Humans logo

Dull to Sparkling

Dedicated to the one whose book inspired this: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Also dedicated to Downton Abbey (Julian Fellowes).

By Alexandra FPublished 4 years ago 15 min read
from travel, view of Marseille

You'd think living through the French Revolution and holding the hand of one of those who got to spit on Louis XVI's severed head would be glorious. You'd think that living through Napoleon's brief glory, then the return of the monarchy, then his briefer glory, then the final return of the monarchy would be just fantstic, but not for the daughter of a lady's maid and a poor philosopher. For those of us on the outer edges of society who had to earn our livings, it wasn't fabulous at all.

I had a friend whose mother lined up behind mine to spit on his head, then decided to spit on Marie's, and who then worked as lady's maid in the royal household; the monarchy, you understand, not Napoleon. She wrote me lettesr from their seclusion when they went into hiding that made me glad not to be royal. Of course, her husband did have to fight for the royals against Napoleon's side, died, and the poor thing had to content herself with his money. That, and laer one the widow of war money she got. She still worked after that, more to keep her mind off George's death and the war than for lack of money. Claudine got that habit from her father who had the habit of working himself to the bone to keep from his idle thoughts.

It was finally my turn to make something of myself. I was a few years younger than Claudine though she treated me like an equal. She didn't have that maternal big sister aspect to her, even not wanting children. She told George there were too many childen out there already and there was no need to add to it.

Me, I haven't married and I don't expect I will. I'm too low-class to get many suitors and it was by pure chance that Claudine met George as he was part of the royal guard and helped her find her way when she got lost on her first day there.

During all these revolutions and upheavals, I just kept my head down and ddi the best I could. I purposely applied for a job wroking for someone who wasn't royal enough to get in trouble. I foudn a doctor who, though he made enough to have a full staff, was so mistrusting that he only hired me, his cook and a butler who was also a valet and a footman. At first, I didn't see what he needed me for. He didn't have a wife or a daughter. I then saw how much laundry he accumulated and that the butler couldn't manage it alone.

I never did like his doctor sense of humor, that doctor. Sometimes he would need me to come with him as his nurse since he didn't trust anyone else to. Every time, Dr. Perreault would have some impious quip to make about the dead in question when he had to declare a patient dead. Most of his clients didn't have his macabre sense of humor and I was glad I wasn't the only one horrified at the jokes he'd make. Even if his profession as a doctor led him not to believe in God, he didn't have to share that with everybody else. Hese were jokes he made about their own dead loved ones. I especially hated it when he'd laugh- he'd always stay in the room for this- when the patients would void their bowels as their nervous systems gave out. I didn't agree with him, but I was already used to keeping my head down. My mother used to tell me that no employer wants a maid that speaks against them.

I don't know that I was on any side of the royal versus Napoleon conflict. The royals, at least those that followed Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, were oppressing and disregarding the poor and the working class. At the same time, Napoleon was making some fine promises to his people, but he didn't deliver what he'd promised. He wound up making the resulting empire more about his glory than about improving the lives of jis subjects. I suppose I wasn't on either side, though I will sa that Louis XVIII seemed much more sensible than his brother.

I'll say something of who I am. I'm Elsie Laviolette. My mother, Marguerite, was Catalan from Les Catalans in Marseille and my father, Henry, was French from Marseille proper though he'd grown up in Paris. Well, his father was from Paris and his mother was from Marseille. He would do odd jobs to make money but it was largely Mom's money that we lived on.

We lived down an alley that not even a royal's servant would walk down, but it was home. I always promised myself that I'd save up for a better home for my parents, with a garden for my dad. That didn't happen since Mom died of overwork (a heart condition brought on by stress) and Dad died two years later from heartbreak over not having provided enough for us and mourning Mom (his heart gave out because of all the drinking and gambling he'd been doing to try to make money any way he could).

My mom had jet-black hair that glowed blue in the moonlight. I rarely saw it down, but when it was it came in pretty silken waves down her back. She had cognac-brown eyes that were so expressive I could understand her just from a look. She had beautifully low cheekbones and a jawline that ended in a V. Her skin had a caramel tan glow to it. Dad's skin had a pale luminscence to it. He had pale blue eyes and blond hair. Mom's eyes were big and round while Dad's were small and more suited under his eyebrows. He had a square jawline that would tense up when he was particularly immersed in a book.

Dad was the gentler parent; Mom was the tough one who drew the lines. She would often have to take me to work with her when Dad went out during the day. I eventually took over the household duties since Mom complained that it reminded her of work. She even taught me to cook for myself since she knew I'd have to be self-sufficient when I grew up.

While my mom had that Catalan beauty and my dad had the Germanic handsomeness, I got stuck in the middle. I have this dull olive skin and lighter brown eyes than my mom's. I got Mom's full lips but while hers were heart-shaped, mine are just straight. My figure makes me look like a female version of Dad rather than Mom's graceful hourglass shape. My hair's a dull brown between dark and mouse.

