Notes: see chapter one.
As always I am so very grateful, girls, thank you who correct my errors in writing, because OUCH, it is such a struggle these English sentences! And I will continue until the end! If it was French, oui pas de problème, well hang on with me and enjoy the drive in another universe...
I listen to the song when Barbra Streisand sings it.
The pictures were taken by myself, so you can see the island l'Île St Louis, in Paris. It is one of the most romantic places of the city. I can imagine Beatrice living in this house...
The episode Latent Image of Voyager is one of my favourites. The quotation of the book La Vita Nuova by Dante touched me deeply. It is a book about poetry, and also about a love for a woman, Béatrice. Now why would our favorite redhead read a book like this? You tell me! This chapter will provide you with a possible answer...
E- mail me, I will respond, as always.
Béatrice, La Reine De Mon CoeurPart 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4| Part 5Part 6 |
No more talk of darkness
Forget these wide-eyed fears
Nothing can harm you
My words will warm and calm you
Let me be your freedom
Let daylight dry your tears
To guard you and to guide you
Then say you love me every winter morning
Turn my head with talk of summertime
Say you need me with you now and always
Promise me that all you say is true
That's all I ask of you
(All I ask of you, from the "The Phantom Of The Opera"
lyrics by C.Hart and R.Stilgoe, music by A.L. Webber)
The carriage is driving me to l'Île St Louis. I said goodbye to Louis who returned directly to Versailles so he can go hunting early the following day. I changed myself into more suitable clothes, a dark dress without any jewellery, and my hair hanging loose. A long black cape covers my entire body, and a Swiss Guard is my only company as the carriage takes me through the deserted streets of Paris at night... la rue de Rivoli... la place du Châtelet...and then along la Seine.
I can see the prison La Conciergerie nearby, and suddenly I am chilled to the bone. I am used to those insights from a future yet to come, or a past fading away in the darkness of time, but still... Sometimes like now, I cannot ignore those impressions of my too sensitive mind. I am unable to deny this feeling, a shadow, foreboding my near future. It is like a spell, I cannot liberate myself from it. No matter how hard I try to change the course of history, the course of my life, I remain under this spell...
Finally the carriage arrives in la rue de l' l'Île St Louis, and after a few moments it stops in front of l'hotel particulier, the house that is in my possession. I descend from the carriage and nod to the driver who will take it to the other side of the island.
"Get some sleep," I tell the guard. "This may take a while."
I open the door. The flame of a torch lights the corridor, which leads to the inner court. I take it to help me find the way. My heart is pounding heavily in my body from anticipation, and I can't silence it. I take the stairs. Jean-Charles will probably be dans le salon, in the living room, together with his friends. As I go upstairs I hear a voice, the voice of Lady B. She is upset, I can hear that clearly now. Then I hear the reassuring voice of the count, his wonderful voice, so rich with nuances, it makes me shiver. Apparently Jean-Charles de la Janvier tries to calm the woman.
I am at the first floor now and I move towards the kitchen door because that is where their voices came from.
Suddenly Lady B shouts angrily, "Then I will go!"
She opens the kitchen door and looks straight in my face. I meet her eyes in an instant and all that I can see is a pool of darkness. Then I look away behind her to see the almost naked form of my beloved count. With his bare back, only covered by his auburn locks, hanging loose to his waist and only his tights on, he makes me gasp with desire.
He doesn't turn around, but with one hand on his hips, and his head bent slightly to the ground, it is as if he is afraid to move. His form is so beautiful, that it takes my breath away. It reminds me of a painting of a statue I once saw, I believe it was David by Michelangelo. The same softness of the curves, divine. A mélange, a mixture of feminine and masculine features.
Then Lady B slams the door in my face and she runs away, furious. Where she goes, I ignore.
What shall I do? I want to see him, I want to be near him, and close the distance between our bodies, between our souls. I want to feel his breath on my flesh, and his heart pounding in his chest while I make love to him. I want to feel the ticklish sensation of his auburn locks on my breasts while he explores my body.
I want all that and more.
I touch the door, ready to make my entrance.
I know he is waiting on the other side, standing still in the kitchen, near the window.
He is listening, his heart racing in his body.
Waiting for me.
Oh my beloved one, I will join you.
But then...will it do me any good if I get swept away by my desire? There are other matters of concern, the destiny of this country for instance. No, I have to control myself. This is not a time to be selfish. First I need a friend, someone trustworthy, who can protect me and help me. I have to take care of this first. I shall be a queen, and after that a woman. Because innocent lives depend on every decision I make, now and in the very near future.
With one hand I touch the wood of the door, and sigh. Then I retreat reluctantly, and go to le salon, which is situated on the other side of the house, where you can look at the river through the window. As I pass the vestibule I hear the friends of Jean-Charles playing poker. I take off my black cape and wait.
His eyes become a dark grey. His voice agitated, he states "Majesté, as I told you, you may be the queen, but I have my own set of rules, and I will not jeopardise the lives of my friends."
His hands on his hips, his chest forward, his jaw set, he defies me.
