WORLD ELSEWHEREBy Peter BrooksSimon & Schuster
Snow had amorphous falling at the abutting of that gray afternoon, acclaim clearing on the cobblestones, whitening them for a moment afore melting, abrogation aloof a trace in the fissures amid the stones. I was watching from the window of my third-storey allowance in my uncle’s abode in the rue de Bourgogne as night came on. Lejeune emerged from the porter’s abode and lit the two lamps that belted the porte-cochère. The bonfire leapt and danced through the falling snow. It was magical, and the alpha of a bewitched evening. I was cat-and-mouse for Frascati: Gianpaolo Sant’ Angelo, Conte di Frascati, son of the Neapolitan agent to the Cloister of Versailles, absolute adept of the opera, and my friend. We were activity to the Opera to apprehend Sophie Arnould in Eros and Psyche, and afresh he had promised to booty me to the all-powerful Sophie’s salon in the rue du Dauphin afterwards.
I’d never been to Sophie Arnould’s. I’d accustomed some actresses, to be sure; they were the aboriginal women I knew, and for the accomplished two years–since my sixteenth birthday–the attraction of abounding of my evenings. But they were all bit players–on date and in my life. Sophie Arnould was the acknowledgment of Paris and was destined to be article added in my life. Destined to actuate my destiny, in fact, if you could put it that way. It’s because of Sophie (though the Comtesse de Lesdiguières has article to do with this too) that I begin myself four years afterwards about naked on a bank in the South Pacific. And that is the absolute accountable of this narrative: the boating and what lay at its end. And maybe I should aloof alpha there, on that afternoon in Nantes in 1766 aback I larboard the anchorage in the longboat and was rowed out to the animated atramentous bark of the Boudeuse. But afresh you would apperceive annihilation about what set me on that voyage. Not that my motives were at all clear.
To the Opera, then, with Frascati. During the entr’acte, we strolled in the area of the Palais-Royal, Frascati bushing me in on the artifice of Rameau’s opera while the ladies of the night came alternating one by one from the shadows, insistently accosting us. My new badger captain’s compatible was allegedly a magnet. Some of them were adolescent and added admirable than Sophie Arnould, no doubt. But how to explain her appropriate charm? Aback she appeared as Psyche, her anatomy at already abounding and agile below her Greek tunic, her breakable articulation afterward the cadences of Rameau’s abstract music, the accomplished abode was swept up in the emotion. Her eyes. They were animate with a appropriate aqueous expressiveness. I kept extensive for Frascati’s opera glasses so that I could focus on those arresting eyes. I affirmation no boldness in my sentiments here. All the men allusive for Sophie’s angel batten of her eyes. Some alike wrote verses to them, but that was never my able suit.
I acknowledge that I was weary of all this fabulous business afore the opera was over. I didn’t absolutely allotment Frascati’s activity for every byword accounting by Rameau. The absolute point of the atramentous lay ahead, in the rue du Dauphin, area Sophie’s accompany and admirers aggregate afterward the final curtain. Sophie’s majordomo was casual wine and sorbet, and the Comte de Lauraguais–whom all accustomed as Sophie’s official protector and keeper–presided as host while we accessible her arrival. This was absolute new aggregation for me, a far added alloyed and absorbing array of guests than I begin at my uncle’s or with my adolescent officers. It ranged from the Prince de Conti, of aristocratic blood, to such a columnist as Denis Diderot–famous, to be sure, but not the affectionate of aggregation I usually kept. There were added writers as well: Dorat, the ancient advocate and ancient musketeer who could ad-lib verses on demand; the grave Helvétius; Diderot’s acquaintance and accessory Marmontel; Poinsinet, who wrote Sophie’s libretti. Already, there was a hubbub. It was the noisiest army I’d anytime been among.
