Authors: Belinda Murrell
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction/Historical General
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A Random House Book
Published by Random House Australia Pty Ltd
Level 3, 100 Pacific Highway, North Sydney, NSW 2060
First published by Random House Australia in 2010
Copyright © Belinda Murrell 2010
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity, including internet search engines or retailers, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying (except under the statutory exceptions provisions of the Australian
Copyright Act 1968
), recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system without the prior written permission of Random House Australia.
Addresses for companies within the Random House Group can be found at
National Library of Australia
Author: Belinda Murrell
Title: The ruby talisman/Belinda Murrell
ISBN: 978 1 86471 987 1 (pbk)
Target audience: For primary school age
Subjects: France – History – Revolution, 1789–1799 – Juvenile fiction
Dewey number: A823.4
Cover design by saso content & design pty ltd
Cover images courtesy Getty Images and
Internal design by Midland Typesetters
|Glossary of French Words|
|Fast Facts on the French Revolution|
|About the Author|
|THE LOCKET OF DREAMS|
|THE QUEST FOR THE SUN GEM|
|More from Random House|
|Bon nuit||good night|
|Café au lait||milky coffee|
|Croissant||flaky, crescent-shaped pastry|
|En garde||on guard|
|Fichu||delicate lace scarf|
|Madame||Mrs (my dame)|
|Mais non||but no!|
|Mes amies||my friends|
|Mon Dieu||my God|
|Monsieur||Mister (my sir)|
|Panniers||twin baskets, like those carried by a donkey, worn under skirts to make them full|
|Postillion||groom who rides one of the leading carriage horses|
|Reverence||an act showing respect, especially a bow or curtsey|
|S’il vous plaît||if you please|
|Toilette||the act or process of dressing or grooming|
|Très bon||very good|
|Versailles||the royal palace about 23 kilometres south-west of Paris|
Tilly pulled the mesh faceguard down and limbered up her right wrist, circling it nervously, her long, thin fencing foil drawing through the air. She was dressed all in white, with padding to protect her chest and padded gloves on her hands. She jigged up and down, adrenaline surging through her body.
Tilly lifted the foil in front of her face in a formal salute to her opponent on the other side of the narrow mat.
The foils flashed forward into the defensive position.
The two fencers leapt forward, foils slashing. Tilly felt her hot, seething thoughts turn cold and hard as steel. Her mind stilled and became totally focused on the silver weapon surging towards her. She scanned her opponent, Bella, for a weakness, judging her body language, looking for an opening, a moment’s delay. The two girls tested each other, dancing back and forth, feinting and parrying.
Tilly finally saw her chance and lunged, her foil slipping through Bella’s defence, stabbing her chest.
yelled the referee. ‘Retreat.’
Tilly leapt back behind her line, a warm glow of satisfaction flowing through her. Bella shook her head in frustration, her long, black ponytail swinging.
‘En garde. Allez!’
The two girls fought again, graceful as dancers, fierce as warriors, gliding across the mat. This time it was Bella who saw the opening and lunged. Tilly tried to parry the thrust, but missed, the foil finding its mark on her shoulder.
thought Tilly angrily.
I should have seen that coming.
called the referee. ‘Retreat.’
Tilly’s mistake threw her off guard, making her lose focus and rhythm. The next bout was easily won by her opposition. Tilly bit her lip in frustration and disappointment. She felt like hurling her foil across the room at the wall.
But Jack, her coach, would never tolerate such bad sportsmanship. Tilly gritted her teeth and shook hands with Bella.
‘Well done, Tilly,’ congratulated Jack, smiling warmly. ‘It was a close bout. You’re really improving. Keep up the good training.’
Jack was two years older than Tilly and helped teach fencing at the local community hall every Thursday afternoon. He was tall with short, dark hair, green eyes and the narrow frame and graceful movement of a natural athlete.
Tilly blushed and hunched her shoulders.
‘I lost,’ she muttered, scowling, but secretly she felt warmed by Jack’s praise.
The easy smile dropped from Jack’s face. He stepped away.
‘Next time, try not to let your anger get the better of you.’
