Madame Gormosy is a Devil. She can change her sex at will, from Louise Gormosy to Louis Gormosy. John Garret is also a Devil, but not so powerful. They have known each other for centuries as devils generally do. The scene is Paris, in the 1770’s.
THE DEVIL IN PARIS
Madame Louise Gormosy stood by the tall window, looking down at the rain-slicked street. Paris was cold and dreary this spring. Wood had gone up in price, and a timely delivery was a matter of bribes. That should be the concern of her steward, but he had disappeared. Already her servants were breaking up small cabinets and chairs to burn in the main salon and kitchen. She could hear the smashing of wood somewhere in the large apartment.
Madame shivered for the room was chilly. Ah, she thought, if ever I see him again, I will make him pay with his life for my discomfort. I will tear his stomach open with my nails and cook his liver.
She had a visitor, a sullen-looking Englishman, now with his large frame stretched across her sofa. John Garrett had been a friend for many years. He was an easy-going devil and good company when in the proper temper. She cast her eyes towards him, a smile forming on her painted lips. Patting her high-dressed hair and smoothing the gray satin front of her gown, she wondered what had put him in such a mood. She remembered he was quite a wit when not bothered with serious thought. She hoped he would reform his manners, for she wanted nothing to spoil the afternoon. The rain could not be helped.
“John Garrett!” Madame’s natural voice was low pitched but now showed her exasperation with a rise in key. “Are you going to continue your gloom and sour my day?”
Garrett, his eyes drawn slowly from the low burning flames that hardly threw any warmth, looked up at her. He stared for a long minute, a sneer forming on his handsome face.
“We are alone,” Garrett said quietly. “I know you better as “Louis”. Why behave this way amongst friends? “
Madame did not answer. She walked to the double door, locked it and threw the key into his lap. For a moment she stood there, with her head cocked to the side, an elegant older woman, dressed in the latest fashion and only a sharp rise in the middle of her skirt gave warning of what was to happen.
In an instant, “Louise Gormosy” was “Louis Gormosy”. Gone were Madame’s satin overdress, the high coifed and perfumed hair. A bit of makeup remained, but it was the current fashion among Parisian men. Louis laughed at the expression on Garrett’s face. He now was a slight-figured man, above middle age, with powdered hair and white silk stockings sagging around thin calves.
John Garrett shuddered. He knew his friend was not just any man in Paris. He was a demon, an important one– the Archduke Demon of Lust, with sixty legions under his command.
Louis Gormosy had ridden out of Hell on a white camel and long tormented the earth. It could not be helped; it was his nature. It was his…. calling.
Ah, he thought, I miss my camel… along with my legions, but tant pis! Paris cobblestones were hard on her aging hooves.
His present guest, John Garrett, was also a demon, but not of the same stature. Louis Gormosy was not sure of Garrett’s actual position in Hell, but knew him to have the patronage of the powerful Archduke Abigor, close to the throne. With friends like that, even the powerful Demon of Lust had to watch his hoof.
Louis Gormosy chuckled at his guest’s surprise. “Oh come, John, surely you are getting used to my little trick? Non? Well then, I have another reason to invite you here, besides parlor tricks. This evening I am expecting some guests, and I have reason for you to meet them.”
John Garrett sat up, stretching his legs. “Are you planning a little entertainment this evening? You know, Louis, one never can tell with you.”
Louis Gormosy lay a finger aside his nose and winked. “You have come at a good time, John. I expect a young woman, a girl actually. She is the daughter of a neighbor in the country. She is around eighteen and her mother is anxious to have her married.”
“I am almost afraid to ask, Louis. What part do you play? ”
John Garrett looked at his friend from half-closed lids, like a cat settling in for a long story.
Monsieur Gormosy walked to the window and looked out at the still pouring rain. He turned his head slightly and gave Garrett a nervous smile before peering down at the street, watching for a carriage to stop at his door.
“Madame Luciern is a silly woman, a bit more stupid than usual. She has a daughter on her hands she complains is a ‘bookworm’. Ah! Bon Dieu! So the young woman will educate herself with novels and newsprint. Tant pis!”
Louis Gormosy threw up his hands in disgust. The words “Good God” had a strange sound in his mouth, just shy of a gurgle.
“You still don’t tell me what your part is in this affair.”
Gormosy turned and looked at his friend. “Better you ask me what your part is.”
