It was a damp, chilly day, just after Christmas, and those who were unfortunate enough still to be out in it were walking briskly, heads down and hands huddled into their coat pockets, eager to return to their homes.  A few people were still out and about near the Quai de l’Ourcq, and a troupe of students from the Centre National de la Danse were talking loudly about their plans for the New Years as they hurried toward the RER station.

Nobody had eyes for a clockwork puppet, dressed in black and white and ruffles, who sat quietly on a bench by the canal, observing the world around him with cold, glass eyes.

Pierrot Pantin was taking stock of his situation.

His decision to follow Elaine through the door into the Métro had been one of impulse, and perhaps also of self-preservation.  Pierrot Pantin was not sure how long he had served his master in the Land of the Sweets, and he had long ago lost count of how many children he had helped lure to an unpleasant fate. To tell the truth, he had never been interested enough to count. The children were, in his view, rather stupid to be so easily deceived; and if they did not necessarily deserve so severe a punishment for their stupidity, that was hardly his concern. He was simply doing his job.

Of course, it was highly likely that his job no longer existed.  His master had been thwarted, after all, and while Pierrot had not been to blame – indeed, he had done as much as any puppet could be expected to do – Pierrot Pantin had seen a look in his master’s eye that suggested that his employment might soon be terminated in a particularly final manner.

Pierrot Pantin did not have a lot of imagination, but he did have an instinct for survival.  The time had clearly come to try something new – to broaden his horizons, to explore new challenges – in short, to get as far away from the Land of the Sweets as possible as fast as he could.

And so here he sat in the misting rain, pondering the next stage of his existence and growing mildly concerned about the state of his clockwork.

A few things had changed for Pierrot Pantin when he went through the door.  For one thing, he was far smaller than he once had been.  As a toy in the Land of the Sweets, he had been nearly the size of an adult human – tall enough to dance with the children who found themselves in this new world.  Here, he was about the size of a two-year-old child – large for a doll, but still inconveniently small.  Climbing the stairs out of the station had been a chore, and he had had to stop and wind himself up twice along the way.

And that was another difference.  In the Land of the Sweets, Pierrot Pantin’s clockwork had been more for show than anything else.  He had never, in all the time he had been aware, needed to wind it.  In this world, his clockwork would run for half an hour at most – less if he was doing something strenuous. The first time that his clockwork had begun to run down, he had not recognised what was happening, and had narrowly avoided being stuck halfway up the second flight of stairs.  He had managed to reach behind himself to turn the key, but it had been a near thing – and a salutary lesson. Pierrot Pantin could not shudder, nor could he feel the cold, but the idea of being left inert, at the mercy of whichever person happened to first pick him up was chilling.

Of course, this was quite likely to happen in any event. More than once, a small arm had made a grab for him, and he had discovered that once in the arms of a child, his ability to move of his own will was constrained to the most basic of clockwork movements.

After two days in the upper world, Pierrot Pantin was beginning to realise that for a puppet in the service of an evil overlord, he had lived quite a sheltered life.

He was also beginning to believe that the most beautiful sentence ever spoken might well be “Put that Pierrot down! You don’t know where it’s been!”

The rain was beginning to fall properly now, and Pierrot Pantin hopped down from the bench on which he had been sitting.  He needed to find somewhere dry before his clockwork became even less reliable than it already was.  He hurried across the road to the shelter of a shop doorway, and sat down, waiting for the rain to stop.

“But what a sweet little Pierrot!”

Pierrot Pantin’s heart sank. It wasn’t a child, this time, who might be discouraged by a concerned parent, but an adult woman who bent over him, her arms reaching out to him.  He felt himself stiffening as he was lifted up.

“You’re far too pretty to be sitting outside like this.  I wonder who could have left you here?”  The woman shook her head.  “Never mind.  I’ll take you home with me, and we’ll see if we can find your owner.  If not, I know a little girl who will absolutely love you.  You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

Pierrot Pantin doubted it.  Still, it seemed that the woman was planning to take him somewhere dry, which was what he needed most right now.  He allowed himself to be placed in a large satchel and resigned himself to the ride.


