Chapter 9: The Birth of the Termite Community
The Birth of the Termite Community
“In the early garden, the queen lays her first eggs. At this stage, she is still able to run about quickly and work actively. Meanwhile, amazing things are happening in the fungus garden. The two insects do something to the mycelium of the plant. This retards growth and development, and at the same time the temperature of the garden begins to rise astoundingly.At first, the origin of the rise in temperature seems inexplicable. It cannot come from the termites, for their bodies are always the same temperature as that of their environment. In fact, it comes from the garden, which functions as an incubator. It is later responsible for maintaining the heat of the composite animal.”Eugéne Marais, The Soul of the White Ant
As a four-legged beast I was doubtful of what I was hearing coming from the mouth of George Ivanovich Gurdjieff but since I belong to a broad-minded breed, I was willing to entertain his words. Mystics have a tendency to speak in absolutes, an essential technique in helping to maintain a sizeable flock. Speaking in this manner brings authority to words and gives confidence to those seeking hard, fast enlightenment. Gurdjieff’s language deficiency, in other words, aided him by reinforcing his authority. His spiritual mystique was enhanced when he omitted articles and stuck to action words. The confusion he brought to the listener could inspire in them a kind of courtesy that would pardon him when they misunderstood him, and they would then fill in the gaps of logic and the inconsistencies, sparing Gurdjieff any further responsibility for explanation. His absolute vagueness leant him the space with which the followers could perceive answers they sought.
I sat with Gurdjieff’s core group that would later become what would be called The Ladies of the
Rope at the Institute of Harmonius Development of
Man at the Chateau du Prieré in Fontainebleau-Avon. The group consisted of
Georgette, Margaret Anderson and her former lover and coeditor of the famed
literary magazine, The Little Review,
Jane Heap and along with the ever faithful maid and companion, Monique. I was
intrigued enough to continue listening to their teacher, Gurdjieff, but was on
high alert when it came to his philosophies and couldn’t help myself but constantly
looking for loopholes in his logic. This formidable group of mostly left bank
artists was joined by an ailing Katherine Mansfield, a writer of note from New
Zealand who had been allowed to join the group in retreat but would not
actually participate in the “work” that would be expected of the participants
due to the graveness of her illness. Gurdjieff’s “work” came in the form of doing
chores in the garden and the property, as well as the delving into the deep
psychic conditioning and belief systems that they had strove to shed on their
way to being more authentic beings and thus, remembering their true selves.
|Margaret Anderson, Louise Davidson and Georgette|
Seemed easy enough to me.
I listened to Gurdjieff’s teachings with a cocked ear, more interested in his results than the methods he employed. This Greek Armenian immigrant had arrived in France after leaving Russia following the Revolution. His teachings were said to have been collected in his travels from Egypt to Ethiopia, an amalgamation of various teachings extending from the Sufi Sarmoung Brotherhood to the Rosicrucian Order, the Pythagoreans, the Essenes, the whirling dervishes and Zoroastrians; a synthesis of all of the knowledge known from various ancient texts with a final flourish of Gurdjieff himself. When asked where his ideas came from Gurdjieff would often laugh saying,
“Maybe I stole them.”
Gurdjieff was not a stupid man, however. He knew that his method of teaching depended on the individual leanings and weaknesses of each of his students. He was a master of observation and knew how each person might respond to any given prompt. It was uncanny. The same applied to me. As soon as I would tilt in my head to one side in disbelief, a little sardine reeking of vodka would be slipped to me. He seemed to know and was able to predict my skepticism the moment before it happened and being as I am, I could only respond to the stimulus of food when it was offered. I had no control over that. Slowly I found myself becoming more and more initiated to his ideas. They were slowly beginning to make sense. As a dog I had nothing to lose, unlike the other participants. I was along for the ride and it didn’t hurt me to go along with the others and be a follower. I lost nothing with the acceptance of bribes. My alignment with these Philosophers of the Forest, as Gurdjieff called them, made no imposition on my identity. Thankfully, dogs are free from those entanglements. There was no sweat off my back for there was no sweat to begin with; just a dog, sitting among of well-intentioned humans panting in the heat.
