It is a beautiful morning when I first catch sight of land. Still somewhat chilly on that day, June 1, 1894, it strikes me that five months have passed since the horrible accident robbed me of Walter and Little George. Forcing the memory from my thoughts I paint this new scene in my mind. I want to remember this, my first glimpse of Europe, of France. Even before the outer port of La Havre comes into view, I see changes. There are more of the birds they call Seagulls; the sea changes from a deep blue to a dirty brown. The change is abrupt. There is a line visible in the water. The filth is evident for at least a half hour before we enter the harbor.
The opening to the port is narrower that what we left behind in New York. As we approach the entrance, the ship slows to a crawl as dinky boats crisscross her path. Many small sailboats are plying the water. Most must be fishing boats as they have nets hanging from racks. With one exception, all but the largest ships appear to be in advanced stages of deterioration. As we ease into our berth, a yacht flying a British flag, heads out of the port. The vessel is immaculate in its white with red trim. Several crewmen are visible hustling about the decks in bright blue uniforms.
Maybe I should have gone to England.
I hope the city is not as depressing as the port. It is far worse.
Waiting to disembark, I see a familiar figure leaving the end of the gangplank and stepping on the pier.
Is that the stranger?
The man turns and appears to be scanning the first-class promenade. I can’t be positive, but I’m sure that he stops his search and stares at me for a moment. I move closer to the railing to get a better view of him. He must realize from my movement, my intention, for he drops his head to his chest, turns, and hurries from sight.
Shall I see him again?
The ship has my luggage delivered to the railway station and stowed aboard the train. There is a cab waiting when I clear customs. The train will not wait and there is no time to look about the city. Had I taken an extra day and stayed over in La Havre, my life may not have undergone the upheaval that was about to begin.
The eight-hour train ride from La Havre to Paris was uneventful. The first and last hours, leaving La Havre and coming into Paris were dreary and disturbing. The filth, both human and land, were beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. By the time I’m able to leave the train, I feel dirty and on the verge of being ill.
The farmland between the two cities is much the same as travelling the country between Connecticut and New York. The only differences are the farms themselves. Ancient rock fences abound in the French countryside. The fields and the farms are much smaller than in America. I soon learn that everything in France, except the recently completed Eiffel Tower, is smaller.
For accommodations in Paris, I chose one of the smaller and less public hotels. As I explained to Emily before departure, “I want my privacy. I want to come and go as a common tourist.” Mr. Bartolini wanted me to hire a travelling companion and a bodyguard. I refused. Staying as inconspicuous as possible in a small hotel is my concession to their worries.
My hotel suite is smaller than the one I enjoyed aboard La Touraine.
After two days’ rest, I contact Cook Travel Agency and arrange for a driver. I know several places I wish to visit. The Louvre is at the top of the list. The travel agency has an excellent reputation for providing foreign tourists with quality service.
My driver, Claude, a gruff Parisian, is not what I expected from Cook. Brusque, he knows the city well and is an excellent driver. I’m glad for that. Before we reach the Arc de Triomphe, I see no less than three out-of-control carriages and cabs. On the Avenue du Bois de Boulogne, a cab collides with an electric bus before my eyes. The carnage reminds me of New York. I begin to cry and shake. Claude pulls off the avenue and stops at a small sidewalk café. He leads me to a sheltered table and orders Chartreuse for me.
Claude leaves me for about a half hour. On returning, he gives me a questioning look to which I reply. “I’m fine, please continue our tour.”
The afternoon is fast approaching. Once we circle and pass beneath the Arc de Triomphe, we hurry to The Louvre. “You have only enough time to visit the Mona Lisa. I will bring you back tomorrow so that you can see the Venus de Milo and other masterpieces.”
I follow his suggestion and hurry to the Mona Lisa. It is all I had hoped. The painting is beyond my ability to describe. I stand transfixed before the beauty. I’m not the only one. Leaning against the barrier bar are two young girls. Both are dressed in identical light green dresses; I think artists call the color a pastel. Each has long dark hair worn down in the way of young American and Irish girls with a ribbon of matching green tied in a bow. I would think them twins except one is an inch or two shorter than the other. They remain in the same position with their backs to me for the entire time I view the Mona Lisa. They are speaking to each other in subdued tones. It seems they are speaking English but I’m not so interested that I bother listening.
