PL01 - Phantom of the Louvre - Cover

PL01 - Phantom of the Louvre

Copyright© 2019 by Haro James


Paris abounds with countless structures of beauty, power and impressive silhouette. Hausmann’s decade-long rampage of redevelopment draws the eye to the roofline as never before. While ordinary buildings were roofed in tile, the wealthy rolled out copper sheeting on every possible weather surface – to the admiration of Parisians and visitors alike. Few were more admired than the magnificent verdigris curves and planes atop the thousands of square meters roofing the Aeroport du Louvre.

In the chilly first week of February 1899, Parisians were stirred by rumours of a humanesque shadow dancing atop the Louvre. A capering backlit form was reported by a dozen pedestrians on the Quai Voltaire, across the Seine. Wildly imaginative stories exploded in the newspapers.

The scant facts were present in most stories, but the ornamentation varied by the particular bias of the publication. Conservatives thundered that it was the spirit of la Presidente, disgusted at the decline in the Republic since his exile. A series of anarchist graffiti called it the mark of God’s wrath for the proletariat who died building such a monument to oppression: many of which were quickly defaced by another faction for the invocation of God. An artistic journal decided it was a manifestation of the building itself, outraged by a crass conversion to hotel and aero dock. The Boulangistes linked the apparition to their tired monarchist cause, appearing as it did on the anniversary of their General’s encounter with a firing squad.

It mattered to no one that the capering figure demonstrated no concrete connection to any of those causes. It was simply another prop to trumpet their views. This was a fair reflection of life in the greatest city in world: a veneer of fact, generously padded with unbridled partisan speculation, producing little of use in either street or shop.

Nor was any of this of use to the President of the Republic. Felix Faure dealt with political and administrative pressures on a daily basis. An alleged phantom was of no consequence. Later that week, three events at the Louvre changed his mind: a theft, an exotic death and the breaching of a secret door. Small things to be sure – but they sounded suspiciously like scandal. Scandal had driven his predecessor out, opening the way for Faure’s own ascension. The potential of these Louvre episodes left him uneasy.

Just the month before, the Anglos hanged Johnson and Gooding for plundering the Duchess of Sutherland’s jewelry. No one cared how London managed their criminals, but that theft had occurred in the Gare du Nord. Which reflected badly on Paris. Which, in turn, reflected badly on him.

In office, he was confronted daily by fractious reactionaries and radicals in the Assembly. All were looking for a weakness that would topple him, or whoever else might sit in the Orsay. If domestic issues didn’t crowd his day, there was a host of others to do so: the English, worst of friends, best of enemies; the Germanies; and the Dreyfus bother, often thought done with, only to return, again and again. These sensational Louvre incidents diverted Faure’s attention, smelling as they did of yet one more scandal. Small scandals to be sure, but there were instances when great things were built of many small things. He had no intention to allow these to cause his own fall from the pinnacle.

The source of this story is SciFi-Stories

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