Paris: The Novel by Edward Rutherfurd


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Experience Paris in all its glory: history, romance, secrets, and storytelling par excellence. Vive la France!

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Paris: The Novel by Edward Rutherfurd

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  2. 2. Chapter Twelve · 1898 · I t was a cold January afternoon when Roland brought Marie to Ver- sailles. The trees were bare, and the sky was gray. The palace was closed to visitors that day, but he’d arranged a private tour, and he acted as her guide. If the lunch at the Blanchards’ apartment had been marred by the unpleasantness concerning Dreyfus, there would be no sign of that today. Roland had felt ill at ease on the boulevard Malesherbes, but at Versailles he felt he was on his own turf. And he did the thing in style. Indeed, he rather enjoyed the situation. It was pleasant to be able to show his guests that he could arrange a private tour like this. Moreover, his family had been at the court of Versailles in its heyday, and passed down plenty of anecdotes with which he could amuse and impress his guests. He was determined to be charming. He met them at the station with a large carriage that would hold them all—Marie, her brother Marc, Hadley the American, and Fox the English lawyer. This was just the right amount of company to give him the chance to observe Marie carefully, without it being too obvious. After all, he reminded himself, that was the point of the exercise: to find out whether Marie might be a possible wife. With a little luck, he’d be able to discover that by the end of the afternoon. It did not occur to him that he had competition. CRuth_9780385535304_3p_all_r1.indd 356 3/4/13 12:40 PM
  3. 3. PA R I S 357 He noticed one thing straightaway, before they even reached the entrance to the palace: He liked the way she sat and walked. She had a perfect upright posture. Roland didn’t like women who stooped. He’d always supposed that his wife would be elegant. Marie might not be elegant in the way of the slim, fashionable women one saw in Paris drawing rooms, but she was undeniably pretty. She was also one of those fortunate women who would get even more attractive with age. He could see her in middle age, and beyond, far more attractive than some of today’s elegant women would look by then. In old age, her posture would ensure that she was always dignified. So he might be giving up a little elegance with Marie, but he’d get something even better in return. Before entering the château, they surveyed the vast courtyards around which the palace was spread. With its huge extended center and wings, Versailles was certainly breathtaking in its scale. “I have visited this palace since I was a little boy,” he remarked to Marie, “yet even now I confess that it takes my breath away.” He glanced at Hadley, who had never seen the place before, and wondered what the best introduction would be. But the American made that easy by laugh- ing pleasantly and remarking: “Call me provincial, but I still haven’t gotten used to the size of your great houses. All this,” he spread his arms, “just for Louis XIV and his family?” “Ah, my friend,” Roland responded, “you would be right. And it started, you know, as quite a modest hunting lodge. But this huge assembly you see here was built not just for a family, but for the entire court. The royal family had apartments within the palace, but from around 1680 until the French Revolution—over a century—Versailles was the administrative capital of France. All kinds of people had to be lodged here: the admin- istrators, the most powerful nobles, anyone who had business with the king. When foreign ambassadors arrived, Versailles impressed them with the might of France. The king insisted that almost everything in it was of French manufacture, like the Gobelins tapestries and Aubusson carpets he promoted—so it was like a sort of permanent trade exhibition. It was quite practical.” Now Marie gently joined the conversation. “I have heard,” she said to Hadley, “that one can still see the original hunting lodge within the palace building.” She turned to Roland. “Is that true, Monsieur de Cygne?”Ruth_9780385535304_3p_all_r1.indd 357 3/4/13 12:40 PM
