As soon as the curtain opened on Argan sitting at a table adding up his apothecary’s bills, the audience fell utterly silent. ‘Three and two make five, and five makes ten and ten makes twenty. Item; on the twenty-fourth, a little emollient clyster to mollify, moisten and refresh his worship’s bowels –thirty sous. Thirty sous for a clyster? In your other bills you charged but twenty; and twenty sous, in the language of an apothecary, is only ten sous –so there they are. Ten sous.’
Rockliffe was surprised. The fellow was good. More than that –he was different from the common run of his profession because he was utterly believable. He actually was an old man mumbling over his counters and coins and bills … and he was holding the house spellbound. ‘So then. In this month I have taken one, two, three …… six, seven, eight purges and one, two, three … ten, eleven, twelve clysters; and last month there were twelve purges and twenty clysters.’ He paused, shaking his head. ‘I don’t wonder that I am not so well this month as last.’
And then, in the third act, something odd happened. Whether it was caused by a certain turn of the head or a particular inflection in the fellow’s voice, Rockliffe couldn’t be sure … but he suddenly had the peculiar feeling that L’Inconnu wasn’t unknown at all; and, consequently found himself caught less in the performance than in mentally eradicating Argan’s old-fashioned wig, false eyebrows and pince-nez. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was downright impossible.
Rockliffe was just about to dismiss the notion when, unexpectedly, L’Inconnu’s eyes met his; and, just for a fleeting second –and only because he was watching so closely –his Grace saw recognition in them.
‘Dear me,’ he thought wryly. ‘How very interesting.’ (The Mésalliance, Stella Riley)
Interesting indeed, my dear Rockliffe. And intriguing. This was the introduction of L’Inconnu, the gifted and talented actor playing the hypochondriacal Argan at La Comédie-Française. That Rock and L’Inconnu recognize each other tickled my reading senses in The Mésalliance. Who is he? What eight-year old scandal? Why was L’Inconnu so disturbed, disconcerted to be recognized by Rock? What on earth was a titled Englishman doing treading the boards in France? How did he come to this point? As a side note, if a writer wants to perfectly bait the sequel trap for an unsuspecting reader, this is the way it should be done. A few tantalizing hints dropped and a blip big enough to register on the ennui monitor of the heretofore smooth brow of one of the most dynamic, omniscient, fascinating, smoking hot heroes (otherwise known as Rockliffe by the by), and I’m hooked. Reel me in. Brava, Ms. Riley, brava!!