This post was written by Miss Eliza of Strange and Random Happenstance.
Chapters 8-17: “What had he expected, wrought iron?”
Paris, 2004: Perhaps walking out on Colin in a huff wasn’t the mature thing to do. Sure, her romantic weekend might be spoiled, but really she’s just tagging along on what might be a very stressful weekend for Colin and Serena. Instead of going to the Musée de la Préfecture de Police Eloise pulls out the flyer she picked up in the hotel lobby for the exhibit Artistes en 1789: Marguerite Gérard et Julie Beniet and makes a snap decision. Perhaps Eros isn’t smiling on her this weekend, but whatever god is in charge of dissertations just might be. After all, Julie Beniet was the wife of André Jaouen, the man whose house the Silver Orchid had been placed in as governess fresh out of the Selwick’s Spy School. While looking at a picture of Jaouen, Eloise perpetrates the greatest of sins to museum guards the world over, her cell phone rings. Thankfully it’s Colin, she longs to apologize but he garbles out something about being with the police and for her to stay where she is. While waiting for Colin, Eloise is imagining all the horrors as to why he was with the police, never thinking that perhaps the museum she had intended to visit was in the police station… after an inconvenient yet diverting call from her best friend Pammy about their mutual nemesis from school, Melinda, Colin arrives and explains that he might have inadvertently given the police the idea that Eloise is missing. They head back to the hotel arm in arm, safe in the knowledge that Serena won’t be sharing their room.
Before joining Serena for drinks prior to the gallery opening cum birthday celebration, Colin and Eloise walk along the Seine. After a day of misunderstandings Paris has decided to reward the couple with the type of romantic stroll usually reserved for movies starring Audrey Hepburn. At a little kiosk selling antique books the god of dissertations, whomever he might be, once again shines on Eloise. There, among the multiple volume works of Hugo and Dumas is a slim red volume that calls to her. The book is a volume of poetry, Venus’s Feast. Chiara di Veneti. Chansons d’Amor, otherwise known as the book written by the mother of the Silver Orchid. Colin gallantly negotiates the price down and then buys it for Eloise as a token of not just love, but luck in research. They finally meet up with Serena at the Café Le Victor Hugo, where Serena is looking frailer than ever with a short bobbed haircut. She has also definitely been hitting the champagne and is jumpy and anxious, despite the good news of a possible promotion at work, making Eloise worried for her and more than a little nervous about the night to come. Serena says not to worry, Eloise has nothing to offer their mother and is therefore not important in their mother’s eyes. As they finish their drinks an elegant lady exits a car in front of the gallery the event is at, followed by the slimy Jeremy… mother has arrived and it is time to face the music.
Paris 1804: Laura’s rendezvous has come. She is excited as she makes her way to yet another bookshop. Are all bookshops in Paris in a secret spy network? It’s a heady experience living this double life, and Laura has yet to adjust. Laura’s spirits are soon dampened when she spies that execrable poet, Augustus Whittlesby, holding court and complaining about the engravings on his latest ode to Jane. Forget the spy network, is Whittlesby in every bookshop? Laura is shocked to find out that Whittlesby is her contact. But in the back room of the bookshop, their voices muffled by the printing presses, she is amazed by the change that overcomes the poet. He is direct and coherent and commanding, making Laura realize what an amazing actor he is to pull off his poetic performance. Laura passes on the information regarding the interrogation at the Abbaye, while Whittlesby helps fill in the blanks. There is a Royalist plot afoot in Paris. While you would think that the organization of the Pink Carnation would regard a return to the Bourbon monarchy as welcome, the plot is so badly organized it is a risk to their cause versus a boon and must therefore be stopped. Laura is to keep her eyes and ears open, in particular for Cadoudal or Picot, two of the conspirators. If she hears anything she is to contact the Pink Carnation through the regular channels. She leaves the shop with renewed fervor and a copy of Aesop’s Fables in Latin under her arm.