  4. 4. 358 E D WA R D R U T H E R F U R D Roland smiled to himself. He suspected that Marie knew the answer to her own question perfectly well, but that as he was acting as guide, she was being careful not to intrude upon his territory. “You are exactly right, mademoiselle,” he said. “The very center of this huge facade contains the original hunting lodge. Just a modest house with a few bedrooms. But they preserved it and then built outward in every direction.” He turned to them all. “Shall we go in?” As they started to move toward the entrance, he heard Marc murmur to his sister, “You knew where the hunting lodge was. Why didn’t you just say?” But Marie ignored him. So Roland had been right. He remembered a conversation with Father Xavier, years ago. “When you marry,” the priest had said, “before you take any action, think first how it will feel to your wife. Consider her feelings before your own. If you and your wife both do this for each other, you are on the road to a happy marriage.” Roland wanted a marriage like his parents’. He wanted to love and be loved. “I will try to do as you say,” he’d answered the priest. “I am glad to hear it,” Father Xavier had replied with a smile. “So let me add one word of caution. However much you may fall in love, do not waste that love on a woman who is not considerate in return.” Marie’s act of good manners was only a small sign, but an encouraging one. It suggested that she was thoughtful about others. As they approached the entrance, Hadley had another question. “Why did he move from Paris?” he asked. “He had the Louvre Palace, which is big enough.” “Some say he hated Paris,” said Marc. “That may be so,” Roland said. “But he still built Les Invalides, and some of the first boulevards in the city. The truth is, nobody knows for certain. But I think it was part of a larger process. France had been brought together as a single country, but it was still very hard to govern, with great nobles controlling huge regions. In the time of his father, Louis XIII, the great Cardinal Richelieu tried to bring order to the land by making the monarchy absolute. When Louis XIV came to the throne, he was only five years old, but all through his childhood, Richelieu’s successor, Cardinal Mazarin, followed the same policy. And once Louis XIV took power, with the help of his finance minister, Colbert, he continued to centralize the administration of France. What better way to control the nobles than to have all the powerful ones in one place, where he could keep an eye onRuth_9780385535304_3p_all_r1.indd 358 3/4/13 12:40 PM
  5. 5. PA R I S 359 them. Over two generations he became so clever at making them dance to his tune at the court of Versailles that he completely neutered them. He couldn’t have done that in Paris. It’s too spread out.” “And hard to control,” Fox added. “Impossible. Always full of places for people to hide, and breed danger- ous ideas.” Roland smiled ruefully. “Paris gave us the Revolution.” Now he turned to Marie. Partly it was politeness. Also a little test. “But what do you think, mademoiselle?” he asked. Marie considered for a moment. “Everything you say seems correct, monsieur,” she answered carefully, “yet I would add one thing.” She glanced at Hadley. “Monsieur Hadley may know that during the boyhood of the king, perhaps as a reaction to the autocratic policies of Cardinal Mazarin, there were two terrible revolts, known as the Fronde. One night, the Paris mob broke into the Louvre and came into the king’s bedchamber. He was still only a child. He pretended to be asleep while they came around his bed, inspecting him. Imagine the scene. It must have been terrifying. Nobody could have stopped them if they’d wanted to murder him. And I suspect, monsieur, that the memory of that night stayed with the king all his life. His head may have dictated the move to Versailles, but I believe that, in his heart, even as a grown man, Louis XIV never felt safe in the Louvre.” Roland looked at her admiringly. “I think your woman’s wisdom comes closer to the mark than all my calculations,” he said with respect. And though he did not say it aloud, he added to himself that it would be a lucky man who had her by his side. C At the entrance, a guardian let them in. After that, they had the place to themselves. No footfalls, no voices but their own disturbed the silence of the huge marble halls, the gilded chambers and endless galleries. They went through the King’s Apartment, stately, somber and impres- sive. “Each reception room is named after one of the classical gods,” Roland explained. “The throne room is for Apollo.” “It’s curious, isn’t it,” Marc remarked, “how our Christian monarch showed such a taste for comparing himself to pagan gods. He wasn’t called the Sun King for nothing.”Ruth_9780385535304_3p_all_r1.indd 359 3/4/13 12:40 PM
