The Red Necklace
By Sally Gardner
Summary: In the late eighteenth century, Sido, the twelve-year-old daughter of a self-indulgent marquis, and Yann, a fourteen-year-old Gypsy orphan raised to perform in a magic show, face a common enemy at the start of the French Revolution.
正文前的几句废话：抖森用软软的声音念出男主角Yann的台词实在是让人联想起雷1里的小基妹儿，然后用阴沉的声音模仿大反派Count Kalliovski时，又是足足的邪神范儿。最好玩的是，俩人都想娶个那有着摄人蓝眼睛（most bewitching blue eyes）的菇凉~（大公主是你吗？~）
This is Paris; here the winds of change are blowing, whispering their discontent into the very hearts of her citizens. A Paris waiting for the first slow turn of a wheel that will bring with it a revolution the like of which Europe has never known. In the coming year the people will be called upon to play their part in the tearing down of the Bastille, in the destruction of the old regime, in the stopping of the clocks.
This is where the devil goes walking, looking with interest in at the window of Dr. Guillotin【注1】, who works night and day to perfect his humane killing machine, sharpening his angled blade on the innocent necks of sheep. Little does the earnest doctor know that his new design will be center stage, a bloody altarpiece in the drama that is about to unfold.
But wait, not so fast. King Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette, are still outside Paris, at Versailles. This is the winter of 1789, one of the worst in living memory. Jack Frost【注2】 has dug his fingers deep into the heart of this frozen city, so that it looks almost unrecognizable under its thick blanket of snow.
All still appears as it should be. All has yet to break. . .
Here, then, is where our story starts, in a run-down theater on the rue du Temple, with a boy called Yann Margoza, who was born with a gift for knowing what people were thinking, and an uncanny ability to throw his voice.
Yann had a sharp, intelligent face, olive skin, a mop of jet-black hair, and eyes dark as midnight, with two stars shining in them. For the past few months the theater had been home to Yann and his friend and mentor, the dwarf Têtu, and Topolain, the magician. Together they traveled all over France, performing. Without ever appearing on stage, Têtu could move objects at will like a sorcerer, while Topolain fronted the show and did tricks of his own. Yann was fourteen now, and still didn’t understand how Têtu did it, even though he had helped behind the scenes since he was small.
Têtu’s age was anyone’s guess and, as he would say, no one’s business. He compensated for his size and his strange high-pitched voice with a fierce intelligence. He could speak many languages, but would not say where he came from.
It had been Têtu’s idea to invest their savings in the making of the wooden Pierrot. The result had been a sensation. Monsieur Aulard, manager of the Theater du Temple, had taken them on and for the past four months they had played to full houses. In these dark times, it struck Monsieur Aulard as nothing short of a miracle.
The Pierrot had caught people’s imaginations. Some thought that it was controlled by magic. More practical minds wondered if it was clockwork or automaton, or if there was something hidden inside. This theory was soon dismissed, as every night Topolain would invite a member of the audience on stage to look for himself. All who saw it were agreed that it was made from solid wood. Even if it had been hollow, there was no space inside for anyone to hide.
Yet not only could the Pierrot walk and talk, it could also, as Topolain told the astonished audience every night, see into the heart of every man and woman there, and know their darkest secrets.
For the grand finale, Topolain would perform the trick he was best known for—the magic bullet. He would ask a member of the audience to come up on stage and fire a pistol at him. To much rolling of drums, he would catch the bullet in his hand, proclaiming that he had drunk from the cup of everlasting life. After seeing what he could do with the automaton, the audience did not doubt him. Maybe such a great magician as this could indeed trick the Grim Reaper【aka死神大人】.
Every evening after the final curtain had fallen and the applause had died away, Yann would remove the small table on which had been placed the pistol and the bullet. Tonight the stage felt bitterly cold. Yann peered out into the darkened auditorium. He could sworn he heard someone whispering in the shadows.
“Hello?” he called.
“You all right?” asked Didier the caretaker, walking onto the stage. He was a giant of a man with a vacant moonlike face.
“I thought I heard someone in the stalls,” said Yann.
Didier stood by the proscenium arch and glared menacingly into the gloom.
“There’s no one there. More than likely it’s a rat. Don’t worry, I’ll get the blighter.”
