Prologue: Upper Class Society
Erik Manzart's journal July the 12th
1814, the ballroom of the Garnier estate
I had arrived that evening in the great yellowish-golden light of my parent's ballroom with a sense of wariness filling my heart. My name or rather my title was the Earl of Boucherville, this was how everyone knew me and they addressed me either as my lord, or Boucherville. I had been announced by Nadir, my personal servant and best childhood friend for over twenty years now. His son, Reza walked by me with a tray of glittering fizzy champagne glasses. He offered me one and I took it before quietly slipping away to the overseeing balcony. As was my habit I preferred to watch the party then actually attending it nowadays.
Who am I? My name, my Christian name that is, is Erik Charles Manzart, and who I am is of little importance. No one really gave a damn these days anyway. People only recognized me by my honorifics, sending their 'lovely' daughters in flocks to drool over me like a pack of dogs. All of which bored me to tears with their competition over me as if I had any interest in any of them. Sometimes, for the sakes of my own amusement I would smile at them and flirt a little. The girls would faint as I smiled at each one, and gave them the obligatory kiss on the hand.
Not knowing any of their names and simply referring to them as 'Mam'selle' and they would fall like melting candle-wax pooling on the floor like a great massive lake of frilly dresses. I would pretend interest in them for a few minutes till I was bored and then excuse myself. As I walked away, I would have a private laugh to myself as they bickered amongst themselves over which one of them I fancied more, when in truth I had no interest in any of these women and most likely never would. They were all the same to me, well-bread and gentle little girls who wouldn't know an adventure if it literally beat them on the head.
So I stopped associating with them all together and as I stood there at the balcony of the great ballroom I watched the commotion with a certain amount of amusement. I had always detested public gatherings, they were just another thing for the upper-class to waist oodles of money on and in the end create more bastards that they did not see fit to claim, lest they hand over power to those undeserving children who were formed at the bosoms of mothers who foolishly tried to rise above their stations in society. Where they were disappointed and only to find themselves being fooled into the haystacks with foolhardy young officers drunk on beer or whisky and looking for a fling, a quick romp in the hay and then their devotion was gone.
Those children at least had the good fortune of not being shunned by this harsh world. It was easy to excuse a bastard by saying his father had been killed off whilst he had been off fighting that dreadful war in England for our dear leader Bonaparte. If the officer happened to show up, this was a very rare occurrence the woman would say that he had been the identical twin of the man. As the man wanted less to do with the child then he would with horse droppings, he agreed and squeezed out a tear for this fictional brother who did not exist. No one questioned him afterwards and the mother pretending to grieve for the lover she never had would be free to go on her way.
She would raise the child if it was male to join his Majesty's army or navy if he preferred the sea where he would be celebrated, his illegitimacy forgotten in his heroism. If the baby had been so unfortunate as to be born a girl however, she would grow up accepting the match of a clergyman who would only be twice her age if he was lucky. Perhaps a rather handsome hardworking fellow, a farmer or tenant to a lord of some esteem if she was really beautiful. Someone well off enough to not be poor but not rich either, someone whom the people respected and loved enough to overlook her 'situation.' They were the truly the most fortunate because they actually got to fall in love with their husbands instead of finding them disgusting.
The ones who married the clergymen were doomed to a life of misery as well as utter and endless boredom. They were the women who became sour-faced in their old age with no traces of their former beauty remaining about to lose everything to their son who despised them for their bitterness and worshipped his father the way sons were supposed to do. They were to love their mothers and worship the grounds their fathers stepped on. Whilst the mothers who had nursed them from birth withered in the corner, rocking slowly back and forth on a rocking chair held together by the grace of God.
She would shrivel up and die that way with a cup of lukewarm tea spilled unceremoniously at her feet. Staining the rug she had kept spotless all the years of her marriage, her son would come in with his fiancé—some knocked up chambermaid of some lowly-titled lord he had been ministering for her. Plain faced and frumpy, someone he had never intended to marry, only to ease the urges of his youth. It would be the same as all the others of its kind a secret affair where no one would give a damn whether he slept with her because she was nothing but a servant.