My driver approaches. “Madame, the museum will close in a few minutes. You should come now.”
Glancing once more at the painting and the two girls, I say, “Yes monsieur.”
Returning to my hotel, I feel exhausted. “I wish to start later in the day tomorrow. Would you be able to pick me up in the afternoon?”
“Yes Madame. Do you wish to again travel alone?”
“If it pleases Madame, I will call for you at two.”
“That will be fine.”
The hotel has a small dining room, but I’m not up to dining in public. The concierge honors my request and has a fine meal and an excellent wine delivered to my room. After a leisurely meal, I read. Before the tour, I had wandered about the neighborhood and found a small bookshop. I decided that as I’m in France I shall work on my French, including my ability to read. I found a copy of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. What betterwork to read while in Paris? I fall asleep struggling with my amateurish translation.
At two, my driver calls for me. After a casual ride through the avenues, we pass the Colonne Vendome where several Cook Travel Agency carriages sit with their passengers wandering about. After a leisurely ride to other tourist attractions, Claude deposits me at the entrance to the Louvre. “Madame, I shall return in one hour if that pleases you.”
He and I both know that it is only an hour until the Louvre will close for the day. Claude pulls away even as I speak. “That will be fine. I shall return to this spot in one hour.”
If I’m to enjoy my time with The Mona Lisa, I must hurry. As I turn to the entrance, two very aggressive and filthy men block my path. Not only are they untidy, they remind me of bullies, there is an air of rage about them. Almost overcome by freight, I resolve not show it.
The shorter of the two asks in French if I need a guide. “Avez-vous besoin d’un guide?
I endeavor to ignore them by saying, “I don’t speak French,” as I to step around the pair.
The man, who smells of fish, stale wine, and urine, persists. “It is my pleasure to speak the Eng-gah-leash and to assist you as a guide.” He sneers and says to his companion in vulgar French, “This cow will be easy. We shall have her jewels and money within the hour.”
“I must insist that you leave me alone. Please go away.” I’m shouting but they pay no attention as they continue blocking my path.” Suddenly they turn away and hurry out of sight. Turning around I expect to see a Gendarme, a French police officer. There is none in sight. Moving away from me and disappearing into the crowd, I see the back of a man. He is wearing a bowler and a dark top coat. Could it be the same strange man from the ship?
I make my way into the museum. The crowds are lighter than yesterday. As I enter the chamber containing the Mona Lisa, I come to a stop. I’m shocked to see the same two young girls standing in front of the painting. They are in the identical pose as yesterday. There is nothing different. The taller girl, whom I assume to be oldest, is standing to the left. Her hands are clasped in front of her. The shorter one has hers clasped as well, except she is leaning on the rail. If she didn’t seem to be praying, I would describe her stance as very unlady like.
Why, they are wearing the same dresses as yesterday? They seem soiled and rumpled. It appears they may have slept in their clothing. Their long dark hair still sports a ribbon of matching green tied in a bow. However, their hair and the bows look disheveled. Their hair is unwashed and in need of brushing. Should I approach them?
My dilemma is answered when the shorter of the two turns and stares at me. My God, the poor child is afraid. Her lips and chin are trembling so. If it were not warm in here, I would suspect that she was cold. In a voice that reflects her trembling, she whispers, “Ada Mae.”
The taller girl turns and stands next to the other. She too seems frightened as she takes the other girl’s hand into hers. The one called Ada Mae is whimpering. Her eyes are wet and watery. I can tell she has been crying. She is not what I expected. She must be younger than her shorter sister. There is no question in my mind, the girls are sisters.
I kneel before them, another very unlady like pose. I say, “My name is Lura. Please don’t be frightened. Are you alone? Where are your parents?”
Ada Mae is now crying uncontrollably. I reach out to her. The shorter one steps between us and says in a shrill voice. “Leave my sister alone.” She takes a deep breath, crosses her arms across her chest and says, “We are fine.” Thank goodness, they speak English.
The younger one speaks. “No we’re not Katie. Father is not coming back.”
Katie’s resolve seems to abandon her. Getting down to their level, eye to eye, seems to reduce their fear. “Girls, there is a bench against the back wall. Why don’t we sit there and talk? Maybe I can help.”
