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Update 4 April 2005
* Update art 18 May 2010 *
The Willow Pages
Willow Fawnsworthy created by M. Mitchell Marmel
"Sins and Sensibilities"
by M. Mitchell Marmel
"Sins and Sensibilities"August, 1936
From the Diaries of Willow Fawnsworthy
edited by M. Mitchell Marmel
* "Cenotaph" - Art by SusanDeer *
"...after the original at the Stagg Library, formerly St. Anthony's Church."
(larger file here - 2.2 MBytes)
The stained glass window showed four does, dressed in simple, luminous white robes, kneeling and facing me, their paws folded in prayer, each with a crown of thorns. Behind them, three New Haven bastards holding a gun, a noose and a knife. Mama, Hellie and Peggy have their heads bowed. And I found myself staring into my own eyes.
SACRED TO THE MEMORIES OF
DIANA STAGG, BELOVED MATE
GRACE, HELEN AND MARGARET STAGG, BELOVED FAWNS
CRUELLY TAKEN FROM THIS LIFE BEFORE THEIR TIME
THEIR FINAL RESTING PLACES KNOWN BUT TO GOD
THIS MEMORIAL INSTALLED IN SORROW, PENITENCE AND REMEMBRANCE
ANNO DOMINI MCMXXXV
And I leaned against the window, weeping like a schoolgirl...
I had read the article about Raksov's death with some interest. It's always easy to do armchair analysis after the action, but the plain truth was that I had been damned lucky. I had ditched the grass skirt in the compost heap simply because it was a handy spot to place vegetable matter. It hadn't occurred to me that it would also serve to conceal my scent. Dumb luck. Also, in looking back, it's a good thing I hadn't thought to relieve Comrade R. of his bankroll, as I would almost certainly have left prints on his wallet somewhere.
From a comfortable chair in my rooms, I grinned sourly to myself. Da apparently hadn't lost any of his touch...
H'm! A sidebar. "Profile: Inspector Franklin Stagg...war hero...New Haven State Police...lost his family during...early successes upon reaching Spontoon...stained glass centotaph at St. Anthony's?"
I didn't sleep well that night. Did I dare go look?
The next morning found me on a water taxi to Meeting Island.
A gentle touch on my shoulder. "Are you all right, miss?"
I started, and whirled to see a ram dressed in a plain black cassock. "Oh! I'm sorry..."
The ram smiled. "No need to apologize. I daresay that window...well, I can imagine, being a deer, that the subject matter might well prove alarming. It would be all too easy to picture one's own self in that memorial."
I dabbed my eyes with a hankerchief. "Those eyes...they, well..."
"Indeed. Sometimes, they have a similar effect on me." The ram smiled. "I'm Father Merino."
"Willow Fawnsworthy." I extended a hand, which the Father shook gravely.
"How do you do, Miss Fawnsworthy. Very few take the trouble to visit our church, so it is a pleasure to receive guests."
I gave Father Merino a wan smile. "I read about the cenotaph in the paper, but I had no idea..."
"One of my parishioners commissioned an old family friend to craft the window. Perhaps you have heard of Emmanuel Lupino, the artist?"
"The name rings a bell," I said. (Dear old Uncle Manny! I can still hear the mandolin he played as I danced with Hellie and Peggy while Mama and Da clapped. Control, girl. Control.)
"Mr. Lupino was generous enough to refuse payment for his work. He called it an 'exercise in therapy.' He leaves very little doubt in my mind as to where his sympathies lay."
I nodded grimly. "I'm from New Guernsey, a short way from Gnu York City. I followed the...events in New Haven. My sympathies lay precisely in the same... well, no need to trouble you with that." I glanced around. "This is a lovely chapel."
Father Merino nodded. "Ah, yes, well. The gentleman who commissioned the work is often here. The flowers are constantly replaced, and the candles replenished. There are many mornings when I come in for Early Mass, and I find he is already here, with his head bowed before the window. He was the husband and father of the deer represented here, as the text states. They died, you see, in the New Haven Revolution, that's what those death figures represent. The mother and two of the fawns were hung by the revolutionaries. No one knows what happened to the third, the eldest fawn. She simply vanished."
(H'm. Padre, the stories I could tell- Control, girl. Control.) "I...see. And the eldest fawn is the one looking at us?"
"That is my understanding."
(As if I didn't know. Oh, Da! Oh, Uncle Manny!) "Um. Does...the gentleman ever mention..."
Fr. Merino looked thoughtful, as if trying to phrase something without breaking a confidence. "Well, I can tell you that the fate of his eldest is something that is often in his thoughts. A father's love for his first-born is a powerful thing. You understand, of course, the limitations I labour under in describing this."
"Naturally. It was wrong of me to ask in first place." An awkward pause. "So, Inspector Stagg, he is-?"
The ram smiled gently. "As you may have read in the paper, he is one of the detectives in our constabulary. He had been a detective in his homeland, as well. Did you wish to meet him, Miss Fawnsworthy?"
(OH GOD NO OH GOD NO OH GOD NO)
I struggled to keep my composure. "I...don't think so, Father Merino. I think...well, I'm a doe...it might be hurtful."
"Quite. I see your point. Yes, that's very considerate. Well, I have lived in these Islands for many years, and I know that sooner or later, one is bound to meet up with everyone else sooner or later. If God wills it, you two will meet."
(God, I know I haven't been very good lately, but can You please see to it our paths don't cross any time soon? He's been through enough. I don't want to hurt him any more.) I manage a weak smile. "Perhaps, yes."
Father Merino smiled and gave a brief bow, his hands clasped. "Is there anything I can do for you, Miss Fawnsworthy? Our congregation is rather small, so we just have the Early Mass and Evening Mass."
"Oh! Oh, that's fine. I've been to St. Paul's already, so..."
The ram smiled. "Beautiful church, lovely acoustics, and a choir that knows how to make the most of them. Well, if you feel a need for some quiet contemplation, do pay us a visit. "
"H'm," I mused aloud. "Ye-es, I daresay I will feel the need now and again."
"I would be very pleased to see you again," Father Merino replied. He gave me a discerning look, clearly seeing that I would need some time alone. "I'll leave you to your exploration, now. Do have a look at the tile work, above. They brought in some Italians to do the work, many years ago. It would be hard to find artisans who could craft tiles in such a beautiful array of colours, today. Good morning!"
"Thank you, Father!" I smiled. "I think I shall be back..."
Still smiling gently, Father Merino softly padded away into the quiet and darkness on the other side of St. Anthony's, and vanishes through a door.
I sat and composed myself for a bit. Memories and thoughts swirled unbidden through my mind. Finally, I sighed and rose to leave.
Before I did, though, I lit a votive candle for Mama, two for Hellie and Peggy...and one for Da.
Postscript: Father Merino later told me that, after my visit, Da had come for Evening Mass, bowed his head before the window, sniffed a bit and muttered something about his mind playing tricks on him...