But I don't care. Let him speak, be angry with me! After that I will put him at ease, explain my plan to him. And after that, maybe... if he is willing and the clouds are dissipated between us, I will embrace him in my arms, cradle his body and taste his lips.
"Continue," I speak, "but please sit down with me and let me offer you some wine. I know you are angry, and I am uncertain why. I am sure you will explain everything to me."
As I take the decanter and pour him an exquisite Bordeaux into a crystal glass, he nods crisply.
Briskly he takes the glass, spilling some of the contents and moves to the window. He glances at me, with a stubborn look, but he also lingers on the curves of my form, when I have to bend a little to fill my own glass. I hope he appreciates the view, although he gives nothing away. I sip from my glass while I brush a few strands of hair from my face.
"What game do you play," he says finally, his voice sad and merely audible. "Why didn't you recognise me this morning? Was it because you were not alone? Or am I just one of many, a toy in your royal hands, a subject of desire you will make fun of after we have consummated our liaison? If that is so, just say so, and I will not hesitate to share my flesh with you, tonight. And never look back again."
I wish I could touch his long hair, and stroke his face, but instead I keep a distance, and say, "this morning? I don't think I understand Count Jean-Charles de la Janvier what you are referring to..."
"In the park of Versailles,"he explains briefly.
"This morning I was with my oldest son, le dauphin."
He tries to hold back his temper. "No, you were with a man, in an intimate way, in le labyrinthe."
I quickly close the distance that separates us.
"You have to believe me, I do not know what you are talking about." I take his hand in mine and stroke his knuckles with my other hand. "Wasn't it you who wanted it to happen in greatness and in beauty?"
He withdraws his hand. "I still want it. But I don't know what your real intentions are. This is a matter of trust."
He turns away from me, and says harshly, "I want to trust you but I do not." He empties his glass in one gulp, and then turns around again, his body almost touching mine.
In a very authoritative manner he continues to speak. "Do you want me to share my flesh with you? Then I will. Just order me to do so. You are the queen. But I will leave early in the morning with my friends. And it will not happen again, because I am not used to sharing my body with someone I cannot trust."
He looks at me very grimly, with such a cold stare, mon Dieu, he can be so intimidating.
If only Louis could be like that...
"I am very disappointed, votre Majesté," he continues, "but I am more disappointed in myself. I made an error in judgement. I am someone who can amuse you, and I believed it was love."
He moves closer to me and takes my hand in his. Then, suddenly, he touches my upper swells, and my body is reacting immediately.
But I have to speak to him first. "No, not yet," I whisper, as I take his hand and hold it still against my chest. "Let me explain. Perhaps it was not me but the other woman."
I let go of his hand.
"The other woman?"
Through the window, in the dark of the night I can see a ship passing by. I hear the horses, which are pulling the ship down the embankment.
"We searched everywhere in the country to find a woman who looked like me," I explain, "for safety reasons, to replace me when necessary in public. We found her in the Elzas, en Alsace. She speaks French like me, with an accent, because in her childhood she lived in a village on the other side of the border in Germany. I let her perform my role in public events, a task I dislike, and she did it quite well."
I sigh. "It was a mistake. The more she replaced me, the more she took advantage of it. People started to confuse her with me and now she acts like me all the time. She spends our money, because she orders dresses and jewellery in my name. She lives in the Trianon, in the parc of Versailles, close to the residence where I pass my private time, Le Petit Trianon. And now..."
I see disbelief in the eyes of the count, I hesitate but then I continue.
"...and now our enemies are using this woman to stabilise their power. She is the one whose actions are immoral. It is she who invented the latest fashion of those extravagant hairpieces. I believe it was she whom you met. Do you believe me?"
I take his hand and speak softly, "please, do not say you doubt my words. I would never lie to you. You are too close to my heart."
He nods. "Can't you stop the actions of this woman?"
"We tried everything. But she knows too much. If it comes out, the king and I, we will not survive it. She does as she pleases."
And with a much louder voice I point out, "killing is not an option."
I can see in his eyes that he understands.
With my finger I trace slowly the line of his jaw. I am so fond of doing that. His skin is so unbelievably soft, and reminds me-strange as it is-of the delicate skin of la princesse de Lamballe, ma chère Thérèse. He closes his eyes for an instant, appreciating my caress. I speak with a seductive voice, making clear I do have other intentions for the night. "You yourself couldn't make a difference..."
"That is true," he admits.
He looks at me in wonder. His eyes are gentler now, and I feel relief.
"So, it was not you, Béatrice, after all," he says with much tenderness. He looks at me and something is hitting him. I know what it is.
"Before you...tell me..."
His voice is failing him and ends in a growl. He clears his throat. "...why you want me here...
And he laughs. "I could use a black coffee and a digestive. A cognac maybe!"
Mon Dieu, his laughter sets free the pressure in my heart, the anguish I kept hidden. He believes me.
I take his arm and put it around my waist, in a soothing manner.
"I am sorry, Jean-Charles de la Janvier, it happens all the time. Just forget that you are talking with Marie-Antoinette, the queen of France. It can be intimidating, je sais, I know."
With his arm he presses without hesitation his body against mine. With his other hand he removes a strand of my hair. I can feel his breath on my chin, very close.
