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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Carême in Brighton — a mystery novel - 12. Chapter 11: Charlotte’s Ball & perché crudo destino

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PART IV

Winter 1816-1817

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Intelligence Communique No. 43

 

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Cher Instituteur Marron Glacé,

Nous avons reçu votre rapport de renseignement n° 52 avec un vif intérêt. Heureux d'apprendre que l'état du Pavillon est plutôt sombre, nous vous dirons de continuer à travailler sans relâche et  d'ouvrir  vos  oreilles à toute  information  utile. Il semble que . . .

 

Dear Instituteur Marron Glacé,

We received your Intelligence Report No. 52 with keen interest. Pleased with news of the suitably gloomy state of the Pavilion, we’ll tell you to continue keeping your hands clean, but your work relentless. We’ll add how advisable it remains for you to keep your ears open for any and all usable information. It seems you have recruited a valuable asset, so continue to keep her close.

We are also pleased to be kept abreast of the upcoming ball in celebration of the Princess’ birthday on January 7th. After its conclusion, we’ll await report with icy anticipation. This gathering shall, no doubt, afford unique opportunities to overhear tongues wag freely under the elixir of champagne’s liberalizing effect. More news concerning the Prince Consort is also warmly welcome.

As for your colleague’s changeable nature, I’d advise you not to worry. He may yet prove a valuable asset to your ultimate assignment’s success. I’m glad to know you both have nearly unwatched access to all parts of the Regent’s marine villa. 

At the moment, my time – although not my talents – are taken up with Louis’ ridiculous, newly proposed treaty with the Vatican. I shall continue to work behind the scenes to ensure it never comes into effect. The separation of Church and State must survive in France, and will. Fortunately, the king’s favourite lackey, the Comte de Blacas – and a possible Royal bedwarmer – has been put in charge. As I dupe the Count everyday as a matter of course, the outlook for the Church’s reconquering of France appears suitably dim.

I hope you’ll appreciate this piece of sunny Republican good news in your lonely exile amongst cold English monarchy, but remember the importance of your long-term mission. If, by which I mean, you must, pull off your assignment, a firm piece of your patriotic honour will be assured. Your name will enter the History books small children in France shall read forever. If not . . . well, just assume, for you, there is not an if not.

Incidentally, my trusted ‘friends’ – the ones who keep an eye on them for me – relay Marie and Agathé are quite comfortable in their settled life right now. But alas! As you yourself, a child of these dark times, know only too intimately, a terrible upset could dispose of anyone’s comfort, liberty – and dare I say, life – at any moment. Such caprice of Fortune has an all-too keen blade to sever ruthlessly.

Well, I see I have digressed, and so for now, will bid you a good-bye and an even better bon courage!

 

Please accept, Monsieur, my best regards,

Doyen de l’école de la Concorde

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Chapter 11: Charlotte’s Ball & perché crudo destino

 

While much of the world hunkered down, sheltering from the drag of failed crops and dwindling food supplies, the first month of 1817 found the Pavilion in a warm flurry of activity. The pitiless effects of the summerless year before were barely visible in the Regent’s marine villa, and certainly never mentioned to the Regent’s face. Instead, the long-neglected interior of the Music Room rang out with  hammer blows beneath its still-wet, silver leaf, fish-scale ceiling. While the priority had rested on completing the Banqueting Room to give a proper venue to Carême’s food, the ball room had lain ignored. But now that the French chef’s food was served daily under the great Gasolier of its dedicated space, another mandate rained down from the Prince’s suite above: “Finish the Music Room in time to celebrate Charlotte’s birthday.” And today, the 7th of January, all hands of the Pavilion’s workmen were assembled to see the chamber complete before their appointed 8 o’clock ‘stop work’ order. The doors then were to swing wide two hours later, and the Pavilion’s ball room inaugurated with dancing to commemorate the 2nd in line’s natal day, despite the icy, winter-clad weather just outside its walls.

In the Cold Kitchen, Carême and François had been working at a calmly concerted pace for hours. Carême had devised eight showstopping pastry pieces for the day’s dinner and ball refreshment table. Four of them were sugar work building models, two rustic hermitages, and two weed-encroached ‘ruins’. Everything for which the master planned was symmetrical by kind, but never mere duplication. Thus, he devised a Chinese retreat to counterpose a Moorish gazebo, and a Carthaginian ruin to complement a ruined Gothic church in a German forest. These were assembled and waited his deft hand at colouring and final decoration.

Besides these architectural fancies, two of the eight pièces montées were large cakes – a turbaned brioche au fromage, and a star-pointed biscuit à l’orange. These were baked and cooling to one side.

They would have to wait, for now the French chef and his trusted maître d’hôtel focused on the last pair of treats. Carême had set the Confectionary boys to cut out fluted rounds – bite-sized pieces – from trays of quickly cooling nougat. The half-inch-thick slabs of almond and hazelnut candy had to be stamped out while still hot, and there would be six more trays coming!

The rounds would be racked and allowed to cool completely before Carême showed the boys the piped icing decoration he wanted on each. They had steady hands, so he trusted them with this. Eventually, all the morsels would shingle a four-foot-high pasty cone standing by to receive them.

Meanwhile, Carême and François worked harmoniously on the nougatine tower’s counterpart. François piped pistachio crème into mouth-sized cream puffs. Then he dabbed a tiny amount on the back to serve as glue.

Carême took each, one by one, and symmetrically placed them on an identical pastry cone as the nougat treats. He arranged them à la religieuse – or like a 16th century nun’s cap – first in vertical stripes from base to tip, plotted out in even columns at the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions. Once these ‘guidelines’ were complete, he’d go back and infill the background with slightly smaller pistachio cream puffs. As a final garnish. Hot spun caramel sugar would be allowed to run down the ‘nun’s cap’ and glaze the croque-en-bouche to glossy perfection.

The sculpted finial, which would rise above it all, was the waiting bust of Charlotte modelled by Carême’s own hands in white chocolate.

A complementary bust of Leopold stood by to cap off the nougatine tower.

These two would form the glories of the ball’s refreshment table served at midnight under the great sky-painted dome of the Salon. Like the Banqueting Room, this circular space featured its own flying dragon supporting the crystal chandelier, although this one was all in trompe l’oeil.

While François was handing him the next cream puff, he jostled his head at Carême. “You really capture his insufferable sneer.”

“Who?”

François gestured to the white chocolate sculpture. “You faithfully reproduced his smug, German sense of superiority.”

Carême chuckled, affixing the guide-line pâte à choux with care. “Well, I was aiming for ‘true to life,’ so I’ll take your comment as a compliment.”

François chuckled in turn. “Yes, do.”

Carême was pleased the Frenchmen’s relationship was on the mend again.

Donald Bland suddenly tore open the closed door from the hallway. The eyes of the working cooks all lifted to him, upper torsos still stooped in their tasks.

The Kitchen Comptroller stalked up to the chef de cuisine, and behind him appeared an office boy. The lad cradled one of the Estate’s green-bound ledger books upright in his arms. A careful observer would have noticed the boy’s finger being employed as a bookmark.

Once these two had arrived in front of Carême, Bland cracked open the volume and made the young man stand there holding it like a Bible for a parson. It seemed Bland was about to read a passage of damnation over the head of a lacklustre fearer of God.

Carême interceded. “We are busy, as you can see, and now is not the time—”

Monsewer Chef, I have been trying to reckon the books for last quarter. I’m afraid you need to know your demands for produce are more than the thousand acres of working land at Kensington Palace, Hampton Court, and Kew Gardens can grow.”

