Rogues And Lovers
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5 Bakunawa: A Re-telling 2
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Rogues And Lovers
Author :posiesandcures
© Webnovel

5 Bakunawa: A Re-telling 2

Monsieur LaCour always had in mind to treat ladies dismally and often with icy civility. His impeccable manners, though if one's eye were keen enough, one would see the mockery in them, had saved him from gossip-mongers' tongues and being cast out of Manila's elite circle, though he didn't care as much as his father did.

The young lord was pale, not even the hot Southeast Asian sun could color him a little; and his hair, always swept to the side, was red as cheap wine. His hair, which had been dubbed by his maman as "red gold", unfortunately, could not be credited as part of his good looks, if he had any, or his charm. The young Monsieur LaCour could only be praised for his manners, as his small, green eyes, bird's beak-nose, freckled cheeks, and thin lips were anything but below average.

It was over dinner M. LaCour broke the news to his family that he had found a girl amicable enough to marry, his mestiza neighbor, Luisa Isabella Ricardo y—the rest of her name M. LaCour could scarcely remember. His mother had an aversion for half-lings such as the pretty Luisa, and choked on her wine upon hearing this sudden announcement; his father, Monseigneur LaCour, held his gaze on his son's face, his gray whiskers drooped and dipped into his wine glass.

"Arrie," his younger sister Cleone harped in joyous accents, "doesn't it please you to know that at least a mestiza finds you handsome enough to marry?"

"Ma fille," M. LaCour tersely muttered, "please refrain from calling her a mestiza."

Mademoiselle Cleone wrinkled her pretty, pert nose. "But that is what she is! Bah! A half-ling."

"Armand," his mother gasped, "but you are too young to consider marriage! And think of the girl, mon cher, she is but a child, and witless! No real fortune, no accomplishments, a nouveau riche, and I've heard from Señorita Atienza the girl's mother isn't even a mestiza, but a poor, opportunistic indio."

Monsieur raised one gloved hand and silenced the women. He raised glassy eyes to his father, who bowed his head a little and continued eating. "Maman, have you forgotten why we even moved to Manila at your cousin's suggestion?"

"Y-yes, mon enfant, but t-those were different circumstances—"

"Nonetheless, cherie, if I do not pursue a relationship with Mademoiselle—er—Mademoiselle—Cleone—?" He looked to his sister.

"Mademoiselle Villaverde," his sister supplied.

"Yes—if I do not pursue my suit, you may as well imagine yourself back in Versailles, maman, seven years back."

Madame shivered upon remembering of Versailles. "You have made your point, Armand," she stuttered, "but, mon fils, she is still in a very delicate age; and you, well, don't you have plans to visit the colonies and P-Paris by the end of the month?"

"And didn't you plan to stay in India for at least ten years?" Cleone intervened.

"A marriage by proxy shall take place tomorrow, as what Monseigneur Villaverde and I agreed to."


The women gasped in chorus. "You are set on this, aren't you, Armand?" Madame muttered.

"Yes, maman," said the young lord.

"Oh Arrie, 'tis noble of you to sacrifice this much for your family," Cleone whispered.

"But 'tis not a sacrifice, ma seour, as it will benefit us all heavily." He sipped his wine slowly, pleased to find his family composed as he'd hoped.

"What are the conditions has that damn Spaniard set for you, Armand?" said Monseigneur LaCour with eyes flashing.

"Père," gasped the young lord, "there are no conditions, as it was I who set them."

"Are we so destitute you'd commit social suicide, Armand?" snapped Monseigneur. "Think of what the alcalde or Governor-general might say against us!"

"I care not a whit, Monsiegneur, as I've thought pass them. Had you had better hold on your purse strings, this would not have led me to beg like a common peasant!"

Thus, dinner ended with Monsiegneur LaCour nursing a wounded pride in his bedchamber, the two women in the drawing room sipping sherry to help them sleep, and the younger M. LaCour in the library writing a little note to give to his intended.

M. LaCour stayed well into the late hours of night, perfecting the curves and curls of his penmanship, rather than the content of his note. Had he been honest, he would not bother writing a missive at the early hours of twilight, but it seemed particularly rude not to drop even a little hint of concern for Mademoiselle Luisa when he visited her home the next day.

Dressed in a dark jacket, white pantaloons, and polished, Hessian boots, M. LaCour set his sojourn to his intended's manor with his letter tucked securely in his jacket pocket. The red hair he swiped to the side, hoping it at least had a resemblance of order.

"Mon dieu," his sister behind him gasped, "'tis not a funeral you are to attend!"

"No, but 'tis the end of my bachelorhood."

In haste, the young lord marched to the manor beside his. With a graceful flick, he pounded the knocker against the door and placed his polished hand behind his back. He waited patiently as footsteps hurried to the door. A short, stout woman opened it and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. Her tan face paled at the sight of him, and this did not go unnoticed to M. LaCour.

He craned his head slightly and stared hard at the woman, trying to place her face to any of his acquaintances. The woman opened the door wide for him; he entered, and still he could not give himself a name for her.