"Oh no," he whispers, his voice so husky, it is sending multiple shivers along my spine. "That is not what impresses me the most...it is the display of your beauty..."
His eyes dilate, and his mouth opens a little while his respiration increases. He doesn't move and I cherish this moment of closeness in a comforting way. I cannot go any further just yet, and he is aware of that, I am sure. I touch his forehead with my mouth, showing him my affection and love. His skin is so very smooth and soft, every time I touch it I become aware of the desire I feel for this man. Reluctantly I push him away a little.
"If we go to the kitchen, I have a cabinet", I say, "with delicacies. Entre autres coffeebeans and a cognac you will appreciate, I am sure."
We go to the kitchen, and I try to engage in small talk, although the spasms I feel in my stomach and abdomen are making it difficult for me to focus on the conversation. I have to tell him of my plan first and then...maybe...
"We are privileged to have a special contact who can provide us, the king and I, a blend which we both enjoy immensely. Dans le cabinet du roi Louis makes his own coffee, and in his vegetable garden he tries to cultivate coffeeplants. Louis is very skilled you know, he is like a handyman, he can invent tools and he is able to make locks out of metal."
In the meanwhile I perform the task of making coffee. I give him my favourite coffee cup, without a silver spoon because I know he likes it black and strong.
He is surprised. "There are no servants in the house?"
"I like it this way," I admit. "It is the only place where I can be alone. Even at Le Petit Trianon, I am not a private person. I enjoy cooking and that is what I do when I am here for a day or two. Just being Béatrice, you understand? "
He nods. "This is very good," he says after a few sips. Where do they come from, those coffeebeans?"
He puts his coffee cup down. "This blend is extraordinary. I cannot start my day without coffee. But tell me now chère Béatrice, why did you want me to come to Paris? Certainly not because you were so eager to see me, or because you wanted me to be the very special guest of Le Grand Couvert?"
I blush at his teasing words. I don't answer him immediately but instead I give him a glass of cognac.
His eyes widen again, and I know he enjoys the simple black dress, which accentuates nicely the curves of my body.
My voice trembles slightly when I tease him back. "Jean-Charles, cher ami, isn't it clear by now that I am eager to see you?"
Sitting in a chair he savours his cognac, unable to meet my eyes, and his skin turns into a crimson red.
"Prove it to me then" he whispers, with that thrill in his voice I love so dearly. It makes me want to throw myself into his arms, right away, being son amour, his love. I move around him and put my hands on his shoulders. He shudders.
"If you let me..." I reply with much tenderness. But first..."
"...first you have to tell me the purpose of my visit."
Resting my hands on his shoulders, I say, "The cardinal, who kidnapped me, he was not only after my necklace or my body. He was a partner of the other woman. He kidnapped me so the other woman could replace me for good. I know the cardinal followed orders. From whom? Someone connected with the court I presume. Someone who wants to control Louis and prevent our policies, that is, abolishing the privileges for the clergy and the nobility, and taxes for them as well."
"Curious" he remarks, "that you of all people, are a revolutionary at heart."
"You think so? I listen to the common people and I know things will change. I would be a fool to resist. I want to be a part of the changes. If not, Louis and I, and many more people I am afraid, will be victims of the time we live in. By words, not by killing, I want the changes to go smoothly. For this I need knowledge. You can provide me with it. Will you help me?"
"You sound very urgent," he says. "Why?"
"The treasury is almost empty. Another crop failure and the army will not be able to prevent bloodshed. People who are hungry, are angry and adverse to reason and talking."
"So," he thinks aloud, "someone wants to clear you out of the way and replace you with the other woman."
"That is my guess."
"And you want me to find out who that might be?"
"I want to know of whom I can expect the worse."
"Why me?" he asks.
I move around him, still touching his shoulder. I want to see his face. "You are not connected to the court, nobody knows you and I presume you have nothing to lose, nothing to gain in all this."
"Is that so?"
"Am I wrong?"
He touches my hand on his shoulder. "The sentiments you feel for me, those I can lose in the process...," he says softly.
"I assure you, Count Jean-Charles de la Janvier, whatever you decide, my sentiments will be unharmed. This is a matter of state and does not affect my personal feelings towards you."
"Let me think it over," he replies.
Suddenly I become aware of the sound of l'horloge, the clock of the church in la rue de l'Île de St Louis. Five 'o clock already? Time has flown by.
He senses my reaction and stands up from his chair.
"You have to go."
"If not, they will miss me at the palace and the other woman will take over immediately."
I caress his face, his classical features I have come to love so deeply. His eyes so commanding at times and so trust worthy at the same time...The eyes of a friend, a companion, et un amant, a lover, very soon, if I have my way...
"Mon amour," I speak softly, "je regrette, there is no time left. Come to visit me in the afternoon, in the palace of Les Tuileries. We will continue this conversation. I will organise a bal masqué shortly. Do you want to enjoy the festivities with me?"
He tilts his head. "My friends and I will be your personal guards, like les quatre mousquetaires. I will protect you and you will be less alone".
"And you as well," I whisper.
