‘Tell me, Darcy, what kind of tutor would you prefer? I assume by your passionate persuasion this is what you are asking of me—a new tutor?”
“Yes, father, it is,” she responded, wary of his quick observation. “I was hoping that you could find someone with a little more enthusiasm and imagination to bring vibrancy to my lessons. Possibly someone younger? Now that I have received this missive from Professeur Philippot, it is obvious that my teacher is prejudiced against me. How can I learn from a man who does not believe women should be educated past a certain age?” Darcy handed her tutor’s note to her father.
Already aware of its contents, Gautier quickly glanced at Philippot’s note and tossed it aside on his desk. “Napoleon believes you should marry, Darcy. He has mentioned several prospects to me in the past few weeks. I have avoided giving my consent, but as you well know you are already six years past the marital age. I am only delaying the inevitable,” he sighed. “Still, I promised your mother I would give you a chance to prove yourself worthy of becoming my sole heir. What makes you think you deserve more time?”
Darcy sucked in her breath. Her mind was spinning for the right answer. Twice she opened her mouth to speak, then closed it. When her father sighed again in frustration, however, she dove into the heart of her argument for a new tutor and time. She surprised herself at how adamantly the words tumbled out of her mouth. “The French, father, admit more of mind into their ideas of beauty. They give preference to women of thirty which they say have allowed a woman to develop into her most perfect state, when her vivacity gives place to reason and to that majestic seriousness of character which marks maturity.”
“Darcy! I will not give you until you are thirty, and most certainly, Napoleon will not!”
“Of course not, father, but I have yet to reach my twentieth birthday,” she pled confidently. “Surely you can see the wisdom of more time? When a woman is in her twenties, the flexible muscles of the face grow daily with the embellishments of experience and learning, giving character to the countenance. This provides a map of the powers within and how they will be employed. I must be given the time and the proper tutor to discover my own empowerment. In doing so, it will bring proof to you of my capabilities of being your heir and a richer, wiser treasure, for a husband. Wouldn’t you agree?”
“Perhaps.” Her father raised his brows slowly. “You’ve attempted a convincing and tactical argument, Darcy. For this alone, I will provide you with a new tutor—and a bit more time. But I must warn you, Napoleon is actively seeking marital material to lure the young of the old aristocracy back to enrich his empire with their refined and learned minds. He worries about the lack of polish and knowledge amongst the remaining French population. It has already been suggested that you would be a worthy and most enticing inducement for this campaign. Tread carefully, Darcy, and learn your lessons well. I will do all I can to delay for your benefit, but not many are able to deny the great Napoleon what he wants in the end. You are free for now. Go, daughter, and paint me one of your beautiful pictures.”
Darcy leapt from the chair, crossing over to her father to place a kiss on his worried cheek. No wonder mother loves him so dearly, she thought. She turned and blew another kiss upon leaving his study. Yes! She had acquired extra time. What’s more, she was free at this very moment—that is, until the new tutor would arrive. But that could take days and then she must truly buckle down or she would certainly not be able to advance to the next step— proving the capability of wisely choosing her own mate for life.
Before painting her picture, however, she retraced her steps back to the library in order to rescue Wollstonecraft’s book from the place where she had carelessly laid it.
Gautier watched his daughter’s long dark hair catch the afternoon sun from the window of his study. The long tresses swayed gently beneath the bonnet in rhythm with the movement of her graceful walk. She was a tall willowy young woman with a figure to take a man’s breath away and a face that would quickly render him in awed speechlessness with it’s perfect oval symmetry. His brows knitted together with fatherly worry, knowing he could not protect her from the cruelty, greed, and lust of the outside world forever.
It had taken all his tactical acumen to keep Napoleon from discovering the beautiful woman into which his daughter had blossomed. The man was not stupid. The ruler had an eye for gorgeous women. Gautier knew he had witnessed Darcy from afar on her eleventh birthday, prophesying to him then that she was bound to grow into a real beauty. Nothing missed Napoleon’s incredibly vibrant orbs and Gautier had had a devil of a time keeping Darcy completely out from under their keenly searching scrutiny. He must come up with a plan to protect her, giving her a chance to find the kind of love he shared with her mother. Perhaps, if he was very clever, he could satisfy Napoleon and still provide a love match for the daughter he adored. It would take careful planning and infinite timing. Satisfied, he knew he was quite capable of both. He would begin by appealing to Napoleon’s ambitions to gain back the aristocracy of the past through his strong desire to reestablish literacy and morality among his subjects. Gautier would initiate this effort by counseling with his old friend Jacque-Rose Récamier.
Jacque was a banker and had recently purchased the home of Jacques Necker, on the Rue due Mont-Blanc. Six years ago, Récamier had married a girl of sixteen, known to her friends as Juliette. Like Darcy, Juliette was endowed with beauty of face and figure and had developed almost every known possible charm of the feminine character. She was kind, tactful, sympathetic, graceful, tender, tasteful and added to these lovely characteristics was a sensuous pliancy that had stirred many males without any threat to her virginity. Gautier had been to their home many times and witnessed the face of his friend standing in rapt silence listening to Juliette sing or observing her delicate hands on the pianoforte or harp in proud appreciation. Récamier, to a certain extent, was the kind of husband Gautier had wanted for Darcy. He cushioned Juliette with every comfort. What was even more astounding, he never insisted on his conjugal rights. Juliette was now twenty-two and would make a good and wise companion for Darcy. Gautier was sure of it. As soon as he could arrange it, he would visit La Récamier’s salon.
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