League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 1766

Chapter 9


A new doorman opened the side entrance to Cagliostro's theatre and asked who was seeking entry?

"Jean Baptiste Grenouille." Said the knocker.

"Come in." Said the doorman. "You are favoured by the host."

The auditorium had been cleared of dead bodies and broken furniture from the battle last night, yet Jean could smell dried blood, burnt gunpowder and a residue of his knockout concoction. Cagliostro was on stage directing his crew in repairing all damage incurred, including re-threading and replacing curtains.

An ebullient Cagliostro welcomed Jean up onto the stage with open arms but the brooding perfumer was unable to meet this greeting with the affection expected of a Frenchman, he could barely manage a smile.

"What you did last night was fantastic Jean." Complimented the showman. "To what do I owe the pleasure of seeing you here today."

"If it pleases you I would like to use your backstage laboratory." Answered Jean. "I could make up some concoctions that could help The League and your stage show."

"Does that include more of that knockout concoction" Asked Cagliostro.

"Of course Graf, but this time a lot more enduring than the speedily made stuff produced last night."

Cagliostro granted Jean use of his laboratory but on condition that an apothecary watches over the activity to take written note of what ingredients were used, how much and in what way were they mixed; half an hour would go by before one arrives. Nell Bowen kept clear of the perfumer while he was waiting, she felt safer with all the lunatics in Bedlam than with this disturbing Frenchman.

Werner von Kempelen was backstage panel beating Olympia back into shape, Jean began to see similarities between the Hungarian inventor and himself. Here was someone making a woman of metal, while the perfumer had the idea of placing a woman in a bottle, well her scent at least; either creates a woman to be had at a press of a button.

Nell met Jean's gaze when he considered his idea of bottling a woman, she felt a heightened sense of horror with this eye contact and he was smelling her, she could tell, as if some fiendish design was being brooded on, she didn't know what it was but the English actress fled out the side exit for an indefinite leave.

"Well Jean." Said Werner as he finished work on Olympia. "What do you think of her?"

Olympia was lifted upright; a quick wind of her key followed by a pushed button, then the automaton opened her arms and closed them to embrace thin air.

"Well." Answered Jean. "You have smoothed out her dents admirably and silenced the squeaking gears, you can give her proper legs and eyes in future, but I value how something smells; with her I smell metal, paint and lubricant. If you want your doll to be realistic you must imbue her with the scent of a woman."

"Oh." Said Werner. "Can you copy the scent of a woman?"

"No." Answered Jean. " Nor can I capture the real scent of a woman, yet!"

The perfumer said that last word with a foreboding conviction.

"Tell you what I can do." Continued Jean. " I can make a perfume that would override Olympia's mechanical smell and give her the impression of a sweetly scented lady."

"Oh really. That would be nice and a dazzling contribution to the show, Jean."

When the apothecary arrived Jean began his work in the laboratory. The bespectacled supervisor was taking detailed notes while giving names to jarred substances that the perfumer new only by their distinctive smells. The mixing processes involved either stirring, shaking, simmering, boiling, filtering or a combination thereof. Jean filled several of his own perfume bottles; some big, some small; also a drink bottle of his knockout concoction was produced and a large conical flask was filled with another concoction.

Cagliostro was presented with the large flask; rather than explain its use Jean offered to demonstrate it with bellows and the crew as a sample audience. The crew took their seats as the showman requested, Jean poured a measure of the mystery concoction into the bellows and sprayed the auditorium with it. The crew barely noticed the fine spray, but were soon overcome with a group feeling of intoxicating mirth; smiles appeared on their faces, hums and moans of well being pervaded the seats.

The Graf went up to the perfumer and pinched both his cheeks gratefully.

"Jean Baptiste Grenouille you have once again astounded me. I can have some direct control over audience response with this. You will go far with that gift of yours Jean."

The knockout concoction was divided for the use of the League and the theatre.

"Well. " Said Cagliostro. "This should help deal with stage jumpers and hecklers."

Werner von Kempelen was given a perfume for use by Olympia.

