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Didi: The Tale of a Would-Be Courtesan

 

 

 

Didi

 

The Tale of a Would-Be Courtesan

by

Chantaboute Hallshire

 

 

 

Copyright © 2017 Chantaboute Hallshire. All rights reserved.

Published by Scarlet Maiden, a trademark.

Distributed by Shakespir.

 

This is a copyrighted work. The scanning, uploading, copying, and/or distribution of this story without permission is a theft of the author’s intellectual property and a violation of copyright law. No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the express written permission of the publisher. This prohibition does not extend to a reviewer who may quote brief passages as part of a review.

 

This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

 

 

DIDI

by

Chantaboute Hallshire

 

The 16-year-old girl gazed from the second story window with unwavering admiration at the gorgeous man on the sidewalk below. At least, she thought he was gorgeous. She’d been secretly lusting after him for years. He was tall and slim, with dramatically coifed wavy dark hair neatly parted on the left side. His sharp nose and gray eyes gave him a sophisticated look that made the girl tingle. She’d daydream about him whenever she wasn’t otherwise occupied. At night, he was what she thought of when she’d touch her privates in the darkness of her bedroom, squirming under the covers just before drifting off to sleep.

His name was Fulbert Lémieux. He was a reporter for one of the Paris newspapers and a friend of the girl’s family for as long as she could remember. In age, he had at least a decade on her. By the time she had any real cognizant understanding of her surroundings, he was a teenager and, to her, seemed so mature. She wanted him even then. Although what she wanted didn’t become clear to her until she reached puberty.

“Dominique,” called out a mature female voice from the next room. When there was no response, she repeated it.

Gazing at the man below her, the girl remained oblivious to the calls.

Didi!

The tone awaked the girl from her reverie.

“Yes, Mamma.”

“Are you doing your homework?”

“Yes,” the girl fibbed. She was neither reviewing the homework nor interested in it.

Homework, as Mamma meant it, had nothing to do with the school the girl attended during the weekdays. This was a Sunday, and Sunday afternoons were when the girl received her training in the family business—that business being the art of coquetry. For the women of the Dupuis family, it was a tradition that went back generations. Mamma had been a courtesan, as had her mother before her and her mother’s mother before that. Now it was the teenage girl’s turn to refine the feminine talents that would sustain her comfortably as a “kept woman.”

“There’s no value in being a wife,” Mamma would say. “It’s all the drudgery of keeping house and none of the pleasures of being perpetually wooed. A man simply expects certain things from his wife. Whereas, a mistress’s services must be won over again and again.”

The girl couldn’t dispute the logic, but it still seemed to her that an awful lot of foolish fuss went into trying to be some wealthy man’s ideal of femininity. The homework assignment, for example, was a list of coquettish responses Mamma composed for her protégé to study and memorize. There would be a test right before dinner.

How to respond when a man asks if you mind if he smokes his cigar…

A manly cigar is the perfect complement to a manly gentleman.”

Oh, please! Perhaps corny sentiments like that worked in Mamma’s day. But now the calendar was ticking off the last few years before the 19th century drifted into the 20th. Paris was a thoroughly modern city, and Parisians an industrious bunch with too much to do and too little time to do it. It was a new age, and surely the days of the courtesan were coming to a close. Weren’t they?

The girl knitted her brow as she stared out the window. It was a lovely May afternoon, sunny and warm with the gentlest of breezes fluttering the leaves of the trees lining the street. She wished she could be outside with Fulbert instead of inside with her mother’s list. How much longer, she wondered, would it be before Fulbert came inside and relieved her of her tedium?

He was talking to some older man standing with him on the street right below her window. She knew he wasn’t there for conversation with that other gentleman. He could chat with another gent anytime. Late Sunday afternoons were when he came to visit Mamma’s home. He knew the girl would be there, too. And he readily admitted that the two of them were his escape from the dreariness of daily black-and-white journalism.

As he’d sip chamomile tea, he’d regale the females, in melodramatic fashion, with scandalous tidbits his newspaper wouldn’t dare to publish. He would, however, leave out the names of the people involved so as not to risk being overheard by others and word getting out that could cause a horror of embarrassment or legal complications. Still, even with unrevealed identities, the narratives were so entertaining. The girl relished those salacious tales and laughed with abandon at the humorous parts. The expression that would appear on Fulbert’s face indicated his delight in sharing the stories with such an appreciative audience.

“What are you looking at?” Mamma had entered the room unheard by the girl. The matronly woman wore a dark blue dress and more jewelry than one might think necessary for someone just staying about the house. Beneath a bevy of brown hair, she glowered down at her pupil seated by the window.

“Fulbert is just outside, talking with some man.”

“Never mind Fulbert. When he’s ready to come visit, he will. Meanwhile, have you memorized your homework?”

“Is this really necessary?” the girl huffed.

Necessary?” The older woman spoke the word as though it almost choked her to say it. “Child, you’re almost seventeen! When do you expect to learn such things? When you’re an old maid of twenty!”

“I just don’t see the use. Do men really find this attractive in a girl?”

Mamma pursed her lips and squinted her eyes.

“Dominique, you are a very silly girl. These are the tried and true methods that have kept our women in furs and diamonds lo these many years. We wear them with pride. Proud of our accomplishments as the women that gentlemen of good breeding choose as their mistresses. Don’t you want to live in high fashion?”

“But Mamma!” The girl looked down at the sheet of paper that contained her mother’s list of coquettish responses. “Number eighteen! Should a girl actually suggest she’d do that just because a man offers to buy her a bracelet?”

“If she wants a matching necklace to go with it!” The older woman inhaled deeply. “If you’re going to be with a man, he’s going to ask for it. Demand it. That’s the way men are. Women are expected to comply, whether we want to or not. That’s our lot. Now, you can give it away for free. That’s called marriage. Or you can use it to your advantage.”

