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L'Etranger: Chapter Five
L'Etranger: Chapter Five

L'Etranger: Chapter Five

Mitzi1776Mitzi Danielson-Kaslik

I knew after such a recollection from a past I think it highly possible that I had just dreamed up (being so weak in the memories of Mademoiselle Elodie Archambeau), I placed a white lace cloak over my nightgown and - taking Blanchelande's candelabra with me (for he had told me that nights in Saint Domingue are full of terrors – what exactly he had meant I was unsure) – began away from this chamber to the dark hallways of the chateau.

Night in the chateau was at least half sinister; in the waxy candlelight, every gold gilded frame was illuminated with a neoclassical glare that gave the entire place the appearance that it was dim and already crumbling and yet coated in a golden façade that spoke all of glory and nothing of matter. As I walked the crimson carpets with bare feet, I was distinctly reminded of a fairy tale I (that is to say, Elodie Archambeau) had been read as a girl in the dusty halls of our apartments in Paris in which a girl whose name I could not quite remember found herself in a chateau with ornaments that talked and moved by themselves and a choice between a classical hero and a beast.

The candelabra illuminated fading portraits of wigged people shackled up to the chateau walls with painted eyes that did not see. I regarded them with intent, and they gazed back at me vacantly as if they were looking through me as if it were me that was the ghost and not them. All of them were ghosts that roamed these white halls now, I supposed. Their graves were their portraits, their little golden plaques their final mark upon this earth. They were a title (long passed onto someone else), a name and a couple of dates. What are any of us? My mother and father? Thierry (though the number between his two dates was much, much diminished)? Le Roche?

But have more than one name, then you have more than two dates, and if you have more than two dates, you have more than one life. You can live as one and yet equally as another with timelines that themselves can even overlap and converge until you can't even remember when one character died and one was born. At least you tried; that's what you tell yourself.

One particular portrait caught my eye as I gazed vainly upon them all: the half-veiled portrait of what looked to be a young girl. She was beautiful with piercing blue eyes that glinted like sapphires and blonde curls that cascaded all around her. She, too, had dates that seemed to me to be too close together; 1767-1780. She died at just 13 years old. I could not bring myself to read her name, though I saw written upon her plaque a tiny phrase in swirling script; She was born and died under Saint Agnes.

My vain philosophical meditations and vague readings were interrupted by a soft tap on the shoulder by a large hand. I was at first simply surprised that someone had managed to sneak up on me unnoticed for an ear or an eye such as mine is not easily confounded. I switched around to see Reget standing silently beside me.

"Are you alright, Elodie?" he asked.

"Of course." I smiled.

"Good." He nodded, unbelieving of my answer. "I'm glad you escaped Blanchelande so easily."

"I did not escape him," I said, turning away from him.

"Oh? Was it not Blanchelande sitting at the head of the table?" he laughed "Well, that certainly is good news."

"No." I laughed. "I didn't escape him."

"Okay." he paused. "Either way, you escaped something."

"That I did. And you?" I asked; I half-smiled to myself as his wise and yet unknowing words.

"And me what?" he asked.

"You escaped something too."

"Yes." he nodded. And it was then - for the first time in months, perhaps years even - that I felt someone was the same as me in exactly the same way as I needed.

"I escaped the French Revolution."

"I can see that." he laughed.

"I'm not joking." I smiled back.

"Let's go somewhere else."

"Oh, yes," I nodded ", walls have ears."

"These ones certainly do."

Reget started down the dimly lit hallway, and I followed him. I did not know where he was taking me; there was joy in that. I placed Blanchelanche's candelabra down upon a yellowing white sideboard and took a moment to feel at one with the dark. Reget stopped abruptly by a large oak door very much like the one that led to my chambers.

"You don't mind being alone with a man, do you?" he asked, opening the door.

"As long as it's in the dead of night." I laughed.

His chamber was grand and elaborate - similar in style and features to mine, but had a large desk where I had a dressing table. The crimson curtains here were not drawn - he did not wish to shut Port - au - Prince out. He left the door ajar.

"Make yourself at home." he smiled, lighting some candles around his desk. I sat tentatively in the warm luminance and watched little shadows dance on the walls as he moved to sit opposite me. "I am glad we're out of that watchful corridor."

"Really?" I smiled.

"Yes, we're away from the watchful eye of Blanchelande."

"He is so watchful?" I asked.

"Of you, yes." he laughed. "Don't tell me you didn't notice?"