How I ended up here is a curious story. My previous life as Golaud had come to an end. My untimely death had been prompted by a compassionate bullet to the head by Maeterlinck’s rifle following a terrible illness. My assignment to visit Maeterlinck in his final days had uncovered many things prompting me to return to my life as a dog, so that I could investigate further. Among the many things I needed to find out, Winifred de Kok’s charges about Marais were the most pressing to me. There was no way I could complete my work with Maeterlinck without first, going back and collecting some more information. However, I had no clear way of directing myself to the source. I couldn’t, for example, simply pop into the place and time where Marais was said to have died (or pretended to die, if that was the case.) As with any process, there was work involved and I knew it wouldn’t all be easy. I had to trust that the position where I was placed would, in fact, lead me to some answers. I could only hope that I would arrive at advantageous setting that would make the knowledge I sought available to me. It was out of my paws.
I somehow ended up in the countryside on a farm, surrounded by delightfully pungent livestock of every kind. My early days in the farm were carefree and simple and I was thankful for the bucolic scenario in which I was born. As a herding dog, it was my job was to maintain order with the cows and sheep and pigs and poultry. And people. Let’s not forget them. Before I knew it, I would soon find myself with people, those that were new to me and those I had known before. That I would be returned to Georgette was the happiest part of my situation. That was a something I didn’t expect.
|Katherine Mansfield/ Chateau du Prieuré|
Having returned in this life as an energetic Berger Picard, and even without benefit of training, I felt confident that I could perform my mission, for I am a wondrous breed. I am large, smart, quick and decisive. The qualities in my possession would the traits essential to my present task. Without knowing how, I knew I would be successful. My instincts quickly took over. I ran toward the big house on the property, knowing that I would find humans. As the aromatic scent of cow breath, manure and hay left my nostrils, I captured a whiff of cigarettes mingled with a Jasmine Rose perfume approaching me as I ran with the wind tickling my erect ears that picked up the sound of feet shuffling over pebbles. The scent of Jasmine Rose was all too familiar to me but somehow I couldn’t quite place it. I didn’t linger on this thought long for I knew that I had to task to complete. As I rushed toward the scent, a joyous feeling arose in my heart and that feeling swelled and expanded as I ran. This burst of emotion overcame me, hastening me to run faster. For a moment my task had all been forgotten. I was excited without knowing why. And then I understood. A woman was
approaching me. It was Georgette. She was approaching me faster and faster
as my legs carried me to her. The smoky smell I identified was not that of Maeterlinck’s
pipe, however. There were no hints of Cherry tobacco nor of any ink or even
gunpowder, the smells I might associate with Maeterlinck. That those smells
would not be mingling together was perplexing to me. How could there be one
without the other?
|Georgette LeBlanc in the 1920s|
However, there stood Georgette with a man of new smells, of new places and people I did not know. I had not become acquainted with these scents and therefore, I didn’t fully understand them. Once I was upon the two humans, without thinking I thrust my nose into the smoking man’s crotch, lodging it so deep so that I might comprehend the complexities of this person, who was so leisurely strolling in the garden with Georgette; this man who was not Maeterlinck. Once I was roughly pushed aside, my eyes met with Georgette’s.
“Mon ami. Do I know you? Who are you dear beautiful boy?” Georgette stooped down to pet my face.
I stood, shaking with delight, surprised that she could not see her Golaud but pleased that there was some recognition in her eyes. Our bond had been re-activated. I knew immediately that we would again be friends. I had no question about that. But also in that instant, I discovered a fast aversion to the man whom I would come to learn was called Gurdjieff. I was so overcome with joy at the sight of Georgette I was able to ignore the impending sense of dread that hung over my nose. The smoky fishy smelling man had a large girth and whiskers like a Schnauzer. He had the dark eyes of a magician and those eyes penetrated me with recognition, a recognition that even seemed to surprise Gurdjieff. I turned to Georgette for whatever protection she might offer from the gaze of Gurdjieff.
“Chippy, what is that you want?” Georgette pulled me close, hugging my neck and ruffling my scruffy brow.
What is that I wanted she asked? And Chippy? Who is Chippy? Am I Chippy? I wanted to be hers, to be her pet once again. However, I had forgotten something. But what was it? I couldn’t rightly recall why I was there on a dusty trail with Georgette and this reeking man. And then it came to me. My task. Before I could continue with Georgette I had to first rescue the ailing Katherine from the hayloft. That was what I was to do. I could easily rescue her now that I found Georgette.
