[Excerpted from the letters of Gregory Conan Watts to his fiancee]
While they were at that, Miss Bowe had found herself having drawn a great deal of attention from our assailants, having ruined the first shot. Somehow she had found a second blade from the table, and thus was fighting at least three men, perhaps more, though I could not be sure, armed with a bodice knife and a steak knife. Despite this poor armament, she was holding her own, though her breath was labored, and she could barely move — and certainly not lunge into her efforts — due to her own dresses and bindings.
The table she had knocked over guarded her back, with Julietta Penn remaining behind her and the table for cover. Our gypsy woman meanwhile had leaned herself across the table and was desperately sawing through the threads of Samantha’s bodice with another steak knife, that Sam might fight and breathe. It came free at last, and Samantha lunged forward in her far-less-restrictive undershirts, surprising the men who thought they had her pinned down.
I do not know if she dispatched them or simply fought past them, for even as the others were fighting for our representatives here, she headed for the new royals of France, the original targets of the assassination attempt, and there found their guardsmen fighting a desperate battle. I imagine they were quite surprised to find a woman armed with a pair of mismatched knives, in a torn dress and her undershirts, fighting on their behalf. She has even said since that they at first attacked her themselves, but she convinced them of her good will when she felled a gunman coming at them by throwing her steak knife. She then re-armed herself by groping about on the nearest table for further silverware while fighting off another assassin using the bodice knife she’d borrowed from Miss Penn.
Somewhere in the chaos I lost track of Giov anni Franzini and assumed he’d crawled under a table or under some rock to hide. He quite surprised me later, when we learned he’d run down two of the assassins who had attempted to flee in the chaos and felled both, albeit from behind as they were running.
I could not see all of it, but by the end as we regathered, I would swear Samantha had gone through at least two table settings, but had held onto Miss Penn’s knife. She was bleeding from half a dozen cuts, at least, and looked a wreck, her hat hanging from one side of her head, still held to one now-loosed braid by a single hatpin. She was decent only by the simplest definition, but for all of it, she looked quite pleased with herself, unlike anyone else in the room.
Our small group was once more gathering, soon to be helping in a call for order. We would assist in patrolling the grounds all night, trying to make sure that we had all of the assassins and that no one attempted to flee before they might be questioned. First, however, Miss Bowe asked, somewhat too loudly, of Sir James, “That was fun; do all your parties end like this?”
This is what drew the final scandal, which has hit the rumor mills, I understand. Overhearing our American misfit, the Queen of France fainted.
With love, always,
Gregory Conan Watts
from First Light, Volume I of the Dawn of Steam trilogy.
by Jeffrey Cook, with Sarah Symonds Published with Permission
Cover image by Michal Marek