The girl gave a melancholy sigh. The older woman stepped forward and put a gentle hand on her daughter’s shoulder.

“Didi, someday you’re going to be a grand woman of society. The mistress of a great man. You simply need to apply yourself, to make the most of your God-given talents, so a man like that will come calling.”

With somber resignation, the girl turned her head toward the window. At least the sight of Fulbert would rejuvenate her spirits. He was still talking to the other man.

“And never mind looking for Fulbert,” her mother admonished. “He’ll come in when he’s good and ready. And better that he takes his time getting here. Your studies always seem to dwindle down to nothing while he’s around.”

“Maybe I could be Fulbert’s mistress,” the girl offered hopefully. “I wouldn’t have to do anything to get him to like me. He already does.”

“Out of the question!” boomed the mother.

“But why? You like him, don’t you?”

“Ever since he was this high. We’ve been friends with his family for ages. But he’s just a journalist. He can’t afford to keep both a mistress and a wife.”

“But he’s not married,” reasoned the girl.

“Exactly! He’ll have to get a wife before he can get a mistress. And, since he can’t afford both, he’ll be stuck with just a wife.”

“Couldn’t he get the mistress first?”

“It doesn’t work that way! First wife, then mistress. Those are the rules.”

The girl crossed her arms and pouted as she considered the dilemma. “So there’s no way I could be Fulbert’s mistress?”

“I don’t see how…unless he marries into money.”

The girl grunted and bit her lip as she further contemplated the situation.

“Now back to your studies,” her mother insisted as she exited the room. “I’ll call you if and when he comes in.”

Didi knew there was no “if” about it. Fulbert almost never missed a Sunday. And, as he was already just outside the door, it was a certainty he’d come knocking just as soon as he finished with that chatty older man. She looked out the window to see if they were still talking. They were. Except a pretty young blonde in a richly colored pink dress had now joined them in the conversation. Didi didn’t know who that blonde was, but she didn’t like the lady being so close to Fulbert. She didn’t like any other females near Fulbert—except, of course, for Mamma. She considered Mamma to be safe in that respect.

Mamma had the banker Monsieur de la Fontaine as her “benefactor.” She had been his mistress since she was nineteen, and he kept her in the fine fashion she deemed appropriate. That made him the principal male in her life. Principal but not only. Unencumbered with a marriage vow, it was the privilege of the courtesan also to engage the company of other gentlemen. However, when she had her occasional other dalliances, Mamma confined herself to wealthy married men only, the sort who knew how to be discreet.

Monsieur de la Fontaine also happened to be Didi’s father, a fact that was something of a footnote in the family history. He was the father of several other children born to his wife, Madame de la Fontaine, whom Didi never met but was told was considered a respectable woman. To Monsieur de la Fontaine’s credit, he was a kind and generous father to Didi on those occasions when she saw him. Those occasions had become less frequent in recent years, but the influx of his money was never interrupted, which kept Mamma contentedly silent to Madame de la Fontaine on the subject of Didi’s paternal relations.

However, all of this was neither here nor there at the moment. The girl had more immediate things on her mind as she grimaced from her window at the lady in pink. What sort of coquettish responses was that harlot saying to her dear, dear Fulbert?

Would I mind if you smoked your cigar? Why of course not. But, as a lady, I’d rather you put your big manly cigar between my lips. And, when I say “cigar” and “lips,” I think you know what I really mean.

Didi growled as she fabricated such fanciful conversation. She knew the lady in pink wouldn’t actually say something like that, but she wasn’t certain the lady wasn’t thinking it. That made Didi scowl.

Finally, Didi saw the older gentleman hail a horse drawn carriage, and he and that trollop in pink climbed aboard and departed. Fulbert tipped his silk hat to her as they rode off, an act that infuriated Didi. She was so angry, she had half a mind not to go down to greet him when he came inside for his weekly visit. But, the moment she heard knocking at the front door, she galloped down the stairs in giddy delight. She just couldn’t help herself when it came to Fulbert.

Bonjour, Madame Dupuis!” the man beamed as he strode through the front door.

Although Didi’s mother had never married, after her daughter’s birth she chose to replace the title of “Mademoiselle” with “Madame,” if only for the sake of respectability.

“And there’s my little Didi!” the man called out with jocularity as he saw the girl approaching. “What a cute little dress you’re wearing.”

It irked her now when he used the adjective “little” to describe her. She had been little when they first came to know one another—a tiny tot for sure. But she’d grown up to become a girl about five feet two inches tall with long brown hair and a womanly frame that had rounded up nicely in the past few years. Although her waistline remained delicately slight, her bosom had blossomed and expanded gloriously to the point where Didi not only served as her nickname but also as a phonetic description of her cup size. (She, of course, never considered that coincidence, as brassieres had yet to be invented and wouldn’t come into the world for another twenty years or more.)

“Is that all you can say about my dress—that it’s cute?” She’d worn the dress especially for him. The silky fabric clung to her with more snugness than her usual wardrobe, and the pale blue color matched her eyes. She was hoping it would inspire a compliment.

“Well…” The man stepped back to consider the garment. “It has a certain je ne sais quoi. What else can I say?”

“You could say it’s alluring.” She sashayed about the parlor as though modeling for a fashion show. “Or,” she teased, “don’t you think I have any allure?”

“Didi, don’t be a brat,” scolded her mother.

“My dear Madame Dupuis,” Fulbert injected with good natured charm, “I assure you, even at her brattiest, there’s nothing your daughter could do to topple my spirits when I’m within the comfort of your hospitality.”

“Such a gentleman!” gushed the older woman. “You’re going to make someone a good husband someday.”

“And just a husband,” Didi muttered to herself.

The next hour passed pleasantly enough. Madame Dupuis served tea and cookies while Fulbert entertained them with a story about a wealthy business owner who had fathered children with four different women in four different countries while being simultaneously married to two other women in two other countries.

