BY CAROL MARKEL
The June night that Maeve LeNotre arrived in coal country, a pink and blue rococo sky hung in poufs over Pottsville, her new town. Warblers were trilling evening songs. The dark-red factory buildings sat matter of factly next to Mahantongo Street. John O'Hara's ghost lingered at number 606 next to a pale-green fire hydrant called "Darling."
Maeve LeNotre -- hatter -- modiste -- chapeautrix. In Pottsville she would ply her trade. Her hats were lavish. As heavy and sensuous as leaden eyelids and sable lashes.
Her shop would float on a riverboat reached by gondolas. It would be draped in garnet-crepe de chine and pistachio silk and have giant pineapple motifs planted on either side of the door.
A room was full. Evening hats. A black bonnet with black tulle that hung like fog over its crown. A black-velvet cloche chained with braid. A creation called Nuit de Chine. A black-crepe scarf studded with paste jewels hanging on a tiara of stars.
Pricked by her milliner's needles, Maeve's fingers grew blood red. Her hair fell sullenly from its elegant conch-shaped roll. Out in the narrow yard behind her house, ash from a colliery furnace blast fell and settled on her white-cotton slips hung out to dry.
Maeve put black powder on her face and stood upon her barge at dusk.
A wave of purple finches massed upon her red-toned head.
The Chapeautrix is copyright by Carol Markel, 1994.
Photographs by Richard Cramer taken on the roof
at 159 Rivington Street, New York City.