Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Beatrice Hitchman's 'Snapped the Twig that Held it'


Read Beatrice Hitchman's exclusive short story for Stylist, inspired by Infusion D'Iris Eau De Parfum by Prada.

Few things arouse the imagination or evoke memories like scent. Stylist sent four critically acclaimed authors the latest summer scents and asked them to pen an exclusive short story based on how the perfume made them feel.

Snapped the Twig that Held it to the Tree and Fell

Words: Beatrice Hitchman

In 1892, while his wife was running away with another woman – there she is, Julia, escaping through the orchard-gate, hand in hand with Nana Perret – the famous Scandinavian playwright Per Enqvist took a photograph of his own soul.

Per set up the apparatus in his study, carefully staring down the lens, extending a forefinger and thumb to release the shutter mechanism and there he was, now, trapped behind the walls of the wood-and-metal box.

He went to the window and blinked at the bright day outside, the lush cornfields rolling away downhill towards Lyon. Per and Julia had come to the foothills of the Alps three months before; taken on this little summer house (not a very little house: three servants and a cook) for an indefinite period. Per, incandescent with his latest play, working eighteen hour days; Julia, absent of eye, fingering the hems of things. Taking trips to the village. Nostrils flaring as she walked past a certain shop. Scent of polished leather, pomade; musk. A gentleman’s outfitters run by a woman who’d model every suit herself.

In the orchard, an apple, disturbed by the passing of Julia Enqvist, snapped the twig that held it to the tree and fell.

Photography was a hobby; developing was not. Per Enqvist left the window, and paced in the close warmth of his study, and then decided that he couldn’t wait: summoned the servant, instructed him to fetch the photographer from the village, and bring him here, explain to him about the need to see Per’s soul as soon as possible in its photographic format.

An interval. He passed the time sitting chin on hand in his favourite chair, imagining the camera doing its secret work of transcribing his most secret part.

The photographer from the village arrived, a man with tiny pince-nez perched on the bridge of his nose, hunched in permanent apology: a mouse of a person, Per thought, as he beckoned him in. The photographer had him close the curtains and fix them to their frames to shut out the light; then he set up his equipment, the trays of mysterious fluids that Per always lost patience with. Per’s dark mood returned. He sat in a corner armchair, fingers brushing his mouth, as the photographer took his time, fastidiously arranging and rearranging his trays, illuminating the dark red light.

Careful, Per winced, as the photographer did his work, but there was no need: his delicate womanly fingers did delicate womanly things.

The darkness in the room was almost perfect. There was only the low liquid red from the safety light to disturb it. Julia putting on red lipstick, her eyes defiant in the mirror.

There, the photographer said (Nana and Julia were boarding a train, Julia lifting her skirt to mid-calf, Nana’s hand in the small of her back to propel her up and forwards); now, said the photographer, let’s see what we have here – but Per was taking down the drapes and pushing the mouse-man out of the room. A soul was a thing to be viewed on one’s own.

The print lay on the dark oak. Per flattened it to the tabletop with two palms, smoothing it like a coverlet, staring. In close-up: the bridge of Per Enqvist’s nose, the lined cheek and eyebrows, and in the centre, Per Enqvist’s eyes –

Earlier that afternoon: Julia taking her suitcase down the stairs. The act of her leaving. Per hovering in the drawing room doorway.

I know you don’t understand, she’d said, maybe you could write a play about it.

The suitcase bumped the last two stairs. He didn’t move to help her because he always took everything she said very seriously, right down to this, her last suggestion to him – she took three steps – he was lost in artistic contemplation – maybe she’s right, maybe I really could put this in a play…?

The suitcase vanished through the back door, where Nana was waiting in her smart suit for Julia, hand outstretched. They ran away through the patches of overgrown mint, the sharp green crushed underfoot, between the apple trees.

Per Enqvist would never write a play about this but he was still a man who always tried to understand the reason for things, whatever Julia may have thought. That’s why he stood, didn’t sit, leaning on his elbows, weight thrown forward onto the table, the photograph in front of him, and stared into his own face, late into the night. A servant came in and turned the table-lamp on for him. He didn’t see her come or go.

Around ten o’clock in the evening Julia and Nana arrived in Geneva; Julia had tears in her eyes at the night sky, and below that, a monochrome field studded with tiny white flowers…

Infusion D'Iris Eau De Parfum, £53.50, Prada

Notes: mint, neroli and lily of the valley


After studying English and French at Edinburgh University, London-born Hitchman, 33, worked as a film-maker and editor before completing an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University in 2009. She won the Greene & Heaton Prize for her debut novel Petite Mort which has also been longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2013. Sugar and caffeine are her idea writing companions.

Petite Mort by Beatrice Hitchman is out now (£12.99, Serpent’s Tail)

Read Jeanette Winterson's A Day Like This

Read Aimee Bender's Frog Scouting

Read Evie Wyld's A Green Apple



30 beautiful constellation and astronomy ear piercings

Get on board with the latest piercing trend

by Sarah Biddlecombe
21 Oct 2016

This is the one reason you need to wash your makeup brushes

Be right back, we've got some cleaning to do

by Sarah Biddlecombe
19 Oct 2016

YouTube star Tanya Burr defends the blogging industry

“Bloggers don't deserve to be vilified”

by Sarah Biddlecombe
14 Oct 2016

“I dream in perfume”: Jo Malone on her life in fragrance

The perfumier tells Stylist of how her remarkable sense of smell has shaped her entire life

by Harriet Hall
14 Oct 2016

Harry Potter make-up is here just in time for Halloween

You can now wear a love potion on your lips

by Sarah Biddlecombe
12 Oct 2016

MAC’s new Nutcracker-inspired make-up collection is truly magical

Totally dreamy.

by Moya Crockett
12 Oct 2016

Tiffany Blue nails are now achievable

"I believe in manicures"

by Anna Pollitt
10 Oct 2016

Read my lips: Stylist pays homage to the high-impact lip trend

Bold lips for autumn winter

by Joanna McGarry
10 Oct 2016

How smart is your vagina?

From smart vibrators to clever kegels, technology’s new frontier

by The Stylist web team
03 Oct 2016

Acne could hold the key to youthful looks, says study

And not because it makes you look like a teenager.

by Moya Crockett
28 Sep 2016