Town of Trade

Sunlight flooded through the tattered curtains the next morning. The sight waved hello to the day in pink hue, clumsily tearing Christophe from sleep and cluttered slumber. This room hadn’t been occupied for a good many months, possibly years if Christophe was reading the dirt and dust correctly. Still, Christophe was grateful for that fact. He stretched with a wide yawn and shook his shoulders. After the jolting of the ‘modern motorcar’ travel, the young man valued the smooth rise of his bed.

Unsurprisingly, Georges was already waiting for Christophe when he wandered, comfortably dressed- though not too smartly- into the kitchen.

“Christophe! Good morning to you. Are you ready for the day’s search?”

“Pray! Let me wake up and eat first.”

“These young folk!”

“You don’t expert me to search without having first breakfasted?”

“Of course not! I jest, Christophe. I myself have partaken of breakfast already.”

Breakfast did indeed shortly follow this discourse, after which Christophe was almost buzzing warmly by the time he left the house to accompany Georges. The sun in Belgium, though it was supposed to shine as neutral, cast warmer rays onto Christophe’s hair, dappling black with apparent blonde stars.

The sky outside had its own eccentricities, as if there were a Georges above the crux of the sky, ever twisting the vortex of cloud. The sun peaked in and out, danced in amongst the blue. Another painting. Christophe beamed, barely keeping his yearning eyes trained on the mottled path that Georges was leading him down.

Those streets of central Belgium- for Christophe had made sure that he had travelled to the epicentre of commerce, rumoured to be the best place in the heart of Belgium to search for a better job- were still frozen neat as they had been the previous day, minus the echoes of church bells calling. As he passed the point in which his point with the ornate woman had happened, Christophe felt the pressure of his heart double its beats, something which took the man by surprise. His look took him away from the shapeless clouds so that he might search for better form, but she did not materialise to the ground.

“Christophe,” called Georges from ahead, “I hope you enjoy your stay. If you are still the boy you were ten years ago, I bet that you will find intellectual pleasures all over the city.”

“I am certain that I will,” Christophe replied with a smirk. After a moment of silent walking across the cobbled streets, he continued, “where is it that we are going, Monsieur?”

“Trade booms here, Christophe. Bruges rises and rises. Have you seen the advertisements and the birth of those shops along the high-street?” He pointed in a rather general direction, for, Christophe knew, the whole phrase had been meant rhetorically. “Chocolate and diamonds.”

“Chocolate? As a trade?”

“Oui. And diamonds.”

As the beautiful word final sunk into his consciousness, Christophe’s eyes widened to shine just as bright.

“Yes, diamonds,” he hummed. “Do they make them here?”

“They cut them here, Christophe. And they polish- and they shine.”

“C’est mieux. Monsieur Marrette, will you take me to the diamond-crafters first?”

“I shall, my boy. This way, this way. Listen. Do you hear the scraping of knives?”

Christophe stumbled as he stopped, his ears pricked furiously. There, hidden by distance, tolled the chorus of iron shouts, the glaze of men as they ran blades along the rock carbon, mutating it so that it might bear incredible beauty.

If the young man’s heart had increased its beats at the thought of a lady, that movement became nothing in comparison to the rapid pulse at the thought of both labour and jewels to gold. When his steps matched Georges’, Christophe’s eyes were burning with intrigue.

“Do you see this place, Christophe?” the older man began. “This town was once a wreck. Look at her now: wonderful. Change strikes the poor far greater than the rich, and they are happier for it. We were the poor once, but diamond, chocolate, lace and the other trades that we have known for centuries have suddenly become renown to those of other countries. That is why Bruges is no longer a poorhouse. Do not worry about religion (though you must still follow the Catholic ways Bruges gave your father, non?), for a golden age is advancing its blades and claws. The twenties are going to be that golden age, my boy!

“Look, already we are removing the heavy veil of war. This abused nation drinks the power of recovery that industry will give. I tell you, leave religion at the door and follow your mind, where science will be a better source of energy for your work.”

Christophe pulled a face, albeit a thoughtful one, as he listened. No one had ever addressed such issues in such a grandiose manner of time. And fascination was what kept Christophe in heed.

“Indeed.” But no more would the knowledge of words come. “Thank you.”

The End

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