John Garrett sucked his breath in sharply, and let out with a soft “Oh no, Louis!”
Louis gestured with his hands outward, all Gallic charm, and continued his appeal.
“What is a little fun amongst devils, neh? You have certain…ah…attributes that I unfortunately, do not have.”
“The starch issue again, Louis?” Garrett’s words rattled Louis and he winced.
“Quel dommage! I don’t know if this is a little trick of Heaven or Hell, John…but it persists. I begin the attack, a few thrusts with the sword, and even with one parry, I wilt.”
And, thought Louis sadly, it always came down to what devil had more ‘reach’. It always came down to a measurement. Here on earth the length of the cock, and in Hell, the amount of control.
“So, what is your plan and why should I care?”
Monsieur sucked on the side of his thumb, thinking how to present his case.
“I have not seen the young woman. Her mother keeps her well hidden in the house. If she is a bookworm as the mother says, perhaps any attempt here in Paris to marry her off will be impossible. Perhaps she is ugly!”
“Or perhaps she has no bosom,” said Garrett from his sofa, eyes wandering back to the fire.
“Or perhaps… she has a harelip!” said Gormosy. “What do I know? I have not seen the poor girl.”
With a grimace, Gormosy shook out his hand. He had bitten deeply into his flesh, and blood spurted from his thumb.
Garrett asked, “Does she have a good fortune?”
“Non, unfortunately not. Madame Luciern is a widow and her estate is lessened with the behavior of her oldest son. That young man has no sense at cards…and worse luck! I would give him some pointers in faro, but I do not cheat at cards.”
What a big lie, thought John, laughing silently. There was honor amongst devils but not at cards. What was the worse that could happen? A duel, you die, you come back fresh and new, with another chance to cheat life. And at cards.
“But!” continued Louis, raising a finger into the air for dramatic emphasis. “She has an honorable name! That is worth something, I think.”
“Hah,” said Garrett. “Perhaps of worth to mortals. But it is something.”
The blood continued to spurt from Gormosy’s thumb. “Merde”. He pulled a sooty handkerchief from his pocket and wrapped his thumb.
“So, what do you intend to do with Mademoiselle? Do you have a cuckold in mind?”
“Why would he be a cuckold, mon ami? I have all intention of marrying her to someone worthy and with a good fortune.”
“And if she is not marriageable due to this harelip or flat bosom? What do you intend then for Mademoiselle?” asked Garrett.
“I intend to make her a whore.”
There. It was out, thought Gormosy. Let him chew on that. There was profit to be made here, and he, Louis, would take the advantage.
“Why do you need me?” John Garrett’s eyes half closed again as he looked at his friend who was grinning stupidly.
“ If I can not obtain an acceptable offer, I will need your –ah, efforts, John.”
“Meaning? Come Louis, do not make me beat it out of you.”
“You will seduce her. You will make her more pliable for her gentleman callers…I, of course, will revert back to Madame, for this is all her mother knows of me, and you will play…”
“Hold on, Louis. Do you or don’t you intend to get her a husband?”
“How should I know?” Louis Gormosy shrugged his shoulders and presented his palms upward.
“I don’t know if she has a harelip or an unfortunate bosom. We both, my old friend, will find out this evening.”
John Garrett stood at the window looking out at the rain when he heard the knock on the door. He watched Louis cross his hands over his breast and shake his head violently. Louis became Louise again. Voila! Her high coifed powdered hair, the satin dress, the tight corset and breasts returned. As many times as he witnessed this transformation, it always took him by surprise. Louis was one tricky devil. A snap of Louis’ fingers and the door unlocked.
Garrett watched Madame and Mlle. Luciern entered the room, Madame like a clipper ship in full rig. Madame was a short, plump woman, middle- aged, with powdered hair that showed the effects of the rain. Her dark plum, satin gown was ten years out of fashion. She wore little face powder and there were honest wrinkles and age-spots enough to signify that Madame was no longer young. Kissing Louise on both cheeks she shook herself, rather like a hen ruffling her feathers. Louise gestured for her to sit.
Garrett listened to Madame Luciern introduce her daughter to her hostess. Louise took the young woman’s hands in hers, studying her carefully and called for him to come be introduced.
Garrett bowed over Madame Luciern’s hand and watched her face color with delight. Mlle Luciern had no such reaction to his presence. Her face remained expressionless.