Had someone rescued her sooner, long before I found her, she might not have needed the cow and dung and hay she breathed. This was the stuff of houses, the cement that was able to bind together bricks. Yet this would not repair her fragile structure or cure her illness. There had been a fissure years ago. There was no repairing what ailed her. She, like Maeterlinck, had ascended to the lofty place, high above the mortals who trudge through the merde of the Earth, the soil, and above the subterranean portals, where the termites laid their eggs upon the digestive organ of the mound in the garden of fungus. I doubt there is ladder high enough that could the reach the heights of a Katherine Mansfield or even a Maeterlinck, who were untouchably distant and removed from mortals. Her illness would be the thing that would return her to Earth. And now she desired to descend the ladder.
After a series of movements, encircling Georgette and Gurdjieff, barking, nipping at their heels and then running to and fro in the direction of barn, I was finally able to communicate my mission: the rescue of Katherine Mansfield. It took all of my focus to stay en pointe and not be distracted by my joy at the sight of Georgette. I had to complete this task before that could happen.
However, once we arrived at the barn, it was Georgette and not Gurdjieff that rushed up the ladder to rescue Katherine. She had already become accustomed to scaling the stairs to such lofts, retrieving the likes of Maeterlinck from his tower so that he might return to the soil where he could at last sink his feet into the Earth and again feel the relief of the delightful mud squish between his toes. Georgette had been unaware of the magnitude of her simple gestures and what it did to restore Maeterlinck to his better self. She often said it was something that she instinctively did to “air him out” when he became intolerable and stuffy. And she’d return him to terra firma when she thought he needed to remember his Belgian roots and lower himself to the ground to be comforted by the Earth’s pulse. I knew that kind of pleasure here on the farm in Fontainebleau, those days when I’d run carelessly in the fields where the lavender grows, my tail whipping past the purple stalks, my nails spading the dirt, becoming dizzied by the buzz of the hovering bees, hovering and intoxicated by the fragrance of lavender. There is nothing like the return to the ground.
As Georgette attended Katherine down the steps of the ladder, holding onto her shaky, cold hand, she grasped her waist as she eased her down. Katherine nervously laughed and perspired.
“I feel as if I could walk a bit today. A little fresh air might do me good.”
Gurdjieff regarded her, from below, offered no hand to guide Georgette or Katherine and waited for them to be Earthbound before saying anything.
“The cows have helped. I see blush in cheek. But do not get hopes up. It is but a false respite from your illness. You die here. Very soon. I have no doubt of this. But enjoy the pleasure that life offers today. It is blessing.” From his pocket Gurdjieff pulled a piece of candy and handed it to Katherine. His heavy accent trounced on her short lived optimism as she placed her feet on the soft hay-covered ground.
Georgette wasn’t at all surprised by Gurdjieff’s blunt words. She had become accustomed to his ways and accepted them. But Katherine had not yet reached that place of acceptance. She opened the candy and popped it in her mouth, as if to sweeten his words.
“Oh, no. I know,” Katherine said apologetically. “I mean, I wasn’t saying that I have recovered by any means or anything like that. Maybe it was seeing the dog appear beneath me. I don’t know where he came from or who he might belong to but it’s just that I was happy to see such a friendly face. An intelligent face, it certainly is; a face of noble wisdom. Who is this magnificent animal?” asked Katherine as she reached to place her hand on my back.
“He is mongrel.” Gurdjieff huffed.
|Gurdjieff at Chateau du Prieuré|
As Katherine gasped for air, she clung to Georgette who was dressed in a white linen tunic with a black fabric belt that did little to conceal her form, unashamed by the lack of mystery of what was beneath. Georgette wore the costume of the group specifically designed for the work and the sacred dances they performed at the Prieuré. Katherine didn’t perform in the ritualistic dances nor did she partake in the work assigned by Gurdjieff to the others due to her illness. She only watched, absorbing the arcane energies of the dances and the lessons from lectures. Georgette, however, took a key position in the dances, performing the movements as Gurdjieff called them, front and center
covered only by her light tunic with little else beneath it.
