“The Devil In Paris”, Chapter Two

 

John Garrett was standing at the window looking at the rain when he heard the knock. 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 had witnessed the 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 enter the room, Madame a clipper ship in full rig. She was a short, plump woman, middle- aged, with powdered hair showing the effects of rain.  Her dark, plum satin gown was ten years out of fashion.  She wore little face powder. There were honest wrinkles and age-spots to signify 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. She might be of middle age, no longer a beauty, but she still was a woman. Mlle Luciern had no such reaction. 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 this rather mysterious young woman.

The two older women 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, my dear?”   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 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 was unspoiled by such affectations.

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.  She is now in her nineteenth year, and a stay with Madame Gormosy will bring some color to her cheeks and hopefully  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 flashed 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 out loud at Gormosy.  “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.

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.

 Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2008, 2012

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