The Red Necklace
By Sally Gardner
Summary: In the late eighteenth century, Sido, the twelve-year-old daughter of a self-indulgent marquis, and Yann, a fourteen-year-old Gypsy orphan raised to perform in a magic show, face a common enemy at the start of the French Revolution.
正文前的几句废话：抖森用软软的声音念出男主角Yann的台词实在是让人联想起雷1里的小基妹儿，然后用阴沉的声音模仿大反派Count Kalliovski时，又是足足的邪神范儿。最好玩的是，俩人都想娶个那有着摄人蓝眼睛（most bewitching blue eyes）的菇凉~（大公主是你吗？~）
The Red Necklace
This is Paris; here the winds of change are blowing, whispering their discontent into the very hearts of her citizens. A Paris waiting for the first slow turn of a wheel that will bring with it a revolution the like of which Europe has never known. In the coming year the people will be called upon to play their part in the tearing down of the Bastille, in the destruction of the old regime, in the stopping of the clocks.
This is where the devil goes walking, looking with interest in at the window of Dr. Guillotin【注1】, who works night and day to perfect his humane killing machine, sharpening his angled blade on the innocent necks of sheep. Little does the earnest doctor know that his new design will be center stage, a bloody altarpiece in the drama that is about to unfold.
But wait, not so fast. King Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette, are still outside Paris, at Versailles. This is the winter of 1789, one of the worst in living memory. Jack Frost【注2】 has dug his fingers deep into the heart of this frozen city, so that it looks almost unrecognizable under its thick blanket of snow.
All still appears as it should be. All has yet to break. . .
Here, then, is where our story starts, in a run-down theater on the rue du Temple, with a boy called Yann Margoza, who was born with a gift for knowing what people were thinking, and an uncanny ability to throw his voice.
Yann had a sharp, intelligent face, olive skin, a mop of jet-black hair, and eyes dark as midnight, with two stars shining in them. For the past few months the theater had been home to Yann and his friend and mentor, the dwarf Têtu, and Topolain, the magician. Together they traveled all over France, performing. Without ever appearing on stage, Têtu could move objects at will like a sorcerer, while Topolain fronted the show and did tricks of his own. Yann was fourteen now, and still didn’t understand how Têtu did it, even though he had helped behind the scenes since he was small.
Têtu’s age was anyone’s guess and, as he would say, no one’s business. He compensated for his size and his strange high-pitched voice with a fierce intelligence. He could speak many languages, but would not say where he came from.
It had been Têtu’s idea to invest their savings in the making of the wooden Pierrot. The result had been a sensation. Monsieur Aulard, manager of the Theater du Temple, had taken them on and for the past four months they had played to full houses. In these dark times, it struck Monsieur Aulard as nothing short of a miracle.
The Pierrot had caught people’s imaginations. Some thought that it was controlled by magic. More practical minds wondered if it was clockwork or automaton, or if there was something hidden inside. This theory was soon dismissed, as every night Topolain would invite a member of the audience on stage to look for himself. All who saw it were agreed that it was made from solid wood. Even if it had been hollow, there was no space inside for anyone to hide.
Yet not only could the Pierrot walk and talk, it could also, as Topolain told the astonished audience every night, see into the heart of every man and woman there, and know their darkest secrets.
For the grand finale, Topolain would perform the trick he was best known for—the magic bullet. He would ask a member of the audience to come up on stage and fire a pistol at him. To much rolling of drums, he would catch the bullet in his hand, proclaiming that he had drunk from the cup of everlasting life. After seeing what he could do with the automaton, the audience did not doubt him. Maybe such a great magician as this could indeed trick the Grim Reaper【aka死神大人】.
Every evening after the final curtain had fallen and the applause had died away, Yann would remove the small table on which had been placed the pistol and the bullet. Tonight the stage felt bitterly cold. Yann peered out into the darkened auditorium. He could sworn he heard someone whispering in the shadows.
“Hello?” he called.
“You all right?” asked Didier the caretaker, walking onto the stage. He was a giant of a man with a vacant moonlike face.
“I thought I heard someone in the stalls,” said Yann.
Didier stood by the proscenium arch and glared menacingly into the gloom.
“There’s no one there. More than likely it’s a rat. Don’t worry, I’ll get the blighter.”
He disappeared into the wings, humming as he went. Yann felt strangely uneasy. The sooner he was gone from here the better, he thought to himself.
There! The whispering was louder this time.
“Who’s there?” shouted Yann.
Then he heard a woman’s soft voice, whispering to him in Romany, the language he and Têtu spoke privately together. He nearly jumped out of his skin, for it felt as if she were standing right next to him.
She was saying, “The devil’s own is on your trail. Run like the wind.”
Topolain’s dressing room was what Monsieur Aulard grandly called a dressing room for superior actors. It was as shabby as all the other dressing rooms, but it was a little larger and had the decided privilege of having a fireplace. The log basket was all but empty and the fire near defeated by the cold.
Topolain was sitting looking at his painted face in a mirror. He was a stout man with doughy features.
“How did you know the shoemaker had a snuffbox in his pocket, Yann?”
Yann shrugged. “I could hear his thoughts loud and clear,” he said.
Têtu, who was carefully packing away the wooden Pierrot, listened and smiled, knowing that Yann’s abilities were still unpredictable. Sometimes, without being aware of it, he could read people’s minds; sometimes he could even see into the future.
There was a rap at the door. Topolain jumped up in surprise, spilling his wine onto the calico cloth on the dressing table so that it turned dark red.
A huge man stood imposingly in the doorway, his smart black tailored coat emphasizing his bulk. Yet it was his face, not his garments, that caught Yann’s attention. It was covered in scars like the map of a city you would never wish to visit. His left eye was the color of rancid milk. The pupil, dead and black, could be seen beneath its curdled surface.
He was a terrifying apparition.
The man handed Topolain a card. The magician took it, careful to wipe the sweat from his hands before he did so. As he read the name Count Kalliovski, he felt a quiver of excitement. He knew that Count was one of the wealthiest men in Paris.
“This is an honor indeed,” said Topolain.
“I am steward to Count Kalliovski. I am known as Milkeye,” said the man. He held out a leather purse before him as one might hold a bone out to a dog.
“My master wants you to entertain his friends tonight at the château of the Marquis de Villeduval. If Count Kalliovski is pleased with your performance”—he jangled the purse—“this will be your reward. The carriage is waiting. We would ask for haste.”
Yann knew exactly what Topolain was going to say.
“I shall be delighted. I shall be with you just as fast as I can get myself and my assistants together.”
“Haste,” Milkeye repeated sharply. “I don’t want our horses freezing to death out there. They are valuable.”
The door closed behind him with a thud, so that the thin walls shook.
As soon as they were alone, Topolain lifted Têtu off his feet and danced him around the room.
“This is what we have been dreaming of! With this invitation the doors of grand society will be open to us.”
He looked at his reflection in the mirror, added a touch of rouge to his cheeks, and picked up his hat and the box that contained the pistol.“Are we ready to amaze, astound, and bewilder?”
“Wait, wait!” pleaded Yann. He pulled Têtu aside and said quietly, “When I went to clear up this evening I heard a voice speaking Romany, saying, ‘The devil’s own is on your trail. Run like the wind.’”
“What are you whispering about?” asked Topolain.
“Come on, we’ll be late.”
Yann said desperately, “Please, let’s not go. I have a bad feeling.”
“The boy may be right.”said Têtu.
“Come on, the two of you!” said Topolain. “This is our destiny calling. Greatness lies ahead of us! Ha! I’ve waited a lifetime for this. Stop worrying. Tonight we will be princes.”
Yann and Têtu knew that it was useless to say more. They carried the long box with the Pierrot in it down the steep stairs, Yann trying to chase away the image of a coffin from his mind.
All Topolain was thinking was that maybe the king and queen would be there. The thought was like a fur coat against the cold, which wrapped itself around him as he walked out into the bitter night, Yann’s and Têtu’s anxieties forgotten.
The Marquis de Villeduval’s debts were alarming. He took no notice of his financial advisers, who told him that he was on the verge of bankruptcy. What matter if funds were low? He would simply raise the rents on his estate. In the meantime he would just have to borrow more from Count Kalliovski, who never blinked an eye at the outrageous sums the marquis requested.
This was how he had financed the building of his newest property, a small château halfway between Paris and Versailles, which allowed him easy access to the court and the capital. His taste was superb, the bills always shocking.
That evening the marquis was holding a supper party to thank Count Kalliovski for his continuing generosity. The guest list included the great and the good of French society—dukes, princes, counts, cardinals, and bishops. Like the marquis, they all had
good reason to be grateful to the count.
In return for his constant generosity, Kalliovski simply asked for those tiny little secrets, the kind of thing you wouldn’t even say in the confessional box. All you had to do was whisper them to him and absolution was guaranteed, the money given. He kept his friends like pampered lapdogs. They never suspected that the hand that fed them had also bought their souls.
Many rumors circulated about Kalliovski, which he encouraged. When asked his age he would say he was as old as Charlemagne. When asked about his great black wolfhound, Balthazar, he would say that he had never been without the dog. One thing, though, was certain: Many were his mistresses and no one was his wife.
The secret of his success lay in the absence of emotion. Over the years he had learned how to empty himself of sentiment, to keep himself free of passion.
Love he considered to be a blind spot on the map of the soul. He had an iron-clad heart. His motto was one that should have warned all who knew him of his true nature: Have no mercy, show no mercy.
For the marquis’s part, he was in awe of the count. If he was honest with himself,
something he avoided at all costs, he was more than a little jealous of him. Tonight, though, he wanted to impress the count. Nothing had been spared to make the celebration a success.
He had even gone to the trouble of having his daughter brought home from her convent to satisfy a whim of the count, who had asked to see her. Why, he could not imagine.
For he considered her to be a mark of imperfection upon his otherwise perfect existence. The marquis’s splendid new château stood testament to his secretive nature and his sophisticated taste. Each of its many salons was different. Some were painted with scenes of the Elysian Fields, in others, there were gilded rococo mirrors that reflected the many crystal chandeliers. On the first floor all the salons opened up into one another through double doors with marble columns. The effect was a giddy vista of rooms, each one more opulent than the last. But behind the grand façade lay what no eye saw, the narrow, dark, poky corridors that formed the unseen and unsightly varicose veins of the house. They were for the servants’ use only. The marquis liked to fancy that an invisible hand served him. And so his army of footmen and maids performed their tasks quietly in felted slippers, like mice behind the skirting boards.
On the day of the party, the Mother Superior told Sido that she was wanted at her father’s new château. It had been two years since she had last seen him, and for a moment she wondered if he had been taken ill. Her memory of her father was of a cold, unloving man who had little time for his daughter. Sido had grown into a shy, awkward-looking girl who walked with a limp, an unforgivable impediment that reflected badly on the great name of Villeduval. She had lost her mother when she was only three, and for most of her twelve years she had been brought up at the convent. The marquis had handed her over to the Mother Superior at the tender age of five, with instructions to teach the girl to be less clumsy and to walk without limping, if she was going to the château just for a supper party filled her with excitement and trepidation. As the convent doors closed behind her, she hoped passionately that she would never have to see the place again, that this might be the start of a new life where her father would love her at last.
Her happiness soon vanished as the coach made its way along the country roads. In the thin, blue, watery light, figures seemed to rise out of the snow like ghosts, given shape only by the rags they were wearing. They trudged silently along the side of the road with grim determination. Old men, young men, women carrying babies, grandmothers, small weary children, all were ill-equipped for the bitter winter weather as they slowly and painfully made their way toward Paris.
Sido knocked on the roof of the carriage, “We should stop and help,” she called to Bernard, the coachman.
The coach kept on moving.
“Please,” Sido called again. “We must help them.”
“The whole of France needs help,” came the answer. “Best not to look, mademoiselle.”
But how was it possible to turn your eyes away from such a sea of sadness?
Sido’s father’s new château looked like a fairy-tale castle, complete with towers and turrets, floating free of the formal gardens that surrounded it.
The marquis’s valet came out to greet her.
“How are you, Luc?” she asked, pleased to see a face she recognized.
“Well, mademoiselle. I have been instructed to take you up the back way to your
chamber. The marquis does not wish to be disturbed.”
Sido followed him through a plain wooden door into a long dark corridor. Luc lit a candle which shone a shy light down what seemed a never-ending passageway.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
The valet turned around with a finger to his lips.
Sido followed in silence. Every now and again cat’s cradles of light shone through peepholes, from one wall to the other. Luc opened a door.
“This will be your bedchamber. The marquis will call you when he is ready,” and with that he closed the door behind him. It disappeared perfectly into the painted panels so that if you didn’t know it was there, it would be impossible to tell.
This was a plain room, paneled in powder blue. The four-poster bed had thick dark blue velvet drapes, a fabric screen stood near a dressing table, and above the fireplace hung a painting of an Italian masked ball.
There were no flowers to welcome her, no bowls of fruits, no sweetmeats, though these were given to all the other guests.
For her part, Sido was just grateful to be away from the convent.
Hours passed, so that she was wondering if she had been forgotten, when the valet reappeared. “The marquis wants to see you now, mademoiselle.”
Sido straightened her skirt, took a deep breath, and concentrated with all her might on not limping as she was taken downstairs.
The marquis was waiting in his study. He had a large, needy, greedy face that gathered itself into a weak, undefined chin and had about it the promise of perpetual disappointment. He stared down his aristocratic nose at his daughter.
“I see, Sidonie, that you are not much changed since last we met. A little taller, maybe? Unfortunate. Tallness is unattractive in a girl.”
The abruptness of the criticism and the use of her full name made all Sido’s skills of navigation abandon her. She stepped back, narrowly avoiding a table displaying the marquis’s latest acquisition, a collection of scientific instruments.
“Look where you’re going! In heaven’s name, are you as stupid as you appear? And I see you still have that unpleasant limp. It seems not to have improved in the slightest,” said the marquis irritably.
Sido stood there wishing with all her heart that the floor would open and swallow her up. At that moment Count Kalliovski was shown into the chamber. At his heels was a large black wolfhound, his famous dog, Balthazar.
Sido’s first impression was that she would not like to be left alone with either the man or his dog. She dropped her gaze and curtsied as she felt his sharp inquisitive eyes upon her. Glancing up for a discreet look, she saw a tall thin man, elegantly dressed, his skin smooth and ageless , as if it had been preserved in aspic. He had the
perfume of wealth about him.
“That,” said the marquis abruptly, “is my daughter. Why I went to the expense and inconvenience of bringing her back here, I cannot imagine.”
“To humor me, I do believe,” said Count Kalliovski, he sat himself in a chair and stretched his long legs out before him, placing his hands together to form a steeple in front of his mouth. They were large, ugly hands that somehow didn’t seem to go with the rest of him. The dog settled near his master. Sido saw that the pattern on the count’s embroidered silk waistcoat was of little black skulls intertwined with ivy leaves.
“Eh.. Charming,” said the count, studying Sido with an expert eye. “But is there no food at your convent?”
“Not much, sir,” Sido replied.
The count smiled. “Tell me then, are the nuns all as pale and thin as you?”
“I thought not. And which convent is this?” When Sido told him, the count laughed out loud.
“Hahaha…I know the cardinal. I have lent him money in the past to settle his gambling debts.” The marquis looked most uncomfortable.
“My dear friend, your daughter has the most bewitching blue eyes. Give her a few
more years and you will find her to be ravishing.” The marquis looked like a spoiled overgrown child who is being asked to play nicely. “With respect, my dear count, plain she is and plain she will remain. I fear you have been taken in by the beauty of my study and the afternoon light.”
“Not in the slightest. I am just concerned to hear that your daughter has been sent to such an indifferent school. I suggest that from now on she should be educated at home.”
Sido stood there, surprised to find that she had an ally in the count.
The marquis rang for his valet.“The girl is to be bathed and the dressmaker summoned, mademoiselle Sidonie will be dining with us this evening.”
It took Sido a moment to realize what her father had just said. She wondered if just for once fate was smiling kindly on her.
注1：Joseph-Ignace Guillotin，法国医生、政客、共济会员，1789年提议使用一种新的器械，即断头台Guillotine，来执行死刑以减少死刑犯痛苦，在法国大革命中N多人命丧断头台使得这个东西名留青史。事实上，那个杀人机器并不是Dr. Guillotin发明的，他本人还反对死刑，但是很悲催的，这个断头台还是以他的名字命名了……
On their arrival, Topolain, Têtu, and Yann had been shown into the library, where a small stage had been erected, with a makeshift curtain. The only light in the room came from the fire and the candles on the mantelpiece. When the candles blazed up you could see that this was a large semicircular room, lined from floor to ceiling with bookshelves and divided halfway down by a wooden walkway. At each end was a spiral staircase. It was hard to fathom where the ceiling began or ended; the books looked as though they might go on to eternity.
