Anne-Celeste had been missing since the previous autumn. Eight months after her disappearance, her family convinced me to hire a local Avocat, who drew up documents declaring her dead and which he then submitted to the local courts.
We sometimes would hear reports from local gendarmerie that Gustave the tradesman in this town, Félicité, a midwife in a nearby village, or an unnamed coachman passing through Gennes, had each seen a woman who they were convinced was Anne Celeste.
I remarried two years later, to Antoinette, the daughter of a wealthy merchant who owned a large winery in La Flèche. We were well-matched and she bore me two sons and a daughter. However, shortly after Général Leclerc-Vers had captured the chateau near Cunault, slaughtering 20 villagers in the process, Antoinette caught pneumonia and died after a few days of fever then falling into a coma.
I lived another twenty years, cared for by my loving children and vastly entertained by 10 or eleven grandchildren.
I was happy of a sorts. I kept myself busy and was made Préfect of my town. Finally, death- who had stalked me often enough when I was a an officer of the cavalry- came to my door on a winter’s day in 1815. And with him came Anne-Celeste. She wore a muddy and tattered white dress, and was, remarkably, still the same age she had been when I last saw her- just shy of her twenty second birthday. She had come to apologise for her long absence and for worrying me so; it turns out she had drowned in the Loire, while picking morelles for my dinner. “They were your favourite,” she explained, taking my hand and leading me into a bank of white mist that was now enveloping our home on Rue Massiere.
I am buried alongside both my wives- and many of my family who came after me, in the small and charming cemetery at Les Rosiers Sur Loire.
We are all content to watch the villagers come and pay respect, year after year.