“I had always been a great talker and teller of tales.
'You should put a lock on that tongue of yours. It's long enough and sharp enough to slit your own throat,' our guardian warned me, the night before I left home to go to the royal court at Versailles ... I just laughed. 'Don't you know a woman's tongue is her sword? You wouldn't want me to let my only weapon rust, would you?”
“Each word was shaped with certainty, and I felt, more strongly than ever before in my life, that I had at last found my true path. I knew the story would change as I told it. No one can tell as tory without transforming it in some way; it is part of the magic of storytelling. Like the troubadors of the past, who hid their messages in poems, songs and fairy tales, I too would hide my true purpose [ … ]
It was by telling stories that I would save myself.”
“The world is a cruel place, Petrosinella, and it wounds the weak.”
“Can we make promises to each other, as if we were truly married? Can we swear to be true and faithful and love only each other and all those things? Because I'm in such pain, Margherita, I need to have you, I need to know that you're mine. I've been in torment since I first saw you. No, since I first heard you singing from you tower height. Please, mia bella bianca, please let us swear to each other. Love breaks all spells, I know it does. Wear my ring and let me know-"
She stopped his words with her mouth, cupping both hands about his face. Then she sat back to show him the ring on her finger. "I swear it all. Is that good enough? Because I really need you to kiss me again.”
“She paced her room all day, tossed sleeplessly in her bed all night. At dusk, she sat in her window and poured all her longing and desire into her songs, hoping he would somehow hear her and return.
And he did.”
“I wish I could paint like Raphael," Lucio said. "I'd paint you! You should smile more often - it's like dawn breaking over a snowfield.”
“I know you find your banishment from court hard, but, believe me, it could be much, much worse. This is not a true prison. You can come out here to the garden and see the sky and listen to the birds singing and the bees humming in the flowers. You can work with your own two hands and see things you have planted grow and bring beauty to the world. You can eat what you have grown, and that is a joy too. Then there is the music and the singing, which is a balm to the soul, and the convent itself is filled with beauty, the soaring pillars and the windows glowing like jewels and the embroidered tapestries.”
“The garden was the most beautiful place Margherita had ever seen. In spring, it was a sea of delicate blossom. In summer, it was green and fruitful. In autumn, the trees blazed gold and red and orange, as vivid as Margherita's hair. Even in winter, it was beautiful, with bare branches against the old stone walls and green hedges in curves and curlicues about beds of winter-flowering herbs and flowers.”
“Farfallina, bella e bianca, vola vola, mai si stanca, gira qua, e gira la- poi si resta sopra un fiore, e poi si resta sopra un fiore... Butterfly, beautiful and white, fly and fly, never get tired, turn here and turn there- she rests upon a flower... and she rests upon a flower.”
“It seemed like a magical city, floating on the lagoon as if conjured by an enchanter's wand. I sat in the meadow and stared at it, picking meadow flowers from around my feet- clover and daisies and wild garlic- and making myself a wreath.”
“Belle laide, Athénaïs calls me,' I replied with a little shrug. The expression was usually used to describe a woman who was arresting despite the plainness of her looks.”
“I wanted to rest my eyes on green meadows. I wanted to sit on green grass under the shade of a green tree. I wanted to eat cool green salads. I longed for arugula tossed with olive oil and parmesan, for asparagus tips dripping with melted butter, for a salad of sweet and bitter green leaves. Most of all, I longed for fish and parsley soup.”
“Perhaps there was a secret door down low in the wall, a door only large enough for a child. If I stepped through that door, I would be in another world, in fairyland perhaps. It would be warm and bright there, and I would have a magical wand to protect myself. I'd ride on the back of a dragonfly, swooping through the forest. I'd battle dragons and talk to birds and have all kinds of grand adventures.
Later, I found that small door into fairyland could be conjured any time I needed it. The world beyond the door was different every time. Sometimes, I found a little stone house in the woods where I could live with just Nanette and my sister, Marie, and a tabby cat who purred by the fire. Sometimes, I lived in a castle in the air with a handsome prince who loved me. Other times, I was the prince myself, with a golden sword and a white charger.”
“I want to stay here and think about the secret door.'
