Paris Green

Bruce Douglas Cummings

 

The chief stomach poisons
are the arsenicals--e.g., Paris green
(copper acetoarsenite), lead
arsenate, and calcium arsenate.

-Encyclopedia Britannica

 

Winter
settles astride the old French capital

like consumption on the bosom of our Mistress. Night, which in winter exhibits little kindness toward Parisians, parades gaudily this evening in the lace of fat, furry snowflakes. The snow melts into the slops swimming along the boulevard. As it freezes, later, the cold shall spare us the aroma of this obscene glace'.

Today I found myself unable to serve Monsieur le Marquis at table. Monsieur le Marquis is not at home. We believe him once more partaking of His Radiant Majesty's hospitality in unaccustomed austerity at the Bastille. Ah, well, "one is born to one's fortunes," as they say in the provinces. I, myself, I wonder that His Majesty's officials have been so slow to proceed against Monsieur le Marquis. That the toleration of Louis' court should extend for so long a time, especially towards a gentleman of Monsieur's peculiar and arcane predilections, perplexes.

The Fete de Noel is almost upon us;
I wager that some intercession will allow monsieur le Marquis to grace us with his presence that day of days. Madame must, perforce, invent a small divertissement for her husband in honor of the Season. She hit upon a most diverting scheme, but, alas, she "let the cat out of the bag"—to use a quaint Anglicism—and now must think again.

Madame had commissioned an artist at the court to paint detailed miniatures that depict the less public anatomy of several in Monsieur's circle. Upon their arrival a fortnight ago, Madame instructed me to secrete them in a casquette which then I labeled: "Most Fragile: Precious icons from Russia." Madame carried this and the miniatures into the petit salon where suddenly she came upon Monsieur le Marquis. She had thought him awaiting release later that day. A miniature tumbled to the floor in its gilt frame, coming to rest face-up, on the pale Aubusson.

Despite close scrutiny,
Monsieur, unable to discern the identity of the likeness, exclaimed: "Exquisite! Whose is it?" This, of course, caused both Monsieur and Madame to collapse amidst such ejaculations of hilarity that Madame came to injure herself. As sometimes occurred, she coughed up a little blood. The sight of Madame's blood and catarrh mingling slickly on her gown, a white-pearled moiré of the antique style whose décolletage revealed rouged nipples, elicited from Monsieur an outpouring of sympathetic gestures. He asked if he could assist her to her boudoir. She demurred, shaking her black ringlets, quickly smiling up at Monsieur.

We whisper behind doors and below stairs that Monsieur became so quickly engorged in his blue silk breeches that he later vented himself upon the scullery maid. She tells me that she reveals the scars for a price at a tavern known to us both. We shall see.

A muralist of intimate acquaintance
with Monsieur's late mother painted upon the ceiling of Madame's boudoir a mural of seraphic loveliness, the subject a favorite from the Latin mythos: Leda, raped by Jupiter, incarnate as a swan of surpassing beauty. The years have not dimmed the brilliance of the swan's plumage, and the pellucid verdant depths found in the lagoon in which he swims cannot be matched, or find their like, even at Versailles.

Legend says that Monsieur's late mother required that the artist complete his work before she would surrender to his considerable charms. It is she who modeled for Leda. A muscled, mustachioed onlooker of gypsyish mien can just be discerned, all but obscured by foliage, who all say is the artist himself.

Frequently Madame entertains
her confidantes
for chocolate in her chamber. There the assembled company is much amused when an undisturbed cup of eggshell Limoges becomes dusted ever-so-lightly with green pigment. For, it is also legend, so anxious was the painter in his pursuit of his model, that he omitted the sealant coat upon his masterpiece.

 

© 2000 Bruce Douglas Cummings

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BRUCE DOUGLAS CUMMINGS
(bdcummings@messagez.com)
was a Flamenco Dancer before being diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. "Once," while laboring in the "God-forsaken 'Hospitality Industry,'" Bruce recounts, "I was compelled to work late by my execrable tyrant of a supervisor who, during the course of the night, made not-so-subtle jibes at my competence and sexuality. In particular, she expressed doubts over my ability to write. In response, I gave her this story. I was delighted with her revulsion.