“I hope that wasn’t the man you were talking to on the sidewalk,” said Madame Dupuis.

“Him?” said Fulbert. “Oh, no. He’s a big railroad executive I interviewed once. Bumped into him quite by accident.”

“And the woman?” asked Didi with a tone that betrayed more than just idle curiosity. “You seemed very interested in her.”

“Did I? Were you spying?”

Fulbert’s sparkling eyes taunted the girl to the point where she ruffled with conspicuous unease.

“If people carry on right there on a busy boulevard,” she flustered, “how is one not to notice?”

“Were you carrying on, Fulbert?” Madame Dupuis smiled.

“Shamelessly!” he chuckled. “She’s the man’s daughter. He was waiting for her while she was inside their house across the street getting dressed to visit her great aunt on the occasion of the old girl’s eightieth birthday. I wished them both a pleasant visit.” He paused for comic effect. “I should be horsewhipped!”

“Hmph!” grunted Didi. “Seemed like an awful lot of talk just to say ‘Have a nice trip.’”

“Is she pretty?” Madame Dupuis winked at Fulbert.

“Yes, I suppose,” he replied with a nonchalant air.

“Any chance you might see more of her?” The older woman’s tone spoke volumes.

“Unlikely,” he responded.

“She lives right here in the neighborhood,” reasoned Madame Dupuis. “And you come here often enough.”

“That’s true.” The man scratched his chin in contemplation.

“So what’s he supposed to do, Mamma?” interjected Didi with impatience. “Just knock on her door and say, ‘You barely know me, but your neighbor thinks we should be together’?”

“Don’t worry, Didi,” the man grinned. “I won’t be knocking on any doors. I’m not nearly so bold.”

“That’s why you’re still a bachelor,” said Madame Dupuis.

“True,” he agreed. “But, if I were in the market for a wife, that might be a door worth knocking on. There’s money in that family. Lots of it. I’d be set for life.”

And, in a flash, an idea came to Didi. She recalled her mother’s words only a couple of hours earlier when she said she couldn’t foresee Fulbert being able to afford a mistress unless he marries into money.

That was the answer. That was the one and only way she could become his mistress. He needed to marry a wealthy woman so that he would have her money to spend on Didi. All the girl had to do was to get him to marry into wealth. Then the path would be clear for her to be a properly kept woman by the man she most wanted to be kept by. All she needed was the right wife for him.

The plan seemed simple enough. But the execution of it hit a stumbling block right away. Wealthy available women don’t just grow on trees, waiting to be plucked. They have to be lured. Money and power were the most obvious lures a man could possess. Fulbert had neither. That meant Didi would have to cast a different kind of bait.

She did so the next day in the schoolyard during recess. Talking with her classmate Madeleine, she steered the conversation to boys, which was never a difficult thing to do with schoolgirls.

“Have you ever dreamed about what it would be like to be with a boy?”

The school chum reacted with blasé enthusiasm. “Sometimes.”

“The boys here are so immature, though,” continued Didi. “What about a man? I mean, a real man.”

“What’s a real man?” Madeleine questioned.

“Oh, you know…one who’s a man where it counts. Like, uh…oh, for example…Fulbert Lémieux.”

“Your mother’s friend?” The girl seemed unconvinced. “What makes him a real man?”

“Don’t you know?” Didi leaned in as though sharing the most intimate secret. “I thought it was common knowledge. He has an enormous cannon.”

“A what?” The girl had not a clue what was being alluded to.

“You know,” said Didi with a suggestive glance toward her friend’s crotch. “His weaponry.”

Madeleine’s jaw dropped and she blushed a bright red. Girls their age weren’t supposes to know anything even existed inside a man’s pants. Of course, that was despite the fact that any field trip to the Louvre provided more than ample opportunity for even the youngest visitor to view graphic displays of male genitalia depicted in the exhibited artworks. However, this was La Belle Époque, and maintaining certain fictions was simply expected in polite society.

“And, when I say ‘cannon,’ I don’t mean a little mortar gun,” continued Didi in matter-of-fact fashion. “I mean a long—”

“You’ve seen it?” Madeleine’s eyes bugged out.

“No. But my mother knows someone who knows someone who has a friend who was, shall we say, involved with Fulbert once. It’s a well regarded source.”

“It is?”

“Oh, very. She’s a lady of high society. That’s the only type of lady Fulbert will be with. When a man’s got something like that, you don’t share it with just any girl.”

The staggered schoolgirl remained motionless, her mouth hanging open.

“Your Aunt Orianne might stand a good chance,” Didi added. “She’s of good breeding. And your uncle left her plenty of money when he died, didn’t he?”

“Aunt Orianne? What makes you think she’d even want it?” demanded Madeleine.

“Oh, all women want it. It’s just that good. An absolute marvel.”

Recess ended but, before the school day came to a close, word of Fulbert’s “cannon” had spread to every girl in class, just as Didi knew it would. She also knew it wouldn’t take long for word to reach the ears of others outside the school, including adult ladies seeking the pleasures of a man—a man with good weaponry.

Actually, Didi had no idea what Fulbert was packing under his trousers. But this was her notion of the quickest way to get wealthy women to pay interest in a humble journalist. Somewhere out there was a well-heeled lustful lady willing to marry someone who could fill a hole in her life—so to speak.

“I had the strangest meeting with a lady yesterday,” Fulbert reported the following Sunday as he sipped Madame Dupuis’ chamomile tea and nibbled on her cookies. “This woman I’d never met sent a note to my office asking me to meet her at her home. I thought she wanted to share something newsworthy. So I took her up on the invitation. But, when I got there, all she wanted to do was serve me wine and chat about the idle pleasures she enjoys.”

“What types of pleasures does she like?” Didi leaned her elbows on the table, propping her head with both her hands. Fulbert had her rapt attention. He usually did, but today the girl was especially attentive.

