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Authors: Diana Norman

The Sparks Fly Upward

BOOK: The Sparks Fly Upward
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Table of Contents
 
 
“Diana Norman has a passion for history . . . Undoubtedly it's this passion coupled with her perpetual thirst for knowledge that has made her one of the bestselling historical novelists of today.”
—Bristol Evening Post
 
“Norman . . . is very good on serious social issues.”
—Sunday Herald
(Glasgow)
Praise for Diana Norman's previous novels
“Resplendent with historical details, filled with beautifully crafted characters, and kissed with a subtle touch of romance, Norman's tale is historical fiction at its best. Makepeace is so irresistibly indomitable, readers will relish every moment of her unforgettable adventures.”
—Booklist
 

A Catch of Consequence
moved at a cracking pace . . . Diana Norman creates an exhilarating sense of those times and their possibilities.”
—The Daily Telegraph
(London)
 
“Diana Norman is, quite simply, splendid.”
—
Frank Delaney
 
“Drama, passion, intrigue, and danger. I loved it and didn't want it to end ever.”
—Sunday Times
(London)
 
“It's all good, dirty fun shot through with more serious insights into the historical treatment of women and perhaps, in its association of sex, sleaze, greed, and politics, not so far removed from present realities after all.”
—The Independent on Sunday
(London)
 
“A riveting novel, full of interesting characters and a ‘page turner' of a story. Where Diana Norman scores is bringing history to life, highlighting lots of interesting details so you can really picture what life must have been like.”
—Belfast News Letter
 
“She captures the feel of the period with wit, verve, and emotion.”
—Woman's Own
Titles by Diana Norman
THE SPARKS FLY UPWARD
 
TAKING LIBERTIES
 
A CATCH OF CONSEQUENCE
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
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(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
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South Africa
 
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
 
This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.
 
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's
imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments,
events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and
does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
 
Copyright © 2006 by Diana Norman.
 
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without
permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the
author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
BERKLEY is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
The “B” design is a trademark belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
 
PRINTING HISTORY
 
Berkley trade paperback edition / September 2006
 
eISBN : 978-0-425-21158-8
 
An application to register this book for cataloging has been submitted to the Library of Congress.
 