Tilly’s heart contracted sharply. She turned away, tears smarting her eyes.
In the change room, she pulled on a big, baggy sweater that had belonged to her dad, a pair of old faded jeans and scruffy runners. She carefully packed away her fencing clothes and foil into her kit bag, checking it all carefully. She ignored the other girls chatting and giggling in the corner. They were congratulating Bella, who had just defeated Tilly.
Bella looked gorgeous with her deep brown skin, black eyes and long hair. Dressed now in black leggings and top, a purple-and-black tartan skirt and silver ballet shoes, she looked graceful and confident surrounded by her friends.
‘Bye, Tilly,’ called Bella cheerfully. ‘You fought well today.’
A hot flush stained Tilly’s cheeks.
‘Thanks,’ Tilly muttered, her eyes glued to the floor as she loped for the door.
Tilly glanced back to see Bella raising her eyebrows and shoulders in a
what’s up with her?
gesture to the other girls, who shrugged and tittered in response.
At the park on the corner, Tilly sat on a bench, staring at the hole in the toe of her runner and scuffing her heel in the dirt.
The last six months had been the worst in her life. Six months ago she had been a normal girl with normal friends and a normal family. Then one night everything had changed. Her dad had come home from work and explained that he had met a woman at the office. That he had fallen in love. That he would be moving in with ‘Bunny’ and her children. That he still loved Tilly, but he couldn’t live with her and her mother anymore.
Tilly had run up to her room and slammed the door, the anger like bubbling lava, threatening to boil over. The anger had come suddenly, but it stayed. Tilly was angry with her mother for not doing whatever it took to make her dad stay. Tilly was angry with her brother for being so annoying that he’d probably driven him away. She was angry with her father, his new ‘friend’ Bunny and her horrible children. She was angry with her teachers, her friends and, most of all, with herself for not being loveable enough.
Tilly’s head ached with the memory of it.
Her younger brother, Tim, often went to stay with Dad and the new family, but Tilly refused. She would rather lie on her bed with her iPod turned up high to drown out the world. A tear trickled down Tilly’s face and she wiped it away fiercely with the back of her hand.
Reluctantly, she picked up her kit bag and walked home. In the hallway she met her brother in his soccer training gear, zooming a Lego spaceship through the air.
‘Mum’s cross,’ announced Tim as he walked past her, soccer bootlaces undone.
A wave of annoyance washed over Tilly. Tim was always messy and always in the way.
‘Poor bubba,’ hissed Tilly. ‘Is mumsy
with you? Did you leave Lego all over the lounge room floor again?’
A flash of pain crossed Tim’s freckled face, then a mask of nonchalance dropped down.
‘No, she’s cross with
Tim retorted quickly. ‘Again!’
Tilly’s heart sank. What had she done now?
Tilly’s mother, Juliette, was in the kitchen unpacking the dishwasher.
‘Where have you been?’ cried Juliette, hand on hip, face knotted with anxiety. ‘You were supposed to pick Tim up from the neighbour’s house half an hour ago. She rang me at work, and when I couldn’t find you on the mobile I had to come home early.
you were supposed to unpack the dishwasher before school.’
Tilly threw her bag down. A flood of guilt washed over her. She had forgotten about Tim, and the dishwasher. She pushed away the guilt and reached for the anger.
‘I ... I ... I was caught up after fencing. Besides, why should I always have to look after Tim? He’s so annoying and never does what I tell him. No-one else has to mind their pesky little brother. It’s so unfair.’ The headache came pounding back.
‘I don’t want to argue with you, Tilly,’ Juliette sighed. ‘Could you
finish unpacking the dishwasher?’
Tilly shook her head, forming a ‘W’ with her two hands.
Juliette closed her eyes and gritted her teeth, refusing to answer.
Tilly groaned loudly and stomped around the kitchen, dropping knives in the drawer with a clatter, banging saucepans and clashing plates.
Life is so unfair,
When the dishwasher was emptied, Tilly crept upstairs before Juliette could give her another job. As she tiptoed past her mother’s room she heard a funny sound coming from behind the almost closed door.
