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#53-a: Corbies

As I was walking all alane,
I heard twa corbies makin' mane.
And one ontae the other did say.
Where will we gang and dine the day?
Where will we gang and dine the day?
In ahind yon oul fail dyke,
I wot there lies a new slain knight:
Naebody kens that he lies there,
But his hawk and hound and his lady fair.
His hawk and hound and his lady fair.

--Traditional, "Twa Corbies"

Ville de Quebec, Associated Confederation of Quebec, July 9, 1971

Captain Lucien Reynard of the Sûreté Royal du Québec opened up his
copy of La Presse as he eased his sturdy bulk into the hard wood
captain's chair that stood behind his office desk, spreading the
newsprint over his blotter to get the full sweep of the articles.  The
office, as befitting the head of a comparatively minor department
within the Confederation headquarters, was small and slightly musty,
the wall behind his desk taken up by a large and ancient lithograph of
the King and a smaller, newer photograph of the current premier of
Quebec.  A large window, its sill crusted over with repeated
applications of institutional white paint, looked out on his left onto
the crowded roofline of the Old Town, overshadowed by the invisible
new constructions, heralds of prosperity, that were accumulating like
ornate skyscraping ramparts atop the bluffs of the upper town.
Lucien, when he thought about them, considered them hideous, vast
agglomerations of architectural styles stretched out of proportion,
great babels spiked with chateau-like roofs or Gothic pinnacles or the
fancifully tasteless _beaux-artes_ style that all the new corporations
in Quebec, or for that matter, the whole continent, wanted for their
soaring headquarters.

_Mais oui_, there were worse architectural possibilities.  He'd seen
photographs of megalopolitan Mexico City with its stinking air and
great Neo-Nahuátl pyramidal government buildings, Mercator's grandiose
attempt to recall the glories of the Aztecs.   He had once tried to
talk about such things with Louise, and she hadn't understood,
muttering something about how no Catholic nation should imitate the
work of those murderers of innocents.  Louise's piety was more
old-fashioned than most Quebecois these days, and Lucien himself only
went to Mass on Easter.  Though sometimes he wondered if perhaps she
had chosen the better half; she was the strong one in their marriage.

His father had been an architect, and Lucien had picked up a few
things before he had gone into the Force.  Now and then, there were
moments when the humble police captain, with his wrinkled face and
steely, receding hair, would try to impress his superiors by finally
having the upper hand, knowing something they didn't know about.  If
he had any drawing skills, if he had any creativity, he might have
followed in his footsteps.  Instead, he ended up as a clerk for the
Sûreté and finally found his way into the administrative workings of
the Confederation's constabulary.

With a crinkling of paper, he took his sandwich out of the brown lunch
sack and began to chew, slowly, philosophically.  He had spent almost
thirty years in this office, stuck at the dead end of a command chain.
 Reading the news made him feel a bit better about his station in
life.

Maeterlinck--now, he liked Maeterlinck's work, a good fellow.  They'd
sent him up to Marlborough City to report on what all the papers were
calling _L'Affaire Stapleton_.  If the man had any good reason to turn
from lamb pacifist to lionlike madman, nobody could put their finger
on it.  The _New-York Sun_, as always, appealed to fashionable
alienists to explain, and had started a small controversy between the
Franklian and the Watsonian branches of that discipline, each
pontificating about germ plasm or the brutality of the will to
survive.  The _New Orleans Herald_, always slightly anti-Mexican,
perhaps due to the expatriates in the area that always threatened to
take away jobs from the Georgians, as usual, suspected the hand of
Mercator or Mocteczuma, though had been unable to substantiate the
claim.  After the Michigan City scandal, anything was possible, though
relations had greatly improved since then.  At least Maeterlinck had
written about how they were at odds with each other.  He never read
English newspapers, nor had much need to.

But, she was his daughter, no?  That was enough to drive any man mad,
was it not?

Lucien continued to chew, philosophically, and turned the page to see
if there could be any tragedy a bit closer to home to cheer him up.

********************************************************************************
M.G. Alderman
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, Indiana