The girls exchange looks. Katie maintains a semblance of defiance. Ada Mae is nodding as I speak. Turning to her older sister, I can barely hear her, “Please Katie, oh please. I’m so scared. Please let the lady help us.” Reluctantly, Katie moves to the bench. She does not relinquish her sister’s hand, even as they sit. I don’t want to frighten them. I sit about a foot away from the older girl.
“Didn’t I see you girls here yesterday?”
Katie seems to relax somewhat. The girls seem exhausted. “Yes. Our father brought us here to see her.”
“Her? What do you mean?”
Ada Mae points at the Mona Lisa. “Father wanted us to see her. He says she is the most beautiful woman in the world.”
Katie adds, “Father set here on this bench with us for a long time. Then he took us to the rail so we could see her close.”
Ada Mae is coming to life, as her fear seems to dissipate. “After we looked at her for a long time, two men talked to our father. After they left, he said he had to talk to someone. He told us to wait here for him. He didn’t come back.”
“Have you been here in the museum since yesterday?”
Both girls answer in chorus, “No.”
“Where did you go? Where did you spend the night?”
Katie takes a deep breath and lets out an audible sigh before answering. “We saw you yesterday. After you left, the guide told us that the museum was closing and we had to leave.”
“Have you seen your father since he left you here yesterday?”
Ada Mae is again crying. “No, we don’t know where he is.”
“What did you do when you left here?”
Katie takes the lead. “We tried to find our hotel, but we don’t know the name. So we walked and walked. When it was dark, we were hungry. We saw a lady pushing a baby carriage. She didn’t speak English. Father gave us each one-hundred francs. I showed her our money. She smiled and motioned for us to follow her.”
“Where did she take you?”
“To her home, I think. It is a tiny apartment. She gave us a bowl of soup and a piece of bread. Then she took our money and made us leave.”
“Oh my God. What a terrible woman.”
Ada Mae said, “We didn’t leave. I pounded on her door until she opened it. I pushed it open. She shook her fist at us and talked very loud. I shook my head no, put my hands together, and showed her we wanted to sleep. She yelled but then she took us into the kitchen. We slept on the floor.”
“Were you there all night?”
Ada Mae continues. “In the morning, she made us leave.”
The girls explain that the woman took all their money but did not give them breakfast, not even a slice of bread. Although the girls remain frightened, I convince them to come with me. “My driver will be out front. Please come with me and we shall eat. You can’t stay here; the museum is closing.” Hunger overcame fear.
As we enter the carriage, I notice the same two scoundrels who had accosted me earlier. They are staring in my direction from the corner of a kiosk. They glare at me with hard eyes. The older one shakes a fist in my direction and then pounds it against the wall where he stands.
My heart racing, I want to run. Taking a deep breath, I force myself to be calm. I cannot telegraph my fear to the girls. They were frightened enough already without adding my terror to theirs.
Claude does not seem surprised or concerned when I bring the two girls to the carriage. He doesn’t ask any questions when I say, “Please return to my hotel.”
After depositing us at the hotel, he asks, “Will Madame have further need for my services?”
“Don’t you have other duties to attend to at Cook Travel?”
“Work is slow and I have nothing on my schedule for the next few days.”
I think about the girls. I can provide for them tonight, but I must locate their father in the morning. “I would like you to return at ten tomorrow morning. You can plan on being at my service for the next two or three days. Is that acceptable you?”
“I will be here at ten.”
“Please notify the concierge when you arrive. I’ll call him when ready.”
“Would you girls like to eat in my rooms? We can talk about your father and what we must do to locate him while we eat.”
Both girls agree. I order an American style meal for three. Knowing how hungry they must be, I don’t order child’s portion. It is the right decision as the girls clean their plates while I leave half my meal. Dessert disappears in the blink of an eye.
Dinner finished, I want to talk about their father and how we might find him. It isn’t to be. Finishing dessert, the girls exhibit signs of exhaustion. I put them in the second bedroom of my suite. Removing their dresses, I realize they have no nightclothes.
“We’ll be alright Miss Lura.” As soon as their heads collapse on the pillow, they are asleep.
Alone in the sitting room, worry overtakes me. “Whatever shall I do with these children? How can we find their father?” I fret into the wee hours and fall asleep sitting.
