Georges crept back through the large door, beckoning Christophe as he went, who obediently obliged. Though the prominence focused on the musty, Christophe also caught a hint of spiced smoke hanging onto the air. The source became obvious as the living room neared.
“Cigar, Christophe?” Georges added, spinning his way around the room as he removed the cigar-tray from his waistcoat pocket.
“Ah, thank you, Georges. First, I must thank you for taking me in at this time. My parents-”
“Christophe, my boy, your father’s letter warmed me. It has been too long since he and I have corresponded.”
“I am sorry my grandmother’s death was the ultimate cause.”
“And, once again, you apologise! We are only young once. We cannot control what things that are out of time.”
“Oui, Monsieur Marrette,” Christophe sheepishly replied.
“And tell me: how was your journey? –Do sit,” Georges added, seating himself in the armchair that lounged in the centre of the room.
Amongst all the paraphernalia of Georges’ leisure- there was even a brass telescope positioned by the window- Christophe spotted a wooden armchair, and slid himself into it. He breathed in the smoky air, sucking thoughtfully on the brown wrap that Georges had passed him, before he expelled the smoke in a clumsy, unpractised gush.
Georges was blowing rings from his Gasper, but he still found the opportunity to reiterate.
“Christophe, my boy, your journey?”
“Oh, yes. Safe. I took the train most of my way across France; once I reached Belgium, I rented a vehicle: I took a motorcar part of the way.”
“You do drive?”
“Oh, yes. Father was keen for me to learn. For chauffer prospects, you see.”
“But he himself will not learn!” Georges laughed, resting his hands upon his expanse of stomach and chuckling so. That image was what spurred Christophe’s chuckle.
“Non, c’est vrai.”
“And do you think that you will drive here in Belgium? For whom do you expect to?”
“Not as a career in this country; I do not think I know enough of motor maintenance yet.” Christophe shrugged and smoked some more. “I don’t know. In Belgium, I shall do whatever work comes my way.”
“Yes, my boy. That is why you have come to reside with me. It is my intention that we start looking for employment for you right away.”
“Do you mean this minute?” uttered Christophe in a short, startled breath.
“No, my boy! It’s getting late. Tomorrow would be much better. But you should expect to look tomorrow.”
“Thank you; the journey has tired me somewhat.”
“As I expected- even if you did find a quicker way to cross continents.”
Georges’ cigar had burnt almost to its end. Rising, he crossed to an ashtray shaped into the marble-white mantelpiece and stubbed out the cinders, before positioning his hands above his rumpled slacks and observing Christophe.
Christophe himself surveyed the room around him once more. The tea-tables folded into not one gramophone, but two, one a modern addition with a polished trumpet. Its rolls of music slipped down from the stall and came to a halt only when they touched upon a broken bishop and queen from a chess set.
“Have you finished settling in?”
“Oui, monsieur,” Christophe remarked again, feeling his cheeks, dirty under two-day stubble, grow warm.
“Bon. Then I’ll show you your room.”
There was everything to be expected from the room that Christophe received from his host. Though far less cluttered than the living-room, Christophe’s bedroom possessed the definitive touch that the whole of Georges’ house maintained. From the paintings of canal tours hanging slightly askew to the mismatch of squares sewn into the quilt of his bed.
The room came not with an en suite, but Christophe knew that his room had been placed next door to the bathroom. However, since it was a guest-room, a sink slunk in the corner, cloth towels in place alongside a straight razor and two unidentifiable creams.
With a small chuckle, well knowing of Georges’ ‘personal’ taste, Christophe put himself down onto the bed, which, though it creaked, gave no other sign that it was weak to human life. Who else had come to free-rent with Georges? Christophe himself had come without any luggage- and that felt good!
“The start of a new life,” Christophe muttered to himself, tempted, for a single second, to break into poetry, in the way of his artisan mother, who had been a dancer before she had settled with his post-master father.
Here Christophe had found himself trying to get away from their old-fashioned manners.