philo made an alteration to the house in the Place Dauphine for Romelle. He had once planned the change for her mother, but set it aside when Beth married Bart.
Skylights were cut through the peppercorn tiles of the roof to make a large, sunny room of the once musty garret above his study. Two front windows looked down on the Place, and also gave a lovely view of the city beyond. He had planned it as a painting studio, but with the addition of a small bathroom, a dressing room, a cozy sleeping alcove, and a fireplace, it made an ideal suite for Romelle.
The alcove, designed to suggest a sultana's tent, was a gift from Eugénie, who adapted it from Josephine's semi-circular bed chamber at Malmaison. Ormolu ribs supported crimson velvet hangings from the ceiling to the floor. They curved upward and inward to a dome-like circle at the center of the ceiling painted to represent a cloud-strewn sky. The large figure of a golden eagle held with its talons the framework of a canopy hung with swags of gold velvet to drape around the bed. The nook constituted a work of art.
The walls of the studio and sitting area at the front displayed paintings by Beth. Also hanging were several works presented to Beth by her famous Impressionist friends, including two from her one-time teacher, Pierre Auguste Renoir.
Although she loved them all, Romelle gave places of honor to her mother's own exquisite study of Bart, and to a vivid neo-Impressionist canvas of Beth herself, painted by Georges Seurat. She placed them together above the fireplace mantel.
Romelle loved to dabble at painting on her mother's old easel, standing on a chair to reach the tops of the large canvases she preferred to use. It was a great day in the household when she announced that she was tall enough to take the chair away. She was then fourteen, in attitude and appearance almost a woman.
She maintained a steady correspondence with Kathy through all those years, continuing to beg her to come over from Baltimore and "become a jeune parisienne, like me."But Kathy was of a less adventurous spirit and chose to remain at home with her parents.
Philo had time and again offered Bridget and Michael opportunities to visit abroad and would have been delighted to welcome Kathy as a permanent companion and schoolmate for Romelle.
"If there were not an ocean between America and France, I would accept the invitation," Bridget wrote back. "But I found when I came over from Ireland as a young girl that the sea and me are not good friends. Besides, if you think I would turn my husband loose in Paris, Cap'n, well, you do not know me!"
Dora had recovered fully, but for a troublesome backache when the weather turned cold, and had elected to stay on at the North Charles Street house instead of going back to Boston.
"I've no family there anymore," she wrote to Philo when the decision was made, "an' after what I went through, I guess I've earned the right to call North Charles me home. Bridget needs me about the house, an' I must have somethin' to do. I thank you, sir, fer all the money you wanted me to have, an' I'd like you to know I've put it away fer me dowry if it ever comes to that!"
Eventually, it did come to that. Dora married Harold, the butler, in 1902, two years after the death of his wife, Hattie, the cook.
On the eve of Philo and Romelle's departure from Farnborough Hill after a week-long visit to the Empress Eugénie on the occasion of her seventy-sixth birthday in May 1902, catastrophic news came from Martinique.
Both Eugénie and Philo were immediately reminded of an earlier occasion, on Romelle's third birthday in 1889, when Pierre Bontay had spoken of a prophecy foretelling the event.
"I once witnessed a voodoo ritual on the slopes of our dormant volcano, Mont Pelée," he had said then. "An 'old one' from the spirit world spoke through a woman, warning that the mountain would waken one day and destroy us all!"  

Table of Contents · Continue