Posts Tagged ‘Paris in the 1770’s’

The Devil in Paris, Chapter Four

January 30, 2016

untitled

Chapter Four

 

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, 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. Regardezmoi.”

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 will befall you. 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.

The End.

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2008-2016

(the original “The Devil in Paris” was published in “A Seasoning of Lust”, Jane Kohut-Bartels, Lulu.com, along with other short stories of such nature.)

 

 

 

 

 

“The Devil In Paris”, Chapter Three

May 3, 2012

A week later John Garrett was shown into Madame’s apartment by an old servant. He glanced at the dark , 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 plans.

Madame’s eyes glittered as she turned to look at the young woman sitting across the tea table. Garrett bowed over the hand of Louise, and then stood back to look at Mlle. Luciern.

Madame had indeed worked 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- like, 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. They looked 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 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, Louise, 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 a 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 they rose with an almost imperceptible movement. He could feast his eyes on those two tender pieces of flesh all morning. How much more alluring they would be if she were panting, he thought.  A sly smile appeared on his face.

Ah, Madame Gormosy was full of devilry this morning.

Louise Gormosy spoke with a tone of 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 “Les Passions!”

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 farmer..  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 dearest desire to prepare you for entrance into the best of society. 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 jaundiced look.  His face went neutral and he closed his eyes in compliance.  He would not interrupt her behavior.  Besides, it was an entertaining 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 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 standing 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.  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! Attendezmoi!  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 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 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 long pin.

“Madame has a thick skull, Mlle. Luciern”, Garrett said with a droll tone. “ She is used to all sorts of torture for fashion.” 

Garrett looked down Mlle. Luciern’s bosom and watched 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.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2009-2012

“Devil’s Revenge”, Chapter 43….

June 16, 2011

 

Five years ago, as a very new writer, I attempted my second novel.  It was silly–hadn’t  done the rewrite on the first.  But I fell in love with the characters in the first book,  and didn’t want to kill them off.  So, not knowing much about much, I changed them all (well, mostly) into devils.  Some were good, some were bad, and some were half and half.

I came across this last chapter (so far) of “Devil’s Revenge” and thought I would post it.  It’s funny, or at least it made me laugh.

I have lost the corrections of this chapter twice so I appreciate the indulgence of readers.  I’ll get to them.

Explanations:

Those bothersome rips in the Universe and ley lines….. Chapter 43 takes place in the 1820’s….a dinner party.

Madame/Monsieur Gormosy is a Demon.  shape shifter and also the Demon of Lust.  There are a few of them, but M/Mde Gormosy enjoys cohabiting in both sexes.

M. Abigor is the top daddy…very close to the throne.  He was featured in Chapter 32 on this blog.  He is he most powerful demon in the room.

M. Bucon is a terrible Devil.  He’s the Demon of Hatred Between Sexes…

M. Garrett is half and half….human and devil.  Bess is fully human and terribly confused with life amongst devils.

Someday these Demons and Devils will leave and I will be lonely.

Lady Nyo


Chapter 43  “DEVIL’S REVENGE”

The bedroom door flew open and Garrett strode in.

“It’s been decided. It’s to be a duel.”

I looked at him, my mouth open in surprise, and twisted around to Madame Gormosy. She was arranging my hair and had a mouthful of pins. She shrugged, her eyebrows raised high and spit the pins into her hand.

“Bon. So tell us about this duel.”

Garrett leaned against the mantel. He grimaced, passed his hand over his face, and pulled at his lips, looking distracted by his thoughts.

“Better you both know we will be entertaining some devils tonight. M. Abigor will be one of them.”

His face dropped in a scowl and I felt Madame’s hands hard on my shoulders. Perhaps she knew more than she showed.

M. Abigor again! Well, I already knew he was an Arch Duke of Hell and a military adviser. He was also a healer but what that had to do with this situation I hadn’t a clue. Perhaps he replaced the lopped off limbs and bound up the wounds after battle.

But Garrett said ‘devils’. M. Abigor struck enough terror in my heart, but the presence of more?

“Who’s rounding out the company?” Trying to sound nonchalant, but my voice still shook.

Garrett looked a bit spooked and his eyes went straight to Madame Gormosy.

“M. Bucon will be dining with us.”

