Shadows of Montmartre
Man in a painting by Jean-Paul
Simon in Scarlet:
Valentine doesn’t know his real name, but he watched over parts of her childhood from the great full-sized portrait in the Red Room, a grand but almost completely unused spare bedroom in her father’s palace in Zaragoza.
Why did she like the room? Perhaps it was him: she liked his pensiveness, and he was obviously her father’s work — though she was forbidden to touch the painting in the strongest possible terms, she recognized the style from an early age. Perhaps it was the menagerie of glass beasts displayed on a hutch there, which she would take down and progress in parade across the beautiful red carpet. Elephants and great stags with shockingly wide antlers, great tortoises and stranger things with horns or batwings beautifully rendered in lampwork. It was a quiet place, for the servants only came once a week to dust, and she could read under the dust-ruffle of the bed or practice dramatic monologues to the Man in Scarlet’s polite thoughtful look, or, when she was older, sunbathe on the little balcony undetected.
She did ask who he was, when she was ten, and her father said he was Lost. Upon further pressing he barked that he was named Simon Says, and Simon Says Don’t Ask.