Today is Bastille Day, which means it’s an excellent day to share another excerpt from The Wardrobe Mistress. I chose a scene that takes place a few days after the fall of the Bastille, and since the other excerpts I’ve shared here were both kind of violent, I picked a sweet one, for a change.
“I brought you something,” Léon says, taking my hand and pressing a small object into it. Part of it feels like a delicate chain, the metal warm from his palm. I open my fingers and smile in delight at the slender chain, though the small rock fastened to it puzzles me.
“Is this a special sort of stone?”
“Indeed. It’s from the Bastille.”
I glance at him in astonishment, and inspect it more closely. A little bigger than my thumbnail, the stone has been filed into an oval shape. The file has left a whiter scratch across the back of the sandy-grey coloured stone. How odd, to think of wearing part of a building around my neck. The stone is pretty though, in a rustic way, and I predict it will be height of fashion in weeks to come. People have been carting away the stones of the Bastille as souvenirs of the historic event. Geneviève will envy my necklace. Holding it up to the light, I realise the chain is made of interlocking sections of gold and silver, each gleaming in the sun. It’s very pretty; the chain is my favourite part.
“I made it myself.” The shy tilt of his head and the tentative tone of his voice betray his worry over the reception of the gift. “I had to use scraps leftover from repairing pocket watches for the chain, that’s why it doesn’t quite match. I hope you don’t mind.” He hesitates. “While I was making it, I liked to think the gold and silver together are like the sun and the moon.”
The idea brings a smile to my lips, and I trace my fingers over the stone and the softly glittering chain. “It means a lot to me that you fashioned it yourself, Léon.” I lift my braid away from my neck. “Will you help me fasten it?”
His fingers brush across the nape of my neck as he fusses with the clasp. The light touch makes my heart quicken, and I turn to look at him over my shoulder. “Thank you for the gift.”
“You’re welcome, Giselle.” His fingertips slide along the length of the chain, skimming across my throat. It feels very pleasant. For a second I cannot remember what I meant to say, and when I do recall, the words tumble too quickly out of my mouth.
“I should have known you would manage to get a piece of history.” Léon is far too fervent of a revolutionary to miss this opportunity. Even though the fall of the Bastille is a blow to the King and Queen, I can’t help feeling a frisson of excitement about it. I can hardly help it, now that I’m back home, away from the palace. The streets are full of optimism for the revolution, and it’s a little contagious. I feel like Léon and I hold a piece of the future. The Bastille was solid rock, something that should have been unshakable, and now here is a small piece of it, made into something new. This is what our country needs; the old, ineffective ways dismantled and remade into laws that better serve the whole population. I pray that the royal family will see it, and aid the much-needed reforms before any further violence happens.
Accessories made of stones from the Bastille were quite common shortly after its fall. In my research, I stumbled across a few, but my favourite examples are a locket set with a Bastille stone and tiny diamonds to spell out the word ‘Liberé’. The other top contender is a complex headdress with white satin towers meant to represent the Bastille. Oh, historical fashion!