  6. 6. 360 E D WA R D R U T H E R F U R D Here and there, Roland pointed out paintings and decorations, all by French artists like Rigaud and Le Brun, as they moved through the stately sequence of high, cold rooms. The culmination was the War Salon, a temple of green and red marble, massively ornamented with gold, and dominated by a huge oval relief of the godlike Sun King, mounted on a horse that was trampling upon his enemies. “Everything depended upon the king,” Roland remarked. “His con- trol was complete. The ritual was endless.” He gave Fox and Hadley an amused look. “Everything that the English and the American political systems wanted to avoid.” And with that he led them through the doorway into the most famous room in France. The Galerie des Glaces, the Hall of Mirrors. Nearly eighty yards long. Great windows down one side, gilded mirrors opposite, a tunnel-arched ceiling from which the massive row of crystal chandeliers hung in galactic splendor. The almost endless polished expanse of parquet floor gleamed like a lake under the sun. “This is where everyone waited for the king to pass on his way to cha- pel,” Roland remarked. “I’ve read that the court etiquette was pretty stifling,” Hadley said. “It was. But I think the women had the worst of it,” Roland told him. “Somehow a fashion evolved where the women were supposed to take tiny steps very quickly—you couldn’t see it of course, under their long dresses—so that it seemed as if they were floating.” He turned to Marie. “What would you say to that, mademoiselle?” A mischievous glint came into Marie’s demure eyes. “Do you mean like this, monsieur?” And then, to the astonishment of the four watching men, she set off up the Hall of Mirrors. Her dress was long enough so that one could not see her feet. And the effect was astonishing. It was, indeed, as if she were floating away up the gallery. With the pale light coming in through the windows, her floating form passed like a ghost from mirror to mirror so that one could almost have imagined she were passing into some other age until, turning some hundred feet away, she glided back to them and to the present. Finally, when she stopped the gentlemen burst into a little round of applause. “Where did you learn that?” asked Marc in amazement.Ruth_9780385535304_3p_all_r1.indd 360 3/4/13 12:40 PM
  7. 7. PA R I S 361 “I had a dancing teacher who could do it. She showed me how.” “Formidable!” cried Roland enthusiastically. “More than that. Exqui- site. You must have been at the court in another life.” “A remarkable performance,” said Fox. “Wonderful.” “It’s quite tiring,” said Marie with a laugh. “I’m glad I don’t have to do it every day.” They moved into the Queen’s Apartment. Redecorated several times in the eighteenth century, these had a lighter air. “Your family were at Versailles, Monsieur de Cygne?” Marie asked. “Yes. In fact, it’s rather a romantic tale. Back in the days of Louis XIV, my family almost came to an end. There was just one de Cygne left. He was getting old, and he had no heir. But then, here at Versailles, he met a young woman, of the D’Artagnan family. And despite the great difference in age, they fell in love and married.” “D’Artagnan like in The Three Musketeers?” “Exactly so. Dumas used the name in his novel, but it was based on a real family.” “And they were happy?” “Very happy, I believe. They had a son.” He smiled. “Otherwise I wouldn’t be here.” “I think that’s charming,” said Marie. As he guided them out of the Queen’s Apartment, Roland announced that he would show them the chapel, which lay across the courtyard. As they walked across the courtyard, Marie turned to him. “I was interested by the story you just told us,” she said quietly. “I always supposed it would be very difficult to have a happy marriage when there is a great difference between the husband and wife.” “A difference of age, you mean?” “Of age. Or other things.” A delicate question, he thought, but sensible. She was right to raise it. After all, he was an aristocrat, and she, though rich, was a woman of the bourgeoisie. Such a difference in traditional France was still huge. “I think that if there is affection, mademoiselle, and mutual respect, and if people have interests in common, then the differences can be solved as long as both parties make compromises. And compromise comes from affection.” She nodded thoughtfully. Then she smiled. “What you say seems very wise, monsieur.”Ruth_9780385535304_3p_all_r1.indd 361 3/4/13 12:40 PM
