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The Piano Maidens

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The Piano Maidens
Written by Jared Welch
Edited by Jean-Marc & Randy Lofficier
Origonally published in Tales of The Shadowmen Volume 12

Naples, 1839

Eugenie Danglars was preparing for her performance.
“I’m very nervous” she confessed to her companion.
“You’ll be fantastic just like you always are,” replied the radiant, blond Louise d’Armilly.
“This is the largest audience we’ve ever performed for.”
“That’s true, but it doesn’t matter; you still have the most beautiful voice in all of Europe.”
Eugenie smiled, feeling reassured.
“And you have very talented fingers,” she said, with a wink, to her former piano instructor, causing her to blush.
“You’re on, Mademoiselle Danglars,” a voice said, indicating it was time for their performance to begin.
At the end of the show they received a hearty round of applause. They then went to a party hosted by the distinguished Count Corbucci.
Eugenie Danglars wore a dark blue dress that complemented her short black hair well. Louise d’Armilly, with her long, golden blond hair and blue eyes, wore white.
“I’m delighted you decided to join us,” the Count said, welcoming them both. “Mademoiselle Danglars, you have the most captivating voice I have heard in ages, and your partner played the piano masterfully. And, may I add, you both look positively stunning.”
“Why, thank you, Count,” Eugenie replied.
“We are both honored to perform in this beautiful and ancient city,” Louise added “I have wanted to see Naples since I was a little girl.”
“Allow me to introduce you to some of my distinguished guests,” the Count said, as he led them into the gathering.
“This is my dearest and most trusted friend, Vicomte Annibal Gioja, des marquis Pallante...”
Eugenie could not help feeling that Gioja had a mean look in his eyes.
“Nice to meet you, Vicomte,” she said, curtsying.
“And it is a pleasure meeting you, Mademoiselle.”
“Also,” the Count added, “this is Signor DiLaurentis...” The Count paused, realizing that the next guest was, in fact, not there.
“I’m afraid he’s late,” Gioja interjected.
“Typical,” remarked the Count, “you can never trust a DiLaurentis to arrive when expected.”
“Don’t worry about it, we can wait,” Eugenie assured him.
“And this,” the Count continued, “is a visiting associate of mine, Gian-Paolo.”
“So these are the musicians who positively mesmerized us earlier?” Gian-Paolo said. “How fortunate that I brought my visiting cousin from Paris, Paolo de Felipone,”
Another Sicilian approached
“You didn’t bring your son?” the Count asked, addressing his friend’s cousin.
“I’m afraid Andrea is not very sociable these days,” Felipone replied, then turning to the two ladies, “Paris hasn’t been the same since the daughter of Baron Danglars and her lovely piano instructor disappeared.”
“I’m afraid I only vaguely remember ever meeting you,” Eugenie said apologetically.
“That is all right; I am quite unremarkable,” Felipone replied.
“Paris... That reminds me,” the Count interjected, “I must introduce you both to my favorite Parisian...”
He directed them towards a well-dressed, elderly gentleman, no younger then eighty.
“My oldest and most distinguished friend, Colonel Bozzo-Corona.”
“You flatter me too much, my dear Count,” said the Colonel politely. “But I am quite grateful that you have introduced me to these beautiful guests.”
“The Colonel, I remember quite well,” Eugenie said. “My father courted you as a client quite frequently.”
“Yes, he did,” the Colonel confirmed. “I appreciated his offers, but I remain quite confident in my current banker, Monsieur Jean-Baptiste Schwartz.”
“So, this is what became of the mysterious Eugenie Danglars?” said a young girl with long, raven-colored hair, of about Eugenie’s age.
“This is my grand-daughter, Comtesse Francesca Corona,” said the Colonel, introducing her, “affectionately called by her friends and family Fanchette.”
“You’ve grown since I last saw you,” Eugenie observed.
“As have you. And this must be the pretty piano instructor I heard so much about,” Fanchette said, gazing intently at Louise d’Armilly.
“It is a pleasure to meet you,” the blond girl replied.
“You are more beautiful then I imagined,” Fanchette said, smiling coyly.