Bucon! The father of Obadiah! My stomach hit the bottom of my gut.

Again Madame Gormosy’s hands tightened on my shoulders.

“Do not fear, ma petite. M. Abigor is his equal and more. Nothing will happen to you tonight.”

Soothing words, but the look that passed between them was not reassuring.

Bucon was not a devil to dismiss easily. Another official from Hell, commanding a lot of legions of lesser devils, and the Demon of Hatred to boot. The Demon of Hatred between sexes. A real troublemaker let loose in the world.

Not to mention Obadiah’s father.

When I was writing the original novel, the one where all these queer and dangerous characters came from, little did I know what lay ahead. Now my life was at the mercy of more devils and I didn’t have any angels appearing in the fray. These were the forces surrounding me and little else to depend upon.

“I have a particular problem, Louis.” Garrett’s words were spoken softly, his eyes riveted to Madame.

That was strange for Madame appeared as a woman, certainly Louise, not Louis.

“Ah, life is always a problem. How can I be of service, Garrett?”

“I will need a second.”

I stiffened. Of course! But why not Abigor?

Garrett looked at me, reading my mind.

“For the simple reason that Abigor is an Arch Duke, and for him to be a second in this matter would not be a level playing field. Demons are tricky, but we do have ethics.”

I started to laugh but saw his expression. This was not a time for debate or levity.

Startled, I heard a voice not of Madame’s behind me, but of Monsieur Gormosy.

“But of course, mon ami. I am at your service. It should be no other devil than Louis. We have done well through the years. We have a bit of a blood bond, n’est ce pas?”

Garrett was not one to express gratitude easily. He was more likely to deflect an open show of gratitude with sarcasm, witty remarks. An expression of gratitude came hard to this demon. But something had changed, perhaps his pride or another human part.. Now his face showed relief.

He bowed stiffly to “Madame” still behind me, a bow expressing his profound gratitude..

We gathered together in the large sitting room before meeting our guests. . The house was ablaze with candles, and every fireplace stoked with a good fire. I supposed all done with magic, the particular devilish magic Garrett and Madame had shown before, but I was to be surprised at their invention.

Garrett said little as he poured sherry into two glasses, handing me one with a little bow. I had been tucked and pinned into a brocade gown, more the style of a few decades earlier, but this was not my choice. Madame Gormosy appeared with this gown and dressed me. It was not the loose and flowing gowns of the present 1820’s but a gown of more structure: a gown needing the benefit of a tight full corset and petticoats. I could barely breathe. My hair was pinned high on my head with one sausage curl falling across my shoulder. At least Madame did not powder my hair. A pair of pearl drop earrings and one gold bracelet was extracted from her jewelry box and I was presentable. Of course she insisted I wear rouge and a moue on one side of my face.

Garrett seemed pleased with my appearance when he escorted me into the sitting room, but since I had worn a dressing gown with uncombed hair for days, this change in appearance would please anyone.

“You do look fetching, Bess, perhaps a bit too fetching for the company. Abigor is known for his charm with mortal women and I don’t want him distracted by such a choice morsel.”

“Are you worried about M. Abigor at this stage of the game? I would think both of your minds would be well occupied with the issue at hand.”

Garrett grunted, his mind quickly elsewhere besides my ‘fetching’ appearance. I could tell he was worried because he paced the room. It surprised me to see him so agitated, but then again, considering the company for dinner, what would one expect?

Suddenly there were soft strains of music, seemingly floating upon the air. It was chamber music, sounding like Handel or Haydn, though I could not exactly identify the composer. It was not perfectly played, for every so often I would hear a badly bowed passage, either lagging in tempo or gratingly out of tune. Then some cursing. A muffled screech and the music would begin again.

Garrett gave a short laugh, more like a snort.

“We have servants galore tonight, my darling. Of course, they are all minor devils, but useful under the circumstances.”

I must have looked confused, but that competed with fear.

“The devils are courtesy of M. Abigor, Bess. They are just a soupcon of his power,—his devoted legions. He has many surprises up his dark sleeves tonight. He is to be the host of this little dinner party.”

“Where is Madame tonight, Garrett? Shouldn’t she be appearing soon?”

“Ah. I am depending upon Gormosy to show. This dinner would be lacking a certain element if that one didn’t.”