She had been told that she was recovering from a stagnation of the liver
brought on by a lifestyle of regrets with accompanying bouts of anger at
herself for her mistakes. Her treatment included lots of red fruits, occasional
fasting and then indulgences with potatoes, vodka and fatty fish.
As I had become her both her companion and responsibility, I had a firsthand look of her prescription for her recovery and the road she was taking on her journey back to herself. There was much that I couldn’t comprehend and if I could speak there was much I would question but I had little means to rebel. At night Margaret slept beside Georgette in their little cell and then, on some nights, there would be a gentle knock on the door and a deep voice on the other side of the door would say,
“Remove your tunic. Come alone.”
Georgette would not say a word and she would mechanically remove her gown, lay it upon her bed in her place and slip into the hallway. Being an inquisitive animal, one night I followed Georgette out of the room. I followed her down the hall as she found her way in the darkness to a door. She knocked quietly and was let in. The door was just slightly ajar and inside heard the voice of Gurdjieff,
“What brings you here at this hour? Was there something that you wanted?”
Unabashed she answered, “I came because I was beckoned. What is it you wish for me? ”
I found her response somewhat disturbing. I listened from outside the door as Gurdjieff continued.
“I thought we might play a game of checkers. Do you know the rules? They are very easy. Enter.”
|Chateau du Prieuré|
I heard Gurdjieff call from inside the door did not escort Georgette.
“Has that mongrel been waiting for you in hallway this entire time? He reeks of cow manure and chicken feed. I smell him from here. ”
I didn’t like the tone he used with Georgette but she didn’t seem bothered by it. She paid his criticism no mind. Nor did she mind my odor, either. As she reached the door to her room, she whispered to me, “It seems it is the dog and not the bones that I have found. Shhh! Gurdjieff will think I am mocking him if he hears me.” She placed a forefinger to lips as if I understood this universal signal. I comprehended more of her intentions from the sounds she made, the tone of her voice and the rhythm of her speech. But I still appreciated the credit she gave me. She was like that.
I didn’t fully understand the words she spoke to me that night in the dark hallway until the following day, after my bath and after the application of orange oils that Georgette insisted would keep away the fleas. Although I found the scent she chose much too feminine for a male dog, how could I complain? I tolerated it for Georgette. Afterwards a small group had gathered on the lawn to listen to a reading from one of Gurdjieff’s text. Once I arranged all of the humans in a tidy circle, for I am
unable to deny my herding nature, I observed this very
serious group as they intently listened to the reader. My attention was
challenged, however. The growling sound coming from my stomach distracted me
and while I can’t repeat what was being read I do remember watching the humans
in the group. Mostly, they appeared confused; probably they were only
pretending to understand as they sat with fixed stares on the reader. They sat
in this way for what felt like eternity, not moving, supposedly absorbing the
wisdom of the text. That they didn’t fall asleep was surprising. Then a strange
thing happened, all at once the heads of the listeners started to wag up and
down in unison
as if they had heard some sort of mystical truth and their eyes
opened wider. Their faces shone brightly and it appeared as if they had all simultaneously
discovered completely new. I was sitting with them and I hadn’t joined them in
this sudden head bob of enlightenment. I have been known to perform that movement
but generally a treat had been involved but I saw no meat or cheese being
offered to this group and it made no sense to me. Then from the back of the
group, I heard Gurdjieff bellowing,
|Margaret Anderson picture by Georgette|
“No. Stop. That is much too clear. You make no effort to understand this. I will rearrange the text to be more ambiguous. It is too easy. You learn nothing! Bury that dog deeper.”
Margaret Anderson unwisely spoke up, “Excuse me but do you not mean, bury the bone?”
All of the glassy eyes in the group turned to Margaret in abrupt condemnation. She had evidently trespassed into a territory of questioning that was regarded as forbidden. However, very charmingly, she did not seem to notice the intimidating stare of Gurdjieff nor the stares of her fellow students for it did not appear to have the same effect on her as it did the others. Margaret’s gift of unawareness shielded and in some cases, often led her to the knowledge she was seeking. However, on other occasions, her cluelessness made her stick out and then, Gurdjieff would make an example out of her. She didn’t learn from her experience, ever.
