Madame Marie, sharp at the gaming tables, was an innocent when it came to human nature. True, she knew how to flatter and ingratiate herself with compliments, but she believed it made people like her. Those women with their nasty claws would have ripped her apart as soon as she showed the smallest sign of weakness. They invited her because she was entertaining, but they loved to talk and speculate about her behind her back. Who was she really, a poor nobody, with no house and no fortune and no servants or slaves save a little black girl. She never suspected a thing, not once. It was not in her nature to think ill of others, and so she could not conceive what malice lay behind those fans, those painted smiles, those eyes that looked askance.
He knew. He was one of their kind. But she did not see that in him. She gave him the benefit of the doubt. He had saved our lives, she said. And Pierre, he went to his death that night, but it had been no fault of the horse master. It occurred to her that that Devil had profited from Pierre’s death, that he had taken Pierre’s hidden gold and made himself into a gentleman, but she would not expose him.
‘Pierre is dead. He had no family. His wealth is of no use to him, and if that young man uses it to better himself in this world, it should be none of our concern,’ she said, admonishing me not to speak of his past.
You see, she thought he was like her, after he had told her his story in the long afternoons. As a homeless boy taken in by a kind benefactor but turned out after the man’s death by a cruel heir, he had come to soldier in the new world. And when the war began and the British forts were burned, he had sympathized with the rebels and with freedom and had deserted and fought alongside them. And when the armies had left the area, he had found work with Monsieur Pierre.
She pitied him, and she taught him. He was a good mimic but sometimes missed the finer points of etiquette, she said. She was patient with him, and I could see that earnest expression on her face as they sat on the veranda, and he talked of things which must have meant something to her, of loneliness and longing and losing his place in the world though it was no fault of his own. He did not make romantic overtures which I could see made her suspect other men and brush them off with her light inoffensive charm.
She thought they were friends, but besides Pierre, she had no real friend in this world who could help her. And I fool that I was, I was blinded by passion, too blind to warn her of his perfidy.