http://us.penguingroup.com

Catherine and Alice,
with love from their aunt.
Chapter One
IT had been a mistake to use the alleys rather than the main thoroughfare of Rue Saint Antoine but she'd wanted to avoid the patrols. Since the Charlotte Corday business, the National Guard was as likely to search a woman for an assassin's knife as a man. Not that she was carrying a weapon, but the letter to England up her sleeve was a death sentence in itself.
It was a mistake, though. Instead of losing her pursuer in the traffic, she'd made it easier for the man to follow her; he knew the back ways better than she did and she hadn't been able to throw him off.
On the other hand, it was the quiet of the alleys, out of the wind, that had alerted her to the fact that she was being followed at all. There'd been a persistent and sibilant echo to her own footsteps through the slush.
She kept going, trying to keep her pace, not to give way to the fear that was affecting her legs by transmitting the impression that they had become very short.
Think rationally. Reason precludes panic.
Most likely, the man's orders were to discover where Nicolas was hiding and he'd do nothing until he found out where she was going. If she could gain enough distance she'd lose him once she reached the alleys beyond the wallpaper factory.
Keep walking. Reason precludes panic,
Nicolas always said.
Stay rational, that's it.
Nicolas would have tried to analyze the phenomenon of one's legs; why, now, she felt she was plowing the snow with her knees when, in the first three years, she and the rest of France had seemed to walk on a cloud, as if the Revolution had literally cut the ground from under everybody's feet and released an entire population into the air.
Terror and joy effect displacements in the mind,
Nicolas would say. Joy and terror, both are delirium.
That's where the Revolution went wrong, she thought, it had ventured too far in its joy; it had abolished the familiar. North and south had been spun to different headings, it had shaken the world so that men and women, tumbling weightlessly with nothing to hang on to, had chosen despotism as the only certainty.
Jagged outlines against the moon told her she'd reached the Place de la Bastille. It was empty—people were saving on light and fuel by going to bed early. The great rounded emplacements where cannon had once been trained on the people of Saint Antoine were now reduced to rubble, most of their stones gone for souvenirs. In daytime the stalls that sold the little carved replicas were tricked out in red, white and blue and, despite the weather, still carried on a brisk trade with sightseers up from the country. Tonight they were stacked high under a tarpaulin, one corner of which had come loose and was flipping energetically in the wind with a sound reminiscent of a face being slapped. Terror again. It distorted things so that all noises were alarming and all images ugly.
Suddenly, she couldn't bear it that she was frightened here, of all places.
How dare they.
This was where tyranny had been brought down in one glorious crash so that nobody should be frightened or cold or hungry anymore.
She turned round to face her pursuer.
Do you think I'd lead the likes of you to
him?
There was nobody there. Moonlight shone on empty, snow-furred ruins.
Then she saw a tiny trickle of steam issuing from behind a broken pillar, and knew it was the man's breath as it vaporized in the air. His mouth was open while he hid, perhaps smiling.
Unnerved, she began to hurry. Slush had soaked through the cardboard covering a hole in her left shoe and was numbing her toes so that her stride was lopsided.
If she couldn't throw him off, if he arrested her and she was searched . . . Eliza would be left alone, her baby, in a world where even children went to the guillotine. Before she'd left the apartment she'd agonized for their daughter's sake about whether to set out at all. ‘I have to deliver a letter, darling. I won't be long. Be quiet as a mouse.'
A very little mouse. Five years old and left alone.
I can't do this again, not even for him. He'll understand I can't leave her again.
She'd reached the Saint Antoine Faubourg, that vulgar, vibrant highway. She'd loved it; now it menaced her. Only the munitions factory poured out noise and light, giving a glimpse as she passed it of frantic, gleaming bodies outlined against the furnaces, like an advanced vision of hell. Everywhere else was closed. The little man on the corner who used to sell and mend umbrellas had shut his shop for good; afraid, so he'd told her, that umbrellas were suspect—as if a desire to fend off the rain was counter-revolutionary. Across his shutters was scrawled LIBERTY OR DEATH. It was on every door she passed.
On the other side of the road, moonlight shone onto the cold frontage of the Visitandes convent and the steps she'd climbed so often in the glorious years. When its nuns had been evicted, she and the other republican women had used it for their club. They'd cut their hair and worn red phrygian caps and danced the
ça ira
. Wonderful, noisy meetings, shrill with previously undreamed of possibilities.
‘Citizenesses of the Revolution, women are entitled to have rights, too.' A right to fight alongside the brave men of Paris against the royalist enemy, a right to education, a right to divorce, a right to equality of inheritance. They'd greeted each one with exhiliration, put it down on paper and sent it with a deputation to be argued before the Assembly.
She remembered the silence when Nicolas had got up to speak and told them they must also have the vote. For a moment they were stunned; even they hadn't considered Utopia. Then the cheering broke out.
Robespierre had closed them down, of course. Well, if nothing else, they'd won the right to divorce and equal inheritance before they were suppressed.
Oh, Christ.
She'd been maundering. The factory was coming up, the empty tops of the pillars that had once carried the arch of gilded letters, REVEILLON WALLPAPERS, stood stark against the moon. Beyond them was the bend she'd hoped would allow her to swerve to the left unseen.
She bent to fumble with her bootlaces and risked a peek behind her. A shadow whisked into a doorway. He was too close, she needed to gain ground. Gathering the front of her skirt, she stood up, prayed to the God she didn't believe in—and sprinted.
She took him by surprise; she'd gained fifteen meters by the time she heard the splash of running feet at her back.
Reveillon's gates were coming up. She was tiring; slow starvation had weakened her. The brute behind would be well fed; the Committee of Public Safety kept its agents loyal with extra rations.
BOOK: The Sparks Fly Upward
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