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The practice of genuine virtue leads to a life of odious boredomof that there can be no questionand I cannot imagine that there is a woman alive who honestly aspires to the unhealthy ideal of true feminine chastity. The appearance of virtue, however, is a very useful thing. Scandal is a noblewoman's enemy; it robs her of her freedom and her place in society, and it ought to be avoided at all costs. As the only daughter of Frederick the Great's most famous general, I have always known what Prussian society expects of me, and given the constraints placed on young women like myself, I have never doubted that a certain amount of deception is essential to my personal happiness. To actually be as virtuous as narrow convention demands is far too high a sacrifice for any woman to make; to appear virtuous, however, requires only a small measure of ingenuity and a little luck.
Until the age of twenty, I could boast that I had lived a perfect life of apparent virtue, enjoying all the pleasures that are every woman's natural birthright without the slightest injury to either my status or my person. I have now, however, had one notable failure, and I feel compelled to record the story of this unhappy event, so that others might avoid the snares that caught me.
Let me first explain more clearly the general principles that have guided me since my youth.
It became evident to me at a young age that if a woman wishes for herself a degree of independence in her erotic pursuits, she must take care that the men in her life remain discreet and tractable. Achieving this state of affairs is no easy task, and the institution of marriage is, as the turbulent history of my own family attests, no solution to the problem. Accorded a greater degree of free movement than women, men are correspondingly more difficult to keep silent and still, and this fact introduces a great many complexities when you are seeking to gain some measure of control over them. The male's natural loquaciousness and desire for gratuitous self-display only adds to the problem. Secrecy is a woman's greatest boon, publicity a man's first desire, and in understanding that fact, you have understood the origins of the war that rages between the sexes.
Fear of death is, of course, an excellent inducement for a man to hold his tongue, and if you are lucky enough to find yourself in a situation in which the man would forfeit his life should he reveal his true relationship with you, then you find yourself well placed indeed. If you, like me, live in a garrison town, the ready availability of soldiers offers excellent possibilities in this regard. Everyone knows that fucking the general's daughter is a hanging offense in the Prussian army, and because of this wise policy, I have been entertained by countless recruits without the slightest harm to either my reputation or theirs.
This healthy and useful diversion, such a source of consistent enjoyment throughout my youth, was sadly no longer available to me when my family decided to send me to Paris to live with my aging aunt and my cousin Robert, and it was in this new city that I made my first misstep.
At this point in my life, I had been recently widowed, after a brief and uneventful marriage to a man much older than myself, and my father had decided that closer ties to my late mother's relatives in Paris would be useful both to me and to the family. When the roads cleared in the spring, I left Berlin with a small staff and my belongings, for an extended stay in the French capital, accompanied by my deaf and nearly blind aunt, who talked of nothing across all of Germany but her eagerness to see her son. My cousin Robert did his best to make his mother and me welcome in his Paris house when we arrived, and as a man of wide-ranging philosophical interests, he was a pleasant and diverting companion. I spent many fruitful hours watching him at his delicate experiments, and we discussed Bailly and Lavoisier over dinner every evening with great enthusiasm.
Unfortunately, I could find little else to do for amusement in my cousin's house, all of Robert's male servants being either old or ill-formed.
Robert had always been fond of me, and he was happy to have me and his mother with him. That I did not doubt. But during my early days in Paris, there was sometimes a certain tension about him that made me wonder if the sudden introduction of two women into his household had not altered his solitary habits in ways that he sometimes found straining.
I arrived home early one afternoon from my walk in the park to discover that that was indeed the case. My deaf old aunt was off taking chocolate with some other ancient countess, and our manservant opened the door with a look of unusual nervousness. I would have noticed his odd manner had my mind not been distracted by an injury my little dog had sustained during our walk. He had scraped his paw against a rough stone while playing in the grass, and given the calamity that had befallen my darling, I was deaf to the pressing suggestions of the loyal old man that I wait in the front room for a glass of wine to refresh me after my walk.
After ordering the man to send up hot water and some rags for my poodle, I ascended the stairs to my bedroom, but decided, halfway up, that I wanted a book to entertain me if I was to spend a quiet afternoon alone with my poor pet, and I returned to the library.
I entered the door to find Robert reclining on his new red velvet divan with his breeches around his ankles. A very strong and energetic girl was taking her pleasure across his lap, and he was holding her ass very tightly, his eyes focused with intense concentration on her generous bouncing breasts.
She was astonishingly well formed, the girl in my cousin's lapplump, pretty and blonde, and also entirely naked, and she was riding his cock with great vigor, which spoke well of the seriousness with which she approached her chosen profession.
I complimented my cousin on his taste in whores and asked him if he knew where his librarian had put the copy of Heloise, now that it was back from the binders.
Robert had been flustered by my precipitous entry, but when he noticed that I was not at all upset by the condition in which I had found him, he let out a hearty laugh and said he was pleased to discover that we shared a taste for more than philosophy.
He also revealed that the social appointment he kept with such insistent regularity every Thursday evening was in fact a visit to a local brothel, the place that Claudette (that was the name of the plump blonde in his lap) called home. He confessed himself relieved to know that despite having spent my early years in a desolate, hopeless backwater like Prussia (his words, not mine), I had not been quite as sheltered as he had assumed. Indeed, my cousin, in his kind and good-natured way, was so happy to be relieved of the unpleasantness of secrecy, which can be such an ugly source of discord in a home, that he gallantly suggested that if I had nothing better to do I should come along on his Thursday visits.