  8. 8. 362 E D WA R D R U T H E R F U R D C The chapel was a baroque masterpiece, dedicated to the medieval king Saint Louis. “In the latter part of his reign,” Roland remarked, “the Sun King became increasingly religious.” “And this was entirely thanks to his second wife, Madame de Main- tenon,” Marie added cheerfully, “who was a good moral influence on him.” Roland laughed. “She’s quite right, of course,” he told Fox and Hadley. “No doubt every man needs a wife to give him moral guidance. But Louis XIV certainly did!” Fox, however, did not seem to share their amusement. He nodded thoughtfully, but pursed his lips. “You must forgive me if I can’t be so enthusiastic about the religious feelings of Louis XIV. It was those feelings that made him kick my family out of France.” Roland looked at him in surprise. “You’re a Huguenot?” “We were.” Fox turned to Hadley to explain. “You’ve probably heard of the Huguenots, as the French Protestants were often called. We lived in France protected by an act of toleration known as the Edict of Nantes. But then in 1685, Louis XIV revoked that protection and told the Hugue- nots to convert. About two hundred thousand escaped, many of them going to England. My family was one of those.” “But you haven’t got a French name,” Marie said. “No. Some of the English Huguenots kept their French names. But others translated them into English. A family called Le Brun, for instance, became Brown. And Renard translated to Fox.” “Your name was Renard?” said Roland with sudden interest. “Yes. It’s quite a common name.” Roland looked thoughtful for a moment. He knew that his family had married a Renard heiress once, a woman of the merchant class—a girl like Marie Blanchard, perhaps. That had been centuries ago, hardly worth thinking about. But it was conceivable that his family could be distantly linked to that of the English lawyer. Did he wish to investigate further? No, he didn’t want to be related to Fox. “It’s true,” he agreed, “there are many Renards.” And he let the matterRuth_9780385535304_3p_all_r1.indd 362 3/4/13 12:40 PM
  9. 9. PA R I S 363 drop. “But now,” he announced, “the carriage will take us down to the end of the park where we can look at the charming little ensemble of the Trianons.” C Anyone who knew James Fox would have said that, when he decided to marry, his choice of wife would be wise, and that he’d make an excel- lent husband. He’d already been a little in love with several women, and recently he’d wondered if it might be time to settle down. But he’d never experienced the thunderclap of a grand passion, the coup de foudre. Until last Sunday. And now he was in love. And his love was impossible. He’d always assumed he’d need a wife who spoke French. The family firm had begun in London, but the Paris office was an important part of the business. He and his father were liked and trusted by the British embassy, and he expected that he’d be moving between the London and Paris offices for the rest of his professional life. Finding an English wife who spoke French should not be too difficult. Ever since the might and prestige of the Sun King had made French the language of diplomacy, it had been de rigueur for ladies of the upper and upper-middle classes to speak French—at least in theory. Indeed, most middle-class girls would learn a smattering of French at school. But what about a French wife? The idea was quite appealing. In France, it could only help. And in London, so long as she could speak passable English, it would be thought rather elegant. Either way, James Fox might hope to marry well. True, from the point of view of an English bride, his position as a solicitor lacked the social cachet of the barrister who appeared in court. But the Paris connection, the fact that James and his father were invited to embassy receptions and had dealings with the aristocratic world of diplomacy, added to his status. A young woman who hoped to marry a diplomat might settle for a life in glamorous Paris with a professional man of solid family fortune. With the French, his position was even better. The British Empire was at its zenith; it had a monarchy, which many French secretly craved; and the British pound sterling bought a great many French francs. Less aware of minor English social distinctions, the French saw only a prosperous English gentleman. Even a rich family like the Blanchards might have considered him.Ruth_9780385535304_3p_all_r1.indd 363 3/4/13 12:40 PM
