Chapter 1: Arrival
August 4th, 1781
We finally arrived at the Chateau Almaviva late this afternoon. It is very grand and imposing, and the estate goes for miles and miles. The whole place seems to shine in the light of the sun as you approach it – or maybe it was just the colors of the sunset reflecting off the sand-colored walls. The turrets stretch up into the sky, their spires scraping against the clouds. I have never seen anything so high, nor so magnificent. Geoffrey says that it took 100 years and ten thousand men to build, but I’m not sure I believe him. He’s very wise and knows many things, but he’s still only a steward.
Servants met us at the gate, and guided us up the long sweeping road to the chateau. When we could go no further a footman opened the door, and I must admit I pushed both him and Geoffrey out of the way to be the first one outside. It felt absolutely glorious to be out of that stuffy carriage!
We were shown our rooms, and then I was taken to the Count’s study. He was there waiting for me, and stood as we came in. He is a tall, dark-haired man and he seemed to fill the room with his presence. His words to me were kind and I felt greatly reassured; I would never say so out loud, but leaving our manor and travelling so far away from Mama and Papa makes me nervous. Not scared, never that, but a bit anxious is all. It seemed like the Count was pleased with me. I hope he’ll teach me well - I want to be a good Baron one day, just as my father is now. The count has promised to guide me in my training and my studies, to be a guardian and teacher as I grow. I have no doubt now that he is telling the truth.
After, though… at dinner I met her grace the Countess for the first time. My mother has spoken of her fondly, and she is my godmother (so they tell me). But from looking at her I cannot imagine her as anyone’s godmother – more like a goddess or a queen. She is radiant, so noble that she seems to cast everyone around her into shadow. If I may serve her I know I shall have a splendid future. With the wisdom of the Count and the grace of his Countess, what more could anyone desire?
I did not mean to look. I swear I didn’t!
My godmother, always the very image of perfection, has begun to affect me in the oddest ways. I blush and stumble around her like a child. When I see the white of her skin, her slender neck and delicate hands, my heart begins to hurt inside my chest.
She was playing the harp when I came in, and as she reached for the farthest strings her sheer fichu entrapped my gaze and pulled it down and down. Oh, why must ladies’ necklines be so low! My head became all muddled, I lost track of myself completely and forgot why I came to see her in the first place. Even now I can’t remember. It’s all a blur except for the sight of her. Now it is all I can do to keep breathing.
I must find Fancette. She’s a woman, albeit a young one, perhaps she can help me rid myself of all these feelings. I can’t ask Susanna – she’d just make fun of me. She’s so mean sometimes. It isn’t fair that she gets to spend so much time with my godmother. If only I could trade places with her for a single day, a single hour even… but no, I’m being silly again. Wanting to be a maid, honestly, what madness has come over me? To Fancette, straight away, for I cannot stand an instant more of this dreaming.
I feel like a circling hawk. She sits but one room away, her slender fingers embroidering an intricate design, as serene as an angel and twice as lovely. By the kindness of fortune she has come to me here, in my own home, and her husband has sailed to far-off lands where letters can barely reach him. She is nearly mine, close enough I can feel her presence as a tingling in my very bones. The scent of her perfume clings to everything she touches, rendering it holy in my eyes. I dote upon her and I know she sees me – how can she not? I am no longer that boy, that foolish and stumbling child, though I still watch her with as much obsessive adoration as I always have. But my limbs have grown and strengthened, transformed from page to chevalier. Where before I had nothing but my fantasies, now I have the will and determination of passion in full bloom. She will be mine, I swear it, and soon I will give to her all that her callous husband has denied her. A brush of the hand, a sidelong glance, and already she senses my ardor. Tonight the sweetness of her lips shall be mine and mine alone, and after… who can tell?
It will not be long now; I am grateful for that. Death alone will relieve my pain and my grief. I have no regrets for what has happened, but my feelings are of no account. She is in despair, and her guilt is more than I can bear. I had hoped, foolishly I know, to unseat my former master in her affections. He has treated her so ill that I have long since lost any respect and admiration I may once have had for him. She is my angel, my world, and yet she will not love me. She is bound to him forever, too honorable to resist, and I am nothing to her. The look she gave me as I left her for the last time leaves me no doubt of her feelings: I am unworthy, a traitor to her honor and likewise to my own. Perhaps my death will prove to her the strength of my love. At the very least, I hope it will allow her to forgive me the unhappiness I have brought down upon her, and remember me fondly despite my innumerable flaws.
I hear the drums – already dawn is filling the sky. The generals gaped when I volunteered to lead the first battalion into the fray, but I did not falter. My death will be as a hero and a soldier; no one will know that I died long before this morning. I died for love of her, and for the lack of her.
May she be forever blessed, my dearest, and may the peace and tranquility our sins have torn from us both return to her one day. I pray for her salvation, and for my own, though I do not know how the Almighty could forgive when my own angel cannot. My dearest wish is that we meet in heaven, for only in the joy of eternity can a paradise exist where she is solely and completely mine. Until that glorious hour – adieu.