I think if you took me once I'd been raised with all that and plopped me in the middle of a royal family, I'd want to go back at least to being working-class because I just couldn't bear to be that useless. All a woman does learn as a royal is anything that will help her impress a future husband. She's home-schooled by a governess and hardly spends any time with her parents.

I'm glad Dad taught me to read and write at home because it gave me more time with him. I'm glad I learned how to be a good housemaid from Mom because it gave me more time with her. Dad taught e French and Mom taught me Spanish.

Dad would have loved to garden. In fact, he taught Claudine how on one of the days he was watching us both since her father was off at the guards and her mom had to work.

Everyone was that relative they're not proud of. My father was that for his family. He'd come from money, but hadn't done antyhing worth being proud of with it. His older brother had made some very good investments wit his money, so his parents took pride in only him. However, said uncle made one huge blunder toward the end of his parents' lives: he gambled and hired prostitutes with all the money he'd made. My father always knew when to leave a game early that he sense he'd lose. Not his brother. Also, his brother hadn't married someone who was bringing in steady money or had a child with her. So, his parents went from leaving everything to the brother to leaving everything to him. They left him two properties, one from each line.

Once I'd made enough money, I was going to fix them up and rent them out, saving up enough to quit being a housemaid. I'd keep living at my parents' home for sentimental value, though I'd redecorate it in my taste.

That was the plan, up until something happened. Since it was slow enough to mae to have some time off, I decided to go to my father's father's house in Auteuil. I arrange a carriage once I'd gotten the doctor's approval and was on my way out when it happened.

The police arrived and the commissioner was announcing the doctor's arrest as I was leaving, stopping me in my tracks. I waited on the stoop until the went out with him in the mist of them. I saw him reach out to me, then I came over and he slipped me a piece of paper with something in it. It wasn't until I'd watched them disappear with him around the corner where the carriage was waiting that I went inside. The cook and butler were standing there, looking pointedly at me. They went into the kitchen, motioning for me to follow.

"What are we going to do. We're not going to get a reference from him."

The butler just looked blankly back at her.

"We could write each other's references," the cook said.

The butler nodded and I gave her an amenable look.

However, while I could step out because I lived on my own, the other two stayed to talk about where they'd live.

I read: "Dearest Elsie,

Please visit my mother's family house in Normandy. There, you will find their fortune. I leave it to you should I be hanged."

"Hey! I've got an idea!" I called out to the other two. They looked over from the kitchen.

"You could live here until we know if he's been hanged."

They nodded and stayed in the kitchen to have dinner while I went home.

Thank goodness I lived half a block away because that was all I could managed with all the news I'd gotten. The doctor had even picked a house on the poorer side of town because he didn't want robbers.

I made my way up the two flights of stairs, my muscle memory carrying me, and fell back onto my bed with my shoes, purse and hat still on. I was too tired to cook, and yet I needed food.

I got up and hard-boiled myself some eggs. Half-asleep, I peeled them, sprinkled salt and pepper on them and ate them standing at the counter.

I managed to take my shoes and outer dress off, then slept in my undergarments.

The next morning, I went to exchange my Auteuil carriage for one to Normandy, taking only one change of clothes. The doctor had left me the key to what must have been his mother's family house inside the note.

I got there in the afternoon, intending to take only long enough to find the treasure, get it back to the doctor's house and return home. I did not want to be there longer than two days maximum, especially looking at the house that practically ung off a cliff and wound its way up ominously.

I was careful to open the door gently since it looked so old. I had to unlock a small mail-sized safe that opened with the key to the front door in which I found another key with a note. It read: "My dearest Edward,

You are the heir. Find the stairs. Follow them where they lead.

Love, Mother"

This is a fun family, I thought as I went upstairs. They led all the way to the top, then there was a door with a lock on it in the topmost bedroom. As I unlocked it, it showed a narrow winding staircase. I started down it. It ddin't end until I could already smell cold and damp around me. I could only feel them once I opened what turned out to be a basement door. Actually, it looked more like a dungeon. I unlocked, then went through two doors with no incident. The third one led to a room with practically no floors, just mud. In the far right corner I could see a hole for relieving oneself. The chest was, of course, at the far end of this room, next to a furnace.

I saw some wooden boards layered against the wall through which I'd entered. I put my purse and bag on the floor in the previous room, then took the boards and proceeded with them. I set one down, then stepped on it, continuing until I reached the chest. It didn't end there.

There was a riddle written over the three-number lock. I despaired of ever knowing that it was if it was some family secret, but the doctor's note hadn't added any futher instructions. Neither had the mother's. Just as I was shaking my head about it, my gaze fell upon the riddle. It was the Riddle of the Sphinx from the myth about Perseus! My dad had read it to me and taught me to read it when I was a child! The riddle went: Whe has four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three legs at night? The only clue, I remembered Dad telling me, was that time was not literal. It was a man.

I tried turning the letters, but they were numbers. I then noticed the hint at the bottom that said, "Number-coded letters." So I had to convert them into their correspondent numbers for each letter in the alphabet. I did so. Then, there was the problem of digits per lock space. There were only three. Then I thought I'd just try it and it worked. Each lock space had as many digits as needed to rotate to for each letter.

