The Burning of Bleak College

[The Children, 2:]

They burned the shed that housed Providence first, then the main building with its stairless tower, the dormitory and the kitchen. Anne's children watched from the woods. When the ashes were cool, they came back to see if they could salvage anything of value. Elizabeth (seal's body; head of a crow) took the disc painted to look like the sun, and Prudence (dog's body, woman's head) took a few of the imitation pearls that represented the stars. When Bleak College re-opened, half a century later, under the direction of a Rhode Islander named Ablet, whose education and piety were beyond doubt, they brought these things back and offered them as gifts, in memory, they said, of someone who saw what was. The disc and pearls were displayed in Bleak's museum as "Indian Relics" until 1871, when this fiction could no longer be maintained; then they were moved to the library.


illustration: Jeff Crosby

Paul LaFarge is the author of Haussmann, or the Distinction (FSG) and the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship. This story is from Luminous Airplanes, a novel in progress.

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