Père Lachaise

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lachaise

Anyone can summon the Père Lachaise.

All you have to do is go to the oldest grave in the cemetery, and place a rock there, and a sprig of a herb – a wild herb, or a weed plucked from the side of the road is enough, it doesn’t have to be one you grew yourself – and a name, written on paper, or bark, or a leaf, using a pen with no ink. Or you can trace the name on the grave with a finger dipped in water, or in vinegar. Or you can make a mark that symbolises that person, if you prefer. If writing isn’t your style.

(The Père Lachaise believes in accessibility.)

What matters is that you want that person dead, and that you are willing to accept the rules, and willing to pay the price.

And when you are done, you will leave the graveyard knowing, with absolute certainty, that the person you have named will die. Old or young, guilty or innocent, powerful or powerless, the Père Lachaise will kill that person for you.

But he will do it in his own time, and in his own way, and then he will deal with you. skull1

Once upon a time, Death grew weary. She never gets a holiday, poor Death, or even a weekend, and nobody really understands her job. And most of the time it is simple drudgery, petty and pointless and exhausting. A great physicist dies in childbirth. A king, on the verge of uniting the country after a long civil war, is assassinated in the street. A brilliant composer stabs himself in the foot with his conductor’s baton while conducting, and dies of gangrene. Five children in the same family die of a single infectious disease.

Death gathers them all under her cloak, as she must, but there is no justice in it. No poetry. No comfort, either. Not that Death really understands comfort.

Nevertheless, Death had had enough.

She had particularly had enough when she found herself visiting the mansion of la Barbe Bleue for the third time in a single year. “Again?” she murmured to herself, as she tucked the soul of his latest wife under her cloak. “Does nobody know how to leave a door locked anymore?”

And then she sighed, because she knew that wasn’t fair – none of the wives knew about their predecessors, after all, and she was fairly sure at this point that la Barbe Bleue was deliberately choosing curious brides. Still, it was galling. He had widowed himself twelve times already, and would doubtless do so again, and there was absolutely nothing she could do about it. Most mortals could neither see nor hear Death until they stood on her threshold, and by then, it was too late.

But she had work to do, and little time to reflect on the crimes of one man. Spring had come late that year, which always made things busy, and then the King had declared war on Italy again. Speaking of petty and wasteful. Death would have liked a word with the King.

When she found herself summoned to the mansion of la Barbe Bleue for the thirteenth time, Death was quite cross.

But the soul which awaited her was no murdered bride, but la Barbe Bleue himself.

Death did not usually question her charges, but this was exceptional. “What happened?” she asked.

“She sharpened the enchanted key into a point, and then used it to stab me in the eye, right through to my brain,” growled la Barbe Bleue.

“She?” Death was intrigued.

“Jeanne. My bitch of a wife. First she betrays me, and then…”

Death folded her cloak over her newest charge, silencing him, and looked back into the parlour of the mansion, where a young woman, her right hand and wrist covered in blood, stood trembling in the arms of her sister. Her expression was one of mingled terror and triumph. Judging by the state of the corpse and the woman’s apron, she had not stopped with la Barbe Bleue’s eyes. There was a remarkable amount of blood in the room.

There was a remarkable amount of justice, too.

Death approved. She approved very much.

For the rest of that day, in between her other duties, Death looked in on the young widow. Her brothers had arrived too late to protect her from her murderous husband, but still soon enough to change the story – they claimed responsibility for the death of Barbe Bleue, leaving Jeanne’s reputation as spotless as her apron was not. There would be no trial, and no rumours to mar her future – she would be able to marry again, and hopefully more happily.

The apron was burned, and the room cleaned, and Barbe Bleue’s body was carted away, to be buried, unshriven, at a crossroads, as befit a murderer. A priest came and sang a requiem mass over the remains of the other twelve brides. Nobody knew who their families were.

(Death knew, but she could not tell them.)