Topolain was not in a good mood. He had stumbled badly as he got out of the coach,
making a fool of himself in front of the footman.
He stood near the fire doing his best to get some warmth back into his frozen limbs, only Yann was alert and excited enough to explore.
He moved away from the fire into the dark recesses of the library. He had never seen so many books. He took one out of the shelf. It was brand-new, some of its pages still uncut. He put it back and took out another, smiling to himself. Whoever owned the château used this room more to impress than for the knowledge it held. For all its grandeur, there was something uncomfortable about the place, as if the foundations were having an argument with the earth.
A bad omen, he thought, for tonight’s show.
The large double doors at the end of the room opened and Yann turned to see a tall man enter the library. He was dressed in black, his hair powdered white, and he walked with an assured step, the red heels of his shiny buckled shoes clicking loudly on the parquet floor. A black wolfhound followed him. He was holding something that Yann couldn’t quite make out.
Now in the firelight he saw clearly what it was—a human skull carved in wood. The sight of it made Yann move farther back into the darkness of the bookshelves. There was something sinister about this man.
Count Kalliovski ignored Topolain and Têtu, and he hadn’t seen the boy. He put the wooden skull on the table, opening it up to reveal a magnificent timepiece. On its face was the image of the Grim Reaper.
Topolain rushed forward, accidentally tripping and making nonsense of his low bow. “It is an honor, Count Kalliovski, to be called to your splendid residence, May I congratulate you on your fine taste?”
“This is not my residence. It belongs to the Marquis de Villeduval. Let us hope your magic shows more skill than your words do.”
Topolain was still not fully awake. How could he have forgotten what he had already been told? He attempted some more toe-curling flattery, making matters worse. Balthazar snarled, a low menacing rumble of a sound like the coming of thunder, Topolain took another step backward. He was terrified of dogs.
Têtu had a sense of rising panic. His mind whirled as he tried to remember exactly where and when it was he had last seen this man.
It was the sight of the count’s hands that finally loosened Têtu’s memory. For all Kalliovski’s airs and graces, he still had the hands of a butcher, the hands of a murderer.
How could Têtu ever forget them? Here before him was a ghost from his past, the enemy he had hope never to see again. All he could hope for now, was that Topolain would for once keep his mouth shut.
Yann had never been able to read Têtu’s mind, but that didn’t stop him from realizing that something was wrong with the dwarf, and it wasn’t just his usual tiredness after the show. It was something altogether more worrying.
“I called you here tonight because I was impressed by your performance at the Theater.” said the count,“I too have a great interest in automata”.
Topolain smiled feebly. He was only half listening. He was positive he had met this man before, though where, he couldn’t remember.
Without thinking, he inquired, “Forgive me for asking, but I never forget a face and—” He stopped, realizing too late when and where he last seen the count. And his blotched white makeup all the color drained from his face.
The count smiled inwardly, turned on his red heels and left the room. Têtu and Topolain listened to his footsteps retreat into the distance. They were well and truly trapped.
“What have I done?” said Topolain.
Yann could suddenly feel his fear.
“Quiet,” Têtu grunted. “The boy is here. You’d better leave the pistol out of the show.”
Topolain poured himself a generous glass of cognac from a decanter, his hands shaking and drained it in one gulp. “No pistol. I think that’s wise. But we’re dead, aren’t we?”
The memory of the voice early that evening began to haunt Yann again. There must, he thought, be a way to escape.
Above him on the wooden walkway came the sound of footsteps. A footman appeared as if from nowhere, and started to walk down the spiral staircase with a dish of sweetmeats. He left the dish beside the decanters on the table before returning the way he had come, through an invisible door in the bookshelves. Yann, catlike, went up the stairs after him and caught hold of the door before it fully closed.
“See if you can find a way out of here. I’ll keep the door open. Go!”
Yann found himself standing in a dark, musty smelling passageway. Up ahead he could see the flicker of candlelight as the footman disappeared down the rabbit warren of corridors. It reminded him of walking between the painted flats in the theater. But why did the château have this hidden labyrinth of corridors? What illusion was it hoping to create?
Sido had been dressed and ready for hours, but no one had come for her. She had been forgotten. Hungry and disappointed, she lay down.
This was how Yann first saw her. He had discovered that there were peepholes in all the doors. It was like watching different scenes from a play, a lady in a boudoir adjusted her impossibly tall wig, complaining to her maid that it was too heavy. In another room, a man was kissing a lady on the neck. In the next, a girl on the four-poster bed with her eyes closed.
Yann felt drawn to her, certain that she wouldn’t cry out if he were to venture in. He pushed against the door and it opened silently. Not wishing to wake her, he sat down and waited for her to stir.
She reminded him of a china doll, with long eyelashes that fluttered like a butterfly’s
wings, and an abundance of dark hair that cascaded across the pillows.
Sido woke up with a start, then, seeing him, sat bolt upright.
“Who are you? What are you doing here?” She pulled the curtains around her and peeked out, wondering if she should call for help.
“Even if you did, no one would come,” said Yann.
This was very unsettling. Had she been talking aloud and not known it?
“What is your name?” she asked.
“Yann Margoza. What’s yours?”
“Sido de Villeduval. Why are you here?”
“I am with the magician. We are doing the show tonight, downstairs in the room with all the books.”
The boy shouldn’t be here, Sido thought, yet the strange thing was that she had no desire for him to leave. He made her feel less forgotten and less hungry.
But if she were caught with him, she would be sent back to the convent to be forgotten again.
“You won’t be,”said Yann.
“How do you do that, know what I am thinking?”
Yann picked up a book and said, “It’s all the same, thinking and saying. Can you read?”
“I would like to read words. Thoughts can be so confusing. Why does this house have secret corridors?”
“My father had the corridors built because he doesn’t like to see the servants. I think you should leave.”
Yann knew he should, but there was something intriguing about this girl that made him forget the reason he had gone off exploring. He smiled at her. “There’s no need to worry. No one will come for you until the show begins.”
This was a strange boy indeed. It was like being in church and feeling that you were opened up and all of you could be seen.
When there was a sharp knock on the door Sido’s heart nearly missed a beat.
Then she realized that the boy with the all-seeing eyes had vanished.
So it was that on the last stroke of midnight the scene was set. All that was keeping the performance from beginning was the late arrival of the marquis. The guests were waiting as an argument broke out between two of their party, a cardinal and an intensely earnest-looking young man called Louis de Jonquières.
“You are a man of the church. The Bible commands us to consider the poor,” said the young man, “In my view, if their lot is to be improved, they should have a say in the way things are run. Come, you must agree that at present our society leaves much to be desired.”
The cardinal looked pained.“My ancestors fought to make this country what it is. We are a great nation, the envy of the world. You surely do not imagine that this has been achieved by the people? It is our duty to retain our position and lead the way.”
“But the nobility cannot be relied upon,” said Louis de Jonquières. “We are not going to change our ways in order to put bread on the tables of the starving. Look what has happened in America! The people rid themselves of English sovereignty and now, with our help, it is a republic. Many of my friends would argue that absolute monarchy is dead.”
The cardinal’s cheeks were now as red as his silk gown.
“Society,” he said haughtily, “will have to evolve, and that, monsieur, will take time.”
“But why should the poor pay for the privileges of the rich? They are so many, and we are so few,” said Louis de Jonquières passionately.
Count Kalliovski, who was enjoying watching the cardinal’s discomfiture, interrupted with a laugh.
“Hahaha…enough, enough,” he said. “For tonight, my friends, let’s leave politics alone. The subject makes dreary companions of us all.”
Now, with the timing of a great actor, the marquis entered the room, accompanied by Sido. He took his seat at the front of the makeshift stage. Sido sat down beside him.
Her attention was caught by the Duchesse de Lamantes, with her fashionably tall coiffure. On top, amongst an assortment of ribbons and flowers, sat a coach made out of gold thread, drawn by six dapple gray horses of blown glass.
“Who,” inquired the duchess, lifting up her spyglass, “is that plain-looking creature? Can it be the marquis’s daughter? What a disappointment for him.”
The marquis silenced the company. “I hope I haven’t missed any of this intriguing little performance of yours, Count Kalliovski.”
“Not at all, my dear friend,” said the count. “As you can see, the curtain has not yet been drawn.” He clapped his hands for silence.
“Messieurs et mesdames, to thank the marquis for this splendid evening I have brought him a show from the theater at the rue du Temple— I give you the People’s Pierrot.”
There was a round of applause as the curtain was pulled back and Topolain brought the Pierrot to the front of the stage. The magician started as always by demonstrating to the audience its lack of strings.
“Monsieur le Marquis, Count Kalliovski, my lords and ladies,” he announced with a flourish, “I have here the wonder of Paris. He can walk! He can talk! Moreover, he can look into the future, see into the depths of your hearts, and know your darkest secrets.”
“Why would it want to do that?” interrupted the marquis, “It seems most impertinent.”
A titter of laughter echoed around the room. Topolain stopped, uncertain whether he should continue or wait.
To his relief, the Pierrot stood up and opened its steely glass eyes. It stretched out its wooden fingers and moved its wooden limbs. There was complete silence.
Topolain recovered himself and began to work his audience. He lifted up the Pierrot’s baggy blue top to show the carved wooden torso. He tapped it with his hand; it made a pleasingly solid sound.
“Bravo! An artful mystery indeed,” said the marquis. Count Kalliovski stared fixedly at the wooden Pierrot; he too was intrigued to know how the strange doll worked. “Ask the Pierrot a question.”said Topolain,“I promise you the answer will not disappoint.”
Yann, from his vantage point hidden in the shadows, could see the stage and the audience clearly. Têtu, standing beside him, was working the Pierrot, though how he did it remained to Yann a profound mystery. It was their combined talents that made the show the success it was.
“Emmm…Tell me then, what kind of dog have I got?” said a lady with face patches and a painted fan.
This was what Yann could do, read minds and throw his voice so that it sounded as if the Pierrot was talking.
“A spaniel. She had puppies three days ago.”
The lady laughed. “How charming, and how clever.”
Now it started just as it had done in the theater earlier that evening, a ribbon of silly questions neatly tied up and answered to everyone’s satisfaction. Yann felt pleased that nothing more taxing had been asked of him. Two shows a night was hard work, especially for Têtu.
Just then Louis de Jonquières remarked, “If the Pierrot is right about small things, then maybe he can inform us on the bigger questions of the day.”
“Really, monsieur!” said the Duchesse de Lamantes. “Why do you insist on being so
“Forgive me,” said Louis de Jonquières, “but I am curious. Tell me, Pierrot, will the present regime fall?”
With this question the room changed. Yann saw in the slipstream of his mind an audience of headless people, blood running down their fine clothes. He heard the Pierrot say, as if from many miles away, “A thousand years of French kings are coming to an end.”
The audience began to shift on their chairs.
Topolain rushed toward the front of the stage. “The doll jests,” he cried. “Please now ask him a question he can answer.”
Louis de Jonquières pushed back his chair and stood up.“Perhaps he would care to give us his candid opinion as to whether France will evolve itself into a constitutional monarchy.”
“Please, monsieur,” interrupted Topolain, “my doll is no political fortune-teller.”
“But you said, sir, that he can see into the future. I am merely asking what he sees.”
“Well…watches, snuffboxes, trinkets, bonbons, and the like,” said Topolain. He felt he was losing his grip. What on earth had come over Yann, that he would say something so dangerous?
“Humor me,” the young man persisted.
Yann looked out at all the fine ladies and gentlemen, at the emeralds, rubies, and diamonds that glittered on wilted flesh. Louis de Jonquières appeared to be holding his blood-soaked head under his arm. Yann heard the Pierrot say, “I see you all drowning in blood.”
This remark was so unexpected and so shocking that Topolain burst out laughing. “As you see, messieurs and mesdames, on the question of politics the Pierrot is but a wooden doll.”
None of the guests were laughing.
“A doll indeed,” said the marquis solemnly. He turned to his guests. “I can assure you, my dear friends, that such a thing would never happen here. It must be an English doll!” There was a ripple of nervous laughter. “In that country of barbarians, yes, maybe. Look at what they did to their King Charles the First—chopped off his head! We would never fall so low.”
There was a murmur of approval. Everyone applauded.
Count Kalliovski watched with interest. He had sat there, judge and jury on the fate of Topolain and Têtu, and had come to his verdict. This would be their last ever performance. After tonight the old fool and his friend would be dead.
“Thank you, that will be all,” said the marquis, dismissing Topolain. “I believe the entertainment, if you can call it that, is over. ”
“Not quite yet,” said the count. “I believe Monsieur Topolain is celebrated for a trick that he does with a pistol. He is the only man in Europe who claims that no bullet can
“Impossible!” said the marquis.
“Well then, let us see for ourselves,” said the count.
Topolain was on his own. In his mind’s eye he saw the Grim Reaper climb out of the wooden skull, grow in size, and stand there watching him, just like Kalliovski. For one moment he contemplated escaping, but he could see Milkeye standing guard at the library doors. If he ran, it would be the end for all of them. He who thought himself a coward now showed the bravery of a lion. Always the showman, he brought out the pistol and a bullet and showed them to the audience.
“I will prove to you that I am invincible. This bullet will be fired at my very heart, and yet I will live to tell the tale. Now, I require an assistant.”
He looked out into the audience, knowing full well who would stand up.
“You need someone with an accurate eye. I flatter myself that I am that man,” said Count Kalliovski.
Topolain wished that he had at least drunk more of the marquis’s very fine cognac. He loaded the pistol and handed it to the count, who took his time inspecting it. Only Topolain saw that with sleight of hand he had interfered with the weapon.
“When I raise my handkerchief, you will fire.”
“Wait,” said the count. “Have you forgotten? Should you not say some magic words to keep you safe?”
Oh, Topolain remembered all right, but he knew there were no words to keep him safe.
The count’s voice broke through his memories. “No bullet . . .”
“No bullet,” repeated Topolain, “can harm me. I have drunk from the cup of everlasting life.”
With these words he walked away bravely as if he were about to fight a duel, though, unlike Kalliovski, he was unarmed. He looked his murderer straight in the eyes as he lifted his white handkerchief.
The count pulled the trigger. There was a loud retort, followed by the acrid smell of gunpowder and scorched flesh. Topolain stumbled and the audience gasped as they watched the handkerchief he was holding turn bright red.
Topolain held up the bullet and showed it to the audience. He staggered forward to take a final bow.
The curtains were drawn and the audience clapped politely. By now they had lost interest.
“Most peculiar,” said the marquis. “Come, I think we are all in need of champagne. Let us go upstairs, where the card tables demand our attention.”
The great library doors were opened and music filtered into the room. The marquis led the way out, quite forgetting his daughter, who stood staring transfixed at the curtains as the other guests filed past her.
None of them turned around as there was a thud from backstage.
Death had made his entrance upon the small stage. He was all too visible to the magician. He had the strangest sensation of becoming detached from his body, connected only by spider threads of silver memory.
Now he was floating up over the guests, past the crowded bookshelves toward the bright painted ceiling.
The silver threads snapped and he was free.
Caught in a gust of wind, he was blown out of the library and into the hall with the doors had been opened to let in a latecomer. The snow flurried in as Jacques Topolain glided out into the dark night.
He saw no more, he heard no more, he was no more.
Yann had rushed with Têtu to help. He had taken one look at Topolain and seen Death’s black gown trail across the stage.
Têtu put his head to Topolain’s chest, listening for a heartbeat. He shook his head. There was nothing to be done.
“It has never gone wrong before. Why now?” cried Yann.
Têtu was examining the weapon.
“The pistol has been tampered with. Topolain didn’t stand a chance. He was murdered.”
The essence of Topolain had gone, snuffed out like a candle. Only the body that housed him was left lying on the stage in a pool of congealing blood, with Têtu kneeling beside him, tears rolling down his cheeks, rocking back and forth on his heels and sobbing.
Yann put a gentle hand on the dwarf’s shoulder and bent down to whisper to him. “We have to leave.”
Têtu was in a bad way, already exhausted from doing two performances in one night. The shock of losing such a dear friend had taken all his strength away and robbed him of his senses. All Yann could think was that they must somehow get out of here.
Out in the hall, the guests were making their way up the grand staircase. Sido felt perplexed by their indifference. Surely they realized that the magician wasn’t acting, surely they realized he had been seriously hurt. Why did no one summon a surgeon to help?