Taking a chair across from Mlle., he listened to Louise Gormosy ask the mother questions about their trip from the countryside. The two older women were soon lost in chatter and he had a chance to observe the silent young woman.
His first impression of Mlle was favorable. She was slender, with an underdeveloped bosom, a fine complexion and a pretty mouth. She did look like a bookworm, he thought with a chuckle. She had a serious demeanor, with pale gray eyes and dark brows that did not arch in the necessary fashion. Fine brown hair pulled into a simple unadorned bun exposed a slender neck. He was curious. He had his fill of coquettes and fashionable young women in Paris. They were of a general order, all schooled in manners to attract a man’s attention and hold it captive for an afternoon. Their charms passed through him like water. How bored he had become with the women of Paris!
In Mlle. Luciern he saw something different. Something intriguing and virginal, but virginity had little value in Paris. He laughed to himself. Virtue was good for children but pointless in an attractive woman. Already the gloom of his mood was lifting in the presence of a rather mysterious young woman.
The two Madames were lost in conversation and twittering with laughter as old friends do. Both her mother and Louise seemingly forgot Mlle. Her face was politely blank, trained to assume a mask in company, but Garrett could see she was not empty of thought. Her fine eyes narrowed as she listened to her mother and Louise rattle on and a pained look cracked the mask.
“You have been in Paris before, Mlle.?” Garrett’s voice was low enough to not disturb the chatter of the two older women. Mlle. Luciern turned her gray eyes to his and answered his question quietly, but with little interest reflected in her voice.
“Oui, Monsieur, I have visited Paris before, but not recently. I was a girl when I was last here.” Her voice was almost husky, and the pitch of it surprised him. Most young women were taught to have ‘musical’ voices in company, to laugh as affectedly as a tinkling bell. Mlle Luciern seemed unspoiled by such manners.
He did not have a chance to question her further, for the sound of Mlle’s voice made her mother remember her.
“M. Garrett”, said Madame with a bright smile. “Margot-Elisabeth was a little girl the last time we were here, only about twelve years old. She is now nineteen years of age, and a stay with Madame Gormosy will bring some color to her cheeks and some polish to her manners. Ah, Bon Dieu! The countryside is good for virtue but there is little opportunity were we live to make her a wife!”
Mlle Luciern’s face showed distress at her mother’s words. Garrett saw how Madame Gormosy’s eyes glittered.
“Ah, my dear Marie,” Gormosy said to the mother. “We will polish the apple and find her a mate. She has promise, but is too pale in the face. Perhaps a bit of rouge and the labors of my hairdresser?”
Madame Luciern laughed at Gormosy’s words. “Bon chance, Louise! I can barely get Margot-Elisabeth to brush her hair!”
Poor Mlle. Luciern blushed at her mother’s words and Garrett suppressed a smile. Margot meant ‘pearl’ and this one would need quite a bit of polish to catch a husband in Paris.
Garrett tried to make small conversation with Mlle. but she was now as shy as unpolished. The two older women chatted away without stopping for breath and the conversation was all about Margot-Elisabeth, unconcerned with her growing discomfort.
She could have been invisible in the room for all they noticed.
Garrett heard the amount of funds pledged by Madame Luciern to Gormosy, and almost whistled aloud. A dressmaker would be sent for immediately.
“Ah, Louise,” said Madame Luciern with a look of gratitude. “You work your magic with Margot-Elisabeth. In your competent hands I am sure she will bloom.”
Garrett wondered how much ‘magic’ would be needed by Louise, and how her mother would react if she knew the source of Madame’s….ah….magic.
How droll it was. Mother Luciern to leave her precious daughter in the hands of a devil. All the rosaries in France would not amount to a hill of shit once Louise got her claws into the prey.
Garrett laughed to himself. Tant pis! The bargain was struck. The Devil would have his due.
A week later, John Garrett was shown into Madame’s apartment by an old servant. He glanced at the dark and wizened man and smelled brimstone. Madame was known to choose her servants carefully. Life could be a subterranean maze in Paris. He knew other demons in the city and all were not friendly devils.
“Ah, John! Bonjour!” Madame was drinking tea with a young woman, one Garrett did not recognize.
“You remember Mlle. Luciern? What changes we have wrought! Such an elegant young woman. What man in his right mind could resist her! Could you, John?”
