Den of Thieves (A Cat Royal Adventure)

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9781596434448: Den of Thieves (A Cat Royal Adventure)

TRAITORS, CAPTIVES, AND A PEOPLE'S REVOLUTION

The third volume of the CAT ROYAL ADVENTURE series takes readers to Paris on a covert mission.

The Theater Royal is closed for renovations, so Mr. Sheridan commissions Cat to act as his spy in revolutionary Paris. Disguised as a ballerina, Cat joins the revolution, only to find that it is up to her to save her friends when they are captured as traitors. Like the previous two books in the series, The Diamond of Drury Lane and Cat Among the Pigeons, Den of Thieves is filled with disguises, danger, drama, and, most of all, the irrepressible Cat Royal.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

JULIA GOLDING lives in Oxford, England.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

London and Paris, 1791 Curtain rises.

Prologue

 

In the theater, there comes a moment when we bid good-bye to a play. The scripts are put back on the shelf, the scenery dismantled, the actors move on to new roles. Yesterday, my life at the Theater Royal, Drury Lane, came to the end of its run.

 

What can I say to you, Reader? For me, everything is over.

 

I admit that I’m scared. I don’t know what I shall do. I wasn’t prepared for such a sudden termination to the life I thought I was going to lead. And so strange to think that the curtain was brought down with such a simple question.

 

Mr. Sheridan caught me in the corridor back stage as I carried the actresses’ wigs out of the powder room. "Cat, come here. Tell me what you think."

 

From the stage came the sounds of the orchestra tuning up. My friend Pedro would already be in his place, sitting with the other violinists. Counting the audience, we were expecting a full house. Backstage was abuzz with excitement as the moment of performance approached. I really didn’t have time to linger but my patron, Mr. Sheridan, could not be denied. He hauled me into his office, snatched the tray, and dumped it unceremoniously on the floor.

 

"Watch it, sir! I’ll get skinned if anything happens to those!" I protested as I tried to prevent many guineas’ worth of powdered curls tumbling onto the hearth.

 

"No, no, forget about those," he said, heedless in his enthusiasm. "I want you to be one of the first to see the plans," and he hooked me by the elbow and propelled me to the desk.

 

"Fifteen minutes!" called the stage manager outside. Three actors rushed by, not yet in costume. They’d obviously lingered too long in the Players’ Tavern.

 

On the scuffed leather surface of the desk lay a sheaf of crackling white parchment scored with lines and tiny numbers.

 

"So?" Mr. Sheridan asked, rubbing his hands eagerly, looking across at me, his brown eyes sparkling.

 

He evidently wanted my opinion—a fact that I would have found flattering if I hadn’t been in such a rush to deliver the wigs; the actresses would not thank me if I made them late for their first entrance. I had better get this over with. I turned my mind to the papers in front of me. It was clearly a design for a grand building of some sort—a palace perhaps. Maybe Mr. Sheridan’s extravagant friend the Prince of Wales had yet another construction project in his sights?

 

"Er . . . what is it?" I asked.

 

"It’s Drury Lane, of course." My patron’s flushed face beamed happily. Was he drunk already?

 

I took a closer look. I could now see the vast stage and auditorium, but this wasn’t my theater. None of my familiar landmarks were here; he must be joking. "No, it’s not, sir. Where’s the Sparrow’s Nest? Where’s the scenery store?"

 

"You don’t understand, Cat. Not this worn-out pile of bricks and cracked plaster," he waved dismissively at the ceiling. "These are the plans for the new Theater Royal—one fit for our modern age that will rise from the ashes of the old."

 

Mr. Sheridan had often talked about sprucing up the theater when he had the money—he never did, so I had always let these ramblings wash over me.

 

"Very nice, sir," I said non-committally, wondering if I could get on my way. In fact, I thought the plans looked terrible—they represented a vast, soulless place where actors would seem like objects viewed the wrong way down a telescope, if I had understood the drawings correctly. It would kill the theater—and probably quite a few of our leading actors as they tried to make themselves heard in that space. It was a good job that it would never be built.

