This post was written by Miss Eliza.
Portuguese Countryside and Monastery of Alcobaça 1807: Jack is stunned and unnerved by the appearance of the Gardener, it’s not every day the devil strolls into camp. What’s worse is that Jack betrayed him, he’s a gatherer of information, not an assassin. Luckily the Gardener always used an intermediary so they have never met face to face. But Jack does wonder if he might have walked into a trap led by the so-called Pink Carnation. The Gardener clearly recognized her despite a disguise that would fool most. How can he be sure she is as she says? And what is this “understanding” she has with this killer? But her dismay at seeing the Gardener couldn’t be feigned, could it? The two of them decide to make a strategic retreat, aka flee into the night, crawling out the back of their tent; while leaving a few stumbling blocks if the Gardener should pursue them. The most effective of which is some ipecac in the claret, though Jane’s faux billet–doux should help as well. Jack should feel smug finally getting his way and incommoding the Gardener, but he had planned to be prepared for rough country with the proper supplies for a well-provisioned trek, not a night flit. Out on their own on a path that is barely more than a goat track, Jack wants to rail against Jane for the situation they find themselves in but she’s oddly cooperative, not complaining as he expected. He is learning that with the Pink Carnation it is best not to take anything at face value. They begin to grate on each other, but perhaps it’s more Jack’s jealousy that Jane had something with “Nicolas” who is a cold blooded killer yet she is unwilling to trust him.
Ironically Jane is also worried that by going off with Jack into the wilderness she is walking into a trap. But it would be folly to remain behind, Nicolas is obviously looking for Queen Maria and it would be foolish to stay. Jane is holding in so much loss, and it all dates to that day Nicolas walked into her life. But she can’t begrudge Miss Gwen her happiness, though she sometimes wonders what if things had been different. Breaking away from their fellow travelers gives Jack and Jane time to understand each other better as they warm their chilled bones around the camp fire. Jack feels that the constant accusations of being a turncoat need to be justified and he tells Jane the circumstances of his employment and subsequent defection from the Gardener’s employ. He had found a father figure in General Pierre Perron, who brought Jack to the French and then the French wanted Jack to kill him when Perron became a liability. To save Perron, Jack gave the British information, and a new alliance was struck. More than that he talks about what it was like growing up half-caste and how he was always less than, hindered by his birth. Jane counters that it’s no worse than being born a woman. Her ire is also raised, his reputation and attitude have put them in needless danger because he has made a career out of being provoking. If he had told her all this to start with she would have trusted him and his plans! Jack’s response is to stalk off into the wilderness. He spends the remainder of the night covering their tracks and musing on the fact that there are people in the world more hard done by than him, which is a new thought. He also muses on his temper, which makes him think of his mother. Near dawn he heads back to their camp with a stubborn donkey that reminds him more than a little bit of the Pink Carnation. But the camp is deserted. He curses his stupidity only to find that Jane hasn’t fled but hid up a tree for safety. She comes down and after Jack’s confession of the night before tells Jack about Venice and how she doesn’t trust Nicolas, she and Jack don’t have Nicholas’s stomach for assassination. She asks it they can start again, which is harder than she thought it would be. She’s unused to apologizing. The olive branch she offers Jack is her name, plain and simple: Jane.
Travelling through the Portuguese countryside Jane is quickly realizing how sheltered she has been. They are walking, endlessly walking. And she has a very painful blister. Talking nonsense is one way Jane is coping and the poor donkey is the recipient of this dubious honor. It is humbling to have to ask for help and more so having to ride astride a donkey. She had misjudged Jack and she didn’t know how to make amends. She’s somehow always in the wrong with him. But after a few home truths; trust is being built and Jack and her are rubbing along nicely enough as they travel through the cold hardscrabble mountains. They are exiles united. There’s a word in Portuguese, saudade, it means something like nostalgia, and they both suffer from it. And speaking of Portugal, isn’t it supposed to be warm? Apparently that’s southern Portugal. In the summer. Their first full night on the road they are lucky enough to have a roof over their heads provided by some of Rodrigo’s “friends.” What is better is news of a palanquin with a holy relic that passed through a week since on the way to the Monastery at Alcobaça. A talking holy relic!
The comfort of warm food, a stool and a hard floor will never again be taken for granted after a day on a donkey. While Jack and Jane curl up for bed they whisper to each other about how what they do changes them. Jane seems untouchable, but there’s a moment, a moment when Jane is flesh and blood and there night’s repose might have become a tumble in the hay. Literally. If not for the donkey acting as duenna. In the morning Jack pays for their lodgings, Jane thinks it’s a little generous, but she doesn’t know that the lady of the house is also his informant. They stumble out into the gray dawn with a new destination in mind, Alcobaça. It’s not far out of the way of Porto, and if Queen Maria is there it will save them a wasted journey to Porto. In the gray dawn Jane looks so fragile that Jack wants to protect her and bare his soul. But he should know her by now, she will soldier on. Life would be easier if she would live down to his preconceptions of her. He is confiding in her more and more. She finally hears about why he stole the jewels of Berar. They were to be his sister Lizzy’s dowry. She is a half-caste like himself and this wealth is her protection. Let her marry whom she wants, or stay single, it was all so Lizzy could be an independent woman as well as guaranteeing her safety. Jack says that Jane, of anyone, should relate to this desire. That is when Jane cuts him to the quick and reveals her secret, that it is because of Jack and his jewels that she lost everything. Thanks to Jack Reid Jane’s family declared her dead.