She turned in desperation to the duchess. “I think the magician has been wounded.”
“Nonsense, child! It was just playacting.” Her eyes searched the room for more distinguished company. “I can assure you that your magician will live to work another day.” She walked away, leaving Sido alone.
I don’t want to grow up to be like that, thought Sido. Sido would have liked to go back into the library to see for herself what had happened to the magician, but one of the count’s men was standing guard outside and she knew that if she moved any closer she might attract unwanted attention.
Beside her stood a young lady in an elaborate pink silk dress, with a hawk-nosed gentleman.
“Do you remember the time the marquis brought in a fortune-teller? ” the young lady was asking.
Her admirer shook his head. “Alas, I was not invited.”
“The marquis sent his gamekeeper out into the countryside and he brought back this old Gypsy. She refused to tell our fortunes, no matter how much gold she was given. She would only speak to the marquis and no one else.”
“What did she say?”
“It was so ridiculous, it made us all laugh. She told the marquis he would lose everything to the king of the Gypsies.”
Sido, who had been half listening to this and half looking about her, caught a glimpse of light coming from under the staircase. A door opened and a footman came through, carrying a tray of champagne glasses.
She knew then what she was going to do. Without giving it a second thought she slipped to the door. She knew there must be a way through the secret corridors to the library. It was just a matter of finding the right door.
Gently, Yann helped Têtu to stand and with difficulty guided him up the spiral staircase and along the wooden gantry to the concealed door in the bookshelves. What surprised Yann was that although he himself was well aware of the danger they
were in, he felt no fear. His vision was clear, colors were electric, and everything seemed sharper. Every nerve of him felt completely alive.
But the concealed door was shut fast.
“Don’t worry, I’ll get you out of here,” Yann said soothingly. He heard the library door open and then close with a firm click, he pulled Têtu back into the shadows.
Count Kalliovski called out, “I know you’re both there. My man tells me there is a boy as well. There’s no point hiding. Listen to me carefully. If you don’t want to go the same way as Topolain, you’d better tell me how the Pierrot works.”
Yann could hear the count walking to and fro, trying to determine where they were.“I have examined the doll. It is a piece of solid wood: It could not have been worked from the inside. I am a man of science. Come now, tell me its secret.”
Têtu’s small legs had started to shudder as if caught in a trap. Yann heard the scrabble of Balthazar’s claws up the spiral staircase and there was the dog staring at them with his yellow eyes, his mouth snarled back, his fangs shining bright with saliva. Balthazar growled.
“Bring them to me,” commanded the count.
Yann pointed his fingers directly at the dog’s eyes and spoke softly in a language that Balthazar seemed to understand. Tail between his legs, the dog went back down the stairs whimpering.
“What have you done to him, Têtu? What Gypsy sorcery is this?” demanded Count Kalliovski angrily.
Yann moved silently toward the banister rail. To his despair he saw Milkeye enter the room. Quickly, he moved back to the darkness of the bookshelves and tried again to push with all his strength upon the concealed door.
“I want the dwarf and I want that boy,” said the count. “Don’t let them get away.”
“Yes, master.” Milkeye was already at the bottom of the staircase.
For the last time Yann tried the door.
He could hear Milkeye getting closer, but still the door wouldn’t give.
Yann would have to stand and fight—that was all that was left to him.
Suddenly the door opened. Standing in the darkness of the passageway he could see the girl.
“Help me,” he whispered, and together they pulled Têtu through.
By the time Milkeye had taken the last few steps to the top of the gantry, there was nobody there.
Only when they were in Sido’s chamber with the screen moved to block off the peephole did Yann finally feel safe, safe enough to say, “We must lie him down.”
“Of course,” said Sido, pulling back the bedcovers.
It took all his strength to get Têtu’s heavy body up on the bed. He was an alarming sight, with all the color drained from his face. Hastily Yann covered the dwarf with a quilt, his anger subsiding a touch when he saw Sido standing there anxiously watching.
The only hope he had of escaping lay with her.
“Who is he?” she asked.
“His name is Têtu. He’s looked after me since I was born. We work together, with Topolain.”
“What about the magician?” asked Sido. “Is he dead?”
“His heart gave out,” said Yann.
“I don’t believe that.” She said it so bluntly that he knew she couldn’t be fooled.
“No, it isn’t true, but there’s no time to explain. We have to get out of here. I need your help.”
“But what can I do?”
“I don’t think I am brave.”
He smiled at her. “I know you are. Will you stay here while I search for a way out?”
The thought of being alone in the room with the sleeping dwarf terrified Sido. But when she looked into his dark eyes she knew she would do as he asked.
With a sickening feeling in her stomach she nodded.
The silence after he had gone felt almost solid, as if it were pressing down on her chest, squeezing the air out of her. She sat on a chair by the bed and told herself again and again to be calm.
A few minutes later there was a knock on the door. Sido felt every nerve in her body tighten. Checking that Têtu was completely covered, she took a deep breath, and said, “Come in.”
Count Kalliovski stood in the doorway. Balthazar at his side.“I came to see if you were all right. You vanished so quickly after the little show.” He entered the room, closing the door behind him. “Why, my dear child, how pale you are. You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.”
Sido moved toward the bed.
“It was only an illusion, you know. No harm was done.”
Despite herself she began to shiver, and as if in response, Balthazar started to growl softly. Count Kalliovski looked around him suspiciously.
“I was feeling very tired, sir,” said Sido hastily. “I came up to my chamber to lie down. I have not eaten since early this morning and there has been more excitement than I am used to.”
“Your life at the convent is, I imagine, a quiet one,” said the count.
Sido nodded and wondered if her legs would continue to support her. They felt like hollow reeds shaking under her petticoats. The count stood facing her, his shadow casting a monstrous figure on the wall behind him, one that appeared to possess a multitude of hands, all poking and prodding into the dark recesses of the bedchamber.
The bed with the sleeping body of the dwarf was only three steps away. Balthazar had begun to edge closer, his growling becoming more insistent.
“You are alone, of course?” asked the count.
“Why, yes, sir.”
“Do you mind if I see what has caught Balthazar’s fancy?” The count moved forward. Now only two steps separated him from the dwarf.
“Please, sir,” pleaded Sido. “I am frightened of dogs, and it is clear that yours does not like me.”
“You have no need to fear Balthazar,” said the count with a smile. “He will not harm you. He only growls at strangers.”
If Count Kalliovski moved one more step, it would all be over. She would be sent back to the convent in disgrace. As for the boy and the dwarf, she hardly dared think about it.
“Please, sir, it is not right or proper for a man to visit a girl’s chamber. The Mother Superior【注1】would be shocked to hear of such a thing.” She found to her surprise that she had tears in her eyes. "Please,” she begged again, “don’t let your dog come any nearer.”
The room began to spin and she thought she was about to faint. She grabbed at the four-poster bed, holding on to consciousness with all her might.
The count’s voice softened. “My dear child,” he said, “I had no desire to alarm you. You must be faint for lack of food. I will see that some supper is brought up to you straightaway. It is outrageous that you’ve been so neglected.”
He gave a deep bow and called for Balthazar.
“Forgive the intrusion,” he said, closing the door softly behind him.
Sido remained statue-still, listening to the scratching of claws and the clicking of heels as they retreated into the distance. Only then did she loosen her grip. She sank to the floor, resting her head in her hands, and prayed that Yann would hurry.
Carefully and soundlessly, Yann made his way along the secret passages to the stone staircase and looked over the wrought-iron banister.
A man stood in the stairwell and stamped snow from his boots. There must be a door to the outside world there. Yann was returning the way he had come when a pinprick of light caught his attention. He looked through the peephole into a grand bedchamber, with huge displays of white tulips and black roses on the table. The large dog bowl sitting on the floor that told Yann that this was where Count Kalliovski slept.
If nothing else, they were owed the blood money that had been promised to them at the beginning of this nightmare. How would they get back to Paris without a sou【注2】to their name?
Yann pushed against the door and slipped inside. An eerie red light shone from the coals in the grate. The walls were painted with hunting scenes that in the spit and hiss of the firelight appeared to be moving. The wooden skull sat on the table. It might have been valuable, but he knew also that it was cursed, and would bring whoever took it nothing but bad luck. Next to it was a necklace—a blood-red ribbon with seven crimson stones set into it. Without thinking, he put it in his pocket. It would be something to show Têtu.
He began to search the room for money. Yann knew that all objects, great and small, have a spirit. Sometimes, if you listen carefully, you can almost hear the sound they make. Hidden deep in among the drapes of the bed was a purse. Yann picked it up and put it in his pocket, where it felt pleasingly heavy. Now he had to get out of here as fast as he could.
Sido hadn’t dared move since the count had left. Yann found her still sitting on the floor, her head in her hands. She looked up at him.
“Where have you been? Count Kalliovski was here.”
“It took longer than I thought. We’ll be gone in a minute.” He went straight to the bed and pulled back the covers. “Wake up,” he said gently, shaking Têtu back into life as he helped him to his feet.
“Where am I?” said Têtu, who for a moment thought that he must have woken from a bad dream. Yann said something to him in a language Sido had never heard before. Têtu gulped as the memory of what had happened came back to him.
Yann turned back to look at Sido, sitting crumpled and abandoned on the floor, and for a moment he had an overwhelming desire to take her with them, to save her from being one of the headless ones.
There was a knock at the door. Sido scrambled to her feet. Quickly Yann and the dwarf disappeared behind the screen and through the panel, just as the count entered, followed by a footman carrying a tray with Sido’s supper. This time the dog at the count’s heels was silent.
Kalliovski’s eyes darted around the room as he ordered the footman to straighten out the bed.
“There is no need,” said Sido quickly.
"Continue,” said the count smoothly, addressing the footman. Balthazar had begun sniffing the air.
“I hope you don’t mind if I keep you company while you dine?”
Sido knew that the longer he stayed, the longer the dwarf and the boy had to make their escape.
“I would like that,” she said.
Count Kalliovski sat down on a chair by the bed.
The dog at his feet let out a heavy sigh and, putting his head on his outstretched paws, closed his eyes.
“I think your dog is more used to me now,” said Sido.
“So it seems. When you have finished, I will take you down to see the fireworks. Your father assures me that they will be magnificent.”
Sido watched the count as with hooded eyes he searched the room once more, looking for evidence to confirm his suspicions.
Her instinct told her that there was no escape: This dark spider was waiting patiently to catch her in his gold-spun web.
The kitchens of the château were busy.
The gambling tables demanded a constant supply of drinks and petit four【注1】. Jean Rollet, the chef, and his staff would be working all night until the very last guest had left or retired. The arrival of two more in the kitchen went almost unnoticed except as extra pairs of hands to help.
“Hey, you there,” a valet shouted at Yann,
“the viscount needs this tray taken up to him at once.”
Yann shook his head. “We are the entertainers, hired for the count’s show.”
The valet threw up his hands in disgust. “What are you doing in here, then?”
Yann felt bewildered. He had never been in such a large kitchen before, with servants running backward and forward, the chef swearing and stamping his foot, bells ringing, the noise, the smells, the heat. It was like a furnace.
Têtu started to sway. He was going to fall over if he didn’t sit down. Yann grabbed a stool.
“No you don’t,” said one of the cooks, snatching it back and lifting her wooden spoon as if it were a weapon. “Away with you, Gypsies.”
“We have to get back to Paris.”
“Well, what are you doing asking me? Do I look as if I have a magic carpet?” Then, seeing the state of Têtu, she softened. “You’d better go and ask the coachmen in there.”
Yann helped Têtu through the kitchen to a small antechamber where a group of men were sitting at a table.
“My friend needs to sit down,” said Yann, and one of the men pulled out a chair for him.
“He don’t look too perky. What’s wrong with him?”
“We need help. Are any of you Paris-bound tonight?”
“Not if I can help it.” said one of the men.
“With luck, I’ll be playing cards till dawn and then some.”
Suddenly Yann felt as if he had hit a wall. Just when there seemed hope that they might escape, all was lost. Time was slipping away; he knew it would not be long before the count found out about the secret passages.
“Here,” said a man with a shining bald head, pouring some wine into a glass. “Give this to Titch. He looks as if he could do with it.”
“Thank you,” said Yann, helping Têtu with the wine.
Slowly he began to look more like his old self.
“Has he always been that small, or will he grow?” asked the bald-headed man, laughing.
If Yann had been given a gold coin every time he had heard Têtu insulted they would be rich by now.
Although it riled him, he knew better than to react.
A footman opened the door and poked his head around. “The Viscomtess de Lisle will be staying.”
“Good to know it,” said her coachman. “First sensible thing the old bat’s done in ages.”
“You think so?” laughed the footman. “Well, she wants her pet monkey brought back from Paris. She thinks it’ll be lonely. It’s not your night, Dufort, my old friend.”
“Hasn’t she seen the snow outside?” said Dufort, gesturing toward the window.
“That’s why she wants her monkey.”
“Oh well,” sighed Dufort, "here we go again. I’ll tell you this much,” he muttered into the last dregs of his wine, “one day I’ll be my own master. No more of this come here, go there, lucky-to-have-a-job nonsense.”
All the men laughed. “You know what you can do?” said the bald-headed one. “Write all your grievances out and send them to the king.”
“That’s a good one,” said another, “Maybe the king will be able to get her to behave.”
Everyone burst out laughing, everyone except Dufort, who looked furious as he pulled on his heavy coat, loath to be leaving the warmth and comfort of the kitchens.
“To make matters worse, the roads aren’t safe these days, what with all the bandits and brigands,” he grumbled.
Yann seized his chance. “We will keep you company.”
“What, take a couple of Gypsies like you? Forget it.”
“Wou—Would money change your mind?” asked Yann.
“Would the man in the moon giving me a silver eye make me think different? Of course it would.”
As if from thin air, Yann conjured up five coins and handed one to Dufort. He looked at it carefully, then put it in his mouth and gave it a good bite to check its worth. He didn’t know what to make of this strange pair, the street urchin and the little fellow with the girly, squeaky voice.
“Where did you get this kind of money?” he said.
“We were brought here from Paris to entertain the guests. We were paid handsomely for our trouble,” said Têtu.
“Then where’s your driver, Titch?”
“We can’t find him. He must have left earlier to avoid the worst of the weather.”
Yann knew that Dufort was wavering between doubt and the certainty of the
coin that he held in his hand. “I’ll give you this now and as much again when we reach the city. Is that fair?”
“All right,” said Dufort reluctantly, “as long as you don’t tell anyone. The old bat’s most particular about who is allowed in her carriage. Monkeys yes, dwarfs and dogs no.”
The coachman led the way across the yard to the carriage and let Têtu in.
“If you don’t mind, I’d like the boy to ride with me and keep an eye out for thieves. When we’re near Paris, I’ll lock you both inside. Don’t want the riffraff trying to hitch a ride, do we?”
He handed Yann a heavy coat to wear. It nearly drowned him.
It was a small carriage with two young horses to pull it, both of whom seemed high-strung and reluctant to leave the warmth of the stable. Finally, with much urging, they made their way down the avenue of trees whose branches were full of little lights that twinkled like stars. Beyond the estate lay a vast black abyss, waiting to swallow them up.
“I hate driving at night,” said Dufort miserably, his breath coming out of him in a foggy mist. “It gives me the creeps.”
“Ah, what’s that?” He flinched as the sky above the château erupted with the sound of fireworks. They exploded into the darkness, painting patterns of light in the shape of stars, serpents, comets, and chrysanthemums. It was an astounding sight in this landscape of ice and snow.
Terrified by the noise, the horses reared up. Dufort, lost control of the reins, grabbing at the sides of the carriage to stop himself from being thrown to the ground. The horses, now wild with fear, were galloping. Up ahead the road turned, and Yann could see that at this speed the coach would skid on the ice. With difficulty he scrambled down from the coachman’s seat.
“You’re mad!” yelled Dufort, as with one measured leap Yann managed to mount the first horse. Holding on to its neck for all he was worth, he leaned forward and whispered into its pinned-back ears. At the sound of his soft voice both horses became calmer and slowed down until they finally came to a halt, steam rising from their glossy coats. Yann climbed down and stroked their muzzles, talking to them.
“You’re a brave one and no mistake,” said Dufort, wiping the sweat from his forehead. “I thought I was a goner back there. What did you say to them?”
Yann shrugged, looking back to see the last of the fireworks.
“The only other person I’ve seen talk to horses like that was a Gypsy man. I had a feeling you two had Gypsy blood.”