The woman’s apartment was warm and cosy, with a large Christmas tree in one corner and a crib on the mantelpiece.  There were presents piled under the tree, and the woman had put on a Tchaikovsky CD while she unpacked her shopping and began to make dinner. She had clearly been baking, as the house smelled of sugar and sweet spices.

It reminded Pierrot Pantin of home, and he disliked it immediately.

Still, at least there were no children here.

The woman bustled back into the room, her steps dancing a little in time to the music. She smiled at Pierrot Pantin, and he glared back. She failed to notice. “I suppose I’d better not box you up quite yet,” she told him. “I’ve put a note up on the apartment block noticeboard to see if anyone is missing you, and I’ve contacted the shops near where you were sitting. But if nobody comes forward before Epiphany, I might make you a little prize for whoever gets the bean in the Galette des Rois. How does that sound?”

Pierrot Pantin thought it sounded terrible, but since he had no intention of still being here in twelve days time, he held his peace. He had learned that, so long as nobody was looking at him or touching him, he had relative freedom of movement, and the woman could hardly spend her whole time watching over him. Right now, for example, she had gone back to the kitchen and was doing something with the oven. But it was still raining heavily outside, so now was not the time to make his exit. Pierrot Pantin sat in the armchair where he had been left, feeling bored.

The Welcome Guest

A knock came at the door, and the woman went to answer it.

“Madame Aubervilliers?” the voice at the door was a rich, warm baritone, and froze Pierrot Pantin to the core.

The woman’s voice was cautious. “Yes?”

“My name is Drosselmeyer, from number 14. You posted an ad about a doll you had found?”

“Oh, of course!” The woman sounded relieved. “Is it yours then? Please, do come in.”

Pantin hopped down from his chair, and looked about for a place to hide, as the voices came closer.

“Not mine, precisely. But my niece, Clara, visited me on Christmas Eve, and she lost her doll while she was staying here. A clockwork Pierrot doll, who could walk and talk. She’s only seven, and she’s very attached to it.”

“Of course she is,” the woman’s voice was warm. “And it sounds like that is the doll I found. It was just sitting in the doorway outside the building, as though someone had left it there.”

“Perhaps whoever found it was trying to return it, and didn’t know which apartment it was from.”

“Perhaps. Oh! That’s odd!” the woman stopped short as she entered the room, Drosselmeyer behind her. “I left him on the chair…”

Under the tree, behind a stack of presents, Pierrot Pantin held very still.

Drosselmeyer laughed. “These clockwork dolls – sometimes they have minds of their own. Let’s see, if he still had a little bit of movement in him, where might he have gone…”

His gaze crossed the room and met Pierrot Pantin’s, and his smile grew mocking. “Why, what a good doll. Look, he has put himself under the tree with all the other presents!”

The woman giggled a little. “Oh! So he has! What a clever doll!” She lifted Pierrot Pantin up, and handed him to Drosselmeyer.

“I have always thought so,” murmured Drosselmeyer.

“This is Clara’s doll, then?”

Drosselmeyer smiled at the woman. “You have a good memory for names.”

Was the woman blushing? A doll cannot grimace in disgust, but Pierrot Pantin would have liked to.

“Oh, not really! But my name is Clara, too – well, Claire, really – so it was easy to remember.”

“Claire.” Drosselmeyer smiled at her warmly. “A lovely name, I’ve always thought. It suits you.” He glanced down at Pierrot Pantin, then back at the woman. “Thank you so much for rescuing our little runaway. My niece will be delighted to have him back.”

“Oh, it was nothing!” The woman smiled at Drosselmeyer again. “Can I offer you a cup of coffee before you go? It’s quite cold out.”

“I’m afraid I have to get going. I’m taking my other niece to the ballet this evening. Thank you again for finding Pierrot, and for putting the ad up. Clara was so upset when she thought she had lost him.”

