Authors: Dana Roquet
Copyright © 2012 by Dana Roquet
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When the deepest chasm is bridged,
Beware the black abyss in the crossing,
For lest you tread lightly the horrid beast awakes
For you have calmed the raging storm
In one’s soul
And with your urging, led him to this peril
Trust turns to deceit,
Need to denial
And above the din of your own soul’s tempest,
His torment goes unheard.
With force and fury, the cut is deep
Piercing to the heart
And his ragged cry awakens the wrathful beast!
With gleeful chortle and smacking chops,
It rises from the boiling blackness
And now Love’s Vengeance—is at hand
May 3, 1688
“Desiree! Stop that fidgeting and stand still!”
Desiree Chandelle snapped to attention with exaggerated obedience. She glared into the looking glass, challenging her nurse’s scowling reflection.
“And stop that frowning! You'll age before your time!”
“Ohhh…” Desiree growled, as she searched her vocabulary for a suitable retort. She clenched her fists in tight balls at her sides and sputtered, “Ohhh…Pooh!”
“Pooh indeed!" Her nurse nodded curtly. “Eighteen years old and I swear you have the patience of a sparrow. Always flitting about—first here, then there,” she said in a sing-songed voice, while gesturing with a waving hand. “One month!” she announced, slicing the air with an index finger. “One month you've been home from Paris and the well-mannered young woman you appeared to have become…Poofh! Gone, over night!”
“What are you referring to, dear Bridgett? Enlighten me,” Desiree demanded.
She crossed her arms over her chest and lifted a curious brow at her nurse's reflection.
“Cast your eyes there.” Bridgett snapped, pointing sharply to a dusty rose colored riding habit which lay draped over an open armoire door. The delicate hue was splattered and smeared with dry mud. Water spots streaked the last few yards of fabric untouched by the muck. A tear stretched along the hem, leaving a good arms length of muslin dangling limply to the polished oak floor.
“You left yesterday for a pleasant ride with Antoine Fabre' and returned—in a wild fiasco! Soaking wet! Dirty! Your lovely gown ruined—totally ruined!” With an exaggerated shake of her head, Bridgett closed her eyes as if to block the memory.
Desiree wrinkled her nose at the garment, shrugging her shoulders, indifferent to the fact. Then her eyes flashed with fire as she recalled what had set the chain of events into motion.
“Not I, but Antoine turned our outing to a shambles Bridgett!” she gasped as her nurse rolled her eyes upward with a wry smile and a shake of her head, “Why Bridgett! You don’t believe me?”
Bridgett combed through a lock of Desiree’s silky black hair, coiling the curl about her finger while seeming to ponder the question.
“Well! You show great faith in me!” Desiree snapped. “As I told you—we were riding near the creek when I urged our horse to attempt an easy jump over the water and Antoine, fool that he is, simply…fell off!” she shrugged innocently before going on, “It was my misfortune to have consented to ride double with the cad, for he pulled me off the horse with him!
is lacking in proper disposition for a young gentleman if you ask me.”
Dismissing the subject with that, Desiree glared out the bedroom window, through the lavender sheers covering the window, and to the large walnut tree beyond. Concentrating on the swaying boughs, she tried to ignore the amused chuckles behind her and waited until Bridgett's laughter subsided before daring a look, then bristled, finding herself the subject of a wise and knowing stare.
Oh how Bridgett enjoys watching me squirm!
she fumed silently.
“My sweet,” Bridgett laughed, hugging Desiree from behind and placing a light kiss upon her unwilling charge's cheek, “for as long as I can recall, since the time you were old enough to walk, you have been stumbling from one calamity to another. Antoine and the other boys have bore the blame gallantly, but don't you think,” she paused, smiling adoringly at Desiree's injured expression, “you would be missing from at least one of these occurrences? Am I to believe they are so clumsy? Dim-witted?” When Desiree refused to answer, she continued thoughtfully, “Strange how they seem to maneuver around water, mud holes—come in out of the rain, avoid all sorts of obstacles in their lives. If they are truly as accident prone as you would have me believe, it is a miracle they have survived this far!”
“Very amusing Bridgett.” Desiree drawled without malice, but held an expression of irritation carefully in place.
“It seems,” Bridgett laughed softly, “they do quite well for themselves unless you are somewhere close by, more often, in the middle of the fray!”
Bridgett leaned her face close to Desiree's cheek, shifting her stance from left foot to right, swaying Desiree side to side, while staring into the pouting visage reflected before her until Desiree's expression began to soften and then brighten. “You have a great gift child.” She continued quietly. “Though I've never approved of the comradery you share, you have a power over men like nothing else I have witnessed in all my life. It goes beyond your beauty—to your very soul. Men adore you. Would deny you nothing you asked of them, nor would they do or say anything that might bring you unhappiness or pain.”
Desiree thought on this for a moment but her nurse's words, her meaning, eluded her.
, she mused silently, recalling the argument Antoine and she had shared before their spill yesterday. He treated her as though she were a child. As though he had no idea she had grown into womanhood. But then—she often failed to behave in a mature fashion, she admitted to herself. Her full lips curved into a delicious smile as she recalled yesterday's scene.
