The Prince(3)

By: Tiffany Reisz

“Matthew, thank you. Come in, please.” Father Henry motioned the boy into the office. The boy, Matthew, cast curious glances at him while standing at near attention in front of the priest’s desk. “How much French did you have with Father Pierre before he passed?”

Matthew shifted his weight nervously from foot to foot. “Un…année?”

Father Henry smiled kindly. “It’s not a quiz, Matthew. Just a question. You can speak English.”

The boy sighed audibly with relief.

“One year, Father. And I wasn’t very good at it.”

“Matthew, this is Kingsley…” Father Henry paused and glanced down at a file in front of him “…Boissonneault?”

Kingsley repeated his last name, trying not to grimace at how horribly Father Henry had butchered it. Stupid Americans.

“Yes, Kingsley Boissonneault. He’s our new student. From Portland.”

It took all of Kingsley’s self-control not to correct Father Henry and remind him that he’d been living in Portland for only six months. Paris. Not Portland. He was from Paris. But to say that would be to reveal he not only understood English, but that he spoke it perfectly; he had no intention of gracing this horrible hellhole with a single word of his English.

Matthew gave him an apprehensive smile. Kingsley didn’t smile back.

“Well, Matthew, if your French is twice as good as mine, we’re out of options.” Father Henry lost his grin for the first time in their whole conversation. Suddenly he seemed tense, concerned, as nervous as young Matthew. “You’ll just have to go to Mr. Stearns and ask him to come here.”

At the mention of Mr. Stearns, Matthew’s eyes widened so hugely they nearly eclipsed his face. Kingsley almost laughed at the sight. But when Father Henry didn’t seem to find the boy’s look of fear equally funny, Kingsley started to grow concerned himself.

“Do I have to?”

Father Henry exhaled heavily. “He’s not going to bite you,” the priest said, but didn’t sound quite convinced of that.

“But…” Matthew began “…it’s 4:27.”

Father Henry winced.

“It is, isn’t it? Well, we can’t interrupt the music of the spheres, can we? Then I suppose you’ll just have to make do. Perhaps we can persuade Mr. Stearns into talking to our new student later. Show Kingsley around. Do your best.”

Matthew nodded and motioned for him to follow. In the foyer they paused as the boy wrapped a scarf around his neck and shoved his hands into gloves. Then, glancing around, he curled up his nose in concentration.

“I don’t know the French word for foyer.”

Kingsley repressed a smile. The French for “foyer” was foyer.

Outside in the snow, Matthew turned and faced the building they’d just left. “This is where all the Fathers have their offices. Le pères…bureau?”

“Bureaux, oui,” Kingsley repeated, and Matthew beamed, clearly pleased to have elicited any kind of encouragement or understanding from him.

Kingsley followed the younger boy into the library, where Matthew desperately sought out the French word for the place, apparently not realizing that the rows upon rows of bookcases spoke for themselves.

“Library…” Matthew said. “Trois…” Clearly, he wanted to explain that the building stood three stories high. He didn’t know the word for stories any more than he knew library, so instead he stacked his hands on top of each other. Kingsley nodded as if he understood, although it actually appeared as if Matthew was describing a particularly large sandwich.

A few students in armchairs studied Kingsley with unconcealed interest. His grandfather had said only forty or fifty students resided at Saint Ignatius. Some were the sons of wealthy Catholic families who wanted a traditional Jesuit education, while the rest were troubled young men the court ordered here to undergo reformation. In their school uniforms, with their similar shaggy haircuts, Kingsley couldn’t tell the fortunate sons from the wards of the court.

Matthew led him from the library. The next building over was the church, and the boy paused on the threshold before reaching out for the door handle. Raising his fingers to his lips, he mimed the universal sign for silence. Then, as carefully as if it were made of glass, he opened the door and slipped inside. Kingsley’s ears perked up immediately as he heard the sound of a piano being played with unmistakable virtuosity.

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