By Carlos Fuentes, Lysander Kemp
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It's only by an effort of the will that you keep yourself from following her with your eyes, despite the curiosity you feel at seeing the yellowed bridal gown she's taken from the bottom of that old trunk in her bedroom. You scarcely touch the cold coffee that's waiting for you in the dining room. You sit for an hour in the tall, arch-back chair, smoking, waiting for the sounds you never hear, until finally you're sure the old lady has left the house and can't catch you at what you're going to do.
General Llorente's French doesn't have the merits his wife attributed to it. Nothing that hasn't been described before. As you undress you think of the old lady's distorted notions, the value she attributes to these memoirs. You smile as you get into bed-, thinking of the four thousand pesos. [Notes: The Duke of Morny, Charles Auguste Luis Joseph (1811-1865), was a leading figure in French politics and society during the Second Empire established by Napoleon III in 1852. Archduke Maximilian, Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph (1832-1867), the brother of the Emperor of Austria, was installed by Napoleon III as Emperor of Mexico in 1864, in an attempt to further Napoleon's imperialistic ambitions.
It seems as if the dog is grinning at you and you let go of the cold metal. The door opens at the first light push of your fingers, but before going in you give a last look over your shoulder, frowning at the long line of stalled cars that growl, honk, and belch out the unhealthy fumes of their impatience. You try to retain some single image of that indifferent outside world. You close the door behind you and peer into the darkness of a roofed alleyway. It must be a patio of some sort, because you can smell the mold, the dampness of the plants, the rotting roots, the thick drowsy aroma.