Excerpt from The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Lady and the Unicorn

by Tracy Chevalier

The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier X
The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2004, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2005, 256 pages

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I decided first to finish measuring the room, whatever I was to design for its walls. I needed a pole, and found the steward in the storerooms, counting out candles. He was as sour with me as before, but directed me to the stables. "You watch out with that pole," he ordered. "Don't go doing any damage with it."

I smirked. "I didn't take you for a bawd," I said.

The steward frowned. "That's not what I meant. But I'm not surprised that's how you took it, you who can't control your own rod."

"What do you mean?"

"You know what I mean. What you done to Marie-Céleste."

Marie-Céleste—the name meant nothing.

When the steward saw my blank look he snarled, "The maid you got with child, pisspot."

"Ah, her. She should have been more careful."

"So should you. She's a good girl—she deserves better than you."

"It's a pity about Marie-Céleste, but I've given her money and she'll be all right. Now, I must get that pole."

The steward grunted. As I turned to go, he muttered, "You watch your back, pisspot."

I found a pole in the stables and was carrying it across the courtyard when Jean Le Viste himself came striding out of the house. He swept by without even looking at me—he must have thought I was just another servant—and I called out, "Monseigneur! A moment, please!" If I didn't say something now I might never get another chance alone with him.

Jean Le Viste turned to see who was calling, then grunted and kept walking. I ran to catch up with him. "Please, Monseigneur, I would like to discuss the tapestries further."

"You should talk to Léon, not me."

"Yes, Monseigneur, but I felt that for something as important as these tapestries you should be consulted directly." As I hurried after him, the end of the pole dipped and caught on a stone, tumbling from my hands and clattering to the ground. The whole courtyard rang with the sound. Jean Le Viste stopped and glared at me.

"I am concerned, Monseigneur," I said hastily. "Concerned that you should have hung on your walls what others would expect from such a prominent member of Court. From a president of the Cour des Aides, no less." I was making up words as I went along.

"What's your point? I am busy here."

"I have seen designs for a number of tapestries this past year commissioned by noble families from my fellow artists. All of these tapestries have one thing in common—a millefleur background." This much was true—backgrounds of a dense pattern of flowers were popular now, particularly as weavers in the north perfected the technique.

"Flowers?" Jean Le Viste repeated, looking down at his feet as if he had just trampled upon some.

"Yes, Monseigneur."

"There are no flowers in battles."

"No, Monseigneur. They have not been weaving battles. Several of my colleagues have designed scenes with—with unicorns in them, Monseigneur."

"Unicorns?"

"Yes, Monseigneur."

Jean Le Viste looked so sceptical that I quickly added another lie that I could only hope he wouldn't discover. "Several noble families are having them made—Jean d'Alençon, Charles de St. Émilion, Philippe de Chartres." I tried to name families Jean Le Viste was unlikely to visit—they either lived too far away, or were too noble for the Le Vistes, or not noble enough.

"They are not having battles made," Jean Le Viste repeated.

"No, Monseigneur."

"Unicorns."

"Yes, Monseigneur. They are à la mode now. And it did occur to me that a unicorn might be appropriate for your family." I described Béatrice's pun.

Jean Le Viste didn't change expression, but he nodded, and that was enough. "Do you know what to have this unicorn do?"

From The Lady and The Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier. Copyright Tracy Chevalier 2003, all rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Dutton Publishing.

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