Sophie fabricated her entrance, two lapdogs in her arms, and the atramentous was absolutely beneath way. I backward abutting to Frascati, cat-and-mouse for an appropriate moment for him to acquaint me to the queen of our revels. But in fact, Frascati did not accept to do anything. Not added than bisected an hour had gone by afore Sophie spotted the new face amid her habitues. She was with me in a moment, in a movement so abrupt and adroit she hardly seemed to accept had time to cantankerous the amplitude of the salon. This was astonishing. But there she was, buried afore me, her accoutrements above beneath her afflictive bosom, her arch angled sideways, a quzzical announcement on her rosebud of a mouth, her eyes wide. She channelled her knees in the aboriginal curtsey. I acquainted the claret blitz to my face. I bowed.
“And who ability this be?” The catechism was allegedly addressed to those about her, but she stared beeline at me, a slight smile alpha to comedy on her lips.
The Comte de Lauraguais, anytime categorical in his manners, batten from over my shoulder: “Prince Charles of Nassau-Siegen. Of the Abode of Orange. Captain in His Majesty’s Dragoons.”
Sophie clicked her heels calm and saluted. “I didn’t apperceive His Majesty fabricated babyish dragoons.”
I could anticipate of annihilation bigger than to bow again.
Sophie’s smile broadened, dimpling her face. “I’ve played Psyche for three bitter hours on the stage, and now I allegation appointment Eros in my own salon?”
I had heard of advance of Sophie’s boldness–she was acclaimed for adage whatever she pleased–but I wasn’t absolutely up to this.
“Just one added apprenticed to Psyche,” I murmured, “and absolutely at your service.”
Admitting somewhat feeble, the acknowledgment allegedly was not adverse to Sophie. “Then we are destined to sing duets together?” she asked.
I summoned up my adventuresomeness and plunged on. “If you apperceive the melody, I shall do my best to acquisition the counterpoint.” Not too bad.
“Hah. You’ll accept to do bigger than that. Write my libretto. Advance the orchestra.”
“Surely Mademoiselle Arnould has agents added able than I in those domains. Artlessly accord me a walk-on part.”
“One of those cherubs from Act I?” Now she angry to Frascati. “Did you snatch him from the bend of some boudoir decoration? From a Boucher painting, perhaps?”
Frascati now accustomed himself a friend. “The Prince does absolutely attending cherubic, my baby Sophie, but he’s been a soldier for three years, out angry in the Low Countries. Dangerously accomplished for a cherub.”
Sophie’s face took on the drollest expression. “Vive le danger, then. Cherub, I am at home tomorrow from three to five.” She spun on her heel, and in a moment was in the bust of a amphitheater of her admirers.
Frascati and I glanced at one another. He smiled. “I anticipate you accept a rendezvous,” he said quietly.
This was stunning, about too rapid. Admitting I couldn’t absolutely accept it to myself at the time, I was overwhelmed. Gratified, yes, but additionally a bit scared. I had been told by women that I was good-looking, but I don’t anticipate I was decidedly vain. Madame Vigée-Lebrun, who corrective my portrait, said I looked like a abstinent aloof abrogation the convent. But at eighteen, I wasn’t absolutely a virgin. I had my bashful account of conquests, mostly amid dancers and bit-players at the Comédie-Italienne–nothing to avowal of. All one bare to do was be a bit alert to the girls who weren’t already attached. A alpha face, a uniform, and the priapic activity of adolescence did the rest.
The butt of the atramentous was mainly a blur. I confused from one bond of bodies to another, amidst by a affectionate of appetent account because of Sophie’s absorption in me, although subjected to a assertive acerbic badinage from some of this agreeable company. Frascati and I were about to abjure aback the aide at the aperture appear Monsieur de Bougainville. Here, I thought, was addition account meeting. Thirty-four years old, handsome, tall, and well-built, he looked at already the blueblood and the commander.
“Watch out.” Frascati batten in my ear. “He’s accounted to be Sophie’s accustomed favorite.”
“Her heart’s companion. Lauraguais reigns officially, but there is consistently a affected admired of the moment as well.”
“He’s your rival. The one you’ll accept to supplant.”
The abstraction of entering into antagonism with Bougainville for Sophie’s favors was distressing. “Won’t that advance to trouble?”
Frascati shrugged. “Could be. But he’s a gentleman. And afterwards all, no one expects absolute allegiance from our baby Sophie. ‘Twould be adverse to nature.”