“You should have witnessed Antoine's expression when I unseated him.” She confessed with a giggle, “He tried with all his might to stay astride—”
“I know.” Bridgett interrupted. “He grudgingly admitted to me that you gave him a, none to gentle, urging with an elbow. But little did you suspect that he would turn the tables on you.”
“That was a bit of a surprise.” Desiree bubbled and then sighed happily. “You are right Bridgett, I seem forever bringing them strife. I wonder why my friends still include me at all.”
“I have little doubt they will be close by for many, many times yet to come. You share a kinship with Antoine and many others, which grows stronger with each passing year.”
Desiree smiled and looked to her image, surveying her hair. “May I go now Bridgett? Mama and Papa will be waiting.”
“Not quite yet. Now stay still.” Bridgett ordered, turning her attention back to her task.
“You act as if I'm attending a ball in Paris instead of a casual dinner.” Desiree observed, wincing as Bridgett tugged at her hair, “Ouch! For goodness sake Bridgett! We are simply going to the other side of the lake—to the home of my own godparents! You needn't fret so! Neither Francois or Madeleine care a whit about my attire!” She swept her hand sharply in the direction of the lake and their home.
Bridgett turned a deaf ear, concentrating on making the final adjustments to Desiree's cascading mane. Pulled back abruptly from her face, it flowed in a mass of ebony ringlets, falling about her shoulders.
Next she moved her attention to the laces of her violet blue satin gown, which matched exactly the color of Desiree's eyes, setting the sparkling orbs off to their full splendor. The demure
was cut high and square, showing just slightly, the womanly shape beneath and her tiny waist was accentuated by the fullness of the wide skirt.
Desiree tapped her foot impatiently. Standing arms akimbo, she admonished her nurse, “Bridgett, don't fuss so!”
“You want to look your best my dear. Just—a moment—more.” She hissed through clenched teeth, with the effort of taking in the lacing.
Desiree continued to grumble but moved to brace herself against the back of a nearby chair and waited on the tiresome ministrations. When finally released she pointedly ignored the command from behind her as she dashed for the door.
“Walk young lady!” Bridgett ordered and then shook her head with a heavy sigh as the door slammed in an
but proper fashion behind her charge.
The rustle of soft material brought the attention of Robare Chandelle to the sunlit staircase and he smiled up at his only child with pride.
“Desiree you are a vision.” He marveled.
Desiree plucked and arranged the billowing sleeves of her gown carefully, “Are you sure it isn't a bit much? Bridgett insisted on this one.”
“My sweet how can you even ask? You are exquisite.” He assured, “Now if we can but somehow keep you clear of water you shall be the most gorgeous creature attending today.”
Desiree watched as he stroked his fleshy jaw, looking askew and furrowing his graying brows as if pondering how to accomplish this feat. Raising a hand toward him in a halting gesture, she rolled her eyes in anticipation of his next words, “Fear not Papa—Bridgett has already seen to scolding me. No need to trouble yourself.”
Raising her nose haughtily, Desiree lifted her skirts in a dainty fashion and descended the stairs, brushing past her father. His rich laughter hastened her flight across the front hall to the closed paned-glass doors of the drawing room, where she spied her mother within. Deciding to take refuge there, Desiree swept through the doors but pausing to close them behind her, her eyes were caught in her father's and she allowed a touch of a smile to lift the corners of her mouth, leaving him grinning broadly in return.
Robare Chandelle chuckled, as he drew heavily upon his pipe and watched his daughter retreat into the drawing room. The concession of a sweet smile, ending with certainty any question as to her mood. He mused that he saw, undeniably, the same regal beauty and teasing good humor in his daughter that had attracted him to her mother years ago and which was still fresh and alluring upon his wife.
Desiree was fast coming of an age to marry, he thought almost sadly. In fact, several formal proposals had come from wealthy French aristocrats, taken with Desiree during her year at court. He had, to date, declined all requests—although quite grudgingly. Any one of them would have been a fine addition to the family. In the end though, he had bent to Desiree's wishes, pledging that she would be allowed the freedom to marry the man of her choice. In truth, he was thankful that decision was not upon his shoulders, as he could not, for the life of him, imagine Desiree as
Over the course of the last year a good supply of scrubbed and ready to court young
peacocks had also been bountiful and eager to try their luck. Some very much bent on winning her favor and one day her hand in marriage, but Desiree had turned each, one by one, from rutting stag to obedient puppy dog, cooling their lust with her irrepressible charm.
He mused, it was as though she were a fair damsel, as Mary the old housekeeper often likened her. Mary…Bah!—always filling the girl's head with English fables and fairytales, Princes—knights—sorcery—such foolishness. But
—these young suitors, did little to dispel the girl's starry-eyed notions. They acted as though her knights in shining armor willing to fight any foe, for no compensation—only satisfying their need to protect Desiree—even if from themselves. As if it unthinkable to allow any emotion but chaste and reverent regard to be bestowed upon the fair Desiree, they raised her high upon some lofty pedestal of their own creation, raised her there by their own hands and in so doing, placed her out of their reach.
Instinctively he knew it would take an unusually virile, perhaps older man, to resist the magic of his beautiful daughter and court Desiree with ardent passion. The young men of Rouen seemed to lack the experience or the daring to attempt such.