Eugenie now stared at Fanchette with a hint of jealously in her eyes.
“Is it true that the Count of Monte-Cristo himself assisted you in your flight from Paris?” the Colonel inquired.
“Yes, but I realize now that he had ulterior motives. Still, I did appreciate his help.”
“Other motives aside, he seemed to be a remarkable fellow, and quite observant, too. I bet that he suspected the nature of your, er, relationship with Mademoiselle d’Armilly.”
Count Corbucci and his other associates had now left the two girls alone with the Colonel and his grandchild. Eugenie was taken aback by the older man’s words.
“I’m... unsure of what you mean?” she replied
Louise, too, looked nervous now.
“No need to pretend with me, I’m quite open minded. I know an Iphis and a Ianthe when I see one.”
“Who?” Louise asked
“He’s referencing Ovid,” Eugenie explained, “and that analogy is quite flawed,” she continued, responding directly at the Colonel.
“I suppose it is,” he said. “You also remind me of Oscar Francois de Jarjayes, whom I had the pleasure of meeting when I visited Versailles before the Revolution.”
“A better analogy,” said Eugenie, “would be Sappho of Lesbos, or Damophyle of Pamphilia.”
“Or Artemis and Britomartis,” Louise added.
“Or Mary Crawford and Fanny Price,” Fanchette interrupted, “or my favorite Emma.”
Eugenie and Louise are puzzled for a moment.
“My granddaughter is rare among the French,” explained the Colonel, “in she is a devoted reader of that British ‘Lady,’ Jane Austen, although I’m afraid she has an interpretation of some of her characters that is hardly conventional.”
“Most French women haven’t been able to read them in English,” Fanchette responded.
“It’s a shame Iamblichus of Syria’s epic Babyloniaca has not survived for modern readers to enjoy, with its account of Berenice and Mesopotamia,” the Colonel lamented, as if he had read it.
“It was rumored that Queen Marie-Antoinette also enjoyed the company of women,” Fanchette said.
“I heard those rumors too,” said Eugenie.
“I had the pleasure of meeting her as well,” said the Colonel. “The Duchesse de Polignac and the Princesse de Lamballe were indeed very close to the Queen. But Mademoiselle Jeanne de Valois was certainly making up her stories.”
“Well, I have some other friends I must catch up with,” Fanchette said. “Do feel free to say bonjour later.”
She smiled at Louise and walked away. Eugenie glared at her.
“I apologize for my granddaughter’s flirtatious nature,” the Colonel said. Sadly, she is quite unhappy in her marriage. It was my daughter who insisted on marrying her to our talentless Cousin, just because he’s a Count, back in Corsica.”
“So, she is like us then?” Eugenie inquired.
“She has shown occasional interest in people of various types, but the great love of her life is a man whom she believes she once brought back from the dead.”
Eugenie raised her eyebrow in confusion.
“It’s a long story,” the Colonel replied.
“It just occurred to me,” Louise said suddenly. “Doesn’t Colonel Bozzo-Corona resemble that older man we saw in that painting in Rome?”
“Yes,” Eugenie answered. “I thought of him at the time but didn’t put much thought into it”.
“Ah, The Brigand’s Painting,” said the Colonel. “I get that a lot. I suspect some unknown relative of mine might have modeled for it. It is based on a Corsican folk-tale.”
“Perhaps you could tell it to us?” asked Louise.
“Another time perhaps, but I, too, have some pressing matters to attend. I think this may well be my last affair,” the Colonel said, before leaving them.
Eugenie and Louise continued to mingle amongst the guests as a few hours went by.
“This has been fun,” Eugenie aid to her partner.
“Indeed, it has, but I think I’m about read to return to our rooms,” Louise replied, with a knowing smile.
“Soon we shall,” Eugenie responded, squeezing her hand.
Suddenly, a priest approached them.
“I was quite charmed by your performance. Allow me to introduce myself, I am Father Rodin.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you, mon père,” said Eugenie.
“That name sounds familiar?” Louise said.
“Most likely you heard it slandered by that vulgarian, Eugene Sue,” Rodin replied with contempt.
“Ah, yes,” Eugenie said. “I enjoyed that novel; it was quite absurdly melodramatic.”