Ah, thought Garrett. Madame is up to her old tricks. She insists in making me part of her plan for this young woman.
Madame’s eyes glittered as she turned to look at the young woman sitting across the tea table. Garrett bowed over the jewelled hand of Louise, and then stood back to look at Mlle. Luciern.
Madame had indeed worked her magic. Mlle. was coifed and gowned like a young, elegant Parisian matron. He admired her hair, piled high on her head, with many curls and loops and one long curled tendril, a thick sausage over her shoulder. At least Madame’s hairdresser had forgone the powder and her natural color was preserved. Mlle’s complexion was good but now she had some bloom in her cheeks. He knew this was all art, for Louise was an expert with faces and makeup. He saw Mlle. had only two black satin patches on her face, one near the left eye, and one near the mouth to draw attention to her painted lips. They did look alluring to him, like they were stung by an amorous bee.
Garrett cocked his head to the side and let his gaze travel down her figure. Her morning dress was of light blue silk. Ruffles framed her breast. Garrett let his eyes linger only a second, but Mlle. did present a lovely bosom to onlookers. He knew this was due to more of Madame’s magic – this time with pads in the corset. Round, delicate mounds above and the merest of rouged nipples appeared like little mouse noses peeking over the tops of the corset. Such was the fashion for seduction. He wondered how far Madame had corrupted her student.
“No, Madame Gormosy, no man could resist such a beautiful young woman.”
Garrett was surprised to see Margot blush so deeply. At least Madame’s instructions had not destroyed this vestige of virtue in the girl.
“Mlle. is an good student, John. She learns fast and takes an interest in her future. Her mother will be proud of her. We will get her matched up with the proper husband soon enough. But as I have told Mlle. Margot, there is plenty time for an engagement. Now is to be given to sharpening her feminine skills. That way she will attract the best prospect for her future happiness. Mais bon Dieu! She is still so young and innocent. We must hone her wit and deportment. Nothing like the polish upon an apple to attract the proper bites.”
Garrett stared at Madame Gormosy. He could easily see through her designs, but of course, the young woman was too naïve to understand what was happening right under her nose. She was a pretty morsel, and it was hard to take his eyes from parts of her. The swell of her breast, how gently it rose with an almost imperceptible movement. He could feast his eyes on that tender piece of flesh all morning. How much more alluring she would be if she were panting, he thought. A sly smile appeared on his face.
Ah, Madame Gormosy was full of devilry this morning, and it was infectious.
Louise Gormosy spoke with excitement. “Today we will work on the great science of “coquetry”. Non, M. Garrett, do not laugh, for women have their own science. Let the men work with fire and chemicals. We women have our own fire and it is called “La Passion”
Garrett winced and hoped Mlle. Margot would forgive the bad prose of her patroness. But Madame would press her case.
“Surely Mlle. Margot has higher aspirations than to be a housewife to her husband. It is a most contemptible and unfashionable position for any women of breeding, and has no social standing except for a parson’s wife or a lowly farmer’s. Ah Dieu! Mlle. is made by nature for much finer things!”
Garrett wondered if the word “God” did not burn the inside of Madame’s mouth, but since she was an old devil, he imagined she would have a mouth immune to heat. Still, he had heard this speech before, but he could not remember when. Perhaps it was another time in another century, while attending Madame under similar circumstances, that she had used these same words. They seemed familiar to him in any case. He heard her drone on.
“Now, Mlle. Margot, advice today is seen as ridiculous to be given, and even more ridiculous to be taken, but your dear maman would want you to listen to me very closely. Alors! She has given you into my hands for more than to fluff your beautiful hair and plump your fine bosom. It is her choicest desire to prepare you for entrance into the best of society and this is the path to catch the eyes of a husband. Have you read Madame d’Effine’s letters? Non? Pity. But I can supply you a copy of her book. Or better yet, I can give you the benefit of my long experience.”
Garrett could not stop a smile creeping across his face. Mlle Margot would have no idea just how long that experience really was. Yes, Mlle Luciern, it goes back a long way. Whether Madame could read his mind, which was standard fare amongst devils, or she caught a glimpse of his sly smile, she turned around suddenly and gave Garrett a vicious look. His face went neutral and he closed his eyes in compliance. He would not interrupt her behavior. Besides, it was entertainment for a morning’s visit.