“I can imagine. I had a doll when I was her age… well. You don’t have time for that. Enjoy your evening, and give my best regards to Clara. Tell her that Pierrot has been very good, and enjoyed his visit with me, but that he has missed his mother.”

Drosselmeyer laughed, “Certainly I will. You enjoy your evening, too.” He leaned forward and kissed the woman on both cheeks as he left.

She was definitely blushing. Stupid woman.


Drosselmeyer was, in fact, staying at number 14. He set Pierrot Pantin down on a kitchen chair, and smiled at him. It was a kind, avuncular smile, and it made Pierrot Pantin’s porcelain crawl.

He stared back at Drosselmeyer, expressionlessly.

There was a long silence.

“My dear Pierrot Pantin,” Drosselmeyer said at last, “I was most distressed to find you gone, and without a word.”

Without a word had seemed like the safest option. It still did. Pierrot Pantin held his peace.

Drosselmeyer shook his head. “You were my most valued employee, you know. You should have said something. If I’d known you were so unhappy…”

You would have locked me up more carefully, thought Pierrot Pantin.

Drosselmeyer grinned, as if he had heard Pierrot Pantin’s thoughts. “I probably would have locked you up. And certainly kept you as far from Elaine as possible. That woman is a bad influence. But what’s done is done, and here we both are. And now, I need to decide what to do about you.”

“You could let me go,” Pierrot Pantin suggested.

Drosselmeyer shook his head. “That would set a terrible precedent,” he said. “I can’t have my toys thinking that they can just up and leave without any consequences.”

“The other toys don’t need to know that I was successful at escaping,” Pierrot Pantin suggested.

“You weren’t successful at escaping,” Drosselmeyer pointed out. “Three days is not a successful escape. It’s an ill-advised holiday.” His voice was perfectly pleasant. “Really, I should unmake you for a trick like that.”

Pierrot Pantin’s clockwork jerked, and Drosselmeyer smiled. “Or perhaps not. It took a considerable amount of work to make you, after all. And you have been very useful to me. Shall I give you another chance, then, Pierrot Pantin? Will you come with me willingly?”

Pierrot Pantin thought quickly. He had no desire to go back to the Land of the Sweets, but it might be the safest option, now that he had been caught. Or would it? Drosselmeyer had never been a forgiving master, and there were many ways that he could make Pierrot Pantin’s life unpleasant. Especially if he wanted to make an example of him.

“Will I be punished for running away?” he asked.

Drosselmeyer’s smile broadened. “All actions have consequences, Pierrot Pantin.”

That sounded like a yes to Pierrot Pantin. He considered his former master thoughtfully. Drosselmeyer had not, he noticed, made any attempt to transport them both directly to the Land of the Sweets. He had, in fact, offered Pierrot Pantin a choice, of sorts, though the second half of the choice had remained unstated.

Could Drosselmeyer take him back if he said no?

“And if I choose to stay here?” he asked.

“I will not stop you. You have always been free to choose, Pierrot Pantin. Tell me, what do you remember of the time before you began to work for me?”

Pierrot Pantin blinked at the change of topic. “Nothing,” he admitted.

Drosselmeyer smiled again. “Indeed. I suggest you go to a toyshop sometime, and strike up a conversation with one of the toys there. If you can. There are not many toymakers in this world who can do what I did for you, Pierrot Pantin.”

“You enslaved me,” said Pierrot Pantin.

“Yes. But first, I woke you. You can’t remember a time before me, because there was no you before I brought you to life. My magic is what makes you alive and aware. Without it, you are nothing but a doll.”

“I’ve been here for three days, and I am still myself.”

Drosselmeyer shrugged. “It takes a while for the magic to fade. And you have been with me for a long time. You have a few months, I would think. Perhaps a year.  No more than that, though. You’ll feel the end coming before it happens – your limbs will move more stiffly, even when there is nobody around to observe you, and your mind will grow dull. And then, one day, you will be gone.”