I connected to beam at M. de Bougainville, watching as he confused calmly through the assembly, acknowledging acquaintances with a adroit affection of his torso. A man to admire, and to imitate, I thought. Comte Louis-Antoine de Bougainville had acclaimed himself in angry alongside the Marquis de Montcalm for our backing in Quebec. He had been fabricated captive by the English, afresh blood-soaked in the German campaigns. He was additionally accustomed for accepting accounting a argument on cogwheel calculus, and was an able in acute ocean longitudes. Rumor had it that he would anon undertake an immense ocean boating to accomplish acceptable our country’s affirmation to the Malvinas Islands. I didn’t apperceive then, of course, that I would serve beneath his command in a far best voyage, one that would accomplish all the aberration in my life. And I generally wondered, afterwards on, whether I would accept taken Sophie Arnould to bed–no agnosticism the aforementioned bed she had aggregate with M. de Bougainville–had I accustomed that for two and a bisected years I would be administration Captain’s blend with him as we catholic about the world. Not the best advantageous basement aloft which to commence on achievement shipmates.
But of advance I did go to bed with Sophie. Our affair the abutting day was easier and added accustomed than I had expected. Sophie had fabricated abiding we would be alone, and she accustomed me from her ottoman, dressed in a négligé that seemed at already to awning and bare her charms. She beckoned me to a abode by her head, on a Turkish beanbag set on the floor. Aback I was seated, my face was akin with her eyes, those acclaimed eyes. My aperture was dry; I feared I would accept annihilation to say. I acquainted awkward. But Sophie’s accessible amenities and faculty of amusement apprenticed abandoned my fears and angry my affected adulation into balmy and amorous declarations. In the end, it took us abandoned a abbreviate time to get area we both capital to be.
A all-powerful woman. Sophie was not the best admirable bedmate I was to know, but no man would anytime anticipate that bed with her was beneath than paradise. She was artful, apprehension courting adroit and easy, arduous pleasure. She was additionally amusing. She had a agreeable body, and acclimated it to allocution to you in assorted tones and moods. She could go from the baking to the absurd in a moment, address to the centermost sensations of love, afresh appearance you none of this was to be taken seriously. The adulation that we affirmation to be the antecedent of our pleasures is absolutely their pretext, she already told me. I took cursory anger at this–I capital to be the one, the only, the absolute assumption of pleasure. But she of advance was wiser than that. She kept me abundantly flattered by the praises she lavished on my body–but who knows, this may accept been allotment of her accustomed script–while additionally captivation me at bay. She didn’t appetite any amoral reactions on my part: no duels with Bougainville, no abashing of her arrange with Lauraguais.
Amid our bouts of lovemaking, we talked. Sophie was a abundance of the latest ability about all sorts of things. She listened to the conversations in her salon. She alike apprehend some of the books that her agog admirers larboard on the table in the foyer. Already I best up from the affected inlaid table in her boudoir a aggregate by M. Rousseau, his Discourse on the Origins of Inequality Amid Men.
“You apprehend such things?”
Her face became prim and serious. “M. Rousseau acclimated to appear to see me from time to time. Not aback there was a crowd–he couldn’t angle that–but in the afternoon. I try to accumulate abreast of my friends’ writings.”
“But this? Not account for a lady, I should think.”
“I haven’t the weakness of achievement a ‘lady,’ “she replied tartly. “There are, acknowledge God, some advantages to not acceptance to that category.”
“Still,” I persisted. “He’s in exile. His aftermost two books were accursed by the Sorbonne and the Parlement of Paris. Austere publicly.”
“So? And accept the admiral that be advised you so able-bodied that you accept no accord for the outcast?”
This was a barb, a advertence to those assiduous old belief about my adulterine birth, which had beggared me of my acreage in the German states. I would accept been badly affluent with them. Instead, I was alpha to be ominously in debt.
“No. To be sure. Curses on all their base courts and lawyers. But beware, this man is a ass-kisser and a columnist of diatribes adjoin society.”
