If you missed the first part of this short story please click below:
Celine and Maria, Sam’s wife, were found in the McCarthy’s private box at Covent Garden. The men entered quietly, the prima donna in full flow mere feet from where the women sat. Daniel sat next to Celine and she took his larger hand in hers. It was difficult for this lovelorn pair to meet up often. Celine was under the patronage of the Harpers, a family of high-standing, who resided in the enclave of Regent’s Park. He looked down at her hand and wondered how much her gloves had cost. Probably more than he had earned since he had met her two months previously.
‘It is almost the end of Act Two,’ she whispered, leaning close so that their shoulders touched.
He smiled down at her, knowing that at the interval Sam and Maria would leave the young lovers alone, and that Sam would expect him to break Celine’s heart before they returned for the final act. He prepared himself; he must do the right thing, for both of them. If he did not take this opportunity then he would have no money, and he couldn’t rely on Sam’s aid forever.
The curtain came down, but as Sam and his wife rose there was a knock on the door. Sam opened the door to present a bespectacled young man.
‘Jean!’ Celine recognised him immediately. A rapid fire of French followed before she remembered that Daniel would not understand. ‘What are you doing here?’ she repeated in English.
‘I am spending a month here in London. I meant to write to you but your sister thought that it would be ill-advised for us to meet.’ He entered the box and greeted Celine properly.
‘Why on earth would it be ill-advised?’ Celine asked, perplexed. Sam’s discreet cough reminded her that introductions were in order. ‘Apologies. This is Jean Mouret, a family friend. His father teaches at the Sorbonne in Paris. Jean, these are my new London friends: Samuel McCarthy, his wife, Maria, and Daniel Johnson.’
If Jean was surprised to see his old childhood friend in such company then neither his manners nor facial expression gave him away.
Formalities exchanged, Sam spoke up: ‘Mr Mouret, if you will excuse my wife and I, we are responsible for procuring the refreshments for the next act. I am sure that you can be adequately entertained by Celine and Daniel.’
Once the McCarthys had departed, Celine spoke more urgently. ‘Jean, what did Emilie mean when she prevented you from writing to me?’
He sat down and leaned forward conspiratorially, gesturing for Daniel to move closer. ‘You wrote to her, about this gentleman if I am not mistaken?’
Celine nodded, blushing as she realised that those secret confessionals, written in such language that only her sister would decode its meaning, had been shared.
‘What you do not know is that your father has determined that you should be married off as soon as you return to Paris. Emilie did not want to distress you with such news. She knew that I would refuse to keep such information from you and made me promise not to write. By seeing you in person instead, I have kept my promise,’ Jean unburdened himself.
‘But who on earth am I meant to marry?’ Celine cried out, Daniel taking hold of her hand as he saw her distress.
‘That I do not know.’ Jean shook his head. ‘All that Emilie told me was that she wanted you to enjoy the summer, safe in your ignorance. Daniel, I am sure that you are a fine man, but you must know that Celine’s father would see you both dead before allowing you to marry into his family.’
How casually such words were spoken! Though in Jean’s favour he looked regretful to be the man to pronounce them. Daniel had to wonder at Sam’s involvement, the words told to him twice in the same day to identical effect. Had Jean really just stumbled across them at the opera, or had he been assisted in his search by a friend?
‘Daniel, what can we do?’ Celine looked to him, wanted him to save her from a fate that seemed inevitable.
He stared back at her, glad when his silence was broken by the arrival of Sam, Maria and a bottle of fine champagne.