Hostage to the Revolution


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Sequel to Escape the Revolution. In 1796, ruined countess Bettina Jonquiere leaves England after the reported drowning of her lover, Everett. In New Orleans she struggles to establish a new life for her children. Soon a ruthless Frenchman demands the money stolen by her father at the start of the French Revolution. Bettina is forced on a dangerous mission to France to recover the funds. She unravels dark family secrets, but will she find the man she lost as well?



Publié par
Date de parution 01 juin 2015
Nombre de lectures 1
EAN13 9781773622262
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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Hostage to the Revolution
The sequel to Escape the Revolution
By Diane Scott Lewis

Digital ISBNs
EPUB 978-1-77362-226-2
Kindle 978-1-77362-227-9
WEB 978-1-77362-228-6
Print ISBN 978-1-77362-230-9
Amazon Print ISBN 978-1-77362-229-3

Copyright 2015 by Diane Scott Lewis
Cover art by Michelle Lee

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above,
no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a
retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written
permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.

Dedicated to Alleyne Dickens, writer friend and critique partner, who helped
me through this novel in its early version. And author Ginger Simpson, who was
kind enough
to be my Beta Reader for the first version.Chapter One

Bettina swiped aside salty hair tendrils and stared over the ship’s rail at the sea so
long empty. A knob of land jutted up through the morning mist gathered over the choppy
gray sea they sailed through. A bird squawked overhead and her spirits lifted. Firm
earth awaited on the horizon.
Genevre wriggled in her arms. Bettina grinned at her daughter and squeezed her
close. “Have we made the right decision, ma petite? Will we like this America? Will we
find what we need?” The baby poked her finger onto Bettina’s lips. She kissed her
sweet skin.
The June air blew warm and rustled her straw hat. The voyage had taken two
endless months—so distant from Cornwall. Storms had tossed their vessel like a
discarded leaf.
Sailors shouted from the rigging, their cursing and noise a common background to
her now. The man in the green coat glared at her from near the mainmast. He’d also
boarded in Plymouth, and Bettina’s flesh prickled each time he came close, his scrutiny
unnerving. Had he followed her from England?
Frederick jostled up beside her with Christian in tow.
“That’s Long Island Sound.” Frederick pointed to another body of water as he
leaned on the rail. “We’ll be traveling up the East River to the New York Harbor…
according to the mate I spoke to.” His blondish-brown curls waved in the wind. Everett’s
nephew had grown tall for fourteen and his sun-browned cheeks suited him.
“I’m relieved to know there is land at this end of the world.” Oleba walked up and
took Genevre. The maid brushed the one-year-old’s silky blonde hair from her plump
cheeks, her voice light and teasing. “For awhile I had serious doubts, but we’ve made
Bettina glanced again at the scowling stranger and then forced a smile at the Negro
woman —as if he didn’t matter. “I could never have managed this journey without you.”
“Maman, Papa’s in America?” Christian stared up with large brown eyes so like her
Bettina’s breath hitched. She reached out and clasped her son’s hand. “No,
no, I told you, we are here to search for your grand-mère.” At almost four, the
boy stood tall and lean like her lover. Everett. She clenched her other hand on
the rail until her knuckles blanched white.
A turbulence of seagulls swept over them, their calls sharp and mournful. The city of
New York and a busy harbor loomed closer.
“All women passengers with children return below until we dock,” an officer barked.Bettina balanced on the heaving planks and guided her son down the steep ladder
to their cabin. The smell of mildew wrinkled her nose. “I am so relieved this voyage is
The added danger of the harassing French warships as they sailed away from
England made for a jarring trip. The war had snatched so much from her, and it still
raged on. The rebels couldn’t have sent Greencoat after her. She’d told them everything
she knew.
“No more seasickness, little one.” Oleba tickled Genevre under the arm and raised
a smile. The rough crossing and stink of bilge water had sent them all scurrying to vomit
their stomach contents into buckets the first weeks.
“And enough of that salted beef and oatmeal porridge.” Frederick pretended to gag
until Christian laughed. “I’d like to eat some good roast beef.”
“Let us hope the Americans will welcome us.” Bettina pulled out a small mirror from
her belongings and checked her hair. Her black tresses were crisp with the salt she’d
never washed out since a week away from Plymouth. Adjusting her hat, she tightened
the blue ribbon beneath her chin. She straightened her children’s rumpled clothes, their
garments crackling with salt, and waited.
An hour passed; the wooden hulk settled. When word was given, they gathered
their few belongings and left the cabin to go above, shuffling in a line of people to
The docks swarmed with porters and carts. Numerous ships were being loaded and
unloaded amidst a confused jumble of wooden sheds and crowded wharves that
projected like splayed fingers in every direction. The moist air held the smell of smoke
and fish.
“It is warmer here than in England. The air is so heavy.” Sweat dappled her brow as
Bettina led her brood down the gangplank. “Stay together everyone.”
A man checked the passengers’ passports. When he hesitated on Bettina’s, she
swallowed hard. Her passport was fake, forged in Cornwall for her, a stowaway into their
He waved her on and she clutched the document to her chest and sighed.
“Frederick, help me look for our trunks.” She kept a tight hand on Christian while
Genevre squirmed and complained in Oleba’s arms. Greencoat seemed to have
disappeared into the crowd. Perhaps she’d been mistaken about his interest.
Impatient merchants and travelers jostled them. Sailors yelled orders and bells
clanged. Baggage and cargo were dropped in a pile on the quay. The activity reminded
Bettina of London, the Thames waterfront near the Camborne shipping office. She
stiffened and forced her mind to her mission in America, locating her mother.“At last on land that doesn’t move,” Oleba said, rocking Genevre.
Bettina felt she still swayed as she looked around the area where rough wooden
houses fronted a road littered with garbage. A few stone and brick buildings and church
spires were visible beyond.
Frederick jumped aside as a hogshead almost smashed his toes. “Maddie wouldn’t
care for anyone’s manners around here.”
Bettina shook off more sadness, recalling the two women who became like family.
Maddie and her sister Kerra, dear friends they’d left behind in Cornwall. But she must
put the past behind her. Standing on this foreign shore, she prayed she hadn’t made a
huge mistake in leaving England.
A man in an apron rolled a hogshead smelling of molasses past them. More
hogsheads were stacked on the pier, their surfaces marked for ‘molasses’ or
Frantic moments were spent locating their belongings. Then Bettina, after a
few rude brush-offs, was directed to the harbormaster. She bustled up to him,
shoulders squared to hide her anxiety. She swore she’d glimpsed a flash of
green off to her left. “Monsieur, how do we travel to New Orleans in Louisiana,
“Have to catch another ship, Ma’am, and hope the Spanish don’t close the port like
they been threatening to do lately.” The ruddy-faced man raised a brow at her and spit
on the planks.
Bettina lifted her skirt and side-stepped the splatter of tobacco juice. She raised an
annoyed gaze to him. “Is it not possible to take a coach? Is it far from here?” She
dreaded another hectic sea voyage.
“Pretty far, yes, Ma’am. The roads between here and the south aren’t good. Don’t
even know if there is a road all the way through. Where’s your husband? Women
oughtn’t to be traveling such distances alone, it’s dangerous.”
“She’s not alone. I’m with her.” Frederick stepped up, head held high. He’d insisted
on joining her on this journey and she was glad to have him, though he was still a child.
Bettina fingered her unblessed ring. “Will you find us another ship, please,
“I’ll check on it for you.” The man glared over at Oleba. “I hope you aren’t harboring
a runaway slave.”
“I’m a freed slave, sir. I have my papers.” Oleba’s mellow voice belied her defiantly
raised chin. Her slender form stood as straight as a willow switch.
Bettina put a hand on her arm. She hadn’t imagined this particular problem bringing
Oleba back home to America. “She was born of slaves, but she traveled to England withher owner and he has freed her. She works as nanny to my children now.”
The man tipped his hat and walked off.
“Mon Dieu. We women manage on our own, do we not?” Bettina bristled. She’d
heard similar warnings about lone women on the voyage from Plymouth and had
suffered enough. Still, men such as Greencoat made her wish for an adult male in their
entourage. No decent woman travels alone, she recalled from her first few weeks in
England, fleeing the revolution in France, before she’d ridden to Cornwall, before she’d
met Everett Camborne.

