Please allow me to apologize for the radio silence on Wednesday. I have fractured my wrist, which makes typing very difficult, and I have not been on my game with preparing this week’s post. But Miss Eliza has taken care of our recap for today with her usual flair and efficiency. I would also like to point out that, if you’re wanting another outlet for all things Pink, Miss Eliza is devoting the entire month of August to The Lure of the Moonflower on her own blog, Strange and Random Happenstance. She’s calling it “An August Adieu,” and there have been several excellent posts about the Pink series so far. Also, Abby (of Pink VII moderation) sent me a link to this NPR article about the end of the Pink series the night before it appeared on Lauren’s website – go forth and read, if you like.
To wrap up from me, if you are interested in participating in the final Pink for All Seasons project, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can join in. And now, over to Miss Eliza!
Monastery of Alcobaça, Road to Peniche, Portuguese Countryside, Caldas da Rainha, and Peniche 1807: While Jack and Jane both feel a little absurd in their borrowed finery, bloody court clothes, Jack, even in his childish sulk, has to admit the borrowed dress does amazing things for Jane’s décolletage. Jack feels secretly smug when they learn they are not to dine with the monks in the refectory but with the monastery’s two other guests, an old roué, the Marquis de la Mare, and a belligerent glass manufacturer, Mr. Samson. Shut into this room and wearing this ridiculous getup, Jack’s chances to reconnoiter where slim. As their Christmas feast progresses, Jack begrudgingly admits that perhaps Jane’s plan has merit, even if he wasn’t consulted on it; though he will never reconcile himself to the plum velvet. Not only are they getting good information out of their fellow dinner guests about mysteriously closed sections of the abbey that contain marvelous works of art and wonder-working saints on the road to Peniche, but because of their “heretic” status they aren’t obliged to attend midnight mass; and what better time to snoop then when everyone is occupied elsewhere? While formulating their plans Jack is coming to realize not just how great an agent Jane is but also how below her he is. She might have fallen in her own eyes, but he was born low. Does one cancel out the other or are they forever on unequal footing? After the meal they sneak into the novice’s wing, which was supposedly closed due to water damage. There is no water damage, but there are signs that a large party of refined taste, just look at that bed linen, was recently in residence. But sadly they are too late and the “bird” has flown. It’s always birds. Jack is almost to the point where he can no longer deny his attraction to Jane. Illogically he almost wishes that the road to Alcobaça had been longer. But between them hangs the specter of Nicolas. Jack asks if she loved him. She responds, “How can there be love where there is no trust?” Jack wonders if this could include him and then he hears what he hoped to, that she never loved Nicholas. Then they hear what neither of them hoped to, the scrape of metal in a lock.
Jack and Jane snuff the candle and find themselves in complete darkness. Soon the Marquis de la Mare appears. Could it be he’s just looking at the artwork hidden away in the novice’s wing or is he looking for the Queen? He is actually looking for a chalice that has hidden symbols. Turns out de la Mare is more interested in the Philosopher’s Stone then the Queen of Portugal, being an alchemist himself, though he doesn’t mind sparing a minute to lend a lascivious eye to the monastery’s Titian. Speaking of sexual arousal, Jane never knew how seductive being in complete darkness with Jack could be, all sensations were intensified, even the protection he offered without thinking. Jane cannot seem to banish erotic thoughts of Jack. She never once allowed Nicolas to impede her concentration, yet here is Jack; and his finger against her lips is conjuring salacious imagery in her mind. She has been called an ice queen, incapable of true passion, whose self-containment wasn’t natural; she wasn’t feeling icy at the moment. She was painfully aware of her body. It’s been a long day and finally the Marquis goes off to bed. There might be something they’re missing, but they need sleep desperately, the same as the Marquis. But first they have a decision to make. Should they continue on their way to Porto or listen to what Mr. Samson said about the wonder-working saint on the way to Peniche? The island of Berlengas is just off the cost of Peniche and that was where Jane was to deliver the Queen. Peniche seems the safe bet, but it could also be a trap. Succumbing to their exhaustion Jane tells Jack to come to bed. Sharing a bed with their growing attraction doesn’t seem the wisest bet but Jack’s reaction to her suggestion makes Jane feel rejected; even if he does sleep beside here, protected by several layers of fabric.
