Saturday, September 3, 2011

Monsieur le Comte

I was surprised to discover when I arrived in Oaxaca that my friend, since I had last seen her, had become a countess.  She had done it the old-fashioned way: by marrying a count.  She wore her new estate lightly and the whole thing appeared to be some sort of charade to placate his family back in France and on the whole she treated it as just one more interesting story in her life.

Her ennoblement  --  and her husband, for that matter  --  figured not at all in our daily affairs until one morning she announced that she was to open an art exhibition sponsored by the local authorities, and would I like to go as her escort.  She was something of a local figure and apparently, there being no stray royals about, she was to be enlisted in her capacity as Madame la Condessa to provide cosmopolitan glitter to a provincial occasion.  As I do not have much opportunity to get dressed up when I am in Oaxaca, I thought it a fine idea.  She would chatter away with the luminaries and smile for the cameras and I would nod agreeably in the background and sip champagne and nibble canapés.

It was raining on the appointed night and the exhibition was in an elegant old colonial building looted from the Church.  We mingled with the great and the good and the politically well-connected until the appropriate government grandee arrived, late, whereupon the champagne was served.

While my companion was well known, people were not certain who I was, but at length many apparently concluded that, since I was with la Condessa, that I must be Monsieur le Comte making one of my rare local appearances, and so I passed the evening admiring the paintings and sipping champagne and smiling amicably as people introduced themselves and tried to talk to me in French, a language of which I am innocent.  Everyone had a fine time.  Noblesse oblige.

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