The Lake of Dead Languages
Vendeur AbeBooks depuis 7 décembre 2010Quantité disponible : 1
Image de l'éditeur
Vendeur AbeBooks depuis 7 décembre 2010Quantité disponible : 1
A propos de cet article
Titre : The Lake of Dead Languages
Éditeur : Ballantine Books, New York
Date d'édition : 2002
Reliure : Hardcover
Etat du livre :New
Etat de la jaquette : New
Signé : Signed by Author(s)
Edition : 1st Edition
A propos de ce titre
Book by Goodman CarolExtrait:
I have been told to make the latin curriculum relevant to the lives of my students. I am finding, though, that my advanced girls at Heart Lake like Latin precisely because it has no relevance to their lives. They like nothing better than a new, difficult declension to memorize. They write the noun endings on their palms in blue ballpoint ink and chant the declensions, “Puella, puellae, puellae, puellam, puella . . .” like novices counting their rosaries.
When it comes time for a test they line up at the washroom to scrub down. I lean against the cool tile wall watching them as the washbasins fill with pale blue foam and the archaic words run down the drains. When they offer to show me the undersides of their wrists for traces of letters I am unsure if I should look. If I look, am I showing that I don’t trust them? If I don’t look, will they think I am naive? When they put their upturned hands in mine—so light-boned and delicate—it is as if a fledgling has alighted in my lap. I am afraid to move.
In class I see only the tops of their hands—the black nail polish and silver skull rings. One girl even has a tattoo on the top of her right hand—an intricate blue pattern that she tells me is a Celtic knot. Now I look at the warm, pink flesh—their fingertips are tender and whorled from immersion in water, the scent of soap rises like incense. Three of the girls have scratched the inside of their wrists with pins or razors. The lines are fainter than the lifelines that crease their palms. I want to trace their scars with my fingertips and ask them why, but instead I squeeze their hands and tell them to go on into class. “Bona fortuna,” I say. “Good luck on the test.”
When I first came back to Heart Lake I was surprised at the new girls, but I soon realized that since my own time here the school has become a sort of last resort for a certain kind of girl. I have learned that even though the Heart Lake School for Girls still looks like a prestigious boarding school, it is not. It is really a place for girls who have already been kicked out of two or three of the really good schools. A place for girls whose parents have grown sick of drama, sick of blood on the bathroom floor, sick of the policeman at the door.
Athena (her real name is Ellen Craven, but I have come to think of the girls by the classical names they’ve chosen for class) is the last to finish washing. She has asked for extra credit, for more declensions and verb conjugations to learn, so she is up to her elbows in blue ink. She holds out her forearms for me to see and there is no way to avoid looking at the scar on her right arm that starts at the base of her palm and snakes up to the crook of her elbow. She sees me wince.
Athena shrugs. “It was a stupid thing to do,” she says. “I was all messed up over this boy last year, you know?”
I try to remember caring that much for a boy—I almost see a face—but it’s like trying to remember labor pains, you remember the symptoms of pain—the blurred vision, the way your mind moves in an ever-tightening circle around a nucleus so dense gravity itself seems to bend toward it—but not the pain itself.
“That’s why my aunt sent me to an all girls school,” Athena continues. “So I wouldn’t get so caught up with boys again. Like my mother goes to this place upstate when she needs to dry out—you know, get away from booze and pills? So, I’m here drying out from boys.”
I look up from her hands to her pale face—a paleness accentuated by her hair, which is dyed a blue-black that matches the circles under her eyes. I think I hear tears in her voice, but instead she is laughing. Before I can help myself I laugh, too. Then I turn away from her and yank paper towels from the dispenser so she can dry her arms.
I let the girls out early after the test. They whoop with delight and crowd the doorway. I am not insulted. This is part of the game we play. They like it when I’m strict. Up to a point. They like that the class is hard. They like me, I think. At first I flattered myself that it was because I understood them, but then one day I retrieved a note left on the floor.
“What do you think of her?” one girl had written.
“Let’s go easy on her,” another, later I identified the handwriting as Athena’s, had answered.
I realized then that the girls’ goodwill did not come from anything I had said or done. It came because they knew, with the uncanny instinct of teenagers, that I must have messed up as badly as they had to end up here.
Today they leave shaking the cramp out of their hands and comparing answers from the test. Vesta—the thin, studious one, the one who tries the hardest—holds the textbook open to read out the declension and conjugation endings. There are moans from some, little cries of triumph from others. Octavia and Flavia, the two Vietnamese sisters who are counting on classics scholarships to college, nod at each answer with the calm assurance of hard studiers. If I listened carefully I wouldn’t have to mark the tests at all to know what grades to give, but I let the sounds of sorrow and glee blur together. I can hear them all the way down the hall until Myra Todd opens her door and tells them they’re disturbing her biology lab.
