Ooh. Touche

A Desperate Fortune - Susanna Kearsley

. . . here she was, sitting as usual in the salon in her chair by the window with Frisque, her dog, curled on her lap, and her other two cousins, Gaspard and Jacques, idly debating some trivial point about bridges and which were the longest, and Mary felt certain that anything, anything, would be a blessed relief.


"Does it honestly matter?" she asked Gaspard. "Surely each bridge is as long as it needs to be, and serves it's purpose as well as the others."


Gaspard, who was four years her junior, his dark hair just recently clipped to allow for the white-powdered wig with its short sides and black-ribboned queue that he thought made him look much more serious, turned now and spoiled the effect with a grin. "That is so like you English, to judge such an intricate thing as a bridge by its function, and no other measure."


"How else would one measure a bridge, but by whether it does what you built it to do?" Mary countered. "And I am not English."


"Half English, then."


Collette, between them, looked up from her sewing and shook her head, setting her bright curls to dancing. "No, no, she is right. Uncle Guillaume is Scottish, not English."


Gaspard blew a sharp puff of air to declare the distinction irrelevant. "What does it matter which nation she claims?"


He looked so very much the part of the young gallant then that Mary had to take great pains to hide her smile, for she was far too fond of him to wish to wound his pride. Instead, she settled one hand on the silken fur of Frisque's warm back and felt the lazy thump-thump of the little dog's tail on her lap. "I claim neither," she said. "I am happily nationless."


Jacque, who would not be fourteen till next month but who was, without question, more thoughtful than all of them, stirred in his own chair. . . "No person can truly be nationless."


Mary knew otherwise. She had been born without a nation – – daughter of an exile at the French court of a foreign king who had himself no country and no crown. The fact her mother had been French gave her but partial claim to call herself the same, and she had never tried to do so. . . while everybody else called her "Marie," in her own mind she was still "Mary", neither Scots nor French, but falling in between.


She plainly said so to her cousins now, and Colette answered, "Silly, if you will not stand in Scotland and you will not stand in France, you will have no place left to stand but in the water that divides them."


To which Gaspard added slyly, "Perhaps then our talk of bridges will not bore you."

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