He disappeared into the wings, humming as he went. Yann felt strangely uneasy. The sooner he was gone from here the better, he thought to himself.
There! The whispering was louder this time.
“Who’s there?” shouted Yann.
Then he heard a woman’s soft voice, whispering to him in Romany, the language he and Têtu spoke privately together. He nearly jumped out of his skin, for it felt as if she were standing right next to him.
She was saying, “The devil’s own is on your trail. Run like the wind.”
Topolain’s dressing room was what Monsieur Aulard grandly called a dressing room for superior actors. It was as shabby as all the other dressing rooms, but it was a little larger and had the decided privilege of having a fireplace. The log basket was all but empty and the fire near defeated by the cold.
Topolain was sitting looking at his painted face in a mirror. He was a stout man with doughy features.
“How did you know the shoemaker had a snuffbox in his pocket, Yann?”
Yann shrugged. “I could hear his thoughts loud and clear,” he said.
Têtu, who was carefully packing away the wooden Pierrot, listened and smiled, knowing that Yann’s abilities were still unpredictable. Sometimes, without being aware of it, he could read people’s minds; sometimes he could even see into the future.
There was a rap at the door. Topolain jumped up in surprise, spilling his wine onto the calico cloth on the dressing table so that it turned dark red.
A huge man stood imposingly in the doorway, his smart black tailored coat emphasizing his bulk. Yet it was his face, not his garments, that caught Yann’s attention. It was covered in scars like the map of a city you would never wish to visit. His left eye was the color of rancid milk. The pupil, dead and black, could be seen beneath its curdled surface.
He was a terrifying apparition.
The man handed Topolain a card. The magician took it, careful to wipe the sweat from his hands before he did so. As he read the name Count Kalliovski, he felt a quiver of excitement. He knew that Count was one of the wealthiest men in Paris.
“This is an honor indeed,” said Topolain.
“I am steward to Count Kalliovski. I am known as Milkeye,” said the man. He held out a leather purse before him as one might hold a bone out to a dog.
“My master wants you to entertain his friends tonight at the château of the Marquis de Villeduval. If Count Kalliovski is pleased with your performance”—he jangled the purse—“this will be your reward. The carriage is waiting. We would ask for haste.”
Yann knew exactly what Topolain was going to say.
“I shall be delighted. I shall be with you just as fast as I can get myself and my assistants together.”
“Haste,” Milkeye repeated sharply. “I don’t want our horses freezing to death out there. They are valuable.”
The door closed behind him with a thud, so that the thin walls shook.
As soon as they were alone, Topolain lifted Têtu off his feet and danced him around the room.
“This is what we have been dreaming of! With this invitation the doors of grand society will be open to us.”
He looked at his reflection in the mirror, added a touch of rouge to his cheeks, and picked up his hat and the box that contained the pistol.“Are we ready to amaze, astound, and bewilder?”
“Wait, wait!” pleaded Yann. He pulled Têtu aside and said quietly, “When I went to clear up this evening I heard a voice speaking Romany, saying, ‘The devil’s own is on your trail. Run like the wind.’”
“What are you whispering about?” asked Topolain.
“Come on, we’ll be late.”
Yann said desperately, “Please, let’s not go. I have a bad feeling.”
“The boy may be right.”said Têtu.
“Come on, the two of you!” said Topolain. “This is our destiny calling. Greatness lies ahead of us! Ha! I’ve waited a lifetime for this. Stop worrying. Tonight we will be princes.”
Yann and Têtu knew that it was useless to say more. They carried the long box with the Pierrot in it down the steep stairs, Yann trying to chase away the image of a coffin from his mind.
All Topolain was thinking was that maybe the king and queen would be there. The thought was like a fur coat against the cold, which wrapped itself around him as he walked out into the bitter night, Yann’s and Têtu’s anxieties forgotten.
The Marquis de Villeduval’s debts were alarming. He took no notice of his financial advisers, who told him that he was on the verge of bankruptcy. What matter if funds were low? He would simply raise the rents on his estate. In the meantime he would just have to borrow more from Count Kalliovski, who never blinked an eye at the outrageous sums the marquis requested.
