Sample text for Camilla / Madeleine L'Engle.


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I KNEW AS SOON AS I GOT HOME on Wednesday that Jacques was there with my mother. I knew it when I walked into the entrance hall of the apartment and the door­man said, “Good afternoon, Miss Camilla,” and smiled at me with the eager and curious smile for which I had begun to look each time I came home. I walked across the hall, and prayed that Jacques would go now that I was home, that he would go before my father came. And I was glad that I had come straight home after school instead of going for a walk with Luisa.
I stepped into the elevator and the elevator boy said, as though he had something exotic-tasting in his mouth, “Good afternoon, Miss Camilla. You have company upstairs.”
“Oh?” I said.
“Yes.”
The elevator boy is small and fat and, though he has white hair and two of his teeth are missing and show black gaps in his mouth, he is always called the elevator boy; never the elevator man. And the way his eyes are always dancing with something malicious in them when he talks makes him seem much more like the brothers of some of the girls at school than like a grown person. His eyes had that nasty hap­piness in them now, as though he were about to put out a foot and trip me up and then roar with laughter when he saw me fall on my face.
“That Mr. Nissen is upstairs,” he said, grinning. “He asked especially if you was in and then he said he’d go up­stairs and wait for you.”
Yes, I could hear in my mind’s ear how Jacques would ask for me, smiling and speaking in that voice of his as soft as a spaniel’s ear. Yes, I am the one Jacques always asks for. I am like a game between Jacques and the doorman and the old elevator boy, a ball they throw back and forth between them, always smiling, smiling, as though they all understand the game is quite unimportant . . .
So the elevator boy looked at me with that giggly look and stopped the elevator at the fourteenth floor. It is really the thirteenth .oor, but I have noticed that in most apartment houses they just skip thirteen and call it fourteen. This is silly. You can change the number but you can’t change the floor.
I said good-bye to the elevator boy and pulled my key out of the pocket of my navy blue coat and let myself into the apartment. I could hear their voices from the living room. My mother was laughing, high and excited and happy. Don’t ever let my father hear her laugh like that, I begged, but I don’t know to whom I was begging, my mother, or Jacques, or God.
I went down the hall to my room and hung up my coat and my red beret and put my schoolbooks down on the desk. Then I did not sit down and start my homework as I usually do when I get in, but went back toward the living room so that Jacques would be sure to know I was home. I walked heavily, clumping my school shoes down on the silver-green carpet so that he would know before I got to the living room. Then I knocked.
“Come in,” my mother said. “Oh, it’s you, Camilla, dar­ling. How was school? I was saying to Jacques how well you always—your last report card was really—your father and I are most pleased with your progress.”
My mother always talks in little rushes, as though she were in such a hurry to say everything that there isn’t time ever quite to .nish a sentence. Her voice sounds like a brook leaping and tumbling downhill, and broken up and divided by all shapes and sizes of rocks.
I went over to my mother and kissed her and then I shook hands with Jacques. My mother said, “Good heavens, Camilla, your cheek is like ice. Is it raining or— Do you think it will snow tonight, Jacques, it’s really time— Of course I don’t like snow in the city after— But then it’s lovely while it’s falling.” And then she laughed. I don’t know quite what the laugh meant, but I think she just feels free to laugh because she thinks I am so young that I am still like a kitten with eyes that aren’t ready to open yet. But when you are .f­teen you have passed that stage. Fifteen is a strange number of years to be; it is so convenient for my mother and father that I am .fteen because they can always say that I am too young or too old whenever they want to say no about any­thing. Luisa is sixteen and she says it is the same way with her; you lose all the privileges of being a child and get none of the privileges of being grown-up.
“Good afternoon, Camilla,” Jacques said, in that silky way of his. And he looked at my mother. “Yes, Rose, it must have started to rain. Am I right, Camilla?”
“Yes.” I pulled my hand out of his. He did not open his .ngers but held his hand over mine so that I felt his palm all the way as I slid my .ngers out.
“Your lashes are wet,” Jacques said, “and there is rain in your hair. I brought you a present, Camilla.”
“Oh, yes, Camilla, do look at— Jacques brought you a lovely— Yes, Jacques came to—he dropped by just for you—to bring you a present.”
Jacques went to the table that stood under the Carroll portrait of my mother and picked up a package like a small cof.n. He gave it to me. “Perhaps you are too old for this, Camilla,” he said, “but your mother tells me you are learning to sew this year and—”
“Yes, Camilla is learning to sew so beautifully—it will be lovely for her to practice on—all the little dresses and per­haps even some hats—” my mother cried, her voice high and excited.
“Thank you,” I said.
“Aren’t you going to open it?” my mother asked me.
I opened the package. It was a doll. A large doll with real hair and long black eyelashes and horrible staring blue eyes that rolled in its head as well as opening and closing. And as I lifted it up its tiny rosy mouth opened and there were two rows of cruel little white teeth. I have never liked dolls. Somehow they have always frightened me a little because they are like cartoons of all that is cold and unloving and un­caring in people.
“You see? She has lashes like yours, Camilla. And she’s— she’s really not just a doll for a child, you know.” He seemed suddenly nervous and he pushed his .ngers quickly over his hair, which is thick and wavy and almost as fair as my mother’s.
The doll’s head lolled against my arm and the round, pink mouth closed in a sneer.
“How about your schoolwork—don’t you have home­work to do, Camilla? All that Latin—and is it geometry you were asking your father to— I never could understand geom­etry,” my mother said.
“Yes,” I said to my mother. “Thank you very much for the doll,” I said to Jacques.
I left the room and walked down the hall again. I put the doll down on a chair and it fell over so that it lay with its head on the arm of the chair like a midget who was drunk. Then I remembered I had left the box and the wrappings on the table under my mother’s portrait, so I went back to the living room and this time I did not knock. I don’t know whether I did this on purpose or not, but when I walked into the room, there were Jacques and my mother kissing, as I had known they would be.
“I forgot the box the doll came in,” I said in a loud voice and went over to the table.
Jacques opened his mouth to say something and closed it and then he opened it again and I think that this time he re­ally would have said something, only then we were all frozen into silence by the sound of my father’s key in the lock.
We heard my father come in and the soft thud as he tossed


Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Parent and child -- Fiction.
Family problems -- Fiction.
New York (N.Y.) -- Fiction.