Finally, it opened to three compartments: money, gold ingots and jewels. I tried to pick it up and couldn't. The chest was deeper than it looked. I went back to the doorway and emptied the clothes from my bag into my purse. I then brought the bag back to the chest and put the ingots, then jewels into the bag. I then shoved the cash into it as well and slowly stood up with my full bag in tow.

Once I got to the other room, I counted out the money and found that it amounted to eighty-million francs. The gold ingots amount to ten million (I had an uncle who was a jeweller on my mom's side) and the jewels also to ten million.

I now realized I had to sore what I still considered the doctor's inheritance at my house because there was no way I could trust Martha the cook or Peter the butler with it. I wondered if the doctor knew I'd been raised poor and so could be trusted to earn my own money rather than steal his.

In any case, I made it back home that same night, albeit late. I immediately set to getting the bag into my closet, in the back behind the clothes in case anyone should visit between then and the time Dr. Perrault was freed.

Sadly, he never was. The day after that, a police officer came to the doctor's house to tell us he'd been hanged. Martha came over to tell me since I was taying at my house not that I wasn't working.

I sadly nodded and turned back into my home, closing the door behind me. I let her think it was because of my grief that I was keeping her outside.

Once I heard her walk away, I started squealing with glee. Once I'd gotten over that enough to calm down, I thought of looking into the reason for Dr. Perrault's arrest.

I got myself a pretty new dress with matching hat and purse and some pretty new shoes so I'd look like a woman who would command a police officer's attention. I bought all of that with my money since I only wanted to spend what he'd left me once I'd found out why he'd been arrested.

He was indeed guilty of malpractice, having injected a patient with a needle he didn't remember he'd previously used on himself. He didn't know he had syphilis or that it was still in the needle when he used it on the patient. The patient, a virgin, died of syphilis soon after.

Once I had performed the duty I owed him, I could proceed to use the money he'd left me, his having no siblings or heirs.

I then took the trip I'd intended to take to my paternal grandfather's house in Auteuil. It was run down, but the basic structure was still intact. It was still a place one could stay in, so I spent the night there. The next day, I had breakfast at a hearby cafe. I went from there to a jeweller to have the gold ingots and jewels exchange for money. Then, I sent a letter to Claudine to invite her to stay with me and to go in on renting out homes.

She sent a letter saying she'd just have to give her notice and pack her bags and she could meet me in Paris. I met her outside the back entrance to the palace and helped her carry her bags to the carriage that would take us back to Marseille.

The next day, over breakfast, I explained fo Claudine that I had two houses from my father's parents, once in Auteuil and one in the countryside around Marseille. I'd seen the one in Auteuil and the basic structure was there but it needed repairs in order to really be something. I hadn't yet seen the one near Marseille and wantd to go to see it later that day and wondered if she would go with me.

She smiled, laughed about my enthusiasm, and nodded, sipping her coffee. I told her we had to go in work clothes in case it was dusty. All she had were fancy work clothes since shee'd been working for the royal family. I lent her a change of my work clothes and we set off.

We spent one week working on the house near Marseille and the next wek on the house in Auteuil.

"Now, I want the one near Marseille. Do you want the one in Auteuil?" I asked.

"Oh, Elsie, I couldn't. That's yours."

"I'm not doing anything with it, and you've earned it with all the work you put into it.

She dropped her head down in subservient assent and nodded.

"Here," I said, giving her the keys. "Decorate it how you'd like."

She hugged me and left the next day.

I went back to Dr. Perrault's old house and converted all the bedrooms into their own rentable spaced. I told Martha and Peter that they could move into my old house provided they paid rent. They agreed. They pooled their money together to buy a cafe just down the block from their new house. Martha would cook and Peter would serve.

I bought my parents prettier tombstones than the ones they had. In death, they got the gift I'd never been able to give them while they were alive. I even reserved a spot next to them for my grave.

After I'd decorated the house near Marseille as I liked, I found a cat. She was a larger kitten, not mewing anymore, but still a kitten. I named her Elise. I built a fence around the house and only then would let her play outside.

Eventually, Claudine bought and rented out a few houses surrounding the Auteuil house.

She went walking in the countryside around her house and saw a man walking in the opposite direction and thought nothing of him until he walked up to her and introduced himself. His name was William and his affable manner reminded her of George. They walked and talked for a while, then agreed to meet again the next day.

They took carriage rides together and had dinner together. I few months later, he proposed.

Claudine wrote me about it and I congratulated her on it and said of course I'd be her maid of honor.

Claudine and William chose Claudine's house to lived in since it suited them and began renting out William's old house.

They spent a year getting to know each other, then married at my house because of its view of Marseille from the cliffs.


About the Creator

Alexandra F

I write to give myself an adventure & if it's fun perhaps you will enjoy it too.

This is the link to my journalistic blog:

I only make money if you contribute, so please click the bottom button. Thanks!

Enjoyed the story?
Support the Creator.

Subscribe for free to receive all their stories in your feed. You could also pledge your support or give them a one-off tip, letting them know you appreciate their work.

Subscribe For Free

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

    Alexandra FWritten by Alexandra F

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.