Blood of the Gods

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Chapter 29

From the journal of Ellen Lambert:

Paris - Royalty and Revolution

Charles and I embarked upon a new chapter in our lives as we migrated to Paris where we took on new lives and livelihoods. Part of the fun of donning new identities concerned the titles and airs we could give ourselves. We decided on the Comte and Comtesse de Lanier, Henri-Charles and Elise. Presenting ourselves as aristocrats, the Parisians accepted us right away, particularly those who fawned over titled personages. After we took a large pied-a-terre on the Rue des Petites Champs, Charles and I established a salon where the bourgeoisie, the intellectual crowd, the aristocrats and the radicals could congregate, mingle and discuss whatever topics they wished, just like the parlor gatherings I encouraged in Athens.

Soon the Comtesse du Barry—who just happened to be the mistress of King Louis XV—became one of our regulars. Madame du Barry introduced me and Charles to the court at Versailles and the royal family. The king had four daughters and a son who died early in life. The next in line to the throne was the king’s grandson, Louis-Auguste, who would the Dauphin of France until he became King Louis XVI after his grandfather’s death.

We quickly learned the proper ways of the court, and just as quickly became versed in the various intrigues and rumors that flourished. The king’s right-hand man, the Duc de Choiseul, was the real mover and shaker of the nation. His views on government and religion freedom garnered him enemies from the ranks of the Jesuits, and he also faced opposition from his rival the Duc d’Aiguillon.

Etiquette existed at court in all its forms acquired under the reign of Louis XIV, although dignity and grace remained a premium. Versailles was not a place for spirit and gaiety. The focus of wit and intelligence remained in Paris.

The king himself was an expert in a number of trifling matters when he felt himself bored. For instance he would knock off the top of an egg shell in a single stroke of his fork, and therefore always ate eggs when he dined in public. The Parisians who came to see the king dine on Sundays returned home less struck with his fine figure than with the dexterity with which he broke eggs. The aphorisms of Louis XV—whose followers noted the keenness of his wit and the erudition of his sentiments—were often quoted in the assemblies of Versailles.

With the death of the king’s favored mistress, Madame de Pompadour, he took to his bed the Comte du Barry’s wife, the former Marie-Jean Bécu. The king remained connected to women from the lower classes so that they could not be used for any political intrigue. In fact, the enemies of the Duc de Choiseul had no viable access to any court department or royal channel in which to bring about the downfall of the duke as well as the king.

Jean du Barry—or Jeannette as she was known to intimates—came from a class sufficiently low as to avoid repercussions. Her origin as the illegitimate daughter of a seamstress, her lack of education, and everything about her bore vulgarity; but by marrying a man whose pedigree dated from 1400, she rose within the ranks of the noblesse.

It was thought desirable to give the king a mistress who could form a circle, and in whose drawing room the long-standing attachment of the king and the duke could be reinforced. Such a mistress, or Maîtresse-en-Trite, was judiciously selected for the diversion of any intrigue and scandal, and who could bring a sort of brassy, grandiose pleasure to the palace. Madame du Barry had not the wit, the talent nor the grace of the former Madame du Pompadour, but she seemed to suit the king with her lovely blonde tresses, deep blue eyes, voluptuous body and passionate ways, and she would remain in his favor until he deemed otherwise.

Jeannette du Barry supported artistic endeavors but had no interest in politics or sciences. She spent most of her time in pursuit of new gowns and jewelry, her extravagance well known to all; and despite the huge monthly income sanctioned by the king, she was forever in debt.

Unfortunately, our salon gatherings—where high-minded, intellectual pursuits and discussions flourished—did not pay the bills we incurred, and so Charles as Henri-Charles de Lanier began to escort the married ladies of the court to soirees, the theater, the ballet, and the opera when their husbands remained unavailable. These ladies paid him handsomely for his elegant, erudite and discreet services.

Both Charles and I enjoyed dressing in the best and latest fashions, and soon we acquired an extensive wardrobe of powdered wigs, cockade hats, ruffled jabots and frilled shirts, satin heels with gold embroidery, silk and satin gowns with revealing bodices, lace panniers and petticoats. When not wearing a wig, I styled my hair with loosely looped and twisted strands secured by pins and barrettes that featured peacock feathers, mother-of-pearl and gold inlays, and exaggerated cabochons. Sometimes I employed ringlets that cascaded down my back, while Charles wore his rich chestnut hair tied back with a silk ribbon. Makeup was exaggerated to almost clownish extremes with press-on beauty moles, white powder, and highly-rouged lips and cheeks. Men wore the same makeup, although Charles and I tempered our maquillage.