 

"Ten minutes!" called the stage manager. "Light the stage candles."

 

"I’m glad you like it, Cat," said Mr. Sheridan, caressing the papers, "because this evening I’m going to announce to the cast that the last performance within these walls will be on June fourth. When we close, the demolition crew will move in to knock the old place down."

 

"What!" I felt as if he had just tipped a kettle of scalding water on me.

 

"I know that is very soon, but I didn’t want to make a premature announcement. I couldn’t get a builder for the job until I’d put the money on the table. Apparently, my reputation for not being prompt about settling my account had preceded me." He chuckled and smoothed his white silk cravat fixed in place with a diamond-headed pin.

 

This was serious.

 

"What, Cat? You don’t look pleased."

 

"How long will the theater be closed?"

 

"Oh, I don’t know—a couple of seasons perhaps. We’re not talking about a refit here—this is a complete rebuild."

 

"A couple of seasons! But that’s years!"

 

He darted a look at me out of the corner of his eye. "I know it’s going to mean a lot of changes for everyone. We’ll have to camp out at the King’s Theater for a while, but I’m sure the company will all pull together when they understand what we stand to gain."

 

"I see." I said no more. My home was about to be destroyed: the Sparrow’s Nest, my foothold in the world for as long as I could remember, was to be turned into rubble; the playground backstage that I’d shared with Pedro was about to be reduced to dust. Where would we go? At least Pedro had his master, the musical director—as an apprentice, he would be looked after. But I, as an orphan under the protection of the theater, I’d been allowed a corner no one else wanted. In a new theater, where no one knew me, would I be so fortunate again?

 

Mr. Sheridan must have been following some of my thoughts from the expressions on my face.

 

"When this is all over, Cat, I think you’ll recognize it was for the best. You can’t bed down in the costume store any more like some stray kitten. You’re a young lady now. You need to find proper lodgings for yourself—start to make your own way."

 

With what? I wondered. I worked in exchange for bed and board. I’d never had any money to call my own.

 

"I have every confidence that you’ll land on your feet as normal. You’re not called Cat for nothing," he continued cheerfully, ruffling my ginger hair and dislodging my cap.

 

I knew that for my own good I had to be practical. I couldn’t indulge myself and let out the wail of grief that welled up inside me. "Can I move with the company?" I asked. "Will you start paying me wages?"

 

Mr. Sheridan began tidying away the plans. "We’ll see. Money’s a bit tight at the moment, what with the cost of the new building and the removal. Have a word with Mrs. Reid—she might be able to squeeze something out of the wardrobe budget for you. Though I must admit I rather thought that you were going to make your fortune by your pen. I understood that the Duke of Avon was helping you find a publisher."

 

He’d hit upon a sore spot.

 

"His Grace has tried, but the booksellers find my stuff too shocking. They’ve told me to write about love and female duty—not boxing and battles."

 

Mr. Sheridan laughed. "Don’t you listen to them, Cat. You have to put up with your fair share of rejection as a writer if you want to succeed. Keep trying—you’ll find your audience one day."

 

"Yes, when I’m six feet under and women are equals to men—that means never," I muttered sullenly.

 

"I wouldn’t be so sure of that," said Mr. Sheridan, toying with the watch chain that looped across his broad expanse of waistcoat. "It may happen sooner than you think. Events in France are transforming things that, when I was your age, were thought to be untouchable. Maybe your sex will be the next to share in the benefits of the wind of change that is sweeping across Europe."

 

Mr. Sheridan was talking politics now. The theater was really only a hobby to him: his real career lay in parliament so it didn’t take much to jog him onto this track. I’d be getting a full-blown speech about progress and revolution if I didn’t watch out.

 

"We’ll see, sir," I said humbly, bobbing a curtsey. "May I go now?"

 

"Yes, yes, off you go, child. And don’t worry: we’ll make sure you are all right one way or another," he said, leafing through the plans once more.

 

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