* * *

Bettina stared around the cramped, canvas-draped, makeshift cabin, the only
accommodation left on the two-masted brigantine. Not even a porthole to spy out after
they boarded to see if anyone followed. On this second day under sail, she regretted
forcing her children to endure such hardships. Cornwall, however, held too many
sorrows for her.
Genevre whined on the crude pallet where Oleba cuddled her and started to
tell a story.
Bettina pushed aside the door flap, anxious for fresh air. Frederick and Christian
stood in the far corner on the gloomy orlop deck, watching a sailor whittle a ship.
“I’ll be on the topside,” she told the boys before she climbed the ladder. She
stepped out on deck. The wind soothed her cheeks and swept away the stink of body
odor. Yet she worried over leaving her family unprotected below. She’d only stay a short
At the heaving rail, Bettina studied the land as they skirted the coastline going
south. America was a drier looking country with widely separated wooden towns. Not
like the cool, lush greenness of England, with her quaint stone cottages and ancient
cathedrals. This was a primeval land—wilder and bolder. She leaned over the rail,
watching the choppy waves slap the ship’s hull. Overhead, the flapping sails rippled
against the wind. She took a deep breath, the air refreshing in her lungs.
A barefoot sailor jumped down from the rigging, doffed his hat to her and muttered
something she didn’t catch. Her pulse trembled. She had to stop behaving so skittish.
Though almost being murdered would make anyone tense.
A short, stocky woman joined her at the rail.
“Ignore him.” The woman gave the sailor a dismissive wave. “They don’t need much
encouragement, but wouldn’t dare harass a paying passenger.” She turned to Bettina.
“Are you sailing to New Orleans or Charleston?” She had an odd twang to her speech,
with an underlying trace of French.“I’m travelling to New Orleans.”
“That’s where I’m bound to…finally. My name is Charlotte Beaumont.”
Bettina’s new acquaintance didn’t look much older than her own twenty-four years.
“I am Bettina Camborne.” She had to perpetuate the lie, using Everett’s last name,
though they hadn’t been able to marry due to his ‘missing’ wife.
“Do you live in New Orleans?” Charlotte pushed back her auburn hair that framed a
wide face, her pug nose sprinkled with freckles. She turned and propped her back
against the rail. “No, you look recently off the boat from Europe.”
“Yes, it is my first time.” Bettina smoothed down her traveling dress, pondering what
in her aspect betrayed her as a foreigner. Yet the woman’s tone wasn’t spiteful. “My
mother, she lives there.” At least she hoped Madame Jonquiere still resided in New
Orleans. Her cousin had told her in Portsmouth that her mother had escaped from
France and traveled with other émigrés to Louisiana.
“I live across the river from New Orleans. In Mahieu. It’s much smaller but nicer. My
great-grandfather founded the town back when Louisiana belonged to France.”
Charlotte uttered the last with a wistful air. “By the accent, you’re French, aren’t you?
We are still predominantly French in Louisiana. The Spanish keep a few solders there,
a few officials…but they’re extremely resented.”
Bettina widened her eyes. She’d read some of the history of this strange colony she
traveled to. “Do these officials treat the French kindly?”
“They have no choice since we outnumber them.”
A cabin boy ran by chasing a goat. He yelled for the creature to stop.
“Louis XV gave the territory to Spain, over thirty years ago, did he not?” Bettina
steadied herself on the moving deck. A fishing boat bobbed past on the undulating
“The lazy king abandoned his people, because France could no longer afford us, or
protect us from England, whom they were at war with.” Charlotte poked her elbows
behind her on the rail, her mouth in a grimace. “And are at war again, if you can believe
“If there is still so much hostility, I may not want to settle there.” Bettina lamented
once more her insistence on undertaking this voyage.
“No, we need to stay strong and resist the Spanish. My grandparents told me all the
stories. One of my ancestors fought the transfer to Spain in the name of the French
colonists, and was executed for it. My family has been in Louisiana for over seventy-five
years.” Her smile broadened her cheeks. “How long has your mother lived there?”
“A very brief time. I have been in England these last few years.” Bettina noticed two
sailors whispered near the mainmast, casting looks in their direction. Her skin prickled.“Spain is tired of our little colony,” Charlotte continued. “They even offered us back
to France last year, but the Directors in Paris said the price was too high.”
“The Directors are too busy with anarchy in their own country…my country.” Bettina
sighed. She had no country. An exile from France, she wasn’t an English citizen either.
Charlotte turned to face seaward and gave a slight nod toward the men. “Our friends
there are contemplating why two luscious belles such as you and I are traveling with no
male escorts.”
Bettina stifled a grin. She watched other passengers mill about, not one with the
menacing countenance of Greencoat. She tried to relax her hunched shoulders. “Are
you traveling all alone?”
“I didn’t start out that way.” Charlotte studied her. “You’ve lived in England you said.
Do you side with the British or French in this current conflict?”
“I don’t side with anyone. I loathe wars.” Bettina flushed hot inside. She’d grown up
nurtured on French soil, a countess in a land where titles were now outlawed. Her
loyalties remained torn. France had attacked and sunk her lover’s merchant ship—
Everett was presumed drowned—she should side with England. She stiffened her
stomach muscles. “Why are you unaccompanied?”
“My aunt fell ill on our New York visit, so my cousin stayed to take care of her. But I
was anxious to get home to my husband and children. I see you have three children
with you, but the older boy couldn’t be yours? Where is your husband?” Charlotte’s
manner was so easy, her inquisitiveness didn’t seem threatening. Still, a woman could
be a revolutionary the same as a man.
“I am a widow.” Bettina hated to use the word. It fostered a bitter taste, tinged with
the lie. But masquerading as a widow kept her more respectable on her journey. “The
older boy, he is my husband’s nephew, he lives with me now.”
“You’re so young to be a widow, my sympathies.” Her eyes softened with kindness.
Bettina turned away for a moment. She clung to the hope that Everett wasn’t really
gone, that somehow he’d survived. After a slow breath, she fixed a smile on her face.
“You say you have a husband and children, Madame Beaumont?”
“Charlotte, please. Yes, three children, two girls and a boy. My husband works for
the Commissary of Police, or as the Spanish have to call it, the Alcalde de Barrio, and I
own a pastry shop.”
“A policeman husband? And a pastry shop, oui? I too plan to run a business. In
New Orleans, perhaps, after I find my mother.” Bettina surveyed more people around
them. No one acted interested in her. “I have not seen her for a few years.” Six years to
be exact.
“Oh, as long as that, a pity. What’s your mother’s name?”“Her name…is Madame Laurant.” Bettina used the alias she herself hid behind in
England. Charlotte had approached her and asked a lot of questions. Bettina must
remain circumspect, though using the Camborne name could direct someone
undesirable toward her.
“Unfamiliar, but I don’t keep up with many people in New Orleans. If I can ever do
anything for you while you’re there, please come to visit.” Charlotte then chatted about
her family and the area. “Of course, the Spanish are causing problems again, according
to my husband’s last letter. There is a treaty giving the Americans the right to use the
Mississippi port, yet with Spanish resistance I hope we can get into the harbor.”
“I don’t know if you are worse off controlled by Spain. The French rebels are evil
people, destroying the old regime and now each other.” Bettina’s words snapped out,
but Charlotte’s expression showed only compassion.
Bettina scratched her fingernail along the rail, her life in constant turmoil for one
reason or another. Her father’s death, the revolution, her guardian forcing her onto the
ship to England under false pretences. She swayed as the vessel heaved. Another ship
sailing toward a precarious future.