Then he surprises me and wraps his arms around me.
"My Béatrice, when I lay my eyes on you, a new life began..."
And he kisses me. A kiss so meaningful and so tender I almost start to weep. With all my weight I sink in his arms, and he holds me, and I am like a ship finding a safe haven. After all these years of loneliness, of struggle, of despair, have I found the one I can truly trust, my guide, mon amour, the one I can bound my soul to?
Yes, a new life begins in his arms.
I let go of my fears, my doubts, my responsibilities as a queen.
In his arms I am no queen, only a woman.
Let me be your shelter
Let me be your light
No one will find you
Your fears are right behind you
All we need is freedom
A world that's warm and bright
Always beside me
To hold me and to hide me
The carriage drives me slowly to the palace Les Tuileries. At this hour only thieves, bakers, women in labour and homeless people are awake. A man sneaks away in the dark, trying to hide a bundle of papers, pamphlets maybe? Alongside la Seine, the smell of putrefaction is sometimes suffocating.
But I enjoy these solitary moments in my carriage. It is almost as if time ceases to exist.
What will become of me I wonder. I was never meant to be a queen, nevertheless I am, so I will try to perform my duty as well as possible. My heart is with my people, because I feel I am one of them.
I sigh. Members of the nobility and the clergy will make it extremely difficult to execute the ideas of Louis and I. They will refuse to abandon their privileges, not knowing that by doing that they will lead the country to its fall. I bonded with few of them and maybe it was a mistake. Now I don't have an insight in their nature and what they are planning.
And the other woman in all this...
The carriage enters the courtyard of the old palace. I descend from the carriage while I nod to the guard, then by a side door I enter the improvised rooms I occupy when I am staying the night in Paris. If only...if only Jean-Charles agrees to help me...
When I wake up I feel a little sick to my stomach. I am worried. Yesterday, as the days before the bleeding didn't start, and I recognise the symptoms. Could it be...after three children and two miscarriages...could I be expecting another child? I am pleased but worried as well. This is not the right time to be pregnant. I need my strength, both physically and mentally. Ma première femme de chambre gives me un billet de Louis. He will visit me shortly, because he wants to know what happened to the necklace. The necklace? The necklace I gave to the count? Why would he be interested in this piece of jewellery?
Agitated I reply, "look Louis, it is obvious. There is a conspiracy. Someone is trying to spread gossip about me, about us, in the most disrespectful way!"
"Je suis d'accord," I agree, he murmurs, a bit surprised by my outburst. "Where is the necklace then?"
I sigh and explain, "when the cardinal attacked me, somehow it slipped off my neck, in the grass. It was dark and later nowhere to be found."
"So this is not a necklace you ordered to buy recently..."
"...and that you gave away to the cardinal..."
"... a necklace worth a fortune..."
"No! The necklace I have lost was the necklace my mother gave me. I have never bought a necklace, nor have I seen it, nor have I ordered in written form to buy it. It simply doesn't exist."
"But the money is gone, the jeweller states he delivered it, and that he still has to be paid a large amount of Louis d'or."
I approach Louis. I can see he hasn't slept well. He has a haggard look on his face.
"Tout Paris is speaking of it. Pamphlets are everywhere," he continues to speak in a defeated tone. "We are losing our credibility. Day after day it gets worse."
I am very sad myself, but I have to encourage him. "Louis," I say, while I put a hand on his arm, to comfort him, "we have to find the origin of this conspiracy."
"Oh ma chérie," he whispers, "I know it must have been the other woman...Forgive me..."
"I will. When I was kidnapped," I continue seriously, "I overheard the cardinal. He wanted to replace me with the other woman, so she could spoil the good reputation I have left."
"Somebody wants our heads," he says.
The affair with the necklace is bothering me more then I can say, but I don't want to show him my fears.
"With the help of count Jean-Charles de la Janvier I intend to find out who that is," I reply. In the meantime, there is little we can do".
Louis leaves the room. He returns to Versailles, and I will too, but first I will have a conversation with Jean-Charles.
Say you'll share with me one love,
Let me lead you from your solitude
Say you need me with you,
here beside you
Anywhere you go, let me go too
Say the word and I will follow you
Share each day with me,
each night, each morning
Say you feel the way I do
That's all I ask of you
Anywhere you go, let me go too
That's all I ask of you
I requested that my friends join me in le salon to debate with me about the visit of the queen the night before. Even Lady B is there, although nothing in her attitude shows that she is furious with me-on the contrary, she is very good-humoured- she avoids my questioning gaze. I tell them of my findings and set out the plan I developed after Béatrice left.
Someone, probably Antoine because of his good looks, has to become a regular visitor of Le Trianon, the palace in the park of Versailles, where the other woman resides. Lady B jumps up after my suggestion.
"Let me go there too!"
I hesitate, not really sure this is a prudent kind of action.
But she insists. "I want to help. Because I am a woman, I have other ways of discovering the truth. Two know more than one, and because I am a female I will not be suspected of having ulterior motives."
"She has a point," Jacques says. "As for me, I would like to keep the king company. Maybe I can find out if he has enemies, if someone is envious of his position. I will be able to familiarise myself a little better with the customs of the royal court."