“I call you now, Yakina, Ms. Anderson. Yak very original. Is heavy animal, too much have inside, yet always go where is most difficult, like goat. Yak choose to go where is stones, where no other animal would go, except goat who is light and for going there is natural to him. But yak will turn from smooth path and choose steep high place with stones. You ask steep question, Yakina and I mean precisely what I say. It is not the bone but the dog you have to find.”
I was very confused by this. I imagined that Margaret was just as perplexed. Did Gurdjieff not see that there was a dog sitting right here, right next to Georgette. How could he miss me? Up until this point my head had been resting in Georgette’s lap but once goats were mentioned, my mind carried me away to many thoughts and places. First, I realized that these goats and yaks would probably need herding. I would have to steer them the way I had with humans paying close attention dangers like cliffs and wild animals. Then I realized the goats and yaks would have no use for a bone, and as hungry as I was, I figured I should find a way to get this bone away from them and keep it for myself. Yaks and goats eat other things, I’m fairly certain. So with all of talk of yaks and bones, my attention had been captured. However, it was worrisome to hear Gurdjieff speak of burying a dog and not of a bone. I hoped that I wasn’t dog that being buried. Why would Gurdjieff do that?
Perhaps my past life experiences were haunting me. I have vague recollections of a hole being dug for me and then being shot by Maeterlinck or perhaps it was the other way around. I know that hole, bullet, dog in some formation were related. And not to go on about this too much but, if there was to be a bone, that bone should be given to me and this dog should remain exactly where he is, here in Georgette’s lap ready to receive that bone. But it’s very possible I didn’t fully understand Gurdjieff’s meaning since I hadn’t been listening that well to begin with. Now that he had my attention with all of this talk about holes and bones and dogs and yaks and goats, I wished I had been listening better.
“Ideas are living entities with vitality and potency. The more precious and sacred a thing, the harder one must work to uncover a thing. Idea come into our possession after great efforts and then, we bathe in the richness of our sweats for the work that we do produces a sweet essence,” explained Gurdjieff.
The heads began to wag up and down once more. I was concerned that we would be right back where we started, starting the process over again. To my relief, Gurdjieff took that moment to offer a dramatic pause and then he turned and walked away from the group, leaving them all in a profound kind of silence until he disappeared from sight. All at once the shoulders released collectively as if they were part of the choreographed sacred dance like one of the ones they had been perfecting all morning. This profound effect he had on the group was somewhat frightening to me. Everyone consulted the Master first before each judgment, each act, each decision, waiting for some approval before proceeding forward. I did not know what power he had over these people and more specifically, over Georgette and even Margaret but at least it didn’t seem to have the same effect over me. For that I was grateful.
I avoided Gurdjieff as much as possible because I found him so unpleasantly unpredictable. On some days, like today, it was unavoidable. I’m fairly certain he felt the same about me. As a rule he never spoke very highly of dogs often saying we were pack animals with lower consciousness (whatever that is) and that our kind had become undone by our uncontrollable desire to please. And then he would speak of Sirius the Dog star, the spirit of wisdom with such reverence. This confused me to no end but no one but I seemed to notice his continual inconsistencies with regards to the subject of dogs. As far as I could tell, Gurdjieff had nothing but irritation to offer me and I had concerns of my own that didn’t include Gurdjieff. What was most important to me during this time was food, a place to sleep, protection from predators and of course, Georgette.
I stayed with Georgette for most of the time she lived at the Prieuré doing my best to keep from getting in the way of the other followers that came and went, as best as I could. It wasn’t always easy. As hard as I tried, I did get into some trouble. An initiate chained me to a post after one of their sacred dance practices because my involvement was found to be somewhat disruptive to the dervishes and caused a break in the group consciousness, or so this person said. I had been moved to participate that afternoon and had improvised some original moves of my own, which the group, especially this one person, didn’t seem to admire. And so I had been banished from the dance and I stayed, for a time, chained to a post much to the chagrin of Georgette who agreed wholeheartedly with me that this was a cruel and unusual form of punishment.
Luckily, I was saved from my imprisonment before long. A package had arrived for Georgette,
in brown paper, a gift from her brother Maurice LeBlanc and within it: a book
and a letter. That afternoon Georgette freed me from my post and found a quiet
spot to open the package as she read the letter aloud to me as I sat erect at
her feet in anticipation of news from outside.