* * *

Swatches of land spread across the steamy water. Their vessel had rounded the tip
of Florida, entered the Gulf of Mexico, and now sailed through a myriad of glistening
Bettina plucked at her bodice. Her clothes clung to her in an air thick with
moisture that wrung out her energy.
“At last! Over there is Lake Borgne, and beyond that is Lake Pontchartrain.”
Charlotte pointed over in the distance where a shoreline came into view. “I hope I never
leave again.”
“We are close, grâce à Dieu! I hope I’ll want to stay.” Bettina strained to feel like an
explorer on an intriguing journey. A wilderness of jungle vegetation skimmed by them,
with the sweet smell of decay. A colorful variety of birds flapped through the sky.
Frederick ran up to the rail. “That looks more like a bay than a lake.” He turned and
bounced across the deck and back again, brandishing a pointed stick to where Oleba
held Genevre a few feet away. “Avast, Mateys. If I had a cutlass I would slay any pirates
who attempted to raid our ship and kidnap the fair Genny to make her their pirate
“No!” The little girl reached out and batted his upturned nose.
“Frederick, why are you so fascinated with sharp objects?” Bettina asked with alaugh. She walked over and kissed her daughter’s cheek. She caressed the top of her
son’s head as he followed on her other side, his little face earnest at the sights.
The ship tacked to starboard and navigated the Mississippi River delta. Silt and
sand clogged the area. Reed filled marshes sat in a miasma of sweltering heat. Several
rivers seemed to spill out here, and they sailed up a wide tributary brown with mud.
Shifting lumps of sand almost impeded their progress. The Spanish soldiers on the
banks, rifles shouldered, watching their every move, disturbed Bettina.
“Is Papa here?” Christian asked, his expression hopeful.
“No, mon fils. He is not here. Not yet.” Bettina smiled at her boy, her throat tight.
She refused to tell her children they might never see their father again. The last article
she’d read in the Plymouth newspaper had admitted the Admiralty made mistakes in
investigating attacked vessels. Then she’d deserted Everett’s homeland. She fought
back tears. Her children’s welfare had to remain upmost in her concerns from now on.
Charlotte hurried up beside her. “We have a few more days up the river. I hope you
have your passport in order. Be careful, the officials here don’t like the English. Also,
the Spanish are suspicious of the French since the revolution. They fear the same
revolution in Louisiana.”
Bettina squeezed her son’s hand, which was clammy with sweat. In these past
weeks of travel, she’d come to trust Charlotte a little more. “I think we will manage all
right, merci.”
Everywhere she went, she seemed to come under suspicion. In England, under the
Alien Act, she’d more than once eluded arrest. The English too feared revolution
spreading across the channel. What of the men who’d pursued her, insisting she
possessed money her father stole from them to stop the anarchy? The catalyst for her
papa’s murder.
Bile rose up, burning her throat. The rebels didn’t know she’d spent the money; they
could still pursue her. She clutched her inside pocket, where her documents were
hidden, and had to believe no one followed her to Louisiana.