"Alright, that is settled then," I agree. Dominique and I will go to Versailles as well. We will try to overhear the other woman a second time in the labyrinth. And I would like to find out who writes and distributes the pamphlets because they are the main source of all those rumours. In a week there will be le bal masqué in Versailles. I suggest we all meet here just before this event, to share our findings. La concierge, a retired lace-maker, is to be trusted. We can pass her messages and the keys of the house."
"Antoine," I say, "you will have this ring."
Reluctantly I take off my finger the sealing-ring Béatrice gave me.
"You will need it to have the other woman to trust you. Tell her you were offended by Marie-Antoinette and that she banned you from the palace. You are looking for revenge and willing to share a few secrets. One of them is your knowledge that she replaces the queen in public events. Offer the woman your services and protection. Your good looks and this ring will do the rest, I am sure. And you..."
I turn to Lady B, and make her look at me.
"...offer your services as a servant . That way you can hear other things. I will provide you with the necessary papers."
Lady B stares at me with disbelief. Then she swallows heavily and nods.
"If that is what you want me to do, then I will."
"Yes, I want you to," I reply, a bit of anger in my voice.
She looks hurt, but I want to make sure she understands that my heart is elsewhere and that I am testing her loyalty. Truth to be said, I am surprised she is still there. If I were standing in her shoes, I would have been long gone. Her love must be even greater than I can possibly imagine. That is what frightens me. Maybe I want her to leave, maybe I want her to go out of my way. Maybe I am pushing her to the limit. This love is bothering me so much, maybe I want her to suffer. And maybe then she will choose someone else to cling on to.
And me? Am I clinging on to Béatrice? I hope my pride will prevent me from doing so.
I look at my friends. Jacques...Dominique...Lady B...Antoine.
"Are we sure we want to do this? Because even the castle back home will no longer be a safe place if something goes amiss."
Nobody replies, so I say, "Dominique and I will go to Les Tuileries, to tell the queen about our plans. The three of you, take a carriage to Versailles. Good luck and keep your eyes and ears open."
They leave le salon to prepare themselves.
Lady B stays behind.
"I have to offer you my apologies," she mumbles. "I feel this is very important to you, Catherine, and I will no longer stand in your way."
"I know it is difficult," I say somewhat harshly, "but you know the truth and you are free to go."
"You know that is not possible," she says, her voice desperate. "In your presence I am free, but out there I will be at the mercy of a man who is willing to take pity on me, just as you would without your disguise."
Then her eyes are shimmering dangerously, and I hold my breath.
"You know I care for you deeply, and I will not harm you in any way, but sometimes I wonder...what will our friends say if they were to find out they haven taken orders from a woman...all this time?"
This is not good. Maybe I am handling this the wrong way. I can become angry again, but maybe another approach will be more effective. Perhaps my friends will remain loyal to me, even if they know I am a woman. I have given them a shelter for so long now. My actions speak for me. But at this moment it would complicate matters, so I will try to persuade lady B to be silent.
"Belle," I speak with my voice endowed with some erotic thrill, "come sit down with me for a moment..."
I take her hand in mine and as we sit down together on the sofa near the window, I continue softly, "sweetheart, I know that you don't want to hurt me, why would you?"
Then I caress her cheek with the other hand. Her eyes instantly soften.
"How long have we known each other? Why would differences set us apart? You don't have to go if you don't really want to. And frankly, I would be very worried if you did."
After that I squeeze her in the shoulder and she smiles.
"Be careful, " I add before she joins Antoine and Jacques. I have to tell Antoine to stay in touch with Lady B at all times. I should not have brought her with me. She is blinded by her love for me. Her jealousy can be triggered of in an instant, like gunpowder ready to explode in my face.
Dominique and I go to Les Tuileries where Marie-Antoinette resides on occasions when she attends a concert à l'Opera. We changed our attire, because we will go to Versailles shortly after that, perhaps in the company of my beloved queen.
Swiss Guards, known to be loyal to the royal house, guard the gate. Béatrice is expecting us. She wants to see her children as soon as possible and so we decide to share a carriage and go to Versailles immediately, while I can unfold my plans. Dominique sits next to the driver, assuming correctly I need some private time with la reine, and we are escorted by ten soldiers.
I feel the pressure of her hand on my knee as we leave Les Tuileries, crossing the bridge Le Pont Neuf, heading southwest, to the forest of Meudon.
Béatrice is very beautiful at this time of day, but her eyes are worried and anxious. She tells me all about the pamphlets which were distributed during the night, and the scandal they have caused. She urges me to make haste with my investigations. Every day she loses more of her credibility and the insulting words of the brochures are insupportable, no longer bearable.
"I am so sorry," I try to calm down the imperial woman who sits so close to me, her leg pressing against mine, "if they only knew what you did with the necklace and..."
She interrupts me "another precious gift to one of her favourite friends, that is what they would say!"
"Be assured Béatrice, ma reine, we will find out who the dangerous liaison is, if it is the other woman, or maybe someone else."