It sounded like sobbing. Tilly listened in carefully.
‘I just can’t
any more, Kara.’ Juliette sniffled. ‘Tilly’s being revolting all the time. I think she hates me ... I know ... I know ... She’s so angry with me, as if it’s all my fault ... But so do I ... All I do is work and clean and cook and wash and help the children. I just feel like my life is a misery ... Yes, but where would I go? ... I couldn’t possibly! ... I know ... It would be wonderful, but the children? ... Tilly won’t go to Richard’s. Tim will, but ... Would you? ... Are you sure? ... That would be fantastic ... Thank you, Kara. I just need to get away from everything and everyone.’
Tilly heard her mother say goodbye, and she quickly snuck away.
What’s going on? Is Mum going away too?
Tilly thought anxiously, her stomach churning.
Nothing more was said until the next morning when Juliette was making tea, looking pale and drawn, her puffy eyes surrounded by dark circles.
Tilly looked at her mum closely. There was a thread of grey in her dark hair that hadn’t been there before and two deep furrows across her brow. Had Juliette aged overnight? Or had Tilly simply not noticed?
‘Are you all right, Mum?’ Tilly asked. ‘You look tired.’
Juliette smiled gratefully and rubbed her forehead. ‘I didn’t sleep very well last night,’ she admitted. ‘But then, I haven’t been sleeping well for ages.’
Juliette poured the tea.
‘Actually, Tilly, there’s something I need to talk to you about. I’m going away for the weekend. I simply need to get away from everything. Tim is going to stay with your father, but I thought you might prefer to go and stay with Auntie Kara.’
Tilly scowled. ‘But I don’t want to go to–’
‘Please, Tilly,’ interrupted her mother. ‘For once, can you just not argue with me? You have no choice. I’m going away today and you can’t stay here on your own. I know it’s been hard, believe me. But now you just need to grow up a little and realise how your behaviour is affecting everyone else. You just aren’t that nice to be around anymore, Tilly.’
Tilly scowled again and then stormed out of the room, banging the door behind her.
Nothing is right anymore.
‘Kara will pick you up from school,’ Juliette called up the stairs.
That afternoon, Tilly dawdled out of the classroom. In the bag room she could hear some of the girls chatting and giggling. Last year these girls had been her friends. When Tilly had first been sad and angry at school, they had been sympathetic and supportive. But over time they had started to avoid her.
‘Don’t forget your pillows on Saturday night,’ Maddie reminded the other girls. ‘Mum’s going to set up a whole pile of mattresses in the lounge room. She’s making popcorn and pizza to eat in front of the DVD.’
‘I can’t wait,’ Jess exclaimed. ‘And I’ve bought you the most awesome present.’
Tilly’s stomach clenched and her heart beat faster. Maddie was having her birthday sleepover this weekend, and she wasn’t invited. Tilly crept back into the classroom, pretending to look for her ruler. She waited until she heard the girls race down the stairs, still laughing and chatting, before she went to the bag room, tears in her eyes.
By the time she came through the gates, she was one of the last to leave. She saw her aunt’s silver sports car, the convertible roof folded down. Her aunt was chatting on her mobile phone, arms gesticulating wildly. Kara saw Tilly and waved frantically.
‘Over here, darling,’ Kara cried. ‘How was school?’
Tilly shrugged noncommittally, hoping her eyes weren’t red. Kara gave her a huge bear hug and scanned her niece’s face, noting the pale, pinched skin, the unkempt brown hair and the puffy eyes.
‘Darling...’ soothed Kara, squeezing Tilly’s hand. ‘We are going to have a lovely weekend – and a little bit of girly spoiling. I haven’t bought your birthday present yet, and I thought we might go shopping tomorrow. It will be such fun. I don’t have a daughter to spoil, so I just have to lavish all my attention on you. I haven’t seen you for such a long time.’
Tilly squirmed, picking at the hem of her school skirt.
‘I don’t worry much about clothes,’ Tilly admitted. ‘There doesn’t seem much point somehow.’
‘Why not, Tilly?’ replied Kara. ‘It’ll be fun. Come on. Let’s go home.’