Camille Durbonne gambled everything she had to keep herself and her sister safe. But as the people of Paris starve and mobs riot, safety may no longer be possible…
We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from Gita Trelease’s Everything That Burns, the sequel to All That Glitters—available now from Flatiron Books.
Camille Durbonne gambled everything she had to keep herself and her sister safe. But as the people of Paris starve and mobs riot, safety may no longer be possible…
…Not when Camille lives for the rebellion. In the pamphlets she prints, she tells the stories of girls living at society’s margins. But as her writings captivate the public, she begins to suspect a dark magic she can’t control lies at the heart of her success. Then Louis XVI declares magic a crime and all magicians traitors to France. As bonfires incinerate enchanted books and special police prowl the city, the time for magic—and those who work it—is running out.
In this new Paris where allegiances shift and violence erupts, the answers Camille seeks set her on a perilous path, one that may cost her the boy she loves—even her life. If she can discover who she truly is before vengeful forces unmask her, she may still win this deadly game of revolution.
Giselle had only two bouquets of yellow roses left. It was late afternoon, and August’s withering heat hung over the flower seller and her blooms. Like the other girls who’d stood there since early morning, selling bouquets in the shadow of the church of Sainte-Chapelle, Giselle had lined her wicker tray with evergreen branches. Not only did they show off the roses to advantage, they also kept the blooms fresh.
But on a steaming day like today, even cedar boughs were not enough.
While the other girls’ flowers had drooped, the edges of their petals etched brown with decay, Giselle’s had stayed perfect. As if newly picked.
Glancing at her posies, passersby couldn’t help but think of a dewy garden in the early morning, its cool air alive with green perfume and the liquid trills of birds. A place where trouble and striving didn’t exist. In that imaginary garden, there were no bakers strung up from lampposts for the crime of running out of bread, or children crushed beneath the wheels of an aristocrat’s carriage. There were no grain shortages or rumors of aristocratic plots against the people. No vagrants or arsonists, no beggars or bloodthirsty magicians.
Amid the revolutionary chaos of Paris, this was no small illusion.
To conjure a garden from a tray of cut roses was to set people to dreaming, and if that dream cost several sous, what of it? It was worth it to hand over the coins, and to take the bouquet—its thorns snipped neatly away— and press it to your nose, inhaling all that was good and sweet while the hot reek of the river Seine, ferrying all manner of rotten things in its water, faded far away.
Giselle knew this, and priced her blooms accordingly.
“You.” A man approached, a nobleman, Giselle guessed, by his fine suit and silver-capped cane. Lace spilled from his cuffs, unapologetically expensive, and above his spotless white cravat, his mouth was large, too eager.
“I’ll take the prettiest one.” As he waited for her to give him a bouquet, he cocked his head and watched her.
Giselle smiled only vaguely in his direction and chose the finer of the remaining bunches. With some customers, it was best not to meet their gaze, for they took it as encouragement. She suspected he was one of those, and the sooner he was gone, the better. Curtseying, she handed over the flowers. The livre he gave her—without asking for change—she slipped into the hem of her apron. Safe. She waited for him to leave. Irritatingly, he did not.
“How fresh your flowers are!” He stared not at the bouquet, but at her. “What trick do you use to keep them that way?”
“I stand in the shadows, m’sieur,” she replied. “Where it’s cool.”
Of course that wasn’t the whole truth. Her friend Margot got ice from a warehouse at the city’s edge. Her lover was the night guard, and he let her in. In the gray morning, before she left, he’d brush away a heap of sawdust, chip off a shining sliver, and give it to her along with a kiss. Margot kept a chunk of that ice tucked under the oranges and strawberries she sold near the Louvre palace. And because Giselle shared with Margot the boughs she cut from trees at an old cemetery, Margot always asked her lover to cut a second shard of ice for Giselle.
The ice was a wonder. Trapped inside were thousands of tiny bubbles, like pearls. She wished she could keep the ice in the open and watch it change over the course of the day. Becoming something else. But flower sellers were poor, and a flower seller with the money to buy ice would be no flower seller at all, but a thief. So she kept it hidden under the green boughs on her tray. It wasn’t magic, but it felt like it. A secret.
The nobleman had drawn close now.
Behind him stood a girl her own age. Well dressed, freckled, auburn hair coiled under a straw hat, its swooping brim wider than any Giselle had seen. Tucked under her arm was a bundle of papers, tied with string. She seemed nervous, and Giselle gave her an encouraging smile. If the girl came forward to buy the last bouquet, the nobleman might move on and leave her be.
