Cradle Song

Berthe Morisot. Julie with Her Nurse, 1880. 29-24in. Ny Carlsbery Glyptok, Copenhagen.

For a few days I cannot look at Madame or Monsieur. I take my meals in the kitchen and stay in the nursery all day. On the fourth morning Madame gives me a new dress. It is not one of hers that she doesn't want any more. It is from the new Galeries Lafayette, she says. Something called a department store. It's a lovely pale gray with a pink, see-through tie at the throat.

"I have never had such a dress," I say.

"Wear it today," Madame says. "We'll go to the Bois. I want to paint you."


"This time in profile. It will be good for you to be outside."

We don't go to the fir grove. Instead, we take the Allée de Longchamp. "The fashion promenade used to take place here every Passion Week, before the war," Madame says cheerfully.

I can't imagine such a thing.

She chooses a bench, and sets up her easel. She wants Julie to be sitting up on my lap. Julie is making sweet gurgling sounds. I can't murmur back to her because I'm supposed to be silent. I steal a sideways look at Madame every so often and I see her working with half-frowns coming and going on her face. How can she frown even once? She has everything.

I think of home, quiet as a cave now without Félix, Maman and Natalie hardly talking. I'm sure Maman feels terrible. I want to put my head in her lap and cry. Maybe I can go back to the Bureau des Nourrices to send her a letter. I try to think of what to say.

Maman, do not cry. I...

My heart...

I must be brave but...