“Perhaps this is better discussed later, when—”

Bland’s finger slid along the red text of his ledger. “You wanted – just in October alone – you demanded 1,200 stalks of asparagus. That’s a dozen bunches of 100 each!”

“So?”

All the chefly eyes in the room were trained on the Comptroller’s rising fury.

“So?! They’re out of season. We had to make a considerable outlay to procure them on the open market.”

Carême refrained from asking ‘So?’ again, though it seemed the obvious retort.

“And what’s worse”—the kitchen moneyman turned the page—“in the same month you had the Pavilion spend 258 Pounds, 12 Shillings, 8 Pence and 3 Farthings on beef. Beef alone! Not to mention making me pay for 1,600 pounds of lamb, 1,700 pounds of veal, 262 fresh hams – 118 aged ones as well – plus 600 chickens, 88 quail, 31 capons, 12 geese and 61 lobsters, which had to be imported – horror of horrors – from America!”

Carême waited to see if Bland was through. Once assured the out-of-breath functionary was, the world’s greatest chef calmly replied, “I believe it was Mozart who countered a claim he used too many notes by saying, ‘I use just as many as required; neither more nor less.’ My art, in a like manner, Mr. Comptroller, requires what it requires.”

The scorched red in the lackey’s face reminded François of a volcano about to blow.

“I ask you”—Bland stated staccato—“to be more reasonable—”

“And I  ask you,” the chef replied, “to remember I work to achieve the Prince Regent’s wishes, not yours.”

Bland raised his arms in frustration, knocking the book from the boy’s hands. It went spilling in a mighty clatter upon the floor, and provided the pastry cooks something to titter over.

The Comptroller boxed the poor lad’s ears. “Pick that up!”

Once he had, Bland shooed him towards the door and followed. As the moneyman got to the frame, he turned spitefully on the chef. “You’ve gone too far this time, Carême. Too far!”

In the moment or two of silence following their departure, all eyes were on Carême, but the Confectionary cooks' gallant General appeared unflappable.

François made hand gestures for the others to get back to the nougat, which they did, while he made his way to close the door from the hallway’s noise and dirt.

Just as he got there, Doctor Kitchiner came breezing in. “François! Nice to see you.” His usual high spirits were well in place.

François closed the door behind him as the Doctor made his way to Carême, apparently with the intent of shooting the breeze. “And there’s the man of the hour! What are we up to today?”

“The usual, Doctor,” said Carême, “preparing our pièces montées for today’s festivities.” He motioned for François to resume filling and handing him cream puffs.

“Ah, yes! Your pièces de résistance! Or, pieces of resistance – it loses much in the translation.”

All of the cooks in the room resumed their meditative work.

The good Doctor wandered over to the eye-level cooling shelf hosting the portrait busts. His attention was drawn to the base of Charlotte’s, for there, in the most flowing, legible hand, Carême had piped the Princess’ name in dark chocolate.

He drifted back to the croque-en-bouche assembly station and asked in a tone of wonder, “Carême, old boy, why have you written Charlotte’s name, when the likeness is so obvious?

“Because,” answered Carême matter-of-factly, “imagine the thrill of walking up and seeing your name on something so special. Now magnify that feeling and place it in the heart of a girl turned twenty-one today. She deserves it.”

The Doctor’s odd reaction to this emotional vignette took Carême by surprise, but he only made a quick mental note of it and returned his focus to the pistachio cream architecture under construction.

“I was wondering,” Kitchiner said after a long while, “if I might ask you . . . about

His book, Carême thought.

My book. As you know, I wish to approach it from the standpoint of nutrition.”

Then don’t boil your vegetables for an hour, Carême further thought.

“And from the standpoint of organization—”

“Dear Doctor,” Carême replied in an even tone. “Why don’t you – if you wish to be here – roll up your sleeves, wash your hands and help us.”

The undercooks snickered in their tasks. However, Carême knowing him best, knew what the Doctor’s next actions would be.

“Righto!” Kitchiner was already shedding his jacket and hanging it on a hook by the door.

As he folded up his shirt cuffs and began washing his hands, Carême told François, “Villon, show the Doctor how to do what you are doing so you’re able to instruct les garçons how to decorate each nougatine piece.”

“Yes, Chef.”

And so it came about that Doctor Kitchiner was shown how to pipe just the right amount of pistachio crème into each cream puff and provide a little tack on the back before handing it to Carême for placement.

In the meanwhile, Kitchiner got his wish and asked for the chef’s opinion on the Doctor’s book; and Carême got his wish in that the nougat tower was kept moving towards completion.

After about 20 minutes of this harmonious effort, the door opened once more from the hallway. This time the visitor remained unnoticed until the Regent’s Private Secretary was standing by Carême’s side.

“Chef Carême, you are summoned to the Royal Chambers.”

“What? Now! Can’t you see I have my hands full?” A bit of frustration was let show in his voice.

“It’s the Prince Regent’s orders. You are to come at once.”

 

 

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Several minutes later, with Carême’s hands washed and hair combed, the cleaned-up chef in his street clothes followed Cornelius Hook through the chinois splendour of the Central Corridor.

He had kept the pièces montées production going, and was glad Kitchiner had shown up; Carême switched the roles between the Chef and François so the maitre-d’ could continue ‘gluing’ the cream puffs as Kitchiner filled them.

But now, as they mounted the steps to the North Chamber Gallery, this long walk from the kitchens put the chef in mind of the Secretary’s tour on Carême’s first day; he did not like the man then, and had even less motivation to conjure a fondness for him these many months later. Carême felt sure the functionary had talked the chef down in George’s company whenever possible. Carême expected no good would arise from today’s “summons.” The courtiers were flexing their muscles, and Carême remembered a private moment with Kitchiner in which the Doctor had laid out Hook’s particular arrangement among the Regent’s circle. Namely, how the Secretary used the appearance of having the Prince’s ear to bully his way with people, and undertable cash to move others’ agenda items to the Regent’s attention. In reality, Kitchiner had the man on a short leash due to some choice scuttlebutt he held over the functionary’s head, thus putting the Prince’s mind at ease that Cornelius was actually trustworthy.

The good Doctor, for his part, fed the Secretary false intelligence on the Prince’s ‘new ladies,’ to throw the rest of the court off the scent that he and Fitzherbert were still together.

Such circumlocution was always the way with aristocratic matters, and Carême felt lucky to be mostly an outsider to their machinations. For the greater part of his days, he was allowed to cook in peace and gather intelligence for others at his leisure. But every now and then, his on-the-sly existence was upset by being dragged into others’ flash-pans of courtly posturing.

However, as they entered the gathering area within the Regent’s suite, Carême knew he’d been trained by the slickest courtier of all, and was well armed not to let Talleyrand down.

The pair reached George’s bedchamber, where – to Carême’s total lack of surprise – Donald Bland stood waiting by the Prince’s desk. George sat behind it, his hands already up from his elbows on the wood, fingertips touching to indicate he was ready to ‘be the judge’ of the forthcoming dispute.

“Ah, Carême, do join us,” the Regent said. Once they had, the Prince gestured to Bland. “Now, Mr. Comptroller, will you kindly repeat what you told Ourselves and my Private Secretary before the chef arrived?”