Jane unburdens herself to Jack, albeit in a redacted form. She’s always prided herself on keeping her own counsel and here she is telling Jake almost everything, because for once it’s nice to speak to someone frankly without reserve. Fate works in mysterious ways, as Lizzy rose in the world the wheel of fate dealt Jane a blow. She had prejudged Jack because he has inadvertently unmasked her to the Gardener and made unable for her to return to Paris and the organization she had established. Though Nicolas said she could return to Paris at his side, she’d just have to disown her principles and her country. She lost her standing and became what Jack sees now. Her family couldn’t accept her gallivanting around Europe unchaperoned, albeit in disguise. They thought that it was improper and she had lost her virtue, ironically it was the other way around. She didn’t lose her virtue until they cut all ties. What hurt most was her parents declaring her dead. Jack is shocked by this. No matter how much of an outcast he actually is or just felt himself to be he knew he could show up at any of his sibling’s homes and be welcomed. Here he had thought himself an exile when Jane is more of an outcast than he will ever be. This unburdening of pain leads to a release of the sexual tension that has been mounting between them and they share an amorous embrace. The bells of Alcobaça call a sudden halt to their canoodling. Jack is on his feet thinking that the bells must be an alarm and they are too late. Jane on the other hand hears them for what they are, a celebration. It is Christmas Eve!
Jane points out that they are oddly suited for Christmas, they are without shelter and even have a donkey. On the final push to the monastery Jane dwells on the fact that things are getting complicated with Jack. She had NOT meant that kiss to happen. This isn’t how things where with Nicolas. It was all thrust and parry and wits clashing but never any truth to what they said. She even planned her own seduction in Venice as if it where one of her missions! Her decision to succumb to his advances was a calculated measure. She no longer cared for Nicolas, so she lied with her body to keep up the pretense. They weren’t star-crossed, they were ill suited. But still, there was nothing unexpected. At all. She never acted on impulse, and that kiss was pure impulse. She is at sea with Jack, he confounds her expectations constantly. When they arrive at the monastery Jack is spinning a tale to the Abbot that is sure to get them food, but only in the kitchen, and if they are lucky an actual stable. So Jane decides it’s time to take back control, of the situation if not of her emotions. She spins a lavish fairy tale about an elopement and an enraged father and in the end, she gets her and Jack through the front door. Though Jack isn’t well pleased by this unexpected and undiscussed change in plans. They are given a lavish room with some very interesting outmoded court clothes of the color Jack’s stepmother would approve of, though he thinks he looks like a giant aubergine. If Jack would stop being so churlish Jane might just have to admit to herself that he cuts quite a dash in the ridiculous getup. As for his stepmother… how could she ever unravel for Jack all the tangled ties that bound her to his family?
Sussex, The Heavy Hart, 2005: With Aunt Arabella being kidnapped the rehearsal diner seen from Eloise’s point of view is more one of an Agatha Christie novel, wherein she is eying up the suspects, then a casual get-together. Jeremy is being a little too cozy with her grandmother as they bond over their distaste of the local pub as an “appropriate” place for a rehearsal dinner. But would Jeremy really endanger his own grandmother? Other than channeling Miss Marple it’s much what you’d expect of a rehearsal, people were being awkward, old family grievances were being aired, and the single members of the bridal party were getting drunk. Eloise’s parents are worried about her drastic change in her life goals. They don’t really approve of Colin; seeing him as the derailer of their daughter’s career, not the saver of her sanity and true love. She hadn’t really admitted it, even to herself, but her desire to have the wedding in England was to show her family how happy she was with her new life. Even if it did come with in-laws worthy of Peyton Place. Eloise is surprised by her mother-in-law to be as she gives them a fantastic painting of Selwick Hall, with all those Eloise loves captured in the finest detail on the canvas. But looking closer she sees Aunt Arabella almost ghostly in an upper window and wonders if this is an ill omen or even a threat! After all the toasts and speeches Eloise and Colin get everyone bundled off into their cars and prepare for their rendezvous. If they can make it through the next twenty-four hours the rest of their lives will be easy sailing. While everyone is snug in their beds they plan to beard this kidnapper in his den at Donwell Abbey! At least they have each other. And soon that will be forever and always!