  10. 10. 364 E D WA R D R U T H E R F U R D Except, of course, that he was Protestant. Every week he attended St. George’s Anglican Church near the Arc de Triomphe, or sometimes the nearby American church of the Holy Trin- ity, just south of the Champs-Élysées, where the cousin of J. P. Morgan the banker had been rector for decades. Some of the Foxes’ French friends were Protestant, but the majority, naturally, were Catholic. As his father had told him since his early childhood: “Many of our dearest friends are Catholic, James. But although there’s no need to talk about it, always remember that you are a Protestant.” So on Sunday, when James had found himself staring at the fair curls and blue eyes of Marie Blanchard, and known, instantly and irrevocably, that this was the woman he wanted to marry, he had also realized that it was madness. Monsieur Blanchard would almost certainly forbid it. His own father would not take kindly to the idea at all. There would be the inevitable wrangle about the children’s religion. As a lawyer he knew only too well how even the nicest families could be broken apart, wills altered and worse, the moment one crossed the religious divide. And besides even that, it was very clear that there might be an offer from de Cygne, a rich aristocrat of impeccable religion. He was wasting his time even thinking about Marie. But James Fox was a patient man. He didn’t give up easily. C The Trianon where the Sun King would retreat with Madame de Maintenon from the formality of his court was a charming country house built of stone and pink marble. The nearby Petit Trianon of his successor Louis XV was a doll’s house by comparison. “This is where we are reminded that the Bourbons were humans after all, and not gods,” Roland remarked. “And also that they were vulnerable. For this tiny palace of the Petit Trianon became the favorite retreat of poor Queen Marie Antoinette in the years before the Revolution. “And now, my friends, if you will permit me, I will offer you this reflection upon the meaning of Versailles. Consider first: It was almost entirely built by Louis XIV with additions by his successor Louis XV, in variations of the classical style. Architecturally, it has unity. Second, let us remember an astonishing fact of French history. The Sun King livedRuth_9780385535304_3p_all_r1.indd 364 3/4/13 12:40 PM
  11. 11. PA R I S 365 so long that he saw his son and grandson die before him. As a result, it was his great-grandson, a little child, who succeeded him. From 1643 until 1774—over a hundred and thirty years—France was ruled by only those two kings, Louis XIV and XV. Add the quarter century of the next reign—that of Louis XVI and his queen Marie Antoinette—and you are at the French Revolution. From the seventeenth century until the Revolu- tion, with very little interruption, France is ruled not from Paris, but from the court of Versailles. “But now let me tell you why, for me, Versailles has a certain melan- choly. Think of the Sun King, so anxious to bring order to France, aided by the Catholic Church, which is fighting back with all its baroque power against the Protestant Reformation. He seems to succeed, he makes France the greatest power in Europe. But he overreaches himself, becomes involved in ruinous wars, sees his family die and instead of a secure suc- cession, leaves a half-ruined kingdom to another child, just as he was. Imagine what his grief must have been. “The new century sees a gilded age, and the Enlightenment, to be sure. But also financial difficulties, the loss of France’s colonies in Canada and India to the British, and ends with the Revolution, when the Paris mob forces poor Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to return to Paris, and the guillotine. With this, the age of Versailles comes to an end. Everything its builder had hoped for has been utterly destroyed. “Yet perhaps that is why Versailles is so haunting. It is an entire world that suddenly ended, and remains in all its perfection, frozen forever, just as it was when they dragged the king and queen away to their deaths.” C There was one last site to visit. It was quite close by. While Roland walked ahead with Marie and her brother, Fox followed with Hadley. Fox liked this intelligent American friend of Marie’s brother. They chatted briefly about their visit. “De Cygne’s an excellent guide,” said Fox. “Yes.” Hadley gazed at the three people ahead of them. “They make a handsome couple, our aristocrat and Marie, don’t you think? Blond, blue- eyed . . . He’d be quite a catch for her, wouldn’t he?” “I suppose so,” said Fox calmly. “Has he made any declaration?” “Not yet. Marc would have told me, I’m sure.” “What about Marc?” Fox inquired. He asked partly to make conversa-Ruth_9780385535304_3p_all_r1.indd 365 3/4/13 12:40 PM