Pierrot Pantin did not like the sound of that. He was pretty sure that this was Drosselmeyer’s goal. His former master spoke again.

“Choices have consequences, Pierrot Pantin. I shall give you another. Stay here for a year, and on Christmas Day, if you are still yourself, bring me a child. One who loves you, preferably. If you do that, we will consider this whole episode a form of long service leave, and you will be reinstated without further punishment.”

“And if I run out of magic before then?”

“Then you will be of no use to me. You should be grateful, Pierrot Pantin. I am offering you more choices than you gave me when you ran away without a word.”

Pierrot Pantin had never felt particularly distressed by the fate of the children he had lured into Drosselmeyer’s hands. But that didn’t mean he wanted to share it. Nor did he want to find out what sort of punishment Drosselmeyer might dream up if he were truly angry. Even a slow death by magic deprivation might be preferable to that. And there was always the possibility of entrapping a child and winning mercy that way, assuming he lived long enough to do so. It was a risk, but it would not be the first risk he had taken…

Drosselmeyer was beginning to look impatient. “Choose, Pierrot Pantin. I can’t stay here indefinitely. And nor can you.”

“Perhaps not indefinitely,” Pierrot Pantin agreed, “But I will stay.”

And perhaps he would find another way to win free of Drosselmeyer in the meantime.


Drosselmeyer had abandoned Pierrot Pantin on an escalator in the nearest Métro station. There were worse places to be abandoned, he thought. It was dry, for one thing. And if he needed to go somewhere, a train was much less work for his clockwork than walking.

Pierrot Pantin settled down in a corner to think. He did need to go somewhere, only he didn’t know precisely where. Despite Drosselmeyer’s words, he doubted that he was the only self-aware toy in Paris. He had seen plenty of children carrying dolls or teddy bears in his first day in the Métro, and while most of these were inert and dumb, he had sensed sparks of sentience in some of them.

There must be another source of magic here, if only he could find it.

A group of tourists walked past.

“… clockwork,” he heard one of them say. “Seriously, you should see the station at Arts et Métiers. It’s totally steampunk. And there’s this cool chapel, with all these old planes and cars suspended from the ceiling.   It’s like they are still alive and flying…”

Pierrot Pantin pricked up his ears, and followed the tourists onto the train.

They got off at République, and he nearly lost them as his clockwork began to run down on the way to the escalator. He stopped and wound himself up, straining his ears to hear whether they said anything useful.

“…lines 3 or 11, I think…”

Slowly, carefully, Pierrot Pantin followed.


Whoever had designed Arts et Métiers station clearly enjoyed brass and gears. And metal studs. Looking at it made Pierrot Pantin’s insides feel rather peculiar, and he left the platform as quickly as possible. He was fairly certain his own clockwork looked nothing like that, but it was still unpleasant to contemplate. Why would anyone want to put such a thing on display?

He made his way off the platform and out of the station as quickly as he could without drawing attention to himself.

The museum’s foyer was full of teenagers on some sort of school excursion. Pierrot Pantin eyed them warily and gave them a wide berth. Adults, he had learned, did not tend to notice him at all, or if they did, they assumed he was attached to a child. Small children, conversely, noticed him all too eagerly, and were inclined to grab. Teenagers, though, could go either way, and if they got grabby, they were less inclined to be dissuaded by their parents. Pierrot Pantin crept behind them, sidled to his left, into the old chapel, and stopped short, his porcelain face suddenly as cold as ice.

He was not supposed to be here.

That was all he could think. He found himself watching the heavy pendulum that was suspended over the place where the altar must once have stood.  It swung towards him and away again, every movement heavy with warning. He tore his eyes away, and was transfixed by the sight of the biplanes and gliders suspended from the high, Romanesque ceiling.  They seemed to loom over him, as though ready to swoop down on him if he stepped wrongly. Beneath them, the statue of Liberté raised her torch as though it were a mace, triumph turning to threat as she met Pierrot Pantin’s gaze.