"S-shall I tell the master you are here?" she stumbled in broken French.

Recognizing her awful accent, it occurred to M. LaCour where he had seen her. "Please do, Camila. And the, um, wh-where is your young—er—mistress?"

Camila turned paler. "I-in the nursery, monsieur. S-shall I accompany you there?"

He shook his head. "No need. I trust I have already memorized where the nursery is located."

The nursemaid nodded her head and skittered quick, just as the same way the first time he saw her in this house. Jittery mouse with a shrew's face, he thought.

He felt for the letter tucked in his jacket pocket and proceeded to the nursery. The halls, filled with paintings of dead men and their equally dead eyes, kept his company for the rest of his journey, until he came upon the nursery door and a shiver ran through his whole person.

Slowly he reached for the brass knob, whispered a quick prayer, and turned it. A flash of pale pink zipped across the room and behind a chair. M. LaCour stared long at the pink ribbon sticking out, and he softly closed the door behind him. The room, with walls painted white, had a stack of luggage on one corner—a sight which put him unease.

He rested his eyes upon the pink ribbon. "Halloooo," he said in the gentlest and friendliest way he could. "Are you playing a game?"

"Yes, but you're ruining it," said an impish voice in Spanish.

"May I play with you?"

"No."

He sighed and strode to the chair where his intended hid. "You will sully your pretty dress, Luisa."

The girl jumped and smiled wide. "Arrie, I was just teasing. Don't tell Camila about my dress, please."

M. LaCour sat on the chair where Luisa stood next and smiled, rummaging his jacket pockets for the letter he wrote. "D'you know what I have here with me?"

"No, no, no," Luisa whined. "Not another letter in French!"

"I'm trying to teach you French."

"But why must you, Arrie?" she whined, and her brown eyes glittered in indignation.

M. LaCour couldn't muster the truth and sighed in relief upon the appearance of Monseigneur Villaverde at the gaping doorway. The Spaniard had olive-skin, of which his daughter inherited, and eyes M. LaCour could only describe as intense.

"Luisa, let papa talk with Armand," the Spaniard softly said, but M. LaCour could certainly hear the icy civility the older gentleman used—against the child or to the Frenchman, M. LaCour could only guess.

The child pattered to the hall and yelled for her yaya. "Camila, Camila! Arrie brought another tedious assignment for me," the gentlemen heard as M. Villaverde shut the door.

"Armand," M. Villaverde said as he reached an open palm to his visitor.

M. LaCour flicked his coat tails back and stood quick to pump his host's hand. "Good morning," he said in Spanish.

M. Villaverde rested his eyes upon the dolls lined up on the shelves above the Frenchman's head, and a slight curl of his lip suggested a smile. "Have you informed your family of the affair, which shall take place later this morning?"

"Yes, my sister and cousin, Philip, will come as witnesses. I expect the Bishop is—"

"Don't worry about the Bishop, Armand. He's a distant relative, who'd keep all of this in the dark."

M. LaCour fell quiet, which M. Villaverde took as a sign of doubt.

"Taking a querida or two isn't a problem with me, Armand. You're young. I'd understand your needs."

But M. LaCour did not understand what M. Villaverde understood. He bowed his head and said in a rush, "In d-due time, I-I hope to become a good h-husband to your daughter."

"Yes, yes," M. Villaverde absentmindedly said, "but really, Armand, I blame you not if you do get a mistress, especially once you travel the world."

"Monseigneur," M. LaCour hotly gasped, "I-I will do no such thing! The p-purpose of my j-journey—"

"Oh, spare me the explanation, Armand, when I've heard it before. Let me reiterate to you, then, the purpose of this marriage of convenience." M. Villaverde put a hand on M. LaCour's shoulder and whispered, "I am paying you for your family's connections."

M. LaCour nodded his head slowly, but couldn't understand the shiver running through his shoulder or the cold, alien voice M. Villaverde used. "Y-yes, sir."

M. Villaverde, in hasty fashion, invited his soon-to-be son-in-law for a late breakfast, and ordered for two coaches, one for his daughter and the other for him and his visitor, to be prepared for their respective errands.

In private, M. LaCour told M. Villaverde of the small cottage his family kept by the seaside. "I have had it arranged for Luisa," he said.

M. Villaverde, preoccupied of his meal, replied, "Good, good, then we are ready for the Bishop."

In a whirlwind of movements, luggage, coaches, and horses, M. LaCour watched in dumbstruck silence the coach which took Luisa and Camila to the direction of his family's cottage. Stiffly, he sat in his own coach, staring at his soon-to-be father-in-law half-drunk with wine and calling for the driver to hurry because he had a wedding to attend.

"Why so taut, Armand? You're not having second thoughts, are you?" M. Villaverde teasingly said. "Please do think of your family, sir."

"No, monsieur, I just think how unruly you look for your own child's wedding."

A deep dimple appeared on Monseigneur's left cheek, and he laughed hard with a tear streaming down his eye. "Then, let us hope we won't be seeing each other after this affair. Driver, take us to the Bishop."

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