The Grape Years – La Maison des Deux Clochers

This week’s excerpt has the heaven-sent notary inspecting the Marey property for Laura and Franck. The man seems like an angel, but is he really a Judas?



The next day, Franck and I found ourselves scuttling back to our hiding spot under the washhouse in Marey. We peered through the round window for a glimpse of either Maitre Ange or the realtor.

This time I didn’t roll my eyes or complain. I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone interfering with us buying the property. In bed that morning Franck and I had already decided that if we saw signs that our Maitre Ange approved of the place we would make an offer on the spot to the realtor. I pressed my hot forehead against the cool stone. It was all happening so fast.

Soon Maitre Ange arrived in a majestic silver Mercedes that somehow seemed to repel the dust that billowed up from the dry country road. I checked my watch – he was actually on time – inconceivable for a French Notary.

Franck and I covertly slid out from the washhouse and crossed the road to greet him. His blue eyes roved over the property. “Alors, this the place?”

Oui,” Franck said. “The two houses you see here and the two granges further down the hill as well as all the land – it goes all the way down to the vineyards.
The Maitre merely raised his eyebrows and began to walk towards the gate. He unwound the knot of chain, opened it up, and walked right in as though he owned the place.

“The agent hasn’t arrived yet,” Franck clarified. “Perhaps we should-“

“I seem to remember you mentioning that the owners had already moved out.” Le Maitre smiled at us winningly.

“They have,” Franck said. “Still…I’m not sure if we have the right-“.

“They wouldn’t mind prospective buyers such as us looking around, now would they?”

Franck’s eyes questioned me and I shrugged. I had argued pretty much the same thing when we first visited the property. Still, it felt more like trespassing when it wasn’t my idea.

The Maitre Ange didn’t wait around for us to agree or disagree. He strode into the yard as if he owned it, his shining head of silver hair tilted up so he could take in the vast expanse of stone and roof.

Franck and I both waited for a sign from him, what did he think of the place? Nothing seemed to escape his scrutiny. He himself , however, remained inscrutable.

A shrill honk came from behind us. Franck and I whipped around, guiltily. Le Maitre turned slowly, majestically, with one eyebrow cocked to detect the identity of the culprit who dared interrupt his inspection. The agent lurched out of his dusty car, shedding stray pieces of paper and expostulating excuses all the way across the lawn to where we stood.
Franck made the introductions. The real estate agent, taking in the gleaming personage of our Notary, was struck speechless.

Le Maitre rubbed his fingers distastefully after shaking hands with the realtor. The realtor blushed, apologetic rather than offended. “I take it you don’t sell a lot of properties around here?” Maitre Ange demanded.

Non. This is quite out of my secteur. Quite an unusual set of circumstances, actually-“

Très bien,” Le Maitre said, neatly nipping what was surely going to be a tedious story in the bud. “I would like to be shown around the property, s’il vous plait.”

Trembling, the realtor led us over to the low house first. Even though I was keeping my eye trained on Maitre Ange, I couldn’t help noticing things that I hadn’t noticed before; the huge keyhole in the thick wooden door that led into the kitchen, the marvelous, heavy key to unlock it hanging on the wall by the stove, the smoothness of the wooden banister in the tall house that ran under my palm like silk…and then there was the wild purple clematis growing up towards my little garret up in the far outbuilding. Each new and perfect detail drove home an undeniable fact – my future happiness depended on owning this place.

Maitre Ange remained silent during the entire tour, much to our frustration as well as that of the realtor who became more obsequious and nervous with every minute.

Surely Maitre Ange didn’t disapprove, I told myself. How could he possibly object to such a marvelous property at such a bargain price?


A suivre…