Pierrot Pantin took a step backward. The tourists were right – this place was alive and aware, but not in a way that Pierrot Pantin could stand. It was sacred to the laws of physics, to Newton and to Foucault, and he was a creature of clockwork and magic.  There was no place for him here.

The pendulum swung towards him again, a palpable threat, and Pierrot Pantin felt his clockwork speeding up, faster and faster as if about to explode. He took another step back, and another, then broke and ran, his whole being seized with a terror such as he had never experienced. He ran, hardly knowing where he was going, up marble staircases guarded by silent monoplanes, and through long rooms full of clockwork and wood and metal, fleeing the visceral terror of that chapel, of this whole place.

At last, exhausted and his clockwork beginning to slow, he slipped behind a curtain into a darkened room. He sank to the ground, his eyes closed, and began to wind his clockwork. He was uneasily certain that this episode had taken weeks, if not months, off his magic. If Drosselmeyer had appeared beside him at this moment, he would have gone with him gladly, regardless of his punishment.

The room was not silent. There were a handful of people moving around, from one exhibit to another. A woman pressed a button, and a window lit up. Pierrot Pantin watched as a doll dressed as a clown began to perform acrobatic tricks. It was not, he realised, alive, and he shuddered. Was this to be his future, if he did not return to Drosselmeyer?

On the other side of the room, music began to play. A small doll in a fine silk dress and white wig was playing the hammer dulcimer, her gaze moving over the instrument as she struck the keys. A tour guide was talking to five visitors about the mechanism and the doll’s history, and Pierrot Pantin moved closer. Her performance finished, the doll stilled, her gaze meeting Pierrot Pantin’s. He felt a jolt of hope – this doll was as alive as he was, despite being well over 200 years old.

The visitors left the room, and Pierrot Pantin moved closer, then bowed. “Madame,” he said.

The doll inclined her head slightly – she did not have a great range of movement, Pantin saw. “Monsieur. I have not seen you before, I think.”

Pierrot Pantin nodded. “You have not. I’ve only been in this world for a few days. My name is Pierrot Pantin.”

“And I am called Joueuse, or sometimes Marie Antoinette, since I once lived at Versailles.”

Pierrot Pantin bowed again. “Madame Joueuse. May I ask – have you always been alive?”

“Have you?”

Pierrot Pantin blinked. “For as long as I remember.”

The doll inclined her head again. “Precisely so. I do remember the old court – when those who wound me up were dressed as I am now. And I remember the terror, and being brought here as part of a new museum dedicated to science and technology. There have been times when I have slept, but I have, I think always been myself.”

“And are there others like you?”

“Here? A few. Not the acrobat, of course, but the automaton in blackface, and the painting, oddly enough. And of course, the flying machines have a life, of sorts, though they are difficult to communicate with.”

Pierrot Pantin shuddered in memory. “They speak to you, then?”

“On occasion. We are all clockwork; we have that much in common.”

“They did not care for me,” Pierrot Pantin noted.

The doll turned her head away. “I am not certain that I care for you, either. How did you come here? You are not like us.”

Pierrot Pantin put on his best sorrowful expression. The silver tear on his cheek glinted in the low light. “I was created to serve a wicked magician in another world. He brought me to life through magic, and I have only recently escaped from him. I am told that his magic will not last long in this world, and that I will soon be – like that acrobat, I suppose.”

The doll looked him up and down. “I see. Then why did you come here?”

“Because I failed him, and I did not wish to die.”

“It seems you calculated poorly, then.”

Pierrot Pantin blinked. “You are not very compassionate, Madame.”

“Should I be? It sounds as though you served a wicked master quite contentedly until it was your own life at stake, and now you wish to avoid the consequences of that.”

Pierrot Pantin felt that this was a trifle uncharitable, and said so.