Put on the spot, Donald Bland demurred; but he soon recovered and assumed a hard expression. “Your Highness, the Frenchman is well aware of the financial particulars I outlined earlier for your scrutiny, and which details will not bear repeating. The point remains what to do about this problem. The Household accounts have been put under substantial strain since . . . since . . . that man’s arrival.”

“And you, Hook?” The Prince turned to his secretary. “Will it bear repeating what considerable observations you made upon ‘that man’ before he joined us?”

The Private Secretary underwent a violent, instantaneous attack of blushing.

“No,” surmised the Regent, “I thought not. The truth is, your money-grubbing ‘revelation’ is an offensive one to Us. And your supercilious snooping into gossip concerning one of my most important retainers is an affront to Us personally.” He stood and made a warm gesture towards Carême. “That is why I wanted you to be here, Chef. To know”—he made a sneer a Bland—“that I do not trifle myself over the price of pumpkin on the ‘open market,’ or”—now he frowned sternly towards Hook—“care if tongues wag that you are too close to a certain teenage undercook.” The Regent’s tone rose hostilely at his lackeys. “I care that particular parties are attempting to undermine your valuable time, especially as monsieur Carême has tonight’s festivities to prepare!” His eyes narrowed at his toadies; his voice lowered too. “The pair of you do think birthday preparations for my daughter, who is second in line to the Throne of both England and Empire are important, yes?”

Meek as boys dressed down by a schoolmaster, the appointees replied in off-kilter, off-timed, “Yes, Your Highness.”

“Good. Then you men should listen very closely to what I’m about to say.”

He reached out to shake the chef’s hand. “Carême – know that whatever your artistry requires in the Pavilion’s kitchens, you shall have it. Furthermore, you shall have it knowing it comes liberally blessed by your humble Prince’s blessings and appreciation.”

The two functionaries were stunned.

Carême, for his part, was so touched, he bowed deeply, which was something he rarely did, owing to his upbringing as a free and independent Citizen of France.

“Now”—George made his way back to his seat—“Bland; Hook, you are dismissed. I wish to confer with Our chef de cuisine concerning a few critical details for tonight.”

Looking at one another, daring the other to express the roil of indignation buried beneath their surfaces, the Comptroller and Secretary turned for the door. They were silently berating each other: ‘It’s all your fault!’

“And, oh”—the Regent stopped them on their way out—“I’d find some productive pursuits for your time, men.”

The pair cast murderous glares at Carême.

“That is all. Now, be gone, out of Our sight.”

Quiet as angry rats going down with the ship, the functionaries reluctantly quit the Regent’s suite.

 

 

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“I feel as if I know you, albeit, only vicariously, through Carême’s . . . um . . . remarks concerning you.”

Doctor Kitchiner’s awkward attempt at breaking the ice with François was less than meteoric.

The two of them continued with their work per Carême’s instructions. The guidelines of the croque-en-bouche were finished, and Kitchiner filled and handed smaller cream puffs for the Frenchman to infill the background.

“Remarks?” François echoed the Doctor’s word-choice back to the man.

“Well, that is not the correct . . . term. Shall we say, his”—equally inappropriate options cycled through Kitchiner’s brain: discussions; comments; banter; revelations—“his thoughts about you.”

“They are warm ones, I hope.”

“Yes, very. He’s mentioned how he relies on you as the only one in the Pavilion who gets him – as we say in English. Or, understands him.”

François sputtered his lips in a deflective way. “Ah, well – we are French! We ‘get’ one another.”

How much did Kitchiner dare replay the perceived depths of feeling he sensed from Carême for François? Glancing about the room, with the Confectionary undercooks hard at work but relaxed of ear, he decided, nothing. Besides, no exposing of confidences with persons unknown was Kitchiner’s – any intelligence-gathering operative’s – most basic doctrine.

François rotated the plate holding the croque-en-bouche to begin infilling the final quadrant. In his heart was a tumult of emotions. He’d never spent a moment ‘alone’ with this somebody he was inclined to regard as a rival. So cold suspicion vied with a species of hot jealousy; jealousy that at the drop of a word from this funny little man, François’ lover was ever-ready to abandon him for “an evening at the Doctor’s”. But over the maitre-d’s conflict of heart, his mind interceded and took control. The better exploitation of his time alone with him was in calculating an attempt to figure out this mysterious M.D.’s overall place in the Regent’s world.

“Carême tells me he enjoys the soirées you invite him to; says you are a remarkably fine host.”

“Does he?!” Kitchiner smiled. “I’m so glad to hear he feels that way.”

“He does. He says your hospitality is warm, and as I have heard the expression over here, ‘second to none’.” François could tell by his adversary’s body language that Kitchiner was flattered.

“Well,” the Doctor gushed, handing him a pistachio cream puff, “good company, good conversation, good food make the event, I always say.”

François grinned. “And Carême agrees!”

Although the eccentric Doctor continued to smile, François nevertheless detected the man’s demeanour shift to the inquisitorial. “By the by, old boy, I feel obliged to mention something unpleasant.”

“Oh, yes?” François’ hands came to a halt.

“I’m afraid so, yes.” Kitchiner eyed him directly. “It seems, in connection to cleaning up the Keenans’ mess, you understand, certain parties at the now-close Irish den of inequity known as The Barrel have mentioned a Frenchman being there . . . a servant of the Pavilion, they seem to think.”

The maitre-d’ had to knit his brows, but not in consternation; he genuinely had to think about it.

“Oh,” he exclaimed, recalling all at once, “Christmas Eve supper yes, I was there the one occasion, as the Keenans’ guest.”

The Doctor’s ensuing silence was a bit puzzling.

“Was there any . . . are there any suggestions I was” François was cut off.

“No; no, old soul.” Kitchiner’s grin re-lit his features. “Let’s merely regard it as a detail that lingered about, floating; one that has now been put resolutely to bed.”

Unconsciously, François resumed his tasks.

“So, you ate Irish fare at the pub. How did you find it?”

The Frenchman indulged in a brief sputter of lips. “Oh, it was substantial, I believe you’d say, but generally of a good quality.”

“I see.” The Doctor’s tone lowered a concerted hitch or two. “So, what does the Chef . . . say about . . . . ”

“About what, Monsieur?”

“Well – about my . . . food?”

Ah! At this point, François stood erect. He knew he’d have to avoid answering directly. Decorum prohibited out and out honesty at this juncture. That being the case, the Frenchman was not averse to foisting the same type of insincerity the Doctor had just dumped on the maitre-d’s shoulders.

“Tell me,” François asked in stark honesty, “why did you have such a ‘complex’ reaction to Carême putting Charlotte’s name on her bust?”

Had the Doctor’s hands been free, he would have occupied them in his force-of-habit ritual of taking off and cleaning his glasses. As he did not have access to this moment to think, he merely glanced around the room and, in coast-is-clear confidential tones, confessed, “Because the Princess will never see it. Leopold has decided, last minute, they shall not make the journey from Claremont House to Brighton today. Not over the icy roads.”

“I see. And why is that something you could not tell Carême?”

The Doctor was taken aback; he appeared to feel the answer was obvious. “Because, the Chef will take it to heart. There is no need to dampen his artistic fire with the knowledge that the guest of honour won’t be here tonight. It’s better to let him proceed as he is, and execute his vision to its full glory.”

And just like that, François tacked the last cream puff in place; with it, their joint assignment was complete.

François glanced at the ever-ticking clock on the wall, and told the Doctor, “I must run now and check on how the Table Deckers are doing for the banquet placement. Would you mind taking the pastry bags to the sink and washing them out . . . ?”