My dear Georgette,
It had been some time since we have been able to see one another now that you have become so ensconced with the likes of your Armenian Cagliostro! He has no doubt by now, mesmerized you with his dark eyes and hypnotized your legacy from your purse. I imagine you are now part of a scandalous plot to defraud the Queen of her crown jewels and prompt a revolution! At least I hope that’s what you are doing. Do you not recall a similar story from my book, The Extraordinary Adventures of Arséne Lupin, a story I wrote with you in mind, my dear sister? Please forgive me but my imagination is getting the best of me now and I find I am unable to restrain it.
It was not uncommon for Georgette to look up from her letters and offer commentary from her correspondences to me as read aloud. As much as I loved the letters she received from all sorts of artists, musicians, long time admirers of her work and potential prodigies, I did so enjoy the things she felt moved to say in response to what she was reading. She brought the letters to life when she read. I felt like I was part of the conversation with these unknown people and that she read just for my benefit.
“Chippy do not worry. My brother is a playful sort and he is captivated with this idea that I have run off with an occult charlatan. I often think he keeps me around just to throw a little fuel to the fire of whatever is he cooking up his mind. Like someone else, right, dear Chippy? That is the way of writers, is it not? They take from whatever source is available to them. But alas, you do not know. You were not there, of course. That was a lifetime ago.”
But I did know and I offered a raspy bark and nipped at the air in recognition of my knowledge. My natural smile brightened, and I hoped she would see that I did remember. I thought she might look into my eyes and somehow see the Golaud that had been there when she cried herself to sleep after Maeterlinck had reduced to her tears for even daring to suggest that perhaps he had borrowed an idea of hers or had written an item word-for word from one of her letters. I was there and I watched as she swallowed her pride, as she tip-toed around the house, fearful of disturbing the genius at work, so insistent upon a meditative silence to work that it forced Georgette to eventually rent a studio of her own so that she could prepare her roles for the stage. But she didn’t see any of that in my eyes and instead, she lifted her lorgnette back to her eyes for further reading.
Among the other things I wished I could restrain myself from sharing, you will find the latest work from Monsieur Maeterlinck included in the package. I hesitated to include this but I knew it was only a matter of time before word reached your proverbial mountaintop retreat. From what I can surmise, the book seems to be Maeterlinck’s effort to recreate the success of The Life of Bees. What is this obsession that the men in your life seem to always have with Bees? First Maeterlinck and now Gurdjieff. I understand that Gurdjieff has some connection to a secret Brotherhood of Bees? Were they not called the Sarmoungs? I am of course hearing this third or fourth hand. It all seems very mystical and exclusive to me! However, I doubt they’d allow me in. I am certain there would be a test to pass and you know, I have no patience for these things.
At any rate, this time Maeterlinck has written a book about the Life of Termites. It has caused a bit of a ruckus from a fellow in South Africa who claims that he wrote it first. Imagine that? As you well know, M. has never been above some creative borrowing. I wonder, how does he purport to be an expert on termites when he’s never actually visited a nest? Was there an infestation at the castle he hasn’t mentioned? More particularly, as far as I know, he has never visited South Africa and even stepped on a tsetse fly, much less delved into the caverns of termites indigenous to that land. The South African man may have a case if he has the means to pursue it. And luckily for Maeterlinck, I fear the cost of the case might outweigh the settlement.
I have included his book so that I might hear your thoughts. There have been some murmurings about town but no one has dared say much of anything to me but from what I can determine Maeterlinck is now regarded as a kind of sad has-been and this latest intrigue is doing nothing for his reputation. It has been said around town that you were both a credit to his success and a credit to his demise as an artist. As your brother, I find that evaluation unfair. I know you did nothing but try and help the man. So perhaps we can now etch the name Marais next to yours on that dust collector, that Nobel Prize of his. If he anything similar to a conscience…well, I’ll just leave it at that.
But, dear sister, I know that you are far beyond the idle gossip of Café Society at this time in your life. I write this only to inform, not to annoy you. You should know that I cannot give up my innate tendency to guard and protect my sister and then, occasionally, amuse you. You are forever in my heart and I wish you every happiness in all that you do. Sister sends her warmest wishes.
Maurice, The First
Georgette pushed a tear away and smiled for a moment in spite of her apparent sadness.