But the only smile she got was from the man, and it was a wicked one. “You are so lovely, mademoiselle—une très belle fleur.”
“I’m not a flower.” She shifted her wicker tray so it rested on her hip, keeping a distance between them. But he was tall enough to reach over it, and behind her was the high stone wall of Sainte-Chapelle.
Once more, Giselle glanced toward the girl in the hat standing behind him. It was too much to hope she might intervene. Wasn’t she but a girl, just as Giselle was? Giselle knew there was beauty in her smile, the cocoa-brown gloss of her hair, her flowers’ sweetness. But after that? She was only a poor girl trying to stay alive. If their places were reversed, she knew in her heart she would never do for a stranger what she was hoping the girl in the cartwheel hat would do for her.
“I’m naught but a flower seller, m’sieur.”
“Come, come!” he cajoled. “Are you certain?” And then, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, he grasped her hand. In his palm, pressed hard against hers, was a louis d’or. She recognized its size, the shape it made against her flesh. A gold louis was more than she could earn in weeks. Enough to take her friends to a café in the Palais-Royal, where they’d dine like queens. It’d be late, the sky deepest midnight, but inside the candles would burn bright as stars. They’d order champagne and roasted chicken. There would be a rich sauce, slices of bread to mop it up. And after, stewed apples swimming in cream. She imagined what it’d be like to sit at a table with white linens and clean plates while someone waited on them, where they could laugh and talk and dream. For once, not to be striving to keep fear and hunger at arm’s length. For once, to belong.
That was what a gold louis was. But she wouldn’t take it. She was afraid of what he wanted in return. Tugging hard, she freed her hand and held the glinting coin out to him. Across her palm curved a red line where the louis had bitten into her flesh. “M’sieur, you’ve already paid for the flowers. This is too much.”
Frowning, he asked, “Too much for what?”
“I’m sure I don’t know,” she said, obstinate. What made him think he had any rights over her? “Take it, m’sieur.”
He came nearer, mouth twisted, face purpling. As he pushed against her tray, her last bouquet tumbled into the dirt. Gone. She didn’t dare pick it up. Instead, she took a step backward, then another. “Please!”
“You are a nothing,” he hissed. “You are a girl on the street, fresh one day and spoiled the next—how dare you? It’s not for the likes of you to tell me what is too much.” He spun, theatrically, to address the passersby. Sunlight danced on his silver-topped cane as he raised it high. “Is this what revolution has brought us? Flower sellers who think they’re the equals of men?”
From behind him, someone scoffed. Was it the girl in the hat?
Giselle took another step back, and found the church wall unyielding against her back. “I don’t think that!”
Though of course she did.
He must have seen the defiant spark in her eyes, because he thundered, “See what she has in her hand! She stole that gold louis out of my pocket!”
“That’s not true!” Giselle threw the coin at him as if it scorched. Surprised, he caught it. “Now leave me be! I haven’t done anything wrong.”
“Can we let this impudence stand?” the man bellowed, and in the crowded street, several hatless men, their brick maker’s aprons red with clay, stopped to stare. “Shouldn’t she be punished?” the aristocrat asked as the crowd eddied around him.
No one asked a question of him. No one said: What is the truth?
She’d seen it before. People didn’t care to know who was right and who was wrong before they joined in. No matter what was happening on the street—a circus or a hanging—it was as exciting as the theater. Better, even, because you never knew how it would end.
Then someone screamed: “À la lanterne!” To the lamppost! String up the thief! A dozen voices took up the blood-chilling cry. Giselle shrank back, as if she could somehow disappear. Where to go? If she slipped through the church’s shadow, raced to the river and across the bridge, perhaps she could vanish in the tangle of crooked alleys and lanes she knew so well. But if by some miracle she escaped the mob, there was still the police. His word against hers. There was no question whom the court would believe.
Her breath came shallow and fast.
The terror of a prison cell at La Petite Force, the iron lock and bars. But worse, much worse was what would happen to the others: Margot, Claudine, Little Céline with her sweet smile and sticky hands. Without them, what or where would she be? Her legs trembled as the circle of people tightened around her.
There was no way out. She might die here today. Hanged from a lamppost or a tree. Her head stuck on a—
Then the girl in the hat stood in front of her, blocking the others from view. Her gray eyes burned. “You must disappear! If the crowd doesn’t get you, the police will, and they won’t believe a word you say.” She grasped the leather strap of Giselle’s wicker tray. “Leave this and run! People have been killed for less.”
