Exercise Your Imagination! Do you like stories with mystery and suspense? Well, if you do, keep reading and enjoy Eggcentricsagas. If you are just joining Eggcentricsagas, start from the beginning: A La Mano: Part 1-The Treasure
Madame Adelaide had given her Pepe the Second. Or as Adelaide had called him: Pepe le Deuxième. One may ask why Pepe the Second? Pepe Premier was his grandfather, of course. Unfortunately, soon after the birth of Pepe the Second, a carriage wheel killed Pepe Aine (Senior). Tears gushed in the throes of grief before the dam and her other pups were given away. All except Pepe the Second. Unable to resist the young girl’s pleading, even though he was a reminder of the heart-wrenching accident, Adelaide had bestowed the pup on Penelope.
Before the turn of the century, Penelope, or also addressed as Mademoiselle Perkins, had come with her mother to Paris. With the sudden death of Penelope’s father and being shunned by her English family for many reasons, Polly Perkins had settled with her daughter in the City of Love. She secretly hoped to find some of that rare commodity. In retrospect, it was probably a bad idea, as her French was deplorable and her skills limited.
Analogous to the demise of Pepe Aine, after a few months of living jobless in a Parisian slum, so too had Polly’s hopes and dreams died. She soon found herself homeless and a beggar. Penelope was a street urchin. A most unpleasant situation for both of them until one day, after passing them in the street near Le Pont Neuf for the nth time, Madame Adelaide took pity upon them and had given Polly employment.
That is how Polly became Madame Perkins; the maid to Madame des Plumes, the prophetess. Adelaide was a fortune-teller. During her readings, she liked to wear a turquoise turban with a single peacock feather adorning it. Adelaide was one of those types of soothsayers that was more a charlatan than a seer, but could read faces and gave an excellent performance. Spinning a lovely tale, mostly, she made her clients happy.
Included with every reading was black tea with a dash of the herb mugwort and honey. There were always assurances from the fortune-teller of fanciful, if not prophetic, dreams for the seekers later that night. That was all that was necessary to have made Madame des Plumes moderately wealthy. Providing enough money to buy a small Parisian apartment and employ the services of Madame Perkins.
Although prone to being a trickster, Adelaide was generally a good person. Besides lessons in French, she taught Polly and her daughter how to sew. Adelaide also taught Penelope about the Tarot cards because she was inquisitive. In return, Polly was a good employee. She cleaned the entire home with efficiency and zeal, but especially the salon. The room where Madame des Plumes entertained her clients. Before the reading, Polly also closed the curtains and lit the candles. Then she served the tea with well-mannered cordiality, satisfying Madame des Plumes’ customers and it was a lovely arrangement for all. That is, until the day that Monsieur Le Blanc visited.
It was one of those atypical days in life when odd things occur. Adelaide, an acclaimed diviner, should have known something was amiss when she awoke to see Paris cloaked in an unusual, thick pea soup fog. As it was a common occurrence in her homeland, England, Polly thought nothing of it. She went about her work with briskness and cheer. By mid-morning, the fog had cleared. However, dark, oppressive thunderclouds had brought a gray dullness to the city. The grimy streets were more dismal than usual. Polly had gone around and lit the lamps, then built a fire to brighten the cozy sitting room where Adelaide was reading. Penelope was playing with Pepe the Second in the upstairs bedroom. the one she shared with her mother, when there came a knock on the door.
Looking around to see if her turban and shawl were nearby, Adelaide said to Polly, “My first client of the day, perhaps.” Madame’s shawl was exotic fabric and trimmed with black lace and shimmery beads.
Polly straightened her uniform and went to answer the door. Opening the door, she saw a well-dressed man upon the doorstep.
“Is Madame des Plumes in?” he asked.
Following proper conduct, the maid inquired, “May I ask your business?”
“I am here for a reading,” he replied brusquely. Polly wasn’t sure if his tone was from arrogance or that rain had begun. He didn’t have an umbrella.