Yann wasn’t listening. He was wondering if Sido had been allowed to see the fireworks, or if she was still locked in her chamber. He smiled as he stared at the road in front of him. The thought of how angry the count would be to discover that the purse and the red necklace were missing warmed him.
Dufort shivered. “I always think them forests are full of eyes, all watching and waiting.” He laughed. “Tell you this, boy, I’ll be glad when I see the lights of Paris.”
Count Kalliovski, returning to his chamber in the early hours of the morning, looked into the heart of the fire. It had been a good night on the gaming tables. The little black leather-bound notebook that he privately called the Book of Tears was full of IOUs with trembling signatures of desperate souls longing to borrow more, sure that their luck would change.
He had bought himself more foolish-minded men and women, who would soon be asked to pay him back with interest. He put the Book of Tears on the desk. It was only then that he noticed the absence of the red necklace. A cold fury overtook him. He went over to the bed, felt in the drapes for the purse, and cursed out loud when he found it gone.
With rising anger he summoned Milkeye.
“Where are they?”
“We’re still looking, master.”
“Why haven’t you found them?”
“We did not know there were passages behind the walls.”
“Show me,” said the count coldly.
Milkeye opened the hidden door.
The count turned his icy gaze upon his servant, and pinned him up against the wall.
“I made you and I can destroy you, and I will. I want both of them. Do you understand?”
注1：petit four：一种小甜食，这是个法文名字，意思是“小烤箱”，之所以叫这个名字可能是最早的petit four是在主烤箱旁边的小烤箱烤制的。
Monsieur Aulard, the theater manager, was not a morning person. The previous night he had been out drinking with some actors. Now, red-faced and snoring, he was fast asleep.
It took him a few minutes to realize that the terrible banging sound was not coming from the inside of his head. The knocking just kept on, getting louder and more urgent. Finally, barefoot and shivering, Monsieur Aulard dragged himself out of his warm bed. His head felt like a rotten apple. The source of the noise was coming from the front door. He fumbled with the lock until finally he managed to open it. Two Yanns and two Têtus floated before him. They were swaying back and forth, overlapping each other.
Something was missing from this unsettling picture.
Têtu walked into the apartment, followed by Yann. Even half awake and with a thumping headache, Monsieur Aulard could see that Têtu was in a bad way.
“My dear friend, are you unwell?” He looked back at the door, expecting to see Topolain come panting up the stairs behind.
“Topolain’s dead,” said Têtu with a sob.
“Dead?” repeated Monsieur Aulard. “How can he be dead?”
“A bullet,” said Têtu, his face collapsing as tears appeared in his watery red eyes. “He was shot like a dog.”
“No, no, no! Mort bleu! Yann, speak to me, tell me this is a nightmare!” He grabbed hold of the boy’s flimsy coat so that the sleeve came away with an unforgiving ripping sound.
“Count Kalliovski shot him,” said Yann.
“But why?” Monsieur Aulard’s teeth were beginning to chatter. He sat down heavily on an armchair whose horsehair insides were spilling out. It creaked alarmingly under the weight of his hangover.
“The trick must have gone wrong. It must have been an accident.”
“It was no accident,” said Têtu. “The count tampered with the pistol.”
“But why would Count Kalliovski murder a mere magician?” It was the question Yann had been asking himself all the way back to Paris.
"Because,” said Têtu wearily, “Topolain recognized Kalliovski, and instead of keeping quiet he let his tongue get the better of him. Topolain knew him from a long time ago, when he was called by another name.”
Yann could see that if Kalliovski was a fraud he would want no one knowing it. Still, Têtu’s explanation raised more questions than it answered. Yann put a half-frozen pan of wine on the fire to boil, searched through the mess to find some glasses, and cleared the table as Têtu took a loaf from out of his jacket, where it sat before them like a golden brown sun.
At the sight of it, Monsieur Aulard’s attention wavered from his immediate grief. “Where did you get that?” he asked.
“From the Marquis de Villeduval’s kitchen.” Têtu broke off a piece and handed it to him.
The hot wine and bread worked their magic on Monsieur Aulard. With a huge sigh he went to get dressed, reappearing with his wig placed lopsidedly on his head, his waistcoat buttons done up wrong, and his shirt hanging out.
“I have a full house, all tickets sold and no performer!”
“You’ll have to find someone else,” said Têtu.
“Mort bleu,” said Monsieur Aulard. “I tell you, if I weren’t so kindhearted, I would have you two thrown onto the streets for your failure to protect Topolain. Why, he was one of the greatest magicians France has ever seen!” He wiped his eyes and, putting on his heavy outer coat and muffler, opened the front door, letting in a blast of icy wind from the stone stairwell.
“You can’t stay here, you know.”
"Don’t worry, we’ll soon be gone,” said Têtu. “Count Kalliovski is after us. We had trouble getting out of the château alive.”
Monsieur Aulard stopped his tracks and turned around，“Mort bleu! You know who he is too, don’t you?”
“Yes, for my sins, I do.”
“Who is he, then?”
“That,” said Têtu, closing his eyes, “would not be worth my life to tell you.”
Monsieur Aulard arrived at the theater to make inquiries to see who could fill Topolain’s place for the evening performance. He sat at his desk and opened the bottom drawer, where he found a none-too-clean glass and a bottle of wine. He pulled out the cork and poured himself a drink. It tasted good. He closed his eyes, taking another sip.
He opened his eyes with a start. There, sitting in the chair before him, was Count Kalliovski. It was as if the devil himself had appeared from nowhere.
The shock made him choke on his wine, "Mort bleu, you gave me the fright of my life, I didn’t hear you, monsieur!”
“Where are they?” demanded the count.
“Where are who?” said Monsieur Aulard, hurriedly refilling his glass.
The count’s hand in its black leather glove moved effortlessly toward the stem. “You know very well who I am after. The boy and the dwarf.”
“I know no such thing,” said Monsieur Aulard, trying to summon up much-needed indignation. “Perhaps you would be kind enough to tell me where Topolain is.” “Topolain is dead. I’ll wager you’ve been told as much. It was I who pulled the trigger. A most unfortunate accident,” said the count.
Monsieur Aulard felt an icy trickle of sweat creep down his back.
“You will tell me where they are hiding. I know you know where they are,” said the count, standing up.
“I assure you I do not.” said Monsieur Aulard. Each word sounded shakier than the last.
“You have until the curtain goes up at seven to tell me,” said the count. “If you fail”—here he gave a mean, thin-lipped smile—“I hope for your sake that you have made peace with your Maker.”
The door closed behind him. Poor Monsieur Aulard waited to make sure that he had gone. Then, grabbing hold of the bottle, he drank what was left.
The lights and smoky warmth of Moet’s Tavern seemed like a slice of heaven in this frozen city. As usual, it was full of hot-headed youths and men arguing over the state of the kingdom. Têtu and Yann found a table tucked away in the corner out of sight. And ordered the dish of the day. Only when Têtu’s fingers finally felt that they belonged to him again did he begin to sew the sleeve back onto the boy’s coat.
Yann felt not only that his coat had come apart but that his world had been torn to pieces. Everything had changed the minute the pistol had gone off, killing Topolain.
What he knew about the past amounted to no more than a few facts, bright beads from an unthreaded necklace, reluctantly given to him by Têtu, who refused to join them together. Yann had no father that he knew of; his mother had been a dancer in a circus, and had died soon after he was born; Margoza was the name of a village of which Têtu had fond memories. His survival had been due to Têtu, and Têtu alone.
What he knew about the dwarf was not much more. He had once been a jester to a king; which king, he wouldn’t say. He had traveled the world with a dancing bear. All that had happened a long time before he had found himself with a baby to care for. Never once had he mentioned Count Kalliovski, or who he might be. So why had the count tampered with the pistol? What exactly was it that Topolain and Têtu knew?
The more Yann thought about it, the more certain he was that there was one question which if answered truthfully, might string together all the beads on the necklace.
“Who is Count Kalliovski?”
Têtu shrugged his shoulders.
“One day I will tell you,” he said finally, cutting the thread with his teeth. He shook out the coat and handed it back to Yann.
“I’m old enough to know right away.”
“Yannick, you know I love you as if you were my son. Don’t you trust me?”
“Then believe me, I will answer all your questions, but not now. Now is not the time. Now is not the place.”
Three tables away sat a group of young men, one of whom had a nose that looked as if it had been in an argument with a fist. His skin was pockmarked and he was talking loudly about the rights of citizens. He had no doubt drunk more than a skinful of wine, for he kept standing up and shouting out: “Citizens, the wind is changing! The old regime will be blown away. All is dust, all is dust!”
His friends quickly pulled him back down onto his seat.
Yann had been watching all this intently and did not at first notice Têtu wrapping his muffler about him and putting on his hat.
“Where are you going?”
“I have someone to see. I’ll be back in a couple of hours. You are to wait here for me. If Milkeye comes looking for us, make yourself scarce.”
Têtu set off purposefully, across the Pont Marie toward the left bank.
He knew that he had to get the boy out of Paris. The only hope of doing so lay with a friend of his, the English banker Charles Cordell. He walked on, remembering the night all those years ago at the theater in Le Havre, where he had first met Cordell. The two of them had struck up an unlikely friendship. Their mutual interest, to begin with at least, was magic, for Cordell fancied himself something of an amateur conjurer.
Cordell soon realized that prejudice made people underestimate the dwarf. Têtu was not taken seriously, so he was told things other men would never have heard. Ladies confided in him, young men spouted their views. The dwarf listened to the gossip of the coffeehouses, the prittle-prattle of the salons, and the oratory of the clubs. Cordell, like Têtu, knew that these places were where the real intrigue lay.
The two would meet regularly at the Café Royal, where Têtu would tell Cordell all he had heard and seen. This information gave the banker a clearer idea of what was going on and how best to advise his clients.
The snow was still falling as Têtu made his way toward the rue du Dragon, with its grand, imposing houses. He stood waiting for what felt like a lifetime before a housekeeper came hurrying out, carrying a lantern.“Is Monsieur Cordell in? I need to see him urgently. Will you say that Têtu is here?”
The housekeeper went inside, closing the door behind her. Têtu stood waiting, stamping his feet and blowing on his frozen hands. The door opened again and he was shown into the hall. His teeth were chattering as the housekeeper took his coat, hat, and muffler. He stamped the rest off his shoes as he heard the door above him open, and looked up the stairwell at Charles Cordell.
Têtu had never been more pleased to see his friend’s grave, bespectacled face.“Why, my dear friend, you look half frozen,” said Cordell, coming forward with his hand outstretched.
“I need your help. I am in a great deal of trouble,” said Têtu. And before he had even been taken into the elegant drawing room he had told Cordell the story of Topolain’s death.
“He is a great loss,” said Cordell, taking Têtu over to the fire and bringing out a bottle of cognac. “So . . .Kalliovski . . .”
Têtu nodded. “I have been a complete idiot,” he said angrily. “I knew he was a master of disguise, yet I too was nearly taken in by him. Do you know what gave him away? His hands, his large, ugly hands.”
He made a sound that could have been mistaken for a laugh, though Cordell heard it as pent-up fury.
“May I ask why you are so afraid of Kalliovski?”
“Sometimes you meet someone you know is touched by evil. Kalliovski is such a man. We met when Topolain and I were working in St. Petersburg, where the count made his money by cheating at the card tables. He was interested in us because of the magic; we didn’t much like him, stayed out of his way. But he became obsessed with a friend of ours, a young dancer. In the end, in fear of her life, she ran away from him and we went with her. The idea was that we would protect her, for we had seen what he was like when he didn’t get what he wanted.”
“He followed us to France. He found us, and he killed her with his bare hands. I could do nothing to save her. After that he disappeared. I first heard the name Kalliovski shortly after I met you, but I had no inkling that it was the same man. The Count was a mysterious figure, who claimed to be on the verge of creating an automaton that could pass as a human. From all accounts, he was a man who would sell his soul to the devil to learn the secret of creating life.”
“My dear friend,” said Cordell, “it seems to me that you have unwittingly turned over a stone and found there a deadly creature.”
“There is one other thing you should know,” said Têtu, and he pulled from his pocket the red necklace.“Yann found this in Kalliovski’s room.” He handed Cordell the thin red ribbon with seven crimson garnets set into it like drops of blood.
“If this were to be worn round the neck,” said Cordell, examining it, “it would look as if your throat had been cut.”
“Precisely,” said Têtu. “The only people who have ever been found wearing such a thing, so I have been told, are dead. I am sure that Kalliovski is in some way involved. This being found in his chamber proves it.”
“Têtu, my dear friend. What can I do to help?”
“I need to disappear. I can’t take the boy with me, it would be impossible. I want him out of the way, for a while at least. Just a few months, that’s all, then he can come back.”
“I am sure my colleague in London, Henry Laxton, wouldn’t mind looking after the boy until things are back to normal. Coincidentally, Laxton has some knowledge of Kalliovski,” said Cordell, refilling Têtu’s glass. “Laxton has a French wife, whose sister was married to the Marquis de Villeduval. Some years ago, when Mrs. Laxton’s sister was killed in an accident, Laxton went to Normandy, to the château of the Villeduvals. It was very odd. The marquis appeared to have no interest in his wife’s death, or in what would happen to their only daughter, Sido.”
“We met the marquis’s daughter,” said Têtu. “She helped us escape.”
“What small circles we all travel in. It was Kalliovski who stopped Henry Laxton from bringing Sido back to London to be brought up by his wife. The marquis didn’t care one way or another, yet for some peculiar reason Kalliovski did.” Cordell handed Têtu an envelope. “Now, here is enough money to pay for your expenses.”
“No, I don’t need it.”
“My dear friend, take it. I know the proprietor at the Hôtel d’Angleterre, a Madame Saltaire. You’ll be safe there. I take it that the boy has no passport?”
“Then I will have to get that organized. You must stay in your room until you hear from me. By the way, how old is the boy?”
“Fourteen. He is like a son to me. I love him as if he were my own flesh and blood.”
Charles Cordell smiled. “I will let Henry Laxton know to expect him.”
The two men shook hands.
Monsieur Aulard returned to the theater just before seven to be told that he had had no visitors and that no one had asked after him. He went up the stairs to his office and opened the door. The room was dark.
Why had no one bothered to light the lamp? He thought irritably, fumbling for the tinderbox. He stumbled, steadying himself on his desk. In the dark he could see an unfamiliar shape.
“Who’s there?” he called.
He lit the wick. Slowly and terribly, the dead body of Topolain was revealed, sitting in his chair. Around his neck was a thin line of dried beads of blood. In his lap was the sawn-off head of the Pierrot, its glass eyes glinting in the lamplight.
Monsieur Aulard’s scream could be heard all the way through the theater and out on the rue du Temple.
Yann had waited in Moet’s Tavern until it had grown dark. He was beginning to think that Têtu was never coming back when, to his great relief, he saw the dwarf’s small shape push and jostle his way to where he was sitting.
“Everything is arranged,” said Têtu. “Come, we must get out of here.”
They walked down a tangle of narrow streets.“Where are we going?” asked Yann.
“To a hotel. We’ll stay there for the night, and then you’ll get the coach to Calais and go to London,” said Têtu.
“London!” said Yann, stunned.
“Come on, keep up.” Têtu was now walking as fast as his legs would allow him. “The sooner we’re off these streets the better.”
The entrance to the Hôtel d’Angleterre was a wooden door that opened into a courtyard. Here Têtu, as Cordell had suggested, took a room for the night.
“Why are we going to London?”
“Not we; you. You are going to London Paris is not safe. Kalliovski wants us both dead. I can disappear—”
Yann started to interrupt.
“Wait, wait. Before you say anything, listen. I have a great friend, an English banker called Charles Cordell. He has agreed to send you to London and put you in the care of his partner Henry Laxton”
“I’m not leaving you.”
Têtu’s face looked as hard as ever Yann had seen it.“Listen to me. You are not a baby. It will only be for a few months. You will do this and that is the end of it.”
Yann was too exhausted to argue any more, too angry to sleep. He lay facedown on the bed, furious, only to find that when he woke up it was morning.
Yann sat up and said, “I still don’t understand why I have to go away.”
“I’m going to explain. Will you listen, or are you going to block up your ears with anger, so that you won’t hear anything but your own thunder?”
“You’ve often asked me about your mother, and now I will tell you,” said Têtu. “Your mother loved you dearly. She wanted no harm to come to you, and I promised her I would keep your Gypsy origins quiet.”
