Chapter One- Distress in Dover

It was cold out as the flustered girl hastened up the street. Her chest rose and fell heavily and her calves ached. She had to get there before it closed, and the sun had already greeted the horizon. Up ahead she could see the old building standing gloomily. She ignored the stares of prying eyes, all wondering why this young girl ran madly down the street.

Her gloved hands pounded at the heavy oak door as tears ran down her flushed cheeks. The door parted only wide enough for an old voice to yell out, "We are closed for the night and wish to drink and be merry! We have enough depression on our hands. Come back tomorrow!"

She let out a long wail as the door snapped shut. "Please sir, have pity and hear me! It 'tis an urgent matter that can not wait until the light of the morn. For the case I present you is filled with many twists and turns, and much deception, and we have but a week to prepare for the trial!" she cried out, slumping to the stone steps.

The door opened abruptly, "Kindly get to your feet miss. It's bad advertising to have the mad on our doorstep. Come in and tell me your story. You don't mind if I sip my brandy, do you?" He lifted her to her feet and led her to a couch in his office.

He was a finely aged man of fifty with black hair and silver highlights. Wrinkles defined his face in such a way that he reflected power and strictness, but at the same time, showed a kindly manner.

"My name is Christina Chauncer," said the girl in her distressed, French accent.

"And I am Henry Johnson, but I assume, my dear, you already knew that," he replied as he downed the Brandy.

"Indeed I did, sir. It is sir, correct? Oh pardon me, but I sometimes have trouble with my English and was not sure about that word. It is so much easier to call one monsieur. But babbling, aren't I. Often I do when I am nervous. Some girls faint while I talk nonsense." she was cut off by Mr. Johnson.

"Mademoiselle Chauncer, please get to the point of your coming here. My stomach is making the most terrible sounds of hunger," he said rubbing his eyes.

"Please forgive me. I have been on my own over a year now. My mother died in childbirth and my father, last year from Consumption. I have no other family, so with my rather large inheritance I moved from Paris to Dover. I received word this afternoon that a dear friend of mine and my late family is in dire need of my help. He is the Abbe de Coulmir, though no longer an Abbe for reasons I shall explain in due time. We grew up together until I was nine and he fifteen. It was then he went off to school to become a priest. He often visited my father and I until two years ago. It was right as my father came down with his illness and we had too much on our minds to think of dear Coulmir. But as my father lay on his deathbed I beckoned the Abbe, but he did not come. Stricken by grief, the Abbe was last in my thoughts and I feel very ashamed of that. It was not until today that I learned where he has been. He has been held prisoner at the asylum Charenton, the very place he devoted his life to! Now, a Doctor Royer- Collard, who imprisoned him in the first place, claims that the Abbe is not insane but a dangerous man who must be put to his death for the murder of the new Abbe," she paced the room as Mr. Johnson's eyes followed her.

"So your pious friend is charged with murder and now there is the nasty threat of the guillotine. Well, did he do it?" he murmured half to himself.

Christina stared madly at him, "Of course he did not do it! The Abbe Coulmir would never harm a fly. It took that much peace within himself to work lovingly with the insane day in and day out. The very Marquis de Sade was under his watch. I'll have you know that he gave poor Abbe the most hell."

"Mademoiselle Chauncer, with all due respect to your sweet opinion, people do change. Why in heavens name was he even committed in the first place?" he said mockingly.

"One thing you must understand, Mr. Johnson, is that I have very few details. Frankly I will not beat around the proverbial bush. I have the money to pay you and it is said that you are the best lawyer in Europe. When we get to France we both shall learn every juicy detail. However, we have very little time and must leave tomorrow!" she fell to the couch and began to weep.

"Dear, don't cry. I shall accept your silly, futile case. I have many other cases that my poor partner shall now be burdened with thanks to you. But I think I need a challenge. Have you tickets for a packet?" he asked getting to his feet.

"Oh yes, I am quite prepared. I was busy making all f the arrangements or I would have called on you sooner. The packet for France leaves tomorrow at noon. I trust you shall meet me at the docks," she said resolutely as she walked through the door into the frigid night.

"Do not fear young miss. I shall be there. A trip to France will do me good. England can be so over bearing at times. But have faith, dear child, for there I will be. I shall save your cherub friend to the best of my abilities. I have a strong hatred of the guillotine and to let her eat a life that I may save is to let her eat the flesh of my brother. The ex-Abbe de Coulmir shall have the best lawyer in all of Europe, no, in all of the world. Ah, but my dear, you must be tired. Speed home and get some rest before our long journey tomorrow," he kissed her hand and shut the door after her.