'You can think about it on the way. That's the beautiful thing about the secret door. You can open it anywhere, any time.'
In later years, the court ladies often laughed behind their fans at the Dauphin, saying cruelly that he could spend a whole day tapping his cane against his foot and staring into space. I knew, though, that he was building castles in the air.”
“I'm sorry, I'm afraid I have no time to be a wet-nurse for a bantling.'
To my surprise, he did not flush or draw away in embarrassment. He grinned and winked at me, as if to say I could suckle him any time, and to my horror I felt myself grow red.”
“I did not really listen, fixing my eyes on the nearest tapestry, which showed a white unicorn sitting with its front hooves in the lap of a fair-haired maiden in a gorgeous medieval gown. The embroidered grass was studded with flowers, and the two overarching trees were hung with pomegranates. Small beasts- rabbits and squirrels and badgers- watched from the shelter of the forest, not noticing the hunters creeping closer with their dogs and spears. I stared at this tapestry for an hour every day and still I found new things in it- a nest of baby birds, a hunter who looked sad, a ladybird on a leaf.”
“Her papa called her 'chiacchere' because he said she chattered away all day, just like a magpie. He had all sorts of funny names for her: 'fiorellina', my little flower; 'abelie', which meant honeysuckle; and 'topolina', my sweet little mouse. Margherita's mother only called her 'piccolina', my little one, or 'mia cara Margherita,' my darling daisy.”
“Margherita was not allowed to play in the 'portego,' for one never knew when a customer would come, and the room must always be clean and tidy and respectable. It was only ever used by the family on special occasions, and so Margherita's eyes widened when she saw that her mother had spread the table with a spotless white cloth and the best pewter bowls and mugs. A small bunch of 'margherita' daisies was in a fat blue jug, and three sweet oranges sat in an earthenware bowl. Coarse brown bread stood ready on a wooden board, next to a bowl of soft white cheese floating in golden oil and thyme sprigs. Soup made with fish and clams and fennel and scattered with sprigs of fresh parsley steamed in a big clay pot.”
“Margherita stared at the mask. It was painted bright yellow and marked with little copper-colored circles to suggest florets. White petals streaked with gold radiated out in all directions. Long golden eyelashes fringed the eye slits, and the mouth was painted as a big happy smile. 'La sua bella,' she whispered, her lisp more pronounced than ever.”
“Huge tureens of puréed chestnut soup with truffles were carried in and served to each guest, filling the air with a rich earthy small. Then the servants brought in ballotine of pheasant, served with cold lobster in aspic and deep-sea oysters brought up the river by boat that morning. Our own foie gras on tiny rounds of bread was followed by 'margret de canard,' the breast meat of force-fed ducks, roasted with small home-grown pears and Armagnac. There was a white-bean cassoulet with wild hare, a haunch of venison cooked in cinnamon and wine, eel pie, and a salad of leaves and flowers from the garden, dressed in olive oil and lemon.”
“Do you deny the Scriptures, madame? For is it not said that a woman should be silent and have no authority over man?'
'Of course I do not deny the Scriptures, Your Majesty.'
'Yet you are on of these 'réformés,' are you not?'
She met the King's gaze. 'I am, Your Majesty. But we do not deny the Scriptures. We believe they contain all that is necessary for the service of God and our own salvation.'
He frowned. 'Yet you argue against the one true Church, is that not so?'
She picked her words with care. 'The one true Church is made up of those faithful who agree to follow the word of God.”
“Autumn into winter was called Shadowfest, and was the night to predict the future and communicate with the dead. Winter into spring was called the Feast of the Wolf, and was a time to celebrate and make love. Spring into summer was called Lady's Day, and was a time to be handfasted and to dance about the maypole. Summer into autumn was called Cornucopia, when we celebrated the harvest and and enjoyed the fruits of the earth.”
“Ah-ah! Another kiss. Come here to me, Charlotte-Rose. Come and kiss me.'
He flung himself down on the couch and held out his arms to me. I rose and went slowly towards him, searching his face, my stomach fluttering with nerves. His face softened. 'I will not hurt you, chérie.' He drew me down so our mouths met and clung.