"You overheard them in the labyrinth, the other woman and her lover they are just pawns in a chess play. I want to know the identity of the players and end the game."
"Leave it to me to protect the queen," I try to lighten up the mood.
She smiles a little, but not very convincingly. The poor soul must be exhausted and frightened.
We are leaving behind us the last houses of Paris. Béatrice is relaxing visibly now, and I caress the hand on my knee.
A dangerous liaison, I can say that of my own situation. Here I am, Catherine de La Janvier, wearing men's clothes, sitting next to Marie-Antoinette the queen of France, who has openly flirted with me since the moment we met. Sometimes the rapid course of events dazzles me. But there is no turning back. I will try to adapt and be brave.
The queen is looking at the sabre I always carry with me.
"You seek redemption, as I recall you have said. Redemption for all the men you killed in duel?"
I nod. "I regret every life I had to take. Even if it was for self-defence. I show her my hands. "These hands are not innocent. I cannot wash away the blood they shed."
Béatrice looks at my hands very intently. I have long feminine fingers, but I have a tight muscular grip. She takes my hands in hers and brings them to her mouth. She kisses every finger with feather-like touches. Her voice barely a murmur, she says "with these hands you will enlighten my body and offer me your love. Then you will be innocent again."
I am speechless. She is so gracious and tender, my heart is too small to contain the emotions I feel for this woman.
But I don't want to reveal my identity yet. What if she knows I am of her own gender? Will she continue to seek out my protection? I find I have to prove myself first. I want to be worthy of her trust.
She interrupts my daydreaming. "There is one thing you have to know Jean-Charles," she speaks very seriously. Because I am the queen of France, I cannot allow myself to share with you all the aspects of love."
I stare at her face in wonder. I am not sure I understand. "What do you mean?"
She laughs. Her laugher reminds me of the other woman, and the unpleasant memory makes me uncomfortable. Even if I know the woman whose hand is resting on my upper leg is Béatrice, I don't think I can take it very well if I am the source of her amusement.
"You don't know what I mean?"
"No." I answer somewhat crisply.
"Imagine," she continues more seriously, "imagine that I am with child, and the child is unlike my other children. I don't want to hurt Louis. For me, being the queen of France, this is unacceptable. I'll take every precaution to prevent this from happening."
She laughs loudly, seeing my very disappointed face. Then she takes my hand, and brings my fingers to her mouth. She flicks her tongue around my middle finger, and the gesture is so sensual, that I am unable to breathe properly.
I do know what she is suggesting when she says quietly, "don't be alarmed. There are other ways to share our love. Unconventional ways..."
We arrive in Versailles and Béatrice shows me how to enter the palace without being noticed. The building is a labyrinth in itself. There are the official apartments, and the apartments in which the royal family live their private life. Private? There are guards everywhere. Béatrice told me she will show me her third bedroom. The only bedroom to be unguarded and the king will not visit. Of course there is also her bedroom at Le Petit Trianon.
Béatrice moves quickly from one corridor to another and soon I am completely lost. Suddenly she stops before a small door.
She says, "this door is an entrance on the left side of the palace. I leave the palace through this door when I want to visit Le Petit Trianon unnoticed, without a carriage, just by foot. You will be able to detect the door once you are outside."
After that she hands me a large golden key. "Louis made this key for you, at my request."
She explains, "Louis is a craftsman, did you notice how well he designed my initials in the metal?"
I see much tenderness in her yes, when she speaks of him. Surely their common destiny made them to be close friends, perhaps even more. I don't want to be the judge of their relationship, I only want Béatrice to be happy, and I think I can provide her with that.
"The door is locked, but unguarded unlike the other entrances. Please follow me now."
After several corridors we arrive near les appartements de la Reine, the rooms in which she has to perform the rituals of going to sleep, waking up, taking breakfest and dressing. Ladies who have blue blood in their veins help Marie-Antoinette with these rituals and are rewarded by large amounts of money.
Béatrice shows me the door hidden in the wall, and behind it these quarters are situated. I have a look through a hole, and indeed, it is a public place. The rooms are crowded with people.
She tells me, "I never sleep in here. But I gave birth to my children in the bed. Madame Royale, my sweet daughter, le dauphin and my latest child, petit Louis, mon petit chou du coeur. I fainted when my daughter was born. The room was so crowded I couldn't breathe. Louis opened the windows with force. I don't want it to happen again. I provided la France with a crown prince and another prince. The next child will be born differently, without the whole court watching my delivery."
She sounds very bitter, but I assume she has some reasons to feel like this. Mon Dieu, give birth to a child under these circumstances, without any privacy! I take her hand in mine, and she smiles. Together we take a pair of stairs and we arrive in front of a large mirror.
She says, "if we continue forward we arrive at les cabinets de la Reine. But behind this mirror is a room with a bed, nothing else... I sleep there when I don't want Louis to visit me, when I am indisposed, or when I want to be alone, without guards."
"C'est la chambre de Béatrice, it is the room of Béatrice," I think aloud.
"That is correct. Louis knows I sleep here sometimes, but he also knows that he is not allowed to enter. Only Madame de Lamballe may enter. If anything urgent might happen."