  12. 12. 366 E D WA R D R U T H E R F U R D tion, and partly because, if he was going to have any chance in his hope- less quest for Marie, he’d better discover everything he could about the family. Hadley chuckled. “Not exactly. My friend’s in a rather different kind of trouble.” “What’s that?” “Do you keep secrets?” “Every day of my professional life.” “Well, Marc’s got himself in a bit of trouble with a girl. Hardly uncom- mon. But his father’s so angry he’s cut off his allowance.” And he gave Fox a brief account of the circumstances. “It’s unfortunate, but hardly a scandal,” Fox remarked when Hadley had finished. “As a lawyer, I see something similar almost every week.” “It’s the choice of family, I think. Marc’s father feels bad about that. And that the girl’s family are going to throw her out. Blanchard feels responsible for her.” “I commend him for it. Plenty of rich men wouldn’t. Have they made any plans for the girl, and the baby, assuming it’s born?” “Not yet.” Fox was thoughtful. It might be that Hadley had just told him some- thing rather useful. C And now they had come to the one little corner, among all the huge palaces and formal spaces of Versailles, that was completely eccentric. “Voilà!” cried de Cygne. “The Hamlet.” Marc had heard of the artificial village where Queen Marie Antoinette liked to dress up in a simple muslin dress and a straw hat and play at being a peasant woman. With its mill, and dairy and dovecote, the little hamlet was her private domain where no one could enter without permission. “It was just a toy village to amuse a poor little rich girl, wasn’t it?” he said. “History is not fair to Marie Antoinette,” Roland replied. “In fact the hamlet—it’s a model Norman village in fact—really functioned and pro- vided food for Versailles. Plenty of people dream of a private retreat, espe- cially if they’re trapped in a formal world like the court of Versailles. It’s got a rustic charm. But it wasn’t built until 1783. She hardly had six years in which to enjoy it before the Revolution brought her life to an end.”Ruth_9780385535304_3p_all_r1.indd 366 3/4/13 12:40 PM
  13. 13. PA R I S 367 It was certainly a charming spot to walk around. Hadley and Marc had strolled to one side with James Fox, so Roland took his chance to question Marie a little further. He asked her if she had enjoyed the visit, and she said she had. “I could see that you’re well acquainted with the history of Versailles. I hope my commentary for our friend Hadley didn’t bore you.” “Not at all. I enjoy historical places and family stories. But I really don’t know so much.” She smiled. “My aunt Éloïse says I should read more.” “There is no need,” he said firmly. “But what do you enjoy doing?” “The usual things in the city. We go to the opera. I have asked Marc to take me to the Folies-Bergère, but he hasn’t yet. I think my parents may have brought me up too strictly.” Roland smiled. It was a charming little flirtation. “Your parents are quite right. I go to the Folies-Bergère myself, how- ever.” Would he take his wife to the Folies-Bergère? He could imagine Marie persuading him to do it, and the thought was quite delightful. His bride, of course, must be pure. But from all he had seen today, he felt sure that when her husband taught her the ways of love, this demure and charming young woman would be an eager pupil. “You spend time in the country as well?” “We have a house in Fontainebleau. I go riding in the forest there.” “You like to ride?” “I enjoy it, but I only ride occasionally. I should like to ride well.” “It takes a little hard work.” “I don’t believe one can do anything well if one isn’t prepared to work at it, monsieur.” “This is true.” “But apart from this, monsieur, my relationship with the countryside is too like that of Marie Antoinette at the Hamlet. I only play at it.” She paused. “We do own a vineyard that my father bought, however, where I always go down for the harvest. I work with the women picking the grapes. It’s not very elegant, but I love to do it. I think perhaps I am hap- piest at the vineyard.” Ah, thought Roland, she was not just a rich bourgeoise, then. She had a feel for the land. An aristocrat should be elegant in Paris, but know how to run an estate. He thought he could see Marie learning these dual roles. CRuth_9780385535304_3p_all_r1.indd 367 3/4/13 12:40 PM