I hear another door open and one of my girls calls out, “Hello, Miss Marshmallow.” Then I hear a high nervous laugh which I recognize as that of Gwendoline Marsh, the English teacher. It won’t be Gwen, though, who complains; it’s Myra I’ll catch hell from later for letting them out before the bell. I don’t care. It’s worth it for the quiet that settles now over my empty classroom, for the minutes I’ll have before my next class.
I turn my chair around so that I face the window. On the lawn in front of the mansion I see my girls collapsed in a lopsided circle. From here their dark clothing and dyed hair—Athena’s blue-black, Aphrodite’s bleached blond, and Vesta’s lavender red, which is the same shade as the nylon hair on my daughter’s Little Mermaid doll—make them look like hybrid flowers bred into unnatural shades. Black dahlias and tulips. Flowers the bruised color of dead skin.
Past where the girls sit, Heart Lake lies blue-green and still in its glacial cradle of limestone. The water on this side of the lake is so bright it hurts my eyes. I rest them on the dark eastern end of the lake, where the pine tree shadows stain the water black. Then I pick my homework folder up off my desk and add the assignments I’ve collected today, sorting each girl’s new assignment with older work (as usual, I’m about a week behind in my grading). They’re easy to sort because almost all the girls use different kinds of paper that I’ve come to recognize as each girl’s distinctive trademark: lavender stationery for Vesta, the long yellow legal-size sheets for Aphrodite, lined paper with ragged edges which Athena tears from her black-and-white notebooks.
Sometimes the page Athena gives me has something else written on the reverse side. A few lines at the top that look to be the end of a diary entry. I know from the scraps I’ve read that she sometimes writes as if addressing a letter to herself and sometimes as if the journal itself were her correspondent. “Don’t forget,” I read in one of these coda. “You don’t need anyone but yourself.” And another time: “I promise I’ll write to you more often, you’re all I have.” Sometimes there is a drawing on the back of her assignment. Half a woman’s face dissolving into a wave. A rainbow sliced in two by a winged razor blade. A heart with a dagger through its middle. Cheap teenage symbolism. They could be pictures from the book I kept when I was her age.
I recognize the paper she uses by its ragged edge where it’s been pulled out of the thread-stitched notebook. If she’s not careful, pages will start to come loose. I know because I used the same sort of book when I was her age, the kind with the black-and-white- marbled covers. When I look down at the page I think I’ve got another piece of her journal, but then I turn it over and see the other side is blank. Athena’s homework is on a separate page at the bottom of the stack and I’ve lost track whether the page I’m holding is one that was just handed in or was already in the folder. I look back at the page I thought was her homework. There is a single line of tiny, cramped writing at the top of it. The ink is so pale that I have to move the paper into the light from the window in order to make it out.
You’re the only one I can ever tell.
I stare at the words so hard that a dim halo forms around them and I have to blink to make the darkness go away. Later I’ll wonder what I recognized first: the words that I wrote in my journal almost twenty years ago, or my own handwriting.
I make the students in my next class recite declen- sions until the sound of the other words in my head is a faint whisper, but as I walk to the dining hall the words reassert themselves in my brain. You’re the only one I can ever tell. Words any teenager might write in her diary. If I hadn’t recognized my own handwriting there would be no cause for alarm. The words could refer to anything, but knowing what they do refer to I can’t help but wonder how someone has gotten hold of my old journal and slipped a page of it into my homework folder. At first I had thought it must be Athena, but then I realized that any of the girls could have handed me the page when she handed in her own assignment. For that matter, since I left the homework folder on my desk overnight and the classrooms are unlocked, anyone might have slipped the page into my homework folder.
I know that that particular page is from the last journal I kept senior year, and that I lost it during the spring semester. Could it have been on the property all this time—hidden under the floorboards in my old dorm room perhaps—and Athena or one of her friends has now found it? The thought of what else is in that journal floods through me and I have to actually stop at the foot of the mansion stairs and lean on the railing for a moment before I can start up the steps.
Girls in plaid skirts and white shirts coming untucked from the blue sweaters tied around their waists stream around me as I make my way up the stairs toward the massive oak doors. The doors were designed to intimidate. They are outside the human scale. The Crevecoeur family, who donated the mansion to the school, also owned the paper mill in the nearby town of Corinth. India Crevecoeur ran a tea and “improvement society” for the female mill workers. I picture those mill girls, in a tight gaggle for warmth as much as for moral support, waiting outside these doors. My own grandmother, who worked at the mill before working as a maid for the Crevecoeurs, might have been among them.
