IV. A statue stands in a shaded place; an angel girl with an upturned face (October 1792)
She finds him standing solemnly before the statute, his brow furrowed and his eyes a darker gray than usual.
She has never asked why this lovely angel stands in the furtherest, wildest garden from the house, because there are many fine statues scattered over Richmond's grounds, and she has never wondered that this one might be different...until now. But she also does not ask why he has suddenly decided to visit it today when, to her knowledge, he has never gone to this garden before.
But then, they have been apart for so long, that she realizes he could have gone anywhere in the world (and has) without her knowledge.
Surpressing the sadness that has immediately threatened to engulf her, she touches his arm to make him aware of her presence, though it is hardly necessary. Surely he heard her approach. And, as he does not rouse himself, she assumes she was correct in her deduction.
Not wishing to disrupt his solitude, she remains silent as she stands beside him, and devotes herself to studying the beautiful statue. It is an angel with a flowing dress in the classical style, her beautiful wings curved and arched from shoulders to ankles, the feathers and face precisely carved by a master. The overhanging tree behind it gives the white marble a dappled effect of sun and shade, with red and gold leaves swirling in gusts about it. The expression upon the features is different than any angel she has seen. However, the face does seem familiar, as though she has seen it before, though she cannot recall where or how. The mystery suddenly becomes overwhelming, and she racks her brain to unravel the confusion.
Still, she is unable to place the visage, so she turns her eyes discretely to the man beside her, the cool wind ruffling her pale cream-gold gown, and the fine lace at her breast. She draws her wrap more closely about her to ward off the chill, and takes in her husband's beautifully cut coat - a dark brown that is much less fancy than his usual selection. It suits him better, she thinks. It looks masculine and firm, just as he is. The pale colors he wears to parties and balls always seem so foppish. That is, of course, the point, but now that she knows his true personalility, she likes it ever so much more.
Finally, she hears the parish bells chime the hour a mile away, and she sighs deeply and turns her gaze towards the doleful, pretty sound. She is still confused by this solemn, odd moment in her day, but perhaps some things are best left as mysteries.
Then his voice breaks her thoughts; low and quiet, thoughtful and sad.
"It was created especially for me, at my request, by a Dutch artist. What is your opinion of it, m'dear?"
She quickly turns to look at the angel again, eager that he has asked for her thoughts, because it means he has indeed forgotten what horrible things happened such a short time ago. "I think it is a beautiful piece," she responds truthfully. "The face seems familiar to me, and yet I cannot place it. Was it modeled after a specific person, or is it the artist's interpretation of Aphrodite?"
Her husband's mouth curves slightly, but the sadness remains in his eyes. He says, "The artist did not have any interpretation in it; he followed my explicit instructions to the letter."
"Then it is your interpretation of Aphrodite?" she asks, a trifle tartly. Because she would be hurt if he did not think her the most beautiful woman on earth. And she doesn't care if such a thought is vanity.
He does not laugh, as would be his usual wont, but merely says, "You are my interpretation of that goddess, m'dear. And this visage is not yours, I'm afraid. It is someone equally cherished, however."
And instantly, time stops, for she suddenly remembers this face. She has seen it, for it hangs in portrait form in his study; a beautiful woman who gave him a few of her features at his birth, and who died whilst he was still young of what doctors claimed was insanity.
Hollowly, she whispers, "It is beautiful, and well-captured. But, pray, why place it so far from the house? I believe she would grace the rose garden to perfection, sir."
He takes her hand, slowly twining their fingers together and placing his other hand on top of both of theirs. "Perhaps," he murmurs. "But here, I am likely the only person – aside from your exquisite self – to visit her. It is a selfish wish, is it not? I fear I am an exceedingly selfish person, Margot. I do not want anyone else to gaze upon her."
"Oh, Percy! How can you say such things? You are the least selfish person who walks this earth! And if you wish to keep her to yourself, by placing her here, then your intentions are understandable and commendable." She pauses, then adds in a hesitating voice, "Do you wish me to leave you be? You have but to command me to never return to this place, and I would obey without question."
He swallows, shakes his head sharply, and squeezes her fingers. "God, no, dearest! You are free to go wherever you wish! And I believe she would have wanted to know you. She would have loved you."
Tears gather in her eyes, and she whispers in a choked voice, "If it does not pain you much, will you tell me of her? Please?"
The smile finally reaches his eyes; they lighten, and he looks at her lovingly.
"My beautiful Margot," he whispers, touching her cheek. "But of course I shall tell you, if you wish to know."
She nods, like a child. Of course she wishes to know. She wishes to be involved in every part of his being, every second of his life, every thought and every wish he holds in his heart. She is his wife, and she trusts him now as she has never trusted another soul on earth. Not even her brother.
He takes a deep breath and looks to the blue sky, watching the red leaves dance across it. "She was a kind woman, full of love and laughter – a soft, sweet laugh, not nearly as musical as yours is, I'm afraid; but gentle and low. She loved long walks, which is why I have placed the statute here, because I like to think that this would have been her favorite place at Richmond. She always said..."
And she listened, enraptured, as he told her of his beloved mother.