“Now, Mlle.Margot. Virtue is all very fine and good, but to get a husband, or any admirer, a woman must use what attributes she has and develop more. A fine voice, the ability to cut to the heart of a man’s desire just with the cast of your eyes, the flutter of your fan, ah! There is so much to learn, but we will persist. Now, M.Garrett, please attend to Mlle. and lead her around the room, s’il vous plait.
Garrett stood and offered his arm to Mlle. Margot. They walked around the large salon, Mlle. Margot only as high as his chest. He was a tall and well- built man, with broad shoulders, and Mlle. petite next to him. He observed her blush as she placed her hand on his and looked up into his face.
Entertaining as Madame was, he was beginning to have his doubts about her plans. He believed this young woman to be innocent. He rarely, now that he thought of it, came across a woman so – uncorrupted, and certainly not in Paris. The thought crossed his mind: Quelle dommage, as Madame liked to say. Perhaps he would have his own plan for Mlle. Luciern. What was a little competition between devils? They had shared tender morsels before in their long history.
“Eh bien! Attendez–moi! John, give me the advantage of your eyes. Tell me what you think are the best points of Mlle.’s figure. Does that style of dress, the color suit her the best, mon ami? Speak out loud what her beau would say, and let us see how Mlle. reacts to such praise!”
Ah, it was clear what Madame’s plan was now! Madame was a terrible devil this morning, and she would have her fun at the expense of the painful blushes of Mlle. He decided to turn the game to his own advantage, and perhaps spare Mlle some pain.
At that very moment, the old devil servant of Madame Gormosy slipped into the room and approaching quickly, whispered into the ear of his mistress. Madame cocked her head towards his mouth, and though she did not take her eyes from John Garrett and Mlle. Luciern, Garrett saw they grew dark with concern. Muttering some curses low under her breath, she rose and went with her servant from the room, forgetting her two guests.
Garrett took the time of Madame’s absence to lead Mlle. Luciern to a chair and to sit down across from her. He observed Mlle. sink gratefully into her seat, and with a motion beneath her skirts, kick off one shoe.
“Ah, Mlle, does your foot hurt?”
“M.Garrett, I can not get used to these narrow shoes Madame makes me wear. I am not used to this fashion. And if you would know further, I am not used to these headaches. They are from my hair pulled from my head and pinned so tightly. And I can breathe only a little. Madame demands my corset be laced tight.” Mlle. blushed, but Garrett could hear in the distress in her voice.
“Ah! I sympathize. Perhaps you think what Madame does here is far off the mark?”
“I don’t understand what you mean, Monsieur.” Another sharp kick under her skirts and off came the other shoe.
“Mlle Luciern. Forgive my blunt words, but Madame is an “old fogey” as we say in England. She means well, but she is generations behind in her thinking.”
How many generations Mlle could never guess.
Tears formed in Mlle. Luciern’s eyes, and she shook her head. Garrett could only sympathize.
“Here, Mlle. Let me do something for your comfort. I will take all the blame, but tant pis! I am an old friend of Madame’s and used to her ways.”
He stood and moved behind Mlle’s chair. With practiced movements, he removed the pins from her hair and spread them from their high peaks and down her back. With gentle hands he massaged her temples and she groaned in relief.
“Ah! Bon Dieu, Monsieur. That feels so good. My poor head was about to explode. Madame means well, but she does not seem to suffer pain like the rest of us. I saw her put on a hat the other day and plunge a long pin into her head. Mon Dieu! She said she did not hit her skin but her hair, but to me, ah goodness! To my eyes, it seemed to go through her head!”
Garrett smiled from behind Mlle’s chair. In fact, he had seen Madame do this before and other such things and had warned her if observed her game would be over. Madame had laughed, she had been doing such tricks for centuries. Besides, the winds of Paris were strong and her hat would blow off if she didn’t get a good layer of skin beneath her hat pin.
“Madame has a thick skull, Mlle. Luciern”, Garrett said drolly. “She is used to all sorts of torture for fashion.”
Garrett looked down Mlle. Luciern’s bosom and watch the gentle curves rise and fall with her breathing. Too bad his plans for Mlle. did not include a seduction. He would like to savor those two young mounds in his mouth. But it would be a passing fancy and his plans for Mlle. Luciern’s future did not include this fleeting pleasure. He had a more lasting pleasure to savor.
And his good friend Louis would be the poorer for it.