The sun shining through the window wakes me. Fortunately, it is summer and I have time to dress before the girls wake. They come into the drawing room in the dresses that show the wear of three days.
“Girls, we must do something about your clothes. You cannot run around like wild Indians.” Having an idea, I ring for the concierge. “Please send me a maid, preferably one with children. I will have need of her services for a few hours.”
The maid is a mother with several children. I explain that we need under garments, nightclothes, and dresses for the two girls. “Can you find a store and purchase these items?”
“But of course Madame. The Grands Magasins Dufayel is a huge department store with just what you need for the children. If I can get transportation, I can travel there and purchase what you desire, and at a reasonable cost.”
“My driver will be here at ten and he shall take you. Here are enough francs for what we wish. Please also purchase a valise for each of the girls.”
The girls and I enjoy breakfast while the maid gets fresh clothing. Finished eating, I ask the girls to tell me all they can about their hotel and their father. I also ask, “Where is your mother?”
Katie is visibly shaken by my last question. Her eyes redden. She stares down at her hands, as tears appear at the edge of her eyes. Ada Me gets up and goes to her sister. Putting her arms around her as she says, “Don’t cry.” Turning she says, “Our mother died when Katie was two.”
I’m unable to control my emotions as the thought of Little George fills my heart. I’m crying and feel my hands rubbing Mother’s pendant. Bent over, the all too familiar ache has returned to my chest. I feel myself falling back into the depression I thought I’d left behind in America. Arms wrap around me from two sides. Two small voices comfort me. I don’t know which one speaks. “It is alright Miss Lura. Mother is in heaven. Please don’t cry. We’ll help you.”
These poor darlings have no mother, their father has disappeared, and they are comforting me. The affection they show me brings me back from the abyss of despair. I must be strong for them.
My heart is still acting strangely. The ache is gone replaced by a beating that reminds me of the joy I felt when Walter asked for my hand in marriage. For some unknown reason, I feel responsible for the girls and want them safe. Pulling myself together, I hug the two and thank them. “Girls, we have to make plans.”
They seem perplexed. As one they ask, “What plans?” I come to accept and expect their simultaneous speech. At first, it seems wondrous, but as we grow together, I understand it is just another revelation of the close bond they share.
“Before we begin our search for your father, there a few things I need to know. First what is your last name?”
“I’m Ada Mae Dean. I’m twelve years old.”
“I’m Catherin Margaret Dean. I’m ten and I’m bigger than my big sister.”
“What is your father’s name and where do you live?”
“Francis Patrick Dean. We lived in Boston before we came to Paris.”
Over the next few hours, the girls tell me about their father and their life in Boston. They know little about his life outside their home. I decide to send Mr. Brandies a telegraph this day requesting an inquiry into the business of Mr. Dean. Katie is too young to remember anything about her mother. The death of their mother brought a series of nannies. All with children of their own, none with the girls for more than a year.
Before we can talk further, the maid returns with new clothes. The girls are excited and want to change. “No. Young ladies must be clean and without the odors you carry on your body, especially in new outfits.”
The maid volunteers, “Madame is correct. I will prepare baths for the young ladies and then help them dress.”
Ada Mae is indignant. “I can bathe and dress myself. I don’t need your help.”
“Oh don’t be such a prude Ada Mae.” Before she can answer, Katie is throwing off her dirty clothes and running to the bedroom.
When the girls are bathed and dressed, I have them tell me everything they can about their hotel. Armed with my notes, we call for the carriage. I tell Claude that we are looking for a certain hotel. I give him a complete description based upon what the girls told me. Before going down to the carriage, we agreed that Claude did not need to know the reason for our search.
“Does Madame wish to tell me why we are looking for this particular hotel?”
As politely as I can, I tell Claude it is not his business. He is almost always gruff, so I cannot tell if he takes offense.
“There are several hotels I know of that match your description. If Madame approves, I will go to the one closest to the Louvre first.”
“Madame and the young ladies met at the Louvre.”
“Very well, that’s an excellent idea.”
“May I make another suggestion that might please the young ladies?”
“And what might that be?”
“Our route will take us near the Boulevard de la Madeleine. A short detour will take us to the finest candy store in all of Paris.”
