This post was written by Miss Eliza of Strange and Random Happenstance.
Chapters 18-26: “If he is playing a double game, it’s a very deep one.”
Paris and Surrounding Countryside 1804: Laura’s discovery of the Duc de Berry throws everything she knows into turmoil. If Jaouen was helping to hide him that means she and he might be on the same side, making spying on him a little more than unnecessary! But when Jaouen rushes into Daubier’s studio he is just as wary of Laura as she is of him. Jaouen doesn’t have time to work out if he should trust Laura, if he should confide in her that he has spent all his time in Paris trying to make a better future for his children, a future that was the original dream of the Republic, not what it has degenerated into, a culture of fear and death. That his plan to restore the monarchy was destroyed by incompetence and ill timing all while his neck was on the line is his burden to bear, not hers. They don’t have the luxury of time in order to work out the mess they are in as Delaroche has already sent two guards to the studio.
Laclos and Maugret stumble into the studio to find Jaouen brazenly out in the open, hoping to forestall a search of the premise as Laura and the Duc de Berry are hiding in the next room. Just when Jaouen thinks he has the two guards under control a loud crash from the other room looks to destroy their plans, but Laura saves the day. Stripping down to her chemise and wrapping herself in a red throw, she undulates into the studio pretending she has just woken up from Daubier’s bed. Her dishabille is enough to distract the men, Jaouen included, as she revels in a role that is so antithetical to whom she is. Hopefully her performance goes a little way to convince Jaouen that she is to be trusted as she sends the two guards on a wild goose chase to a warehouse supposedly used by Daubier for his Royalist activities. That should keep the guards busy for a little while at least!
The three of them return to the Hôtel de Bac where the Duc de Berry will watch over Laura while Jaouen goes into work and sees what he can do for Daubier. As Pierre-André appears on the steps having awoken from a nightmare Jaouen realizes all that he has risked. He is a stranger to his children and has now placed their lives in danger all for a plot that is quickly unraveling and to which his feelings were equivocal at best. At dawn he returns home unable to have helped Daubier, he realizes that to free the painter he has to play the only card available to him, claim to be transferring him on Fouché’s orders, while in reality releasing him. The only problem is that following this drastic step Jaouen’s life is over and he must disappear. This is where Laura offers to help, not offering up the Pink Carnation, but claiming it as a service needing to be rendered to Daubier as an old family friend. But Laura is placing all her hopes in the Pink Carnation not knowing whether Jane can deliver.
In the misty morning at the Jardins du Luxembourg, Laura and the Pink Carnation share a shelter as the rain conveniently falls. Laura recounts to Jane that Jaouen has really been a Royalist all along and that they had planned to get access to Napoleon through Daubier, who has now been arrested. Their plan is obviously destroyed with Daubier’s imprisonment, but Jane is delighted that Laura has found the Duc du Berry. It is imperative that the prince of the blood is removed swiftly from Paris, and Jane thinks she just might be able to help. But a person needing to leave a city whose gates are barred is hard enough, make it a party of seven people, and you’re talking serious planning with only 24 hours in which to do it. But the Pink Carnation isn’t a thorn in the side of the French without reason!
The next dawn finds Jaouen at the Temple Prison collecting Daubier prior to his rendezvous with the rest of his party at a rundown tavern. Daubier is despondent, Delaroche in his zealotry has shattered the old painter’s will to live by destroying his right hand, finger by finger, joint by joint. Despite this Jaouen gets the old man free and gets to the rendezvous where he realizes that his family, now increased by several members, will be hiding in plain sight as a travelling Commedia dell’arte troupe, the Commedia dell’Aruzzio! The troop of seven members “lost” two actors recently, and it is a stretch for five actors to properly put on a show, so they are grateful for the arrival of this motley family. Jaouen and Laura will play husband and wife, with Daubier and Jeanette as their parents as well as the new scene painter and wardrobe mistress respectively. Only one of the troupe is in on their secret, so they will have to act for their passage to the coast, both onstage and off, following the troops month long prearranged performances.
Safely escaping the checkpoint to get out of Paris thanks to Gabrielle putting in a star turn as an actress, they trundle out into the countryside, living rough to save money, and to conceal themselves as best they can without arousing the suspicion on the rest of the troupe. Laura didn’t realize how hard it would be to be Jaouen’s wife, with all the intimacy that requires. At least she is able to take on that role far easier than that of Ruffiana. Laura, it turns out, is an atrocious actress. She can dissemble and become anything offstage, put her onstage and she can’t act to save herself. But that’s the crux of the problem, she is acting to save herself and her fellow travelling companions. If she can’t find some way to be convincing, or at least passable as Ruffiana, then how long before the rest of the troupe catches on and they are once again in imminent danger?
Paris 2004: The gallery opening cum birthday party of Caroline Selwick-Selwick-Alderly, or however she hyphenates her name now, has begun. Caro isn’t what Eloise expected, thinking that she was a belittling and abusive mother straight out of Mommie Dearest, resulting in her children’s issues, but it appears she’s more indifferent and distant; but lack of love can be just as bad as the wrong kind. Serena’s advice to Eloise that her mother wouldn’t even notice her because she had nothing she wanted was spot on, Eloise being dismissed in an instant from Caro’s personage. This leaves Eloise time to look at the paintings. They truly are beautiful, but they are devoid of portraits, Caro obviously doesn’t like to paint them, but she does like to surround herself with people, all of the Eurotrash variety. Speaking of the devil, Eloise bumps into Melinda, whom in fairness Pammy had warned her about as lurking in Paris. Melinda is there with her client, she is PA for the hot new actor Micah Stone. Melinda’s presence ties into the speech that Jeremy is currently making. He has eschewed all pretense that the night is about his wife and has made himself the center of attention as he ominously announces that Micah Stone’s new movie, a musical version of Much Ado About Nothing, is going to be filmed at Selwick Hall; Colin’s Selwick Hall.