Thus we became a stylish pair, our attire and the way we wore our clothes and hair soon copied by the women and men of the court. It seemed inevitable that my handsome Charles would catch the eye of the Comtesse du Barry. She possessed no scruples when it came to taking other lovers for her enjoyment, since catering to the king’s sexual appetites seemed more of a job than a pleasure. Not long after meeting Henri-Charles de Lanier, Jeannette du Barry set out to seduce him.

From the beginning, Charles and I made no formal commitment to be true to each other. We each could take another lover if so desired, and of course, could entertain multiple partners as we had done at my villa in Italy. In fact, taking and keeping a lover was de rigueur amongst the noble class. Marriage was for forming alliances and bearing children only. Once those obligations had been met, both husband and wife could take as many lovers as desired without guilt or repercussions. And with no restrictions to hinder creativity and enlightenment through unbridled and passionate environments, the arts and sciences flourished among men and women both. In fact, we often entertained notable literary figures in our salon, among them the novelist and philosopher Voltaire and the journalist Jean Destry Marat.

How ironic it seemed that we entertained the elite, regal and powerful during the day and at night feasted on the lower classes, the bourgeoisie who maintained our existence. I often wondered what Jeannette du Barry would think or say if she discovered Henri-Charles’ secret need for blood. Of course, we both remained extremely careful not to reveal our netherworld existence. Even the servants we employed—Madame Bouchard, the cook and housekeeper; Nanon, the ladies’ maid; and Roget, the butler/valet—remained in the dark, their quarters two floors down from our living chambers.

We were often invited to weekend fêtes at the homes of the rich and influential. The Duc and Duchesse de Grammont owned a lovely estate between Strasbourg and Kehl, and they went out of their way to entertain the king and his entourage. On any given occasion guests could enjoy lively music and theatrical presentations, boat rides along the Rein River, and lush banquets of endless food and drink.

The Duchesse had renounced the honor of belonging to Louis XV’s intimate circle in order to avoid Madame du Barry, but if she wished the king to attend her regal weekends, she had to relent and allow Jeannette to come as well. This particular weekend remained crucial for those who wanted to extend favors to the king and court, for we had the first glimpse of Marie Antonia Josepha, the Archduchess of Austria, and now the lovely fiancée of Dauphin Louis-Auguste, the king’s grandson and heir apparent.

Sentiments ran high concerning the approval or disapproval of the incoming Dauphiness and her Austrian entourage. Those who worked to overthrow the Duc de Choiseul and his cabinet remained hostile to any alliance with Austria. The bigots, who never forgave de Choiseul for the suppression of the Jesuits, influenced the minds of those at court and infected many with prejudices against Austrian involvement, including the king’s four maiden daughters whom I always found rather snooty and boring. Thus was the state of affairs when the young Archduchess Marie Antoinette, as she would be known, arrived at the festivities.

A superb pavilion had been prepared, consisting of a vast salon connected with two large suites, one for the lords and ladies of the Court of Vienna, the other for the Dauphiness and her appointed attendants, the Comtesse de Noailles, her lady of honor; the Duchesse de Cossé, her maid d’atours or dressing attendant; six ladies in waiting including myself; and the male entourage of the chevalier de honor (knight of the equestrian order), the equerries, the almoner, and the officers of the body guard.

Etiquette demanded that Marie Antoinette undress totally in order that she might retain nothing belonging to a foreign court. The doors of the suite were opened and the fourteen-year-old Dauphiness came forward, her naked body petite and supple with small hips and peaked breasts. She possessed milk-white skin, shiny nutmeg hair and brown eyes that now exhibited a wide, glossy, frightened look.

She frantically glanced about for Madame de Noailles; and when she found the lady, Marie Antoinette rushed into her arms and implored the older woman through her tears to help her understand these foreign customs. The Madame, always one for demureness, found and placed a velvet cloak around the shivering, weeping Dauphiness. The other ladies donned deep frowns of disproval while I stood by with an adroit smile on my face. The weekend had barely commenced and already there seemed to be contention in the ranks. I had yet to form an opinion one way or the other, but now I felt sorry for the young lady who faced mountainous and rather complicated tasks, with French court etiquette and diplomacy among them.

