Jean Badenhorst

His sole desire

I

lady-pic.jpgThe six, vast tapestries hang in a circular chamber, surmounted by a glass cupola. Daylight filters through the frosted glass of the dome. On a low stool at the door, keeping watch, sits the troll. This is his domain, his treasure trove. The tapestries he guards are as beautiful as he is grotesque. His gnarled hands lie folded in his lap, his hunchback tucked into a grey trench coat, much too large for him.

His hooded eyes betray no emotion. Yet, he faithfully guards his passion, day after day: the Lady of the Tapestries. He guards her with a secret fire. His daydreams flit like bright clouds across his face. He dreams of resuming his place, with the White Unicorn, by his Lady’s side, woven among the red and gold threads of tapestry number six.

lady-2.jpgAs daylight fades, the troll remains at his post. The key to the great outer door lies heavy in his pocket. He waits for the last visitors to leave, then limps down the pale stone staircase to lock the great door from within. He returns to the circular chamber. Standing in the very centre, he surveys the tapestries, one by one. The Unicorn paws and snorts. The troll drags his stool up to tapestry number six, clambers up and, contravening all museum regulations, runs a crooked finger along the graceful line of the Lady’s cheek.

He looks intently at her face, recalling the night, so many centuries ago, when the young novice had woven his figure into the floral border at the Lady’s feet. He recalls the Mother Superior’s dismay and her injunction to unravel him, immediately.

Darkness, now. A pool of moonlight falls onto the stone floor. The Unicorn lifts his head and shakes his mane.

II

The curator of the Musee de Cluny, 6 Place Painleve, arrived late the next morning and was surprised to find the great outer door locked. A quick call to his assistant produced a spare key and the door was opened a few minutes later. Inside, all was dark. The blinds were still drawn and the displays swathed in their black velvet covers. For a moment, the curator was uneasy: the troll had never abandoned his post before.

Dismissing any further thoughts of the troll’s whereabouts, the curator and his assistant bustled about, opening the museum shop and preparing the displays for the day.

Much later that afternoon, a solitary visitor stood in front of the sixth tapestry. Looking up from his guidebook, his eye was caught by a small, hunchbacked figure among the folds of fabric at the Lady’s feet. The little troll wore an expression of complete devotion, of near adoration, as he gazed up at her.

Nowhere in his guidebook could the visitor find any reference to the troll in tapestry number six.

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