"Gypsy!” said Yann. It was a word had followed them wherever they went . . . a swearword, a figure of speech, an insult. It confirmed what he already knew, that he and Têtu were misfits, outcasts living on the edges of society. He had never imagined it to be the truth. He and Têtu spoke Romany for their own protection, Têtu had told him, because few people understood it or knew where it came from. Now he could see that these roots went far deeper than he had ever thought, and he wished with all his heart that it were not so.
“Yannick, we are an ancient and noble people,” said Têtu. “Take from this what is good, and learn from it. I regret that you couldn’t grow up in a Gypsy world where you would have known our ways and secrets.”
“I’ve asked you so often if we were Gypsies, and you’ve always shrugged your shoulders and said no,” said Yann.
“It was for your own safety. You know there is a price on every Gypsy’s head. The gallows and the huntsman’s gun wait for us.”
The seriousness of what Têtu was saying took away all Yann’s anger. Maybe this explained why they were not like other people. Maybe it at last explained why he could read minds and see into the future.
Yann sat down on the edge of the bed. “Go on.”
“Your mother was called Anis, and she was beautiful. She had your eyes, dark as ebony and deep as a well. When I met her at the circus in St. Petersburg I knew straightaway that she was Romany, like me. Anis’s mother was the keeper of the arts of sorcery among her tribe. She had extraordinary powers. She could move objects without touching them. Her daughter could do it too.”
“And so can you.”
“All objects have threads of light coming from them. If you can see this light, then you can become a master, able to move things at your own will. Think, Yann, what power that would give you.”
“Is that how you work the Pierrot? Is it? Tell me.”
Têtu said nothing.
“All right,” said Yann. “If you won’t answer that, tell me how my mother ended up in a circus.”
“Something terrible happened. It was Anis’s wedding day. She was fourteen and the boy was sixteen. She believed that they were one soul divided into two bodies, and that only when they were together were they whole. The ceremony started at daybreak round the campfire, when the marriage was sealed with a cut made on the bride’s right wrist and the groom’s left wrist; then their hands were bound together and they took an oath to free one another when love had left their hearts. There was singing and dancing to celebrate—and then the huntsmen came to kill the Gypsies. Anis’s mother saw them sitting on their fine horses watching, waiting. She ordered her people to carry on dancing, shouting ‘Life is life!’ The Gypsies went on playing their fiddles and singing their songs. They didn’t run. Until the shooting started.”
“But my mother managed to get away,” said Yann.
“Anis said she never knew how. It was as if her mother had made her invisible. But she remembered the last thing her bridegroom said to her: ‘In death they will never catch us, my beloved one. We are birds, we are free.’ She remembered nothing more. When she woke up she found herself in the hollow of a tree. It was getting dark. She stood in the middle of that clearing and saw them all hanging in the trees like songbirds, colorful but lifeless: her bridegroom, her mother, every one of her tribe. Even the babies had been slaughtered. Blood dripped from the oak leaves. That day, her wedding day, she lost everything. She ran far away and joined a circus, never speaking of her Gypsy roots, though her dark hair and eyes told the truth of it. She never spoke of it, that is, until I met her.”
Yann was very quiet.
It was Têtu who broke the silence.
“It is nothing to be ashamed of. Far from it—it is a source of pride.”
“So—— My father was the Gypsy boy my mother married?”
“No, Yannick, he was killed some seven years before you were born, but Anis believed you were a gift from the spirit of her one true love. We Gypsies know and
understand things that those attached to houses and land will never comprehend. We have outlived and outwitted great civilizations.”
“Do you think I have inherited those gifts?”
“You are a natural. You have an exceptional talent already.”
There was a knock at the door. On Cordell’s instructions, Madame Saltaire had brought a package containing Yann’s travel documents and a passport.
“I’ll take you to the Palais Royal, to the coach.” said Têtu after she’d gone. “A man called Tull, an Englishman, will escort you. We must hurry.”
Yann wanted to say again that he didn’t want to go. This time, though, he knew it was useless. Instead he made up his mind that in this new country he would let no one know of his Gypsy origins. There he would have a fresh start. For once in his life he would be like everyone else.
As they left, Têtu had pulled Yann’s coat about him and buttoned it up as if he were a child. Yann had then an image of his mother, and a terrible sense of loss rushed in upon him.
“I can do that,” he said.
Still Têtu insisted, standing on tiptoe to put the muffler around Yann’s neck and tucking it carefully into his coat.
The hall of the hotel was empty. Far too late did Yann sense the menace in the general silence. Têtu seized Yann’s hand. "Now. We’ll make a run for it.”
A shot rang out, and suddenly Yann realized he was dragging a dead weight behind him. He stopped and stared down at Têtu, who was lying crumpled in the snow.
“Get up! Get up!”
The dwarf’s eyes were closed. His skin had already started looking translucent.
“No!” shouted Yann. “No!” He tried with all his strength to lift Têtu.
At that moment he saw the red necklace lying there in the blood.
“It’s no good,” whispered the dwarf. “Go, run like the wind. Life is life, Yannick.”
Yann felt a cold leather-gloved hand come down hard on his shoulder.
“Got you!” said a voice as the shadow of Milkeye fell over him. “There’s no escaping.”
Yann could feel the burning heat of the pistol butt as it was pushed into the side of his head. Suddenly everything both slowed down and speeded up. Yann shut his eyes. In that second, when life and death hung in the balance, the trigger clicked, the hammer jammed.
Yann opened his eyes to see Milkeye staring ferociously at his weapon.
Madame Saltaire ran out of the hotel screaming, hands flying. Yann twisted himself free, conscious of nothing but escape. He was already at the street door when the second bullet ricocheted off the stone wall. He ran as fast as he could, soon to be lost from view in the maze of streets.
Near exhausted, he stopped, and checking that no one was following him, backtracked toward the Palais Royal.
A coach was waiting, its driver huddled against the icy wind in a great cape, his groom beside him. The coach door opened and a man with an English accent asked, “Are you Yann Margoza? Where’s the gentleman who was supposed to bring you here?”
“Too bad. Get in,” said the man. “There’s no time to lose.”
Stunned and grief-stricken, Yann climbed in. The man, the coach, all became a blur. He looked out of the window as the terrifying reality overwhelmed him.
Topolain had performed the ultimate trick. He had taken with him Yann’s world, the theater, the actors, the scenery—all vanished, all gone, in a wisp of smoke from a pistol.
The coach rattled and shook. He could hear the horses snorting, their bridles jangling; and he could hear too the unmistakable voice of Têtu as he whispered to him, “Life is life.
Here, in London’s fashionable Bloomsbury, is a newly built town house that faces a tree-lined square. It is the home of Henry and Juliette Laxton.
Henry Laxton could not be described as handsome. He had, though, an engaging face with undistinguished features made attractive by the fact that he was a rich banker who had the good fortune to be married to a beautiful woman.
This morning he was to be found in his study. A letter from Charles Cordell had just been delivered. He read with increasing alarm that a boy called Yann Margoza was due at the Boar Inn, Fleet Street at three o’clock that very afternoon, giving him no time to prepare for his arrival.
He rang the bell and his valet entered the room. “Is my wife still in her boudoir?”
“I believe so, sir.”
“And does she have any visitors with her?”
“One, sir, Lady Faulkner.”
Henry Laxton smiled inwardly. He knew how bored
his wife would be. Juliette Laxton was the younger sister of Isabelle Gautier, who had married the Marquis de Villeduval. Their father, a widower, was a wealthy bourgeois
businessman, and the marriage was seen as beneficial to both sides. The Villeduvals would have an injection of much-needed money, and Monsieur Gautier could claim an aristocrat as a son-in-law.
Only Juliette had had any idea of the depths of Isabelle’s misery, married to a much older man who cared only for himself.
Then, Isabelle was killed in an accident when a coach was overturned. The only survivor was three-year-old Sido, whose leg had been badly broken.
After his wife’s death the marquis did something out of character. Isabelle was not buried in the family vault inNormandy. Instead, she was placed in a simple grave and the headstone merely recorded her name, without title, inscription, or date.
The only rationalexplanation for the marquis’s strange behavior was surely grief.
For it had turned out a double tragedy: His half brother, Armand, went missing. All attempts to find him had failed Juliette had never gotten over the loss of her beloved sister. Her only consolation had been the hope that she might be allowed to bring up Isabelle’s daughter, Sido, but it was not to be. For reasons Juliette had never understood, Sido’s father, the marquis, had wanted nothing more to do with the Gautier family.
For Juliette it had been a double bereavement. Not only had she lost her sister and her closest friend, but shortly after this she had had a miscarriage and been told that there was little hope of her conceiving again.
It had been her greatest sadness, for she had always imagined herself surrounded by a large and noisy family. She sat now in front of her dressing table mirror, wishing her visitor would leave. Not for the first time, Lady Faulkner was giving Juliette the benefit of her advice.
“My formula for looking perpetually young is to avoid laughter and excessive use of the facial muscles. Only by such a means can one hold back time’s cruel hand—”
She was interrupted by a knock at the door.
Juliette’s face lit up with a charming smile when she saw her husband, while Lady
Faulkner’s remained masklike and rigid.
“I trust your family is well?” said Henry Laxton with a bow.
“Quite well,” replied Lady Faulkner stiffly.
“And does your son still spend all his time at the theater, sporting with pretty actresses?” The question was designed to speed the guest’s departure.
Lady Faulkner’s lips longed to purse themselves together in disgust, but lines must be avoided at all costs.
“I have no idea what you mean, Mr. Laxton,” she said, standing up and waving her fan vigorously. “Jack is at Oxford, where he is studying diligently. Now I must leave you. I have other calls to make where I will, I know, be very welcome.” And with great indignation she swept out of the room.
The Laxtons waited until they heard the front door being closed, then both burst out laughing.
“She seems more absurd every time I see her,” said Henry Laxton, “Jack hasn’t been near Oxford all term, from what I can gather.”
Juliette sighed. “Mon chéri, please remind me to laugh and smile and to use every muscle my face might possess, lest I end up looking as sour and miserable as that woman.”
“That would be an impossibility. Now, on a more serious note, I have had a letter this morning from Charles Cordell, and I have news that will hearten you. It relates to Sido de Villeduval.”
“To Sido? What is it?” asked Juliette urgently.
“Tonight you will meet someone who speak to her only a few days ago.”
“You’re talking in riddles! Who is it?”
“Cordell has asked if we would be willing to take in a boy for a few months. He is fourteen years old, an orphan, brought up by a contact of Cordell’s in Paris, a man called Têtu.”
“But what has this boy to do with Sido?”
“Aha!” said Laxton. “I am coming to that. Têtu and the boy are traveling entertainers—”
“Traveling entertainers! What strange company Mr. Cordell keeps,” Juliette exclaimed.
"—and a couple of days ago they were invited, with a magician called Topolain, to perform the bullet trick for which he was famous at a party the marquis was giving.”
“Count Kalliovski fired the pistol, and he shot the magician dead.”
Têtu is certain that it was because both he and Topolain knew something about Kalliovski’s past. Têtu is now terrified that the count will come after him and the boy.”
“And this boy met Sido?”
“Yes. Evidently she helped them escape.”
“And what is the boy called?”
“Yann Margoza. He hasn’t had many advantages in life. Maybe we can help him, give him some education. There is no reason he cannot live on equal terms with us and learn to be a gentleman.”
Juliette’s face lit up with excitement. “ This boy met Sido! He will live with us as a part of the family.”
Henry Laxton came over and kissed the nape of his wife’s very white neck.
The carriage bringing Yann to this rough dark diamond of a city made its way over Blackfriars Bridge. Mr. Tull, whose job it had been to transport the boy here, had been instructed to wait for Mr. Laxton’s carriage at an inn onFleet Street.
The courtyard of the Boar Inn was full of stagecoaches and horses, ladies and gentlemen, assorted parcels and trunks, all taken up with the hectic business of arriving or leaving. Mr. Tull stopped at the door of the inn. He took Yann by the scruff of the neck and steered him, as one would a dog, into the inn.
Yann shook himself free of Mr.Tull’s clutches and sat huddled up in the corner. The journey had been a blur of misery and grief. He didn’t like his jailer, for that was how he had come to think of Mr. Tull, a bulldog of a man who had made it quite clear that the feeling was mutual.
“Now you stay put while I see if the carriage has arrived.” Tull leaned across the table, grasping the lapels of Yann’s coat. “If you so much as move one of them there miserable muscles of yours, you’ll be in for it and no mistake. Do you get my drift?”
Yann watched as Mr. Tull wove his way across the courtyard and decided to take his
chance. His one aim was to get back to Paris to find where Têtu had been buried, and kill Kalliovski.
In his haste to leave, he ran into the innkeeper. “Hey, where do you think you’re going, you blasted scallywag?” the man shouted as the tray he was carrying went flying. There was a loud crash as pewter tumblers and plates of food fell to the floor.
Yann didn’t stop to look back at the mess he had caused. Quickly, he swerved past a coach driver, ducked and dived around horses and carriages, and ran straight into a well-dressed man who firmly but kindly put his hand on his shoulder.
“Yann Margoza, I take it?” said Henry Laxton in flawless French.
Mr. Tull came panting and puffing after him, shaking his fist.
“Where’s that ruddy boy? That little heathen, I’ll wring his scrawny neck, I will.”
“You will do no such thing,” said Mr. Laxton, still holding firmly on to Yann. Pushing him into his carriage and climbing in after him, he nodded to his coachman, who handed Mr. Tull an envelope with his money in it.
Mr. Tull started counting.
“It is the agreed sum,” said Mr. Laxton.
By now the carriage was making its way out through the arch, disappearing into the main thoroughfare.
“Wait a minute! Not so ruddy fast!” shouted Mr. Tull to the disappearing wheels. “I need money for the breakages.”
Mr. Tull was not in a good mood as he walked toward the Red Lion Inn, a tavern renowned for the company of rogues. If you couldn’t make an honest penny by hard work, then perhaps it would be more worthwhile to make a dishonest pound instead. “Where is the justice?” said Mr. Tull to himself. “The rich get everything and do nothing for it, and all the while they expect the likes of me to risk life and limb for them. And they don’t even pay for breakages.”
He had heard the talk of clever people in Paris, people who knew what the tomorrows of life had in store. Civil war in France, that was what they were predicting. As far as he was concerned it couldn’t come soon enough. There was money to be made in upheavals.
The savagery of grief tore at Yann, filled him with rage, stripped him of his gift for reading people’s minds. All that was left was the silence of heartache.
His past and his future had been gobbled up and spat out again as if the very marrow
had been sucked from his soul with the murder of Têtu. Lost in the fury of his thoughts, he hadn’t heard one word Mr. Laxton had been saying, until finally, standing in the hall of the house in Queen Square, he realized that by some twist of fate he had entered another world, and he didn’t want to be here.
Henry Laxton’s valet, Vane, had been with his master for many years and spoke tolerable French. He took Yann upstairs and showed him a large bedchamber, dominated by a four-poster bed and smelling of oranges. They reminded Yann of hot
summers and journeys with Têtu. Behind a screen at the far end was another door that led to a small antechamber, and there by the fire sat a bath filled with steaming hot water. What it was doing in the room Yann wasn’t sure until Vane started solemnly rolling up his sleeves and said that sir was to take a bath.
Yann made for the door, but to no avail. Vane was doglike in his determination, with a wiry strength that took Yann by surprise. Finally, defeated by exhaustion and the lack of sleep, he resigned himself to drowning.
He was washed and scrubbed until the water was as filthy as the Seine and his skin tingled all over. Wrapped in a large housecoat, he sat in front of the fire while a barber set about cutting off his long black locks and vigorously rubbing a lotion into his scalp, for the express reason, so he said, of ridding Yann of fleas.
Vane then set about dressing Yann as if he were a tailor’s dummy. Finally, he tied a cravat around his neck and set a looking glass before him. If it hadn’t been for the anger in his face Yann would have said he was staring at someone else.
Vane took Yann down to the sitting room to present him to Mr. and Mrs. Laxton.
“Well, look at you, sir,” said Mr. Laxton in his perfect French. “To the manor born, I would say.”
Yann, not knowing what was expected of him, bowed stiffly. All this felt as if it were happening to someone else, that he was simply an actor upon the stage.
“You have met my niece, Sido de Villeduval, I gather,” said Mrs. Laxton.
Yann looked at her. Was he dreaming, or did she look like Sido?
“And was she well?”
Was she well? He had to think what he was being asked. Finally he said, “She is unhappy.”
After an awkward supper that seemed to go on and on, with many courses and unanswered questions, Mr. Laxton took him into his study. On hearing of Têtu’s death, he told Yann that this was to be his new home. What he meant by this, Yann had no idea. The only family he had ever known was Têtu. Home couldn’t be counted in candlesticks and cutlery, of that much he was sure. Home for him had been simple.Home was Têtu.