When I won the scholarship to come here I wondered what the Crevecoeurs would have thought about the granddaughter of one of their maids attending their school. I don’t think they would have been amused. In the family portrait that hangs in the Music Room they look like dour, unhappy people. Their ancestors were Huguenots who fled France in the seventeenth century and eventually made their way here to this remote outpost in upstate New York. It must have been a shock to them—this wilderness, the brutal winters, the isolation. The fanlight above the door is plain glass now, but when I went here it was stained glass: a red heart split in two by a green fleur-de-lis-handled dagger and the family motto in yellow: Cor te reducit—The heart leads you back. I’ve always imagined them waiting for some deliverance from this savage place, to France, or God perhaps. But since I have found myself back at Heart Lake—a place I swore I’d never return to—I’ve begun to think the heart in the motto is the lake itself, exerting its own gravitational pull on those who have once lived on its shores and bathed in its icy green water.
The faculty dining room is in the old Music Room. When I went to Heart Lake the scholarship students worked in the kitchen and served the teachers at meals. Some years ago the practice was discontinued as it was considered demeaning to the scholarship students. I never minded though. Nancy Ames, the cook, always gave us a good meal. Roasts and potatoes, creamed vegetables and poached fish. I never ate so well in all my life. She saved us the rolls she baked fresh for every meal. She gave them to us wrapped in thick linen napkins embroidered with the Heart Lake crest, which we were to remember to return. Walking back through the cold dusk—that last year at Heart Lake resides in my memory as one endless winter dusk—I felt the warmth of them in my pocket, like a small animal burrowed for shelter against my body.
Now the school uses paper napkins and the teachers serve themselves from a buffet. Tuna fish salad and packaged bread. Carrot sticks and hard-boiled eggs. What hasn’t changed, though, is the mandatory attendance for all faculty. It was a tenet of India Crevecoeur, Heart Lake’s founder, that the teaching staff be a community. It is an admirable goal, but on days like today I’d give much to be able to take my sandwich out to a rock by the lake with no one but Ovid for company. As I enter the room I give India’s image in the family portrait a resentful look, which she, snug in the bosom of her large family, disdainfully returns.
The only empty seat is next to Myra Todd. I take out a stack of quizzes to grade and hope they will keep her from commenting on third period’s early dismissal. Half the teachers at the long table have a similar stack of paper-clipped pages at which they peck with their red pens in between bites of tuna fish. When I take out mine, though, I see I still have the journal page with my handwriting on the top of the stack. I hurriedly fold it and stick it into the pocket of my plaid wool skirt just as Myra leans across me for the salt shaker. I have to remind myself that she’d have no reason to think anything of those enigmatic words even if she did see them. Unless she’s the one who found my old journal.
I steal a glance at her to see if she’s paying undue attention to my stack of papers, but she is placidly chewing her sandwich and staring into the middle distance. Under the smell of tuna fish and stale coffee I catch her distinctive smell—a whiff of mildew as if she were one of her own science experiments left too long in the supply closet over Christmas break. I’ve always wondered what peculiar health condition or faulty laundry procedure is the cause of this odor, but it’s hardly the kind of thing you could ask a person as prim and proper as Myra. I try to imagine what she would do if she came upon my old journal, and I am pretty sure she’d take it straight to the dean.
I try to imagine what Dean Buehl would make of my old journal. Celeste Buehl was the science teacher when I went to Heart Lake. She was always kind to me when I was her student—and she was more than kind when she gave me this job—but I don’t think that kindness would survive a reading of my senior-year journal.
When she comes in today I notice how much she’s changed in the twenty years since she was my teacher. I remember her as slim and athletic, leading nature hikes through the woods and skating on the lake in winter. Now her broad shoulders are rounded and her short, cropped hair, once dark and springy, looks lifeless and dull. Myra Todd picks the moment of the dean’s entrance to mention third period’s early dismissal.
“Jane,” she says loudly, “your third-period class disturbed my senior lab this morning. We were at a very delicate stage of dissection. Mallory Martin’s hand slipped and she nicked her lab partner with a scalpel.”
I know Mallory Martin by reputation. My girls call her Maleficent. I somehow doubt the incident with ...
Les informations fournies dans la section « A propos du livre » peuvent faire référence à une autre édition de ce titre.
Description de la librairie
We guarantee the condition of every book as it's described on the Abebooks web
sites. If you're dissatisfied with your purchase (Incorrect Book/Not as
Described/Damaged) or if the order hasn't arrived, you're eligible for a refund
within 30 days of the estimated delivery date. If you've changed your mind about a
book that you've ordered, please use the Ask bookseller a question link to contact
us and we'll respond within 2 business days.
Shipping costs are based on books weighing 2.2 LB, or 1 KG. If your book order is heavy or oversized, we may contact you to let you know extra shipping is required.
Modes de paiement
acceptés par le vendeur
Mandat postal PayPal