“I smell a rat! Remi! You lose a bet and avoid the club for weeks. Why is your head not hung in shame for stepping out on a friend for so long?” François claps his arm around Remi's shoulder and, without hesitation, drags him down into the stairwell.
“How thick your breath is from drink François. When was the last occurrence you happened to be sober?” Remi returns.
A kiss grazed upon each cheek and the women follow quickly behind.
Upon entering La Spectacle the pupil dilates to better absorb the lushness of the surroundings and the varied crowd within. Focusing into view first, after striding down the steps leading into the cavern, one may remark upon the elaborately woven carpet cushioning one's feet, welcoming you to explore the near abyss and discover where it ends. The paper that adorns the walls is lavishly painted with scenes of enclosed orchards, resplendent with exotic fruits, ripe and pulling heavily on their branches. Clustered and hanging low at intervals in the corners are metalwork lamps, suspended on chains and pierced with tiny holes, designed to let light illuminate and dissipate rather than shine. Incense, tobacco, and one can only guess what other illicit smoke, permeates the air surrounding, turning the lamps into pharos in a fog. The rich scent of these commingling fragrances is distinct to this club, and to a returning patron it can act like an opiate, lulling one into a state of hypnotic repose, repealing inhibitions with the first whiff.
Making their way to a familiar corner cloaked in demi privacy by rich silks draped from above, the couples order the libation of the day and cheers to a reunited evening. Here François decides to embody the club's namesake, perched upon a table, with a toast for all to hear.
Drink to your heart's health,
nor less your spirit's wealth!
Let us not be needy
in our search for Love,
will intercept our plans,
So cheers me now,
my dear and many –
and let us hope
tomorrow when you rise
may she not be a man
in faeries disguise!”
The congregation declares its appreciation in claps, cheers, whistles, and shouts, for François is the dilettante poet of this domain and one of the lead characters in its ongoing play.
“A curious sentiment tonight, as I believe you to have never met a bedfellow you discriminated against.” A sly glance in François’ direction is shrugged off amidst a plume of smoke and Remi continues, “You have become quite the ring leader. Exactly how often do you frequent this den these days?”
“Enough to know there is an antechamber behind a panel door, here concealed by draperies.”
His hand languidly strokes the wall nearest him, eyes flitting towards Margaux whose face is flush and turned away from the rest of the party. His is always a ribald jest.
François' corrupt smirk then turns itself onto Clara.
“And you my dear, what excuse have you for turning up in this licentious hideaway tonight? Speak of your intentions.”
“I have none but to satisfy my appetite.”
“And we long to hear your cravings!” He checks Remi's face, which appears bored with François' intrigues and current conversation.
“Is it not easy enough to divine? What more does a woman seek but a man with a remarkable income to commit himself to her, thus securing her against all future worries. The luxury of a husband is all a girl craves. I feel I should begin my search for him tonight, in this very room.” Finding herself in the mood to wind tighter the strings of Remi's annoyance, she masks her sarcasm in sincerity. A spiteful taunt in retaliation for his pursuing her with preposterous earnestness.
Taking her confidence seriously, three different reactions ripple through the gathered friends; excitement, suspicion, and confusion flash across each face. Margaux springs close to Clara's side and the pair begin to scrutinize the faces passing in and out of the enveloping haze that surrounds them. François looks to Remi in an attempt to decipher whether or not he has pledged something substantial to Clara without first conferring his opinion. Remi's face is the most chameleon. He has heard many a manner of ridiculous talk from Clara before, but certainly nothing so definitely declared on this subject.