Chapter One: Rumors Swirl in Paris
When the official confirmation of the death of Justice, Marquis de Orleans, finally made its way to Paris, it was too late to quell the rumors that he had actually escaped death once again. Still, the basic features of the story seemed to confirm what rumor had been saying for months: that, rather than returning to Paris after somehow eluding the minders whom the King had appointed to make his “retirement” to island life comfortable, he had gone onto the mainland of the New World; that, while there, he was betrayed by a man of God; and that he died proclaiming his continued loyalty to the regime to-come.
But the official news did not resolve certain basic questions: how he had gotten off the island at all, who this man of God was (there were many obvious candidates); and, more importantly, why Just had not immediately returned to Paris, where his return would have been greeted with joy. Indeed, people grumbled, it could very well have forced the King to capitulate to many of Just’s demands, if it did not simply lead to outright revolution. Some insisted that he had gone in search of the Fountain of Youth, to bring word of it back to Paris, to give lie to the myth that there was not enough for all. Others said that he had gone in search of a new homeland for his followers. (Rumor tends to be optimistic: but many cynics who heard these fantastical claims shook their head and noted that he too had forsaken the people of France). Given all these inconsistencies and unresolved questions and, given the superhuman powers that many of the people ascribed to the Marquis, more than a few people refused to believe, absent a corpse, that he had really died.
Still, absent a corpse, his friends mourned his death. He was, of course mourned most visibly and vocally by Heloise Beaujeu and Abelard Sarrasine. Whatever tears they shed in private, in public they predictably insisted that the only proper way to mourn the Marquis was to continue to further the cause of the regime to-come. Still, others found other ways to mourn his loss. For example, the day after learning of his death, Juliette Fulbert acquiesced to her uncle, the most respected Cure Fulbert, agreeing to answer the call of God and join a convent, as he had long urged. But once she was safely wrapped in the walls of the convent, she shirked her work, and refused to leave her cell. The sisters, who had known her since she was a child went to console her. But she needed no consoling. She did not weep, nor was she unkind to the sisters. She listened to their entreaties and questions sympathetically, and, in her private language, communicated her contentment. Even if she could have spoken, what more could she have said? What could she have said that would erase her debt to the uncle who had always been like a father to her? And what words could she really have spoken that would have reconciled the Cure to the Marquis?