"Notice what?"

"How he stares at you. How he looked as if he wanted to hit me when I had escorted you downstairs."

"Oh." I looked away from him.

"He is in want of a wife, Elodie; you could be very happy if you like that sort of thing."

"I know." I nodded.

"Now, I believe you were just about to tell me a fascinating and secret story about you being an escapee of the French Revolution."

"Yes." I smiled.

"Good," he replied. "But do start at the beginning."

"At the beginning?"

"Yes, tell it to me from the moment it began."

"What will you give me?" I smiled.

"My story."

"Reget, you have a deal." I nodded.

"Then tell me."

"It all began in Parisian apartments with big, sweeping windows and white drapes." I smiled. "So far, it sounds like some wistful fairytale I was once in, but not really. I was born the first child of the Vicomte de Chagny and his wife in February 1771. That is the first date they can put on my little plaque. I was a happy child; I grew up as any young lady should; I can play pianoforte and dance nicely. My little brother Thierry was born in 1776 - he was, you could say, the American Revolution child." I half laughed.

"Was?" Reget asked softly.

"He died two years ago." I swallowed. "He died for chucking an apple at Jacques Pierre Brissot. Anyway, I grew up with few cares; I spent most of my days after twelve concerned with sex and writing, but soon there was a man at my door. He was a man my father had found for me as news of my beauty had spread all the way to a party my father had attended at Versailles where - over a card game - he showed a young Marquis Le Roche straight out of the Sorbonne a tiny portrait of me he carried on him and by the end of the evening had promised Le Roche my virginity. A few days later, Le Roche arrived at the apartments and amazed me with his perfect blond curls and blue eyes and told me that I was the most beautiful girl he had ever laid eyes on. I told him he had good taste. In the weeks that came, we became perfect friends, and he started to bring me little gifts of books and jewels, and I felt almost as his courtesan - although we had not slept together - and soon he began to elevate our good name higher and higher, inviting us to balls at Versailles, and I felt at least as if I had a great destiny ahead of me. He told me the day he met me that he fully intended to corrupt me, and I told him I wished him luck as I was already corrupted."

"Are you?" Reget interrupted.

"I certainly am now, and I was at least half corrupted then, just in a more innocent way than I am now."

"So Le Roche succeeded in his declaration then."

"That I suppose he did." I smiled.

"He courted me for years. He must have bought out half the bookshops in Paris by the end." I laughed. "We married on February 14th 1789."

"You are married?" he asked in surprise.

"I was. Le Roche died a few months later."

"I am sorry to hear that," he whispered.

"Oh, don't be." I smiled. "I know now that I didn't love him; it was just a sheltered girl's idle curiosity. I suppose if there was anything I did love, it was that he was able to offer me a life out of a book; we'd court like libertines and talk and read the night away. And you?" I asked.

"And me what?"

"What's your story?"

"No, no, you seem to have forgotten the bit where you become an escapee of the Revolution."

"Ah!" I sighed. "Yes, after the deaths of my parents, my brother and my husband, I decided to go into hiding as my own maid called Etiennette and pretended to everyone that Elodie had killed herself because of the death of her beloved husband. I knew that Elodie was wanted by the Revolution guard, so I found the body of a servant girl who looked about my age in the streets and dressed her in one of my gowns and hung her from a beam in the Parisian apartments. When the soldiers came, I told them that my mistress - Elodie La Roche - had hung herself. They believed me. I went on living the days away as Etiennette, but by night, I dressed again in my fine clothes and read aloud to the ghost of Thierry; I don't think he heard me, though. "I swallowed. "No, I know he didn't, but it helped to think he might have, for a time. I spent almost a year and a half as Etiennette and observed all the horror as not myself. Then, one day, I found myself - Etiennette, that is - accidentally foiling an assassination attempt made upon Lafayette."

"Blanchelande told me about that," he smirked.

"What?" I said in alarm, "He knows?"

"He knows you're a hero of the Revolution."

"Ah! Yes, well, they think I am. I told Lafayette who I really was, and he sent me here to 'keep the colony in line'."

"Yes."

"But the issue is I still don't know what that means."

"Tomorrow, I'll show you what he means." Reget laughed.

"And your story?" I asked.

"Good. Then you have not forgotten." he smiled. "Okay, Elodie, I will tell you my story."

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About The Author
Mitzi1776
Mitzi Danielson-Kaslik
About This Story
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Posted
16 Feb, 2022
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