Outside the shop on the Rue Saint-Honoré the Sunday afternoon has a holiday spirit. Laura is reminded of spending time as a child on this street at the Café de la Régence watching her father playing chess with the famous painter Antoine Daubier. Daubier has a new opponent these days and it’s Laura’s employer, Jaouen; and he is awaiting Daubier at the same café. Laura engages Jaouen in small talk, impressed by his governess’s dedication to his children on her half day, or so Laura has it appear. On Daubier’s arrival he is shocked not only to see Laura, but to find that her path in life has brought her so low as to suffer being a governess. But Daubier’s shock is nothing to Jaouen’s. Of course governesses must come from somewhere, but to learn that his employee’s father was the greatest sculptor of his age, Michel de Griscogne, that Laura herself was the model in Daubier’s famous painting, The Girl with the Finch, that she spent her childhood in the studio of his own wife Julie’s tutor and mentor; it is almost too much to comprehend. Their happy group is interrupted by Delaroche, Cadoudal has been found but evaded capture. While Jaouen goes off with Delaroche to deal with this newest development that is sure to makes Laura’s next report to the Pink Carnation, Daubier escorts Laura home to the Hôtel de Bac while warning her to leave Jaouen’s service and if need be to come to him. It is a sweet offer come too late and when it is no longer wanted or desired.
Cadoudal’s rooms are searched and the evidence all points to a prince of the blood having returned to Paris, but as Jaouen points out to Delaroche, the evidence left behind is too useful, suggesting that it is a plant, so that they go off chasing their tales while the real plot is left undiscovered. Leaving the boarding house and weary with a long night’s work ahead, Jaouen stops by the Hôtel de Bac to change clothes and say goodnight to his children. At least that was the plan, instead, after finding out about this whole hidden history his governess has he engages Laura in discussion and connects Laura to her mother, the scandalous, but much loved poet, Chiara di Veneti. They commiserate over what it is like to live with someone who is struck by the Muse. Laura herself was always proficient, but unable to attain greatness and this frustrated her parents, much as the infant Gabrielle insulted Jaouen’s dead wife Julie, by chewing on a paintbrush versus producing a masterpiece before she could even speak. The result of their conversation is that Jaouen invites Laura to a salon of sorts that he holds once a month at the house, inviting painters and poets, connecting the muses with the artists with their patrons in honor of Julie. He would be honored if Laura would come as his guest.
Little does Laura know that the salons are really there to keep an eye on the artistic community under the guise of Julie’s memory. Jaouen knows that his wife would be appalled that he is responsible for ferreting out unrest and monitoring those that were her friends. Yet, it is better him then Delaroche. Laura uncomfortably mingles with the guests, shocked to find that both Augustus Whittlesby and the Pink Carnation are present. Her spying superiors seem to break the rules more often then follow them, and perhaps that is the secret of their success. While going from room to endless room in the Hôtel de Bac, transformed with gauze and flowers from its usual decrepitude, in the last room Laura stumbles on Daubier and Jaouen in hushed tones. From their reaction, it appears that they didn’t want interlopers, though Delaroche’s arrival signals a far more dangerous interloper. Jaouen has been able to maintain these salons by distancing himself from his job and his coworkers, Delaroche’s appearance could destroy all that he has built. While Jaouen tries to deal with Delaroche, the Pink Carnation makes contact with Laura, subtly passing her the information whilst once again breaking protocol, that they are to meet at ten the next morning in the Jardins de Luxembourg.
But will Laura make her meeting? Delaroche destroys the evening by arresting Daubier. Was this the plan all along? Is Jaouen in league with Delaroche despite privately condemning him? Laura doesn’t know who to trust and is questioning everything. In fear for the only father figure she might still have she sneaks out the back of the Hôtel de Bac and rushes to Daubier’s studio four blocks away in the Palace Royale, only she isn’t the first one there. Jaouen’s cousin Philippe is there and she makes a dangerous and deadly connection. Philippe isn’t Jaouen’s cousin, he is the Duc de Berry, third in line for the throne and the prince of the blood everyone is looking for!