“But accurate, I think you will admit.” The doll looked at him. “I have seen what happens when people think only of themselves, and care not who is harmed so long as they are comfortable. I do not wish to see it again. You seem no different to those who made me, without a care for who was poisoned by the dyes they used on my skin and gown; or to those who killed my namesake and her husband, without once considering whether those who would replace them might not be worse. Why should I help you?”

Pierrot Pantin sighed, letting his tear glint again. “I was a slave, Madame. I had no choice in what I did.”

“And yet, when your own life was threatened, you managed to escape. You might have done so earlier, had you so desired.”

“It would have made no difference. Another would have been created to take my place.”

“Perhaps. Perhaps not. But we are not talking of another. We are talking of you.”

“Perhaps I wish to make amends.”

The doll looked at him. “If you wished to make amends, there would be no perhaps.”

Pierrot Pantin was beginning to feel angry. He clenched his fists around a retort. “Madame. I confess that my behaviour in the past has not been all that it should be, but consider – I have never had an example before me of how to behave well. I served my master not out of wickedness or even out of love, but out of fear. I do not say that I deserve a chance to do better – but do I truly deserve to die, simply because I was never taught to do good?”

The doll was silent for a long time. Pierrot Pantin sighed and turned away. At least he now knew that it was possible for a doll to be alive without Drosselmeyer’s magic. There must be others, somewhere.  Sooner or later, he would find one, and learn its secret.

“Wait.” The doll’s voice came from behind him. Pierrot Pantin stopped, but did not turn.

“Your logic is flawed, and your character more so. You do not deserve a second chance. But I will tell you what you want to know, though it will do you little good.”

“Why will it do me little good?”

“Because the only way for a doll – or an automaton – or even an aeroplane – to become alive and stay alive is for a human to choose to give it a part of their soul. The only way you will survive is by finding a human who truly loves you. And you, Pierrot Pantin, are not lovable.”

The doll smiled, and turned her attention back to the hammer dulcimer.

Pierrot Pantin regarded the doll with dislike. How dare she judge him? And how dare she think herself so superior – why, all she could do was sit and play the hammer dulcimer. Her soul had not stopped her from being locked away in a glass cabinet. As for being unlovable – well. Pierrot Pantin might not be a pleasant individual, but he had never had any difficulty in seducing human children into helping him. Convincing one to love him would be simple enough.

He turned to leave the automaton room, and stopped short. An elderly gentleman was watching him curiously.  “Well now, what have we here?”

Pierrot Pantin went very still.  The old man crouched down to look at him more closely.  “You seem to be rather far from home,” he said.

“Georges?” An elderly woman approached them.  “What have you found?”

“I’m not entirely sure, my dear.  A clockwork puppet of some sort, but he seems to be alive.”

“There’s nothing unusual in that, surely. Has he lost his way – oh.” The woman’s gaze landed on Pierrot Pantin. “Yes, I see what you mean. He certainly isn’t from here.”

“No. And he’s missing a soul, too. Entirely animated by magic, see?” The elderly man lifted Pierrot Pantin up for the woman’s inspection. Once again, Pierrot Pantin felt his body stiffen into doll-like stillness.

The woman inspected him carefully. “Magic, yes, and foreign magic. Very foreign. From another world, I would say.” She looked Pierrot Pantin in the eye. “Where are you from, Monsieur Poupée?”

Pierrot thought quickly. He did not know who these people were, but they were alarmingly well-informed. Playing dead was clearly not an option. Better to throw himself on their mercy, and see what he might gain from them.

“My name is Pierrot Pantin. I was a slave in Drosselmeyer’s realm, brought to life by his magic, but now that I have escaped, it seems that his magic will not sustain me for long. Can you help me?”

The elderly gentleman sighed. “God only knows. There are any number of realms, after all. My concern is what might have brought him here.”

This was not the response Pierrot Pantin had been expecting. He spoke more loudly. “I came here to get free of Drosselmeyer. I did not want to be a part of what he was doing any longer. Please, I need your help!”

The woman passed Pierrot Pantin back to her husband. “You think he has come here with a specific purpose?”