The brothel of Madame Barthez, my cousin's favorite house of pleasure, was equipped with an ingenious set of peepholes so that clients and their women might be watched with complete anonymity at any time, and through these little holes, placed discreetly through oil paintings or within the patterns of wallpaper, one could observe the favorite sport of the French aristocracy in all its vice-ridden variety. Unfortunately, despite its unquestionable visual interest, Madame Barthez's house could give me no actual physical pleasure, save what I could give myself. The brothel had no men on offer, and I have never been able to expand my tastes to girls, though I know that this is a damning mark of my provinciality (one for which Robert has often rebuked me).
Even with this additional source of diversion, my situation in Paris was still not what I would have wished for myself, and I was beginning to fear that I might well be confined to the modest pleasures of voyeurism for the foreseeable future. After all, there are only so many situations in which one can arrange to have fear of imminent death working to keep a man's lips sealed, and no such lucky occasion had presented itself to me in a while.
Then, on a slow Thursday at the brothel, an evening on which there happened to be very little for me to watch, I was sitting in the private room that the girls used when they were waiting for more clients to arrive, and a new opportunity arose.
The girls had gotten used to my visits over the weeks, and on this particular evening, they took little notice of me. Though I think that most of them had no real liking for me, they tolerated my presence amicably enough, mostly, I think, because my cousin was such a good customeryoung, rich and full of harmlessly perverse desires that helped run up his tab. One might expect that these girls would have preferred easy, simple jobs, but that was far from the case. They had all the disdain of aristocrats for the men who came to the bordello wanting nothing more than a short, satisfying fuck. Such straightforward, uncomplicated sexual urges they considered a mark of bad taste, and they felt ill-treated when all a client asked of them was the use of their pussy for a quarter hour.
It was this fastidiousness that provided me with a solution to my difficulties. There was one man in particular who was the constant object of their scorn, a commoner of some unspecified trade who, like my cousin, was always there on Thursdays. When Madame Barthez came to say that this man had arrived, the girls always squabbled over who would be sent to him. (Madame never said his name; she only announced with a severe eye, "He's here. One of you has to go.") She usually had to choose someone herself in the end, and the unlucky girl always left grumbling.
When asked why they disliked this client so much, the girls talked about his appallingly bad French (the man was a foreigneran Englishman or Irishman, probably Irish), and they mentioned the lack of ornament on his clothes; but the most common complaint was the simplicity and brevity of the services he required.
"He always arrives right after the theater lets out, so you're sure to miss a better client when you have to go to him, and then he takes his pathetic quarter hour and that is all you earn for the night."
"I think he's used to fucking cows on some English farm, the vulgar bastard."
"He doesn't even bother to undress, and when you walk in he hardly looks at you. He only tells you to get down on all fours on the bed, and then he just takes out that big horse's dick of his and rams it in, like some horny country boy."
"I tried loosening his breeches myself once, to see if I could get him to take a little more interest, but the stupid peasant just pushed my hand away and said that he wasn't paying extra for any theater."
"I moaned once, and he slapped me on the ass and told me to shut up."
"He's beneath us. Madame thinks so, toohe should just go and find a girl on the street. But he is a client of the Duke de Brecis, so Madame can't send him away."
These girls understood the web of social obligations that bound together the French aristocracy and their dependents better than most ladies-in-waiting.
It was a Thursday, and Madame Barthez had just ordered Claudette to go to this detested cheap client when the plan came to me, already fully formed, as if I had been considering it for weeks. A whole crowd of young Russian noblemen had just arrived in the foyer, and Claudette was complaining that she had been with the dreaded Irishman just two weeks ago, and arguing that it wasn't right to make her miss a chance at the Russians. The other girls were begging her to stop resisting, since none of them wanted to have to go themselves.
"How is he to look at, this foreigner?" I asked, speaking loudly in order to be heard over the bickering.
The girls all shrugged and said grudgingly (I could tell they hated to say anything nice about him) that he was not unappealing, if one did not mind the crudeness of his clothes.
"Does he have all his teeth?" They all gave little irritated sighs, vexed to have their argument interrupted by such a stupid question, and then told me that he did in fact still have all his teeth as far as they knew.
"I'll go, then," I said matter-of-factly, standing up from the lounge.
Madame Barthez laughed nervously. "Ah, la jeune comtesse is witty."
"I am not joking," I answered, pulling off my gloves and my jacket. "And I'll pay you for the time. Then you'll have double the fee for this Irishman, plus whatever Claudette can tease out of the Russians."
"But, Comtesse " Madame was clearly worried about what my cousin might think of my allowing myself to be used in this manner.
"Someone get me a dress." My own gown, I knew, would betray me; no one, even the stupidest commoner, would mistake it for that of a prostitute.
The girls were staring at me with wide eyesit is no small feat, I think, to shock a roomful of whoresall except Claudette, who pulled a garment out of the wardrobe and held it out toward me, smiling reassuringly, as if worried I might change my mind.
I had no intention of changing my mind. I could see no reason this unpopular client should not be made to provide me with some relief from my forced chastity. I do not know why this simple solution had not occurred to me before. Men flocked to this place every night, and not all of them traveled in elevated circles. I had no Irish aquaintances, and no English ones, at least not in Paris; this man would never know that I was not just another one of the many girls Madame Barthez had in supply. He would have no cause to tell anyone about our meeting, for no one boasts about sex with a whore. The girls would not begrudge me the satisfaction, and the man would never know he had done something about which it would be worthwhile to brag.