The Doctor smiled. “No. It would be my pleasure!”

A few minutes later, the maître d’hôtel, un-aproned and re-jacketed for his proper role, strode down the Service Corridor thinking of the Doctor’s parting words to him. “Thank you for this chance to work with you. I’m always seeking to learn new things.”

François mulled this pronouncement in the context of Kitchiner’s reluctance to tell Carême the Princess would not be in attendance at her own ball. Was the Doctor being overly sensitive to the chef’s feelings, or simply secretive. If indeed the latter proved the true motive, then so too must his words about enjoying François’ company be mere platitudes.

Instead of unravelling any of the ‘enigmas’ surrounding the Doctor, François only sensed more layers being added.

Suddenly his inward focus snapped. As he neared the door to the steps leading down to the cold cellar, he perceived it was open and heard voices emerging from somewhere behind it.

François quickly assessed the coast was clear and placed his body at a ninety degree angle to the frame. Slowly, he peered beyond it: Donald Bland was copping an aggressive stance over Thomas Daniels on the first landing.

By their impassioned tones, it was clear the Kitchen Comptroller and his cornered boy were having more than a common lovers’ tiff.

François settled back out of sight to listen.

“Don’t deny it,” Bland said. “I know you’ve been unfaithful.”

By the teen-boy’s plaintive reply, François could tell he was hurt.

“And I told you, that is not true—”

“This place is full of foreigners,” the moneyman complained. “No good can come of sustained contact with these continental types!”

Thomas chuckled in derision.

“Funny!” Bland demanded. “You think it’s funny, do you?”

“The way you sound—”

“As far as I’m concerned, we should drive a mighty ponderous wedge through the bottom of the English Channel and be free from ‘Europe.’ The future of this country lies in the hands of our armies colonizing lands overseas anyway, not in the clutches of garlic-tainted Froggies or vinegar-swilling Krauts!”

Thomas laughed outright. “And not with Russian piroshki-eaters either, despite the fact we’re going to be entertaining one in the spring, owing to the fact we never would have won over Napoleon without German, Russian and Portuguese help. Never.”

François dared to take another sustained peep; their voices were growing ever hotter. The boy had moved from the corner, but Bland still blocked his access to a way out.

The older man’s ire kicked into a more rabid state. “Sometimes I wonder about you, Thomas Daniels. Wonder about your loyalties.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“I know it means you’ve been unfaithful!” He latched onto the teen’s upper arm, hard. “Guilty of . . . of un-English behaviour with those two—”

The young man wrenched his arm free. His tone once again showed he was hurt. “I haven’t been a boy on the make for a better position – but who knows now – because it’s over shure between you and me. Over!”

François turned to leave, but could hear Thomas’ footsteps coming up followed by Bland’s voice rising to a bloody threat.

“I’ll see to it Carême is ruined for this. I’ll make that man pay dearly if it’s the last thing I do!”

 

 

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Meanwhile, outside the insular walls of the Pavilion, more than just the bone-chilling temperatures and howling winds were frigid. Winter-like too were the possible zephyrs of British Imperial change. The salient points to the powers-that-be were that Prince George was not worth his keep, which was considerably more than his weight in gold. In debt, he kept right on spending – on himself and his considerable pleasures – while in exchange for Parliament floating a personal balance-due three times larger than the entire Empire’s National Debt, what did the Lordly few receive as returns on the tax-payers’ Farthings? Nothing, except a leadership vacuum, headed by a corseted strawman taking no evident interest in what the Lords held as critical agenda. In fact, many were the discreet Duke, Earl, Marquess, Viscount and Baron of the Peerage who questioned if George’s disgraceful excesses actually provided opportunity for regime change. Then again, change to what?

The Country was not in a holiday mood January 1817, but some few comprehended tonight Charlotte would turn “legal.” She became eligible, as an emancipated adult, to convert her formerly groundless epitaph of “England’s only hope” into a bright sign of change. A new, twenty-one-year-old Regent over the Nation with her grandfather as King-in-name-only. The powers-that-be knew few in the Home Counties, or Foreign Colonies, for that matter, would mourn Beau Brummell’s ‘fat friend’ being exiled to his own version of Napoleon’s African isle of Santa Helena.

However, inside the insular world of the Pavilion, all minds were focused on the fantasy escapism of George’s ‘Brighton.’ Lady’s maids were scattered throughout the house, anywhere behind the scenes they could find a window, to mend and toughen their employers’ ballgowns for tonight. Likewise, valets stitched hems or polished the gold-plate of inherited military titles – not earned honours – for the be-paunched extras who’d accompany the ladies on the dancefloor.

But for Carême, as he lighted through the North Chamber Gallery – having just been dismissed from the Regent’s suite with a list of new requirements for the ball – his thoughts focused on repercussions. There would be a price to pay for the Prince’s dressing down of his functionaries in the presence of the chef, but he found it hard to grasp all the manifold ways in which their revenge could play out.

He heaved a heavy, stifled sigh, taking the first step downstairs. Wherever Carême went, new enemies arose. Though it was pikestaff-evident in his mind, and simple, that he only ever sought out a venue where he’d be able to execute his artistic vision, others popped up to get in his way. Jealousy, the man thought, was at the heart of all unprofessional feelings. He had yet to devise a way to defuse the petty rancour serving as doorman to every opportunity opening before him.

Suddenly, as he turned on the landing to head to the main floor, his contemplations were interrupted by sound. It was in fact the type of sound first perceived by one’s ankles and lower legs as bass-toned rumblings through the architecture. It seemed to be emanating from directly below him.

He continued down to the bottom of the steps, and now the deep vibrations transitioned into notes. Carême followed them through the open pair of mirrored doors under the landing. The pipe organ erupted into contrapuntal melody.

The chef’s breath was taken away. He’d never before been in the Music Room, and consequently had no series of impressions of the space under construction to fall back upon. He saw it in nearly all of its intended glory.

The centre of the wall opposite from where he stood was taken up by five bays of pipes from a mahogany-cased instrument built into the wall. At a console beneath them, the organist-installer was running tests and trills to ensure each of the metal reeds were sounding, and there were hundreds of them. Occasionally these test-runs would burst into snippets of Bach gigs and Mozart minuets to test the keyboard’s response time.

This auditory background was also punctuated with the voices of workmen. One crew of drapers were by the windows, wrestling with acres of pale blue and cerise velvet. The heavy gold fringed swags of this fabric rode an incredible pelmet of long-tailed dragons and writhing serpents. The unspoiled freshness of their silver leaf scales made them look like solid metal.

Silver leaf scales also covered the shallow dome ceiling, which was supported from below with eight octagonally-placed pendentive windows. These, some thirty feet above the floor, were stained glass and shaped like ovals coming to points on both ends. Every place one of the eight sides of the ceiling structure met, gigantic arms in the shape of pineapple-tipped leaves, stuck away from the wall and supported dish-shaped chandeliers of exotic, painted glass panels. These eight lighting fixtures were now aglow with their concealed coal gas flames, and were miniature versions of the central chandelier. This behemoth hung from the middle of the central dome on chains and a crystal-beaded Chinese pagoda.