“Oh, the usual,” he answered. “Dining out. Going to the theatre. Gardening. She had me walk her about her garden for an hour.”

“I trust you offered her a gentlemanly arm to cling to as you walked?” Madame Dupuis beamed a worldly smile as she refilled his cup.

“Naturally. But, at some point, I could see she wasn’t going to offer anything resembling a news item, and I practically had to pry her fingers from my elbow in order to excuse myself.”

“What’s the lady’s name?” Didi asked him.

“Madame Bergeron.”

Orianne Bergeron?”

Fulbert looked surprised. “You know her?”

“No.” With self satisfaction, Didi popped a cookie into her mouth.

“When will you see her again?” asked Madame Dupuis.

“I have no intention of seeing her again.”

“Oh, but you must!” insisted Didi.

“Why must I?”

“It’s common courtesy. Decency demands you invite her out.”

“Well, how did that happen?” he flustered.

“You accepted an invitation from her,” reasoned the girl. “Now you must reciprocate. Why don’t you take her to Maxim’s?”

Maxim’s?” The man was flummoxed. “Oh, this is ridiculous!” He turned with pleading eyes toward the older woman. “Madame Dupuis, you’re a reasonable person. Am I obligated to take this woman out somewhere?”

“Well,” said Madame Dupuis, “you did drink her wine and walk her in her garden.”

“That was because I thought she was a news source!”

“Apparently, she thought otherwise,” said Madame Dupuis.

“Oh, what a perfect disaster,” he sulked.

“It’ll be fun!” said Didi.

“It’ll be nothing of the kind,” he said. “I was bored out of my mind just listening to her prattle on about her petunias.”

“So you make the conversation,” counseled the girl. “Tell her your deliciously wonderful stories. I love listening to them.”

“You’re a little girl,” he admonished. “You’re easy to amuse. She’s a full grown woman.”

“I’m not a little girl!” Didi retorted. “I’ll be seventeen next month! I know what a woman likes. I can help.”

“Help me do what?”

“Romance her, silly!”

“Who said I wanted to romance her? I barely know the woman!”

“Mamma!” Didi cast a weary look toward her mother. “He’s apparently the only man in Paris who isn’t a romantic!”

“It’s true, Fulbert,” agreed Madame Dupuis. “I love you like a son. But, in the realm of romance, you’re an unlit candle on the chandelier of love.”

The man knitted his brow, leaned back in his chair, and crossed his arms. “So now I’ve got the both of you ganging up on me.”

“Don’t worry, Fulbert,” assured Didi. “I’ll help you.”

With the eager young girl as his coach, he extended a begrudging invitation for a Friday dinner to the widow Madame Orianne Bergeron, an invitation that was accepted with immediacy. He chose a less expensive restaurant than Maxim’s, but one that was still elegant enough to meet with Didi’s approval. Days before the date night, Didi and Fulbert conferred so the girl could help him pick out the suit he’d wear, something dark and sleek looking that went well with a crisp, dignified bowtie. Calling upon her own coquette training, she also prepped him on the types of things to say in various situations.

“Don’t forget to compliment her hair,” she instructed. “Even if it looks like a flock of sparrows took up nest in it. Or especially if it looks that way. It means she went to a lot of trouble to make it look like that.”

Finally, the big day arrived. Didi stopped at Fulbert’s apartment an hour before the date was scheduled to begin. She raced up the stairs to his second-floor abode to give him some last minute advice and encouragement. As he laced up his shoes and listened to the girl’s chatter, the man looked anything but enthusiastic. But Didi shoved him out the door with a final fervent plea that he allow himself to let go of his inhibitions and be the passionate bon vivant she knew he could be. She waved goodbye as he rode off in the carriage she hailed for him. He was on his way to pick up Madame Bergeron.

The moment the carriage turned the corner, the girl raced in the direction of the restaurant where they were going to dine. She wanted to get a ringside seat to watch the date play out. The large windows facing the street gave ample viewing of the restaurant’s interior. Didi just needed to remain in the shadows until Fulbert and Madame Bergeron entered, and then she could watch through the windows.

It was about a quarter past eight when their carriage arrived and the couple entered the restaurant. Didi waited a few seconds after they disappeared inside before positioning herself by a window. She couldn’t hear what they were saying, but she could see them perfectly from her vantage point. They were at a table by the wall. Madame Bergeron, a plump woman appearing to be in her late thirties, was dressed in a flowing green dress with a large matching hat that had multiple plumes sprouting from it. Beneath the hat was a crop of red hair braided in such a way that it did indeed resemble a bird’s nest. Didi took that as a good sign.

From what the girl could make out, Madame Bergeron was doing most of the talking. In fact, she seemed never to stop. What a fool, thought Didi. Fulbert’s such a great storyteller. If only she’d shut up, she’d see how entertaining he is. Still, the woman in green jabbered on relentlessly while her dinner companion sat motionless and made occasional head nods to feign interest.

Fulbert’s most animated moment came about halfway through dinner when he knocked over a glass of wine. To keep the escaping liquid from dribbling into his guest’s lap, he leapt to his feet like an acrobat and hurled a napkin between the spill and Madame Bergeron. Didi couldn’t be certain, but she was almost sure she saw the woman’s eyes drift for a moment toward Fulbert’s crotch while he was standing and mopping up the table.

If things worked out as Didi was hoping, eventually the widow would learn firsthand what resided beneath Fulbert’s trousers. The girl was well aware that he might not live up to the legend she created. However, she assumed that, once that bridge was crossed, there would be no turning back.

It was about 10:30 when, having dropped the widow off at her home, Fulbert returned to his own. Waiting for him there, seated just outside the door to his apartment, was Didi.

“Why are you here?” he demanded. “And what are doing up this late? Shouldn’t you be in bed?”

“I’m not a child. And there’s no school tomorrow, anyway.”