This was how he had financed the building of his newest property, a small château halfway between Paris and Versailles, which allowed him easy access to the court and the capital. His taste was superb, the bills always shocking.
That evening the marquis was holding a supper party to thank Count Kalliovski for his continuing generosity. The guest list included the great and the good of French society—dukes, princes, counts, cardinals, and bishops. Like the marquis, they all had
good reason to be grateful to the count.
In return for his constant generosity, Kalliovski simply asked for those tiny little secrets, the kind of thing you wouldn’t even say in the confessional box. All you had to do was whisper them to him and absolution was guaranteed, the money given. He kept his friends like pampered lapdogs. They never suspected that the hand that fed them had also bought their souls.
Many rumors circulated about Kalliovski, which he encouraged. When asked his age he would say he was as old as Charlemagne. When asked about his great black wolfhound, Balthazar, he would say that he had never been without the dog. One thing, though, was certain: Many were his mistresses and no one was his wife.
The secret of his success lay in the absence of emotion. Over the years he had learned how to empty himself of sentiment, to keep himself free of passion.
Love he considered to be a blind spot on the map of the soul. He had an iron-clad heart. His motto was one that should have warned all who knew him of his true nature: Have no mercy, show no mercy.
For the marquis’s part, he was in awe of the count. If he was honest with himself,
something he avoided at all costs, he was more than a little jealous of him. Tonight, though, he wanted to impress the count. Nothing had been spared to make the celebration a success.
He had even gone to the trouble of having his daughter brought home from her convent to satisfy a whim of the count, who had asked to see her. Why, he could not imagine.
For he considered her to be a mark of imperfection upon his otherwise perfect existence. The marquis’s splendid new château stood testament to his secretive nature and his sophisticated taste. Each of its many salons was different. Some were painted with scenes of the Elysian Fields, in others, there were gilded rococo mirrors that reflected the many crystal chandeliers. On the first floor all the salons opened up into one another through double doors with marble columns. The effect was a giddy vista of rooms, each one more opulent than the last. But behind the grand façade lay what no eye saw, the narrow, dark, poky corridors that formed the unseen and unsightly varicose veins of the house. They were for the servants’ use only. The marquis liked to fancy that an invisible hand served him. And so his army of footmen and maids performed their tasks quietly in felted slippers, like mice behind the skirting boards.
On the day of the party, the Mother Superior told Sido that she was wanted at her father’s new château. It had been two years since she had last seen him, and for a moment she wondered if he had been taken ill. Her memory of her father was of a cold, unloving man who had little time for his daughter. Sido had grown into a shy, awkward-looking girl who walked with a limp, an unforgivable impediment that reflected badly on the great name of Villeduval. She had lost her mother when she was only three, and for most of her twelve years she had been brought up at the convent. The marquis had handed her over to the Mother Superior at the tender age of five, with instructions to teach the girl to be less clumsy and to walk without limping, if she was going to the château just for a supper party filled her with excitement and trepidation. As the convent doors closed behind her, she hoped passionately that she would never have to see the place again, that this might be the start of a new life where her father would love her at last.
Her happiness soon vanished as the coach made its way along the country roads. In the thin, blue, watery light, figures seemed to rise out of the snow like ghosts, given shape only by the rags they were wearing. They trudged silently along the side of the road with grim determination. Old men, young men, women carrying babies, grandmothers, small weary children, all were ill-equipped for the bitter winter weather as they slowly and painfully made their way toward Paris.
Sido knocked on the roof of the carriage, “We should stop and help,” she called to Bernard, the coachman.
The coach kept on moving.
“Please,” Sido called again. “We must help them.”
“The whole of France needs help,” came the answer. “Best not to look, mademoiselle.”
But how was it possible to turn your eyes away from such a sea of sadness?
Sido’s father’s new château looked like a fairy-tale castle, complete with towers and turrets, floating free of the formal gardens that surrounded it.
The marquis’s valet came out to greet her.
”How are you, Luc?” she asked, pleased to see a face she recognized.
“Well, mademoiselle. I have been instructed to take you up the back way to your
chamber. The marquis does not wish to be disturbed.”
Sido followed him through a plain wooden door into a long dark corridor. Luc lit a candle which shone a shy light down what seemed a never-ending passageway.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
The valet turned around with a finger to his lips.