“I would think so, certainly. It’s difficult to cross realms by accident. But what his purpose might be is another matter.”

Pierrot Pantin rolled his eyes. Were his captors deaf? Or was there some sort of stupid rule in this world about only children being able to hear toys speak? That would be his sort of luck. He tried again. “Of course I came here on purpose. I was fleeing for my life! I failed Drosselmeyer, and he would have destroyed me. Only now, apparently, I will be transformed into a lifeless object unless I can persuade some revolting brat to give me a piece of his soul.” His clockwork rebelled at the very thought.

“He might simply be a refugee,” the woman suggested, her voice kind.

“Or he might be fleeing from his crimes.” The elderly gentleman seemed less sympathetic.

Oh, wonderful. Not just deaf, but moralising do-gooders. Pierrot Pantin was incensed. “What crimes? I only did what Drosselmeyer told me to do! I never touched those children! Besides, they’ve escaped now, and he can’t get them back. The children are perfectly safe. I’m the one who needs help!”

The elderly couple exchanged glances, then the woman shrugged. “Either way, he needs to be put somewhere safe. If he’s in trouble, he needs to be locked away from anyone who might pursue him. And if he’s trouble himself, then he needs to be locked away where he can do no harm.”

The elderly gentleman agreed. “You are right, as always, my dear. Where do you propose we take him? He really does not belong here, I think.”

His wife shook her head. “Indeed not. He is far too modern for these automatons. What about the Musée de la Poupée? I think Monsieur Baldur would take very good care of him, if we asked.”

“I quite agree.” The elderly gentleman held out his arm – the one that was not holding Pierrot Pantin – to his wife, and she took it. Pantin found himself stuffed inside the woman’s large handbag.

Pierrot Pantin seethed. This was entirely unfair – he did not need to be locked away, he needed to be left alone to find the child who would give him a piece of his soul. But it seemed that he had no choice in the matter.

The elderly couple left the museum, and walked down the street. They were entirely too cheerful, in Pierrot Pantin’s opinion.

The Musée de la Poupée was a small, privately owned museum, just a few blocks away from Arts et Métiers. The elderly couple introduced themselves, and explained the reason for their visit, and within a few minutes, the museum’s owner, M. Balder, appeared, and ushered them into his office. Pierrot Pantin found himself being presented for inspection. He was examined from all angles, and finally M. Balder wound up his mechanism, and Pierrot Pantin began to dance and leap about in a humiliating fashion.

M. Balder smiled. “He’s a lovely piece, isn’t he? Very fine workmanship – handmade, certainly, and probably a one-off. Definitely modern, though. Where did you say he was from, Madame LeBrun?”

“It was my husband who found him, actually. He had been left in the automaton room at the Musée des Arts et Métiers, but he clearly did not belong there. We enquired about him at their Information Desk, of course, but they did not recognise him, and nobody had reported him missing, so we brought him to you. Naturally, if his owner comes forward…”

“I will of course restore him, certainly. He must be rather valuable. But in the meantime, I would be honoured to give him a home here.”

Pierrot Pantin found himself being lifted for inspection again, and inverted. “Interesting. There’s no maker’s mark. If he were a little older, I’d say he was German, but he is clearly quite new. Though not mint condition, of course… I wish I knew who had made him. He’s really a lovely piece of work.”

Pierrot Pantin did not feel flattered. He glared at M. Balder, who did not appear to notice.

The elderly gentleman smiled. “I’m sure you’ll take good care of him. May I ask – are the cabinets locked at all times?”

“But of course! Not all our dolls are unique, of course, but we do have some very precious and rare specimens, and we are insured against theft. I assure you, this gentleman will be very well taken care of. Come – let me show you.”

M. Balder led them to a glass cabinet in the third room, which contained several dolls in Commedia dell’Arte costumes.

“I think he will do very well here, don’t you think?”

Pierrot Pantin felt himself lifted and set down awkwardly in the lap of a large doll in a dark brown dress. She refused to meet his eyes. M. Balder adjusted his costume carefully, and Pierrot Pantin seethed.

