The End Of The Rainbow – Episode 39

Adam eased himself out of his narrow bed, trying to ignore the ache that spread from his shoulders to the soles of his feet. His journey by train and boat had been spent curled up in corners, perched on piles of baggage and, in an effort to save money, in severe discomfort for most of the time!His room was small and bare, with only a bed, wash-stand and cupboard in the corner. It was up in the eaves of the building, the ceiling sloping so that he could only stand up straight in the middle of the room. He had one chair, which stood in the window embrasure, its frayed wicker painted to match the white walls. Adam loved it.“A blank canvas,” he murmured, smiling. As the smell of freshly baked bread wafted in the open window, he realised that he was ravenously hungry. He crept down the rickety wooden stair, remembering Rhuari’s warning not to make too much noise.“Watch out for Madame Ronsard,” he had whispered as they’d lugged the suitcase up to the attic room. “She’s the concierge, in charge of the building. A bit short-tempered.”Adam learned she made arrangements for the laundry and set all the rules for the comings and goings of those who lodged in the house. “If you’re too late back in the evening, she locks that street door and you can sleep out in the street for all she cares!” The big street door swung open and Adam stood for a moment, drinking in every detail of his new surroundings. A cobbled street wound downhill to a glimpse of tree-fringed green and tall, shuttered buildings, their window-sills bright with vivid plants in pots, trails of ivy and flower-dotted creeper tumbling over stairways.Next door was a tiny baker’s shop where the baker was piling long crusty loaves on the counter. Adam felt in his pocket for the handful of coins Rhuari had pressed on him the previous night.“This’ll do you until we get your money sorted out,” he’d said. “Buy you breakfast.”Now, standing there, regarding a slightly puzzled baker, Adam realised that he’d forgotten one very important part of his preparation for coming to Paris. He couldn’t speak a word of French!“You’ll pick it up in no time,” Rhuari reassured him later, as they shared an alfresco breakfast sitting under a tree in one of Montmartre’s grassy squares. “Baguette!” He brandished Adam’s loaf above his head.“Fromage.” He pointed to the checked napkin which held a piece of cheese. Then followed a French lesson during which Rhuari, a skilled mimic, reduced Adam and the little group of onlookers who’d gathered round to gales of laughter.Eventually, Adam lay back on the grass and looked up through the tree’s green canopy.“This is a different world it’s like being set free. Free to be yourself,” he said quietly, to nobody in particular.Rhuari, red-haired and extrovert, proved to be Adam’s willing guide and mentor in the days that followed. He taught Adam phrases in French which would see him through until, as Rhuari put it, he “picked up the lingo”. He awarded him a corner of his airy studio, introduced him to his friends and took him to the best cafs, where they could drink coffee or a glass of wine and have long discussions about art, their ambitions or the world in general. Once the novelty of his new surroundings wore off, Adam began to worry about making ends meet. Rhuari and some of his friends seemed to have no shortage of money. Although they were all bohemians together, Adam suspected that the others were more like the famous Glasgow Boys sons of businessmen who had the advantage of pursuing their artistic lives without money worries. There was no such luxury for Adam. He organised his materials in Rhuari’s studio, and took to carrying his sketch pad with him as he explored Montmartre. In the evenings, when the light was warm and golden, he worked on watercolours of the landscape he could view from the window of his attic room.“I’m going down to the caf to meet the boys. You coming?” Rhuari poked his head round the door of Adam’s room.“No, thanks. I’ve things to do tonight. Maybe tomorrow.”He had been in Paris less than a fortnight, and already felt that precious time was slipping away from him. Once again, he took out the little box containing his savings and counted out the money, his expression growing serious as he did so. His funds were draining away far more quickly than he’d expected, and the rent was due at the end of the week.Adam got up, fetched pen and paper and began to write.Dear Mither, he began, I hope you got my note telling you that I had arrived here safely. I am glad I came to Paris. It is a wonderful place with many opportunities for an artist. As he wrote, his spirits rose. It was almost as if his mother were in the room beside him, quietly encouraging him.I promise that I will not disappoint you. Your loving son, Adam.


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