But as splendid as these appointments were, it was the overall mood of the space that struck him. Measuring a perfect sixty-foot square, the Music Room was an equal match to its Banqueting Room sister on the south end of the house. But this new chamber was also the ideal counterfoil to the villa’s dining room. That’s because, while that hall was designed for late afternoon use, and featured pale blue walls to host murals on cream backgrounds, the Music Room was a space designed for the night. For here red and gold Chinese landscapes were framed by trompe-l’oeil dragons and snakes on dark green backgrounds. The fantasy world escapism of this chamber was stunning – Nash’s masterpiece example of the European fascination with ‘Oriental’ luxury. It was enough to make both Kublai Khan and Samuel Coleridge jealous of Prince George’s pilfered wealth and sheer dedication to voluptuousness.

As he walked to the Great Kitchen, new creativity was already gripping the chef de cuisine’s keen mind.

 

 

 + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

 

 

Sugar work inspiration notwithstanding, Carême’s admixture of awe and adrenalin upon seeing the Music Room was repeated many times over in the minds of the Regent’s official guests as they began arriving for the ball at 10 o’clock.

George, for his part, was suitably impressed with his own grandeur and ensconced himself on the built-in velvet divan to let his guests one by one to come up to him and gush – as much as one’s English ways would allow one to gush, of course.

After that, the band assembled, and together with the organist for the evening, began playing Quadrilles and the other merry dance music the Regency’s best-and-brightest expected.

Among the crowd of forty or so was Lord and Lady Morgan. They’d arrived fashionably late and danced several numbers, and the novelist thoroughly enjoyed being in her husband’s arms. However, soon after, one of the gentry ne’er-do-wells had requisitioned a spacious round table in the Red Drawing Room and started a cigar-smoking card game. Like moth to flame, soon Lady Morgan’s escort – and his bulging wallet – was drawn away from her.

She peered at the faces in the Music Room and decided that she, for one, did not recognize any of the dancing ladies as particular friends; and two, would become nauseous continuing to stare into the convoluting circles of dancing partners.

She withdrew into the North Drawing Room.

Crowded as it was in here as well, she felt relief spotting a friendly acquaintance, and proceeded to Lady Rugsby with the intention of chatting.

“Ah, my dear! It’s wonderful to see you,” said the older woman, latching onto the novelist’s gloved hand. Rugsby drew Sydney Morgan in for a contact-free kiss on the cheek. “I positively haven’t seen you for an age!”

“Oh, yes, indeed. It was at the ball the Lord Mayor threw in honour of Lord Nelson’s victory that I saw you last.”

“Was it!” Rugsby exclaimed falsely. “Well, I suppose it was, dear. As I say, it’s simply been an age.”

Lady Morgan laughed; a delicate, appropriate laugh.

The music from the ball wafted pleasantly around them as they both used one another for cover to spy who else was milling about the ‘Yellow Drawing Room’. Gossip would surely follow the trails their eyes had blazed.

In the Music Room, the next number began, ushering in an air of lighter key and quicker tempo.

“Ah,” sighed Lady Rugsby. “A Spanish Dance. Much more to my taste – don’t look now, my dear, but there is that beastly, ghastly, so-called American Princess, Elizabeth Patterson.”

“Who—”

“You can look now, quickly. Lord only knows who brought her down from London for this event.”

What Lady Morgan saw was an attractive, well-mannered woman in her early thirties. The brunette, with Roman finger-curls draping her forehead, formed the centre of a small group of men across the narrow end of the drawing room from the ladies’ position. “Is that—”

“Yes – the abandoned madame Bonaparte, Maryland-born and bred wife of Napoleon’s youngest brother.”

“Oh, yes. The ‘American Princess,’ as you say. Her story is such a sadly moving one.”

“She doesn’t look sad to me!” Lady Rugsby exclaimed, sans humour.

Morgan chuckled. “Well, she doesn’t wear black constantly and act like her life is over, so on that account, she has my admiration.”

Having not heard it, Rugsby ignored Lady Morgan’s comment and latched onto an earlier remark. “And speaking of Princesses, it does seem a lot of bother to mark Charlotte’s birthday when Her Highness deigns not to attend her own ball.”

“I imagine it’s the wisest choice. Her father hardly need make an excuse for a party when he’s in Brighton, so it’s possible Charlotte was not consulted about this celebration. Anyway, it’s better for the Nation if she’s warm and safe at home.”

“Your mind is so penetrative, my dear. You conceive of problems as no problems at all, as only the best of novel writers can.”

After a shared chuckle over the barbed compliment, the pair stood in companionable silence for several minutes, and then spent several minutes more chatting with a young and vapid associate of Rugsby’s who had glommed onto them. Fortunately, a young man appeared through the mirrored door of the Music Room and snatched her away “for the next dance.” Unfortunately, for Sydney Morgan, the girl’s removal left her alone once again with Rugsby.

When the next dance did begin, Lady Rugsby immediately made a sour face. “The Duchess of Devonshire’s Reel. One must not approve of this particular set of gyrations.”

Morgan found herself bemused by Rugsby’s vehemence. “And why mustn’t one approve?”

“Because it is unseemly. This dance requires men to . . . gesticulate with one another.”

A quick survey through her mind of the dance steps revealed to Lady Morgan the moment when the gentlemen of the couples mirrored movements with one another while the lady partners linked hands and raised them to execute a circle.

Lady Rugsby lowered her voice while raising her own ire. “It’s the sort of dance Lord Byron would do with his voluptuary, Doctor Polidori.”

Morgan stifled a giggle. If only Rugsby knew the half of it; knew that amongst circles ‘in the know,’ the latest sybaritic interest was paid to how Shelley and Byron – England’s two greatest poetic “bad lads” – had returned from summering in Switzerland closer than ever. This new intimacy was causing raisin tongues to wag along Community grape vines.

The arrival of a second young socialite – one hoping to ingratiate herself in Lady Rugsby’s good graces – provided the Irish novelist with an escape route. After saying ‘how do’ to the new arrival, she excused herself to go look for Lord Morgan.

Walking farther through the Yellow Drawing Room, Sydney Morgan felt only the tiniest twinge of guilt for her white lie. Her true intentions were not to pull her husband from his card game, but to go see the rest of the Pavilion in her merrymaking finery.

She strolled into the Salon, not realizing what she would encounter. For nearly the entirety of the three window bays to her left were taken up by Carême’s refreshment tables. These formed a semicircle with the central part given over to giant sorbetières – porcelain tureens with ice in their bases to keep fruit sorbets frostily refreshing. After a dance or two or three, nothing was as soothing as the ubiquitous ‘Pineapple Ice’ awaiting a person’s enjoyment.

But Lady Morgan’s eyes were more than taken with the array of pastry laid out on silver trays. These treats were anchored at either end by edible towers, the one closest to her topped with a bust of Princess Charlotte.

“Excuse me . . . . ”

Lady Morgan turned, startled. She was just about to reach for a cream puff and suddenly felt ‘caught,’ as if a little girl.

“Somebody told me you’re the writer, Lady Sydney Morgan. Is that right?”

It was the American Princess, shy and rosy-cheeked in beauty close up.

“Why, yes, I am.”

“I hope you don’t feel it’s too forward of me, but I am Elizabeth Patterson-Bonaparte, and a great admirer of your work.”

“I’m flattered.” And Lady Morgan truly was, part of which was helped by Patterson’s considerable magnetism. It was instantly easy to see why this woman was the current toast of London, and how she'd been able to attract a French prince to her. “Shall we . . . ?”

Morgan gestured to a pair of open seats on one of the built-in sofas, curving away in yellow silk upholstery on either side of the fireplace.

After they settled themselves, Lady Morgan said, “I didn’t know my books were being so closely read in America.”