Though several layers of fabric didn’t keep Jack from having a sleepless night. He prided himself on his ability to sleep anywhere. Apparently anywhere isn’t next to Jane. She has a peace in sleep he’s never seen in her before. Does she trust him? Does that mean love is possible? Love is terrifying. He saw what happened with his mother and father. Her suicide proved to him that love wasn’t fair. Yet Jane is fundamentally fair. Perhaps he’s starting to see what love can truly be instead of what his parents had. As they set off before dawn just in case any of their dinner companions of the night before weren’t as they appeared, Jack is glad for the cold driving rain that stops his amorous and soppy thoughts about Jane and his growing feelings for her. Jane was also glad of the distraction that her blisters were giving her, until Jack came over all thoughtful again. Sitting on the donkey she has too much time to live in her head. Time to dwell on Christmas and all the Christmases past and all she has left behind. She knows that that life doesn’t exist anymore even if she had wanted it too. Everyone has moved on, scattered. Her thoughts are interrupted by a rapidly approaching horse. She tells herself that there is no reason for the Gardener to come after her, she doesn’t matter, Nicolas only wanted the Queen. Yet still they take cover in the verge.
Mr. Samson is the rider. Could his return along the round to Peniche be a coincidence or something more? Jane feels vulnerable, exposed. Jane and Jack had decided to take the main roads because they assumed there wouldn’t be many travelers on Christmas Day, but the unexpected appearance of Mr. Samson has them going once more into the rough countryside following nothing more pronounced than a goat trail. They go north, west, and south, on a non-to “brief” detour, finally coming to the town of Caldas da Rainha. Where there is a thermal hospital, or in layman’s terms, a hot spring. The Pink Carnation thinks it’s unwise to stop, but Jane really wants a hot bath, as Jack heard her gasp earlier in the day, and as he wisely points out it wouldn’t do for her to catch a chill and it’s on the way. Never had the word “hot” sounded so seductive. Jack bribes the gatekeeper for access, privacy, and a little food. The benefit of hiding out in this hospital founded by Queen Leonor is that not only did they confirm Mr. Samson’s story about the miraculous statue from the gatekeeper, but the Gardener would never think to look for them at a spa! The room looks like something out of one of Miss Gwen’s horrid novels, wreathed in mist. Oddly enough it turns out Jack has read Miss Gwen’s little roman à clef about Jane and Nicolas, not knowing that it was written by his step-mother or that it was about Jane. Jane is still hurt by the book, but it’s success is what now funds her missions. Now is not the time to think of Nicolas. The more she had known him the harder it was to convince herself that she might love him. He only loved the idea of her. Jack knew more of the real her. He had given her the present she most wanted for Christmas, a hot bath. It was her decision to share it with him. He had already seen her figuratively naked over the past few weeks and the dark created its own shield.
Jack tried not to look. But she was a goddess descending into the pool more tantalizing than any courtesan. He knew that Jane’s offer to share her bath wasn’t sexual, he now has to convince his body of this fact. It’s because of Jack that this is how she is spending Christmas, naked in water smelling of rotten eggs and not safely at home with her family. Their nakedness encourages these companions to finally reveal the secrets they have held back making them true comrades. Jane admits that the longing for people and places past hinges on the past. They don’t exist anymore. The exile’s dilemma, the home they yearn for is never the home to which they return. Miss Gwen had made a plan to bring Jane back from the dead as a long lost cousin, but Jane hates the idea as much as Jack. To live a lie forever is unacceptable. Jack tells her that he wanted to be a philosopher king, before his life went off course because of the laws in India. They just understand each other in way that is deep in their bones, they are the same, they are the dispossessed. That is when Jane reveals what she should have told Jack long ago, that she knows his family. Jack is shocked. From the story Jane spins of Miss Gwen, her chaperone, and her daughter Plumeria, and Lizzy and her conquests, and Kat and her marriage, it appears that Jane is more a member of Jack’s own family than Jack is. Jack accuses Jane of withholding this crucial piece of knowledge because she wanted the power. The Pink Carnation must always be smarter. While the Pink Carnation rejoinders he must always be more disaffected, he feels sorry for himself despite having people out there who love him and want him, unlike her. No one wants her, not even Jack. She would rather be alone than pitied. And then Jack reveals his biggest secret, which is that he is attracted to her and thinks she is wonderful in every single way. All the remaining walls between them have been torn down and they are both laid bare, in more ways than one. As she slips back into the water Jane wraps her arms around Jack’s neck.