“Still,” he grumped as he opened the front door, admitting them both, “a girl your age shouldn’t be roaming the streets of Paris at this hour. It’s not respectable.”

“Friday nights aren’t for respectability.” She plopped herself into a fluffy chair as she made her pronouncement. “They’re for fun!”

“After my having endured this evening, you’re going to have a hard time convincing me of that.”

“Didn’t you enjoy your date?”

“Not in the least. The woman’s a crashing bore. I’m glad it’s over.”

“Oh, well. Perhaps you’ll have a better date next time.”

“There isn’t going to be a next time.”

“Oh, but there must be!”

The man stood dumbfounded for what must have been at least five seconds. “Why must there be?”

“Well, you’ve been seen in public with her. Not to invite her on a second date would be the ultimate humiliation. It would be like slapping her face in front of everyone. One chateaubriand and au revior—it simply isn’t done! It’s barbaric!”

“Who makes up these rules?” His face purpled. “And how do you know what we had for dinner?”

“What else would one order on such an occasion and such a night as this?”

“Listen, Didi, I repaid the woman’s kindness for her invitation to sniff her posies. As far as I’m concerned, I’m done with her. What’s the worst that can happen?”

“She’ll kill herself.” The girl said it with unfazed nonchalance.

What?

“That’s what’s expected of a Parisian woman of high society when she’s been publicly humiliated. Oh, it won’t be a successful suicide. Grand dames never accomplish anything they set out to do. That’s why they have servants. But the attempt will make all the newspapers, including your own. Your name will, of course, be dragged through the mud as the man who drove her to it.”

Fulbert smacked his forehead. “It’s a catastrophe!” He paced the room with frenetic vigor. “How many dates do I need to have with her?”

“I’d say at least four.”

Four!

“Two would be too obvious. Three would seem pre-planned. Four gives the appearance of randomness.”

“A catastrophe!” he fumed.

Under extreme duress, the man went on three more dates with Madame Bergeron—two more dinners and one picnic lunch. Didi’s hope was that she’d grow on him. However, the only thing that grew was his distaste for the widow, and he was adamant in his refusal to see the woman again socially once their fourth date was concluded. That meant, if Didi’s plan was to succeed, she’d have to shove Fulbert into the arms of some other wealthy lady. Fortunately, Paris was full of them, mostly widows whose late husbands left them set for life. It was just a matter of casting the right bait.

Again, Didi made use of the “impressive weaponry” ploy. She also upped the ante by making loud and opportunely mentioned statements that Fulbert was being considered for a diplomatic post. There’s nothing high society loves more than the dashing aura of an embassy. Invitations from eligible, gullible ladies poured in.

“I can’t possibly take them all out to dinner,” groaned Fulbert.

“No,” agreed Didi. “But you have to take at least one of them out so you have an excuse for why you can’t see the others right now.”

“I hate Parisian social gamesmanship!” he grunted. “I tell you, it’s all a diabolical plot to get men to feed women who can afford to feed themselves!”

“Don’t worry, Fulbert,” said Didi. “You still have me.”

For the next several months, Didi poked, prodded, and shoved Fulbert into one social encounter after another with the various ladies who made their availability known.

First was Madame Villenueve. She was chubby and jolly and laughed like a hyena in heat, even if nothing was funny. Fulbert hated her almost instantly.

Then there was Madame Mercier. She was tall and wore her blonde hair so high that she had to duck to pass through doorways. Fulbert was never at ease with her, fearing she’d get her hair caught in the talons of some low-flying bird and be carried off through the streets of Paris, banging into notable monuments and statues.

Mademoiselle Foss—one of the few non-widows in the bunch—was heiress to a textile manufacturing company. As such, she had the most lovely clothes. She wasn’t bad looking, either. Undoubtedly, she’d have already been snatched up by some worthy beau if it weren’t for the fact that she was mostly deaf and had the habit of screeching in the ear of whomever she was with, as though her companion were equally hard of hearing. After a date with her booming every word at him, Fulbert nearly was.

Then there was Countess Sarkozy. Didi had high hopes for her. She was originally from a foreign land. Her husband, the Count, had ditched her for a younger girl, but not before Countess Sarkozy transferred his fortune to her own name. She had dark hair, stark features, a full bosom, a tiny waist, impeccable manners, and she spoke with a pronounced accent. Even Fulbert was impressed with her at first. Then one evening he came to call on her. When she didn’t answer the door, he feared she might be in trouble. So he entered the house, where he eventually found her in bed with another man…and another woman…and a small sheep. Fulbert never looked back as he ran down the street.

And so it went as a bevy of ladies paraded in and out of the man’s life—all of them disastrously flawed in one way of another, much to his chagrin. His opinion of the feminine sex dwindled to an all-time low.

Meanwhile, Didi never lost hope. Somewhere out there was the right wife for Fulbert. She sat in her bedroom one Saturday morning perusing the newspaper’s social page for news items regarding ladies of high station who might be potential matrimonial targets. Suddenly, she heard a commotion on the floor below. She bounded down the steps to see her mother at the door with Fulbert. It was unusual for him to be there on a Saturday. Even more unusual was that he wasn’t alone. Standing at his side was a young lady. It wasn’t any of the ladies Didi had set him up with, but she looked familiar.

Then it came to her. The young lady was the blonde in the pink dress she’d seen him talking to on that day when Didi first resolved to find him a bride. The railroad baron’s daughter from across the street. She wasn’t wearing pink but, rather, a yellow dress on this day. Still, it was unmistakably the same girl.

“Didi!” called out Fulbert as he caught sight of her. “Allow me to introduce you. Didi Dupuis, may I present Mademoiselle Lili St. Pierre.”

“How do you do, my dear?” The blonde spoke in a soft, feminine voice and extended a cordial hand, which Didi accepted in a perfunctory manner as she sized up the woman.

