All week the clouds have been lowering themselves into the valley.
Now a torrent of rain comes to darken the sky, lashing around the hotel.
‘Quickly Berthe,’ Madame Gay-Crosier, calls to me, ‘we must make sure all the shutters are closed.’ My mistress always relies on me to obey instructions promptly; she is somewhat heavy and, being middle-aged, not able to get around the hallways and corridors as nimbly as I can.
And after all, there are so many rooms.
One suite in particular I must check with urgency. It is on the second floor, the north wing, and the hotel has guests coming this afternoon, La Petite Anglaise and her husband; they will stay in the suite for their duration: two rooms which, although simple, smell of pinewood, and comprise a large bedroom, with a small reception area (why do the English always insist on calling such an area a ‘living room’!) and a vestibule off to one side with a writing desk.
Ah, the writing desk. It is an arresting and handsome piece of furniture, antique, which Madame Gay-Crosier ordered the valet, Gabriel, to bring specially from her own rooms. ‘My little bureau,’ she addressed it fondly as it was put into place. ‘Who knows what beautiful words the small Englishwoman will compose on you, no?’
La Petite Anglaise’s husband was insistent that there must be a desk.
‘For my wife,’ he wrote when giving instructions, ‘if possible having a view across the mountains.’ Perhaps he was hoping that the Muse would be as beneficent to the famous writer as she was when La Petite Anglaise was in Montana last year.