To assure a smooth transition with no upsets during the fête, the king had requested that Henri-Charles entertain Jeannette du Barry and keep her occupied. He readily agreed, and asked me to join him with a partner of my choice. I fancied a chevalier named Armand de Bergerac, a handsome man with regal features, keen, penetrating blue eyes, and waves of honey-brown hair.

The four of us met at the pavilion salon while the other guests convened inside the Maison de Grammont. We began by feasting on the buffet before us, baked ham and mutton with champagne mushrooms, roasted quail in sweet cherry sauce, and pheasant en croûte with a peacock feather garnish, tomato aspic, salad endive, pomme frite baskets with Camembert and Brie, poached pears, berries avec crème, custard éclairs, fondant cakes, and marzipan treats.

The wine, potent and sweet, spouted from a marble pitcher held by a little fountain cherub. The wine then spilled like a waterfall into a wide circular trough below. Candied rose petals floated along the rosé-pink stream, and revelers could fill their cups as many times as they wished. A slight breeze ruffled the drapes of chiffon that enclosed the pavilion, and we relaxed on comfortable damask settees with mounds of satiny pillows.

We had two servants at our disposal, a young brother and sister from the Alsace region named Yvan and Celeste, both with dark hair and eyes. The also possessed a sylvan, ethereal look about them as if they had appeared out of the dense Compiènge Forest behind us instead of from the de Grammont kitchens. Yet they performed their duties with skill and dexterity. When one glass of wine had been drunk and set down, Yvan or Celeste would quickly fetch another, doing so with barely a notice from the bacchius revelers.

Jeannette and I had since shed our panniers and hoop skirts, opting for filmy gowns with brazenly low décolletages. Henri-Charles made a game of placing a strawberry or cherry in the cleft of Jeannette’s full breasts followed by a dollop of custard from an éclair and then retrieving the creamy fruit with his mouth and tongue. His lapping and tickling made her titter delightfully while my lover of the night, Armand, and I looked on with bemusement.

Soon Armand wrapped me in his arms, muscled and toned from his years riding a steed in the royal equerry, his flesh a healthy bronzed tone and his hands strong and somewhat rough from the reigns he held. But I enjoyed the rugged maleness he exuded, particularly his scent of newly tanned leather with an undertow of sweat. When he whispered in my ear terms of erotic endearment, I shivered in pleasure, his breath hot and damp on my neck and smelling of wine and lavender pastille lozenges.

Then he tugged down the caplet sleeves of my gown and wrapped the fabric around my wrists so I could not move my hands. His lips brushed my breasts and then nibbled and kissed them. Helpless, I moaned under his touch, leaned my head back and thrust my nipples into his eager mouth. Next to us, I heard Chez Jeannette giggle as Henri-Charles taunted and teased her now-naked body, her laughter soon turning to screams of delight.

As soon as Armand released my hands, I slipped away from him and ran about the chiffon curtains, enfolding my body in the waves of soft fabric. I still wore my gown, although the bodice was now wrapped about my waist and my breasts still exposed. Armand laughed and came after me, but I remained out of his reach as I ran into the nearby forest. As dusk replaced the setting sun, it enveloped the woods in a dark, mystical cloak. I could hear Armand thrash through the brush in search of me, but I remained one step ahead, my feet in satin slippers barely making a sound along the forest floor. They were the only articles of clothing I now wore, having shed my gown so I could move freely and swiftly. I knew Armand would soon find my gown where I had thrown it over a whortleberry bush, a clue as to the direction I had taken.

Soon I heard merry chatter and laughter as Henri-Charles and Jeannette entered the forest along with several other couples. “We are going to join you, Elise and Armand!” Jeannette declared in a high-pitched, giddy voice. “We ladies will hide and the gentlemen will seek us! If they find one or more of us in the next hour we ladies must submit to our captors’ manly desires, whatever they may be! So let’s begin our hide and seek!”

They brought along Yvan and Celeste as torch bearers so the players could find their way in the murky darkness and avoid accidents like tripping over branches and logs. I didn’t need any optical aides for I had my own instincts to guide me. When I heard a rustle of the brush beyond me, I knew instinctively that it was Charles in search of me. I seemed to have left Armand far behind. As Charles whispered my name, I came to him and wrapped my arms around his neck. In turn, he folded me in his embrace and sought my lips for a simple yet potent kiss. Although he replaced his breeches, stockings and dress shoes, he left off his shirt and waistcoat, his flesh like smooth porcelain against the dark backdrop.

