The Tapestry of Vanity

October 7, 2017
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The silvery orb of the moon cast a pale ghostly glow on the world, as Minerva sincerely sat by her grandmother’s side, spreading out all her ethereally woven works.


“This damsel’s hair is just as golden and cascading as yours,” whispered Grandmother, as she gazed in awe at Minerva’s woven quilts. “Girl is this all your work?” she asked, fingering the table cloths and laced handkerchiefs. Minerva nodded, turning away to hide a proud smile. Grandmother laid a trembling hand on Minerva’s slender shoulder and drew her close. “Go up to the attic of your house. In the rickety shelf above the piles of cardboard, lies my old sewing machine. From now, it’s yours to keep,” added Grandmother, as Minerva dashed up the winding staircase which led to the musty, dusty attic.


Tiptoeing across the creaking floorboards, she wiped her flushed face with a beautifully embroidered handkerchief. Her forehead glistened with perspiration as she struggled to drag the old bulletin board away. Eerie shadows danced on the cobweb adorned walls as the flickering candle cast its warm glow around. Suddenly, she spotted something circular and silvery glistening between two old albums on the rickety shelf above the piles of old cardboard. Could this be grandmother’s sewing machine? Her eyebrows were arched in bewilderment as she propped the ladder against the walls, and wrenched it out.


She drew her breath in amazement, as her bulging eyes threatened to leap out of their sockets. A soldier’s hat rolled down the ladder and thudded to the ground. She bent down and picked it up, fingering its cold, hard texture. “When did we last have a soldier in our family?” she murmured to herself. A crinkling piece of yellow parchment was tied to the hat’s rust-covered rims with a piece of old twine. Her heart hurled itself against her chest, as she held the parchment to the dim candle light. She read the almost indurscitible letters, seething with immense excitement.


“I hope that the reader of my note,
Is an indiscriminative young girl
Who cherishes a shimmering diamond,
As much as a glistening pearl.
The tapestry of my vanity
Is draped over,
The crumpling walls of my chambers
Over beautifully sewed mountains
Embroidered woollen sparrows do hover
Yet the tapestry lies incomplete, it needs to be done!
Do it! ‘O’ damsel!! They’re treasures to be won!”


Her hands quivered like a leaf in the gentle breeze, as she turned the hat upside down. Two small brass keys tinkled to the ground, as she bent down and tucked them into her satchel. The moonbeams illuminated her trembling footsteps down the winding staircase into her bedroom. She pulled her eiderdown over her lean body, and tried to close her eyes and drift to the world of dreams. Something within her pulled at the sinews of her heart, as she stared at the brass keys. “You have to complete this tapestry. You can weave really well,” she muttered to herself. “And somewhere an old soldier’s drifting soul will finally be able to rest peacefully,” she added, smiling dreamily.


The early morning sun cast their effulgent glow on an engraving, a little way above the hat’s rims. Minerva hadn’t noticed it before. Her eyes fluttered open as she groggily struggled to get to her feet. Her jaw dropped, as she stared at the engraving; her eyebrows raised in astonishment. The words “ Joan of Arc. Lorraine 1412-1431” were etched into the hat’s rusty surface. No wonder it looked so ancient!


