Bill Meilen
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Chapter Nine

IN the comparative cool of the air-conditioned Delahaye, Paul and Solange Reynal sat holding hands, not speaking for a long time as the road began to improve lower down the valley. Guaranteed seclusion by the glass divide between them and Gadda they enjoyed the silence of one another's presence.

Solange noted the olive pallor on the once deeply-tanned skin of her husband, the almost transparent area around the eyes, the deepened crowsfeet. You have changed, my love, she thought, but you are still the young officer I met that evening at St. Cyr after the passing-out parade. You gave me champagne to drink from a bottle poured by the one who has now become the Great Dictator of France, he who was your fellow cadet and friend and has now become your most deadly enemy. I love you now as I loved you then.... Breaking the long silence she turned his head with the tips of her fingers.

“I have all of your letters, you know.”

Reynal smiled. “And I received copies of yours, Where the originals are I will never know. They were so afraid that they might contain hope, perhaps.” He sighed. “One could tell from the imbalance that much had been removed from them, and I was permitted to read only news about the boys and the grandchildren. General news, you know?”

She nodded. “I tried to keep in touch as fully as possible, hiding news of what has been happening among the generalities, just like during the war. Still, what is important is that you are with me again.”

He ran a hand over his eyes, looking past her out of the window. “I am very fatigued. Every year has seemed like ten—but incarceration is better than death.” His hand squeezed hers gently. “We must be grateful for small mercies.”

Solange nodded, smiling. “I must tell you of the new prayer that is going the rounds in Paris. I am sure you will be amused.”

Reynal nodded. “Go on.”

“Dear God—deliver us from evil in general—and from the Général in particular.”

For the first time in years Paul Reynal enjoyed a hearty laugh.