Tuesday, February 27, 2007


The Day's Progress - Tuesday Edition

By my reckoning, I'm now three scenes from the end of "Jubilee." Unfortunately, one of them presents a vexing problem, the solution for which I've not yet found. So what should be the work of a couple of hours might end up being a mite longer. But with any luck, I'll be able to finish by tomorrow afternoon. Fingers crossed.

Who am I kidding? This isn't going to be 120K words long. Not when it's already 110K and I've still got a whole act to write. It'll be a fat book, no question. But meaty...

Today Dulac faced off against the guy in the smoked-glass spectacles in a sword-fight, and we finally learned what Sandford Blank keeps in the locked room at the top of the stair. Lots of final confrontations, big reveals, and mystery's solved. The following is about the only sample I can share of the day's writing, without spoiling the end.
The trio said their farewells to Baron Carmody, who hardly seemed to notice. Leaving the Carmody house near Grosvenor Square, it was only a short distance to the offices of J. Lafayette on New Bond Street, a matter of some four or five blocks, just up from the Doré and Grosvenor Galleries.

The photographic firm of J. Lafayette was located in a five storey building, surmounted by the queen’s royal crest in bas relief, above an image of a sunburst. The Lafayette firm, headquartered in Dublin, had only recently opened a branch in London, added to those already in Glasgow and Manchester.

The offices had just opened for the day, and Blank, Miss Bonaventure, and Taylor were asked to wait on the ground floor while someone in authority could be summoned. They were shown into the waiting gallery on the ground floor, where the handiwork of Lafayette and company were on display, in particular a familiar image of Queen Victoria on the occasion of her Golden Jubilee, ten years previous, which according to the accompanying placard had earned Lafayette a Royal Warrant as “Her Majesty's Photographer in Dublin.”

After a brief wait, the branch’s manager appeared in the waiting gallery. Blank, presenting his featureless calling card, employed a bit of persuasion, and in short order the trio were being escorted into the development labs on the building’s second floor. The heavily shuttered room smelled of chemicals, and the already developed photographs hung drying on lines strung from wall to wall, like photographic garlands.

Most of the photographs were staged against the backdrop which had been arranged in the corner of the Great Ballroom of Devonshire House. There was Miss Arthur Paget as Cleopatra and Daisy Pless as the Queen of Sheba, the Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha as Duke Robert of Normandy and the Princess of Wales as Marguerite de Valois, Frances Evelyn Warwick as Marie Antoinette and the Honorable Reginald Fitzwilliam as Admiral Lord Nelson. There was even the Baron Carmody as the Roman Briton war duke Arthur, in contrast to the more fanciful King Arthurs portrayed by the 7th Baron Rodney in full plate armor and Grosvenor in surcoat and mail. And here was the Lady Priscilla as Gwenhwyfar, in a flowing gown of samite, looking years younger with her hair cascading over her shoulders than she did in modern dress with it lacquered into a bun.

Some of the photographs, though, were not staged, but were more candid snap-shots of the Great Ballroom itself, and of the crowds milling there. The Crystal Stair curved up out of view in one shot, while another showed the serried ranks of waltzers moving across the floor. And in one photograph, in the far right side of the image, was plainly visible a man in modern dress, his hair wiry and his beard stringy, carrying in his arms a long slender case. The man’s eyes were wide and crazed-looking, and his lip curled in an expression of distaste.

It was, unmistakably, Mervyn Fawkes.

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