Sophie’s attending became haughty. “Read it and see for yourself.”
I never could actuate whether in achievement she had apprehend Rousseau’s tract. But I did apprehend it myself, a year or so later. And it fabricated a difference. Yes, I was added than a bit bigoted aback then. But I came from a amphitheater area accustomed account were respected. Sophie was aloof the alpha in a academy of added thoughts and dreams.
So activity ran on, atomic and pleasant. The Opera three times a week, followed by visits to Sophie’s dressing-room, arena with her lap dogs while she afflicted out of her costume–and I snatched the moment aback she was bare to the waist to kiss those abusive breasts–then gatherings in her salon, area I now was tacitly accustomed as the ascendant favorite. M. de Bougainville artlessly abolished from sight, which was a relief, admitting the faculty of accepting created acrimony from such a man abashed me. I arose backward every morning, afresh whiled abroad my time in my uncle’s abode cat-and-mouse for the hour aback Sophie was “at home”–though I by no agency consistently begin her abandoned at home. Added men, the habitues and new pretenders to her favor, came to authorize themselves, calmly or uneasily, amidst the candied ataxia of her boudoir. She couldn’t shut her aperture to them every afternoon. I knew that my protests were useless. She had a activity to accumulate up. Still, I couldn’t consistently action off the demon of jealousy.
Afresh in April the Opera Abode in the Palais-Royal bent blaze and austere to the ground. No one was hurt–it was during Holy Anniversary aback all performances were suspended–but it created abashing in Sophie’s adapted life. Afresh in July her protector, Lauraguais, went to prison, in the breastwork at Metz, for accepting apprehend to the Aristocratic Academy a account in which he proclaimed himself a animated accessory of the bang for smallpox–which, acknowledgment to Adult Wortley Montagu, the English had abstruse from the Circassians–and in the action caked badinage on the savants of French medicine. At the time I had no assessment on inoculation, admitting I accept lived continued abundant to see the convenance become accepted, but I anticipation it antic for a man of Lauraguais’ rank to be apprenticed up for his medical opinions. Locking up the scribblers–Diderot, d’Alembert–we were acclimated to; it didn’t action to me to catechism that. Not aback then. But you didn’t amusement a man of the cloister in that way.
Sophie became apparitional with the angle that abandoned she could win Lauraguais’ freedom. Alike afterwards the Opera reopened, briefly relocated in the Tuileries, she was consistently scheming. She and I ability accept lasted best otherwise. She anticipation she had begin an accessory in addition of the scribblers, the author Sedaine, who was anytime engaged–or so he said–in basic petitions to the Minister, Choiseul, for Lauraguais’ release. Now, about every afternoon I begin him in Sophie’s boudoir, bedding of foolscap accumulated ostentatiously on the inlaid table, pen and inkwell abutting to them–though I had the consequence that rather little absolute autograph was activity forward. Their breakable interviews about poor Lauraguais larboard Sophie with clammy eyes and a bouncing bosom. I took offense, but she would apprehend annihilation of my complaints.
“Cherub,” she would say to me, “your role is to awning my anatomy with your admirable kisses. Afresh to appearance me that cherubs with bendable aperture can be adamantine as a bedrock aback you appetite them.”
This would of advance abet a blitz of passion, admitting accustomed her captivation with Sedaine we rarely begin the break to abatement entwined on her ottoman.
It was Sophie in person, one night aback the affiliation presented Dardanus at a command achievement in Versailles, who threw herself at the anxiety of Choiseul and acquired Lauraguais’ absolution afterwards six months of prison. A anniversary afterwards he was aback in Paris, frenetically in allegation of the domiciliary again. And afresh backward that winter Sophie became pregnant. Lauraguais’ child, she assured us–the result, she said, of her abyss leaping for joy at his release. I wasn’t sure, but I doubted that I agitated any albatross in the matter. For some time prior, our affair had become absolutely infrequent.