Giselle bent her head and the strap slid along her back as the tray came away in the other girl’s hands. “But I need it—”
The expression on the other girl’s face said, Not as much as you need your life. But somehow she understood, for she said, low, “Meet me in the little square at the end of the island, by the old oak, before six. Now go!”
Giselle choked out a “merci” and then shoved past the man, running faster than she’d ever run before. Past carriages and vegetable sellers and a juggler in a tattered costume, her breath in her throat, her heart a wild drum. Behind her came the mob, relentless as a cresting wave.
But Camille Durbonne, the young Vicomtesse de Séguin, did not run. Instead, she stood, shaking, as the red-faced nobleman watched the crowd chase after the flower seller. Then he turned his rage on her.
“How dare you interfere with my business!” he snarled, raising his cane. “What right have you to go against me? I ought to have you whipped—”
Fear was a sudden hand at her throat, and she choked on the words she’d thought to say. Instead she stepped back and let him see her: the richly patterned fabric of her dress and its exquisite silk jacket, the lace at her collar and sleeves—unlike his, not excessive for these revolutionary times—the nest from Alençon. The straw hat that curved daringly across her brow was one of Sophie’s sweeping extravagances, and there was no mistaking Camille’s white fingers and smooth skin, the clean hems of her skirts, the unworn heels of her raspberry-tinted shoes. Everything she wore proclaimed money and power. Which, she suspected, were the only things this man understood.
As he took in her appearance his mouth fell open. “Mademoiselle?” he stammered.
Camille’s anger at the injustice ran like a fiery river through her. Seeing the flower seller trapped, Camille felt her own fear clawing its way back, sharp and raw as ever. But now she had a title, a mansion, and fine clothes. Shouldn’t she use them as weapons?
“Monsieur!” she said, disdainful as any courtier at the Palace of Versailles. “Do not speak to me of rights. If I were you, I wouldn’t put myself where I wasn’t wanted. The people of Paris no longer bend to your will.” She added, each word as sharp and scornful as she could make it, “They are human beings and might turn on you next.”
“Pardon!” he exclaimed. “I did not realize the girl was a protegée of yours! If I had known, of course, I would never . . .” He attempted a wan smile.
She wanted to kick him. Viciously. His pretend apologies and pathetic excuses were just like her brother, Alain’s. Weak, but still capable of hurting others. Like this nobleman, he’d never owned up to what he’d done, but instead just took, took, took. When would people like him finally understand the world wasn’t theirs for the taking? That a girl was more than a fruit or a flower to be plucked?
“A word of advice, monsieur: keep your hands to yourself and things will work out much better for you.” Behind his shoulder, the street had emptied out, the crowd dispersed. “Now that the revolution has come, no one is your property any longer. We are all equals, non?”
“How correct you are!” With a fawning bow, he held out the yellow roses to Camille. “You would honor me by taking these—”
Not trusting herself to speak, she silently took them and he scuttled off.
Though Camille’s performance had gone as well as she could have hoped, inside, she was trembling. Her hurt and anger threatened to consume her.
She tried to breathe, still her pounding heart, and listen. The mob was far off, or had given up its hunt, for she could no longer hear its frenzied screams. For now at least, the island returned to its everyday noises. Her fury receded like a tide, laying bare the helpless fear underneath that never seemed to go away. The wild beat of her pulse that buzzed: if not for magic, that might have been you.
Things were better now, but each morning she willed herself to believe it would last. For wasn’t that one of magic’s lessons—that nothing stayed? She had lost so much before, why not the fine house, the friends, the raven-haired boy she dreamed of?
She pushed the thought away.
Shouldering the strap of the flower seller’s tray, and tucking her bundle of pamphlets and the roses under her arm, Camille struck out toward the old oak at the island’s tip.
Her way took her past the old palace wall, built by French kings long before the Louvre, the Tuileries, or Versailles. On it, two boys were hanging posters. The taller one balanced on a ladder, a bucket of paste swinging from his arm, in his hand a wide brush. The other handed him posters, one by one. As they went up, a woman read them aloud to a ragtag group gathering around her. Plenty of people in Paris could read. Others got their news this way, from the mouths of hawkers and newsboys, troublemakers and rabble-rousers. Each of the papers and broadsheets and pamphlets that had mushroomed since the fall of the Bastille had a tale to tell. Some of them real, some fake. Camille could hear Papa now, how angry he’d have been if he’d been able to see the lies people printed: A pamphleteer must tell the truth!
