LE SACRÉ DU PRINTEMPS
by Anton Wills-Eve
hope you all get the literary and musical bi-lingual final twist.
LE SACRÉ DU PRINTEMPS
Luc Boncourt de Rochebrune was really quite fortunate in the circumstances of his birth. His father died when he was sixteen months old and he was an only child, his mother having died in childbirth. He was therefore a very wealthy young Frenchman as the family lawyers had ensured he had a first class academic education and had wisely invested his fortune for him.
Thus it was that October the eighteenth 1960, his eighteenth birthday, saw him inherit two vineyards, a small chateau in the Loire valley and an eleven room apartment on the Isle Saint Louis in the middle of the Seine in the centre of Paris, as stipulated in his father’s will. A very large inheritance indeed. He had no close blood relations at all and it was only the prospect of going to university in Paris the following year that made him think his life might actually change into something he would enjoy for the first time in his life. His father had been a very pious man, and had decided his son would bear the name of a saint on whose feast he was born.
The forty year old Boncourt de Rochebrune, die hard anti-Nazi French soldier, who had fled to England with General de Gaulle in 1939, was chosen to lead an underground sabotage mission back to his native land and was smuggled into Paris from England in January 1941. He soon became a key player in a plot to thwart German plans in occupied France. Unfortunately his second in command was a tearaway young Frenchwomen, Thérèse, so totally his opposite in everyday life that he hardly knew how to speak to her. She would do anything to make life hard for the occupiers. Unfortunately one day this involved seducing a German general for long enough to let the resistance steal vital plans from his office.
Well Boncourt senior was a staunch Catholic who thought nothing could ever justify this. Thérèse, a former street walker, thought exactly the opposite. Finally Luc’s father squared his conscience in a very unholy way. He could not bear the thought of pleasuring a German for any reason at all and actually succeeded in capturing the man himself hours before Thérèse was supposed to visit the German H.Q. So when she arrived to keep her planned assignation with the supposed Nazi leader she just shrugged and, in true French style, thought she might as well enjoy the ordeal. That was when she discovered what her commander had done. She was flaming.
“Okay, let the others steal the plans, Boncourt, but don’t deprive me of my fun. I have risked my life for this!” and so saying, being something of an expert at her nocturnal profession, she, captured her resistance commander and possessed herself of his virginity, all in a matter of minutes. Was the pious patriot shocked and covered with guilt at his own conduct? Not at all. He knew his comrade’s history and so immediately told her she now had no choice but to marry him. She stared at him as though he was mad. Then he told her how much he was worth. If they got back to England and she gave up her old profession she would be a very wealthy lady. And so it came to pass. They completed the mission and were smuggled back to London a few weeks later having married in the meantime.
You can guess what happened. They enjoyed life in England for a while, Boncourt senior turning out to be very good at a pastime he had denied himself for some twenty odd years, and Thérèse gave birth to Luc on the feast of Saint Luke in 1942. Unfortunately a bomb fell on the hospital where she was giving birth and while baby Luc survived the raid she did not. The French leaders in London made something of a hero of the baby and assured his father his son would be well looked after. And as well they did because Boncourt senior returned to French occupied territory the following year and he too was a victim of the war. Fortunately Gaullistes do nothing by halves and gave little Luc everything his father would have wanted from the end of the war until the day in October 1960 when our story becomes so interesting.
Celebrating his birthday with his good friend Giles he confided that his total worth was now about $50 million, or some £18 million for our British readers. Also the huge, luxurious apartment in the most sought after part of the capital was his to live in and still get to school every day in good time thanks to a chauffeur and very good housekeeper. But he asked Giles, in confidence,
“Dis-moi, coco” – no we’ll keep it Anglophone – “Tell me mate how does one meet a nice young girlfriend in this place? The only reply anyone ever gives me involves buying girls off the street and that is not at all what I want. I would really like to fall in love with a good living, pretty, cheerful Catholic girl like myself. Any ideas?” Giles laughed,
“For a start, Luc, you’re not a young girl – are you? – no I didn’t think so. Okay, my oldest sister went to a convent near here and there are plenty of nice Catholic girls there. I can easily fix us up for a pleasant meal out with a couple and take in a film if you’ll foot the bill. Alright? I mean What else are friends for?” They had two trips out with different girls who were nice enough and then, on the last day of term before Christmas, Luc was sure he’d hit the jackpot. Eugénie was gorgeous. But more than that she went to Mass every Sunday, had a great sense of humour and they immediately hit it off. It was almost as though they were made for each Other.