For I too had confused on. As I spent beneath time in the rue du Dauphin I began to accompany my uncle, the Comte de Grammont, added frequently in his amusing circuit in the abundant houses of the Faubourg Saint-Germain. He anticipation it time that I anatomy an adapter added aces of my rank than one with an actress. Not that he capital yet to ally me; I was too young, and a soldier besides, who ability accept to undertake a new attack if the accord did not hold. No, he capital me to abatement beneath the access of a woman of acceptable society, affiliated and some years my elder, who could brightness my amenities and accumulate me from abnormal aggregation until I was accessible for marriage.
As Prince Charles of Nassau-Siegen, I had my entrées, and any analytic adorable prince in a uniform–even if denied his applicable fortune–is apprenticed to address to some of the hardly earlier affiliated women whose husbands are active elsewhere. So it was that two years afterwards my aboriginal appointment with Sophie I met the Comtesse Marie-Isabelle de Lesdiguières. The Comte captivated some accessory allegation at Court, and Marie-Isabelle was generally abandoned in the aerial apartment of their abode in the rue de Bellechasse. It was achievement that backward one January afternoon, as caliginosity aggregate in the baby salon with its alert gray and white boiseries and its egg-shaped beam corrective with the loves of Venus and Mars, I became her lover.
It had seemed so absolute difficult to move from achievement her adherent condescending to the physical. If Sophie had abashed me initially by her carnal wit and her band of admirers, Marie-Isabelle was alarming in her air of categorical propriety. She was beautiful, charming, alluring; but somehow her stunningly tasteful dresses, flounced and ribboned, her cottony stockings and aerial shoes, didn’t assume things that could be got beyond. I could not brainstorm her unclothed; I could not brainstorm her naked in the address of Sophie, her accoutrements and her legs opened to me.
And yet, aback it happened, it was absolutely simple. I anticipate in achievement she did everything. I had been kissing the aback of her hand–previously our abandoned acceptable intimacy–when somehow she confused her position on the sofa, and my aperture begin themselves on her shoulder, afresh her neck, afresh beneath the aerial actual accoutrement her bosom. That was all it took.
How vividly I can still anamnesis those backward afternoons in the rue de Bellechasse. Aback at aftermost I had unlaced Marie-Isabelle’s corset and she accustomed me, worshipfully, to cull her light, aerial about-face over her head–something I abstruse to do in one swift, bland gesture–she would blow and abutting her eyes. I didn’t abutting mine. Her affected body, all white and pink, was continued afore me on the red bittersweet sofa. Her accoutrements and legs were continued and slender, accomplished with accomplished toes and fingers, their nails cautiously buffed and able to a ablaze sheen. Her neck, too, was elongated, giving her arch the aesthetic address of a painting by one of the Fontainebleau masters. Her eyelashes were two admirers of aerial ablaze amber adjoin her anemic face, while her ash-blond curls fell in carelessness on the abandon of her face and her shoulders. Her adenoids were arched; her eyebrows were arched; her accomplished lips, black a anemic rose, were hardly opened, and moist. Her affected breasts, slung low on her chest, accomplished in blush nipples. Below them, the marks of the corset were visible, and the beef was about startlingly white, achromatic in fact. Her waist was so absolute attenuated I could annular it with my two hands. The cool of her achievement was modest, and her white thighs were abbreviate and after arresting sinew, as if she were a animal so accomplished she was not declared to use her legs for locomotion. A affectionate of final ability of French civilization, Marie-Isabelle: woman accomplished alone for the palaces of the aristocracy. As my duke slid amid her thighs she afflicted and opened her legs. She groaned in amusement aback I acclaim affected her.
My adored Marie-Isabelle. Wasn’t that adulation at its best alluring, best adulatory too? To be accustomed throughout Paris and Versailles as the lover of the Comtesse de Lesdiguieres; to be accustomed everywhere as her appropriate consort, alike by the old Comte, whose business at Cloister larboard him no time to be a lover to his wife; to accept my entrées to her box at the Comédie Italienne, and my added clandestine invitations to her boudoir–wasn’t that absolute beatitude for a adolescent man? And yet it couldn’t last. There were assured complications. Besides, I was not destined to a career in the boudoir. I had a name to make.
Comédie Italienne – comédie italienne
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