Le Baiser De La Mort Essay, Research Paper
The Kiss of Death
Short syncopated clopping echoed throughout the desolate ally ways that wound through the dark outer limits of Bordeaux, France. An eerie stillness hung in the air, and at the same time, an unsettling anticipation. The lanky coachman lashed out at his team of horses, who already pushed on in an uneasy canter. Rain drizzled lazily from a dreary sky; a grave contrast to the surreal restlessness that consumed the inhabitants of the city. Signs of the great black plague had been sighted in a small village along the Garonne River. So close to Bordeaux.
Flat brick walls and dank ally ways flashed by, swirling together into a cold gray nothingness, as glimpsed from inside the jerking stagecoach. Pulling her satin wrap closer about her shoulders, the Duchess of Bordeaux shivered, trying to rid herself of the ominous awareness that had settled thickly around her, as a dense fog that enmeshes itself upon a boggy landscape. The coach came to an abrupt halt, shattering the portentous mindset the duchess had lapsed into. The rain had begun to pound mercilessly upon the marble pavement that led to a vast castle. In moments, the rain condensed into tiny shinning globes, cracking like a thousand claps of thunder as each hit the stone pathway. The Duchess winced as the hailstones lashed at her exposed flesh, hastening to fasten her cloak upon her chin. Her arm raised to protect her eyes from the treacherous frozen rain, she began the trek up the tedious marble stair case to her grand ch?teau; as she climbed, the marble became encased in a thick layer of frost.
Breathless, and her cheeks colored crimson as a blazing flame, the Duchess entered through the heavy oak doors leading into the large vestibule that served as an entrance room into the richly furnished palace of the French royal family. Edgily, she allowed the servants to remove her soaked garments, and at speed withdrew to her private chamber. Wasting no time, the Duchess removed a sturdy piece of parchment from a chest of drawers and obtained a quill and ink. Writing feverishly, she toiled for an hour over the essential dispatch, and sealed it with the official royal seal when she had finished. Summoning for a servant, she gave orders to him such that he was to deliver this letter by way of a lone messanger who would be waiting at the bottom of the castle steps. He was to tell no one and do this as quickly as possible. She would await his return and deliver his payment as soon as the task was completed.
Quietly, the Duchess stole into the west corridor that led into the Duke’s bedroom chamber, to retrieve his master key. Below, her husband was entertaining the nobles by way of his usual extravagant masquerades. Carrying through the ducts in the high cathedral ceilings, the Duchess listened to the blithe percussion as it thumped rhythmically, accompanied by laughter as clear and carefree as sleigh bells. To be expected, the duke, pompous and self-assured would be perched upon his ruby-laden thrown; his sharp features and protruding chest reminded her of the arrogant peacock; always one to boaster his bright feathers. Her expression darkened. She imagined him adorned in his lavish costume, pretending to be generous and cordial to his guests. He would refill their goblets with his most potent and matured French wines until they were drunk hence he could discuss important matters of business and swindle them out of large sums of gold. She wrung her hands nervously, hoping her husband would make allowances for her at the masquerade long enough for her to receive word about her letter, although she could not evade raising the Duke’s own suspicions. She returned to her own chambers to ready herself for the ball.
In the course of the evening, the Duchess’s messenger galloped with haste to the residence of Matthieu Brousseau; an outspoken political man who was a popular contact of the Duke himself. Once beyond the gates of the palace, the servant was quick to detect the retched smells about. Wagons screeched past the messenger with masses of rotting flesh strewn upon them. The cries from the streets were deafening and the stench unbearable. Women were huddled over, clutching onto their wailing infants with gritty rags held over their mouths to prevent the horrors of infection. With one hand positioning a piece cloth over his mouth and his other tightly gripping the rein, the messenger trotted through the filth of Bordeaux searching for Miseur Matthieu Brousseau’s dwelling. Throughout the damp narrow streets, infected children lay coughing and bleeding at the messenger’s feet and he turned his steed gingerly in order to avoid them. Dismayed by the gruesome scene in the streets, he contemplated returning to the castle, but pressed on in fear of the Duke’s wrath. With each breath, he could feel disease creep closer upon him. Anger began to boil his insides as he speculated what matter of importance could have sent him out into these poisonous streets. In a moment of defiance, the messenger snatched the correspondence clutched in his boot, and rapidly skimmed its contents. Unraveling a plot warped by the evils of lust and repression, the servant soon realized the truth about Royal politics and the corruption of his Lord and Lady. Being crafty and advantageous, he decided to deliver the letter but also to use the information it contained to make himself a small fortune, by selling his knowledge to the Duke. He at last arrived at the house of Miseur Matthieu Brousseau, the Duchess’ lover. The servant efficiently sealed the envelope back into position and hurdled off upon the chestnut horse. Behind him, the dim light that had shone upon the Brousseau mansion porch suddenly extinguished.