Speak of the Devil, and “Madame” Gormosy appeared in the doorway. But it was no more Madame than a cat. It was Monsieur Gormosy in a white powdered wig, black velvet coat with a red and gold embroidered waistcoat. His white silk stockings sagged a bit around his thin calves, but I would imagine his physique, as Monsieur was the same as Madame, would be similar, baring a few differences for the change in sex.

I stared at him, forgetting my manners. He was a smart looking little peacock, with the makeup men of the French aristocracy affected in the previous century, perhaps before they went to meet Madame La Guillotine. There was something striking about Louis Gormosy, even dangerous, tonight, something I didn’t feel when he was Madame Gormosy. Perhaps it was the slim sword he wore at his side. But perhaps it was that I knew him to be quite the devil. I would have to have faith in him and his trickery, but my confidence would have meant nothing here. It was all of Garrett’s choosing. The evening and the outcome rested in both the hands of Garrett and M. Abigor.

“Bonsoir, Madame Bess, you are looking ravishing tonight.” He bowed an elegant little bow and I inclined my head with a broad smile. I couldn’t help it. Such a change in appearance from female to male, but still the same ‘man’.

“And you, M. Garrett? Are you feeling up to the evening?” He delivered this with another little bow.

Garrett gave a thin smile and poured Louis Gormosy a glass of sherry and presented it to him.

“D’accord Louis. Tonight is only the beginning. I am grateful for your presence, my old friend.”

Again the music was heard, this time the small chamber orchestra seemed to be doing a bit better, with only a few sour notes and no cursing. I listened and started to relax a little. Perhaps it was more the sherry than the music.

Garrett and Louis Gormosy had moved to the far end of the room, by the large windows fronting the house, perhaps talking about the coming evening. I could see a little argument forming between them as one would shake his head, and the other would stomp his foot. I had to laugh a little. “Monsieur” Gormosy, in his stamping his elegant little foot, still claimed the behaviors of Madame.

Nerves were to be expected tonight because their future….our very lives, rode upon the alliances and the strength of them.

We both heard the clip clop of horses, and a carriage with gleaming lanterns came across the front windows. I looked at Garrett, expecting him to greet his guests at the door, but he just winked.

I heard soft footsteps and saw a man with a white wig, dressed in red cross my vision as he went to the door. I raised my eyes to Garrett, and he smiled.

“More of M. Abigor’s magic?”, I asked.

“A bit more. The evening will be entertaining. I promise you won’t be bored.”

I heard voices and within moments M. Abigor was in the room, bowing first to Garrett and then to M. Gormosy. I rose from my chair and looked at M. Abigor, unsure of what to say or do besides a general greeting.

“Ah! Madame! You look lovely this evening. You grow more beautiful each time I see you.”

He was his most elegant as he bowed over my hand and when he raised his head, I saw nothing disturbing in his dark eyes. I believe he knew what had happened to me when we met that first time. Perhaps Madame Gormosy informed him of my suffering, but then perhaps such a powerful demon knows what he does. He counts on it. It’s part of his power and control of beings around him. Usually there are no accidents with devils.

Suddenly the room was colder. A short figure stood in the doorway looking hard at me and I shivered in spite of the heat of the fire.

It was M. Bucon, the father of Obadiah. The father of the man who had raped me those months ago. He was followed by a woman, but in no way did she appear quite human. There was something about her appearance that just wasn’t ‘right’.

Garrett face hardened as M. Abigor made introductions, and he gave a stiff, short bow to M. Bucon. M. Gormosy gave him a wide grin, but there was nothing friendly about it.. I was introduced by M. Abigor but M. Bucon only nodded his head in acknowledgement. Thankfully, he did not bend over my hand.

“May I present Madame D’Aberge. She is visiting and M. Abigor thought she would be an interesting addition to your dinner.”

Madame D’Aberge made her curtsey and whipped out her fan. She had frizzy white hair piled high on her head, a face painted chalk white and a red cupid-bow mouth. Two large circles of rouge sat like pompoms on her cheeks and her eyebrows were painted black wings threatening to fly from her forehead. I smiled and gave her a curtsey and she again curtsied and fluttered her fan. Clearly she was some lessor demon rustled up for this event, a way to round out the company with feminine presence.

