After her Triumph at the Moulin Rouge, Ruth is in for a bit of a let down. John is too busy fiddling with his viola to pay her much attention, and she does not want the twins attention. So that means being left alone with her arch-enemy, John’s smelly old hound Spirit. However, Spirit reveals an unexpected side to his nature.
Ruth was not quite certain how, but she had ended up looking after Spirit. John had to go to the Conservatoire for rehearsals with the orchestra. Aggie was taking the twins for a stroll on the banks of the Seine, and that meant that Ruth was left with the hell-hound.
“Couldn’t you take Spirit with you,” Ruth had pleaded, but Aggie had declined. “I’ll hae ma hauns fou en’ouw wi’ they twa bairns.” Which Ruth believed meant no.
“I’ll swop if ye want.” Aggie continued.
Ruth considered momentarily. A day alone with the hell-hound Spirit or a day spent with her own two starey-eyed twins, half-bred demons, the offspring of an unfortunate run in with a band of Satanists.
“I’ll stay with the dog,” she said at last.
“If you like,” said Aggie and headed out with the twins leaving Ruth and the dog eyeballing each other. I wonder if he will try to eat me, thought Ruth.
“I’ll tell you what,” said Ruth, “How about a truce, just for today?” Spirit barked loudly. “I’ll take that as I yes,” said Ruth. “Walkies?”
That was how she ended up strolling along with Spirit on a lead down rue Cambon. How lovely Paris is in the spring, Ruth thought. When suddenly, without warning, Spirit lunged forward sending Ruth spinning across the sidewalk. Ruth found herself falling into the arms of a small but elegant woman. Ruth who was herself quite petit was amazed at how tiny the woman was, she could have passed as a child.
“I am sorry,” said Ruth and help the tiny woman to her feet.
“Sacre blu,” said the tiny woman, “oh la la. Bonjour.”
“Oh yes, bonjour.”
“Ah Vous est from L’Angleterre. Mais oui, vollez vouz bon, tres bon.”
“Sorry,” said Ruth, “English.”
“Oui, Oui, English, Vous must comez to my appartemont for le stiff drink.”
“Alright,” said Ruth, “I’ll just tie up the dog,”
“Non, bring la chien. J’adore les chiens.”
Ruth wasn’t quite certain what a chien was but followed after the tiny woman as she pushed open a door to a large boutique.
“Et Voila, le house de Chanel. Je suise Coco.”
“Very nice, Coco. What a nice place you have here,” said Ruth, looking around for the brandy.
“Ah, Vous must have a wee look round. Let me show you zeez.”
With those words Coco pulled a cover from a mannequin exposing a dress. It’s quite nice, thought Ruth, although it’s a bit frilly at the hem.
“Vous must try it on.”
“Alright,” agreed Ruth and took the mannequin into a changing room. It’s a bit tight, she thought as she tried it on. It is nice, but I am still not sure about the frills.
“Well, what do you think,” she asked and gave a twirl as she stepped out of the changing room. But before Madam Coco could say a word, Spirit sprang at Ruth, grabbed the hem of Ruth’s dress and let rip.
“No, Spirit,” said Ruth, although in truth, she wasn’t that sure about the frill either.
“Oh La La,” said Madam Coco. “C’est bon, c’est tres bon. C’est le big improvement. Good boy Spirit.”
Ruth looked at herself in the mirror and had to agree. When it came to fashion, the hell-hound knew his chops.
“I do like it,” said Ruth.
“Then Vous must keep it,” said Coco. “Come, I promised you le booze. Let us to le back room for le drinkie-poos.”
Ruth was quite partial to a small sherry and allowed herself one every New Year’s Eve. “Just a small one,” she said. “Oh and you better give one to the dog,” she continued as Spirit glared at her.
“Mais oui,” said Madam Coco, and poured some wine into a dog bowl which Spirit lapped up.
“So,” said Ruth after she knocked back her small shandy,” this is the house of Chanel?”
“Indeed, I am Coco and this is my maison. It is here that I create all of my magnifique creations.”
“And what are you creating at the moment?”
“Ah, le bon question. Je create le perfume. Chanel Number One et Chanel Number Two. Here take le sniff.”
“This is number one,” asked Ruth and she had to admit it smell like a Number One. “I have to admit, I am not sure about this. It smells a bit… fecund.”
“Hmm,” said Coco wafting the bottle under her nose. “It’s still le work in progress. Let’s see what else I have for you?”
She took several retorts out and placed them on the floor looking for one to share with Ruth.
Spirit had now finished his wine and was whining to be let out.
“Not now Spirit,” said Ruth. “Madam Coco is showing us her perfume collection.”
“Oui, oui,” said Madam Coco and as if on command, Spirit did.
“No,” shouted Ruth, but it was too late. A stream of clear liquid mingled with one of the bottles of perfume, the fifth bottle.”
“Sacre blu,” declared Madame Chanel and threw her tiny little hands up in horror.
Ruth grabbed the bottle and handed it back to Coco. “I am sorry.”
Madam put the fifth bottle on the table and put her head in her hands.
“Don’t cry,” said Ruth, “to be honest all the perfumes were pretty horrid anyway.” And put a comforting arm around Madam Coco’s tiny shoulders.
“It is le ruined,” sobbed Coco.
“Perhaps it’s not so bad,” said Ruth, “why not take a sniff and see what you can do to fix it. Perhaps some roses and jasmine or something might make it smell better.”
Ruth held out the bottle of Spirit’s waters and tentatively Coco inhaled the vapours.
“Well?” asked Ruth.
Madame Coco’s tiny face looked quizzical and then puzzled and then uncertain and then confused and then… then she looked delighted.
“Oh la la,” she declared. “You have found le secret ingredient. C’est magnifique. Number five. Chanel number five.” And she scribbled down number five on the label.
“Madam Ruth,” called Coco, “have le spritz.”
“Em no thanks,” said Ruth who did not want to smell like a lamppost after Spirit had left his calling card.
“It is le scent of a woman,” remarked Coco.
“Yes,” agreed Ruth although she thought to herself, it smells more like the smell of dog’s wee-wee. “Anyway,” she continued. “I have to get back. My twin girls will be waiting for me.”
“Au revoir,” said Coco without looking up.
Ruth dragged Spirit back into the street and headed home. Unfortunately, she was right, the twins were waiting for her and they stared at her intently with their strange golden eyes.as she entered the pension
I do hope they don’t throw up on my dress, she thought.
To be continued