Lili St. Pierre appeared to be about twenty years of age, with a fresh face and a slim but well proportioned body. Her cheeks were rosy. Her pale red lips parted to present a most pleasant smile. The yellow dress and purple feathered hat she wore bespoke high fashion that could only be purchased by those who had sufficient wealth to afford it. It caused Didi to recall Fulbert’s earlier assessment that her family was loaded.

Of course! Why hadn’t she thought of the blonde sooner? She’d been searching the social register for eligible, rich women for almost a full year now. And this one was right across the street!

“Won’t you come in?” offered Madame Dupuis.

“We can’t,” said Fulbert. “We’re going to lunch and then a concert. I just dropped by to introduce you…and also to let you know I won’t be coming by tomorrow. We’re going to a lake where her family keeps a boat. There will be a party.”

“Papa loves to entertain on his boat,” the woman in yellow added.

“How lovely!” gushed Madame Dupuis. “I hope the weather’s nice.”

“Oh!” Lili St. Pierre gave a sudden turn toward Fulbert. “I forgot my gloves. Wait here. I’ll be right back.” And, with that, she took off at a fast clip to the other side of the street.

“She’s pretty.” Madame Dupuis winked at the man.

“Yes,” he nodded. “Very.”

“And how did this come about?”

“Well,” he explained, “after a year of being in the company of a lot of women who were just so terribly wrong for me, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands. SoI took a bit of advice you gave me some time ago and just knocked on her door. When she answered, I said, if she wasn’t doing anything that evening, would she care to go for a stroll.”

“And she just accepted?” asked Didi.

“She did!” Fulbert exclaimed as though still in shock over that result.

“And you think she might be the one?” the girl asked.

“Now, Didi,” he said, “let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We’ve been on one date.”

“Yes,” interjected Madame Dupuis with a devilish grin. “But now you’re on a second. And the third is right around the corner.”

“It does look promising,” he admitted. “It’s refreshing to be in the company of a girl who’s not trying too hard.”

Undoubtedly, there would have been a lot more questions. But the blonde re-emerged from her home, and Fulbert sped off to be at her side. They hailed a carriage and were gone a few moments later.

“Such a nice looking couple,” mused Madame Dupuis as she watched them depart and closed her door. “Don’t you think so, Didi?”

“Perfect,” her daughter murmured.

Didi returned to her room and sat on the edge of her bed. She had been working toward just this sort of thing for so long and expected she’d feel ebullient at a moment like this. However, there was an unexplainable undertone of something that was keeping her from fully enjoying it. Perhaps, she thought, it was anger at herself for being so stupid as to have overlooked a prospect that was so nearby. Had Didi only been more observant, Fulbert and that girl might already be married, and Didi could have already been his mistress, living the life of a respectable courtesan.

Yes! she concluded. That was it. She was miffed at her own stupidity. That’s what was putting a damper on this otherwise joyous occasion. She’d feel better the next day when she saw Fulbert and had a chance to apologize to him for that egregious oversight on her part.

Then she remembered she wouldn’t be seeing Fulbert the next day. He’d be at the boating party. Her heart sank. It would be the first Sunday in ages that she wouldn’t get to see him. That, too, she contemplated, must have been part of the reason she wasn’t jumping for joy.

“Oh, well,” she reasoned. “This is an investment in my future. I can afford to give up one Sunday with him if it results in a lifetime of being his mistress.”

As it turned out, there were a lot of missed Sundays. Fulbert spent many of them now in the company of Lili St. Pierre. Each Sunday he didn’t visit sent Didi into a mist of depression that didn’t fully evaporate until his next appearance. He came for the party commemorating Didi’s eighteenth birthday, and she was most happy when she saw him walk through the door. But he brought his new lady love with him, and, in the birthday girl’s mind, that added a touch of bitterness to what should have been a sweet occasion in her life. It wasn’t that Lili St. Pierre was disagreeable. She was a pleasant enough girl, and it made it difficult for Didi not to like her. However, Didi knew that, if all went according to plan, she’d have to share Fulbert on a long term basis with Lili, and, on her birthday, she was disinclined to share.

Now that her daughter was an adult, Madame Dupuis tried to encourage Didi to engage the company of various men of distinction. There was an abundance of well off Parisian men. One of them surely would be in the market for a mistress.

Didi declined all opportunities. She was waiting for Fulbert. She had every reason to believe he’d marry that Lili St. Pierre woman soon, and then Didi could assume her rightful place as his kept woman.

“She said yes!” Fulbert exulted as he stood in the Dupuis parlor.

It was a Monday, of all things. He never came there on a Monday. But he was so excited, he wanted to share the news with his friends at the first opportunity.

“That’s wonderful!” Madame Dupuis wrapped her arms about the young man and kissed him on both cheeks. “When is the wedding?”

“We haven’t set a date yet. I only asked her last night.”

“Well, you let us know where and when, and Didi and I will be there! We’re so happy for you!”

“Yes, Fulbert,” said Didi in a subdued voice. “Very happy for you.”

The man looked tenderly at the young girl. With a warm smile, he approached her.

“Didi, this wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for you. You gave me the confidence to come out of my shell romantically. I’ll be forever grateful.”

“What are friends for?” she uttered. Then she kissed him on the cheek, a little longer than perhaps she had intended.

He said he couldn’t stay and was gone within a few minutes. As soon as he departed, Didi went upstairs to her room to contemplate her success. She had achieved exactly what she set out to do.

She lay down on her bed, pressed her face into the pillow, and cried.

Fulbert and Lili set the wedding date for late summer. The ceremony would take place at the lake where the St. Pierre family kept their boat. According to Fulbert’s description, there was a large pavilion that would accommodate both the ceremony and the reception afterwards. Madame Dupuis buzzed about it again and again, cooing over the pending nuptials almost as if they were her own.

“What do you think I should wear, Didi?” It was late on a Friday evening, and Madame Dupuis was rummaging through the armoire in her bedroom, lifting the hems of one dress after another to inspect them.