“They certainly are. Especially The Wild Irish Girl, but I have to confess to holding another of your books in higher regard.”

“Oh, yes? Which one?”

“Saint Clair.”

Lady Morgan sputtered. “Oh, I wish you wouldn’t.”

“Not hold it in high regard . . . . My goodness, why?”

“Because, dear, The Heiress of Desmond – or, Saint Clair – was my first attempt at full-length fiction. I sometimes feel embarrassed by the quality of that novel!”

The Irish woman’s tone of laughing self-deprecation was lost on the sincere American.

“Now it’s my turn to advise that I wish you wouldn’t. It may have come out in 1803, but its themes are just as stirring now as ever. The elevation of Nature as the supreme metaphor for human suffering, à la Goethe or Rousseau; the tragic heroine’s choice of an ill-considered marriage, while all the time, the star-crossed passion of great love haunts her. Well, as you can see, I gush – but I do so love the book.”

Lady Morgan was suddenly deeply touched. Here was a real-life “Saint Clair,” a heroine who loved and was abandoned. Patterson’s was yet another 19th century love-match wrecked on the wheel of political manoeuvring, all because Napoleon could not accept his baby brother marrying a commoner. But in Karmic grandeur, Napoleon too felt pressured to toss over the woman he loved and marry someone – anyone suitable – who could bear him a son and heir. And in the end, the baby ‘King of Rome’ is forgotten; his father, a war prisoner.

As if sensing what Lady Morgan was thinking, or then again, perhaps due to rote repetition to anyone she talked to wanting to know her personal mindset, Patterson said, “If you ask me, I’ll tell you I believe Jérôme will someday be coming back to me and our son Bo. He can and will, now that the Wars are over.”

Sydney Morgan doubted she’d ever heard a more tragic string of words. “Yes, Elizabeth, I hope so too.”

Then a faraway cast came to Patterson’s eyes. As melody faded from the receding world of the Music Room, the American Princess began to recite an intimate quotation from Guarini.

 

“Perchè, crudo destino,

ne disunisci tu, s'Amor ne strigne?

e tu, perchè ne strigni,

se ne parte il destin, perfido Amore?”

 

The novelist clasped hands gently with Elizabeth’s. Moved, she knew the quotation by heart in the translation of William Ayre, and softly replied:

 

“Why, cruel Fate, dost thou

the Hearts divide which Love has joined?

Or why, fickle Love dost thou,

when Destiny would split, unite?”

 

Half an hour later, at a pre-determined time set by the Prince, Carême appeared at the back of the Music Room dressed in his finest. François was by his side, and the pair paused motionlessly near the door. Carême waited for his young hothead to speak first.

He did. “Don’t be angry with me, Carême. I am sorry, as I always am, about my . . . dalliances. But you know I only ever want to do better, and patch things up to be stronger than before.”

Carême half-smiled, teasing le garçon. “You will demonstrate how sincere you are to me later, oui? Dans la chambre.”

A quick glance took in François’ helpless grin. The chef fully enjoyed the flush of colour coming over his stiffening young man.

The music stopped abruptly. Footmen circulated through the crowd with trays of champagne. All eyes turned to the Regent.

“Today, dear friends, is my belovèd daughter’s birthday – her twenty-first birthday, to be exact – and although she and her Prince Consort cannot be with us on this occasion, she’ll be pleased to allow you to be the first to know of some important Statesmanship. To wit, in the spring, Brighton will be blessed with an official State Visit from Nicholas, Grand Duke of all the Russias, and brother to the Czar. We have much to do to get ready for the stay of His Highness. So, join me in drinking a thrice-blessed toast to Charlotte, Nicholas and our glorious Victory over France!”

“Cheers!”

Now, as Carême began mentally listing all the ‘things to do’ worthy of a State banquet, he glanced to François and wondered what the enigmatic cast on his lover’s face could possibly mean.

 

 

_

Copyright © 2022 AC Benus; All Rights Reserved.
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The following is one heck of a double edged sword, to let Careme know that at any time his family could see their comfortable circumstances drastically change...if you wanted a man to question his loyalty, I can't for the moment, think of a better way to do so...

Incidentally, my trusted ‘friends’ – the ones who keep an eye on them for me – relay Marie and Agathé are quite comfortable in their settled life right now. But alas! As you yourself, a child of the Revolution, know only too intimately, a terrible upset could dispose of anyone’s comfort, liberty – and dare I say, life – at any moment. Such caprice of Fortune has an all-too keen blade to sever ruthlessly.

Well...we go fresh from the frying pan to the fire here...how to make enemies and lose friends...this certainly sets the mood for some underhanded intrigue and backstabbing...

 

“The pair of you do think birthday preparations for my daughter, who is second in line to the Throne of both England and Empire are important, yes?”

Meek as boys dressed down by a schoolmaster, the appointees replied in off-kilter, off-timed, “Yes, Your Highness.”

“Good. Then you men should listen very closely to what I’m about to say.”

He reached out to shake the chef’s hand. “Carême – know that whatever your artistry requires in the Pavilion’s kitchens, you shall have it. Furthermore, you shall have it knowing it comes liberally blessed by your humble Prince’s blessings and appreciation.”

The two functionaries were stunned.

Carême, for his part, was so touched, he bowed deeply, which was something he rarely did, owing to his upbringing as a free and independent Citizen of France.

“Now”—George made his way back to his seat—“Bland; Hook, you are dismissed. I wish to confer with Our chef de cuisine concerning a few critical details for tonight.”

Looking at one another, daring the other to express the roil of indignation buried beneath their surfaces, the Comptroller and Secretary turned for the door. They were silently berating each other: ‘It’s all your fault!’

“And, oh”—the Regent stopped them on their way out—“I’d find some productive pursuits for your time, men.”

The pair cast murderous glares at Carême.

“That is all. Now, be gone, out of Our sight.”

Quiet as angry rats going down with the ship, the functionaries reluctantly quit the Regent’s suite.

What is it about young Mr Daniels, it would seem his body will only take him so far, will he have a larger role to play??

“Sometimes I wonder about you, Thomas Daniels. Wonder about your loyalties.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“I know it means you’ve been unfaithful!” He latched onto the teen’s upper arm, hard. “Guilty of . . . of un-English behaviour with those two—”

The young man wrenched his arm free. His tone once again showed he was hurt. “I haven’t been a boy on the make for a better position – but who knows now – because it’s over shure between you and me. Over!”

François turned to leave, but could hear Thomas’ footsteps coming up followed by Bland’s voice rising to a bloody threat.

“I’ll see to it Carême is ruined for this. I’ll make that man pay dearly if it’s the last thing I do!”

Poor old corpulent, gout ridden George soon to be Rex...His regency is drawing towards a close, will he survive those who wish to oust him??

 

 The salient points to the powers-that-be were that Prince George was not worth his keep, which was considerably more than his weight in gold. In debt, he kept right on spending – on himself and his considerable pleasures – while in exchange for Parliament floating a personal balance-due three times larger than the entire Empire’s National Debt, what did the Lordly few receive as returns on the tax-payers’ Farthings? Nothing, except a leadership vacuum, headed by a corseted strawman taking no evident interest in what the Lords held as critical agenda. In fact, many were the discreet Duke, Earl, Marquess, Viscount and Baron of the Peerage who questioned if George’s disgraceful excesses actually provided opportunity for regime change. Then again, change to what?