Now heavy-laden with his bastard son or daughter he was forced to wed her in order to protect the sanctity and reputation of the church. He would her in her chair and weep, though it was really his intended who ought to be weeping. She was doomed to be trapped in a never ending cycle of the aforementioned. She would be dulled to the point of breaking in a life of church, modesty and too many children. It was a curse more than a blessing but such was her fate in this harsh time. Even in these modern days of the nineteenth century the bastards of the world had to be taught to stay in their rightful God-given place.
They didn't have the rights to marry above their station in fact it would be better if they all married one another and forgave their children the misery of that fate. But that was never going to happen, they would repeat the cycle and for this the innocent would be tortured and left them to fend for themselves. I looked at the crowd, picking out the illegitimate ones on sight. One could always tell them by the sullen, downtrodden expressions on their faces as they looked, gaping at the glittering world of the ones born wealthy. It was sad in an almost pathetic way, and I did feel a twinge of pity for the children cursed by their parent's lust.
It was however, the children of the nobles that I pitied the most, the lovechildren that is because they were the ones who had it the worst. I should know, my name by birth is Erik De Chagny, I am the middle of the three Chagny boys, second only by my brother Philippe (28) and the baby Raoul (18) I am 24 and should rightfully be the Vicomte at my age, but I do not claim this as according to society I have no right to. My birth-father was the handsome and amorous Comte Philibert, a drunken womanizer may he rest in peace, who died at the tragic age of fifty. When Philippe was 26, I 22 and Raoul 16, in his will he had left everything to the two sons he claimed and nothing to me.
I was not less than unsurprised by this nor did I really care to be perfectly honest, as I had only met the man once or twice and found him loathsome at best. No, I preferred to claim the surname of the man who had raised me as his own, Charles Manzart and my mother, the formal Comtesse Perrlut, first name Marie. He was a sober, steady and above all sterile and saw nothing wrong with claiming me as his own for two very practical reasons. Those being to save Marie, adulteress that she was, and by extension himself from the utter shame and disgrace of the whole mess and two to finally have the heir he so desperately wanted but could not produce.
Due to his position in Parisian society no one dared question the birth of the man's only son. After all I was quite beautiful and seeing as my father was the Duke de Garnier no one dared to challenge the reliability of his word. Father is after all, the most powerful man in the district so what he said was always correct even when it wasn't so. Hell, he could have commanded people to believe as they had in the sixteenth century that the world was flat and they would go right along with it. If father said he had a son, then he had a son and that was that, end of discussion; no inquiries needed as if there ever were any,
The only problem was the matter of the left side of my face, which was repulsive but easily excused because I loved horses very, very much. I'd had loved them since I was a child so my father had used that for an explanation. Father had blamed it on a fire in the stables and said that when I was two I had not been listening to him and was where I wasn't supposed to be. Then due to the drunken stable master falling asleep with a cheroot in his hand the hay caught fire and I rushed to save the horses, in the process being badly burned. He said I was lucky to have been left alive and fired the man on the spot. That part was at least true because Joseph Bouquet was really a dreadful man with a heavy, heavy thirst for the drink.
My father had fired the man at once when he had caught the man trying to give me a swig of his cheap wine. The kind that tasted awful but got a man drunker than a skunk by the time the second mouthful slid down the gullet. He drank several bottles a day sometimes three or four in the space of one hour, so that he was teetering on the edge of his splintering wooden chair. I had heard him singing in a slurred, off-key way so that the words were unintelligible. Of course being five I was naturally curious to what the noise was, and came into the stables to see the man and be handed his bottle to me.
I had been curious as to why he was so fat and red-faced in the cheeks, as jolly and out of it as a dizzy clown. I smelled it, it smelled like grapes which have always been my favorite fruit and I was about to put it to my lips. When father came looking for me to give me my daily riding lesson and took the bottle from me and fired the drunkard the moment he saw the brand on the bottle knowing it was the kind he usually drank and seeing Bouquet passed out snoring in the dirt and straw, his face in a pile of horse manure that was it. Father yanked the drunken fool up by his oily brown hair, yelled in his ear and tossed him out the door where he stumbled onto the road. No doubt heading to the local bar to spend the franc's father had tossed him for his service on more booze.
