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5. Mongrelle

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Years ago, this writer read one of Georgette Heyer’s most popular novels and liked it very much.  She still likes it and it is no less a superb work; nevertheless she thought that perhaps it did not go far enough in itself and in the circumstances set out therein.  So she wrote what she believed it could have been, althô the characters changed in many ways, as did their initial respective situations.  Set against a backcloth of Louis XV’s Versailles, the Battle of Fontenoy, the coming of the philosophes and the rise of La Pompadour, here is a story of secrets and adventures – and the urge to lampoon humanity has been irresistible.

470,752 words

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Anne Hauden ©


                        “Alaric of Bayeux, do you really not believe in God?”

            The comte de St Pol was of slender build, and because of that, looked taller than he really was, but he was also an exquisite fellow, with a delicately boned visage, smooth skin, sparkling cornflower blue eyes, and arguably the most elegant powered wig to be seen south of Versailles.  Twisting his frame in spite of his tight silken clothes, he puckered up his face with a touch of spite that endowed his features with a grimace as he uttered his distasteful words, and the reprobate to whom he addressed them noted such features.  Not that this latter personage was much afflicted by them, for he crossed his long legs at the ancles, stretched  comfortably back in his chair, and tossed his head with its great mane of black hair.

            “Why do you lisp so, St. Pol,” he mimicked his interlocutor, his countenance distorting accordingly, “and wail and coo and twitter and strike such attitudes as make you look as if you were moulded by a curled hunting horn?  I am aware that the unwritten dictates of court require that everyone must giggle fatuously and whisper and glide about and somewhat pervert speech, but this, dear friend, is not the château de Versailles but the château d’Anzins, and I like to hear a natural male delivery of  voice as well as a hearty laugh.  His most Christian majesty may rule France, but I rule here, aside of which your breeches are too tight and too pink; indeed, they look vaguely obscene.”

            “At least they are less objectionable that your passion for purple velvet mantles that excite the wrath of the King and your liking for standing at the street corners of Paris announcing at the top of your voice that three of the world’s greatest imposters were Christ, Moses and Mahomet,” retorted the comte sullenly, preparing to seat himself.

            “Pardi, how news is misreported in the telling: I wear mauve velvet, not purple, and I have never stood at street corners in my life, but I did once assert at the salon of the comtesse de Choiseul that the world’s greatest imposters were the clergy who purveyed religious teaching, whether it was of Jesus et cetera, and I recall having given Mohammed precedence over Moses, for I stated the names in alphabetical order – O, have a care as you sit: those garments are not so much well pulled* as too well pulled, and I don’t want shreds of pink satin all over my lavender upholstery.”

            Tastefully, the comte took no notice.

            “At court, they were saying that you are a Jansenist,” he stated.

            “Mon cher, Jansenists believe in God; you have just cast doubts on whether I do,” objected Alaric.

            “Which reminds me: you have not answered my question.”

            “Very well then, do you believe in God?”

            “Of course I do!” expostulated the comte, and sounded petulantly offended.

            “In the most conventional sense, too,” acknowledged the other.  “In all frankness, I am presently concentrating too much on the divers aspects of philosophical thought, to consider God and religion as unassailable and all-compelling, so you may go tell your court gossips that Alaric de Bayeux is no Jansenist but a scholar and a thinker.  How on earth did you all reach the conclusion that I was turning Jansenist, by the bye?”...

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An old, impecunious nobleman lives with his family in his shambles of a country castle, and to make good his failed finances, means to marry off his eldest daughter to a wealthy but disreputable rake – who, on visiting to meet his intended, immediately exercises his roving eye. The trouble is, he also comes with a loaded past that reflects very luridly on his present and has a cynical family of his own.

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Grateful thanks to The Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut,
The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.,
Michael Judkins, at Pexels.