“I am famished,” he murmured in my ear. “What about you, my dear?”

I nodded thoughtfully, knowing that he did not mean the plentiful food and drink available at the pavilion. Charles, like I, felt a burning desire to replenish our souls with the blood of the living.

“Celeste and Yvan are quite close by,” he revealed, “...and very much alone.” At least Charles understood the need to limit ourselves to the servants lest we risk exposure by preying on the aristocrats. So far, we had managed to hold back our appetites, to sacrifice our needs in order to successfully move amongst the nobles.

“But we must be very careful,” I countered softly, “not to arouse anyone’s suspicions even with the taking of the servants.”

He released me. “True, true, but you don’t know how much I wanted to drink Jeannette’s blood. I could feel it coursing beneath my hands, could smell its rich lusty aroma. And yet I had to force myself to concentrate entirely on our sexual escapades, to satisfy her appetites rather than my own.”

“Oh, my darling, you have suffered so, haven’t you?” I stroked his cheek. “You deserve your just desserts now.”

“And you as well. Shall we?” He allowed me to walk ahead while he followed, both of us skilled in the hunt and able to keep the mad dash of hunger at bay with slow, measured steps, quietly and stealthily. We found the brother and sister standing together in a small clearing and holding torches. The flames of each torch sputtered and withered, and seemed in danger of extinguishing soon.

I called softly to them. “Yvan, Celeste! It is I, the Comtesse de Lanier. Do you need new light?”

Yvan answered as he tried to make out my form between the trees. “Yes, my lady. We really cannot see very far and we seemed to have lost our party.”

“They have gone into the woods, milady,” Celeste revealed in her rather timid voice, “and left us here with these beacons to guide the way back. But I am afraid we will lose our lights soon.”

“The comte is here with me,” I told them. “You need not wait for the others. We will guide you back to the pavilion.”

“Thank you, milady,” they both said in unison.

Charles had slipped behind them and now quickly moved forward to swipe their torches and trample the flames on the ground to extinguish the light. Now in the darkness of fear and uncertainty, Yvan and Celeste huddled together as I joined my lover.

“Do not be afraid,” I soothed as I took hold of Yvan’s hand and tugged him away from his sister. “I will protect and guide you.”

“And I will do the same for Ma’mselle Celeste,” Charles added as he gently took the girl in his arms.

I did the same with Yvan, wrapping him in my embrace like a loving mother and then tenderly stroking his head of soft raven hair. He shivered in my arms while his heart beat fast and furious beneath his muslin shirt, a combination, I knew, of fear and desire. He wanted to trust me and even dared to think we might engage in a rather toned-down version of the carnal play Charles and I enjoyed back at the pavilion with our chosen partners.

I coaxed Yvan to come with me into the depths of the forest so we could be alone and unobserved. We sat on a fallen log where, timidly, he reached out and touched my breasts. I took his hand and guided him over my body, shoulders, breasts, stomach, hips and thighs, his breath catching in his throat several times as I moved his fingers over my soft, warm flesh.

When we reached the dark well between my legs, he snatched back his hand and let out a small yelp of surprise. He couldn’t be more than fourteen or fifteen, a definite novice in the art of love. But I had no desire to introduce him to that highly pleasurable, lovely and often mysterious world.

Yvan would have to die a virgin.

He had full lips, soft and moist; and as I took his mouth for a kiss, his breath came hot and heavy, redolent with the sweet cream of the éclair he snuck earlier. His breeches swelled with the bulge of his lust, but I had no desire to continue along the natural course our intimate tête-à-tête dictated.

“Mon chérie,” he murmured when his lips brushed along my cheek. “Je t’adore, je t’aime.”

I should have laughed at his innocent declaration of love, but I was too serious in my quest to amuse myself with his puerile affections.

“I want you.” My hands wrapped around his neck. “I want to taste your essence, drink of your life’s blood. You will be my sacrifice, a sacrifice to love.”

“Yes, oh, yes.” By now Yvan appeared completely mesmerized as I whispered my words in a low, soft cadence. From the corner of my eye, I spied Charles carrying the small limp body of Celeste as he returned to me, his face and body flushed and radiant with his recent feeding. He set the dead girl down temporarily in order to help me in my quest. Coming up behind Yvan, he retracted his finger implement while I pulled back. It took only seconds for his hand to come around and slice open the poor boy’s neck with the blade.