The Country was not in a holiday mood January 1817, but some few comprehended tonight Charlotte would turn “legal.” She became eligible, as an emancipated adult, to convert her formerly groundless epitaph of “England’s only hope” into a bright sign of change. A new, twenty-one-year-old Regent over the Nation with her grandfather as King-in-name-only. The powers-that-be knew few in the Home Counties, or Foreign Colonies, for that matter, would mourn Beau Brummell’s ‘fat friend’ being exiled to his own version of Napoleon’s African isle of Santa Helena.

Here is a man beset on all sides, to sobering news from home...to remember his place and the consequences of failure...in serving his considerable masters, enemies and danger arise all around him. Those who would intrigue, conspire to keep Careme from doing what he simply wishes to do...In mending fences, so to speak, with Francois, the good Doctor Kitchiner is looking to upset that apple cart...And...just what is Lady Morgan up to???

 

 

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3 hours ago, drsawzall said:

The following is one heck of a double edged sword, to let Careme know that at any time his family could see their comfortable circumstances drastically change...if you wanted a man to question his loyalty, I can't for the moment, think of a better way to do so...

Incidentally, my trusted ‘friends’ – the ones who keep an eye on them for me – relay Marie and Agathé are quite comfortable in their settled life right now. But alas! As you yourself, a child of the Revolution, know only too intimately, a terrible upset could dispose of anyone’s comfort, liberty – and dare I say, life – at any moment. Such caprice of Fortune has an all-too keen blade to sever ruthlessly.

Well...we go fresh from the frying pan to the fire here...how to make enemies and lose friends...this certainly sets the mood for some underhanded intrigue and backstabbing...

 

“The pair of you do think birthday preparations for my daughter, who is second in line to the Throne of both England and Empire are important, yes?”

Meek as boys dressed down by a schoolmaster, the appointees replied in off-kilter, off-timed, “Yes, Your Highness.”

“Good. Then you men should listen very closely to what I’m about to say.”

He reached out to shake the chef’s hand. “Carême – know that whatever your artistry requires in the Pavilion’s kitchens, you shall have it. Furthermore, you shall have it knowing it comes liberally blessed by your humble Prince’s blessings and appreciation.”

The two functionaries were stunned.

Carême, for his part, was so touched, he bowed deeply, which was something he rarely did, owing to his upbringing as a free and independent Citizen of France.

“Now”—George made his way back to his seat—“Bland; Hook, you are dismissed. I wish to confer with Our chef de cuisine concerning a few critical details for tonight.”

Looking at one another, daring the other to express the roil of indignation buried beneath their surfaces, the Comptroller and Secretary turned for the door. They were silently berating each other: ‘It’s all your fault!’

“And, oh”—the Regent stopped them on their way out—“I’d find some productive pursuits for your time, men.”

The pair cast murderous glares at Carême.

“That is all. Now, be gone, out of Our sight.”

Quiet as angry rats going down with the ship, the functionaries reluctantly quit the Regent’s suite.

What is it about young Mr Daniels, it would seem his body will only take him so far, will he have a larger role to play??

“Sometimes I wonder about you, Thomas Daniels. Wonder about your loyalties.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“I know it means you’ve been unfaithful!” He latched onto the teen’s upper arm, hard. “Guilty of . . . of un-English behaviour with those two—”

The young man wrenched his arm free. His tone once again showed he was hurt. “I haven’t been a boy on the make for a better position – but who knows now – because it’s over shure between you and me. Over!”

François turned to leave, but could hear Thomas’ footsteps coming up followed by Bland’s voice rising to a bloody threat.

“I’ll see to it Carême is ruined for this. I’ll make that man pay dearly if it’s the last thing I do!”

Poor old corpulent, gout ridden George soon to be Rex...His regency is drawing towards a close, will he survive those who wish to oust him??

 

 The salient points to the powers-that-be were that Prince George was not worth his keep, which was considerably more than his weight in gold. In debt, he kept right on spending – on himself and his considerable pleasures – while in exchange for Parliament floating a personal balance-due three times larger than the entire Empire’s National Debt, what did the Lordly few receive as returns on the tax-payers’ Farthings? Nothing, except a leadership vacuum, headed by a corseted strawman taking no evident interest in what the Lords held as critical agenda. In fact, many were the discreet Duke, Earl, Marquess, Viscount and Baron of the Peerage who questioned if George’s disgraceful excesses actually provided opportunity for regime change. Then again, change to what?

The Country was not in a holiday mood January 1817, but some few comprehended tonight Charlotte would turn “legal.” She became eligible, as an emancipated adult, to convert her formerly groundless epitaph of “England’s only hope” into a bright sign of change. A new, twenty-one-year-old Regent over the Nation with her grandfather as King-in-name-only. The powers-that-be knew few in the Home Counties, or Foreign Colonies, for that matter, would mourn Beau Brummell’s ‘fat friend’ being exiled to his own version of Napoleon’s African isle of Santa Helena.

Here is a man beset on all sides, to sobering news from home...to remember his place and the consequences of failure...in serving his considerable masters, enemies and danger arise all around him. Those who would intrigue, conspire to keep Careme from doing what he simply wishes to do...In mending fences, so to speak, with Francois, the good Doctor Kitchiner is looking to upset that apple cart...And...just what is Lady Morgan up to???

 

 

Thank you, drsawzall! It's very enlightening to see which sections of the chapter grabbed your interest. From the frying pan to the fire may be an apt descriptor for this installment, that is for the pre-ball sections. But then I hoped you enjoyed the interactions between Lady Morgan, Rugsby and "The American Princess." There are some smiles in this section, I hope, and then we get insight into what it is like to have one's love dashed on the rocks for political reasons. 

Thanks for your kind support, and all of your great observations and comments! They are appreciated    

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84Mags

Posted (edited)

Up until this chapter, I really didn’t think that you could write a better opening paragraph than the one from last chapter (10) which eloquently and vividly set the tone for the whole chapter. Well, the message Careme received certainly tops it! To be given rather light praise (‘pleased’) and a slightly veiled threat all in one message is quite the undertaking.

And then there is Bland and Hook. Both have their own reasons to dislike Careme, but neither expected the Regent to side with Careme or to be humiliated in front of him. Of the two, I worry the most about Bland. He is letting jealousy rule him and has a nasty temper. I hope Francois shares the overheard conversation with Careme.

 While I must agree with Francois that it didn’t really shed any light on the mysteries surrounding Doctor Kitchiner, the interaction between Francois and the Doctor was interesting and a favorite part of this chapter. It was somewhat like watching a strategic game of poker while the men spoke. The Doctor is obviously loyal to the Regent, yet there is much more to the man. 

Lady Morgan has the uncanny ability to handle tricky social situations and conversations. Her chat with Lady Rugsby was a bit of a scene stealer and made me giggle. But then came along Elizabeth Patterson. “The American Princess” lived a long life, and not as she had hoped. The interaction between the two was touching; Lady Morgan showing kindness and grace without giving the young woman false hope.

I am so glad that Careme and Francois have made up and will continue to do so once the party is over, if the toast the Regent made didn’t sour Francois’ mood. The toast felt like a reminder that all things have political roots. 

 

Edited by 84Mags
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I've often felt that living in pre-industrial times would have been exhausting (thinking of all the physical work involved to do everything), but the social and political machinations are even more exhausting!  If I were "The American Princess", I would jump on a boat back to Maryland!  I predict that Bland the backstabber will try and fail to ruin Careme, if he had more brains and patience, I would be more worried.