As the clock struck ten strokes post meridian, the Duchess crossed the threshold of the marvelous ballroom scene. Forcing herself to uphold a dignified air, she went out into the gathering in search of her despised husband. The brute was intoxicated, and as she approached his side he violently seized her arm. In a stuttering rage he cursed her for entering the party so late and embarrassing him in front of his guests, but his anger was soon forgotten and he took to aggressive fondling. Ashamedly she endured this this, repeating to herself that soon she would no longer have to.. As quickly as she had entered the party, she retired, complaining that she felt faint. Strange painted masks, contorted into permanent expressions leered at her, the eyes behind them dancing to the transcendental tones of the music. Uncertainly she climbed the ballroom stairs, haunted by the scene behind her; a play land in the midst of Death Valley.
At dusk, the duchess stole out into the dark cold, in search of Miseur Brousseau. In her letter she had transmitted word of this meeting, and she awaited Matthieu?s arrival with great apprehension. An hour passed, and then suddenly a tall broad shouldered figure appeared stalwartly from within the shadows. The Duchess cried out and ran to greet the stranger and the lovers shared a frenzied embraced. A quarter of an hour passed in furtive discourse, and both parted, entering the castle through different doorways, a fragment of guilt imprinted upon their faces.
News of the plague had spread like wild fire through out the city, although the Duke?s concern for the welfare of his people was cold-blooded and unattached. He did however, fear for his own health and issued a proclamation that very morning: no person would be allowed to leave or enter the castle gates until further mention. Another masquerade would be given at the Duke?s expense that evening. The ballroom was stripped of last night?s black and gold d?cor and strewn in purple and crimson. The King also issued a command that banned the adornment of the color black from his palace, in respect to those dying on the streets of what had come to be known as the Black Plague. A small sacrifice for one who lavishes in merriment and games as his nation decays.
The timepiece again struck Ten o?clock, postmeridian. The Queen entered the ballroom searching for a crimson masked gentleman clad in an ebony cloak. As she wove her way through the dense crowd, the orchestra stuck up a sad, eerie melody. The long numinous vibrato controlled her, disturbing her and pressing her on in frantic pursuit. She was cast through the moving mass, which swayed with a single heartbeat, a million blank painted faces with shadowed sockets that bore into her, forcing her to sway left, and then right. It was a red mass, an aching puddle of blood. A wave of panic washed over the Duchess. There was not one black cape to be found. Stumbling through the crimson clad crowd, she peered into the faces of a hundred men receiving only cold unfamiliar nods in return. Where was Matthieu? A strong grip abruptly took hold of the duchess?s forearm. She was pulled indiscreetly to a dimly lit hallway, where her strange escort unmasked himself. Matthieu?s chiseled features were set in a frown. Beckoning that there was not much time, he led the Duchess up a staircase, dragging behind him a heavy burlap sack. At the top of the stairs, they met a frightened looking young servant. Mattieu pressed a silver piece into the palm of the young boy, and the chamber key, leaving instructions to open the sac and plant it in to dukes bed clothes.
The lovers trampled down the staircase and stole out a cellar entrance of the castle. Finally, their love could flourish with out the selfish and arduous persecution of the Duke. They had escaped his depraved grasp, but were about to take part in a much graver predator. They stole out into the night, and crossed the castle grounds stealthily until they reached the stables. There they would stay in secret until the first streak of daylight. When the sun appeared they would flee France.
The messenger had watched the entire escapade, expecting the events to pass exactly as they had transpired. As he waited for the festivities to come to a close, he fell into a fitful slumber, waking only a few hours later, but afraid that his lapse into dreamland had cost the Duke his life. Hastily, the messenger entered the castle and made his way to the Duke?s bedchamber, in order to warn him of the coming events. There was the King fast asleep, next to a figure that he had supposed was his wife. Cringing, the messenger unturned the velvet coverlet. Next to the sleeping king was the heavy burlap sack. Inside was an infected corpse. The disquiet caused by the messenger entering the chamber awoken the Duke. There was no need for an explanation of what had befallen. Raged seized the ruler; blood rushed to his bloated features, his temples pulsing. Knowing he could not save himself, he thought only of revenge upon his ungrateful wife.
He called together his cortege and made his way to the stables. There, as the first streaks of daybreak shone crimson and purple across a newly lit morning sky, the duchess awoke. Standing above her, his face twisted into a smile, was the Duke. He embraced her and kissed her passionately. A kiss of death.