This is about 2000 words long and contains absolutely nothing racy or strange. It's a short story that is currently undivided.
An Enlightening Dinner
Note: There is a lot I could have done with this, I hope I haven’t taken an idea and killed it. Also note: First ever fanfic, and first story I have written in a while. Please bear that in mind when telling me how amazing/ crap this is
Set around July 1920 (or around the middle of Season three, however you judge Downton time) WARNING: Definitely contains Les Mis spoilers, and also Downtown Abbey Spoilers. Do not read my story if you haven’t finished Season 3 of Downtown Abbey.
“Have you heard who’s coming to dinner this week?” Thomas asked Elsie with a smirk of usual twistedness that came with almost anything Thomas said.
“The Pontmurcies” Elsie replied. “Can’t say I know a lot about them, not that I know anything about any guests at Downtown. Why?”
“Apparently they are descended from a guy who fought with Napoleon all of his life. With Mr Branson over for the weekend the revolutionaries at the dinner table may finally have something to say, eh?”
Sunday rolled on, the, serving dishes were laid out and that evening the usual car, delivering the dinner guests of the week, drove down the gravel. Out of the car stepped a modestly sized man. The man was dressed in a formal black dinner jacket with a white waistcoat and black bow-tie, with scuffed black shoes and creased trousers. Lady Grantham immediately judged the clothes to have been worn already and could see the man did not care for ironing the clothes he owned, neither did he care for neatness as she could also see an old scuff of dust at the knees. She was, of course, unreserved about her judgments, much to the pain of others in the party, fortunately the young man she was insulting was still out of earshot as he walked down the gravel path
Behind the man came out his wife, a small petite man with curly brown hair and large blue eyes. She was visibly younger than her husband; however had a commanding grace to her. The way they walked out of the car indicated they had just had an argument. Contrary to her husband’s modest dress, the women wore a fabulous purple sequined gown, not dissimilar to the one Lady Grantham sometimes wore, and a green hat. Lady Grantham judged the entire outfit to be purchased new from Oxford Street specifically for this occasion, and probably triple the price of her husband’s attire. She kept that judgement to herself.
The man walked the short path from the open car door to the house briskly, tentatively holding her wife’s hand. The tension between them became more apparent as the man went to shake Earl Grantham’s hand first, while his wife went to shake the hand of Cora the Countesses. After the two of them both shook hands with all of the family members, they walked in, keeping a suitable distance, through to the dining hall. Lady Pontmercy , whom we shall now refer to as Éponine Pontmercy, gazed in wonder at the artwork and chandeliers of the time, many dating back hundreds of years presumably, while her husband had managed to strike up a conversation with Tom Branson, the journalist who had married the earls daughter and was staying with the family whilst fleeing from Ireland.
“So Jean” Branson addressed the newcomer, I heard your grandfather fought in Napoleons armies.
“Great-Grandfather” corrected Jean. “Although my grandfather did participate in the insurrections of 1832 and the revolution of 1848. Received a medal from Napoleon the 3rd himself. Spent the rest of his life cursing his government that betrayed the people and nearly ruined France. Even threw bricks at the fleeing politicians during the Franco-Prussian war. Died in 1900, 30 years after France was finally liberated from tyranny.” He spoke of his Grandfather with a proud air,
“Ah well, glad I won’t be the only revolutionary at the table” Branson said with a smile. “Between you and me”, he said with a hushed whisper, these people are all the kind of people your grandfather would have hated”
“Indeed” Jean said without expression. As they entered the dining room, Jean at the middle of the table. Éponine, still admiring the décor of the room, slowly came to a chair next to her husband and sat down. After everyone was sat down and Grace was said, Carlson and his assistant Alfred walked in, James still unsure of his abilities as ever. As they began serving starts to the guests, conversation began between the two families
“So Jean”, Lady Grantham addressed him for the first time that evening.” I heard your grandfather fought in Napoleon’s armies. “
“Great Grandfather”, corrected Jean. “He fought with Napoleon on all his campaigns and received a medal for bravery at waterloo. He even received the title of Baron, but of course Napoleon was in exile by the time he could claim it, Napoleon was at St Helena, and the Bourbons refused to recognize my great grandfathers claim, and so he retired. He died having never met his son”. Jean recounted his ancestors story with a calm but still hateful tone of voice, that subtly convinced even the most aristocratic men at the dinner table to sympathise with his great grandfathers plight, the kind of subtlety that Branson could never seem to get across during his numerous dinner table rants.
“A tragic story indeed”, Robert the Earl assented, without a note of sympathy in his voice.
“So without a title, however do you have so much money” Lady Grantham asked, in here usual tactless voice, immune to the emotions of others at the dinner table.
Éponine piped in “Well my great-grand father, well, not by blood, but never mind, who Jean here is named after, came up with a most excellent business idea around 100 years ago, one he managed to protect to this day. He figured out a way of making jewellery incredibly cheap. Jean here now owns the family business; he makes a lot of money”. “Jeans, , Great, Great Grandfather here also was reasonably wealthy, so the Pontmurcy family fortune is pretty secure.”
“But of course” Jean piped in, we give most of our money to the poor, hence the modest clothing. ”He poured himself a glass of champagne from a nearby bottle, obviously unaccustomed to the age and the taste of the champagne he was drinking. He looked at the bottle he had poured the champagne from and noted the year it was made “1832”. Without another sip he put the bottle down and drank the contents of his glass slowly.