Off to the side, Didi was slunk back into a chair, her eyes half closed and her chin propped on a hand supported by a forearm whose elbow was nestled into the frame of the seat. “Wear whatever you like,” she yawned.

“Well, we’re going to be among high class people. It’s important we make a good impression. What are you going to wear?”

“How about my white dress?”

“Silly girl! Only the bride wears white!”

“Maybe I’ll wear pink.” With a blasé attitude, Didi stared out the window. “Fulbert seems to like that color.”

“I’ve never seen Fulbert so vivacious. So full of energy. Have you?”

The girl gave a noncommittal shrug.

“Marriage is going to be a wonderful thing for him,” the mother continued. “It’s all wrong for a woman, of course. But, for a man… Well, it’s the vary making of him. Men are such boys until they get married. They wander about aimlessly, pursuing only their own pleasure. A wife sets them straight. Teaches them there’s more to life than just being happy all the time.”

Didi dragged herself out of the chair and headed out the door.

“Where are you going?”

“I need some air,” muttered the girl as she continued down the stairs without pausing. Seconds later, she stomping along the sidewalk, her lips pursed and her eyes blank.

It was a warm, clear night. The stars were brilliant against the black sky. The moon, almost full, radiated a light that cast a glow over even those parts of the city not illuminated by streetlamps. If there was anyone else out enjoying the splendid evening, Didi didn’t notice. Her focus was elsewhere. She hadn’t ventured outdoors to witness the moon or the stars. There was someone else she had to see. At the moment, it was an uncontrollable compulsion.

She entered a building, ascended the stairs to the second story, took a deep breath, and knocked on the door to an apartment.

“Didi!” Fulbert’s face expressed great surprise as he opened the door. His jacket was off and his tie was undone. It was obvious he hadn’t been expecting company. “What are you doing here?”

“Can’t a girl pay a call on an old friend?” Not waiting to be invited, she strode past him and entered the room.

“At this hour?”

“Were you going to bed?”

“No, but, uh…”

“Well, what were you doing?” She spied an open book set face up on the floor.

“You’ll laugh,” he chuckled nervously. “I was trying to learn how to dance.”

Didi lifted the book from the floor. It was a dance instruction manual with pictures illustrating the placement of the feet for the various steps.

“There’ll be a small orchestra at the wedding,” explained Fulbert. “Lili wants me to dance with her. But I haven’t a clue when it comes to that. I got that book from the library.”

“Fulbert,” scoffed the girl, “you don’t need a book. Dancing’s easy. It’s just moving about to music. Let me show you.”

She demonstrated a few waltz steps while she hummed something appropriate. Then she had him mimic what she did.

“Now,” she instructed, “you have to put it together with a partner. Take my right hand in your left, and put your other hand here.” She positioned his right hand so that it settled on her back, just above her waste. “Now move in step with the music.”

She hummed a waltz while the two of them danced about the room. At first, the man’s movements were jerky and uncertain, but he gained confidence as they went along. Soon they were moving in a flowing, elegant manner that brought smiles to both their faces. When Didi finished humming the tune, they both just stood there as though frozen in place, she looking up adoringly into his eyes.

“You know,” she said, “that’s the first time we’ve danced together since we were children.”

“It is?”

“I was about four years old,” she recalled. “We were in a park, and a man was playing the accordion. I insisted you dance with me, and you took me by the hands and swung me about. I laughed and laughed.”

“I can’t believe you recall that.”

“A girl always remembers her first time.”

He released her, cleared his throat, and took an awkward step back. “Well, I guess this will count as our last dance.”

“Why?” Her eyes were pleading.

“Because, from now on, I believe it’s fairly obvious who my partner will be.”

“Your marriage partner, certainly. But, beyond that…”

He looked confused. “Beyond what?”

“Oh, Fulbert,” she rocked her head back and forth. “Do I have to spell out everything for you? You’re a man—about to become a man of means. And men of means in Paris…well, they don’t limit themselves to just one woman. Lili is one woman. I’m another woman. It’s a family tradition, you know. I’ve been trained for it.”

A glimmer of understanding came into his eyes. “It may come as a shock to you, but there are men in this city who actually remain faithful to their wives.”

“And I’d never ask you to be otherwise,” Didi assured. “She’ll always be your wife. The other woman is there simply to satisfy certain…needs. After all, your wife will be busy keeping your house and raising your children. You can’t expect her to do everything.”

He raised a scolding finger into the air and wagged it at her.

“Now look here, my little Didi…”

“I’m not your little Didi!” bellowed the girl. “I’m a grown woman! Look!” She cupped the underside of her breasts with her hands and lifted them as high as the fabric of her dress would permit.

Against the call of all his better breeding, his eyes rocketed to where she was indicating. Dumbstruck, he stared at her hoisted bosoms as though it was the first time he even noticed she had them.

“This is the body of a courtesan,” she said. “And it belongs to a woman who loves you…who has always loved you…who would do anything for you. I don’t expect you to have the same feelings for me. It isn’t necessary. You can just set me up in a little apartment somewhere. It doesn’t have to be fancy. And I’ll be there for you to visit as often as you like. Or not often, if you prefer.” Her eyes began to well with tears, her throat to constrict. “I promise I won’t make any demands. And when I get older, if you’re not attracted to me anymore, you can just leave me enough money to get by, and I’ll go off by myself to lead the life of a gay Parisienne…while you go home to your wife. It’s the perfect arrangement.”

The man stood there, his jaw almost to his chest. He spoke not a peep.

The girl began to tremble.

“I can see I’ve made a fool of myself,” she murmured, her voice struggling with the words. “I’m sorry. Terribly sorry. I wish you and Mademoiselle St. Pierre every happiness. She’s a very lucky girl. I think you’ll be happy with her. And I want, more than anything, for you to be happy.”