Despite knowing it’s folly, they succumb to their growing passion for each other. To sleep would be to invite morning and this intimacy between them is too fragile and new, so they talk and bond over the long night together. They discuss weapons and missions, Jane admitting that this mission is the closest she’s come to war and was entirely unsuited for it had she been willing to admit her faults. But Jack has always been on the front line, not hiding in the shadows where decisions are made like Jane. They complement each other and their pasts make them perfect for each other. If she hadn’t taken this mission they wouldn’t be together. Jack wouldn’t like who Jane was in Paris just as she wouldn’t have liked the man Jack would have become had his life not been upended by colonial law. Their lives have made them for each other. Dawn comes too soon and they are awkward and don’t know how to tell each other that they don’t want just this one night. Jack defensively starts to put himself down because he doesn’t believe he is what Jane wants, but she doesn’t want lutes she wants a man who notices her blisters. Jane is in love with Jack and their time together is almost over and she has this nagging feeling that they have missed something. At least if something goes wrong Jack can get to the rescue boat, the Bien-Aimée, off the coast of Berlengas, helmed by Lord Richard Selwick. But why did the Queen go to Peniche and not Porto? Nicolas is sneaky and he might be infiltrating and exploiting the resistance’s own plans. What if Peniche isn’t a trap for Jack and Jane but for the Queen? Which gives Jane an idea; she can infiltrate the castle from within!
Jane is shocked by Jack’s compliance. That he completely trusts her and her plan of entering the fort alone without questioning makes her realize how much he gets her. Yes, he would like to single-handedly storm the fort, rout the entire garrison, and present the Queen on a platter to her, but he knows he doesn’t stand a chance, she does; and Jack is practical like that. The plan is to go to the French garrison in Peniche and Jane will enter pretending to be Nicolas’s mistress, the best plans after all have a kernel of truth. She will incapacitate him with an opiate in his drink, forge orders for the removal of the Queen to Berlengas, and pose as Nicolas and bring the Queen directly to Jack and her compatriots. The plan should work but that doesn’t mean Jack isn’t worried about Jane, he loves her. Damn. How did that happen? Where is the animus he first felt when they met? Where did all the time go? How is this the end of their mission? How can he help the plan? To stall for time Jack says that if there should be a child from their liaison then he will be there by her side, like his father. And when did he become his father? He shouldn’t be talking practicalities, he should be spilling his heart to Jane, but this is what comes out. Hearing the idea of a child, their child, makes Jane realize that this might be something she would want. They could conceivably have a future together but first Jane must confront her past and pull off the greatest ruse, making sure that Nicolas doesn’t realize he is no longer all to her. The kiss that seals Jack and Jane’s farewell wasn’t an admission of love, but it had certainly felt like one. Stepping up to the door of the of the fortress Jane announces to the French solider that Monsieur le Comte de Brillac’s fiancée has arrived.
Sussex, Donwell Abbey, 2005: This is really not how Colin and Eloise envisioned the night before their wedding. But at least they are together. Colin and Eloise are heading to the ruins of Donwell Abbey, though Eloise’s footwear is far more sensible this time. Their plan is to arrive there early and ambush the kidnapper, wresting Aunt Arabella from his clutches. More vague is their plan to scare him with a sheet with eyeholes and Eloise pretending to be the phantom monk of Donwell Abbey à la Casper the friendly ghost. If further proof were needed that Colin wasn’t in the secret service, this ramshackle plan completely eliminates any possibility. Unfortunately for Colin and Eloise Aunt Arabella’s kidnapper had pretty much the same plan as them, though better executed; he’s rocking quite the phantom monk ensemble, cowl and all. The gun is a little anachronistic though. It’s quite a shock when they realize that the kidnapper, the one waving the gun at them, is none other than Nigel Dempster! Serena’s ex, the curator of the Vaughn collection, and least we forget, a man totally obsessed with the Pink Carnation and dreams of book deals and BBC miniseries. But who would have thought he cared this much? It turns out it was never about the Pink Carnation! Everything he’s done was to get his hands on Aunt Arabella’s coded notebooks. Back in the seventies his father was a high ranking MP who killed himself after he was threatened with exposure because he was selling secrets to the Russians. He was exposed by none other than Aunt Arabella! Who graciously gave the elder Dempster the option of suicide over exposure. Dempster the younger wants reparations, even though Aunt Arabella was only doing her job and his father was caught red-handed. Dempster’s life was ruined and he has a fantastical plan wherein Aunt Arabella’s notebooks, artfully expurgated, will show the “truth” that his father, a man of sterling reputation, was hounded to death by an excitable woman who overstepped herself, who will be found dead. It is obvious that Dempster didn’t have any plan to return Aunt Arabella safe and sound, she was insurance to make sure he got the notebooks. When Serena stumbles onto the scene she becomes added insurance. And that’s when Eloise’s phone rings. Incongruously she gets the good news from her American agent that she has a two book contract. Her “fictional” story of the Pink Carnation is going to be published! Provided she survives the night. As she informs the motley crew of her book deal she is given a congratulatory hallo from the shadows as Aunt Arabella swiftly incapacitates Dempster, saving the day, and herself in the process! Dempster is foiled and there’s the little thing of a wedding in a few short hours!