Chapter Two

Bettina licked her cracked lips and stood on tiptoe against the rail. After four sultry
days of river navigation they’d arrived at the city on the crescent.
“New Orleans, voila.” Charlotte swept up her hands as if she conducted an
orchestra. “You should have seen it before the fires. Now, unfortunately, it’s rebuilt in
the Spanish style. Several years ago, a huge blaze destroyed most of what the French
built. Two years past, hurricanes and another fire did more damage.”
“After so much destruction, it still does not look so terrible.” Bettina scrutinized the
unique frontier city. She’d expected a rudimentary outpost and wooden shacks. New
Orleans simmered in the August heat, a bright collection of light-hued stucco and
plaster buildings, roofed with curved red or flat green tiles.
“A French architect designed it, so a little French colonial peeks through. A tragedy
though, in the heart of town only the convent was left unscarred.”
“Look out for pirates.” Frederick hoisted up Christian to lean over the rail. “We’ll slay
the buccaneers and Indians, won’t we, cousin?”
“At least it’s a large city. I thought we’d end up in a swamp,” Oleba said, perspiration
glistening on her dark forehead. Genevre pouted in her arms, her bright blue eyes
“The area is still a swamp.” Charlotte laughed. “The buildings can’t have cellars, or
be built too high. They would sink right into the marsh. The Carondelet Canal, built two
years ago, connects the back of the city along the river levee with Lake Pontchartrain.
This has opened the city to more commerce, especially sugar. Cane’s a big crop now.
See the levee there?” She pointed over the rail. “That keeps the river from flooding the
Once again on solid land, Charlotte gave them the name of an inexpensive lodging
house and her address in Mahieu. Then she hurried off to catch a ferry across the river.
Other ferries, barges and flatboats crowded the muddy water.
“Like last time, I feel I’m still standing on the ship. The ground’s still wobbling.”
Frederick staggered for Christian and Genevre’s amusement. “I can’t get rid of my sea
“This heat I did not expect.” Bettina swallowed down her thirst and tugged at her
damp bodice, chafing under her arms. The air felt so thick she could have scooped it
with a spoon. She stared around at the hustling people; many were Negros like Oleba.
The atmosphere did seem primitive and she hugged her children close.
An official checked everyone’s documents. The swarthy-faced man glared at
Bettina, his dirty fingers rubbing the pages of her passport. “You are English?”She stepped back, her breath sharp. “I’m the…widow of an Englishman. I am from
France originally.” The admission slipped out, despite Charlotte’s warning. Bettina tried
to snatch back her passport, irritated by his scrutiny.
“French, English, bah, why do you come here?” He waved the document in her
“I come to work, monsieur. To settle here with my family. May I pass, please?” She
reached out her hand, forcing a smile to hide her jumping pulse.
“We are respectable women, sir. With small children to care for.” Oleba cast down
her eyes as she nudged up beside Bettina with her documents.
“Are you a free woman of color?” He ruffled through Oleba’s papers, glared her up
and down as she nodded. He shoved back their documents and waved them on.
Bettina slipped the passport back into her inside pocket, grasped the two boys’
shoulders and rushed them along. She released her pent up breath and pictured a nice
long soak in a refreshing bath. If she never saw another ship or custom’s official, she
would be relieved.
She instructed Frederick to hire porters to carry their trunks.
Their group walked through the bustling port. Sailors, slaves, and all sorts of men
pulled carts, dragged ropes, loaded and unloaded boats. The heavy stink of the
swamps and people’s perspiration filled the air. French voices, many in strange
accents, flowed from the men they passed.
They followed the hired porters with their belongings into the vibrant looking city.
The inn, a modest yellow stucco building not far from the waterfront, was more a
private guest house. No baths were available, but Bettina was given a pitcher of water
and splashed herself and the children in their small room. When she removed
Genevre’s dress, she saw the baby had a rash under her arms. “I need Maddie’s herb
creams now. I pray this is a heat wave, and it’s not so humid every day.”
She and Oleba managed to settle the children down in a bed with clammy sheets.
Frederick insisted on exploring the area, and promised to bring back food. Hoping for a
breeze, Bettina threw open the windows. Shouting from the port, music from somewhere
reached her ears. She stared down at the busy street and sighed. “Tomorrow, I’ll search
for my mother.”
The sun set, though the air remained sultry, and Bettina sagged with exhaustion.
She could barely eat the spicy sausage Frederick had brought back. All she wanted
was to slide into bed and sleep. She removed her moist dress, petticoats and stockings.
Then she rubbed her feet as she sat in her sticky linen shift.
A buzzing noise started low, then louder. Insects trickled through the open window,
pinging off the walls, biting at Bettina’s skin.“Mon Dieu!” She slapped and hopped around. Genevre whimpered and flung her
