After their strange and unpleasant experience, Miss Annie Moberly and Miss Eleonor Jourdain briefly visit Marie-Antoinette’s little palace, the Petit Trianon, then return to Versailles, catch a train and arrive in Paris without exchanging one word on the bizarre people whom they had met.

It is only one week later that Miss Moberly suddenly asks her friend if she thinks that the Petit Trianon is haunted.  Miss Jourdain unhesitatingly answers that she does.  Miss Moberly wants to know where she first had this impression.  Miss Jourdain tells her that it was in the park, when they had met the two men near the kiosque.  They then reveal to each other the feeling of anguish which they had felt during their walk, and agree that the comportment of the man with the cloak who had spoken to them was, at the very least, strange.

A few days later, they return to England.  But one evening, when they are talking about their visit to the Petit Trianon, they notice with great astonishment that, on certain points, their memories of it are completely different.  For example, Miss Moberly did not see the young girl with the jug who was with her mother in front of the house, and Miss Jourdain did not see the lady who was sketching on the lawn.

Intrigued by so many mysteries, they decide to each write down an account of their walk.  And they soon have the proof that, on 10 August, although they were walking side by side, they did not meet the same people.

***

The following year, on 2 January 1902, Miss Jourdain returns alone to Versailles.  This time, she goes by carriage directly to the Petit Trianon.  There, she walks down the alley which flanks the Temple de l’Amour.  For a certain time, she walks with a light step, happy to be visiting this place normally.  But while crossing the bridge which leads to the Hameau, she suddenly feels the same sense of oppression that she had felt on 10 August 1901.  She writes:

“As if I had crossed a line and suddenly found myself in an enchanted circle.”

That’s when she sees two men wearing tunics and cloaks with pointed hoods, one bright red, the other blue, who are putting faggots on a cart.  For an instant, she turns her head to look at the Hameau, then her gaze travels back toward the men who are charging the dead wood.  She is astounded to see that there is no-one there.

After having visited the Hameau, Miss Jourdain gets lost and finds herself in a thick wood where she has the impression that she is surrounded by an invisible crowd.  She can hear the “swishing of silk clothes”.  Several times, French words are pronounced near her ear, then she hears music which seems to come from an orchestra situated not far from her.

Continuing on her way as if in a dream, the lady senses, for the last time, the light caress of a gown, then she leaves this sort of “enchanted zone” and comes back towards Versailles.  There, she makes some enquiries and learns that no orchestra had played that day in the park.

In July, 1904, Miss Jourdain and Miss Moberly return, together this time, to Versailles.  They are firstly very surprised to see the park filled with people, as it had been completely empty when they had been there before.  They go in search of the path they had taken in 1901, in the hope of again seeing these strange places where they had met people seeming to belong to another time.

For hours, they go up and down alleys, ask other people, interrogate the guards.  But they find neither the kiosque,  the boulders, the rustic bridge, the crevice, the cascade, the lawn where the lady was sketching, nor even the thick wood where Miss Jourdain was lost in 1902.  Everything has disappeared.

***

Miss Moberly and Miss Jourdain did not write their accounts of all this until 1911, when they were published under the title An Adventure.  In the intervening ten years, they tried to find out exactly what it was they had seen in the Trianon park.  To begin, they tried to find out if they had met the actors in some sort of historical reconstitution.  They wrote to the Conservator of Versailles, as well as to local journalists.  They were told

“that no film was being made on 10 August 1901 at Trianon, and that no guard had noticed the presence in the park of any costumed people”…

This led them to think that they had really met people who had surged from the past.  They then tried to identify them, and to find out if the places in which they had found themselves – the bridge, the waterfall, the kiosque – had really existed in the XVIIIth Century.  It took them a long time.  Knowing nothing about life at Versailles before the Revolution, they had to return to France, spend days in libraries, consult old engravings, plans, the Queen’s gardening accounts, meet historians, the Conservator, etc.  They found traces of everything they had seen during their fantastic walk.

Miss Moberly and Miss Jourdain discovered that, in 1789, when the Queen was at the Petit Trianon, the door of the garden was guarded by two men, the Bersy brothers, who wore what was then known as la petite livree, that is to say a sort of green riding-coat and a tricorn.  This corresponds to the two men of whom the ladies asked their way.

The house with the woman and the young girl no longer existed after the First Empire, but the English ladies found its exact trace on a plan from 1783.  They discovered that, in 1789, a woman lived there alone with her daughter Marion, aged fourteen.

The kiosque, too, had disappeared, but Miss Moberly and Miss Jourdain found its trace in the archives and were able to see that it had been surrounded with rocks, which was the fashion of the time.

The man with the dark complexion and the face scarred by smallpox, whom they met at the kiosque, gave them a lot of trouble.  One day, however, they discovered that, among Marie-Antoinette’s inner circle, was the Count de Vaudreuil, a Creole marked by smallpox.  They also found, in the diary of one of the Queen’s milliners, that in 1789, hats with wide brims had replaced the tricorn for the elegant gentlemen of the Court.  This would explain the fact that the second person at the kiosque, the one who was running, was also wearing this sort of sombrero.

To be continued.

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