The sobbing began in earnest on her last words as she bolted out the door and down the stairs. She burst into the night air, the moonlight glistening on her tears, and she wept continuously while running heartbroken down the sidewalk. She wanted to put as much distance as she could between herself and the place of her humiliation. Out of breath, she stopped at the end of the block and took hold of a lamppost. She leaned her head against it. The moisture streaming piteously from her eyes dampened the metal pole she clung to with agonized fingers. If anyone was witness to this spectacle, she didn’t care. Her grief would not be subdued for the benefit of society.

She heard the sound of heavy footsteps and knew someone must be nearby. She prayed that, whoever it was, he would pass quickly and leave her to her misery. However, the footsteps slowed and came to stop. A moment later, she felt a hand on her shoulder.

“Didi.” It was Fulbert’s voice.

She turned to see him panting and sweating. His undone tie was still swinging from his open collar.

“Didi,” he said, “I remember that dance, too. When you were four and I was fourteen. It’s one of my cherished memories…along with the times when our families used to walk along the Seine, and you and I used to hang back to act like the two of us were on our own. And, after I got my job, how I couldn’t wait to come tell you all about the things I’d heard. The delight in your laughter…just hearing that made it worth choking down all that chamomile tea your mother insists on serving. And all those horrid dates with all those appalling women. I hated every one of those dates, but I enjoyed every moment of the planning of them with you. And how I looked forward to sharing every detail with you when I’d see you afterwards. I suppose I should have realized at the time that you were the only thing that made it all bearable.”

He gulped and took a deep breath.

“I guess,” he continued, “what I’m trying to get around to saying is…when you see a tree in your yard every day, you don’t notice its growth until someone taps you on the shoulder and says, ‘Shouldn’t those branches be pruned?’ You’ve been blossoming in my yard for years, and I didn’t notice. Forgive me.”

The girl’s tear-stained face looked up with impassioned sorrow into the eyes of the man who was the equivalent of all the world to her.

“I meant what I said before,” she whimpered. “Your happiness means everything to me. I just care that much. I promise I won’t do anything to come between you and Lili. Marry her. Stay faithful to her. And be happy.”

“I can’t do that,” said Fulbert in a throaty voice.

“What do you mean?” asked Didi with innocent bewilderment.

“I can’t marry Lili,” he said, “because I’ve come to realize I’m in love with someone else. And, if I have my way, that girl will never be a courtesan.”

He put his hands on her arms, just beneath her shoulders. She melted within his touch. He pulled her in. She offered no resistance. And there, under the moonlight, beneath the stars, before all the city of Paris, their lips met for a long, long passionate kiss.

Didi and Fulbert married in the early fall. Philosophically, Madame Dupuis was against it, considering it a terrible waste of all her daughter’s training. However, as a mother, she wasn’t about to stand in the way of true love, and so she gave her blessing to the marriage. Fulbert was, after all, already like a son to her, and she could think of no one else she’d rather have join the family.

Lili St. Pierre was, quite naturally, devastated by the break-off of her engagement. Parisians expected her to react in accordance with high society’s rules and attempt an unsuccessful suicide. However, Lili chose a different route altogether. She took up with a bohemian artist who utilized her as a model and relished her as his lover. Together, they made art like it was their only love, and they made love like it was an art. In other words, they were very happy.

Despite her upbringing, Didi took to marriage, and then motherhood, quite readily. They had three children, two girls and a boy. Fulbert was eventually promoted to the position of editor at the newspaper, and they moved into a nice house on a tree lined street in a fashionable part of the city. By all accounts, they were the picture of wedded bliss.

To hear their neighbors tell it, no one in Paris could recall a better suited couple than Madame Didi and Monsieur Fulbert Lémieux. They were known for being a fun-loving duo who could entertain people with wickedly funny stories that both amused and astounded. They were always careful to leave out the names of the people in their stories, so they wouldn’t cause any embarrassment to the subjects. Of course, people often tried to guess the identities of the characters and would beg to know if they had deduced correctly. But the couple would only shake their heads and say a tale is best told when it maintains some element of secrecy.

For example, Didi was fond of telling liberal minded friends about a young girl who had exaggerated the size of a particular part of a man’s anatomy, only to learn after she married him that it hadn’t been an exaggeration at all. Was that true? Didi wouldn’t say. She’d just smile.

THE END

 

 

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You might also like other books published by Scarlet Maiden. Find a listing of them at http://scarletmaiden.com.

 

 

Also authored by Chantaboute Hallshire…

 

 

The Very Last Billionaire Romance You’ll Ever Need

 

Humility Pryde is one lucky girl. She’s not dating just any old gorgeous billionaire. She’s having a torrid romance with Brad Massive—the world’s most gorgeous, most powerful, most sexy, ultra-ultra-ultra-billionaire! Other billionaires are mere pale shades of grey compared to suave, debonair, anatomically-blessed Brad. And, in his ravishing company, Humility is romanced with all the wonders money can buy. It’s the fantasy every girl dreams of. But can it last?

 

Scarlet Maiden

 


Didi: The Tale of a Would-Be Courtesan

The Princess of Parody, Chantaboute Hallshire, takes on La Belle Époque in this scrumptious tale of a 19th century Parisian girl whose mission is to find a wealthy wife for a man so that the girl, herself, can then become his properly kept mistress. Didi has been trained to follow in the family tradition of being a wealthy married man’s “kept woman.” As her mother explains, it’s all the benefits of being romanced without the drudgery of keeping house. Unfortunately, Fulbert is the man she truly loves, and he’s neither rich nor married. Her solution: get him married to a well-to-do woman so he’ll have the means to keep Didi as his mistress. Thus begin the comic adventures of matchmaking in the City of Love.

  • Author: Scarlet Maiden
  • Published: 2017-06-11 15:50:09
  • Words: 9404
Didi: The Tale of a Would-Be Courtesan Didi: The Tale of a Would-Be Courtesan