miercuri, 22 februarie 2017

Interlude II

"Let me tell you what I wish I'd known when I was young and dreamed of glory. You have no control: who lives, who dies, who tells your story."
"You should consider coming with us this evening, you know? It's only a dinner organized by a Viscount. And his wife is a very good friend of mine, she wouldn't mind you joining us at all. She is quite an original character, so I think she would be rather delighted to have you among us. It would make everything much less dull, for sure. I don't think I can stand one more of the Viscount's anecdotes about his early days."
"I can imagine. He certainly looks ancient..."
"Someone should take pity on him and tell him that all that rouge doesn't help his complexion at all. It only makes all his wrinkles stand out more!"
"Well, I do pity his wife. Poor Isabelle... required to marry such a relic! He doesn't need a wife. He needs a caregiver! A nurse. Or better, a martyr!"

 "Her Ladyship could certainly never be considered a saint..."
"Don't blame her... I would do the same if I were in her place. Please don't tell my husband I told you that! I love Albrecht very much, but sometimes he simply can't understand my sense of humour."
"Well, forgive me for not arguing with you, but you can be rather... caustic at times... Your Highness."
Agnes used to be like that all the time in her early days. She had been quite a darling of fate ever since she had been born as the second daughter of a Duke. The fact that now she was practically a Princesse du sang and held the title and fortune of a Duchess only seemed to emphasize this aspect of her personality. During the time I spent in their home, I became quite familiar with my brother's wife and the two of us cultivated somewhat of a friendship. We enjoyed each other's company, eventhough there were many aspects we couldn't come to an agreement on - my persistence to isolate myself from the society and her alleged friends, her incessant need to meddle in other people's lives - yet we acknowledged the other's worth and the fact that we both derived beneffits from our association.
She could be quite self-centered and ruthless too, especially when her older sister, Maria, was concerned. The two of them had never been close as children, but ever since Maria's betrothal annulment and Agnes' rushed marriage to my brother (her sister's initial betrothed) things had been... strained. They avoided each other's company at the Court and each of them had a different entourage that regularly spread prattle about the other. At present, the courtiers' latest concern involved Agnes' ever expanding family (she had already given birth four times in just as many years of marriage and all her children were bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked) and Maria's noticeable barrenness (though there were rumours that the older Princess was finally with child, after three years of marriage).
"While on the subject of her Ladyship... Last time I met her at the Opera, she told me that your husband introduced your children at the Court and that your son, Francis, has become my youngest brother's best friend and the two of them are almost inseparable. Though Francis is younger than my brother, right? He should be... what?Six or seven, right?"
"He's actually nine... All four of them are. And Sarah is almost seven. I can't believe I haven't seen them in almost 4 years..."
I knew I have't been a good mother to my children, but I still couldn't accept the fact that my husband sepparated us and wouldn't allow me to visit them.
"Maman, maman!"
In that very moment, Charlotte, my youngest, stormed in the room and threw herself in my arms, a beautiful chaos of silk, ribbons and dark curls. She was 4 too and with each day I came to the realisation that she resembled her father more and more. Her eyes were mine, but the rest... the way her ebony hair would lightly curl around her still round baby face and everything about her mannerism. How she would look at me, with those big and revealing eyes and the way her eyelashes cast shadowes on her high cheekbones. She actually resembled Agnes quite a bit, especially those times her eyes would gleam with mischief. Considering the fact that my daughter was actually my sister-in-law's cousin, that wasn't entirely unexpected. Poor, innocent child... born after her father's execution and sentenced to a life full of speculation regarding her true parentage. But, if being known as an illegitimate child was what it took to secure my daughter's life, I was ready to bear the brunt of my sins. I was certain that if the King were to find out that she was his brother's offspring, his hatred for his old enemy would cloud his judgement and would make me lose another child.


"We accept the love we think we deserve."

"You know ... I think you were right."
"Well, I am right about many things, but I have an awful inclination of making the worst decisions when it comes to my own issues. What are you referring to?"
"I was talking about babies, of course. I can't believe I'm saying this, but she is even more adorable than Jane was. Of course, I might be unfair when saying this, because this one is so calm and almost always sleeping, while my first one didn't stop crying ‘till blue in the face. I swear, sometimes I had the feeling that baby would choke herself crying so much."
"It's only your second one. Wait until you have three or four more and you'll decide then."
"I might just do that ... "

The Duchess' second child was born only eleven months after her first one, but it all happened so smooth this time that I could completely understand her change of heart. And she and my brother sure made healthy and adorable babies.
She had only given birth 5 weeks ago, but she was already resuming her duties in society, she and her husband attenting almost every soiree and ball, plus going to the theater almost every night. In the meantime, I declined every invitation, not because I wouldn't have enjoyed such activies, especially after so many months spent indoors. I knew very well that a woman who found herself in my circumstances shouldn't attend such activities. Our society was still quite unforgiving in its views towards women such as myself. Yet, I was the one yearning for this society. 

"Are you certain you don't want to come with me and Albrecht this evening? I heard that young new actress, Florine, plays a lovely Isolde... "
"Then I'm quite certain Gregory too will be there... One more reason to stay here this evening."
"Oh, Alleken, I'm sorry... I shouldn't have mentioned that..."
She was the third. First, there had been a danseuse and then, only three months ago, there was that... chanteuse from the Whitefriars Theatre that produced a monumental scandal and brought disgrace upon a solicitor's family.
I knew that Gregory wouldn't want to lead a monk's life after our separation, but I would never have expected him to carry such public liaisons now that he was part of the King's entourage. Yet, His Majesty didn't seem disturbed at all by such displays, so who was I to condemn their behaviour? All these new rules, principles of behaviour and standards bemused me most of the time. I was considered a disgraced woman for having what everyone believed to be a war child and I was expected to stay away from polite society and try to earn forgivness for my sins, yet my husband got to parade in the same society with every harlot he desired.