The Shadow Gains Substance

Dimitri was terribly excited about going to Paris, and he talked about it often, but Samuel worried a little. He worried because he'd miss Dimitri when he was gone. And he was rather afraid that Dimitri would have the revolution he kept planning before Samuel could come to Paris and be in it. Dimitri didn't really seem to notice that Samuel was worried, but of course Samuel didn't mind. He never minded. He was used, really, to people not noticing him.

Dimitri was getting rather paler than he'd been, but that was something Samuel never worried about. He didn't know he should. He only supposed it was part of Dimitri's becoming more beautiful the older he got, because Dimitri did look more beautiful now he was paler.

One day, two weeks before he'd leave, Dimitri walked out in the garden with Samuel, and told him all about the way Paris would be. He told Samuel about how free he'd be, living on his own, in his own room in a boarding-house in the city. He told Samuel that going to college there would expose him to all different sorts of people, and that would help him become a better judge of character.

Samuel nodded, and echoed him sometimes.

When Dimitri paused in the middle of a sentence, and put a hand on his chest, wincing, Samuel didn't realise anything was wrong. He didn't realise anything was wrong until Dimitri made a little strangled noise and fell, grabbing hold of Samuel's shoulder and pulling him down as well. Dimitri fell on top of him, and Samuel went white and quite frightened as he pushed him off.

"Dimitri..." he said softly, and he thought of a sudden how much thinner and higher his voice sounded compared to Dimitri's.

Dimitri didn't move.

Samuel knew he should run to the house and get someone, but he was afraid, and it hurt his throat, that Dimitri would wake up while he was gone. And then, he thought, everyone would be angry with him; Dimitri for his making such a fuss, and his parents for his calling them out when nothing was wrong. Dimitri might very well wake up in a moment, and then there'd be no need to do anything at all.

He sat outside in the garden for half an hour before his mother came looking for him and found him there, with Dimitri lying beside him.

The funeral was dreadful, because Samuel had known it would be. He tried out a trick he learned a long time ago, which was to put anything awful in the very back of his mind so that he might forget it. It was rather a good trick, and he pretended everything but the funeral had happened.

He slept in Dimitri's room, in Dimitri's bed, and he read all of the papers Dimitri had left behind. He found a lot of letters from someone named 'Combeferre', and a lot of half-finished speeches that looked as though parts had been taken from books in his father's study. He learnt Dimitri's handwriting by tracing it over and over with his pen, until he had mastered it. Of course it wasn't perfect. Samuel had never been perfect. He didn't mind.

He finished some of the speeches; the easy ones. When a letter came from Combeferre, he wrote back. He told Combeferre that Dimitri was ill, and that it might be a long while before he came to Paris. Samuel didn't know exactly why he did it. He sent Combeferre the speeches he'd finished, and asked his opinion, but he told Combeferre Dimitri had written all of them.

He practiced speaking the way Dimitri used to speak, and he remembered to nod his head slowly, in a dignified way. He made his voice go soft and smooth the way Dimitri's did. He looked with sad, old blue eyes at everyone. He curled his hair 'round his fingers and pretended it looked like Dimitri's. He studied Dimitri's handwriting even more than he had before. He learned from all of the speeches Dimitri had written how to write one, but he took Combeferre's advice on them, one thing Dimitri wouldn't have done. He wrote back to Combeferre now every time, saying that it was just a little longer, that the illness had been severe, but that he was recovering. He signed all the letters 'Dimitri'.

When he was almost eighteen, he asked his parents in a steady, reasonable voice if he might go to Paris as Dimitri had planned to.

In his next letter to Combeferre, he explained that he had fully recovered, and would come within two weeks. Combeferre wrote back, and said he was waiting eagerly, and it would be a pleasure to meet him. Samuel smiled, for he had grown rather fond of Combeferre after all this time.

He realised, as he finished the letter, that he wasn't going to be an accessory any longer. It worried him more than it reassured him.

Chapter Three.
Back to Chapter One.