That night he lay awake, finding the soft mattress worrying, the smell of oranges unsettling. Finally he got out of bed and fell asleep in front of the fire, like a cat. The days that followed were encompassed by ticking clocks and dull, meaningless routine. A tutor had been employed for Yann, a Mr. Rose. He was as thin as a sheet of paper left flattened and forgotten in a book, and had about him the smell of dried-up ink. Knowledge had been beaten into himand he saw no reason why it shouldn’t be beaten into every other child. His philosophy of education was not one he had shared with Mr. Laxton.
One day Mr. Rose, in a fit of temper, threw a book at Yann, hitting him on the head. Yann got up and calmly took the cane from his terrified tutor, breaking it across his leg before delivering a knockout blow. Mr. Rose lay stretched out cold on the wooden floor, his nose bleeding profusely.
Yann went down the stairs to Mr. Laxton’s study and told him exactly what he had done and why. There was a general commotion, a doctor was called for, and Mr. Rose, regaining consciousness, demanded that the boy be brought before a magistrate. Then, seeing that Mr. Laxton was going to do nothing of the sort, he left, appalled, holding his handkerchief to his very sore nose.
Immediately he went hurrying around to Lady Faulkner, whose son Jack had benefited greatly from his tutoring. For her part she had swiftly and delightedly passed on the news that the Laxtons, for want of a child, had taken in an alley cat.
Free of his tutors, Yann took to leaving the house without permission and going off by himself to explore London. Locked doors and high windows were no barrier to him. He would frequently climb down the side of the house at night without being noticed by the night-watchman. He had always found the darkness friendly and had never understood people’s fear of it. For all the trouble Yann caused the Laxtons, they could not help liking the boy. The problem lay in how to make him see the opportunities he was merrily throwing away. Mrs. Laxton understood better than her husband what Yann felt. Late one foggy March night she waited in Yann’s room for him to come back from one of his escapades. He looked sheepish as he climbed through the window to see her sitting there in the dark.He was certain he was going to be punished. Instead she lit a candle and invited him to sit down.
“What is it you want?” she asked.
“To go back to Paris.”
“I want to find out what happened to Têtu.”
“You know what happened. It was a terrible tragedy for you. Why do you think he sent you here?”
Yann shrugged his shoulders.
“No, that won’t do,” she said sharply. “You are a clever boy. You deserve to be given a opportunity. What I have seen is a stubborn, unhappy Gypsy who is too wrapped up in himself to see what his friend sacrificed for him.”
“I am a Gypsy,” said Yann through gritted teeth, realizing that he was about to break down. “I don’t belong here, not in your world. Not in all this softness. Not imprisoned by walls—”
“When I was nine my mother died,” Mrs. Laxton interrupted. “She was very pious, and I believed that the only reason she had left me was because I had been naughty. I was lucky; I had a loving older sister who helped me to understand that it was not for anything I had done.” She leaned forward and touched Yann’s hand. “It’s not your fault Têtu died. You couldn’t have caught the bullet; you are not a magician.”
Yann felt burning hot tears sting the corners of his eyes.
“I should have stayed with him—I shouldn’t have run.”
He was suddenly aware that Mr. Laxton was standing in the doorway, listening.
“Stayed to be killed,” Mr. Laxton said. “That would have been a waste.”
“We are here to help you,” said his wife softly, “but you refuse to let even a chink of light into that dark space in your head.”
“I don’t want anything from you. I don’t want your help. I never wanted to come here!” Yann was shouting now, so angry at the tears that wouldn’t stop rolling down his face, joining together under his chin.
“Save your money and save your pity. I want none of it!”
Blast the god damn tears, why didn’t they stop?
“The door is open. If you want to go back to Paris,
go,” said Henry Laxton. “I am not your jailer..”
Yann bolted down the stairs two at a time. He pushed past the startled doorman and out into the foggy night air.
Henry Laxton leaned over the banisters and watched him go. “Well, that’s that. What a fine mess we’ve made.” His wife put her arms around him. “Mon chéri,” she said, “don’t despair. I promise you, this is not the end. It is just the beginning.”
Yann only stopped running when he reached Seven Dials. The sound of his feet on the pavement was the drumbeat that finally calmed him down. Gasping for breath he leaned against the corner of a building, grateful for the thick fog, and laughed out loud at his own stupidity. Well, he thought bitterly, I can’t go back there again.
He felt certain that the Laxtons would be mighty pleased to be rid of him. Mrs. Laxton had called him a Gypsy! He was a Gypsy.
As the cold found its way into his bones it dawned on him exactly how alone he was. He shook his head. He had been a complete fool. What did he have? Nothing, just the clothes he stood up in. He looked down at his coat. In the morning he would pawn it. That should give him some money, at least enough for a day or so. For the time being he would just have to keep on walking.
He made his way toward Covent Garden, where the audiences were spilling out of the theaters. Maybe he should try to find work in the theater, though he wondered quite what he had to offer. The ability to throw his voice was surely not enough, not now that he couldn’t read minds. That gift belonged to another time.
The bells of St. Martin’s were chiming eleven o’clock as he walked away from the piazza. It was going to be a long, cold night.
On the last stroke he heard someone call out for help. Through the fog he could make out two men who seemed to have a third man held hostage against the wall.
Yann moved quickly out of sight.
From what he could see, the one nearest him looked like a fish-eyed monster, his hand as a wide shovel covering the hostage’s mouth, while the rat-like creature, egged him on.
“What have we got here, Sam?” said the fish-eyed monster.
“A gentleman in a fine coat! Joe.” leered rat-like creature. “With shiny buckles on his shoes!
“Please, my dear commodious sirs,” cried the gentleman, “I am but a poor thespian and this is my humble costume.”
The actor let out a muffled moan. “I beg thee, let not my night’s candle be so rudely snuffed out. I implore you, gallant gentlemen, to spare me!”
Sam was now rifling through his pockets. “Nothing,” he said despairingly. “He ain’t got nothing, not even a penny.”
“Must be a bleeding actor, then.”
“My dear sir, my name is Mr. Trippen of Drury Lane. You aren’t going to kill the famous Touchstone the Clown, are you? Think what the papers will say.”
Joe burst out laughing. "Nothing,” he said. He put his hand to his face and pulled out his glass eye. “Like to hold it, would you?”
He was about to put the glass eye back when he heard a young girl’s voice calling his name.
“Did you hear that?” said Joe. “She was calling me.”
Then the sweet voice called again. They had no idea what she was saying, except that this time it was Sam who recognized his name.
“How about that? She’s calling me too. She sounds French, she does.”
Yann called out in French, “Mr. Trippen. Can you understand what I am saying?”
“Yes,” mumbled the actor.
“Don’t be afraid. Just tell them I am keen to meet them. When the moment’s right, try and get free. I will say Allez! When you hear that, move.”
“What’s she saying?” said Sam in a state of great excitement.“My French is a little rusty, but surprising as it seems she sounds mighty keen to meet you gentlemen,” said the actor.
“We’re in luck,” said Joe.
“I tell you she’s mine. I heard her first,” said Sam.
His friend spat on his glass eye and polished it on his sleeve. “Give me a chance to get my looks back in, and then, when she sees us, she can take her pick.”
At that moment, apparently out of nowhere, Yann appeared. The two rogues were so startled that Yann was able to snatch Joe’s looks from him before disappearing into the fog again.
“Hey, give that back unless you want me to wring your wretched little neck,” cried Joe.
The sweet-voiced girl suddenly spoke to the actor again.
“When I throw the glass eye, you are to make a run for it.”
“What’s she saying now?” asked Sam.
“She’s asking what keeps you so long,” said the actor, hardly believing that the gods could have been so kind as to send this angel.
At that moment, Yann shouted, “Allez!” and threw the glass eye up into the air. Joe and Sam made to catch it, as Mr. Trippen, free of their clutches, ran for his life, swiftly followed by Yann. Once back in the main piazza they both stopped, the actor gasping for breath.
“My dear young sir, I cannot thank you enough. May I ask the name of my savior?”
“I have to report,” Mr. Trippen carried on, standing up, “That I felt my dying moment upon life’s tentative stage had come.”
“Do you always use so many words?” asked Yann, smiling.
“They are like bonbons for the tongue, my young friend.” He took out his handkerchief and mopped his brow. “Lucky, weren’t we, about the young girl being
there. I can’t imagine what she saw in those two rogues. But I can assure you that the fairer sex is one of life’s mysteries.
“Didn’t you realize?” said Yann. He began to laugh. “That was me pretending to be a woman.”
“No! That is incredible,” said Mr. Trippen. “Why, my dear sir, I had no idea I was talking to a fellow thespian. Where did you learn to speak such excellent French?”
“In France,” said Yann.
“You are French?” said Mr. Trippen, surprised.
“And English is not, I take it, your native language?”
“No. I have just started to exercise my tongue with it,” said Yann with a chuckle.
“A natural, a born natural.”
“Thank you, sir,” said Yann. “I wish you a safe journey home. Good night.”
“Wait, wait my dear young friend, not so fast. Mrs. Trippen would never pardon me if I didn’t bring my savior home for supper.”
“At this hour?” asked Yann.“Why, this is the hour, sir, when the Trippens gather after the curtain has fallen on the day, to mull over an actor’s life, to reminisce of days gone by, helped in no small part by a good port wine. My wife, having danced the Fairy Queen tonight at Sadlers Wells, will, I believe, have a chicken simmering in its juices on the fire, the bottle, ruby red, breathing in the air.”
Up to that moment Yann had forgotten quite how hungry he was. The thought of the chicken simmering away was enough to make him say yes. They walked toward the Strand together.
Mr. Trippen looked as pleased as punch with himself and did not stop singing:
“Hey ho the wind and the rain,
For the rain it raineth every day” all the way home.
The next morning Henry Laxton was to be found in his study, looking tired and anxious. He had been out half the night searching for Yann and now, washed and shaved, he was staring out of the window and drinking his black coffee.
Vane, the valet, who had also been out looking, brought in a bundle tied up with string.
“I have just retrieved this, sir,” he said, unrolling Yann’s coat.
“Dear God, don’t tell me you found that lying in the gutter?”
“No, sir, in a pawnshop. It appears that young Master Margoza managed to get a fair sum for it this morning.”
Henry Laxton laughed out loud with relief. “Then at least the boy hasn’t been robbed or knifed, or worse. Do you know where he is?”
“This, sir, is the address he gave the pawnbroker. Maiden Lane.”
Henry Laxton arrived at the house to find Mr. Trippen sitting on an upturned crate. A fire was blazing away and the room had a pleasing aroma of hot buttered toast. Mr. Trippen was flabbergasted to see such a fine gentleman standing in the doorway and regretted much that he hadn’t, as planned, gotten dressed, but was still to be found in his battered housecoat and cap.
“You find me at a disadvantage, sir,” he said, bowing.
Mr. Laxton handed him his card and Mr. Trippen read it with interest. The word banker danced before him.
“I believe that you have a young man staying with you who goes by the name of Yann Margoza.”
“I have that privilege, sir.”
“I take it, then, he is not here?”
“No sir, he has taken the young Trippens out for the benefits of fresh air and—”
Mr. Laxton interrupted him. “The young man is in my charge.”
“Of course, sir. I am in no way kidnapping him, I can assure you of that. By Jupiter, sir, he saved my life! A brave one is that boy, sir, a young Hamlet, indeed a Henry the Fifth on the battlefield of Agincourt.”[ 哈哈哈，你说对了，他就是哈姆雷特，也是亨利五世！]
With many theatrical gestures, Mr.Trippen related what had happened in Covent Garden. Henry Laxton found himself warming to the actor, and an idea came to him.
“I wonder, sir, if I might confide in you?”
“By all means! Discretion is my second name.”
Mr. Laxton told the actor as much as he thought he needed to know about Yann.“He was placed in my care. I found him a tutor, a Mr. Rose, who, unknown to me, saw fit to try and beat the spirit out of him.”
“A Rose by any other name would smell as sweet. I should think his petals were sent flying.”
“Knocked out cold,” said Mr. Laxton, smiling at the memory.
Mr. Trippen clapped his hands with delight. “In my humble experience, the cane only teaches the child to loathe the tutor, despise the lesson, and scorn all the benefits that education might bring.”
“I entirely agree,” said Mr. Laxton. “Tell me, how would you go about teaching such a boy as Yann?”
“I would never keep him tied to a desk. No. I would show him London, take him to galleries, the theater; fire his imagination. Then when it caught I would tell him about the magic of books. Never let him become bored, sir.”
Mr. Laxton listened while taking in the lack of any furniture.
“Have you just moved here, or are you in the process of leaving?” asked Mr. Laxton.
“Neither, sir,” said Mr. Trippen. “I am between tides, so to speak. I was recently given the opportunity to be a fulltime tutor. I turned it down, believing the stage to be my one and only true calling. A foolish moment. Now, alas, debt’s dagger hangs over me.”
“I have a proposition to put to you,” said Mr. Laxton.
“Sir,” said Mr. Trippen, sitting bolt upright, “I am all ears.”
Yann returned with the little Trippens to find their parents seated on boxes, both looking solemnly ahead of them as if they were in church on Sunday, their attention held by a gentleman who was leaning on the mantelpiece. It was Mr. Laxton.
Yann stood there feeling stupid and embarrassed, as Mr. Trippen ushered his little family out of the room and left them together. He was thinking so hard about what to say that it took him a moment to realize that Mr. Laxton was already talking.
“I owe you an apology, Yann. I underestimated you.”
Whatever Yann had been expecting to hear, this was most definitely not it. Mr. Laxton’s kindness floored him. He looked up and was amazed to see genuine concern in his tired face.
Finally Yann said what he had thought he would never admit to anyone, least of all to Mr. Laxton.
“I bitterly regret leaving as I did. I thought you would be better off without me.”
“You could not be more mistaken if you tried. I have been out all night looking for you.”
“Mrs. Laxton called me a Gypsy.”
“She meant no harm by it. She is as desperate as I am for you to come home.”
Yann felt as if he stood at a crossroads. One path he knew well, and one appeared too dimly lit for him to see where it led. Looking at the two of them he knew which one he was going to take. “I will try my best not to let you down, sir.”
“Good, that’s all anyone can do,” said Mr. Laxton, looking mightily relieved. “Then we have an understanding.”
Before Yann could say another word, the door burst open and Mr. Trippen entered, his arms spread out wide.
“At last the tide has turned! A wise decision, sir,” he said, violently shaking Yann’s hand, “a wise decision.”
Yann looked baffled.
And Mr. Laxton said, “I took the opportunity of asking Mr. Trippen to be one of your tutors.”
“Will that suit, sir?” said Mr. Trippen, looking anxiously at Yann. “If it won’t, I will not force the point. It would gladden the heart of Touchstone to be of help to a fellow thespian. Clowns are often wiser than the cleverest of men. Not for nothing do jesters keep kings company.”
Yann burst out laughing. “And you can get the furniture back.”
“It’s already settled,” said Mr. Laxton.
"Yes,” said Yann, “then it will suit very well indeed.”
The Marquis de Villeduval’s response to the growing political turmoil in France was to build a garden surrounded by a high wall designed to enhance the beauty of his new château. As part of the grand plan the marquis ordered the removal of a small, inconvenient hill that blocked the view from the château. The farmers, whose wheat fields he had confiscated, came cap in hand to beg him to leave it be. It was a sacred mound. To disturb it would mean spoiled crops, diseased animals, ruin and starvation. This was not the first time a peasant delegation had annoyed him with saints and superstitions. The same thing had happened when he cleared the forest around his château in Normandy to make way for a park. That time they had warned him not to touch the ancient trees that belonged to the spirits of the earth and were guarded by the Gypsies. They said that misfortune would overtake him if he cut down a single one.
The marquis was determined to clear his land of the Gypsies, whom he held solely responsible for these nonsensical ideas, so one winter’s day he set off in pursuit of them, with a group that included Count Kalliovski.
The party soon came across a Gypsy family fleeing through the woods. The marquis had thought to have them rounded up and transported. The count, however, had an altogether more immediate solution. The marquis, who had not quite the count’s taste for blood, watched from a respectable distance, and the servants looked on in horror, as Kalliovski personally killed each and every one with less mercy than he would have shown a fox.
The dead bodies were left hanging in the trees like grotesque baubles, an example to all those who put store in old wives’ tales instead of having a proper respect for reason and authority. The cost of this new paradise would bring the marquis to financial ruin, something he chose to ignore.