  14. 14. 368 E D WA R D R U T H E R F U R D The four men wanted to take a brief turn in the ornamental gardens before they left. It was only a short walk to the Grand Canal in the center of the park, and Roland led the way. As they reached the Grand Canal, he let them wander about, and for the first time since their arrival he found himself momentarily alone and able to observe them. The January afternoon would be closing in soon. The clouds were so high that it seemed they had scarcely moved at all since the place was built. The Grand Canal ran down the center of the lower gardens. Louis XIV and his court liked to gather there for boating parties. But the canal was empty now, gray as the sky. Only Marie and her brother, Fox and Hadley stood like shadowless statues by the stony water’s edge, and all around them the vast formal terraces, geometric gardens, the endless par- terres and distant fountains—all empty, all silent. And it came to him with great force that if he married Marie, he would be bringing into his life a warmth and comfort that was not to be found in these huge, echoing spaces where the hand of man clipped hedges with geometric precision, and the eye of God, hidden behind the gray-ribbed clouds, saw all and judged all, against the pattern of His greater and still more fearful symmetry. The life of the French aristocrat was full of ghosts—of kings, and ancestors and great events all moving about like shadows in an echo- ing garden. Like all ghosts, they were strangely cold, and the possession of them set him apart in ways he could scarcely explain himself, and which Marie Blanchard would neither share nor probably wish to share. She would bring him the warmth he needed. But could he tolerate that warmth? And would she tolerate the cold ghosts that he must also live with? He did not know. To his surprise, he suddenly had a great desire to ask his father what he thought. He’d talk to him as soon as possible. C It was ten days later that Jules Blanchard was surprised to receive a visit from James Fox, who asked if he might speak to him alone. Sitting down in his little library, the polite Englishman opened the conversation carefully. “In our work between London and Paris, monsieur,” he began, “we often find ourselves asked for advice on family matters of all kinds. And we are always glad to be helpful whenever we can. Some of these areRuth_9780385535304_3p_all_r1.indd 368 3/4/13 12:40 PM
  15. 15. PA R I S 369 private matters requiring discretion. Others are relatively simple.” He paused only briefly. “At the moment,” he continued, “I have two clients in England who have asked for help. One is a very straightforward mat- ter. There is a nice, respectable family in London who would like to find a nanny for their children. They want the children to grow up speaking French and so they are looking for a Frenchwoman to act as nanny and governess until the children go to school. You have such a huge acquain- tance that I thought I would ask if you might know of anyone.” “I’m not sure,” said Blanchard. “I can ask my wife. What’s the other matter?” “The second is much more private, and requires discretion. But having had dealings with you, and having the pleasure of meeting your family, monsieur, I feel I may confide in you—with your permission.” “Certainly.” “This concerns a family who live outside London, clients of our firm for two generations now. Sadly, after some years, this couple have been unable to have children, and they want to adopt a child. They do not mind whether it is a boy or a girl. It’s easy enough, of course, to obtain a child from one of the many orphanages, but they would like to find a baby whose parentage is known, and one who is likely to be able to benefit from what they have to offer. And that is a great deal. The father is a banker, and the mother, whose own father was a professor, is a lady of considerable artistic talent. Our London office has no suggestions at present, but asked me if I could help. Unfortunately, I don’t myself know of anybody who might have an appropriate baby needing parents. But given your huge acquain- tance, I thought I’d ask if you might discreetly let this be known on the grapevine.” He spread his hands. “Whoever their adopted child finally is, he or she will be fortunate. They live in the most pleasant circumstances.” This was followed by a long silence. “I see,” said Jules Blanchard. Fox said nothing. “And you don’t know of anyone in Paris who might fit the bill?” asked Blanchard. James looked him straight in the eye. “No,” he said. “Liar,” said Jules quietly, and smiled. “But I am grateful for your discre- tion. So you are offering me a wonderful solution to two problems that I have. Will this cost me something?”Ruth_9780385535304_3p_all_r1.indd 369 3/4/13 12:40 PM