He answered her in the same curt tone.
“Come in,” she said and admitted him to the foyer. He removed his top hat and coat and carelessly passed them to Polly. She hung his damp attire on the coat rack and said, “I will inform my mistress.
The servant indicated a small settee before hurrying away to tell Adelaide. Preparing the salon, Polly drew the curtains and lit the candles. Adelaide put on her shawl and turban and got out her Lenormand deck. Adelaide rarely used her Etteilla Tarot deck, as she preferred the cards of the famous Madame Lenormand, the 18th-century French oracle well known for her accurate predictions.
“I’m ready,” Madame des Plumes informed her maid when Polly returned from the kitchen after placing the tea kettle on the fire.
Polly returned to the foyer to find that the man had not taken a seat. Instead, he was tapping his foot with impatience and checking his pocket watch. She led him into the salon with its subdued lighting and then made her way to the kitchen to prepare the tea.
Meanwhile, Penelope had locked Pepe in the bedroom and then hid at the top of the stairs watching the strange man while he stood in the hall. The young girl didn’t like him or his giant, pointed nose at all. When he had taken off his hat, she noticed that his slicked back, jet black hair. Starting high on his temples, two large streaks of gray ran along the sides of his head like skunk stripes. The ugly man reminded her of the gargoyles of Notre Dame that seem to stare down at her as she passed by.
When he and her mother entered the salon, Penelope crept down the stairs and into the sitting room behind the salon. In the doorway between the two rooms hung a heavy, dark blue velvet curtain. This drapery visually separated the rooms but not audibly. During séances, it was the habit of Polly to turn on a gramophone in the sitting room that played eerie music. The muffled sounds coming through the thick curtain created a more otherworldly atmosphere in Madame des Plumes darkened drawing-room. It was behind this curtain that Penelope knelt and then peeked out to watch the proceedings.
The room was gloomier than usual because of the cloudy weather. However, what the girl found odd was that the man seemed to be surrounded by a shroud of darkness. His cup of tea untouched, he was sitting across the table from Adelaide. Apparently, he had already asked his query and was waiting for an answer. Adelaide was sipping her tea and looking at him. Presently, she took back the shuffled deck and pulled three cards from the top: past, present, and future.
Turning over the first one, The Ship, she explained the symbolism of the ship and its corresponding card, the Ten of Spades. She mentioned a job requiring travel, that money was to be made or had been made in trade or commerce, and of an adventurous spirit. Even with his face partially in shadows, Penelope could see that the man was smiling and nodding. Madame des Plume picked up on this as well and embellished her story with general details.
Then she turned over the second card: Clouds. Penelope could see Adelaide tense a little as she considered it a negative card. The fortune-teller made some more general statements such as, you are feeling conflicted, you must clear your mind, could be the bad weather. Then she commented on the associated card, the King of Clubs. That a problem could involve a moody, dark-haired, bearded man. These last statements seem to have hit a nerve, and the sinister man frowned. Without warning, there came loud, booming thunder. This phenomenon, the aura of the stranger, or perhaps the mugwort tea, somehow produced a visible change in Adelaide.
The seer fell into a trance. With glassy eyes, words spilled from her lips. “Ill-begotten money is the root of your troubles. The Devil’s lucre taints your soul and trouble is brewing. The Ten of Spades and King of Clubs show ill-fortune at the gambling table leading to vexation, strife and quarreling. A duel, a fight, bloodshed, murder…”
Visibly shaken, the man stood up and threw his money down on top of the last card. “Enough!” he cried and stormed out of the house.
This startling action caused Madame des Plume to arise from her trance and Penelope to fall inside the curtain. When Adelaide saw the money on top of the card, she knew it was an ill omen indeed. Glancing around, she noticed Penelope. After turning over the card of the man’s future, the fortune-teller gave a little shriek and put her hand to her mouth. Tilting her head, the young girl got up and walked to the table to see the Tarot card. Pictured on it was a child playing.
Next: The Material World: Part 2- Child’s Play