My first impression of M. Bucon was this: he was an unimpressive man, neither attractive in face or figure. I was surprised he didn’t wear a wig, as the other two men did. Garrett never did, but pulled his hair back in a pigtail for formal occasions.

M. Bucon was short, rather rotund, and badly balding. It looked like moths had attacked his head, for though he had hair on the front of his head and around the bottom, all between were patches of burnt, dark skin and little attempt to coax his remaining hair into something that was presentable. But perhaps the most prominent feature was his mouth: though his lips were not without form, his face seemed to fall naturally into a sneer. He had a peculiar way of closing one eye as he looked at a person, and a disdainful manner. If I had seen him on the street I would not have noticed him. Here in the house, in a sitting room illuminated by the soft lights of tapers and a good fire, he seemed out of place amongst the natural elegance of the other three men. Perhaps M .Bucon evoked contempt in all he met, and therefore he responded with hatred?

Again the music floated into the room and those devils weren’t doing a bad job of it. A little Corelli, a violin solo that sounded like bad Vivaldi, perhaps some obscure Handel, and here and there a taper appeared to light a corner or grace a sideboard. It was if an invisible servant were placing candles to illuminate parts of the room. A nice trick, but rather disconcerting.

A red coated devil, obviously part of the liveried staff came in with a tray of glasses followed by another one with a tray of spirits. They were dark, little men, probably French devils, or rather well sizzled denizens of their place of origin. They looked like burnt carbon copies of each other, and I wondered if they were part of the loyal legions of M. Abigor or M. Gormosy? Probably M. Abigor for he was he reigning head cheese tonight. They served without noise, seemingly to float over the floorboards, and were more like haunts than men. But of course! They were devils and bound by their magic. Or someone’s magic.

Madame D’Aberge’s mouth was so red her teeth had a yellow cast. She would look at me, smile, her upper lip rising like a horse about to sneeze, and then she would pull her lip down to meet her bottom lip with a snap. I found her interesting to look at. Her hair was powdered white, her face and bosom so ghostly that the dabs of red on her cheeks stuck out like beacons. She reminded me of a rag doll I had when I was a child, except with white frizzled hair, not red yarn.

The men did not sit down but stood stiffly apart from Madame and I. Louis Gormosy did come over to where we sat and made a formal bow. Madame D’Aberge tittered and up went her lip. M. Gormosy also bowed to me, catching my eye and giving a wink. He made small talk amongst us, more I believe to reassure me than to effect any real conversation, but I was grateful for his attempts. The combination of the tight corset and the tension of the night made me uncomfortable and uneasy.

When we finally went into dinner, I was famished. Behind each chair was a devil- in- waiting. M. Abigor and Garrett sat at either end of the long dining table, M. Bucon and Madame D’Aberge across the wide table. M. Gormosy sat next to me, and this was a relief. A quick squeeze of my hand under the table was reassuring. He took the liberty of an additional squeeze of my thigh.

The servants were excellent, both noiseless and gliding like ghosts, serving from the left and placing bowls of the first of two soups before each diner. I looked at mine, a shrimp bisque with clams and the little devils were still jumping in the cream stock and flipping their tails. Pretty little pink cooked shrimp should not be behaving in that fashion. A clam spit a stream of soup upwards, missing me but making me blink. I looked at M. Gormosy next to me and saw him smiling into his bowl. I carefully spooned the broth.

Next two servants brought in a stuffed and glazed swan on a huge platter. They placed it in the middle of the table and left. The swan started to sing, a melancholy voice that praised Apollo and sang of his sweet love of life. Suddenly I realized I knew the music: “The Roasting Swan Ballad” from Carmina Burana. There was no way I was going to eat that swan. I looked at M. Gormosy and saw he was struggling not to laugh. I looked at Garrett at the end of the table, and his face warned me not to say a word. A servant reached across the table and twisted off the head in mid song. It’s wings flopped over the platter and on to the polished table. It was dead.

Another servant brought in a fat and steaming capon and the bird started to crow. This was enough even for M.Abigor. He whispered into the ear of a devil behind his chair and the man left. Within minutes, a covered salver was returned to the top of the table. I could only guess what it contained under it’s dome, but all the activity of our food ceased immediately, and we ate.

(End of part one of Chapter 43)

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2006, 2011

 

%d bloggers like this: