Book Title: Chateau Laux
Author: David Loux
Publication Date: April 6, 2021
Publisher: Wire Gate Press
Page Length: 292 Pages
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A young entrepreneur from a youthful Philadelphia, chances upon a French aristocrat and his family living on the edge of the frontier. Born to an unwed mother and raised by a disapproving and judgmental grandfather, he is drawn to the close-knit family. As part of his courtship of one of the patriarch’s daughters, he builds a château for her, setting in motion a sequence of events he could not have anticipated.
Excerpt from Chateau Laux, starting on Chapter TWELVE, Page 95 . . .
Long before Martin Luther, Jean Calvin, and the Protestant Reformation, there were a number of groups, in addition to Catholics, who called themselves Christians, and while their beliefs differed in fundamental ways, one of the problems they all shared was explaining how a just, all-powerful God could countenance evil in the world. The Cathar solution was simple. According to them, there were two gods—a New Testament god of goodness and light, and an Evil One, who ruled the physical world, where unholiness prevailed. Pierre may have reached the point where he no longer wished to think of himself as a religious man, because he had witnessed firsthand the malevolence of the followers of a so-called loving god, be they Catholic, Protestant, or otherwise. But his mother had been a devoutly religious woman, whether he liked it or not. He could reject her Catharism. But he couldn’t reject her love, no matter how problematic it seemed, and the seed of her faith followed him to the New World, where all things were not as new as he might have hoped.
Little prepared him for that desperate ocean passage into what was then still largely an unknown. People left the European ports and but precious fewcame back, and at the age of thirteen, Pierre found himself on a ship crammed with hollow-eyed men, huddled women, and sickly children. In extremis, a person needs a sustaining thought, something to hold onto, and he thought of horses. The manoirhad had a stable and he remembered the smell of them, their sighs and shuddering vocalizations, their settlings and shufflings. As a young child, he would press his cheek against the massive velvet noses and breathe the same air they breathed, imagining he was running with them through lush green fields. He dreamed he was one of them, heart to heart and soul to soul, and on the rolling and tossing ship to the New World, the word for them was the first that he learned in English.
His teacher was a Norman boy who worked as a deckhand and whom he would meet on the bow, where the fresh breezes blew. The Norman had a blistered, brickred face and blue eyes pale as water.
“You talk funny,” the Norman said.
“If that’s what you think, then you should hear yourself. I can hardly understand a word you say.”
The Norman gave a snort.
“You’re kind of quiet, aren’t you, and now maybe I know why. If people can’t figure out what you’re saying, then why say anything at all? Right?”
The Norman laughed at his own joke, but both boys knew it was not always easy for one person to understand another. In the land they were from, residents of one village struggled to talk to the residents of another, and a person from as far away as another valley was sometimes impossible to understand. The fact that the boys could speak to each other at all was due to Pierre’s education—which was not at all a common thing—and his familiarity with the language of the Far Court, as his father had called it.
“So, tell me,” the Norman said, shaking his head. “With all of the English words that I know and could tell you about, why do you want to know about horses? I’ve never had a horse—have you? Only rich people ride horses, and you don’t look any richer than I am. You’re not rich, are you?”
This was a challenge that could not go unanswered, as Pierre’s friendship with the Norman was based on what they had in common, not what set them apart. What they had in common was youth and proximity, the sense that they were impoverished vagabonds in a world that loomed large. What would set them apart was anything one had that the other lacked.
“I just like them,” Pierre said. He felt the weight of the pouch of gold coins under his shirt, against his skin, and knew that he had to guard its secret well.
“If you like them so much, why are you here? Why not just be a stable boy and spend your life cleaning up turds?”
“Let’s change the subject.”
“I’m just having some fun with you,” the Norman chided. His eyes softened and his chin relaxed, as he eased into his role as teacher. “Eh bien,” he said. “C’estce que vousvoulez. Pour le cheval, le mot enanglais, c’est horse. Ha-oh-are-ess. Ho-arse. Horse.”
“Seriously?” Pierre said, in his native Occitan.
“Quoi?” the other boy said, in his Norman French.
“It’s such an abrupt, ugly word for such a noble animal,” Pierre said.
“Mais oui, vousavezparfaitement raison,” the Norman said, grinning. “You can only know the true spirit of something in your own language, n’est-ce pas?”
“Yes,” Pierre said, nodding and thinking the statement profound. Indeed, he had already come to the realization that he might never hear his own language again, that the lyricism of his youth was gone forever.
David Loux is a short story writer who has published under pseudonym and served as past board member of California Poets in the Schools. ChateauLauxis his first novel. He lives in the Eastern Sierra with his wife, Lynn.
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Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/David-Loux/e/B08WZ8MVT5