Minerva thrust the hat into a vegetable sack, and went down for breakfast, trying to look as if everything was okay. The fragrance of baking pancakes drifted up, as she rinsed her hands and pulled up a chair for herself. “Dad, d’you have a map of France?” she asked, as her father peered at her from the top of his newspaper. “Yeah. But, why d’you ask?” he answered, heartily draining his cup of steaming tea. “School geography project,” replied Minerva, putting on a grave, studious look. Her father nodded and handed Minerva his thick, hard bound atlas. Minerva smiled gratefully, and sipped the thick steaming onion broth that her mother had set before her. She sprinted outside, and caught the nearest bus to Loraine. Bagging a comfortable seat, she dozed off, her head lolled against the sun-streaked window. Exactly three hours later, the conductor strutted over and shook her awake. Blushing shamefacedly, Minerva scampered down the stairs; plunging headfirst into Lorraine’s beautiful city. A crowd of people swarmed around the beautiful bronze statue of Joan of Arc built in the heart of the city. “The tapestry is draped over the walls of her house not her statue!” she moaned, swivelling around. “Excuse me, madam. You dropped something!”called a young boy behind her. “I found this on the foot of the statue,” he added as he ran up to her, and handed her a small black diary oozing with ink. Doffing his hat playfully, he disappeared into the swarming crowd. Minerva gently opened the diary, letting the oozing ink dribble down the notebook’s battered spine. Words written in a beautiful italic hand appeared on the burnt pages. “Dear diary. I love weaving. I love mixing colourful threads together to create incarnate designs on cloth. Yet, people call me “The heroine of France”. Their immense sincerity and faith in me, forces me to fight for them, to fight for my homeland. Oh! How I wish I could weave a protective world for all of us! I remember my days weaving the tapestry of my inward vanity in my chambers. The tapestry was filled with embroideries of how I wanted the world to be. It’s time to hit the sack, now. Right now while the moonbeams cascade down, the injured soldiers, the opposing armies and I, all are one. The discrimination only begins the moment my footprint is etched into the battlefield’s wet soil- Joan” “Beautiful!” gasped Minerva as she trudged on. Following the instructions of her instinct, she pushed through the swarming crowd wanting to get closer to Joan of Arc’s magnificent statue. She gazed at the foot of the statue, and stepped forward. Her knees pushed against the wide, circular slab on which the statue stood. The circular slab crumpled and gave way, whilst the statue lost its balance and crashed to the ground. The crowd started bellowing in horror, aimlessly running away to avoid being hit by flying shards of shattered glass. Brushing fragments of metal from her hair, Minerva excitedly crawled inside the partly-open trapdoor.


She found herself standing in a low-roofed room, with crumpling walls. A tapestry was draped over the crumpling walls, with beautiful hand-embroidered figures. Minerva ripped open her vegetable sack and rolled up the tapestry, thrusting it inside. She saw a brass cross; a prayer book, a pair of ruby encrusted scissors and a brass cross as well. “How do I get out of here?” she murmured to herself. She unbolted the trapdoor, with the two brass keys she had tucked away into her satchel and gently heaved herself out. Climbing onto the bus back to Paris, she retreated to her little weaving room and laid out the faded tapestry. She gasped in astonishment.


A beautiful scenery of looming grey castles with young damsel’s snacking on extravagant dishes with the poor, young children playing ball in sprawling gardens and frail old ladies assisting gallant looking kings in the smooth running of the kingdom bedazzled her pupil. She set to work, adding little cuckoo birds sitting on windowpanes and interrogatively poking their heads in. She wove little ducks sitting by the riverside, their golden beaks glistening in the sunlight. Faint letters embroidered in blue thread stated “Welcome to Joanland”. Minerva worked extremely hard, beautifying the tapestry as much as she could. As the night crawled in to replace the purple, glassy shadows of twilight, she gazed down at her work.


Beads of perspiration trickled down her slender fingers and formed dewdrops on the patches of grass which surrounded the woven palaces. A golden strand of straight, well-pressed hair fell off her scalp, and formed a straight ray of effulgent sunshine. A drop of blood spattered of her pricked thumb, and completed the cherry tree in the embroidered orchards. A warm glow sped up Minerva’s spine and engulfed her from head to toe. The tapestry of vanity looked and felt truly complete. She bent down and picked up the black diary with ink dribbling down its spines, eagerly leafing through. She flipped to the last page.


“Dear diary. A soldier’s heart is a soft pulp of emotion, temporarily barricaded by a covering of protective steel. Every soldier has his own secrets drifting within. Every soldier has his own little tapestry of vanity. How I wish I could complete mine!- Joan. 1428”’


Smilingly draping the beautiful tapestry over the walls of her bedroom, Minerva succumbed to the engulfing blanket of night, which blackened the white clothes of the desert nomads somewhere out there.






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