The task of telling him the true state of his financial affairs fell to the long-suffering Maître Tardieu, trusted adviser to the Villeduval family for over thirty years. After the old marquis’s death he had watched with growing dismay as the family’s fortune was mercilessly squandered.
And now it seemed that the day of reckoning had arrived. On the morning of the fourteenth of July, Maître Tardieu received a letter from the count Kalliovski for the
attention of the marquis. It was written in white ink on black paper with three words inscribed in red at the bottom. Maître Tardieu knew that he must inform the marquis of its contents immediately.
The elderly lawyer looked not unlike a mole with his thick round spectacles stuck firmly on the end of his nose. He called for his carriage while Madame Tardieu, terrified by the idea of her husband leaving Paris when the city in such turmoil, pleaded with him not to go.
“Chéri, please,” she begged. “Look at what happened yesterday. The people are arming themselves. There will be fighting in the streets. We shall all be killed.” She crossed herself.
“Stay calm, my dear,” said Maître Tardieu. “You are to stay indoors and not set foot outside, my pet.” He sat back in his seat as the carriage rumbled through Paris with the curtains drawn.
Twice, men with cockades in their hats and brandishing pitchforks stopped the carriage and demanded that Maître Tardieu get out while they searched it for firearms. It was with a great sigh of relief that he finally arrived outside the wall that
encircled Paris, and set out on the road to the Marquis’s new château.
The journey gave MaîtreTardieu time to reflect on the past, and he felt a profound sadness when he thought of the late marquis. He had lost his adored younger son, Armand. His elder son, mean-spirited and extravagant, had always been a trial to him. Maître Tardieu remembered how appalled the old marquis had been to see the indifference with which his son greeted the news of his wife’s death.
Maître Tardieu finally arrived, he was made to wait for an hour and a half, without refreshment, before the marquis deigned to receive him. Even then he refused to talk business until he had first shown the lawyer his grounds. The marquis strolled on, put out that the lawyer seemed so unappreciative of the beauties on offer.
“Have you noticed that the flowers match the colors of the bows on my shoes?”
To the tired eyes of Maître Tardieu, all looked gray and dead.
The marquis now said that he never discussed business in the afternoon, but was prepared to listen to the lawyer’s concerns over supper. While the marquis was resting, Maître Tardieu took the opportunity to talk to the steward and to examine the household accounts. He was appalled to discover just how much money the marquis had spent on the garden. Not only had there been the designers, the hothouses, and the rare flowers and shrubs to pay for, but the marquis has had a network of secret tunnels built under the flower beds so that the gardeners could crawl down them each morning and discreetly change the flowers to match his outfit. The birdsong that followed his every step came from aviaries strategically hidden behind the greenery. Such folly came at a high price.
What shocked Maître Tardieu even more was learning that Sido had been confined to her chamber for the past seven months. Maybe it was this, and the remembrance of what she had meant to her grandfather, that finally made him decide to throw caution to the winds and to speak his mind, whatever the outcome.
At last the lawyer and the marquis sat down to dine, the marquis at the head of the long table. The room was ablaze with candles, even though it was still light outside.
"Sir,” said Maître Tardieu, “as you know, I have come at some considerable inconvenience—”
“If you have come here to tell me ridiculous tales about the disturbances in Paris,” the marquis interrupted, “I am not interested.”
A candle blew out and a footman came forward to relight it.
“No, no, no!” shouted the marquis, bringing down his bejeweled hand on the table. “How many times must I tell you? Always use a new candle, never relight an old one.”
In desperation Maître Tardieu decided to bring his employer up sharp. He took the letter from his
waistcoat pocket and handed it to one of the footmen to give to the marquis.
“What is this?” said the marquis, waving the letter away. “Do you intend to ruin my digestion?”
“It is from Count Kalliovski.”
“Oh, I see. Well, read it to me if you must.”
“Perhaps, sir, it would be better if the letter were read in private.”
“We are in private.”
“Forgive me, but we have in this room a butler and five footmen who can hear every word I am about to say.”
“Don’t be absurd, man. They are merely here to serve me and have no opinions of their own. They are less important than the furniture and definitely less valuable.”
“Very well,” said Maître Tardieu. He began to read slowly and carefully so that master and servants could hear every word.
“What does he mean?” said the marquis.
“Exactly what he says. He wants his money back with interest and he wants it before the end of the month.”
“That is ridiculous. Kindly acknowledge the letter and point out that there seems to have been a misunderstanding.”
Maître Tardieu had reached the end of his tether. Throwing diplomacy and caution aside, he said, “Sir. You are near bankrupt. I have warned you on many occasions, but you have refused to take my advice. Now I fear it is too late.”
“What! You sit at my table and have the impudence to talk to me so? How dare you!”
Maître Tardieu silenced him.“There is more, and it is of even more consequence.”
Maître Tardieu returned to the letter and read the last paragraph, in which the count inquired after Sido’s health and asked for reassurance that she was being well cared for.
At this the marquis looked most uncomfortable. “The count ends his letter by saying that he is looking for a wife. He believes your daughter could well be suitable. If that is the case and you agree to the marriage, all your debts will be canceled.”
“She will, of course, be married into an aristocratic family. That goes without saying,” the marquis said flatly. One redeeming sentence, thought Maître Tardieu. Still, he was sure it had more to do with the marquis’s pride than his daughter’s well-being.
“And for how long do you intend to keep her imprisoned in her chamber?” asked the lawyer.
“What? Do you expect me to dine with the child and have her run around under my feet? She is well cared for and out of sight.” The marquis dusted his thin, mean lips with a napkin. “I regret to say that she is most decidedly plain. Then there is her limp. She is, in my view, a broken vase, never to be made whole.”
Tardieu’s dislike of this man was growing with every remark he made.And he said, not without a touch of irony, “I agree, that for mademoisell Sido to marry the count is not ideal. His title is unfamiliar and his lineage does not, I am sure, stretch back as far as the grand and honorable name of Villeduval. But that aside, are you aware of what such a marriage would mean?”
“If you mean she will be off my hands, all well and good..”
“Your father’s will—”
“What of it?” said the marquis with a dismissive wave of his hand. “The subject bores me.”
“I take it, then, that you have no objection to the fact that once the marriage take place, your daughter comes into the inheritance from her grandfather’s will, which of
course her new husband will have at his disposal.”
“I still have my estates in Normandy,” the marquis said loudly.
“No,” said the lawyer, “you have the right to take all the income from the land until your daughter is married. On her wedding day they will become her property and that of her husband, Count Kalliovski.”
“Impossible! I will not allow it!” said the marquis.
“How much do the estates bring in?”
“Not as much as they should. Your tenants have taken flight without paying their rents. The crops have failed. Your barns have been ransacked by starving peasants. Instead of attending to these matters you have remained here and built a garden and a wall. In short, there is no money to pay off your debts, if that is what you were hoping.”
Finally the marquis understood. “I don’t want to hear any more,” he said, putting his
hands over his ears. “Your sermons are putting me out of humor.”
Maître Tardieu had no intention of stopping. “There is something written at the very bottom of the letter, not in white ink but in red. ‘Remember your wife.’”
The lawyer observe with interest of the marquis shaking hand.
“Write and tell him I will give his proposition some thought.”
“And what, pray, will you do if the situation in Paris worsens and there is a revolution?”
For a moment the marquis said nothing, just stared fixedly at the candle. “That is inconceivable,” he said at last. “The king will put down any such revolt.”
There was a sudden din outside in the corridor. The marquis ordered Jacques, the butler, to go and investigate. He returned with the marquis’s valet, who could hardly contain his excitement.
“What is going on?” said the marquis, standing up.
“Sir,” said Luc, “we have just received extraordinary news from Paris. The Bastille has fallen.”
“Fallen?” repeated the marquis. “What do you mean, fallen?”
“The citizens have stormed the fortress. They fired cannons at the wall and brought it tumbling down.”
“The Bastille is no more!” said Jacques. “The governor and the provost have both been killed. Their heads are being carried through the city on pikes!” He was carried away by his enthusiasm.
“Vive la Nation!【国家万岁】” he cried.
The marquis collapsed on his chair.
The next morning the marquis took his time dressing吗for an audience with the king at Versailles, making sure that he was properly wigged and powdered. He had decided to wear his finest dusty pink silk brocade coat, embroidered with small diamonds. Finally, dressed and perfumed and meeting with his own personal approval, he called for the lawyer. He was an imposing sight as he looked down his curved aristocratic nose at Maître Tardieu.
“I have decided to agree to the count’s request,” he announced. “I see much that is agreeable in this marriage, and leave it to you to discuss terms. You may inform her of my decision.”
He walked out to his waiting carriage, passing the footmen who stood lined up like toy soldiers, and was helped up inside, his coat rearranged with much fuss so that he would not arrive creased.
Maître Tardieu stood on the gravel, silent and watching. He wondered if foolish men ever became wise. The marquis, only half looking at him, said peevishly, “You have not noticed the buckles on my shoes. What say you to their elegance?”
The lawyer stared down at them, baffled. The Bastille might have fallen, France might be standing on the brink of civil war, but all the marquis could think of was buckles.
Maître Tardieu had sent Sido a message that he wanted to see her. Now he saw before him an anxious-looking young girl with large blue eyes, dark hair, and pale
porcelain skin. It made the count’s letter and what he had to impart all the more distasteful.
“I wish I had happier news for you, mademoiselle,” he said, “but I have not. I think it is best that you read this yourself.” And he handed her the black letter.
Sido, unlike her father, needed no explanation. Her response was immediate.“I can’t marry him.”
Maître Tardieu sighed. “I greatly regret it, but your father has instructed me to agree to the marriage.”
Sido looked again, at the three words written in red ink.“Do you know what he means by ‘remember your wife’?”“No, alas, I do not.”
Sido bit her lip and said, “Why have I no family to advise my father against this ill-judged marriage?” She looked up at the old lawyer, fighting back tears.
He suddenly took pity on her.“You have family in London,” he said quickly, then looked appalled by what had just tripped off his tongue.
“Oh dear. I have always been under strict instructions to say nothing on the matter.”
“Where in London are they?” asked Sido, hardly able to contain her excitement. “How can I find them?”
“I have no idea. I know your mother had a sister who married an Englishman, a Mr. Laxton. She is surely dead by now.”
“Why?” asked Sido.
“Because,” said the lawyer, floundering, “because the English have a very poor diet.”
Sido felt sorry for him.He looked quite exhausted and his face was gray.
“I must leave. I am too old to be doing this, too old and powerless to know how to help you. I wish it were not so.”
Sido knew it was no good questioning him further.
She followed him out to his waiting carriage. “Before you go, may I ask you one last thing? Do you think the Revolution might save me? Or is it already too late?”
“I think the world we knew has gone,” said Maître Tardieu. “What that means only time will tell.”
A mist hung like a veil over the garden. Sido, still reeling from all she had been told and the joyful knowledge, for what it was worth, that she wasn’t alone in the world, lifted her skirts and for the first time in seven months ran down the grassy paths. Nearly falling, she steadied herself on the statue of Pan. At last, finding her balance, she took the walk at a slower pace, pleased to feel her leg becoming less stiff. She wandered down paths where statues of goddesses watched over her. The groves were full of birdsong. It did not take her long to discover the metal cages. Pushing back the leaves, she saw aviaries full of wild birds, thrushes, blackbirds, nightingales, wrens, chaffinches, hidden amongst the foliage. What cruelty, she thought, to do this to birds that own the sky. She was trying to find out how the aviaries might be opened when a group of people appeared ghostlike out of the mist. They were armed with pitchforks, swords, and guns.
She recognized some of the servants.“Where are you going?”
“To Paris,” said Jacques. “We have come to free the birds.” He pulled out a key and said almost shyly,“Would you like to do it, mademoiselle?”
One by one, Sido unlocked the cages. They stood there, all of them silently watching the birds thrill to find the wind once more beneath their wings. Only when every cage stood empty did they part, the servants taking one path and Sido another.
Under the shade of the oak tree Sido could see in the flickering patterns of the leaves her life already mapped out, her future decided, her husband chosen. To Sido Count Kalliovski seemed soulless, with his impossibly smooth skin, his face stripped of lines and wrinkles, his features wiped clean of life’s tempests. She wondered what pact he had made with the devil, that time itself should not wish to embrace him. She thought back to that evening of the party some seven months earlier when he and his great black hound had sat in her chamber watching her. It had felt as if the very air was being sucked out of the room, his presence as heavy as mercury. It was after the fireworks, when she was alone again, that Sido had her dream. She was walking along snowy treetops. The road up ahead was a silvery ribbon in the starlight; it appeared to be far off, yet it wound its way toward her. There on the highway she could make out a coach standing diagonally across the road, as if it had just avoided some terrible catastrophe. The coachman was mopping his brow, looking shaken. By the side of the horses stood Yann.
She could clearly hear him talking to them in his curious language. She reached out to touch him, and in that moment he turned toward her and smiled. Then with a jolt she was back in her room. That was when she knew, as if she had always known, that
Yann Margoza would be in her life forever.
This dream of Yann had idled away many desperate months, until at last he seemed so real to her that she could almost believe he was sitting on the chair by her bed watching her. Today, though, the dream stopped abruptly, for in her mind’s eye the smooth, soulless face of Count Kalliovski smothered her vision like a black velvet curtain, snuffing out her hope of freedom.
This was the beginning of a strange time in her father’s house. The marquis spent most of his time at Versailles and Sido was left alone to explore the château and read the unread books. On his return her father would talk of the parties he had attended and how well he had been received, of Madame this and the Duchess of that. He never discussed Sido’s forthcoming marriage, just as he never discussed politics or the Revolution. The closest he came to acknowledging that anything untoward was happening was when he bemoaned how many of his friends had seen fit to leave for long vacations abroad. Of Versailles he talked more favorably, of balls, parties, and the card tables, though here too he had his complaints.
“I observe,” he said, “that standards of dress are slipping. It is a tragedy, the loss of whalebone in corsets. Whalebone gives women such excellent stature. Now the fashion is all for ladies to look like milkmaids in their white muslin gowns, without proper support or lacing. As a result,” he announced, as if it were the most shocking piece of news ever, “women are slouching! So inelegant.”
Sido listened quietly, relieved that there was no need for her to comment, for what could she say to such a kaleidoscope of folly? She realized that, like the king himself, the marquis was out of touch with what was happening all around him. The decadence, the waste continued, and still the poor stayed poor while her father and his acquaintances determinedly danced, dined, gambled, gossiped, and spent their way to disaster. It was only after the murder of his friend Madame Perrien that the fact that something terrible was happening dawned upon him. By then, it was all too late.
It had started with one of the marquis’s extravagances, a grand fête. Now that the National Assembly had collectively lost its mind and agreed to pass this ridiculous
declaration of the rights of man, he felt it his duty to throw one of his spectacular parties, a reminder, if one was needed, of how preposterous this Revolution was. For the idea that all men were equal was laughable; no one in his right mind could believe it. In his opinion, the sooner the populace was crushed the better.
For the time being the marquis was more concerned about deciding on a theme for his fête, after days of deliberation he settled on the idea that everyone would come dressed as a character from the Commedia dell’arte【注1】. The guests would be transported across the lake to an Italian piazza, where they would dine and be entertained by jugglers, fire-eaters, and tightrope artists.
Scores of scene painters, carpenters, and metalworkers were needed to make such an ambitious vision a reality. The invitations had been sent out, with one notable and fatal exception—Count Kalliovski. The marquis‘s reason for leaving the count off the guest list was childish, with, alas, no thought to the consequences. The marquis was bitterly jealous of Count Kalliovski’s new acquaintance with Robespierre【注2】, a bourgeois lawyer from Arras, one of the leaders of the Revolution.
Misguidedly, he believed that once the count discovered he had not been invited to this party, he would come back full of remorse: for how could he ever have risen so high in count circles without the marquis’s help and guidance? The marquis had a talent for rearranging unpalatable truths to suit his narrow point of view.
What concerned him the most at the present time, and had almost turned the pink clouds of his mind gray with worry, was what to wear so as to outshine all his guests. Finally he concluded that none of the characters from the Commedia dell’arte reflected his noble nature, so he decided upon a costume that would truly enhance the glories of his personality. He would be the sun itself.
Sido, on hearing that the count was not coming, had felt a huge sense of relief. Now she could enjoy the fête without any worries about her forthcoming betrothal. Yet in all the preparations, her father never once asked to see her, and as the day drew nearer she realized that she had once again been forgotten.