arms about.
“Maman, it stings!” Christian cried, smacking his arms and legs.
Oleba ran around swatting at the tenacious insects. Frederick slammed the
windows shut.
Bettina jerked on her clothes and ran downstairs to the concierge. “What can we
do? These insects, they are eating us alive.”
The innkeeper merely chuckled. “Sorry, I didn’t know you’d never been in the
swamps before. Was there no nets near your beds a-hanging? I’ll fetch some. They’re
called baires and you got to drape ’em ’round your bed at night or the insects will chew
you raw.”
Bettina snatched the nets and hurried back to her family. What a strange land to
have to sleep under gauzy barriers. The baires swathed around them, she hugged her
whimpering children, disappointed with this introduction to New Orleans.

* * *

Bettina urged her party along the high brick sidewalks, or banquettes. With the
morning sun, the oppressive heat returned. Bettina’s thick hair was tied up, her straw
hat shielding her face; she intended to explore the city. Contrary to Charlotte, she
admired the Spanish buildings with their ornate, wrought iron balconies overlooking the
streets. The houses in pale shades of blue, green, and yellow were built flush with the
banquettes. Small bricked or flagstone courtyards could be glimpsed tucked behind iron
gates. Mature live oaks shaded lacy patterns over benches, and blooming flowers grew
in large Spanish urns. The cloying perfume of tropical foliage sweetened the air.
Bettina grinned at this still French city, surrounded by French signs and French
“Be careful where you step.” Oleba rebalanced herself, her foot nearly slipping on
the loose bricks that constituted the walkways. “This soggy ground is like a sponge.”
She carried Genevre and kept swiping the little girl’s hands away from scratching at her
bug bites.
Bettina winced in an effort not to scratch her own. Frederick ran ahead with
Christian, skipping over the muck. The boys dodged a two-man chaise that rambled by.
Two Negro men in shiny black frock coats tipped their hats to Oleba.
“There are a lot of people here the same as Miss Oleba,” Frederick said, rushing
back with a smirk. “She won’t stand out like she did in Sidwell.”
Oleba laughed, shifting Genevre from one hip to the other. “I’ll try to blend in,Frederick.”
They walked through the Plaza de Armas, a large, grassy expanse where the red
and yellow flag of Spain flapped in the river’s breeze. The Saint Louis Cathedral, with
her bell-topped hexagonal towers on each side, faced this square. As did the
magnificent capitol house, called the Cabildo, with its arched façade.
Bettina glanced at the church. Here her Catholic faith would once again be
dominant. She felt the pang of her past, a need to introduce her children to the religion
she’d grown up in with her parents. A calmness, and a basis of security, was what they
all needed.
They wound around barouches and phaetons to the area called the French
The boys pointed at chattering monkeys perched on men’s shoulders. Scarlet and
emerald colored parrots screeched when they neared—the colors so vivid they sparked
in the air. Crouched in cages, small alligators slithered with sleepy eyes and menacing
“Look at this, Christian.” Frederick bent down and poked a finger close to the bars.
“Step away from there, boys,” Bettina scolded.
Various skinned animals and birds hung from hooks in the stalls. Other stalls burst
with lush, unusual produce. Spicy, pungent aromas swirled around them, along with the
strange patois French spoken by the local people.
Negro women in bright cotton dresses talked among themselves in melodious
voices. They enticed whoever passed with promises of the best, the biggest and the
cheapest wares to be found.
“Buy from me, you won’t be disappointed.” One woman in a yellow turban thrust out
a tray filled with sugary mounds of confection. “My praline is the finest in New Orleans.”
Bettina sampled the treat and savored the sweet flavor. To the children’s delight
she bought them each a piece. “Such an exotic place this is,” she said, taking it all in as
they munched their sweets. Her doubts about starting a new life here faded.
“Smell that cooking.” Oleba tipped her head back and sniffed. “They must use every
spice known to nature. I would think it might burn off your tongue. Not like our bland
English fare.” She tried to wipe Genevre’s sticky chin in the middle of her protests as
they strolled by a stall with red mounds of cayenne pepper.
They passed a man with a green and yellow blanket over his shoulders, stacks of
similar wares at his feet. His head sported several feathers and his face a disdainful
expression that never wavered.
“There’s those Indians Charlie warned you about,” Frederick whispered when they
went by. “Maybe his tomahawks are beneath the blanket. Hold on to your hair.” Hepulled on the top of Christian’s hair until the child laughed and scampered away.
Drained from the heat, Bettina dropped onto a bench. She peeled her damp dress
from her knees.
“Let us return to the room to rest. Then while the children nap, you and Frederick
can wash laundry, if you don’t mind.” She was ashamed to turn her nanny into a
laundress, but they were desperate. “I must find a way to locate my mother.”