But what if no one listened?
Two small boys, their clothes worn to rags, split o from the group and ran to her on their bare feet. Their bellies were swollen—rumor said the poor had nothing but grass to eat—their eyes too large in their faces.
“Mademoiselle!” they begged. She kneeled beside them and emptied her purse into their hands. “Buy something for yourself first,” she told them. In a moment, they had vanished, as if they’d never been. As Camille stood, she heard the woman shouting out the poster’s words: Bread. Aristocrats. Death.
On the Quai des Morfondus, she passed a weary farmer in his wagon, heading home. Unlike last year, there was grain to be had this summer, but drought had dried up the rivers and there was no way to mill it into flour. In the countryside, hungry people were leaving their villages to search for food
and work, and it made others suspicious.
All of Paris was a mass of kindling, piled perilously high.
It would only take a spark to leap into flame.
Having traversed the narrow island, she had come to the river Seine, flowing dark beneath her. Across the river lay the Right Bank, where she lived, and the infamous Place de Grève. It was in that great square, Papa had told her, that King Louis IX had burned twelve thousand copies of a religious book in an act of censorship and hate. Worse were the executions. Legend said the Place de Grève was haunted by those who’d been tortured there, their malevolent ghosts waiting to drown passersby in the river.
Despite the heat, Camille shivered.
Ahead of her lay the island’s tip and the ancient oak, its limbs spreading wide. It was only August, but the dry heat had tinged its leaves with bronze. Under its shady canopy, people stood talking with their neighbors.
But the flower seller was nowhere to be seen.
Camille could only wait a few minutes. As she rested the tray against the old oak, she remembered the pamphlets tucked under her arm. Across the top of them was sedately written: On the Education of Girls by Jean-Nicolas Durbonne. The sight of those words made her want to scream. If only she could toss them into one of the bonfires that burned at night on the Seine and incinerate them into ash.
Her visit to the bookshop of one Henri Lasalle had not gone well.
She’d passed the store several times, working up the courage to enter. In its window hung posters announcing the latest actions of the General Assembly, which was meeting in Versailles to create a constitution and rights for the citizens of France. Through the bookstore’s open door came the buzz of enthusiastic arguments. Promising, but also intimidating. Standing
on the threshold, she suddenly longed for Lazare—his hand at her elbow and encouragement in his deep brown eyes.
But Lazare was elsewhere.
Taking a deep breath, she went in. The shop was not large, but clean and well organized, its patrons browsing the bookshelves or paging through newspapers. One of the men, a baker’s apron tied over his long pants and clogs, was waving a pamphlet at a plain-clothed priest. From behind the counter, the man she took to be the bookseller joined in with a few choice words.
“Monsieur,” he said, “how can you argue for all men to be equal under the new constitution?”
The priest looked surprised. “Are not all men equal before God?”
“Aha!” said the bookseller, as if he’d caught his friend in a trap. “Tell me then, why is the Church itself so rich? Are they so much more equal?”
“Touché!” cried the baker. “Come, Father Aubain, you must admit there’s a hole in your argument.”
“Not so fast,” he warned. “Let me explain what the Church does with its money.”
“Explain the amount of land you own while you’re at it,” the bookseller said good-naturedly.
As Camille listened to them debate, a smile crept across her lips. At last she had found the right bookseller. The previous three had said no, but they’d clearly been out of step with the times. Here was the debate she’d been searching for. Here was the place where she might step in and make a difference.
She cleared her throat. “Monsieur?”
“Ah, mademoiselle!” He smoothed the front of his coat. “Anything in particular you’re looking for?”
“Not today. Instead, I have something you might be looking for. A new pamphlet.”
Behind her, the conversation paused.
Camille held out a copy to the bookseller and was mortified to see that it had somehow become creased.
He barely glanced at it. “What is it called?”
“On the Education of Girls. By my father, Jean-Nicolas Durbonne.”
“Ah!” e bookseller’s attention sharpened. “What kind of education do you mean?”
“History, philosophy, Latin. Everything that boys—”
“Non!” He threw up his hands. “Won’t work.”
“Why not?” Camille said, flustered.
“If you’d said, ‘The Education of a Girl of the Streets’? People would buy
that faster than you could tell them the title.”
“Scandalous!” scolded the priest.