The girls assure me that such a brief detour will in no way interfere with the search for their father. A short while later, the girls, Claude, and I are pulling on a new type of candy, French Chew. I tell the girls, “Chew is a good name for this sweet chewy candy.”
After viewing four hotels, the girls are feeling the loneliness brought on by their father’s absence. Ada Mae is on the verge of tears. Her eyes redden as she becomes sullen. Katie holds Ada Mae, looks furtively at passersby, and slumps down in the carriage seat, all belying the bravado that she tries miserably to portray.
“Madame, if I may, perhaps you should take the children to the La Sûreté. They have detectives experienced in such matters.” I’m not surprised that Claude has concluded that the girl’s father is missing. He may be right. I am after all, a woman alone in a foreign country. How can I best help these children?
Katie sits up, alert. “What is La Sûreté?”
“La Sûreté is the national police. They have many detectives who can help the young ladies.”
Ada Mae will have nothing to do with the police. “Father doesn’t like the police. He always tells us to stay away from them. He says they are worse than the hooligans.”
“Your father may be right. But if the ladies can forgive me, you need help.”
I make a decision. “We can worry about the police later. For now, please return us to the hotel.”
“As you wish Madame.”
Before we began our search that afternoon, I sent a telegraph to Mr. Brandies. I didn’t expect an answer for a day or two. I am surprised when the concierge hands me an envelope.
As much as I want to tear it open and read the response, I remind myself that the girls are having a very difficult time. They miss their father terribly. I know all too well how that feels and how it can drive one to despair.
“Girls let us retire to our rooms and refresh ourselves.” I ask the concierge, “Is the maid who helped us this morning still on the premises?”
“Yes, Madame, would you like me to send her to you?”
The maid comes to the suite and prepares the bed for the girls and brushes out their hair, while I read Mr. Brandies’ telegram. The response surprises me, both for the speed in which he answers and in the information it contains.
Western Union – June 5, 1894
Francis Patrick Dean is known in Boston as a criminal, a member of the Irish Mob. Stop.
Dean is suspected in several mob killings of Italian Mafia attempting to seize power in the Boston underworld.
A new Irish gang, the Winter Hill Irish Mob is growing in power in Boston.
Sources reveal that Francis Dean has been trying to distance himself from the gangs as he is raising two girls.
It is believed that he has fled the country as the result of two contracts on his life, one by his old gang, and the other by the Winter Hill Irish Mob.
Might I ask as to the nature of your inquiry?
I respond to Mr. Brandies with a plea that he arranges for a detective in Paris to assist me in a confidential matter of the greatest importance. I make no mention of Mr. Dean or the girls.
I end the telegram with, “Mr. Brandies this is a matter requiring the greatest discretion. Please forgive my reticence in providing any further details.”
Once the draft of my plea is completed, I place it away, out of sight, in my writing desk. I believe the girls to be asleep, but decide to check on them before I retire. Opening the door to their bedchamber, I hear muffled sounds. One of the girls is weeping and the other comforts her. Both have pulled the bedcovers over them. I’m surprised to recognize the two voices well enough to know that Ada Mae is crying, as Katie is tries to soothe her.
Not wanting to surprise or startle them, I knock on the doorframe and speak, “Girls, it is me Lura. May I come in?”
After a moment, I repeat my entreaty somewhat louder. This time there is a response from Katie. “Oh please do Miss Lura.” Away go the covers as the two sit up. Ada Mae is trying desperately to cover the fact that she has been crying.
I give her a moment to compose herself before sitting on the bed at her side. “How are you girls doing?”
Katie speaks. “We’re worried about our father. We haven’t seen him for two days. He’s never left us alone before. Do you think something happened to him?”
Showing more conviction than I feel, I say, “I’m sure that your father is alright and will be back tomorrow. In fact, we should go to the Louvre and wait near the Mona Lisa for him in the morning.” Both girls seemed relieved when I tell them this. They and I so much want to believe it to be true. In my heart, I fear that something terrible has happened to their father, especially now that I know he is an evil man. He may be evil, but I know he loves these girls.
“Then it is settled. Once we have breakfast, Claude shall take us to find your father.”
Both girls speak at once. “Thank you Miss Lura.”
“Now I shall read you a story if you promise to go right to sleep.”
