The Letters of Magdalen Montague: Prologue

Eleanor Bourg Donlon

Prologue *

On 4 April 1947, a house on the Rue des Trois Frères, raided by the Nazis and left untenanted since the liberation of Paris, was sold. Records of past ownership had been destroyed during the occupation, and since memory is short in that district, little was known of the man who had most recently lived there. No stories were known to explain his departure. How could there be at a time when so many were dead or disappeared without a trace? He might have evacuated the city with so many others; he might have been imprisoned; he might have been dead.

In the far corner of a dark and cluttered attic, a large, flat-topped trunk of soiled gray Trianon canvas was found. A label inside the lid boldly proclaimed the craftsmanship of Louis Vuitton—Malletier à Paris. Collaborator.

The trunk contained an eclectic collection of objects, like those found in most deserted houses—the disjecta membra of a life—old clothes of a faded, though still gaudy, flavor, five packets of letters, a crate of particularly colorful erotica, the manuscript of a rather sordid novel, and, at the very bottom, a dusty, soiled holy card with tinny gilt edging to frame a cheerful, young martyr attired in doublet, hose, and ruff, who leaned casually upon the rack beside him as if it were the pleasantest deathbed ever known to man. The card commemorated a young man’s ordination to the priesthood, dated 1915. The priest’s name was so faded as to be entirely illegible.

These are the final letters.

* * *

* It is almost a literary cliché to say that one’s characters have run away with one’s original idea, but such is the case here. This prologue is presented belatedly to the public because it was only when “J” finished writing letters that the author felt such meddlesome interference on her part was warranted—or even possible. EBD.