She takes my hand and pushes with my middle finger a rose made of wood, a decoration of the frame of the mirror. The mirror tumbles to the right. The room is very small, without the somewhat pompous style in which the palace is decorated. It could be my bedroom in my castle in Milou, nothing indicates that a queen sleeps here.
Béatrice places a hand on my cheek. "If you want to spend the night with me, my beloved Count, then you have to remember how to get here..."
"Oh I will..." I whisper with much emphasis.
"That is good", she smiles. "Come, we have to go. Louis will arrive shortly from hunting and I am obliged to dine with him in les appartements du Roi."
We continue our way forward, and then we have to take another set of stairs. A large door leads us to les cabinets de la Reine, and if I am not mistaken they are located just above les appartements de la Reine. These rooms are guarded, but nobody is allowed to visit them except for the royal family. A large bed occupies the sleeping room.
"If I sleep here," explains Béatrice, "Louis knows he can visit me. This room and his are connected in several ways. He can visit me in secret if he wants to."
She sits on the bed, and says, in this bed I am his wife, in these quarters, I am a mother. Dans les appartements de la reine I am the queen, Marie-Antoinette. In the room we've just visited, la chambre de Béatrice, I am a woman, just a woman..."
I understand. "A woman with her own needs".
"Oh yes", she says very sadly. "I am unable to function properly as a queen, if I cannot be alone sometimes. She slides down slightly on the bed, very tired of the night without any sleep. "Béatrice d'Audovère is a name I use when I travel incognito," she explains. "Now you know everything," she continues a bit shyly. "I cannot hide from you. You know all my secret places."
I move towards her. "I am not sure I really know them all..." I tease. There are some I have yet to discover..."
"Is that so?" She looks down, acting like a shy girl, her cheeks flushed, and by doing so she is adorable. I am pleased I can make her that way, vulnerable and receptive to my words. Rapidly I close the distance between our bodies. As I sit down on the bed, with my two hands I touch her face and close the distance between our lips.
The blue dress she wears accentuates marvellously her delicate forms, without even the help of a restrictive corset. The layers of silk presses there where the flesh is soft, and gives room where the body needs to breath, giving away much of the naked skin.
With my mouth I meet her full lips and I kiss her hotly, feverishly, not able to withdraw or to contain my desire any longer. Taken away by my passion, my hands explore with eagerness her frame. She responds to my caresses with the same delight and urgency. Moi, qui croyais que
c'était la fin, I who thought it was the end, I am mistaken. This is only the beginning.
The taste of her lips is like some ambrosia, and while my tongue opens her sweet mouth, meeting her tongue, I cling to her body and I am aware that my desire is building.
But can we let ourselves go? I know that time presses and guards are on the other side of the door. We should be prudent, but we are taken away by our passion.
Her tongue explores my teeth, the uvula of my mouth, sans hésitation, without hesitation, with urgency equal to mine. I cannot let go of her body, not yet. She turns me on so completely, I am mesmerised, and a moan escapes my invaded mouth. Delighted by the sound I procured, she lowers her body even more, so that I can swift on top of her frame, with my knees on each side of her hips, although somewhat hindered by the fabric of the dress.
Little cries of ecstasy escape her mouth, and I am glad I can provide with my person the pleasure she so desperately needs. I kiss her neck and her breath is increasing.
She closes her eyes. "How I long for you," she whispers, "but I must go. Release me my love."
Reluctantly I trace a trail of kisses up to her ear. She whispers again, "release me my love, please..."
Passionately I stop her plea with the embrace of my lips. She doesn't resist, but instead with her hands she caresses tenderly my hair, my shoulders and back.
I can feel underneath me, with each intake of breath, the soft swells of her bosom. With one hand I move to this part of her body, so extremely sensitive, as I know from experience. My own breasts are aching to be touched, but I try to ignore as much as possible the sensations of my flesh.
Without looking, still kissing my Béatrice with voracity, I slide my fingers underneath the thin layers of blue silk, finding the plump form of her right breast, waiting for me to be stroked by long lingering touches. As I do, I meet the nipple and touch it briefly with the tip of my finger, almost teasingly. After that I cup the sensitive form more pressingly, and by a groan deep down her throat she states her appreciation.
I know this love is endowed with passion, passion I never felt before, unknown to me. Passion of which I only read about, but which at present is becoming true like a wonder.
"The curtain," Béatrice mutters between kisses.
I don't know to what she is referring to, as I am focusing all of my attention to the beautiful form of her body.
"The curtain!" She speaks louder now, and I understand. With regret I stop my administrations and in one swift movement I draw the curtains of the baldachin. It is dark around us and my eyes try to adapt. Then I feel the hands of Béatrice on my body, she wants to undo me of my clothes. I have to find an excuse. If not, I will not be able to engage in lovemaking any further.
"Sssssssh", she mumbles, but I cannot remain quiet.
"Béatrice," I speak with a more convincing voice, "I have a confession to make."
"What is it my love," she says with that little accent I utterly adore, "are you frightened because suddenly you realise it is the queen with whom you are sharing this bed with?"