For reasons I cannot explain, nor fully understand, I am reluctant to notify the authorities either here in France, or in Boston. My decision proves to be providential.
The next day I fear using the hotel staff to post the message risks notification of the Sûreté; I will wait until tomorrow and have Claude take me to the telegraph office.
When Claude arrives to take us to the Louvre, I order a detour and stop at the telegraph office. While he waits with the carriage, I take the girls with me into the office. This proves to be more difficult than I imagined, but fortunately, a woman in the telegraphic service of Paris and a small amount of cash enables me to overcome a demand for identification. I will not leave them alone until we find their father.
“Madame, in order to accept your telegraph, you must, in addition to the fee, provide us with your name and the name of the hotel at which you’re staying. Otherwise, we cannot accept your message.”
After several minutes, I feel a hand on my shoulder. Turning, Claude signals me to follow him. “Madame, if you wish to bypass the customary regulations, you must provide the woman with additional motivation.”
“What do you mean additional motivation?”
“Does Madame have perchance a twenty-franc note?”
“I do. Why do you ask?” Even as I say the words, I know what Claude is trying to tell me. “Thank you Claude.”
Returning to the window, the same woman says, “How may I you help Madame?”
Placing a twenty-franc note below the written message, I hand both to her.”
“Yes, Madame, I believe we have all we need to send your telegraph. I hope Madame has a pleasant morning.”
Returning with the girls to the carriage, I whisper, “Thank You.” Claude smiles as he helps us into the carriage.
We spend several hours on the bench near the Mona Lisa. Mr. Dean has been missing for three days. After a dreadful lunch, we return and remain until the museum closes. The girls are disheartened. I try to cheer them up. “May I suggest that we again detour to the Boulevard de la Madeleine? We could stop at the candy store, and get more of that wonderful French Chew.”
Even the promise of candy does nothing to bring the girls out of their sad malaise.
Entering our hotel, the concierge comes to me. “Madame, a gentleman is waiting in the lobby for you. He has been here for several hours.”
“Do you know who he is or what he wants?”
“No Madame. I asked him the same questions. He refused to tell me anything other than he will wait for your arrival.”
“Thank you. Will you give him a message for me?”
“But of course.”
“Please tell him I will join him in the lobby in thirty minutes.”
Thirty minutes later, the girls are ensconced in our room with the maid. She is telling them stories of life in Paris.
As I enter the lobby, a short dark man rises from one of the couches. Clean-shaven, he is shorter than me but with a look of strength about him. His clothes are fashionable but threadbare. He looks worn.
“Yes. What can I do for you?”
He looks around the room before speaking. We are the only two in the lobby. “Monsieur Brandies sent me. My name is Emil Benoit.”
“What are your instructions?”
“I’m to help you locate a gentleman and provide any further assistance you require.”
“How are you to be paid?”
“Monsieur Brandies made arrangements. I am well paid for my services.”
Mr. Benoit is one of those men that would go unnoticed in almost any situation. This works well for him and for my needs.
“What do you know of the man that you’re to find.”
I spend the next twenty minutes telling Mr. Benoit everything I know about Francis Dean, with one exception, I don’t tell him I have the girls. In fact, the only thing I mention is that Mr. Dean was travelling with two young girls, his daughters.
“This is a great deal of information. It would be much more useful if we knew how and when he arrived, and which hotel he used.”
I had not thought to ask the girls about their travel arrangements. I wasn’t about to risk their safety by telling Mr. Benoit to wait while I went to the rooms and asked. “I may be able to obtain some information regarding Mr. Dean’s method of transportation tomorrow. How can I get in contact with you?”
Handing me a card, he says, “You may leave a message for me at this location.” The card has an address listed no name. Because Mr. Brandies sent the man, I do not question his abilities.
“When shall I hear from you Mr. Benoit?”
“Unless an emergency arises, I shall present myself to you here tomorrow at two in the afternoon. Does that meet with Madame’s satisfaction?”
“It does. I shall see you then.”
Returning to my suite, I see that the maid has ordered dinner for the girls and me. There is more than we can possibly eat. I ask her to join us. She is embarrassed, “But no Madame. It is not allowed, nor is it proper.” The girls will have none of her excuses and drag her to the table. She is pleasant company and regales us with even more tales of life in Paris.