For a moment Yvan looked startled, his eyes wide and luminous. Did he realize what had happened? I rather doubted it, just as I told myself my other victims had no idea of their fate just before the moment of death. It was too quick, too finite. Now the boy’s blood flowed as freely as the wine in the pavilion fountain, and I drank my fill.

Afterward, Charles and I took our victims to the nearby river, weighed down their feather-light bodies with rocks, and gently sent them into the water where they would settle at the bottom. Then we washed our own bodies to erase any lingering blood.

When I finally heard Armand call my name from the nearby glen, I gladly sprinted in his direction as Charles went in search of Jeannette.

“There you are, mon amour!” Armand declared as I ran into his arms. “What a cunning little fox you are! All this time I could not find you. Where did you go, where did you hide?” Stepping back a moment, he scrutinized my gleaming and damp body. “You must have run farther than anyone!”

I offered a sly smile. “Of course, my darling. I am a silver vixen, quite adept at navigating the forest primeval! All the while you searched for me, I was hunting my prey, and once found, I pounced, killed and ate heartily.”

Although Armand laughed at my apparent jest, I knew his jocularity masked his puzzlement, even perhaps, a tensile of fear. Deep down, he did fear me, feared my boldness and independence despite his brawn and bravado. Most men did, but I had learned to use this weakness to my advantage.

“Come, mon chéri,” I soothed as my fingers caressed his strong jawline. I then continued down his neck and chest, coming to rest at his crotch where I helped him rise to the occasion with tantalizing strokes. “Let us finish what we began earlier.”

The next day, Madame Hortense—the de Grammont housekeeper—made a bit of a fuss when she discovered that Yvan and Celeste had apparently ran off and left her in the lurch servant-wise. Every guest had at least one servant from the de Grammont household at his or her beck and call. Yvan and Celeste had been mine and Henri-Charles’ domestics. But Madame Hortense’s concerns were eased when the Duc de Grammont quickly hired one of his mistresses and her brother to take the place of the Alsace siblings. The matter was then quickly forgotten as the festivities continued and Charles and I enjoyed a sated bliss.

The marriage of the Dauphin Louis-Auguste and Marie Antoinette was a lavish affair attended by all the notables of the day. Louis Auguste was known as a serious and shy young man, and soon it became known that he had not consummated the marriage. In fact, it would be years before he and Antoinette would finally have sex which in turn produced children. Rumors ran rampant, that Louis was asexual, homosexual, or worse, suffering from some debilitating disease. But to those who knew him as I did, he was simply a shy and withdrawn man. Until he decided to consummate his marriage, Louis was content to tinker with his clocks while Marie spent the next two years as a retiring and chaste queen-to-be. But when she had enough of such a cloistered life, she decided to through caution to the wind and live a life filled with constant parties and extravagant balls. Soon, like Madame du Barry, she overspent her allowance on clothes and jewelry, a practice that continued when she became queen of France after old King Louis XV’s death.

At one of her themed parties, as everyone came dressed in lavish costumes and masks, she approached Charles and hinted that she wouldn’t be averse to having him take her virginity. In fact, Marie wished to trade an emerald and diamond ring for Charles’ favors, but Charles obliged without the added incentive. Soon he and Marie embarked on a passionate but discreet affair. My lover had only one qualm about the queen: she was pretty but she had boyish hips and too small a bosom.

Again rumors ran rampant, that Marie, as a foreigner, had no regard for France and that she purposely ran through the French coffers in order to weaken the country and the morale of its people. More nasty rumors quickly surfaced: Marie indulged in drunken orgies that included sodomy, and that she took women lovers as well as men. I knew differently. The French have always been a liberal and tolerant people, but homosexuality remained a covert state. The most open and outspoken lesbian at court, Madame Catarine de Valois-Saint-Pierre cultivated a friendship with the queen but had no sexual desire in that direction. On the other hand, the lovely sable-haired Johanna de Valois—or Jolie to her friends—and I had a fabulous affair, usually in her opulent boudoir decorated with red velvet curtains and flocked wallpaper, gilt furniture, a collection of marble cherubs, a round bed dressed in rose and black satin, and drawers filled with provocative lingerie and sexual toys.