On the eve of the party the marquis, as if at last remembering her, called for Sido to be brought to his chamber. He was sitting in his dressing robe, his feet in a bowl of rosewater while his fingernails were attended to, a tall glass of champagne in the other hand, and beside him on the table a small pyramid of confectionery. He looked at Sido and said irritably, “Don’t stand there. The light is most unbecoming.” He addressed Luc, his valet. “She may observe the party from the side room in the temple, but that is all. I don’t want her wandering about tomorrow. Everything must be charming.” With that he lifted his pampered hand and waved her away. Not for the first time did Sido wonder why it was that her father disliked his only child so very much.
On the day of the fête, the servants were up at dawn, bringing down long tables and laying them with fine damask, porcelain, and silver. An ice sculpture in the shape of a harlequin was placed in the center, and cut-glass chandeliers were hung from a series of ropes. Boats shaped like swans and peacocks, their painted wooden feathers splayed out, were brought down to the lake on carts, and sackfuls of pink rose petals were floated gently on the metallic surface of the water.
Before the party started, Sido was taken down to the temple, where a concealed door in the wall was opened to reveal a cubbyhole with a good-sized window to look out of, and a spyhole to see into the temple itself. Gazing out of the window, she was
reminded of the toy theater she had had as a small child. The scene before her had the same magical quality. The orchestra struck up, and the guests began to arrive.
They came as Punchinellos, Scarpinos, Scaramouches, Pantaloons, Pierrots, Columbines 【参见注1】. Tumblers and jugglers from the Paris circus performed amongst them, while a tightrope walker in a harlequin costume crossed back and forth above their heads.
At last the marquis made his entrance to the sound of trumpets, his winged chariot pulled by four men. The marquis was helped out, an apparition in gold silk brocade. He wore a breastplate with the face of the sun on it. His wig was gold, studded with gems. His mask was made of thin gold leaf, and looked as if it had been blown across his face. The effect was dazzling—so much so that the sun might well have decided not to shine, out of envy.
By late afternoon the sky had turned the color of iron. The highlight of the entertainment was the arrival of an Italian singer who was enjoying a great success at the Paris Opera House. Her voice soared through the gathering clouds, calling to Zeus
himself, who answered in his deep bass voice with a mighty rumble of thunder as lightning forked its way toward the lake, followed by a sudden downpour of torrential rain.
The guests hastily abandoned their tables, spilling wine and knocking over chairs as they ran for cover, tall wigs flopping in the rain. The scene, so wonderful, so magical at the beginning of the day, lay in ruins.
To Sido’s surprise, she heard her father’s voice together with a lady’s. He and Madame Perrien were taking shelter in the temple. Sido decided that it was best to stay where she was.
“I have no money to repay the count,” said Madame Perrien.“He wrote me a letter on black paper with white ink. You know what that means.”
“There has been a little misunderstanding,” said the marquis. “It signifies nothing.”
“It is no misunderstanding,” said Madame Perrien. “I implore you to lend me the money. You are my last hope. If you do not, I am as good as dead.” She reached out to take his hand, but the marquis quickly pulled it away, disgusted.“Madame, this is no way for a lady of your rank to behave,” he said curtly.
She laughed a hard laugh. “I tell you this, Monsieur le Marquis, not inviting the count was a grave mistake. I think you will come to regret it bitterly.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about, madame. Let us go back to the château for a glass of champagne.” Madame Perrien was not listening. “The count could destroy all of us if he wanted to!”
“Madame,” said the marquis stiffly, “this has gone far enough.” He tried to step away but was stopped by Madame Perrien, who grabbed hold of his gold costume and collapsed to her knees.
The look of revulsion on the marquis’s face would have been comical if it were not for the seriousness of what Madame Perrien was saying.
“At the beginning I thought, like you, that it was just a silly game. I had to give him something precious in return for the loan.He said he wanted no such trinkets, just a few little secrets. I gave him letters; letters which I now fear incriminate me. When I asked for them back he laughed and said he had them under lock and key and would use them to his own advantage if I did not repay him.”
Madame Perrien now had the marquis’s full attention. She let go of his coat and pulled herself up.“What secrets did you give the count, I wonder, in return for his generosity? I dread to think what he will want in return.”
The marquis pursed his lips. “This does not apply to me. He did it purely out of friendship.”
Madame Perrien made a mirthless sound. “What folly! He once told me what his privatemotto was. ‘Show no mercy, have no mercy.’”
The marquis, who had swum all his life in the shallow waters of polite society, avoiding at all costs any meaningful conversation, suddenly realized that the largest pike in the river was after him. He straightened his back and looked at Madame Perrien coldly. “I cannot speak for you, madame, though I would say that your dealings with the count have been unwise. Now, if you would excuse me, I must join my other guests.”
Sido watched her father turn his back on Madame Perrien to walk down the steps, where two footmen were waiting with umbrellas to escort him to the château.
“We made a pact with the devil,” she called after him, “and the devil is coming to get us!” The marquis did not turn around. Madame Perrien called louder this time, not caring who heard her. “Count Kalliovski has bought our souls!”
Sido stood frozen to the spot, not daring to move.
注1：Commedia dell'Arte, 又可以叫做commedia alla maschera, commedia improvviso, and commedia dell'arte all'improvviso，可以翻译为意大利即兴喜剧，据说现代即兴戏剧就是传承了这种表演艺术形式。意大利即兴喜剧源于16世纪早期，16-18世纪在意大利比较流行（亦有人将其根源追溯至罗马共和国时期带着面具表演的Atellan Farce）。据说，16世纪，在文化领域正经历着重大变革的意大利出现了这样一群人：他们厌倦了时下的主流文化，开始以戏剧表演的形式讲述社会中富人与穷人阶层之间的故事。这些剧中有固定的人物角色，且各有其特定的名字和性格 - 贪得无厌的主人（“Pantalone”）和精明狡猾的仆人（“Zanni”），后者进而演变为“哈里基诺”这一固定称谓（“Harlequino”）。而热情似火的痴心恋人 (“Innamorati”)，总是受阻于视财如命的富人和一名高傲自大的医生或是狡诈军官之间的勾当，而始终无法结合。流动的民间戏班和乐手辗转于各市镇中心的广场，表演的内容充满了社会讽刺性。可惜历史并未遗留下可考的资料供我们了解这些表演的内容。（部分参考：http://www.sohu.com/a/115603681_488958）
后文中的Punchinellos, Scarpinos, Scaramouches, Pantaloons, Pierrots, Columbines都是里面固定的角色，如Punchinello：
注2：这位罗伯斯庇尔是咱们中学历史课本的老熟人了，Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre，法国革命家，法国大革命时期雅各宾派的领袖人物，小时候一直把他和马拉脑补成英雄来着，长大以后才发现，呵呵呵，历史可比小说精彩。
At the beginning of October the marquis received a letter from Madame Claumont, who wrote to inform him that after the dreadful business with poor Madame Perrien she had decided to go to visit her friends in London. She advised the marquis to do the same.
What dreadful business? The marquis had no idea and immediately sent a servant to Paris to inquire. The man returned with a letter from Monsieur Perrien，which made shocking reading. Madame Perrien had been murdered. It was, wrote her husband, unimaginable to think who could have done such a terrible deed. She had been found wearing a necklace of red garnets.
The marquis was shaken to the very center of his being by this news. He remembered with terrifying clarity what she had said: “We have made a pact with the devil!” No, he wouldn’t think about it, he would put this unpleasant subject out
of his mind. It had nothing to do with him. He was in no way responsible for her death. Still, he felt ill, plagued by some malady that had upset his nerves, making him jump every time wheels were heard crunching on the gravel outside. He even started to see the ghost of his dead wife wandering silently around the house.
The marquis’s health recovered somewhat when he received an invitation to a banquet at the Palace of Versailles. The guest list included the officers of the Flanders Regiment, the Montmorency Dragoons, the Swiss Guards, and other officers and noblemen. It convinced the marquis that at last the counterrevolution had begun. He dressed in his finest suit, his tallest wig, and shoes with red heels and diamond buckles, and set off for Versailles in his gold-painted carriage. To Sido he looked like a
canary in a gilded cage.
In the early hours of the next morning the marquis arrived home shouting “Vive le Roi!” at the top of his voice, waking up the whole household. Sido looked over the banisters to see her father in the hall, swaying from side to side and bellowing.
“The counterrevolution has started! The monarchy is to be restored to its former glory!” He lurched toward Jacques, the butler. “Then you peasants will know your place once and for all.”
He stood in the hall, swaying like a full-rigged galleon on a sozzled sea of red wine.
“You should have heard how we drank to the king, and how we cried out with one voice, ‘Long may you reign! Vive le Roi!（Long Live the King） Vive la Reine!（Long Live the Queen）’ You should have seen the queen holding up the little Dauphin【注3】, a symbol of the continuation of kings, as the tears rolled down her cheeks! I tell you, we will deal with the rabble! We will bring down their Revolution! Vive le Roi! ”He spat the words in Jacques’s face.
For a moment Sido thought the marquis was about to capsize. Two footmen rushed to steady him, and he pushed them aside angrily, holding on to the banister as he slowly righted himself, though his wig, like the rigging of a ship, was starboard bent.
Sido watched as Jacques and the footmen did their best to help her father up the stairs. As he passed Sido on the landing he stopped and said, “Who are you?”
Sido didn’t answer.
“As I thought,” said the marquis. “A ghost. Away with you.”
The news of what had happened that night at Versailles spread to Paris and beyond, but it was not until three days later that the full impact of that disastrous banquet was felt.
Michel Floret, one of the few gardeners who had not left the marquis’s employment, had come into the kitchen to warm himself by the stove, the kitchen had become a meeting place for all the remaining staff.
Bernard, the coachman, was sitting there too. “I’ve been thinking,” he said gloomily.
“Well, don’t,” said Jean Rollet, the chef, “Thinking isn’t going to get you anywhere.”
“Go on, Bernard, take no notice,” said Michel. “You have the right to think. Cooks aren’t kings yet.”
“That’s it. That’s what I think. If the king had agreed to the declaration of human rights, we’d all love him, wouldn’t we?”
Jean sniffed. “You might. I have a more discerning palate myself.”
“Shh,” said Agathe, the scullery maid, “not so loud. What if the marquis were to hear you?”
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” said Michel. “What did he call the footmen? Furniture? He thinks we don’t have a thought in our heads.”
“I tell you, the king had better watch out,” said Jean,“otherwise he’ll find himself abolished.”
“And the marquis too,” added Bernard.
Just then the door to the kitchen opened and four of Count Kalliovski’s grooms came in, their coats trailing water on the floor. No one in the kitchen said anything, for the count’s men looked as mean and as brutal as their master. Jean snapped his fingers, and Agathe went to get wine, bread, and cheese for them.
“It took us an age to get here. The road to Versailles is blocked,” said one of the grooms.
“Blocked by what?”asked Jean.
“Women. Women, heaven help us! Maybe ten, twenty, thirty thousand of them.”
“Why? What are they doing?”
“Gone to get bread, and to kill the queen while they’re about it.”
Agathe was so startled by this that she dropped the lid of an iron pan on the flagstones with a deafening crash.
“Where do all these women come from?” asked Bernard.
“Women from the market in Paris started it. Then other women joined them, thousands of them, all armed with pitchforks, swords, guns; they’re even dragging a cannon.” Jean looked around at the kitchen staff. “We’d best be on the lookout. We don’t want them taking a fancy to this château as they march past.”
Michel started to chuckle.
“What’s so funny about that?” asked Jean.
“Nothing,” said Michel. “It’s just that the wall will fall down when it’s pushed, like children’s building bricks, and serve him right.”
One of the count’s men helped himself to another glass of wine and sat back in his chair. “Don’t worry. I overheard the count say he didn’t think they’d bother with you today.”
“Is that a threat or a promise?” asked Jean.
Upstairs in the library, the marquis, like a startled stag caught in a forest of books, was taken completely off guard by Kalliovski’s unannounced arrival. It took him a moment or two to take in the count’s appearance.His hair, instead of being powdered white, was black. Instead of his usual finery he was wearing a plain black woolen jacket and woolen breeches with black riding boots that did not even have a red heel. As he placed his hat on a table the marquis saw that pinned to it was the revolutionary cockade. He stared at it in disbelief.
“What foolish things you all did at your party this week, citizen,” said the count, helping himself to a glass of cognac. “Drinking to the health of the royal family, in short forgetting your loyalties to the nation. Really, citizen, was this wise?”
“Citizen, citizen,” repeated the marquis. “What nonsense is this?”
Kalliovski clicked his heels. “I am Citizen Kalliovski, a friend of the Revolution, at your service.”
“Impossible!” said the marquis. Then he laughed out loud. “Very good! I’ve seen you that I’d forgotten what a wit you are; you’ve come in disguise! Oh, very clever indeed.”
“I am in deadly earnest,” replied Citizen Kalliovski.“I am here on business. As soon as the papers are signed, I will be gone.”
“Have you already forgotten my very generous offer to you?”
The marquis said nothing. He was still trying to take in Kalliovski’s new appearance.
Kalliovski rang a bell and a footman entered. “Fetch Mademoiselle Sido,” he ordered. He turned his attention back to the marquis. “You have heard of the death of Madame Perrien, I imagine?”
“Why, yes. Dreadful.”
Kalliovski smiled.“She asked you for your help, I believe.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said the marquis hurriedly. Even under the makeup his cheeks glowed red.
“The foolish woman asked the wrong person, of course, for you possess nothing but unpaid bills.” He smiled again, the corners of his lips curling mockingly. “There are angry craftsmen in Paris still waiting for their money for your ridiculous fête.”
“They will be paid in due course.”
“Not by me,” said Kalliovski, and he took from his pocket a necklace of red stones that he played with in his hand like a rosary.
The sight of it made beads of sweat appear on the marquis’s forehead.
“Madame Perrien paid the price for disloyalty,” said Kalliovski. “Madame Claumont believes that by emigrating she will escape me. If she thinks she can get rid of me that easily, she is very much mistaken.”
The marquis bit his lip. The full impact of what had happened to Madame Perrien hit him like a blow to the stomach. With as much dignity as he could muster, he sat down heavily on a chair.
“Do you remember what we agreed when you last borrowed from me?”
The marquis said nothing.
“Then let me remind you. You have a choice, albeit a limited one, but a choice nevertheless. Sign the marriage agreement or I could let certain papers find their way into the right hands. I am sure there are people who would be most interested to know how your wife died.”
“No,” said the marquis. His lips were white. “You wouldn’t do that, would you?”
“Without a moment’s regret,” said Kalliovski.
The marquis wiped his dripping forehead and regretted ever having had the fire lit. “The body of Isabelle Gautier, now do correct me if I am wrong, was found in a field. Was she found with a necklace similar to this?”
The count held up the necklace with its bright red garnets that looked like drops of congealed blood.
The marquis swallowed hard, his mouth ash-dry. He trembled as a tidal wave of sound came crashing into the room from outside, engulfing the house with drumming, screaming, screeching, a wailing of women.
“We will have bread!”
The marquis got up to stare, bewildered, out of the window, at what appeared to be a never-ending stream of women passing close by his gates.
“What are they doing?”
“Going to fetch the king and queen, that’s if they don’t kill them first. They plan to take them back to Paris, where the National Guard can keep an eye on them, make sure that they don’t get carried away by any more such extravagant banquets. I tell you, citizen, soon the streets will run with blood and no one will care. Now, back to business.”
Above the noise the marquis let out a thin cry. It was the sound of his fragile mind breaking, like fine porcelain.
Sido knew the reason for Kalliovski’s visit the minute she entered the library. Her father, his face funereally grim, walked toward her just as a stone was thrown in the window, breaking it and spraying glass onto the Persian rug. The marquis stopped and stared transfixed as if the stone were a fragment from a comet.
"You’ve brought this on yourself,” said Kalliovski.
“Fortunately for you, today they’re out for bigger fish.”He touched Sido’s face. She
recoiled from him, stifling the words that were about to erupt from her.
She knew that silence was her only means of survival.
“Such soft skin, velvety like rose petals. Still too thin,” he said.
Sido stood stock-still, hardly daring to breathe, Kalliovski’s hand now resting on her neck.
“I take it that you agree to this marriage?” he said.
“Have I any choice?” asked the marquis.
“No,” said Kalliovski. “It was, and it always will be, check-mate. ”
Outside the women shouted:“We want liberty! We want bread! Give us what we want If you value your head!”
注3：Little Dauphin：此文中应该指的是Louis Joseph，即是法国国王路易十六和他的王后玛丽·安托瓦内特的长子。在1350-1830年间，法国王室将要继承王位的继承人叫做Dauphin。