John Garrett was standing behind Mlle. kneading her temples when Madame Gormosy entered the room.
“Ah!– Oh no! What have you done to Mlle’s hair, John? All the work and effort of my hairdresser! Ah well, it can’t be helped now. Would you like me to leave?”
Madame’s voice cut into the silence and Mlle. Luciern jumped from her chair. She had almost fallen asleep, Garrett’s hands soothing her nerves. But she was young and obeyed orders, her face showing her distress.
“Oh Madame! Forgive me! My head was pounding and I thought I would be sick with the headache. Monsieur Garrett has saved me from my pain. Please, I beg you, I am very sorry about the hair.”
Madame cocked her head at Garrett and raised her eyebrows. He just smiled and closed his eyes like an owl. He did this many times with Madame. It was his way of signaling he would not answer her questions. He could be as stubborn as Madame was persistent.
“Well, Mlle.,” she said with a sniff, “if you are recovered, perhaps we can salvage this morning with a lesson.” She would put aside her annoyance and continued with Mlle’s instruction, but gave Garrett a withering glance first.
“Perhaps we can start with “The Art of Seduction”. Do not laugh M. Garrett! Do not dare laugh. These are important lessons I impart to Mlle. Her future happiness rests upon honing what she has been given naturally. We must polish the apple some more until she can attract the fruitful nibbles.”
Garrett almost groaned aloud. Louis was stuck in this apple cart.
Madame sat down across from Mlle. who had hurriedly twisted her hair into a chignon.
“Attendez-moi! Seduction by a man is his act of attaining the affections of a woman, of becoming deeply enamoured, and applauding her for her generosity and attention.”
Garrett moved to the window where he could look out at the street below and listen to Madame. When he heard her definition of seduction, he almost guffawed. Ah, Madame, he thought. You meant to say that the great art of seduction is that of gaining a woman’s affections under pretence of being enamoured, when you really despise the woman for her vanity and weakness in playing your game. But of course, your pigeon will know no better.
Again, whether there was an unseen current between thoughts, or Garrett actually did laugh at Madame’s words, she whipped her head around to look at him, her mouth tight against her teeth.
“Ah, Mlle.”, Madame continued. “Seduction is a little game between a man and a woman which leads to great results. Do not be discouraged by what the moralists think or say. Seduction is the engine that drives amours. Amour leads to marriage and to happiness in the future.”
Mlle. Luciern nodded her head, seeming to attend carefully to what Madame was saying. She appeared to be a diligent student.
“Now, consider the fan. A woman can make a great conversation of love with just the flick of a fan. Regardez–moi.”
Garrett watched Madame picked up a white silk fan from a little table by her chair and opened it, holding it just beneath her eyes. Isolated by the fan’s whiteness, her eyes glittered like diamonds. Mlle. Luciern’s own eyes widened at the effect.
“When you put the fan’s handle to your lips, you are saying “Kiss me.” When you twirl the fan in the left hand, you signal: “We are being watched.” Fan held over the left ear means: “I wish to get rid of you. Allez!” Fanning yourself slowly, ever so slowly means, “I am married.” Fanning quickly, “I am engaged.” Hiding the eyes behind a fully opened fan, like so, means “I love you.” Now, Mlle., you show me what you have learned from my efforts.”
Mlle. Luciern took the fan from Madame’s hand and did as she was told. She hesitated on a number of turns, but Garrett thought that was to be expected.
“Eh bien! Now, we will extend the lesson. With the flick of the fan like so—“ Madame started another lesson of the fan, when she noticed large tears collecting in the eyes of Mlle. Luciern. Suddenly Mlle. burst out crying and threw herself dramatically onto the floor, clutching the skirts of Madame Gormosy.
“What in Hell’s name—“. Madame forgot her manners and looked with surprise at the young woman now sobbing into the fabric of Madame’s dress.
“Oh, Madame Gormosy, I can no longer deceive you! I am already engaged, though my maman does not know of this. She suspects something but she would die a thousand deaths if she knew all!”
Madame Gormosy stood up suddenly and moved from the clutches of the young woman as she would a grabbing beggar. She looked down at her, a cold sneer on her face.
“Ah. So, my time and efforts are to be wasted on you? Well, who is he, this great beau of yours? Is he a groom? Your maman’s steward? Who, girl, out with it. Do not defy me!”