Members of the queen’s enemy camp grew quickly, especially during the Diamond Necklace Affair which centered on the fraudulent purchase of a fabulous and expensive necklace in Marie’s name, although the fraud was perpetrated by the Marie’s distant cousin, the Duc d’Orleans, and Madame du Barry, both enemies of the queen, du Barry openly so, the duke on a more covert level.

By now, the French people faced a grave financial crisis with most of the population suffering from severe economic conditions, their livelihoods threatened as the lack of food, housing and sanitation became a pitiable reality. The specter of death hovered over everyone, black and bleak. Women young and old—most dressed in rags—begged in the streets, willing to trade sexual favors for a loaf of bread to feed their starving children. In fact, a series of riots called the Flour Wars came about because of the inflated prices for flour and other staples. Most families coveted whatever food scraps they could to make a weak soup that would have to last for days. A potato or turnip—even on the verge of rotting—was a coveted prize.

Charles and I had been fortunate enough to amass enough funds to keep us solvent for awhile, although we were careful about our spending to quash any curiosity from our friends and particularly from our servants. Not that we would suspect Roget, Nanon and Madame Bouchard of robbing us, but the temptation to help themselves to our money in a time of crisis was very real. Plus, Roget and Nanon had family members in the city facing object poverty. We helped them as much as we dared, and made sure that Madame Bouchard had enough vegetables, flour, sugar, eggs, and even a piece of meat or two to make decent meals.

Marie Antoinette diverted her attention from the people’s dilemma by the constant purchase of new attire and a need to feed her gambling habit. She adopted the elaborate pouf hairstyle with panache, or feathers for accents, and shoes with extreme high heels to give her height. Thus she became the model of fashion to the ladies at court as well as Parisian high society.

At the palace of Versailles, the nobility continued to indulge in their lavish lifestyles, the palace bright with gilt, diamonds, silk and velvet, its occupants engorging on rich crème and stuffed capons. Thus Charles and I didn’t mind taking our fill of some of the bloated and pompous members of the minor nobility, their absence barely noted by most of the royal hangers-on.

As the dismal situation outside the palace gates became apparent, Charles and I knew the end would come soon, that the reign of the Sun Kings would end in terrible tragedy. We made plans to leave the country and return to England.

Not long after we settled in London as Edward and Eloise Latham, we heard that Louis, Marie, and their children, had been arrested and imprisoned. The fate of the king and queen rested in the hands of the new assembly members who professed liberty, equality and fraternity for all. In the end, both Louis and Marie lost their heads to this noble cause called the French Revolution. Johanna de Valois-Saint-Pierre, too, had been arrested, but Jolie had managed to escape a prison sentence and flee to England where she settled in Plymouth.

For the first few years I visited Jolie at her snug little cottage by the sea, but eventually our relationship waned when Jolie gravitated to a middle-aged banker who lavished her with gifts and money. Since I had done the same in the past with Thaddeus and Philemon of Athens, I approved of her need for financial stability, and so graciously bowed out.

Thankfully, fashion had changed since the era of wide hoop panniers, girdles and flounce, and now took a classical revival mode that harkened back to Grecian times. Gowns were simple, straight-lined muslin sheaths with an empire waist, puffed sleeves, and a low square neckline that skimmed the beginning cleft of the breasts. Instead of heels, women wore dainty flats. Men wore straight-legged breeches with white stockings, and dovetail frock coats with high-collared shirts. As always, Charles looked dashing in whatever the style, his newest passions silk cravats and shiny, crisp Homburg hats, the taller the better.

We read poetry by Percival Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron and John Keats, and the novels Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. We also enjoyed the art of Jean Louis Géricault, Ferdinand Delacroix and Francisco Goya, and the music of Franz Schubert, Frederic Chopin, and Ludwig van Beethoven, not to mention the operatic brilliance of Rossini’s Barber of Seville.

London had become a large, bustling metropolis, big enough for Charles and me to move to a different section of the city every few years in order to avoid speculation about our lack of aging. Each time we had to employ new servants, a task that neither Charles nor I particularly relished. We also had to trade old acquaintances for new, another necessity that could be difficult at times. For one, we had to concoct plausible excuses for our departures, as well as discourage anyone from wanting to continue the friendship by corresponding with us at our new location. We usually fabricated our move to the continent with Charles taking a diplomatic position in a variety of countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden, France, Bohemia, Austria, Poland, Switzerland or Prussia. Other times, we indicated that we wished to seek our futures in America.

And no one questioned our plans.

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