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I loved all the photos you appended of the restored Pavilion. This gives me a better mental picture of the scenes you write about in this chapter. Poor Careme is beset in this chapter by continuing professional demands, the distractions of palace politics, and the insistent voices from across the Channel. It’s really a wonder he can be as creative as he is under such circumstances. This was a marvelous chapter. 

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15 hours ago, 84Mags said:

Up until this chapter, I really didn’t think that you could write a better opening paragraph than the one from last chapter (10) which eloquently and vividly set the tone for the whole chapter. Well, the message Careme received certainly tops it! To be given rather light praise (‘pleased’) and a slightly veiled threat all in one message is quite the undertaking.

And then there is Bland and Hook. Both have their own reasons to dislike Careme, but neither expected the Regent to side with Careme or to be humiliated in front of him. Of the two, I worry the most about Bland. He is letting jealousy rule him and has a nasty temper. I hope Francois shares the overheard conversation with Careme.

 While I must agree with Francois that it didn’t really shed any light on the mysteries surrounding Doctor Kitchiner, the interaction between Francois and the Doctor was interesting and a favorite part of this chapter. It was somewhat like watching a strategic game of poker while the men spoke. The Doctor is obviously loyal to the Regent, yet there is much more to the man. 

Lady Morgan has the uncanny ability to handle tricky social situations and conversations. Her chat with Lady Rugsby was a bit of a scene stealer and made me giggle. But then came along Elizabeth Patterson. “The American Princess” lived a long life, and not as she had hoped. The interaction between the two was touching; Lady Morgan showing kindness and grace without giving the young woman false hope.

I am so glad that Careme and Francois have made up and will continue to do so once the party is over, if the toast the Regent made didn’t sour Francois’ mood. The toast felt like a reminder that all things have political roots. 

 

Thanks, 84Mags, for a great set of comments! I love your take on the dance between Kitchiner and Distré in the cold kitchen. As for the two princesses in this chapter, I am very fortunate to have found a 19th century history of the City of Brighton which gives season-by-season goings-on at the Pavilion. This January 7th, 1817, birthday ball for Charlotte is described in detail, and of course, Carême lists menus in his books from exactly this same period, so we know he was there and would have catered the celebrations for Charlotte. The account also states the Princess and Prince Consort were not there that evening -- due to weather? Or, perhaps George really did not need much of an excuse to throw a party...?

This same account relays how Elizabeth Patterson-Bonaparte was in attendance at Charlotte's ball. Researching her, I discovered she cut quite a popular cause célèbre figure in London society at this time, with most people competing to have her at their events. Most commentators mentioned how the vast public sympathized with her plight, and (perhaps reluctantly) mention her loveliness and good breeding. 

However, Jérôme-Napoléon Bonaparte never returned to her and his eldest son, but continued to lived in sin with his so-called second wife (of his brother's choosing), and thereby made of himself an interesting comparison for the Regent ;)

 

 

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5 hours ago, CincyKris said:

I've often felt that living in pre-industrial times would have been exhausting (thinking of all the physical work involved to do everything), but the social and political machinations are even more exhausting!  If I were "The American Princess", I would jump on a boat back to Maryland!  I predict that Bland the backstabber will try and fail to ruin Careme, if he had more brains and patience, I would be more worried.

Thanks, CincyKris! I like your take on the pair of lackeys. I guess we'll see how much actual flash they can produce with this bangs, but I wouldn't count them out just yet. And now Bland can take on the role of spurned lover, and I'm sure you know how dangerous such men can be . . . 

As for Elizabeth Patterson-Bonaparte, she seemed to know what to do to secure a good education for her son Bo. And like any good mother, she saw to his well-being before her own. By the way, the Gilbert Stuart portrait of Patterson is ravishing! No wonder Thomas Lawrence was so bitterly jealous of his genius 

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AC Benus

Posted (edited)

13 hours ago, Parker Owens said:

I loved all the photos you appended of the restored Pavilion. This gives me a better mental picture of the scenes you write about in this chapter. Poor Careme is beset in this chapter by continuing professional demands, the distractions of palace politics, and the insistent voices from across the Channel. It’s really a wonder he can be as creative as he is under such circumstances. This was a marvelous chapter. 

Thank you, Parker, dear friend. You are right to think ahead and how stressful this upcoming State visit will be to our chef hero. I'm pleased to say, others, like Lady Morgan and Doctor Kitchiner, are concerned he may be burning himself out as well. Therefore, the next chapter, I'm pleased to say, will form a sort of interlude. The reader and chef alike can get out of the Pavilion for a time and stretch the legs! We may be heading to a site of natural scenic beauty, and something an artist of the Picturesque School like Carême can sink his artistic teeth into :)

I think we are all a bit anxious to get out for a little while; but then again, when he gets back, Carême will have mountains to climb to make sure nothing goes awry during the Grand Duke Nick's visit . . .  

Edited by AC Benus
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I should also mention the facts and figures Donald Bland berates our chef about in this chapter are the actual facts and figures from the Pavilion ledger books for October 1816. And in one of the worst famine years of its millennium too 

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A better nighttime view of the Music Room.

Here you can get a sense of how Nash designed this space to be experienced after dark, unlike the Banqueting Room. 

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I, too, wonder what the enigmatic cast on his lover's face could possibly mean! 

This was another very eventful chapter, starting with the very openly threatening message to Careme that failure is not an option for him. 

Cornelius and the Comptroller have certainly lost the battle, but I doubt they will give up so easily on their revenge against Careme - especially now that young Thomas has broken things off with Donald. Those two should really be more careful about where they discuss their private matters. 😛

As always, I'm eager for more! 

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On 7/13/2022 at 4:48 AM, ObicanDecko said:

I, too, wonder what the enigmatic cast on his lover's face could possibly mean! 

This was another very eventful chapter, starting with the very openly threatening message to Careme that failure is not an option for him. 

Cornelius and the Comptroller have certainly lost the battle, but I doubt they will give up so easily on their revenge against Careme - especially now that young Thomas has broken things off with Donald. Those two should really be more careful about where they discuss their private matters. 😛

As always, I'm eager for more! 

Thank you, ObicanDecko! Yes, Donald and Thomas were a little too passionate out in the open for their own good. Big house like the Pavilion, one never knows who may be listening . . . ;)

I'm glad you mentioned Talleyrand's tone. He seems a little demeaning in his return messages, doesn't he? Maybe he was just always in a bad mood or something :)

 

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Prince George put the two functionaries in their place, but while supporting Carême has caused the two to be even more determined to ruin Carême.  Added to that was Thomas breaking up with Bland.  Bland was very stupid to accuse Thomas of infidelity with Carême.  Françios and Carême are once again building back their love.  The ball was very well written and the pictures of the Music Room were impressive.

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11 hours ago, raven1 said:

Prince George put the two functionaries in their place, but while supporting Carême has caused the two to be even more determined to ruin Carême.  Added to that was Thomas breaking up with Bland.  Bland was very stupid to accuse Thomas of infidelity with Carême.  Françios and Carême are once again building back their love.  The ball was very well written and the pictures of the Music Room were impressive.

Thank you for all of your comments and support, raven1! If I'm allowed to say so, the ball scene is one of my favorite episodes in the book. It just has a feel about it, and over all, sums up the general mood of the novel quite nicely. Plus, I had a lot of fun with the dialogue; it will look great on the big screen when it's filmed in all of its glory and intrigue! 

Thank you for reading this book. I appreciate hearing your thoughts 

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