“Yes, he does have a modicum of talent,” Father Rodin said.
“It was certainly a work of fiction, having immortal Jews and all.”
“It was, er, loosely based on some actual events I had a hand in back in 1832,” admitted Father Rodin after a pause. “And they did involve a couple who claimed to be the Wandering Jew and his sister.”
“Well, in Paris,” Eugenie said, “I knew a man who was suspected of being everything from Lord Ruthven to Cagliostro to the Comte de Saint-Germain.”
Ah, yes, I, too, heard of the Count of Monte-Cristo, quite possibly the only man whose wealth could rival the fabled Treasure of Il Padre d’Ogni,” Father Rodin said.
“Don’t bore our beautiful guests with more of your conspiratorial nonsense, Rodin,” said another male voice approaching them. “Corbucci only invited you as a courtesy.”
“And I only accepted,” replied Rodin, “because I suspected I might see things here to confirm my suspicions of his ties to the Camorra and the Carbonari. Which I have.”
“Allow me to introduce myself,” the newcomer said to Eugenie and Louise. “I am Signor Ricardo DiLaurentis.”
“Ah, yes! Count Corbucci wanted to introduce us to you earlier,” Eugenie said.
“I apologize, but I am a busy man.”
“I understand,” Eugenie said, not understanding.
In the meanwhile, Father Rodin wandered off.
“Rodin is obsessed with conspiracies—the Freemasons, the Illuminati and the Alta Vendita. He believes Filippo Buonarroti was the elusive Nubius.”
“It sounds more logical then the other theories I heard,” said Louise. “About him being Napoleon and still alive somehow.”
“I grow annoyed with these conspiracies spread by Catholic Royalists. Rodin, I suspect, is a Jesuit.”
Eugenie chose not to comment on the obvious hypocrisy.
“Buonarroti died rather mysteriously, didn’t he?” observed Louise.
“So did Nubius, apparently,” DiLaurentis replied. “As the Comtesse de Clare once told me, ‘Two can keep a secret, if one of them is dead.’”
“She was quoting Benjamin Franklin,” said Fanchette, approaching. “And she changed it, too. It was originally, ‘Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.’”
“I think I like her version better,” said DiLaurentis, before departing.
“You two know each other?” Eugenie asked.
“Yes, he’s very close to Lecoq, who has always made my flesh crawl,” Fanchette answered. “I once overheard Lecoq saying to him, ‘Nos Animadvert Totus.’”
“What does it mean?” Louise inquired
“It’s Latin,” Eugenie said. “It means, ‘We See All.’”
“When I was young,” reflected Fanchette, “I once met the notorious Countess Cagliostro, who claimed to be the daughter of Cagliostro and the future Empress Josephine. My grandfather, however, said her mother was Jeanne de Valois... He didn’t comment on her paternity.”
“You and your grandfather seem to have a lot of stories to tell,” Eugenie observed.
“Very interesting ones,” added Louise.
“My grandfather has a lot of connections,” Fanchette explained, explaining nothing..
The three conversed on various subjects for a while, then Fanchette asked:
“Have you two been enjoying yourselves?”
“Yes, it has been a wonderful evening, but I think we are ready to retire now,” said Eugenie.
“Well, I hope we can meet again sometime,” Fanchette said. Then, she took Louise’ hand, and added, “Especially you, beautiful.”
She kissed it gently and walked away.
After saying their farewells, Eugenie and Louise returned to their suite.
“Well, that was an interesting evening,” Louise said.
“Certainly not boring,” Eugenie responded.
“That Fanchette was an interesting girl—and very pretty”.
“I don’t like the way she kept flirting with you”.
“Jealous?” Louise asked, playfully.
“Not at all!”
Eugenie then took Louise’ head in her hand, pulled her in closer, and pressed her lips against her. Louise wrapped her arms around Eugenie as she kissed her back. Eugenie switched to hold Louise with her left arm, and with her right hand, reached under Louise’s dress.
“Oooh,” Louise moaned as Eugenie ran kisses down her neck.
They two former Parisians continued to make out as they retired to their bedroom. And then they made sweet passionate love until sunrise.