Sido followed in silence. Every now and again cat’s cradles of light shone through peepholes, from one wall to the other. Luc opened a door.
“This will be your bedchamber. The marquis will call you when he is ready,” and with that he closed the door behind him. It disappeared perfectly into the painted panels so that if you didn’t know it was there, it would be impossible to tell.
This was a plain room, paneled in powder blue. The four-poster bed had thick dark blue velvet drapes, a fabric screen stood near a dressing table, and above the fireplace hung a painting of an Italian masked ball.
There were no flowers to welcome her, no bowls of fruits, no sweetmeats, though these were given to all the other guests.
For her part, Sido was just grateful to be away from the convent.
Hours passed, so that she was wondering if she had been forgotten, when the valet reappeared. “The marquis wants to see you now, mademoiselle.”
Sido straightened her skirt, took a deep breath, and concentrated with all her might on not limping as she was taken downstairs.
The marquis was waiting in his study. He had a large, needy, greedy face that gathered itself into a weak, undefined chin and had about it the promise of perpetual disappointment. He stared down his aristocratic nose at his daughter.
“I see, Sidonie, that you are not much changed since last we met. A little taller, maybe? Unfortunate. Tallness is unattractive in a girl.”
The abruptness of the criticism and the use of her full name made all Sido’s skills of navigation abandon her. She stepped back, narrowly avoiding a table displaying the marquis’s latest acquisition, a collection of scientific instruments.
“Look where you’re going! In heaven’s name, are you as stupid as you appear? And I see you still have that unpleasant limp. It seems not to have improved in the slightest,” said the marquis irritably.
Sido stood there wishing with all her heart that the floor would open and swallow her up. At that moment Count Kalliovski was shown into the chamber. At his heels was a large black wolfhound, his famous dog, Balthazar.
Sido’s first impression was that she would not like to be left alone with either the man or his dog. She dropped her gaze and curtsied as she felt his sharp inquisitive eyes upon her. Glancing up for a discreet look, she saw a tall thin man, elegantly dressed, his skin smooth and ageless , as if it had been preserved in aspic. He had the
perfume of wealth about him.
“That,” said the marquis abruptly, “is my daughter. Why I went to the expense and inconvenience of bringing her back here, I cannot imagine.”
“To humor me, I do believe,” said Count Kalliovski, he sat himself in a chair and stretched his long legs out before him, placing his hands together to form a steeple in front of his mouth. They were large, ugly hands that somehow didn’t seem to go with the rest of him. The dog settled near his master. Sido saw that the pattern on the count’s embroidered silk waistcoat was of little black skulls intertwined with ivy leaves.
“Eh.. Charming,” said the count, studying Sido with an expert eye. “But is there no food at your convent?”
“Not much, sir,” Sido replied.
The count smiled. “Tell me then, are the nuns all as pale and thin as you?”
“I thought not. And which convent is this?” When Sido told him, the count laughed out loud.
“Hahaha…I know the cardinal. I have lent him money in the past to settle his gambling debts.” The marquis looked most uncomfortable.
“My dear friend, your daughter has the most bewitching blue eyes. Give her a few
more years and you will find her to be ravishing.” The marquis looked like a spoiled overgrown child who is being asked to play nicely. “With respect, my dear count, plain she is and plain she will remain. I fear you have been taken in by the beauty of my study and the afternoon light.”
“Not in the slightest. I am just concerned to hear that your daughter has been sent to such an indifferent school. I suggest that from now on she should be educated at home.”
Sido stood there, surprised to find that she had an ally in the count.
The marquis rang for his valet.“The girl is to be bathed and the dressmaker summoned, mademoiselle Sidonie will be dining with us this evening.”
It took Sido a moment to realize what her father had just said. She wondered if just for once fate was smiling kindly on her.
注1：Joseph-Ignace Guillotin，法国医生、政客、共济会员，1789年提议使用一种新的器械，即断头台Guillotine，来执行死刑以减少死刑犯痛苦，在法国大革命中N多人命丧断头台使得这个东西名留青史。事实上，那个杀人机器并不是Dr. Guillotin发明的，他本人还反对死刑，但是很悲催的，这个断头台还是以他的名字命名了……