* * *

Bettina passed a group of Negro men who played music in the street. One blew a
doleful tune on a trumpet, another played a fife. She’d never seen so many dark faces,
which added to the exotic aspect of the city.
About to faint from the heat, she ducked under a sloping slate roof for relief from the
unrelenting sun. Well past midday, she sagged with failure. Her feet ached and sweat
drenched her clothing. Three days she’d spent searching, but the heat kept her efforts
low and sluggish. Unlike her caution with Charlotte, she’d had to bandy the Jonquiere
name about the city. Yet what if her mother lived under an alias, like Bettina did when
sent to England?
“How do you find someone in New Orleans if you have no idea where they might
be?” she asked the cafe owner who sold her a glass of lemonade. She sipped the tart
beverage, which felt cool on her throat. She pressed the glass to her forehead. “There is
no listing for her anywhere. No one has heard of her. Maybe she no longer lives in the
city.” She set down the glass and rubbed the coolness into her cheeks. Had she made
this journey for nothing?
After consulting with a few other people there, the owner walked back to her table.
“It may not help, but there’s an old woman two blocks down who brags of knowing
everyone in the city. She makes it her affair to…to be in other people’s affairs. Her
name is Madame Ray. Be warned, she isn’t famous for her benevolence at times.”
Bettina thanked him and walked the two blocks. She knocked on the door of the
address he’d given her, a pale pink building with wide arched windows. Pots of fragrant
rosemary sat on an outer windowsill. Banana leaves peeked over a wicket gate. A
servant girl opened the door and showed her to a parlor where heavy shutters blocked
out the sun. A large woman wearing a lace cap appeared to be dozing in a chair. The
servant disappeared without announcing her arrival.
A Negro child waved a fan over the woman, barely stirring the fetid air.
Bettina moved toward the chair. “Excuse me, please, are you Madame Ray?”
The woman glared up with flinty gray eyes with deep pouches beneath. “I don’t
receive visitors on Wednesdays, that idiot maid knows that. Ma foi.” Her words wereclipped, and in a thick French accent.
“I am sorry to disturb you.” Bettina explained quickly her reason for coming.
“I’ll have to fire the incompetent girl. A grand-daughter of my housekeeper, though
stupid nonetheless. I’d hire another Negro, but they put glass in your food when you
aren’t looking.” She slapped the fan aside, and the child scurried from the room. “Oh, all
right, what is your mother’s name?” she asked in French, her wrinkled neck wobbling.
She wriggled in the chair like a fat oyster in its shell.
“She is called Volet Jonquiere.” Bettina quickly described her mother, or what she’d
looked like the last time she’d seen her, certain this was one of the old woman’s unkind
Madame Ray’s eyes narrowed to slits above her cheeks. She pulled over a lone
candle to better see her visitor. “This suffocating climate forces me to exist in the dark.
Most sensible people don’t spend summer in the city. Jonquiere? Yes, I do know of
your mother.”
“You do?” Bettina’s heart leapt; she stepped forward. “Where does she—?”
“I have heard she is a beautiful woman, with lofty airs.” Madame continued to speak
in French as she shifted in her outdated cream robe à la française. The tight bodice
strained over a stomacher, pleats falling from her shoulders. “In fact, I have wanted to
call upon her. I haven’t yet had the time, or the energy for that matter. The yellow fever
in the city keeps me inside.”
“Grâce à Dieu. This is wonderful news about my mother. Where does she live?”
Bettina’s head swam, with the heat or joy she wasn’t certain. She would have kissed the
woman, if not positive of being rebuffed.
“She lives at the Bonne Maison on the Rue Royale. It’s a fancy residence
for ci-devants. She’s getting married in a short time to one of the Spanish
officials who works for the governor.” Madame Ray wrinkled her nose, her
mouth puckered in distaste.
“Married, are you certain?” Bettina stared in surprise.
“Yes. I am appalled. A Spanish official indeed.” Madame Ray sneered as her sharp
gaze appraised Bettina from head to toe. “And you are her daughter. How very
interesting, ma chere. Do you plan to stay long in the area? Come back to see me when
I’m not so ill.”
Bettina quivered under the woman’s rude examination.

