Ignatius is about to be seduced by a legend.
During a time when even the most educated of folk believe in ghosts, Ignatius Swain arrives in the quiet town of Ville sur le Fleuve to act as pedagogue to the adult daughter of Gregoire Delacroix. There he encounters the enigmatic Jacques Bouchard, who appears to view him as a rival for Desiree Delacroix’s affection.
Nothing could be more misconstrued. Even if Desiree’s gaze were not able to freeze water, Ignatius has set aside hopes of love hereabouts. He satisfies his desires with the helping hand of ghostly fables, tales of terror that walk shivery traces and fiery passion up his spine ... until one night when Jacques’s behaviour breeches barriers, and the pair encounter the most famous of resident spirits on the road.
“Open,” Jacques insisted, and Ignatius discovered he had parted his lips without thinking. “Wider.” Once more, he declined.
“’Tis any passing the old crossroads at night who needs be most on their guard.”
Naturally, Ignatius had to walk the crossroads to reach his hovel. One part of his mind was listening to the story. The other was unconcerned with mysticism and more taken with the spectre of Jacques Bouchard blocking out the light and all avenues of escape.
“Aye, the crossroads. Such a pretty sight in sunlight, with the old brook bubbling down through the glen. But at night --”
Ignatius blinked and blinked again. Jacques waved the chicken leg under his nose. Ignatius’s mouth opened, half in question, half-gaping, and Jacques moved the meat closer to his mouth. “Bite, or I’ll feed it to you forcefully.”
Wondering if the meat were poisoned, Ignatius hesitated.
“Most sightings of him happen there.”
“Aye, every spirit has his favourite stomping ground. ’Tis best avoided.”
“And who is this old spirit and what if one were to encounter him?” Desiree clearly knew the story but was relishing the moment.
Ignatius opened his mouth, Jacques pressed the meat home, and a moment later, Ignatius’s teeth pierced the flesh, salty, succulent juices flooding his mouth, easing over his tongue.
“There’s not many lived to tell the tale. A few, though, they say they’ve seen him as a skeleton in livery or flames. Some say they’ve rode or walked alongside him until he went back to whatever hell he came from, but I don’t believe it.”
Ignatius couldn’t believe he was chewing, and Jacques’s dark eyes watched his lips while he did so. The look in the man’s eyes was one of fever or fire. Perhaps hatred, perhaps ... desire?
“Fools,” Jacques muttered, offering Ignatius another bite of chicken. Rather than face another threat, Ignatius ate. He didn’t know what Jacques meant by the comment.
The story continued, mostly one of warnings about how not to go out late at night, and not alone, and never travel by the crossroads: the very thing Ignatius was shortly going to have to do. He took a last bite of chicken and flinched when Jacques tossed it somewhere over his shoulder regardless of whether it landed on the table or the floor, and someone found it in the trifle or stepped on it and slipped. Ignatius was very aware of the grease from the meat glazing his lips.
Those dark eyes studied him, seemed to search Ignatius’s gaze, and no matter how the young tutor strove to look away he could not do so. Jacques leaned in and Ignatius would have pulled away if there had not been a wall at his back as steadfast and solid as Jacques himself.
The man tilted his head. Ignatius, frowning, did his best to sink into the unyielding surface behind him wondering what manner of torment Jacques was about to perpetrate upon his person. Jacques’s tongue flicked out and licked the juices that surely glistened on his lips before closing their mouths together.