jeanette had left the window open, the breeze gently moved the lace curtains, and the rain fell softly on the persian rug.
when clement came home for lunch, he was furious to find that the lace curtains were billowing in the breeze, and that the rain was falling on the persian rug.
he became doubly enraged when, placing his keys on the teak table inside the oak door, he heard the sounds of henriette, the maid , making love with her boy friend upstairs in the master bedroom.
where was jeanette? clement decided he would deal with her later.
controlling his fury, he crossed the kitchen floor, almost slipping on some water which had leaked in from the drawing room where the window had been left open, and descended the cellar stairs in search of his riding crop, with which he was determined to give the saucy baggage and her fancy man a sound thrashing.
clement realized only too well that things had changed since his grandfather the duke’s time, but there were still amenities to be observed.
reaching the foot of the cellar stairs, clement was surprised by a gigantic purple python, which promptly devoured him.
the rain continued to fall through the window of the drawing room on to the persian rug, gradually flowing into the kitchen, and into the hallway under the teak table on which clement had placed his keys, as the python digested clement.
upstairs in the master bedroom, henriette and the boy friend, a worthless fellow who lived off women and had never done an honest day’s work in his life, paused in their lovemaking to light cigarettes.
“i had better open a window,” mused henriette. “or madame will notice the smell of smoke when she returns.”
“suit yourself,“ the boy friend replied languidly.
“listen!” henriette exclaimed , as she wrapped herself in a shawl and headed toward the window, “do you hear something?”
“only the sound of the rain, cheri.”
“i am not so sure,” henriette replied. she opened a window and a sudden gust of wind and rain burst into the room, overturning a framed photograph on the mantel of the fireplace.
the photograph was an old black and white one, of clement’s grandfather, the duke, standing on a pier with a pipe in his mouth, smiling determinedly but with his habitual furrowed brow, into the camera.
behind the duke a yacht rode gently at anchor in the mediterranean sunlight.
“listen!” henriette cried again, after picking up the photograph - which fortunately had not been cracked or damaged - from the bedroom floor and placing it back on the mantel, “there is the sound again!”
“it is only the wind, which you have so foolishly let in.”
“no, it is something else! something coming up the stairs!”
it was the python, which had finished digesting clement and had come up the stairs and entered the ground floor through the open kitchen door.
finding nothing in the kitchen, the drawing room, the library, or the dining room, the python was making its way up the stairs to the bedrooms.
henriette opened the bedroom door a crack and peered down the stairs.
“a python!” she exclaimed.
the boy friend did not wait to hear more. quickly gathering his shoes and clothes, he was out the window and down the old sycamore tree outside the window, not pausing to listen to henriette’s anguished cries as the python wrapped itself around her pale slender body.
“what a pretty fellow” thought madame duquesne, the nearest neighbor, as she happened to look out her window and saw the boy friend running past in the rain with his clothes in his arms.
later that afternoon, the python was seen making its leisurely way across the village square by madame claudette martin, who was driving her two daughters to their dancing class, and she promptly notified the authorities.
when jeanette arrived home she found the house in a shambles, for besides devouring clement and henriette, the large python had overturned and damaged many of the oldest and most valuable chairs and tables and bookcases, a number of which had been in clement’s family for centuries.
jeanette was well nigh inconsolable. “this is all my fault,” she kept repeating to her friend celeste, with whom she had been gossiping all afternoon in the coffee shop at the mall.
“these things happen,” celeste assured her. “they are fate. they are written in the stars.”
they were seated at the kitchen table, holding hands. police were tramping through the house with their cameras and notebooks attempting to determine the details of the tragedy.
flashbulbs kept going off, each new one causing jeanette to jump in her chair.