  16. 16. 370 E D WA R D R U T H E R F U R D “I don’t see why it should. A ticket on the ferry to England perhaps.” “You’ve gone to a lot of trouble. Why?” “Both families are clients of the firm.” He looked thoughtful. “Priests often arrange these things. They have the information, and the judgment. And it’s well that they do. But I like to think that lawyers can sometimes make a contribution too.” “If this works out,” said Jules, “I shall be in your debt, Monsieur Fox.” “Then you will pay me a compliment,” said James, “by knowing that I do not consider that any debt has been incurred at all.” It was nicely said, even if it wasn’t quite true. He just needed Marie’s father to be grateful to him. C Roland de Cygne arrived at his father’s house early that evening. Just before leaving the barracks, he’d heard news which pleased him. Émile Zola, that tiresome writer who’d made such a nuisance of him- self over the Dreyfus affair, was about to be arrested. The rumor was that he’d gotten wind of it and was already on his way to hide out in England. “Just so long as he stays out of France,” one of his brother officers had remarked. And Roland agreed with him. He’d written to his father soon after the visit to Versailles. Without being specific, he’d told him he’d like to ask his advice about a personal matter. The vicomte had written back at once. Knowing that Roland’s regimental duties made it difficult for him to take time off so soon after a period of leave, he’d informed his son that he intended to take the train up to Paris that day, and offered him dinner at the house. It was good of him to make the journey, Roland thought with affection. He was looking forward to their meeting. The train his father took normally arrived late in the afternoon. The coachman had been sent to the station to meet him. They hadn’t gotten back when he arrived at the house, but he’d been quite content to sit with his old nanny in the meantime. An hour had passed quite pleasantly, but then the old lady had looked at the little clock on her mantelpiece and remarked that either the train was very late, or that the vicomte had missed it. Dusk had already fallen, but there was another train arriving two hours later. No doubt the coachman would wait at the station for that one.Ruth_9780385535304_3p_all_r1.indd 370 3/4/13 12:40 PM
  17. 17. PA R I S 371 This was quite annoying for Roland. It meant that the time he’d planned to discuss Marie with his father would be greatly curtailed. But there was nothing to be done about it. He poured himself a whisky. Another half hour passed. Then there was the sound of the bell being pulled at the front door. Without even waiting for a servant, Roland went into the hall and went to the door himself, ready to welcome his father. But it wasn’t his father. It was his friend the captain. He’d come from the barracks. “My dear fellow,” he said. “A telegram came for you to the barracks. I wasn’t sure how urgent it might be, but knowing you were here, I thought I’d bring it around to you myself. I think it comes from your family’s château, by the look of it.” “How very kind of you. Won’t you come in?” “No. I must get back in a moment,” the captain said. But Roland noticed that he didn’t move to go at once. He opened the telegram. It was brief. It announced that his father had suffered a seizure that morning. And that he had departed this world soon afterward. He bowed his head and handed the telegram to the captain, who read it in silence. “I am so sorry,” the captain said. “If you need to stay here, I’ll take care of everything at the barracks.” “I hardly know what I should do,” said Roland.Ruth_9780385535304_3p_all_r1.indd 371 3/4/13 12:40 PM
  18. 18. PA R IS g ORDER NOW Amazon Apple B&N IndieBound Random HouseExcerpted from Paris by Edward Rutherfurd. Copyright © 2013 by Edward Rutherfurd. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.