* * *

After receiving directions to the Bonne Maison, Bettina was relieved to leave the oldwoman. Strange that she mentioned a desire to call on her mother then expressed such
profound disapproval of her. Madame Ray’s invitation to visit again roiled her stomach.
And ‘lofty airs’ didn’t sound like Madame Jonquiere. As for her re-marrying, that was
an unexpected shock. Bettina thought of her father and suffered a stab of pain. She
fisted her hands and staggered over the loose bricks. A comte before the fall of the
Bastille, Papa had been murdered by the revolutionaries who had embezzled money
through his antique business. Did her mother know the horrible details? She swept
aside her gloom and increased her stride.
Excited by the idea her mother was close, Bettina rushed the four-blocks in the
muggy afternoon air. In a huff of breath, she approached the Bonne Maison in a
courtyard, surrounded by majestic oaks dripping in Spanish moss, like waves of brown
nets. The three-storied white structure had long windows with fan-shaped transoms and
little balconies, giving it an Old World elegance. A butler sent Bettina to the top floor.
She climbed the carpeted stairs, her anticipation mounting. Her heart and hand
trembled when she knocked on the door.
The door opened. A woman stood there. Her large brown eyes blinked, then
widened. “Bettina? Hélas. This cannot be!” She screeched and clutched her throat, the
color draining from her cheeks.
“It is me, Maman. I am all right.” Bettina choked on a sob and gripped both her
mother’s arms. “Don’t faint.”
Her mother dragged her into the room and captured Bettina’s face between
anxious hands. “Oh, ma fille, ma fille. This is a miracle. I thought you were…but
you are here.”
“I am so happy to find you, at last.” Bettina shut the door and embraced her mother,
who sobbed on her shoulder. Her own eyes filled with tears. Her mother smelled
familiar, like home, love, the security she’d lost years ago.
“Where have you been all this time?” Volet pulled back and held her at arm’s length.
Her oval face resembling Bettina’s, her full mouth smiled through her tears. “Armand
said you were carried off by revolutionaries, dying en route to…. How I have grieved for
you. Oh, but here you are, healthy and lovely.”
“I was carried off. I’m afraid Armand was the…. He was not who we thought he
was.” She clenched her jaw at the thought of the old steward. “And how could he have
known my condition after he threw me out?”
“Threw you out? What do you mean?” Volet stepped back and pressed her
fingertips to her chest. Her faded pink sacque dress hung loose on her thinner frame.
The dress had mends on the seams and stains at the silk hem.
Bettina waited for her mother to compose herself. Then she explained in guardedwords the scurrilous deeds of their late steward. The major-domo had tricked Bettina,
sending her to Bath with blank papers she thought were messages to further the royalist
“Il me confond. I cannot believe Armand was so treacherous, betraying us like that.
But everyone behaved oddly once the revolution began. To think I entrusted you to him,
and he…? You were only seventeen.” Fresh tears formed in her mother’s eyes. “Then
this Mr. Little person you were sent to refused to help you, but admitted Armand was in
league with him? What was the point of it all?”
“I was never certain. Mr. Little’s discourse was cut short—and I had to go. Or rather,
he did.” Bettina dropped her gaze and fingered a porcelain cupid on a table—a curio
she remembered from their Paris chateau. Mr. Little had fallen to his death in Everett’s
manor, after telling her of her father’s murder and demanding the embezzled money;
but she wouldn’t explain that yet. He’d threatened Bettina’s life. “Let us not talk about
the past right now. I hear you are to be married soon?”
Volet stiffened and walked to the window where lavender chintz curtains fluttered in
the breeze. Bettina noted the sprinkle of gray in her mother’s raven-black hair, the
deeper creases etched around her eyes. Though she was still beautiful at forty-five.
“He is a good man, very intelligent and well-traveled. His name is Alfredo Alverez.
He has an important position with the Governor’s office.” Volet sounded defensive
instead of an enraptured bride-to-be.
“I am pleased for you, Maman. Do you love him?”
She hesitated too long, frowning, and Bettina had her answer. “Bettina, when I came
here I brought everything I could with me. Sadly, money does not last forever. I had to
dismiss my personal maid months ago. Alfredo is a suitable man who will take care of
Bettina sank onto a chair, disappointed by that reply. “Then you are marrying for
someone to support you?”
“Many women marry for that reason.” Volet moved around the opulent room in
measured steps, her arms crossed, hands clenched on her elbows. A distressed
posture Bettina recalled from her childhood.
“You’re right, Maman. Many women do.” Bettina stared down for a minute at her
mother’s scuff-toed shoes. She’d wanted her mother not to be one of those women, but
began to understand. “I am happy for you.”
Volet sat on the sofa close to Bettina’s chair. She stroked her hand. “We have so
much to discuss. Where to start? Please, tell me of your life in England.”
Bettina took in a long breath. So much had happened to unearth before her parent,
she’d have to cut open still sore wounds. “When I first arrived I ran out of moneyquickly. I found work, then a second paid position. I worked in an inn and tutored a little
boy. I toiled hard, saved my money. I fell in love….” Her throat thickened. She dug her
fingers into the chair seat. “I have two children by the man I loved. He was lost on a ship
last year, presumed drowned. Then I traveled here searching for you.”
Her mother shook her head. “My sweet daughter, you have suffered so much.
Working to survive, how brave of you. If I had only known.” Volet grasped and kissed
her hands. “Your husband, you say he was lost at sea?”
Moisture throbbed behind Bettina’s eyes. She couldn’t admit to her mother that she
and Everett never married. “I am very angry at France for attacking his ship.”
“Oh, my poor child—to lose your husband in this dreadful war. I…I know how
devastating that is.” Her mother’s voice trembled.
Her father’s heart attack, or murder? Which did her mother believe? Papa’s face
swam up and she pushed it away and swallowed down her questions.
Volet laid a hand, gentle and cool, on Bettina’s hot cheek. “To have you with me
again is my fondest wish. What can I do for you to offer comfort?”
“I have my comfort now, sitting here with you.” She covered her mother’s hand with
her own. “I want to know about you. How did you travel to America?”
“Oh, such an upheaval. I couldn’t stand to stay in Europe, thinking you were gone.”
Volet blinked. “I met several aristocrats, a few I knew from Paris. We sailed from
Holland to Boston. Then on to here, for the French culture. Of course, that was before
the aristocrats were hunted down, before the guillotine.” She shivered. “I didn’t realize
how fortunate I was to escape.”
“I suppose I should thank Armand for that. Etienne said that he knew of no one in
the family who met such a brutal fate.” Bettina scrutinized her mother for confirmation.
“He’s right. No one that I knew of in the family. Ah, yet so many friends.” Volet
sighed. Then she looked over with a tremulous smile. “Let’s speak of happier moments,
ma cherie. I’ll ring for lemonade, and the cook bakes the most scrumptious petits fours.
Then please, tell me about your children.”
Settled in with refreshments—the lemonade tart, the cakes sweet—Bettina spoke of
Genevre and Christian. Under her mother’s encouragement, she summarized and
censured the events in her life since leaving France. She refused to dwell long on her
time with Everett, exploring that still wrenched her heart. The room darkened as the sun
disappeared behind the building across the way. Bettina rose. “I must return to my inn.”
Volet stood too and kissed her cheek. “Please do bring the children to see me
tomorrow. My grandchildren.”
“Of course, Maman. Be aware, though their father is presumed drowned, I don’t
speak of his death with them. I still pray that he is alive.” She clung to thin strings ofhope.
“Oh? Very well, I understand, mignonne.”
Bettina left, her spirits soaring at finding her maman. She rushed back through the
old city as men lit oil burning street lamps.
“Ah, putain, do you walk these streets?” a man asked in a drunken slur as he reeled
in front of her.
She hopped from the banquette and hurried across the gutter in the filthy street.
Confused and dazed by so many emotions, she’d neglected to think of her safety alone
in the dark.