“I assume you know that my grandfather was a colonel at Waterloo”, Lady Grantham added with a giggle. “How funny it is that 100 years ago our ancestors were filling each other with lead, and here we are today, eating together at dinner”. But don’t worry if you think we dislike revolutionaries here, we have our own pet revolutionary, Branson over here.
Neither Branson or Jean were pleased at this remark, and after a few minutes of awkward silence steak and potatoes were served, and talk resumed, turning to jewellery, before finally Branson added in
So “Jean, Did you fight in the great war”.
Of course. A German occupied France would have made my grandfather and his father turn in their graves. “I enlisted in 1914 and didn’t take one step backward until the armistice. Spilled a lot of blood but escaped the war with my life which I thank God for. Funnily enough my blood was spilled on the fields but a few kilometres where my great Grandfather spilled a lot of his, near the field of Waterloo. A chap by the name of Theadiner even saved me in the trench after the Ypres .
One familiar with the story of Jean’s grandfather, to which at this table there were none, will of course be surprised at this story, but the name Theadiner caused a slight, unnoticed twitch in Cora’s eye.
“You mention Theadiner” Cora said. “You wouldn’t happen to know more about him would you”.
“He did tend to talk a lot whilst we were in the Trenches. Used to beg us out of our pocket change. Apparently his great great grandfather moved over to America in the 1830’s and became a slave-owner. Married his daughter to another slave owner and soon became the head of a powerful wealthy family in America before his death in the 1850’s. Of course all the money went in the 1860’s after the American Civil war. This chap would tell us of his family history over and over again, and of course after he saved my life I had to listen. Why do you ask?
“Oh, no reason, I thought he was a family friend of mine, but obviously not”
Talk returned to the war as battle stories were traded between Matthew and Jean.
“This estate lost 30 people to that war. Truly a tragic waste of life. I sometimes wonder when I look at the world after what it is all for” Robert noted
“Yes I doubt you’ll find a man on the street of Paris or London who doesn’t wish that war had happened, Jean concurred. Millions dead due to arrogant monarchs, when will the world learn that liberty is needed in order for peace to reign supreme.”
“Ah but we are seeing the problems with too much liberty in Germany and Russia aren’t we, Sybill commented”
Jean replied “Honestly Madam, sometimes there is a price to be paid for liberty. While I do not advocate the Germany system of government right now, and the violence in Russia is so much that I fear Lenin is becoming as much of a Tyrant as Napoleon the 3rd was, at least the steps the Russians and the Germans have taken are a step in the right direction”
“Prehaps too large a step” Robert said.
Talk of politics continued, as Branson had hoped, and for once Branson’s views on Ireland, Catholicism and Socialism were not seen as the views of a crackpot revolutionary but as a legitimate challenge to the authority of Lord Grantham and the very system. Of course talk also varied, to feminism and back to Jewellery, to fashion (For Éponine was a Frenchwomen with her own boutique) and religion and even history. By the time desert was served talk had died down, as is sometimes the case when two profoundly different people meet
As desert was served, the true shock of the evening was delivered
“Did you know that my Grandfather was a Frenchman”.
The Crawley family all seemed moderately surprised at this, to have an Irishmen marry into their family was one thing, but to have a partly Frenchman marry in as well could case unwanted gossip.
“It wouldn’t surprise me”. Jean replied.
“Would you also be interested to here that he died at the Barricade in 1832”
That seemed to pique Jeans interest. Many of the others however were not so surprised, Branson was a very violent revolutionary and one of his cousins had apparently participated in the Easter Rising of 1916. They were still very surprised that a partly Frenchman seemed to be the father of the potential heir to the estate, a very risky proposition indeed for the heritage of the family.
“My grandfather told me the names of all those who died with him, would you care to tell me your ancestors name”
“Jean Prouvaire”. Illegitimate of course. Alas he never knew he had a son with his mistress.
“Interesting” Jean replied. How do you know this
“My Grandmother told me. She loved him you know, moved to Ireland when he found out he died. Never went back to Paris. She told me about it a few months before she passed away”.
“Why am I not surprised” Lady Grantham said.
“Dear Boy, probably best we keep that a secret. The House is already in enough trouble as it is. Jean, I trust you can keep it a secret?”
Indeed you can Sir. Branson, know that your great-grandfather did not die in vain. He died for a noble cause. We must liberate the whole world from the forces of tyranny, and although my ancestors did not live to see it, and I doubt anyone at this table will, the day is coming when all men shall be free.
As Jean left, Éponine still bemused by the English décor of the house as she left and they began to walk into the town where they had lodgings for the night, Jean thanked Robert and the Dowager for their generous hospitality and Robert wished them good luck on the opening of the families new Shop in the town. They both hoped they would see more of eachoter over the coming years.
As Thomas lay in his room alone, he began to hum a tune to himself. A tune he remembered a relative of his teaching him. A relative who was involved in a Parisian revolt but managed to escape, he couldn’t forget the year, maybe 1831 or 1833. He sang the words to himself in a soft whisper
“Do you hear the people sing
Singing the song of angry men
It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again
Sadly he forgot the rest of the words, but managed to hum the tune to himself quietly before falling to sleep.
Chapter 2 may be pending if people (me included) think I’m up to it. Jean and Éponine have set up a shop in the Town so many more stories may be created.
Everyone who complains that the movie is too long hasn't read the book.
Name stolen from friend on other forum.