French Passion

French Passion by Jacqueline; Briskin Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: French Passion by Jacqueline; Briskin Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jacqueline; Briskin
ushered me into the warm room.
    In shadowed corners stood dressmaker’s forms and pushed against walls were long cutting tables piled with fabric. In rosy firelight sat three handsome young men in lacy shirts and bright satin breeches. His apprentices, Monsieur Sancerre said. Though they were exceptionally handsome, the three were somewhat soft, girlish. There could be no further doubts about the kind of man Monsieur Sancerre was. I felt no revulsion, only a vague comradeship. On this wild run through a slum of Paris, I’d understood in order to survive I’d have to suspend morals and so-called virtue. I didn’t judge them. I felt no superiority. I was grateful for their kindness. One scurried for a warm coverlet, another for a goblet of red wine, another brought me a stool so I could sit closer to the fire. Their long-lashed eyes were round with curiosity, but Monsieur Sancerre said, “We need to talk. My boys, begone.”
    They left.
    I raised my stockinged feet to the fire and sipped the wine. Warmth came over me.
    â€œNow,” said Monsieur Sancerre, “tell all.”
    â€œI’ve decided not to marry the Comte de Créqui.”
    â€œBut we’re finishing the wedding gown!”
    â€œI—I’m sure the Comte will pay you for it,” I said. Then, not so sure, I added, “Otherwise I’ll manage to.”
    â€œWhy this change? What’s happened?”
    There was the same wide-eyed curiosity the apprentices had shown.
    â€œIt’s hardly your business,” I said.
    â€œThe Comte de Créqui is my client, a friend to my other clients.”
    â€œOh, Monsieur Sancerre, I didn’t mean to say that. I’m distraught. Upset. I need help. You have friends, powerful friends at Court.”
    Monsieur Sancerre rose, putting one hand on the stone mantel. “Those stories I told you about my intimacy with Queen Marie Antoinette and royal ladies aren’t strictly true. I’m hardly well entrenched in Court. I make gowns for the wife of the head gardener at Le Petit Trianon. The Comte is my first noble client.” The firelight reddened his cheeks.
    My hopes dashed, near tears, embarrassed, I didn’t know what to say. After a long minute I murmured, “I’m sorry, Monsieur Sancerre.”
    He refilled my goblet. “Don’t look so dejected, it doesn’t suit you, you’re too lovely to be downcast. Now. Let me guess your problem. The Comte desires you not as a wife but as a mistress.”
    My hand jerked. Drops of red wine sizzled on the hearthstones. “How do you know? Did he tell you?”
    â€œOf course not. The Comte de Créqui is a great noble. He wouldn’t confide in a tradesperson, a bourgeois like me.” He poured himself more wine. “We’ll finish the wedding gown. The most beautiful girl in Paris won’t have any difficulty finding another titled gentleman to marry.”
    â€œI can’t do anything until I have back my brother’s note. The Comte has threatened to put Jean-Pierre in the Bastille.”
    â€œNote? The Bastille?” Monsieur Sancerre was examining me, his handsome soft-cheeked face grave.
    Wine and anxiety loosened my tongue. Everything spilled out, everything from the highway robbery and André and me, to the Comte’s encouraging Jean-Pierre to gamble.
    As I finished, I remembered the jewels under my petticoats.
    â€œMonsieur Sancerre, what a fool I am! I can pay off the note!” I smiled happily at him. “I completely forgot. There’s my opals and a very valuable diamond. We’re safe!”
    Monsieur Sancerre’s expression was yet more grave. Lines cut deep into his forehead.
    â€œNo, Mademoiselle d’Epinay, you’re not safe. You and your brother wouldn’t be safe, not even if you possessed the Queen’s necklace.”
    I looked over the pewter goblet, questioning.
    â€œIf the Comte wishes you this much, no IOUs

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