The people of the French aristocracy did not know this story however and were content to fawn over and pity me. I did not contradict them because if I did father would be disgraced in front of the public. People would see him as a liar and his reputation would be destroyed as would mine. So I let the women call me a poor little darling and kiss my face. The men would ruffle my dark hair and call me a 'regular ole soldier' and tell Father that I would be fine because of the title and also because I was such a charmer already. Father would beam proudly and tell them not to forget that I was in possession of a brilliance that was akin to something miraculous.
They would laugh and humor the man, saying of course he would say something like this because I was his only son and heir to a title that many men would envy. In other words what they were implying that I could have been dumber than a wooden post and he would still praise my virtues. Of course no one blamed the man, they saw it perfectly normal that a man should be infatuated with his first born son and act like he was God's gift to humanity, especially after so many years of trying to conceive. It was only right that my father should revel in his success and achieving a male child on the first try.
But my father was not lying; I had indeed been born with a supernatural genius so great that my first cry had been more like the singing of a cherub than the wail of a newborn. It had been such a shock that mother had dashed me from her breast to the floor where father had scooped me up in his strong hair-roughened arms. He had thought I was beautiful despite my face, because only a truly beautiful child could be blessed with a voice like my own. Still they had kept me inside for the first two years of my life, telling whoever came calling that his boy was away at nursing school. This was not a complete lie as I was in my room nursing my genius.
By the time I was three I could play the piano better than most and was writing music, my own music that made Mozart look like a simpleton. When I was three my father had took me out into the streets when he concocted a story to tell people. No one knew the real reason I looked like this that my mother had swallowed arsenic while pregnant with me in an attempt to murder me before I was born and her secret was discovered. This was the will of her lover so that his family name was not tarnished by the fate of exposure. But Father would not have it and claimed me as his own at once.
Father had told my mother that he appreciated her giving him his heir and if my birth father had anything to say about it he would deal with him personally. Of course my birth-father did nothing and blamed the whole mess on my father's mutated seed. Father had ignored the challenge to his masculinity and returned home to the Duchess who was lying in bed, taking the customary three days to recover from the birth. He had then placed me back in my mother's arms and she looked down at the damage she did to me. She wept for her only child and begged God's forgiveness for doing this to me, clasping my wailing for to her breasts and allowing me to eat from her.
They had loved me more than anything and within reason had not denied me anything. Anything I wanted father and mother would give me, a private music teacher was no trouble. If I wished to take trips to exotic places, no issue for father who did not see anything wrong with a young man seeing the world in his youth before he did what he expected of him. But mother worried (as she was apt to do) that these trips would be ones of corrupted pleasure rather than education. Father however, waved her off and took me anyway as he always did.
For my sixteenth birthday there was a trip to Persia where I learned to do magic and ventriloquism. I spent some time learning to do illusions and getting into trouble with passing gypsies. Who taught me to dance in their ways and told me fantastic stories of faraway lands. For my eighteenth birthday a trip to Milan was in order for me to indulge my passion for music and architecture. Performances at La Scala and then architecture lessons from the greatest mason in Italy, a man named Giovanni Vincenzo. He taught me everything I needed to know all about the mathematics and forms of it all.
When I turned 21 however father did something mother had detested, he sent me to a brothel and paid the courtesan to make me a man. I had detested it, because mother had told me that women who did this may carry all kinds of illness that made me sick. But the real reason I did not like it was because I knew how many other men had used her and that she was using me the same way. Money for sex, with a woman who had no respect for herself and no respect for me, but still it was expected of a young aristocrat to become a man at that age.
Three years had passed without incident but now that my fundamental youth was over the pressure was on. Now that I was 24, my parents were fretting that I would never marry, and they were right to. The fact that I was single at my age without even an engagement to ensure my future was something that thoroughly vexed my mother. I just wished they would leave me be about my unmarried status because really what was the hurry? Why do I suddenly have to marry just because I was a nobleman? The only answer I could give was this welcome to upper-class society.
For Hannah and Zoe
A/N: This is my first attempt at a regency Phantom fic, tell me how I did?