The Mona Lisa Sisters

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Chapter 26

I find Captain Delacroix relaxing on the hotel veranda. “Ah, Mr. Myer to what do I owe the pleasure of your company on this fine afternoon? You must join me for a fine cigar and cognac.”

I apologize for intruding. “Thank you Julien for allowing me to interrupt what must be a busy schedule.”

“Joseph were that it was so. As much as I enjoy Connecticut, there is not much here to keep me occupied. If it were not for a few of the people I’ve met, I would ask to be reassigned.”

“Possibly we have a small way to help ease your boredom.”

“How would you do that my friend?”

“First, I extend an invitation from Mrs. Myer to you. Please do her the honor of joining us for dinner at Grisham Manor tomorrow evening.”

“That sounds pleasant. Will Miss Bartolini be there?”

“I will stop by the mercantile on my way back to the manor and ask her to dine us. Knowing you will be there will surely entice her to join us.”

“Then you may tell Mrs. Myer that I am enchanted to be her guest on the morrow.”

“Julien, might I inquire as to your intentions as regards Miss Bartolini?”

“Honorable, but why do you ask?”

I can see that I’ve offended Delacroix. “Forgive my rudeness for addressing the matter with you, but Emily is a dear friend of Lura’s and if she is hurt Lura will suffer with her. I mean no offense.”

“Is the personal life a French officer and the owner of a business something you normally concern yourself with Joseph?”

“No, it is not. It is just that I consider you a friend, otherwise I would withhold any comment.”

“Thank you. I appreciate your candor. It is one of the reasons I’ve remained here in Ridgefield. Now you must tell me what concerns you.”

“It is I who must offer thanks. You and Miss Bartolini differ in every aspect. You are a member of the French nobility, a man with a rich future, an attractive man who no doubt can attract the most beautiful of women. Am I not right?”

“Modesty forbids me to agree, but I see your point. Emily is unlike me in most ways. In some ways, we are very much alike. She is an honest woman of many talents. Her father may have bestowed the mercantile upon her, but she has built it into a formidable business. Do you know that she is opening a second store in Bridgeport? “

“No, I didn’t. But then I’m not surprised at Emily’s industriousness.”

“Do you worry she is not what one might call a stylish woman or that she is Italian?”

“It has crossed my mind Julien.”

“It is true that I’ve enjoyed an easy way with women, and have known more than a few. None of the stylish or beautiful women I’ve known have interested me for more than a fortnight. Emily intrigues me. I find her irresistible and wish to know her and her family. I do not know where that will lead, but if it were to lead to a marriage, I would not be disappointed.”

“I will not speak of it again.”

“Bonne. Now is there something else that brought you here, and occasioned the dinner invitation. I think so Mon Ami.”

“Yes, let me explain.”


“Welcome back to my home Captain Delacroix. Thank you for being so gracious as to offer your carriage to Miss Bartolini. I hope it is not too much an inconvenience.”

“None whatsoever Mrs. Myer. It is always a pleasure to join you and Joseph. Escorting Miss Bartolini adds to the joy of the event.”

The girls have been waiting all day to see Emily. I promised them that if they dressed properly, they could join us for dinner. They appear in dresses suitable for girls of their age to wear to an informal dinner party. Emily hugs them and whispers in their ears. I expect a disruption, “Emily what mischief are you up to with the girls?”

With an impish grin, she tilts her head, feigns innocence and says, “Why Lura dearest, whatever do you mean?” This confirms my fear. Emily is planning something. The girls are jumping up and down. This only strengthens my certainty that something is afoot. As we take our seats, the girls rush to sit at each side of Emily. It appears that Delacroix is in on the conspiracy as he smiles and takes his place between Ada Mae and myself. I find myself flanked by him and Joseph.

After Earl serves dessert, Emily and the girls retire giving me a chance to question Julien about his intentions regarding the judge in Bridgeport. Julien begins by telling us he has communicated the judge’s request to his superiors at the Embassy in Washington. “After I notified the ambassador of the court’s request, he forwarded it to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Paris. Thanks to the speed of the telegraph, I received an answer only hours before arriving here.”

Although I’ve enjoyed an excellent meal, I have an empty feeling in my stomach. While I clasp my pendant, Joseph clamps his hands together. I forget my manners and bend forward as I say, “And?”

Captain Delacroix smiles and says, “I’ve been given permission to speak with the judge regarding France’s position in your case. There are limitations to what I may discuss, and conditions on my appearance before an American court. I believe that if those conditions are met, I shall be able to satisfy the judge.”

I can’t control my elation as I release the pendant and clap my hands together. The warmth spreading throughout my body replaces the empty feeling in my stomach. I see a smile spreading across Joseph’s face. “Thank you Julien, this means so much to Joseph and I.” Reaching over and putting my arms around his neck, I kiss his cheek.

“Miss Lura, if bringing good news wins such a favor from you, I would deliver messages daily.” Smiling, I turn and repeat the hug, sans the kiss, with Joseph.

Joseph and Julien retire to the study to enjoy a cigar and a brandy, while I make my way to the girls’ bedchamber. At the foot of their beds are small valises. Picking up one, I say, “What are these for?”

Emily answers for the girls. “I’ve asked them if they would do me the honor of spending the night at my home. You can’t refuse. I promise to return them after lunch tomorrow.”

I want to be angry with Emily, but I’ve never been able to maintain that emotion with her. In an attempt to display irritation, I clasp my hands behind my back, raise my chin and clench my jaw. It doesn’t work. Emily laughs as she hugs me and says, “You know you’re pretending to be angry.”

Trying to maintain control, I say in as stern a tone as I can muster, “I should be angry.” I lose the moment and say, “But I’m not. I knew you were up to something when you conspired with the girls at the dinner table.”

By now the girls are smiling and jumping up and down. Katie says, “Emily is going to give us each a new dress from her store. Isn’t that grand?”

“Yes it is, but you must not forget your lessons.”

Ada Mae is the next to speak. “Emily will let me help her figure what people owe when they buy something. She says it is business arithmetic. She says that someday, if it is alright with you, I can work in the store.”

“Alright, alright, it is getting late and you young ladies need to be in bed soon. I’ll go ask Captain Delacroix if he’ll give you a ride in his carriage.”

Both girls speak at once. “Captain Delacroix already knows. He told Emily he would make room for us.”

“Am I the only person who didn’t know what you had planned?”

“Yes.”

“You mean even Joseph was part of your conspiracy.”

“Well, we didn’t tell him until just before you brought the girls down to dinner.”

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