What am I celebrating today? Hm. digging out of a bad snowstorm for starters. It led to some lovely views of snowing and blowing.
My neighbor came over with his snow-blower and cleared my driveway, which was wonderful of him (and will earn him a generous gas card).
I’ve been watching the fire burning in the wood stove, sitting with my cats, scrumbling my elderly dog, cooking, and working from home. It was nice.
But what I am celebrating at the moment is a plot breakthrough. I am working on a trilogy, the first of which, The Orphan’s Tale, is already out. (You can read sample chapters on my website: www.dianawilderauthor.com )
The story was originally envisioned as one volume, but it grew in the telling. The first volume is polished, the third, which is very active, intriguing and has a heartwarming conclusion (at least for me) is nearly set, but the middle one was dragging. Things weren’t working.
And then I had a brainstorm. It is working.
I’ve been writing a pivotal scene that is set in a fine restaurant in 1834 Paris, and it has had me chuckling aloud. Count d’Anglars is the French Minister of Police. Malet is the senior Chief Inspector in Paris. They refer to ‘Lamarque’, who is the Prefect of Police for Paris. They are dining in a very fine restaurant.
d’Anglars brought his napkin to his lips as the waiter brought the platter to him. “Thank you. This is excellent. My dear sir, allow me to serve you some of this braised carp in burgundy,” he said, setting a portion on Malet’s plate. “It is justly famous.”
Malet, eyeing the dish, mentally acknowledged some deep-seated reservations regarding purple fish. He cut a piece and tasted it, located the saltcellar, and spooned salt over the portion.
“But you have not touched your oysters, dear sir! Fines de Claire, the best I have seen in a long time! The blue color comes from algae upon which they feed. Do try them – such a splendid taste.”
Malet eyed the oysters that lay in their juice in the shells. He had long ago found oysters reminiscent of nothing so much as the eye of a person who is making a grimace by pulling his lower lid down and rolling his eye upward. If algae made these items blue, he thought, he would never, ever eat a brown or green oyster.
d’Anglars was still watching him with the enjoyment of one who shares what he considers a rare treat.
Malet speared one of the specimens with a fork, lifted an eyebrow at the juice that came squirting out and then brought it to his lips. The salt scent of the ocean smote him in the nose. He held his breath, deposited the oyster in his mouth and swallowed, following that effort with a large mouthful of iced Chevalier Montrachet and a chunk of bread.
d’Anglars watched him reach for another oyster. “Wait,” he said. “I perceive that the effort of swallowing that oyster was less than gratifying.”
The mouthful gone, Malet sipped his wine again and set it down. “I was raised beside the ocean,” he said. “It was under my window. All its smells and sounds. I miss it sometimes…”
“I imagine, then, that there are parts of it that you do not miss, sir.” d’Anglars motioned to the servant, who was standing nearby and grinning. “Bring a dish of beef, if you please. Your excellent roast in the claret sauce, if it is available. And that excellent Chambertin that I enjoyed the last time I was here.”
He turned back to Malet, who was surreptitiously swishing the Montrachet in his mouth and then swallowing with an effort. d’Anglars winced. “And since they are a penance for you, I will gladly suffer through the rest of your oysters.”
Malet frowned a little, but the beef in claret sauce was beautifully prepared, and the rest of the meal that followed was equally delicious. d’Anglars’ second daughter, Clémentine, was planning for her coming-out party, and was hoping that ‘M. l’Inspecteur’ would perhaps ask her to waltz with him, since it had been he who had taught her at the first ball she had attended, however surreptitiously, at the age of seven.
The memory made Malet smile. Some questions had come up with matters that predated M. Lamarque’s return from Plombières. d’Anglars brushed them aside. “M. le Préfet will be returning to complete his cure.”
“Then his gout has returned?”
“No,” said d’Anglars. “He has a different sort of pain that came on suddenly.”
“Pain? Surely not his heart!” Malet remembered various occasions when the Prefect had dealt with an issue by clutching at his breast and announcing that he was not long for the world if the vexing matter was not resolved.
“No, not his heart,” d’Anglars said, nodding to the waiter, who brought a decanter of cognac. He poured a glass for Malet and one for himself, and stretched his legs out before him. “He will be returning for a resumption of the cure and you, sir, will take his place once more. You handled matters with such distinction the last time, I have great hopes that you will again.”
Malet was frowning. “This is very sudden. He is not in any danger?”
“Not at all.”
“But you mentioned pain. If not his heart, then…” The thought of the Prefect ill was not reassuring.
“It is somewhat south of that organ,” d’Anglars was gazing at Malet through the golden cognac with the hint of a smile. “In fact, the pain manifests itself when he sits.”
“Lumbago? If he is truly ill-“
“It is nothing that some time away from here, with good news at the end of it, will not cure.”
When will he leave?”
“Immediately. We will speak with him tomorrow before his departure.” d’Anglars sipped the cognac and set the glass down. “I fear, though, that the farewell may bring on a recrudescence of his symptoms.”
Malet’s eyes narrowed. “This is because of me, isn’t it?”
d’Anglars sat back and swirled the cognac in his glass. “I am afraid that it is.”
“We envisioned it yesterday. I am very sorry that we were correct.”
He eyed Malet’s expression. “I am assigning a bodyguard, my dear Malet, Effective immediately. Your presence outside a certain doorway in a particularly filthy part of Paris has led to repercussions with which we must deal, M. Vidocq and I. You are a most troublesome fellow, sir. But indispensable, personally and professionally.”
Malet pushed his cognac away. “I don’t understand.”
“Nor do we. But we will.”
It is so nice when things fall together. This weekend should be very productive. (Scrapping an unsatisfactory plot line is always fun…)
(And I am remembering that today is a Friday! I hope you all have wonderful weekends.)