“Whatever else, I have Maurice and now I have you, Chippy. How lucky I am to have such a brother and a friend as dear as you two. My sister, too, has rescued me more times than I care to think. And Maeterlinck? What has he done now? His imagination must be bone dry in order to attempt something like this. Ah, but, what does it matter? He’ll get away with it I’m sure. He generally does.”
Georgette sighed a long sigh; the sort that comes from the depths of disappointment, as if all the work she had done to guide Maeterlinck had been for naught, like the mother that sits with her progeny in his jail cell as they offer him his last meal. She might shrug like Georgette did in that moment, not knowing if there was anything she could have done other than bake a batch of his favorite sweets. I felt a pang of guilt then for some unknown reason. I couldn’t quite place the source of it. However, it is possible that I mistook the sensation of guilt when it could have just as easily been an instinctual reaction to Georgette saying the word, “bone.”
It was surprising to me that after 6 years of separation, Maeterlinck still remained a fixture in Georgette’s heart. How is it that he found his place there and had entrenched himself so deeply? Was it possible that her love of Maeterlinck was something that Georgette dreamed up? Or was it that she wasn’t ever actually in love with Maeterlinck but instead, had fallen in love with the image of herself that he created with his words. Margaret had suggested such an idea. Still, for Georgette, her love had been very real. And far be from me to try and ascertain the workings of a human heart. All I knew was that it hurt me to see Georgette in this distraught condition even for a fleeting moment. I couldn’t stand it! She was my person. Suddenly, I wanted to bite Maeterlinck for making her feel sad in any way. I wanted to sink my teeth into his calf and not let go until he fell to his knees and begged for forgiveness.
Georgette opened the book, The Life of the White Ant, like prayer in her palms and rested it on her lap. Without the use of her reading glass she flipped through a few pages, scanning the Contents and the Introduction. She looked for some word of thanks or some mention of Marais, this unknown man from another continent. It was the first time that she had heard of the name, Eugéne Marais, and that’s all it was to her; a name. He had no face. He had no story. He had no words that Georgette could hear. Names of italicized erudite Scientists and their references had been scattered throughout the pages, fully accredited and institutionally endorsed authorities were cited but the name, Marais could not be found. Throughout the annotations, his name was loudly missing, screaming with omission. Exclusivity in this alliance of respected experts seemed to Georgette like a pack of wolves that know their own and shun the others. Marais had been excluded.
“I think I should very much like to know this Marais. For indeed he had something that the others lack and I would very much like to know what it is about him that they find so terrifying.”
Charged with determination, Georgette stood up suddenly allowing the book, the letter, the packaging and the lorgnette to fall upon the ground. She had come to some great decision. That was clear. And once Georgette made up her mind about just about anything, there was little anyone could do to stop her.
“Chippy, I believe we are done here for now. You are a herding dog. Alert the others, it is time to pack my things and return to civilization for a time. My brother must know what he is doing, I’ll give him that. He knew it would take the right set of circumstances to remove me from my work here. If he had begged or pleaded or accused me of joining a sect I would have never left. But he is much too clever for that, isn’t he, Chippy? I still have another adventure left in me, I think, and you, my smiling pup, are going to take this one with me. Prepare yourself, Chippy. Your life will never be the same again!”
This was a different Georgette than the one who had been so thoughtfully and quietly seeking enlightenment during her stay at The Prieuré. This Georgette was the one I remembered from a lifetime ago: the one who was guided by her intuition, who had the best nose in the world for picking up a scent, and who followed that scent. Next to mine, of course.
As enlivening as Georgette’s words were to me, a small part of me was afraid and I didn’t know why. If indeed my life was to change forever as Georgette has said, would it be for the better? It is possible that I was about to travel down a path where there would be no way of finding my way to the Prieuré, back to the farm and the lavender fields and the perfumes of the lung expanding cow dung. I was to be whisked away from everything that I have known in this lifetime, rushing towards circumstances where I would have no control. Somehow I know that once I walk away from this place, I will never return. That thought, while exciting, carries an air of finality, a finality I had not prepared myself. And I can only calm this growing anxiety of mine with this one thought: At least I am getting away from Gurdjieff.
Coming soon... Chapter 10: Pain and Travail in Nature
Coming soon... Chapter 10: Pain and Travail in Nature
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