Consuelo's ribbons!

from The Tale of the Rose by Consuelo de Saint-Exupéry page 130 nonfiction ~3 min read

Creating intimacy in three small rooms on the ground floor, with simple furniture and a telephone that never stopped ringing, required a great deal of energy and imagination and all the courage of a young, devoted, and loving wife.

After a week of work, I was very tired. Our maid came back to us, but she stole; Tonio caught her at it. A man, an Arab, replaced her. He adored Tonio. Life was easier that way. Tonio was happy as a child with his big Arab servant. It reminded us of our life in Morocco. We gave parties; the servant prepared enormous platters of couscous that we ate sitting on the floor, and we had as many as twenty people over at a time. We read, we sang. . . . But we were seriously in need of money. Tonio was hard at work developing an idea for a film, but it didn’t bring in any income.


“I’m tired of doing nothing. It’s very nice of you to play a record for me on the gramophone every day when I wake up, and I do love Bach, it’s true, but I’m starting to get bored. Though I’d love to have been a composer, like him, to be able to say things without words, in that secret language that is given only to the elect, the initiates, to poets . . . I often wonder if there are different breeds of men.”

“Yes, Tonio, I believe we’re all very different from one another. A flower, a white tablecloth, and the sound of your footsteps are enough for me. I like to hear them as much as the music of your Bach. They speak to me, they explain life to me. You are my key of sol, my key of fa. Through you, I come to God more quickly.”

“And for me you are my child, even when I am far from you, even for a day. When I fly away forever, I will be holding your hand. But you mustn’t act like a frail child who weeps and gazes at its guardian with sobs and tears. I have to leave, leave, leave . . .”


He was offered a chance to go to Moscow to write an article. The idea thrilled him.

“I’m leaving, Consuelo, I’m leaving tomorrow for Moscow. I need to see men and nations as they evolve. I feel like a eunuch tied down at home by your ribbons.”

My poor ribbons! He asked me for the one I was wearing in my hair, to carry with him in his wallet. His face was already distant, as if carved out of wood or steel. He was already in Moscow, sharing in the rigors of the five-year plan being developed there. From time to time, he muttered a few thoughts. “I know the Russians have very good planes,” he said once. “They’re doing advanced research. They’re very strong.”

“Yes, Tonio, the Russians are strong,” I said skeptically. “They’ve forgotten their songs, they’ve forgotten love. I hear that they no longer have families there. The children are placed in nurseries from the moment they’re born.”

“That may be true for now. They need all their strength. They’re preparing for a great struggle, they no longer have time to sing or to love. But one day they’ll go back to their music, their songs, their women, their lives as men. I’m sorry I’m not taking you with me. I’ll tell you everything. The phone lines between Paris and Russia are very good and not expensive. Every evening I’ll tell you what I’ve seen. Pack my bags.”

Before leaving, Tonio gave me some money. This time his absence didn’t make me sad. I would work on the house a little and have some surprises ready for him when he returned.

—Consuelo de Saint-Exupéry, The Tale of the Rose, p. 130