Reverend Mother Madeleine, head mistress of the convent school, was rather concerned and so had a chat with the bursar who looked after school fees and how they were paid. They were the top ladies running the school. “Have you noticed that we have given Eugénie Gautier four evenings out this term? It’s a bit worrying as I’m told every time it is with the same young man, Luc Boncourt de Rochebrune. What do we know of him? Should I ask Father Jerome, his headmaster?”
The bursar had blanched. Her lip trembled and she blessed herself. “Luc who?” she stuttered. “Are you sure that’s his surname? All Eugenie’s fees are paid by the Boncourt de Rochebrune estate. On top of that she is an orphan.”
“Yes, it is definitely his name. But they go to Mass together on Sundays so everything must be alright.” The bursar shook her head and fiddled in a drawer in her desk before taking out a thick file. She passed it over saying, “Read that, Madeleine. I can fill you in on the rest.” Then she told how the estate lawyers had been instructed to have Eugénie educated; both nuns were very worried.
I fear my readers are about to get ahead of me. Yes it’s true. When Luc’s father returned to Paris after his wife’s death he made every effort to trace her origins and found the street near the rue Saint Denis where she plied her nightly trade. He asked round amongst the girls if anybody could tell him if his wife had any relatives. She had none, they were sure she was an orphan, but when she met Boncourt she was twenty three and gave him no surname for herself. But when it came to their marriage he told the authorities her maiden name was Sacré, a very rare patronymic and quite probably made up. The girls all knew about little Eugénie, Thérèse’s first child, born just three weeks before she started her resistance work. The infant was entrusted to some girls, working south of Paris, who promised to look after her and keep her safe while her mother fought with the resistance. It seemed she would have been about ten months old when Luc was born.
Boncourt did the best he could. He arranged for the girl to be transferred to his chateau on the Loire and be brought up under the more usual surname of Gautier and as a lady. All her expenses would be paid by his bankers from London if and when the war ever ended. And so they were. The Bursar looked at the headmistress and said, “she leaves school this summer to go to university and is very bright. She is now nineteen and a few months by our records, but I fear she could also be related to Luc, maybe even his half sister!”
Who was going to tell them? Eventually it was agreed Father Jerome and Luc would visit the convent where Eugénie and Reverend Mother would talk to them. The nun and the monk were very apprehensive as they tried to start the conversation. But to their relief the youngsters smiled at them and Eugénie spoke first, “Have you got us here to tell us we must stop going out together because we are brother and sister?” She was answered by incredulous nods. “Well, I’ll let Luc explain.”
The boy began. “When I went out with Eugénie for the second time I realised I had to act. I have here,“ and Luc produced a worn envelope from his pocket, “the last letter my father ever wrote to me and left with his lawyers in London. It appears he feared I might try to find out my mother’s origins so told me what he had done. He arranged, he thought, for my half sister to be looked after and well educated while making sure I would know who she was should the current circumstances ever arise. But his plans failed. It is true I had a half sister called Eugénie, a year older than I, but like Papa she was killed by the Germans in 1943. However, the girls looking after her thought they should not waste Papa’s gift and so sent a much younger little girl to his chateau. Her mother was untraceable so they called her Eugénie too and this is her. Can none of you now see how her maternal parent can always be shown not to be my mother?” There were blank faces all round. “Well what’s her surname?” asked Luc.
The bursar piped up, “Gautier. But you say that was not her mother’s surname!”
Luc grinned, “Exactly, but Papa told me in the letter he gave Eugénie the surname ‘Gautier’ so there could be no doubt who she was! That is why we know she is NOT my sister because that little girl is known to have been killed! The girls who sent this Eugénie to our chateau unwittingly saw to it that a lot of people knew that! Also Gautier was chosen on purpose for another reason.”
Father Jerome laughed. “I think even the nuns may have read the book, Luc, or at least seen La Traviata! And then the nuns both smiled. No she’s not your sister Luc, the younger Alexandre Dumas and then Verdi saw to that. I think you two are in no way related. But why did your father think your mother’s surname might be associated with something holy?”
Luc and Eugénie were highly amused at the question, and the boy replied, “He didn’t. He meant sacré in the other sense of the word, in the sense of ‘rite’. It was simply because Mama was someone he grew to love so early in the year. Loving her was his “Sacré du Printemps.”