Dusk is rapidly turning into night. Dark shadows loom over every corner of the parlor in the La Font manor. Emmanuel shudders in response to the cold shivers that run up and down his spine. Where is Samuel? He was supposed to return over two hours ago. Is it possible that he met Monsieur La Metz? Or did something terrible happen to him and I do not yet know about it? Emmanuel nervously twists a lock of his thick, wavy hair around his index finger. Nausea grips his stomach. The only sound to be heard is the soft murmur of servants’ voices in the kitchen and the bustling of Madame La Font’s skirts as she walks to and from the library and drawing room. The noises in the background intensify his anxiety.
He fixes his caramel brown eyes on the floor below him. He squints his eyes, but the room is so dark he cannot study the rich brown of the oak floor. Emmanuel uncrosses his legs and sets both feet firmly on the polished floor. His buckled shoes create a loud clap when they come in contact with the floor.
Emmanuel has known about Samuel’s intent to fight the revolutionaries for a number of months. But now, Samuel’s desire for revenge against the Robespierre government is more urgent than ever. That is why he sent for Emmanuel-so he can discuss his entire plot with him.
As Emmanuel stands out of his seat, prepared to alert the servants and Madame La Font of Samuel’s absence, the familiar click of the entrance doors being opened rings throughout the large manor. Emmanuel stops. His young, handsome face beams with a mixture of joy and relief. He breathes out a huge sigh. He’s here. Nothing dreadful happened. Thank goodness.
“My God is it dark in here,” Samuel says upon entering the parlor. “Emmanuel, are you here?”
A bewildered look appears on Samuel’s sun-kissed face. “If you were here the entire time, why in God’s name did you not light the candles in the wall sconces? You know perfectly well where I keep extra candles.”
“Never mind! I will have the servants come and light the room,” he says. “Have you eaten dinner?”
“No,” Emmanuel says. I would really like to know who Samuel was visiting. His curiosity gets the better of him.
“Samuel, I do not mean to interfere in your business, but what kind of errands would keep you away for more than two hours? Did you meet Monsieur La Metz?”
There is a long pause. A nagging pang of anxiety beats against Emmanuel’s chest. He rubs his sweaty palms over his legs. Oh no, I hope he doesn’t have terrible news.
Samuel slowly takes off his wide brim hat and presses it against his muscular chest. “We will talk over a meal. I’m feeling rather hungry myself.”
“Alright,” Emmanuel says. He slowly makes his way over to Samuel, being careful not to trip over any furniture.
Normally, the thought of dinner enlightens Emmanuel’s mood, but not tonight. The anxious look remains on his face even after he is comfortably seated at the dining room table. Just as Samuel is about to confront his troubled friend, a short, chubby cook enters the room carrying two large platters filled with the finest Mediterranean cuisine-Ratatouille, stuffed Turbot Provencale, croissants and Banon cheese.
“Bon appetite, Messieurs,” he says as he sets the platters of steaming food before the hungry men.
“Merci Monsieur Edouin,” Emmanuel says. His face brightens a little.
“Do not forget the wine, Edouin,” Samuel says.
“As you wish, Monsieur La Font,” Edouin says, bowing out of the room. He promptly returns with two tall bottles of vin Mourvedre in his hands. Samuel takes one of the bottles and fills two medium-sized crystal goblets with the burgundy liquid.
For a moment Emmanuel studies Samuel as if he had met him for the first time. The candle light accentuates the stern look on his face. His grey hair is powdered and held together by a red ribbon at the nape of his neck, above the tall stiff collar. For his fifty-three years he looks stunningly handsome in his new burgundy silk suit. The top three buttons of his waistcoat are left undone, revealing the frills on his white blouse.
Emmanuel has known Samuel his entire life. Samuel was his father’s best friend. The two men attended the Military Academy of La Fleche and fought together throughout the Seven Years War. Shortly after the war ended, Louis XV appointed Jean d’ LeVasque as his new military advisor and made Samuel the Captain of the French Royal Army. But, in June of 1783, Jean died in a tragic accident on his way home from Versailles. Emmanuel, the oldest son of four children, was not quite fourteen at the time of his father’s death. Everyone loved Jean dearly, so his death was a tragedy, a tragedy that took years to heal from.
Once news of Jean’s sudden death reached Versailles, the King hastily appointed Samuel as his new military advisor. But, this did not compel Samuel to end his relationship with the d’ LeVasque family. He loved them and was determined to keep them as close friends. On several occasions after Jean’s passing, he frequented the d’ LeVasque estate for visits, with a faint hope that Julienne would make him hers. But, he was married and Julienne knew that, and she had no desire to remarry.
Over the years, Emmanuel and his younger siblings came to accept Samuel as a surrogate father. But, no matter how much Emmanuel loved Samuel, he was only a friend and he could never ever replace his real father. It took years for Emmanuel to recover from the loss of his father, but some days he longs for his father’s companionship, especially now that France is in social upheaval.
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25 July 1793