Bitter Greens: A Novel by Kate Forsyth is released today and I have an excerpt from the book to share. The book draws inspiration from Rapunzel.
A Heart of Gall
Château de Cazeneuve, Gascony, France – June 1666
I had always been a great talker and teller of tales.
‘You should put a lock on that tongue of yours. It’s long enough and sharp enough to slit your own throat,’ our guardian warned me, the night before I left home to go to the royal court at Versailles. He sat at the head of the long wooden table in the chateau’s arched dining room, lifting his lip in distaste as the servants brought us our usual peasant fare of sausage and white-bean cassoulet. He had not accustomed himself to our simple Gascon ways, not even after six years.
I just laughed. ‘Don’t you know a woman’s tongue is her sword? You wouldn’t want me to let my only weapon rust, would you?’
‘No chance of that.’ The Marquis de Maulévrier was a humourless man, with a face like a goat and yellowish eyes that followed my sister and me as we went about our business. He thought our mother had spoilt us, and had set himself to remedy our faults. I loathed him. No, loathe is far too soft a word. I detested him.
My sister, Marie, said, ‘Please, my lord, you mustn’t mind her. You know we’re famous here in Gascony for our troubadours and minstrels. We Gascons love to sing songs and tell stories. She means no harm by it.’
‘I love to tell a gasconade,’ I sang. ‘A braggadocio, a fanfaronade . . .’
Marie sent me a look. ‘You know that Charlotte-Rose will need honey on her tongue if she’s to make her way in this world.’
‘Sangdieu, but it’s true. Her face won’t make her fortune.’
‘That’s unfair, my lord. Charlotte-Rose has the sweetest face . . .’
‘She might be passable if only she’d pluck out that sting in her tail,’ the Marquis de Maulévrier began. Seeing that I had screwed up my face like a gargoyle, waggling my tongue at him, he rapped his spoon on the pitted tabletop. ‘You’d best sweeten your temperament, mademoiselle, else you’ll find yourself with a heart of gall.’
I should have listened to him.