At last, M. Balder stepped back. He closed the glass cabinet, and locked it with a small key, which he put in his waistcoat pocket. He tested the cabinet door to make sure that it was truly locked. He turned to the elderly couple.

“There,” he said. “What do you think?”

The elderly gentleman smiled at M. Balder. “Very nice,” he told him. “I’m sure he will be very safe in your care.”

His wife leaned down, meeting Pierrot Pantin’s eyes through the glass of the cabinet. “I think he will do very well here,” she said, and smiled. “Farewell, Pierrot Pantin.”

Taking her husband’s arm, she walked away.

Pierrot Pantin watched them go.

This was not the end of his story.



Dolls, Technology and Museums

Pantin is a station that sits just outside the north-eastern corner of the Boulevard Péripherique Paris’s 19th arondissement, serving RER Line E.  It is named for the commune of Pantin.  Pantin is actually one of the oldest stations in the network that runs through and under Paris, having been opened in 1864 as part of the Paris-Strasbourg and Paris-Mulhouse railways.

Pantin means marionette or puppet in French, so the inspiration for this story is pretty obvious.  This is actually the second story featuring Pierrot Pantin, who first showed up as an antagonist in the Elaine story, Marionette (for Porte de Pantin), as an inhabitant of the Land of the Sweets. He escaped into the Métro at the end of that story, and is now at large in the real underground Paris.  Marionette is probably best viewed as a prequel to this story – you don’t need to read it for this story to make sense (and it’s a bit darker than this story, so you might consider skipping it if that’s a problem for you), but it gives you a bit of Pierrot Pantin’s backstory.  But mostly, you just need to know that he was not a nice puppet at all. There will be three more stories featuring Pierrot Pantin as their protagonist, as there are three further stations named after him, so you can expect him to have a bit of a story arc.

Speaking of story arcs, you may have noticed the LeBruns popping up for a cameo at the end of this story.  If you are unfamiliar with the LeBruns, their story begins with Good Council, though their stories can be read fairly independently at this stage.  Thank you to Andrew for suggesting that they might be the appropriate people to ‘arrest’ Pierrot Pantin at the end of this story.  They are, of course, far less deaf than they might appear.

The Museums in this story are both real.  La Musée des Arts et Métiers is a museum of industrial design and technology and is fascinating if you are interested in the history of technology.  The chapel with Foucault’s pendulum and the biplanes and monoplanes hanging from the ceiling (and the original Liberté statue) is quite awe-inspiring, and my favourite part of the museum.  The automaton Joueuse is real, too, though they do not usually have her playing for visitors.  In addition to the video which I embedded above, you can see a video about her (and showing some of her clockwork innards) here – she is really quite spectacular.  And yes, the Métro station at Arts et Métiers really is steampunk.

La Musée de la Poupée is within walking distance of Arts et Métiers – I know this, because I found it by accident while wandering around the Marais after visiting the Arts et Métiers museum!  It is a small museum that appears to have started its life as one family’s doll collection, and expanded from there.  It’s a little bit creepy, frankly.  The museum is owned by the Odin brothers.  I didn’t want to put people in a story without their permission, so I named the museum owner in this story after a different Norse character.

The two photos were taken by me, in the two museums mentioned above.  Pierrot Pantin in the doll museum is not quite as I envisaged him in this story, but when I realised that one of my photos contained an actual Pierrot doll, it was clear that I needed to use that photo!  And I wish I could convey adequately the majesty of that chapel with the monoplanes and biplanes suspended from the ceiling.

The decidedly creepy painting of a Pierrot is by Leo Rauth and really is called ‘Ein gern gesehener Gast’ (A welcome guest).  It dates from 1912, and is in the public domain, available on WikiCommons.  I can’t imagine welcoming a guest who looked like that, but I suppose it takes all sorts…!


Rosa Parks
fleurEleft Pantin
fleurEright Noisy-le-Sec

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