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Having watched them and provoked by their gay abandonment, he reveals himself, joins them, and they spend the night alternately sharing their intimate histories and their bodies in orgies of almost religious intensity. The stories they tell include the rape of one in a monastery and the nearly fatal...
Having watched them and provoked by their gay abandonment, he reveals himself, joins them, and they spend the night alternately sharing their intimate histories and their bodies in orgies of almost religious intensity. The stories they tell include the rape of one in a monastery and the nearly fatal debauchment of another in a convent, as well as encounters with a number of animals.
Author Edith Wharton had an unpublished work based on this text.
Gamiani, or Two Nights of Excess
The First Night
Although midnight had come and gone, light still blazed in the tall windows of the Countess Gamiani's mansion, and the orchestra played on.
Minuet followed quadrille as the guests at her ball whirled and bowed, curtsied and spun, the gowns of the women swirling, their jewels glittering.
With the grace of an empress, the Countess, raven hair agleam, ivory pallor enhanced by the candles' golden light, basked in the success of the event. Joining the dancers only occasionally, she circulated tirelessly among those of her guests too aged, dignified or exhausted to do more than watch from the sidelines or graze on the buffets laden with exotic delicacies and the best of wines.
From time to time, some flushed young man accosted her to stammer a compliment. I joined the chorus of praise, although remaining, as always, silent and watchful, the detached observer. My comments, carefully considered and expressed, were, I believe and hope, appropriate to a woman of the Countess's quality, and betrayed nothing of the passion she aroused in me, while, for her part, Gamiani's manner retained the aloofness which was swiftly driving me out of my mind.
"You are most amiable, Monsieur Alcide," she murmured in response to my most recent remark.
To my besotted ear, the accent of her native Italy only complemented her pronunciation...the sure sign in a Frenchman that lust has overpowered reason.
"Your presence at my little soirée"...a wave of her hand managed to indicate the prodigality of her largesse and at the same time dismiss it as the merest vanity..."is sure proofthat the evening has succeeded."
"Countess . . .," I began, "my dear, dear Gamiani . . ."
An amorous confession trembled on my lips, but I had no chance to express it.
"Ah," she said, looking over my shoulder. "The Comtesse de Vigny craves your attention. Don't let me deprive you of her company, my dear M. Alcide."
And before I could say more, she had moved on.
Watching her circulate through the crowded salon, I could only be struck even more by her grace, her good manners, her effortless style.
And yet . . . who was she, this so-called "woman of the world"? Everything about her was contradictory. Why, though young and beautiful, did she possess no husband, no lover (at least that I could discover), no close friends...not even any of those indigent relatives whom the warmth of wealth attracts as the lamp lures a moth? In the twelve months since she had launched herself in Parisian society, not a single cousin or niece had appeared, though a dozen could have lodged in her majestic residence without advertising their presence.
Each discovery about her uncovered another mystery. She was immensely wealthy, of course...but from what source? No vineyards, mines, banks, ships or estates bore the Gamiani name. As to her parentage, on learning she was of Italian descent, the most assiduous genealogists threw up their hands. In the inflaming heat of that mercurial nation, who knew what illicit liaisons might fester, even within the oldest families, or what resulting secrets would then lie walled up in the cloisters of its convents and monasteries?
She inspired rumors, not all of them benign. Even the most lavish praise for Gamiani's beauty, wit and good taste could terminate in a trickle of bile. Some blamed her inaccessibility on a heart as chill and hard as the diamonds she wore. Others suggested the reverse...a spirit too passionate, too romantic, which, profoundly wounded in some affair of the heart, had recoiled into solitude.
If I could probe beneath that surface, what motive might I find for her coldness toward me? Giving free rein to my facility for logic, I fantasized myself into the character of a psychic physician, surgically exposing her soul, dissecting it with the scalpel of my rationality.
But just as it seemed I had discounted every diagnosis, a voice from behind me proposed one which I had not considered.
"Ugh! I simply detest lesbians."
Startled, I turned to stare at the speaker. Gray-haired, thin-faced and sour, known to tout Paris as a relentless seducer of housemaids and a habitué of the less discriminating maisons closes, he was, all the same, not ignorant in these matters.
Gamiani a lesbian! How strangely the word "lesbian" rang in the ear. What images it summoned up: of voluptuous pleasures, of lusts carried to the ultimate degree, of endless foreplay, of releases which, once achieved, led only to greater but even less achievable delights.
Vainly, I tried to regain my former detachment, but in vain. I could think only of the Countess nude in the arms of another woman, hair tousled, body trembling; panting, gleaming with sweat, briefly spent, yet unsatiated, and whimpering for more . . .
Dizzy and sick, I pushed blindly through the crowd until I found an unoccupied side room, and collapsed, near to fainting, on a couch.
In time, I regained my detachment...and with it a determination the force of which both astonished and excited me.
If the object of my desire indeed found her pleasure in the arms of other women, then I would observe her in the enjoyment of it...and, in watching, satisfy the lust that filled me.
Faintly, I became aware that the orchestra was no longer playing. Another sound had taken the place of music: the pattering of rain on the window.
Looking down on the courtyard, I saw lamplit cobbles swept by a shower. Under the portico, people were taking their leave. From the vestiare, relays of servants ferried hats, cloaks and canes, while others, holding umbrellas, sheltered departing guests to the carriages drawing up on the boulevard.
Everyone was too busy to notice me as I moved without haste toward the private apartments of the Countess.
Her rooms were all that I had expected in luxury and good taste, or could have hoped for in potential for concealment. Her parlor was furnished with gilded . . .Gamiani, or Two Nights of Excess. Copyright © by Alfred de Musset. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.