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The Vampire Lestat, Page 3

Anne Rice

Chapter 3



  I began to feel a little stronger. I stopped thinking about what happened with the wolves and I thought about her.

  I thought about the words "perfectly horrified," and I didn't know what to make of them except they sounded exactly true. I'd feel that way if I were dying slowly. It would have been better on the mountain with the wolves.

  But there was more to it than that. She had always been silently unhappy. She hated the inertia and the hopelessness of our life here as much as I did. And now, after eight children, three living, five dead, she was dying. This was the end for her.

  I determined to get up if it would make her feel better, but when I tried I couldn't. The thought of her dying was unbearable. I paced the floor of my room a lot, ate the food brought to me, but still I wouldn't go to her.

  But by the end of the month, visitors came to draw me out.

  My mother came in and said I must receive the merchants from the village who wanted to honor me for killing the wolves.

  "Oh, hell with it," I answered.

  "No, you must come down," she said. "They have gifts for you. Now do your duty. "

  I hated all this.

  When I reached the hall, I found the rich shopkeepers there, all men I knew well, and all dressed for the occasion.

  But there was one startling young man among them I didn't recognize immediately.

  He was my age perhaps, and quite tall, and when our eyes met I remembered who he was. Nicolas de Lenfent, eldest son of the draper, who had been sent to school in Paris.

  He was a vision now.

  Dressed in a splendid brocade coat of rose and gold, he wore slippers with gold heels, and layers of Italian lace at his collar. Only his hair was what it used to be, dark and very curly, and boyish looking for some reason though it was tied back with a fine bit of silk ribbon.

  Parisian fashion, all this -- the sort that passed as fast as it could through the local post house.

  And here I was to meet him in threadbare wool and scuffed leather boots and yellowed lace that had been seventeen times mended.

  We bowed to each other, as he was apparently the spokesman for the town, and then he unwrapped from its modest covering of black serge a great red velvet cloak lined in fur. Gorgeous thing. His eyes were positively shining when he looked at me. You would have thought he was looking at a sovereign.

  "Monsieur, we beg you to accept this," he said very sincerely. "The forest fur of the wolves has been used to line it and we thought it would stand you well in the winter, this fur lined cloak, when you ride out to hunt. "

  "And these too, Monsieur," said his father, producing a finely sewn pair of fur-lined boots in black suede. "For the hunt, Monsieur," he said.

  I was a little overcome. They meant these gestures in the kindest way, these men who had the sort of wealth I only dreamed of, and they paid me respect as the aristocrat.

  I took the cloak and the boots. I thanked them as effusively as I'd ever thanked anybody for anything.

  And behind me, I heard my brother Augustin say:

  "Now he will really be impossible!"

  I felt my face color. Outrageous that he should say this in the presence of these men, but when I glanced to Nicolas de Lenfent I saw the most affectionate expression on his face.

  "I too am impossible, Monsieur," he whispered as I gave him the parting kiss. "Someday, will you let me come to talk to you and tell me how you killed them all? Only the impossible can do the impossible. "

  None of the merchants ever spoke to me like that. We were boys again for a moment. And I laughed out loud. His father was disconcerted. My brothers stopped whispering, but Nicolas de Lenfent kept smiling with a Parisian's composure.

  As soon as they had left I took the red velvet cloak and the suede boots up into my mother's room.

  She was reading as always while very lazily she brushed her hair. In the weak sunlight from the window, I saw gray in her hair for the first time. I told her what Nicolas de Lenfent had said.

  "Why is he impossible?" I asked her. "He said this with feeling, as if it meant something. "

  She laughed.

  "It means something all right," she said. "He's in disgrace. " She stopped looking at her book for a moment and looked at me. "You know how he's been educated all his life to be a little imitation aristocrat. Well, during his first term studying law in Paris, he fell madly in love with the violin, of all things. Seems he heard an Italian virtuoso, one of those geniuses from Padua who is so great that men say he has sold his soul to the devil. Well, Nicolas dropped everything at once to take lessons from Wolfgang Mozart. He sold his books. He did nothing but play and play until he failed his examinations. He wants to be a musician. Can you imagine?"

  "And his father is beside himself. "

  "Exactly. He even smashed the instrument, and you know what a piece of expensive merchandise means to the good draper. "

  I smiled.

  "And so Nicolas has no violin now?"

  "He has a violin. He promptly ran away to Clermont and sold his watch to buy another. He's impossible all right, and the worst part of it is that he plays rather well. "

  "You've heard him?"

  She knew good music. She grew up with it in Naples. All I'd ever heard were the church choir, the players at the fairs.

  "I heard him Sunday when I went to mass," she said. "He was playing in the upstairs bedroom over the shop. Everyone could hear him, and his father was threatening to break his hands. "

  I gave a little gasp at the cruelty of it. I was powerfully fascinated! I think I loved him already, doing what he wanted like that.

  "Of course he'll never be anything," she went on.

  "Why not?"

  "He's too old. You can't take up the violin when you're twenty. But what do I know? He plays magically in his own way. And maybe he can sell his soul to the devil. "

  I laughed a little uneasily. It sounded magic.

  "But why don't you go down to the town and make a friend of him?" she asked.

  "Why the hell should I do that?" I asked.

  "Lestat, really. Your brothers will hate it. And the old merchant will be beside himself with joy. His son and the Marquis's son. "

  "Those aren't good enough reasons. "

  "He's been to Paris," she said. She watched me for a long moment. Then she went back to her book, brushing her hair now and then lazily.

  I watched her reading, hating it. I wanted to ask her how she was, if her cough was very bad that day. But I couldn't broach the subject to her.

  "Go on down and talk to him, Lestat," she said, without another glance at me.