“But it sells, Father. ‘The King’s Mistress’? They’d be shaking their purses upside down over the counter.” The bookseller warmed to his subject. “‘Murders in the rue Trianon’? They’d wait outside the shop before it opened, perspiring with anticipation! Accounts of the storming of the Bastille are still popular if they’re grisly enough. Blood filling the moat, innocent citizens tortured. A head cut o with a paring knife. That did happen, you know.” He leaned an elbow on the counter. “Got anything like that, mademoiselle?”
She had only Papa’s words and what he’d taught her. In their printing shop, he’d shown her how to pull the lever on the press, saying: With one stroke, ma petite, you can change the world. She’d insisted she was just a child and what could she do, being so small? Papa had given her a melancholy smile, as if thinking of something that had happened long ago, and replied: You will do what needs to be done.
What this bookseller wanted was not what Papa had had in mind.
“Shouldn’t people be inspired to do better?” Camille demanded. “To change the world?”
“Your pamphlet’s not going to do it,” laughed the baker.
“If you read it, you’d find it’s well argued. Convincing.”
The bookseller shrugged. “I read the first few lines. It won’t sell. It is not
au courant. It is not now.”
Frustrated, Camille said, “But it’s about equality! You were just speaking
“Girls—women—will, I’m afraid to say, never become true citizens. Therefore, your pamphlet is not a part of the debate. How else can I say it? It’s irrelevant and dull!”
“Do we then not matter?” Her words came out choked, humiliating.
The bookseller must have seen the hurt in Camille’s face, for he added, a bit more kindly, “You’re welcome to leave a few of your pamphlets here, and I will try. Still, I cannot make people buy something they don’t wish to read.”
She laid the papers on the counter. In that ink was so much work and hope. With a curt nod to the men, she left the shop as quickly as she could, but not before she’d heard one of them laugh, “You can always use the pamphlets to light your candles, Lasalle!”
Around the corner, alone under the shade of an awning, traitorous tears pooled in her eyes. What was wrong with the pamphlets? What was wrong with her? Those long afternoons printing with Papa, she’d believed those black letters could launch ideas into the world and change things for the better. A good kind of magic.
She had used a dangerous magic to disguise herself at court, cheating at at cards to keep herself and her sister alive, even while that magic hollowed her out and left her wondering if she would ever be completely free of it. But through determination and daring and pain, she’d lifted herself and Sophie from poverty to a place of safety.
She hefted the bundle of unwanted pamphlets. She was not satisfied with this.
In the fairy stories Maman had told them when they were little, the ones that had gotten mixed up in her head with the gilded stories of court life, there would sometimes be a girl who got a wish. Usually she had done something kind, like saving a trout that was really an enchanted prince or helping an old woman find a needle she’d dropped, which turned out to be the thing that released the woman from a terrible spell. And in return, the girl got a wish. Some girls wished well and others wished badly. When they could have had anything, those girls wished for sausages or for their shoes to t. They had been so desperate for so long that they had stopped wishing for anything big. Anything that could truly change their lives.
She did not want to make that mistake.
Solemn and deep, the bells of Notre-Dame began to toll six o’clock. The dry leaves of the oaks rattled in the hot wind that rose from the river. The
long afternoon was edging toward evening, and still, the flower seller hadn’t appeared. But surely, Camille reasoned, the girl would return to Sainte-Chapelle in a few days, and she could bring her the tray then. As she stooped to pick it up, a flash of white caught her eye. A piece of paper, nailed to the tree. It had an unusual shape: long and narrow, its bottom edge ragged.
A notice of some kind? Curious, she began to read.
It was a list of names. Hastily scrawled, blots and spots marring the letters. Some names were misspelled. To her surprise, there were a few names she recognized from court. The Comte d’Astignac. The Duchess de Polignac.
Unease gnawed at her. Halfway down was the name of the aristocrat who’d reported Papa’s revolutionary pamphlets to the censors. Below it, Germaine de Staël’s, who held a popular salon on the Left Bank, which Camille had attended with Lazare and Rosier. What was her name doing on this list? But when she came to the end, and saw the names Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, she understood: it was a list of nobles deemed traitors to the revolution.
At the very bottom was written: À la lanterne!
Who gave this person the right to decide who should live and who should die?
Glancing surreptitiously over her shoulder, Camille tore the paper down.
Quickly, she left the square, heading home. As she crossed the river on the Pont Notre-Dame, she dropped the crumpled paper over the side of the bridge. For a moment, the list floated on the Seine’s black water, undulating with the current, and then, like an eye winking shut, it was gone.
Excerpted from Everything That Burns, copyright © 2021 by Gita Trelease, with permission from Flatiron Books.