It was a long, long kiss. Somehow, I found myself lying back on the cushions, the Marquis' body half-covering mine, his hand tangling my hair, one shoulder bared to the cool night air. He lifted his mouth from mine, smiled at me and then shifted his body so that his mouth was at the junction of my collarbones, his tongue tracing lazy circles in the hollow. I sighed. My bones seemed made of honey, my skin dancing with a million tiny stars.”
“Footmen stood stiffly with trays laden with foaming goblets and plates filled with tiny delicacies, such as sautéed scallops, salt cod and caviar on potato pancakes, basil palmiers, and roasted brie with gooseberries.”
“Words. I had always loved them. I collected them, like I had collected pretty stones as a child. I liked to roll words over my tongue like a lump of molten honeycomb, savoring the sweetness, the crackle, the crunch. Cerulean, azure, blue. Shadowy, sombre, secret. Voluptuous, sensuous, amorous. Kiss, hiss, abyss.
Some words sounded dangerous. Pagan. Tiger.
Some words seemed to shine. Crystal. Glissade.
Some words changed their meaning as I grew older. Ravishing.”
“I stood in a clearing among a stand of beech trees, leaves as red as rubies, branches black as jet. It was sunset, and shafts of richly colored sunlight struck through the delicate pillars of the tree trunks, as if through the lancet windows of a cathedral.”
“The first language humans had was gestures. There was nothing primitive about this language that flowed from people’s hands, nothing we say now that could not be said in the endless array of movements possible with the fine bones of the fingers and wrists. The gestures were complex and subtle, involving a delicacy of motion that has since been lost completely.
During the Age of Silence, people communicated more, not less. Basic survival demanded that the hands were almost never still, and so it was only during sleep (and sometimes not even then) that people were not saying something or other. No distinction was made between the gestures of language and the gestures of life. The labor of building a house, say, or preparing a meal was no less an expression than making the sign for I love you or I feel serious. When a hand was used to shield one’s face when frightened by a loud noise something was being said, and when fingers were used to pick up what someone else had dropped something was being said; and even when the hands were at rest, that, too, was saying something. Naturally, there were misunderstandings. There were times when a finger might have been lifted to scratch a nose, and if casual eye contact was made with one’s lover just then, the lover might accidentally take it to be the gesture, not at all dissimilar, for Now I realize I was wrong to love you. These mistakes were heartbreaking. And yet, because people knew how easily they could happen, because they didn’t go round with the illusion that they understood perfectly the things other people said, they were used to interrupting each other to ask if they’d understood correctly. Sometimes these misunderstandings were even desirable, since they gave people a reason to say, Forgive me, I was only scratching my nose. Of course I know I’ve always been right to love you. Because of the frequency of these mistakes, over time the gesture for asking forgiveness evolved into the simplest form. Just to open your palm was to say: Forgive me."
"If at large gatherings or parties, or around people with whom you feel distant, your hands sometimes hang awkwardly at the ends of your arms – if you find yourself at a loss for what to do with them, overcome with sadness that comes when you recognize the foreignness of your own body – it’s because your hands remember a time when the division between mind and body, brain and heart, what’s inside and what’s outside, was so much less. It’s not that we’ve forgotten the language of gestures entirely. The habit of moving our hands while we speak is left over from it. Clapping, pointing, giving the thumbs-up, for example, is a way to remember how it feels to say nothing together. And at night, when it’s too dark to see, we find it necessary to gesture on each other’s bodies to make ourselves understood.”
“Last night you said you wanted to know what to expect so you could better select your attire. I told you we were going to visit a vampire in a Goth-den tonight. Why, then, Ms. Lane, do you look like a perky rainbow?”
“They hate because they fear, and they fear because they feel that the deepest feelings of their lives are being assaulted and outraged. And they do not know why; they are powerless pawns in a blind play of social forces.”
“When you teach them-teach them not to fear. Fear is good in small amounts, but when it is a constant, pounding companion, it cuts away at who you are and makes it hard to do what you know is right.”
“I've always been dissatisfied, I know that. But lately I find that I reek of discontentment. It fills my throat, and it floods my brain. And sometimes I fear there is no longer a dream, but only the discontentment.”
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