Chapter Three

Bettina dressed her children the next morning and walked them through the muggy
air to the Bonne Maison. She left Oleba and Frederick at the guest house so her
children could meet their grandmother unencumbered by other people.
Her mother’s face lit up at the sight of Christian and Genevre.
“Bonjour, Grand-mère,” Christian said, expertly repeating the words Bettina
taught him. His smile shy, he didn’t back away when Volet bent down to hug
“Christian, you are so handsome.” Her mother kissed his cheek and ushered them
into her parlor, where a pitcher and glasses awaited. “I have lemonade and calas, the
little fried rice cakes everyone enjoys here.” She reached out for Genevre. “Come to
The little girl stiffened in Bettina’s arms, digging her small hands into her shoulders.
“She is shy,” Bettina said. “She will take longer to know you.”
“An adorable girl. She looks like a little angel.” Her mother stroked the baby’s hair.
“I also have an older child living with me.” Bettina rocked from side to side with
Genevre. “Everett’s nephew, Frederick. He is the one I used to tutor. We are very close.
I am his only family now.”
“You should have brought him with you,” her mother said with a sad smile. “I know
you have had a difficult time. I wish I could make it up to you. I agonized all last night.
How could I have been so foolish to allow Armand…?” She lowered her head and shook
it. “He had worked for your father for so many years. He was like one of the family.”
“Oh, Maman, it was not your fault.” Bettina never blamed her mother for not
protecting her. She saw her as a victim as well. “Armand joined the rebels, the common
people. Strange for a man so old to bother, but…I suppose he believed in the cause.
The events were not so terrible as they later became.” She fought the tremor in her
voice. “As I said yesterday, it is difficult not to despise my own country for what
happened to…you understand.”
Her mother raised her gaze. “You are still so young, things will change.”
Bettina nodded, though she couldn’t imagine anything filling the hole that gaped
inside her at Everett’s loss.
“Maman, I’m thirsty,” Christian whispered in Bettina’s ear as she sat on the sofa.
Volet poured him a glass of lemonade. “There you go, mignonn. Be careful, don’t
spill the drink.” She smiled at her daughter. “Bettina, you will discover that time does
soften pain. We do move on. I would like you to meet Alfredo, soon.”
“Another person close to me used to say that about time easing pain.” Bettina