His work finished, Jean said his farewells and left the theatre. Before returning to the Chateau de Lune, the perfumer stopped at the local abatoir to procure several pounds of animal fat. The coachman looked bemused by the latter stop, but said nothing and dutifully drove the Baron's guest back.

It was mid afternoon when the coach arrived and the perfumer was ascending the stairs after being told the Baron had not returned yet. Hopes for a peaceful afternoon tea were dashed when a walk through the courtyard placed Jean in the proximity of a waiting guest sipping on tea.

The guest stood up and made his greeting in English, then realising Jean's bafflement, changed to a broken French.

"Hello. Allow me to present myself, I am Guy Mannering. It's a pleasure to meet you."

Jean nodded, half grinned and stepped forward to receive a handshake, which went oddly as it finished Guy turned his hand over and looked at the Perfumer's palm. A look of dire gloom came over the Brit's face as he let the hand go.

"Shall I bring you afternoon tea here sir." Asked the valet.

Jean nodded affirmatively then handed his baggage over to a porter for delivery to his room. Sitting down with the surprise guest the two conversed.

"You must be Jean Baptiste Grenouille." Said Guy "You're on the Baron's list as a League member."

"You seem to know an awful lot about the League."

"I have Munchausen's confidence and have been asked to give advice. The Baron may be very self assured but knows the value of employing talented individuals like you."

"What is your talent?" Asked Jean.

"Like yours, I can evaluate a situation and determine its outcome; you can do so with your gifted sense of smell, by sensing oncoming danger; whereas I read the stars, they tell me what's going to happen."

Jean looked up to a hazy sky.

"There are no stars there now." Said the perfumer.

"These clouds will clear soon the night will see a most telling sky."

The sound of horses trotting reached their ears; the Baron's coach had arrived, Hawkeye, Chingachook and the Baron himself got out. Juliette appeared last and she was wrapped in a blanket, her clothes were nowhere to be seen.

M greeted Guy Mannering with his aristocratic charm then took the astrologer to his office for a private meeting. Juliette rushed to her room to get dressed. The other League members joined Jean for afternoon coffee, while they recounted their adventures throughout the day. Juliette came out with a new dress on and joined the courtyard revelry.

Now that all four League members had seen the Beast of Gevaudan they shared their descriptions and shock at its foreboding size and savagery. Jean and Juliette had a clear advantage here as they both came very close to being mauled by the monster. The two frontiersmen told how they came close to shooting and probably killing it, but where interrupted by a frenzied running man with a pistol. Juliette picked up that the interferer was Diligence, who was now dead; which means four of the Seven Virtues were dead and only three remained to menace her.

The Baron returned to the courtyard, after finishing with the astrologer, just in time for the doorman to announce another visitor. Munchausen motioned to bring the guest to the courtyard and offer refreshments. The guest was Redmond Barry, who was warmly welcomed by each member of the League as if he was a member.

Vivid descriptions of the Beast of Gevaudan were relayed to the Irishman, followed by graphic accounts of the League members' scrapes with the lupine horror. Juliette gave a partially accurate account of her recent ordeal; she was open about its approach when she was naked following an erotic encounter with a young aristocrat, but tactfully eluded any mention of The Seven Virtues.

M gave a discreet frown at her account, even though his contribution to her rescue was thankfully glorified. After receiving hourly updates on the police investigation into the matter of several fatalities in the hills, some by gunshot, the Baron had a few questions about the events of the day and thus ushered Juliette into his office for a private discussion. An hour later saw The League, including Redmond, together again in the rococo lounge where the Baron had his next, newly arrived, guest sent.

"Ladies and Gentlemen." Announced Baron Munchausen. "The last expected member of the League has arrived. The soldier and renegade I mentioned at our formation."

A knock was heard on the lounge room door. Everyone turned to the opening entrance, after M's invitation to enter. Jean could make out the odour of heather and thistle. The man who came in was tall, robust, middle aged and armed: a large scabbard held a claymore sword; a musket was held beside him and a pistol was tucked into his belt, which appeared to be so thick it could be a container.

The item of apparel that caught everyones' eye was the bright tartan sash the soldier was wearing; it was the tartan of clan Stewart.

"Hello Alan." Said M. "Everyone say Hello to Alan Breck."

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