"No, I am not frightened," I reassure the exquisite lady, "nonetheless... sometimes..." I hesitate, not knowing exactly how to phrase my words.
I lay down close to her side. My eyes adapted to the spare light, I can see her face directed at me.
I say with my voice as husky as possible, "... I will lie if I say it doesn't impress me at all."
She lifts her arm and strokes gently with her hand my jaw and cheek. I close my eyes, enjoying her caress, so tender and sweet.
"Mein Geliebter," she says with a voice which betrays her desire, and the sound of it makes me shiver. "Remember, when we are alone, for you I am always Béatrice, and not Marie-Antoinette, the queen of France."
"Is there a reason why you chose this name, Béatrice d'Audovère?" I ask curiously.
"I will tell you...later," she answers, while she continues to trail her fingers along the features of my face almost soothingly. "So, what is it you wanted to confess?"
"The bandages you felt underneath my chemise..."
"I have to wear them day and night, because I had some ribs broken. I have to wear them for at least another month, maybe more. Too much excitement," I add, "is not good for the healing process, and it hurts when I breathe too quickly."
"Is that all," she smiles, "you were so serious! I will be careful my hero. Let me know if my enthusiasm is creating a problem."
She grabs me by the ruffles of my chemise and covers my face with lovingly kisses, wet like raindrops on my skin. Then she drops back into the cushions.
I cannot see what she is doing next with her hands. I hear the sound of a multitude of carriages, arriving in the large court of the palace, but I try not to pay attention to the noise outside.
"You are a lucky man" mumbles my queen under her breath, "for I don't wear those tight corsets anymore."
She cups my cheek with the palm of her hand, and forces me to lower my head until I can touch her bare skin.
"Leave me a memory" she says seductively, "nobody will see, only me, so I can get through the day, and confront everyone with confidence and pride. Leave your mark on my flesh, my beloved. And do it quickly," she adds, "the king has returned from hunting and I will have court together with him.
I can feel what she managed to do with her hands. She unbuttoned the front of her blue dress, and her breasts are completely exposed now. In the dim light I am unable to distinguish clearly the sweet forms of her bosom. For a romantic soul like me, the anticipation is far greater in this darkness than in the daylight, and I am sure my hidden folds are flooded.
"Hurry", she urges me, so I can think of what you have done to me, when I am alone tonight. It will provide me pleasure and my body will marvel in delight, thinking of you.
Flushed, I dip my face in the embrace of her soft swells. I caress the left gland while I take care of the other with my lips.
Because I am a woman I give her attentions I like myself. Touching the skin until it almost hurts, then softening the pain with kisses as tender as possible. Doing the unexpected, without rushing, and using my imagination.
Her breasts are so beautiful of proportion, ample, unlike my own.
I noticed that when she wears a dress with a large décolleté, her interlocutors have difficulty looking the queen right in the eye. Instead they gaze repeatedly downwards, right into the woman's corsage where she shows off her rich cleavage. I admit, I am no exception.
Sucking the tender flesh with my mouth excites me more then I can say. Béatrice arches her chest forward, offering herself to me, without reservations. Deep down her throat she utters a sound I haven't heard before, a moaning harsh with desire.
Her skin is so soft and tender and it breaks my heart when my mouth touches the scar below her right breast. I taste with the tip of my tongue the large aureole around the nipple, and Béatrice sighs in pure delight, and the raged intakes of breath makes her chest swell even more. I flick my tongue around the nipple, and with a sultry tone she whispers, "you may proceed."
Taking the nipple in my mouth completely, with every suction she clings more to my body, needing more. Having no objections giving the lady what she wants, I enjoy the taste of her sensitive flesh, a mixture of vanilla and seasalts. I ignore the sensations of my own body, reacting vividly to the queen's naked cleavage hovering over my face, although I can feel my most intimate self becoming slippery with humidity.
Ma chérie moans in ecstasy, unable to vocalise her delight less loudly and her cries do little to calm down my desire.
In the distance I still hear the sound of horses galloping, carriages and drivers shouting their orders.
Suddenly she takes my face in both her hands and kisses me wildly on the lips, with such a fury that it dazzles me.
"Leave now," she whispers in my ear. "I have to get ready for the king. There is no time left and this is not the right place to continue our exchange. We have Béatrice's room for that...remember..."
"I remember," I say with a throaty voice. I lower my voice, adding a husky thrill to it. "I will come back, and then I will finish what I have started, be assured, my love..."
I feel her smile against my neck. She caresses my auburn curls, and then she opens the curtain just a little so that a glimpse of light penetrates the dark bedroom space.
The ray of light falls directly on the alabaster skin of her exposed bosom, and my breath is taken away by the sight of her voluptuous and generous forms, the daylight enhancing the whiteness of her flesh. Her blond hair falling softly on the swells, it is a vision of paradise I see in this instant, and I know that I will cherish this moment forever in my heart, whatever becomes of me.
She looks at me, locking her eyes into mine, and knowingly she takes a moment to read my thoughts, my humid eyes betraying the love my heart is filled with.
And indeed, as I admire the perfection of the woman I have come to care about so deeply, I can see that I left my mark.
End of chapter 5