Chapter 1

Written by: Hemali Ajmera

Comte Beauregard de Valois was a pudgy, balding nobleman with rotting teeth. He was excessively fond of things that nobility is notorious for. His wife, Comtesse Marie Josephe, almost 20 years his junior, was an ambitious lady who had remained married to Comte Beauregard primarily for his wealth and status. She was a classic beauty with porcelain skin vividly contrasting her dark cascading hair and black expressive eyes. Her slim, upright frame had most admirably borne the burden of birthing four children. 

When Marie was still an adolescent, her family had fallen upon bad times. Her father, Baron Villeneuve de Anjou, had lost all his land and fortune to gambling. The only way to save his family from destitution was to marry his winsome daughter to a rich, high-ranking nobleman. Soon Marie Josephe became Comtesse de Valois, the second wife of Comte Beauregard de Valois. The widowed Comte was immediately besotted with his young bride and eagerly paid off all his father-in-law’s debts. As for Marie Josephe de Anjou, the marriage was a welcome reprieve from poverty and dishonour. 

However, Marie had not been able to hold her husband’s affections for very long. After the birth of their fourth child, the Comte had found a mistress and then another. The Comtesse was incensed but there was not much she could do about her husband’s philandering ways.        

Josephine, who inherited her mother’s beauty, was their eldest child.   

A month after Josephine turned eighteen, a powerful aristocrat named Marquis Guy Leroy Hamelin de Auvergne had visited her father’s estates as an emissary to settle a long standing dispute between the Comte and the King. The Comte had taken a calculated risk by insisting that his beautiful daughter accompany him to the meeting. The next day, the middle-aged Marquis had asked for Josephine’s hand. The Comte and Comtesse were more than happy to oblige.   

Soon after the betrothal, the Marquis had ordered that Josephine be sent to his château in Auvergne to initiate wedding formalities. Her father had arranged for a splendid coach with four black stallions and four attendants to accompany his favourite child to her marital home.

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A clamorous splash followed by frantic thrashing and neighing alerted Général Alexandre who had been passing through the forest. Through pouring rain, he steered his steed in the direction of the noise. When he arrived at the bank of the icy river, he saw a dainty hand rising above the water from a fast sinking carriage.   

Without another thought, Alexandre plunged into the frigid waters and swam toward the carriage. He prised the door open and pulled a semi-conscious Josephine away from the submerging carriage. Her weighted blue silk gown made it difficult to swim but Alexandre’s strong arms embraced Josephine and hauled her to safety. 

Alexandre breathed air into Josephine’s mouth and pumped her chest gently to eject water from her lungs. Slowly Josephine opened her eyes and stared at her saviour’s handsome face in gratitude. It was love at first sight.

Comments

My goodness Hemali. You have filled in all the gaps in this story and set it firmly in its period with all the people well established and ready to start playing their part in the story as it unfolds. This is excellently executed and I'm sure the next writers will thoroughly enjoy telling Josephine's tale. Congratulations!
What a lovely chapter! It’s a real skill to create such a believable back story and to convert such detail in 500 words and you have done it masterfully. What a great start to this serial.
Great chapter, Hemali. For a moment I forgot I was sitting in front of my computer in the twenty-first century!
This is such a well-written chapter, Hemali. I feel myself sittting in the scenes watching everything unfold. And so beautifully told in the era's language. Wow!
Thank you everyone!! Just trying to do my best to keep up with the best!!!