The girls and I remain in my suite for most of the morning. After a leisurely late breakfast, we are all tired of being confined to the room. Even though they are still worried about their father, the girls are full of energy. “Miss Lura, we must go outside or surely we shall explode.”
“I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a young lady explode. Maybe I should keep you two inside so I can witness this most wondrous event.” The girls fill the room with gales of laughter.
I’m loath to walk about the streets of Paris unaccompanied. I cannot get the memory of the two men who accosted me at the Louvre out of my mind. Clasping Mother’s pendant, I agree to a walk with one requirement. “I will send for Claude. If he can accompany us, then we shall walk.”
I ring for the concierge who sends a messenger to Cook Travel Agency. The Agency is more than happy to send an otherwise unoccupied driver to accompany us.
“I’m a carriage driver, not a walker of ladies, and most assuredly not a body guard,” Claude protests in his usual gruff persona. By now, both the girls and I know he is a gentle bear who only grows. Bowing in an exaggerated style, Claude asks the girls, “And where would the Madams’ care to walk on this lovely day for a carriage ride.”
Laughing, both hug him and say “the candy store.” Shaking them playfully, he reminds them that it is much too far away for walking. “I will find you another candy store where Madame shall purchase enough French Chew for all of us.”
“Miss Lura, do you think we will find father today?”
I look at Ada Mae with wonder in my heart. How these two children can endure this pain is beyond me. I have to squeeze my eyes, and take a deep breath before my fear of crying is conquered. “I hope so child. When we return this afternoon, let us pray that the detective has good news for us. But now, let us enjoy this beautiful day.”
We walk for about an hour before we find a candy store that meets Claude’s requirements. Had the girls been in charge, we would have stopped at one of four or five we passed along the way. At each of those, Claude refused the girls admittance, saying, “This imposter of a candy store is no place for ladies such as you.” They could not convince him otherwise.
When we approached this candy store, the girls look at him with the question in their eyes, “Well Monsieur Claude is this store good enough for you?”
“Follow me Madame’s, for we have finally found a store worthy of your attention.”
The girls insist on eating some of the French Chew as we walk back to the hotel. I find their behavior beyond disreputable. They and Claude enjoy my discomfort. I can stand no more. Turning to the girls who are following me, I say, “Oh, alright, we’re in Paris and no one here knows me. Ada Mae, give me a small, very small, piece of that wonderful candy.”
Bending over, I take not a small piece, but a large piece of the French Chew from her. Standing I look back down the walk. I almost gasp aloud as I see the two men from the Louvre. They’re not more than a hundred feet behind us. When I look up, they turn and walk into a shop.
“I know Madame. You and the girls walk in front of me. We shall go directly to the hotel.”
“What is it Miss Lura,” Katie asks, “Is something wrong?”
“No darling. We need to return to the hotel so I can meet with a gentleman.”
“Do you mean the detective?”
I’ve forgotten how bright these girls are. “Yes. Now let us get on about our business. We have no time to dillydally.”
As we near the hotel, Claude motions for me to go ahead with the girls. “I’ll have a word with the gentlemen.”
Reaching the hotel, I hurry the girls along to our suite. I no longer refer to it as my suite, but ours. The girls have become part of my life, just how big a part will be a surprise.
It is only minutes after I close and lock the door that there is a knock at the door.
“Who is it?”
I hurry to the door and admit him. “What happened? What did you say to those men?”
“It is strange Madame. I stopped and leaned against a wall. It was my intention to wait until the men approach and then to question them. I meant to dissuade them from following you again.”
“What was strange?”
“After I waited what I believed to be ample time for them to approach, I looked for them. A man I’ve not seen before was pushing them back the way they came. He may have struck them.”
“Why do you say that?”
“The two were bent over with their arms raised to cover, possibly protect their heads. I thought to follow but then they turned a corner. When I got to the corner, they were no longer in sight. Very strange.”
“What did the man look like?”
“He was wearing one of the popular hats. I believe you call it a bowler.”
“Claude, was he wearing a dark top coat?”
“Yes Madame, he was. That too struck me as odd. It is very warm today. Why would he have on such a coat?”
I don’t tell Claude but I know who the man is. He is the stranger from the ship and the Louvre. Whatever does this man want? And why does he keep coming to my rescue?