Appointments with a Chocolate Bar
When Mademoiselle Camille Joséphine de Bonchamps was an inexperienced infant she admittedly cherished the obvious advantage of coming from an aristocratic family, even if she detested the insistence on the rules of behaviour. Wearing staggering dresses, eating the most delicious dishes, having one’s own attendants: all these issues were worth it forasmuch as one led a life in the upper class. But as time passed by she perceived that appearances are deceptive.
Camille pined hardly for friends as exactly as described in the books she devoured for schooling. To be perfectly honest, she was weary of these perfunctory kinds of people which only conversed about the weather, to whom they would get married or the disastrous-looking chapeau of Monsieur So-and-so. She was utterly weary of them.
“Mademoiselle Camille, you have to tumble up immediately”, her ancilla’s voice lifted in her dreams which just became beauteously so that she woke with a start. When Esmée, her servant, parted the curtains she could observe a shaft of sunlight was slanting through the window. Maybe this wouldn’t be a real off-day as the last past days of this week. At this thought a smile appeared on her face and she straightened herself slowly.
“Good morning, Esmée”, she replied cheerfully, “What is on the agenda today?” While asking she slipped in her powdering gown. Her eyes kept fixing the window which showed an indeed auspicious view of the garden.
“It’s Sunday. You’ll go to the church after the breakfast and the afternoon is left to your discretion. Monsieur de Bonchamps said that the weather will probably stay this way, so maybe you would like to ride to the seaside?” The ancilla started to comb her butt-length wavy hair. In response Camille bowed assent and prepared mentally for several more eventless hours of her life.
When the afternoon had arrived she caught herself drifting apart with her thoughts while reading the latest drama of her favourite author Victor Hugo: ‘Ruy Blas’. The quite chilly sea breeze contradicted very pleasantly the scorching sun. Next to Camille her hebdomadal little chocolate bar lay on the bench and waited for its time to be eaten. A bright-coloured parasol prevented the melting of the bar and certainly of Mademoiselle de Bonchamps, too.
When she was just in act of becoming engrossed in her book, an overfatigued-looking man in his early twenties sat down next to her. Out of the tail of her eyes she could see that he was wearing an oddly checked suit which seemed to be slightly dilapidated. In some way he provoked a compassionate feeling in her, so that she took her lovely little bar of chocolate, broke it into two equal pieces and held one half out to him.
“May I offer you a square of chocolate?”, she addressed him cautiously, “The whole one would be too much for me in any way.” The young man copped a look at the packaging, which was still lying on the bench where she had put it previously, and for the moment a bashful smirk lightened up his face.
“I would love to”, he responded with a slightly Parisian dialect and relieved her of one piece of chocolate. While raising her own one to the mouth she attempted to meet his dark almond eyes and when she succeeded the corners of her mouth moved upwards to a charming smile.
“Mmmh…. I absolutely adore this brand. My father donates it to me every Sunday. Besides, my name is Camille.” His auburn shoulder-length hair was dressed in a ponytail but several scattered strands were falling into his angular face so that it was very hard to maintain the eye contact.
“I’m called Arthur and this summer I aestivate in Vendée. In Fact, my real residence is located in Paris.” For a moment he gazed at the leather-bound book in her hands which was still opened. “How do you like the book? Victor Hugo is a really brilliant wordsmith but I didn’t manage to read the latest one by now.”
The last sentence was the trigger for a stilted conversation which was spirited as well as desultory. Hilariously a close affinity dominates between the two since the first expression so she felt at ease in his presence.
When the sun started to set down it was time for Camille to go back to her humdrum home. Her heart was sinking as she said adieu to her new found friend. But he promised her that they would meet at the same place the next Sunday so she hit the road in a very confident mood.
The weeks passed by and finally Mademoiselle de Bonchamps experienced what it meant to have a sincere friend who knows one as well as oneself. In this way he learned that her favourite colour was lilac, that her parents coerced her to learn horse-back riding even though she was really terrified of this faunal species and that she adored the taste of the American condiment bourbon vanilla. The sharing of the chocolate bar had become their
ritual unperceivably; it was all part of their appointments. For the first time of her life she didn’t have to disguise and for the very first time of her life there was someone who sympathized with her view of life and who didn’t deplore her desire for departing this feigned society.
Unfortunately, the end of summer arrived sooner than they claimed for it and the hardly repressed day came where the two of the friends had to bid farewell to each other.
“Why do you have to leave?” Heavy-heartedly she lowered her head and tried to conceal her melancholia which resurfaced every time she thought about her mirthless future which was imminent.
“Because my father needs my help at the factory”, while explaining Arthur took her by the hand, “Follow me, I want to show you something.” With some surprise she trailed the handsome man to a flowery meadow behind the dunes. In the middle a picnic rug with a widely varied buffet, including different kinds of chocolate, was laid down and lighted candles were positioned accurately.
“What is happe…”, but when she started speaking his finger grazed softly her lips: “Psst!” Round-eyed she watched him kneeling down while he was still holding her hand. His other hand budged to his breast pocket. Suddenly she realized that he wasn’t wearing the dilapidated suit anymore instead a myrtle green swallow coat attired him and his hair was combed back straight.
“For the last two weeks I deliberated carefully over the question how to beatify you and I came to the decision that it would be the best if you accompany me.”, a little case appeared in his hand and when he opened it an unadorned but enchanting ring emerged.
“Camille Joséphine de Bonchamps – will you marry me?” She had the sense that her heart would stop beating and a lump shaped in her throat. That was really the last thing she envisaged when he said he would take her over to something. Her body started shivering when she realised it would be beyond her wildest dream if she only said ‘Yes’. Admit tears she shook her head and turned away.
“I’m sorry, it’s impossible. Even if I wanted to, I would have to marry a man from the same condition.“ After explaining herself she scurried away without looking back because she couldn’t stand the sight of him.
The deep mourning inside her soul endured and she couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. Since Arthur left for Paris she felt like a prisoner of circumstances although she knew she made the right decision. It wasn’t that unelaborate to sort one’s mind from the heart and in some way she had no clue how to let go of him.
On a Sunday morning she woke up without thinking of him the very first time and he was deemed never to have existed: She went to church, afterwards she cosied up to the fireplace with a fascinating book and enjoyed her chocolate bar. But when Camille copped a look at the weekly newspaper she was startled:
8th of December, 1837, Paris: Big Break of the Young Chocolatier Arthur Sieyès
For his brilliant idea of combining chocolate with a slight smack of bourbon vanilla the working class hero Arthur Gerard Sieyès attained an incredible success. For further information please open page six.
Next to the article a little portrait of her Arthur was printed and suddenly she perceived that they had only spoken of her personal life.