Mlle. Luciern stayed on her knees, her face streaming with her tears, her hands clasped in supplication before her.
“Madame, my maman did not deceive you. It was I who deceived you. My dear maman thought it was over for I steeled my heart and hid my emotions behind my books. I was determined to give him up, my Etain, but it is too late. I am expecting a child!”
Madame’s breath sounded like a rasp in her throat and her face appeared blackened with rage.
“You little devil! You little whore! You come here, instill yourself into my tender affections and you have deceived me! Where is your honor? Where is your breeding? You are no better than a gutterslut! You mother will know what you are, why am I wasting words upon you? Out of my house, you whore, you little—“
Madame raised her hand and was about to descend with it across the face of the stricken-looking and pale Mlle. Luciern, but Garrett had crossed the room at the first words of Madame. He had seen her temper first hand and knew her for what she was. He grabbed Madame’s hand and held it firmly so she could not strike the young woman on the floor before her. Madame whirled around, her face distorted with her anger and she hissed like a snake. At that very moment, she did appear like a viper, with her cold, glittery eyes, and suddenly her tongue snaked out of her mouth, a forked tongue like a snake! He had seen many tricks of Madame before, but this was a new one. Later, when he had time to reflect, he realized that it was not a trick, but very much a part of the nature of Madame. After all, he thought, the serpent figured in the story of lust, and Madame Gormosy was, after all, the Demon of Lust.
Whether it was because of her passion or because of her tight corset, Mlle. Luciern’s eyes rolled back into her head and she fainted away. It was a mercy for then Mlle. would not witness what happened next.
John Garrett kept a hard grip upon Madame’s arm, raised up in the air, and Madame continued to hiss at him. He knew devils could use greater or lesser magic against each other, and what to do Garrett was not clear. But he knew enough to put distance between them, and dropping her arm, stepped fast behind a sofa.
“You have lost, Louise, she is of no benefit to you now. Let the girl go with your blessing. Play the generous Madame and let her return to her mother and her fate.”
“You!” Madame’s voice came back to her. She no longer hissed like a snake. But Garrett observed there was no cessation in her rage.
“You would stay my arm? You, who is not even a proper Devil? The Archduke Abigor only knows what you are, yet you would counter my behavior to this little slut? Do you know what I can do to you? I could turn you to cinders right now along with your little friend here.”
“But you won’t dare, Louise, because of what Abigor will do to you. Do you want to try his humor? Do you want to find out what Abigor will do to you and all you know? Is this little woman before you, now senseless, worth the risk that you take? And, knowing Abigor’s affection for me, you know what fate you will have. There will be no fire of Hell hot enough to punish you. Abigor will cook up his own punishment. Don’t chance it, Louise. Think about your beloved camel.”
Garrett knew Louise Gormosy on a better day might have thought of her camel, but today she was in an inconsolable rage. She couldn’t stand that Fate had frustrated all her fun.
It just wasn’t fair.
But Madame Gormosy could not contain her anger, for it was consuming her before Garrett’s eyes. Her face began to darken, and she began to stamp her foot on the floor. Within seconds she was jumping up and down, and suddenly she was on fire! Before Garrett could move, she was nothing more than a cinder herself, and black ash floated down to the floor, to collect in a puddle of soot.
Tant pis, thought Garrett. She will be back. She always came back.
A fortnight later…..
Garrett heard gossip Mlle. Luciern was sent home to her mother with a considerable fortune. He heard from impeccable sources this was to appease the mother but also to allow Mlle and her beloved to start life together.
The money went a long way to sooth Madame Luciern’s passions over the circumstances, but what could she do? Etain d’Aubringe did not have a fortune, but he did have an old name, and with the money given by Madame Gormosy, Madame Luciern had her satisfaction. Her daughter was married, supplied with a fortune and Madame had the prospects of a grandson.
That spring, a strange sight was seen in the fashionable boulevards of Paris. A woman, heavily veiled, with a golden girdle surrounding her waist and a crescent moon headdress, was seen leaving Paris on a large camel. Behind her walked her household, a collection of dark-skinned little men and women, who left sooty footsteps behind on the cobblestones. Paris had never seen such a parade, and this one passed in utter silence.
Except for the camel. She complained loudly with groans and spat upon all she could reach. But those who saw her– the camel, not the veiled rider– would long remember the intelligence that gleamed from those eyes.