By the end of the day it was as though la Barbe Bleue had never been.

At last, Jeanne went to bed. She wept for some time. Death understood that. The young woman had survived, yes, and she had a bright future ahead of her – but she had also deliberately killed a man, and had narrowly avoided being murdered herself. Some emotion was only to be expected.

Death waited until she was done.

Jeanne gave a last sigh, and dried her eyes. She leaned over to blow out her candle, and Death stepped forward, into the circle of light.

The young widow started. “Who are you?” She looked more afraid now than she had when Death had first seen her, standing over her husband’s corpse.

Still, at least she could see Death. Presumably, her recent brush with mortality had sharpened her senses.

Death tried to look unintimidating. She had never smiled before, but she was fairly sure that humans found smiles reassuring so she raised the ends of her lips, carefully. Jeanne scrambled backwards rapidly, until her shoulders were against the wall.

No smiling then. Death let the corners of her lips drop to a more neutral position. “I am Death,” she explained. “Please don’t be afraid. I have a proposition for you.”

The young woman’s eyes widened. “A… proposition?” She frowned. “Am I going to die?”

la_jeune_fille_et_la_mort-marianne_stokes-img_8224 Death nodded. “Yes. In fifty-two years, four days and twenty-seven minutes.” She frowned. It wasn’t going to be a very fitting death. A chill caught when she was out at the market, that would become an inflammation of the lungs, and then… “We have time to talk,” she added, since the young woman did not appear to be reassured.

Jeanne crossed her arms over her chest. She looked more nervous than defiant, despite the posture. “Then… what do you want from me?”

Death considered her phrasing. “A colleague, of sorts. A right hand. A companion. A councillor. An executioner, at times, but also a judge. One who will dispense the deaths that those who must die deserve.”

The woman’s eyes had widened with every word Death had spoken. “You… want me to come with you?”

“Yes.”

The young woman bit her lip. “Am I allowed to say no?”

Death inclined her head. “Of course. For this, I need a volunteer. But I hope you will say yes. What you did today was exceptional. You gave your husband precisely the right death, administered by the right person, at the right time. That he, who has murdered so many wives, should in turn be murdered by his wife, using the very tool he used to condemn them to death, in the moment when he anticipated slaying another wife – it was justice, and it was poetry. You even stabbed him twelve times – once for each of the women he had killed.” She shook her head in admiration. “Nobody else could have done so well.”

Jeanne’s laugh was more like a sob. “I wasn’t counting the blows. I was just – he kept moving, after I stabbed him, and I thought if I stopped, and he had the chance to get his knife, he really would kill me, like he killed the others.” She pressed a fist against her mouth, and turned her head away.

Death waited. She was good at patience.

At last, Jeanne lifted her gaze to meet hers. “I think… I should thank you?”

Death said nothing. She knew a refusal when she was about to hear one.

The young woman drew a deep breath. “I am honoured by your offer, and by your… regard. But what I did today – it was horrible. I hated every moment of it. I know that it was him or me. I know that by and that in killing him, I saved not only myself but also the wives who would have come after me. And I don’t regret it. I don’t. But my hands can still feel what it was like when the key went through his eye, and when I close my eyes I see his face, and all that blood…” She swallowed, and shook her head. “I can’t do it again. I’m sorry. One murder in a lifetime is enough for me.”

Death nodded her acceptance. “I am sorry too. I will see you again.” And she stepped back into the shadows.

utrecht

The summer brought with it a fever, but the autumn brought good harvests, and so, as the year turned once more to winter, Death had time for contemplation. She understood, reluctantly, why la Barbe Bleue’s widow had not been able to accept her offer. And she very much feared that anyone capable of dealing so ideal a death would feel likewise.

But there was another party in the widow’s story, and Death felt certain he would not share the Jeanne’s reluctance to kill. The question would be whether he could be bound to kill only at her bidding.

On the Eve of All Hallows, Death reached under her cloak, and drew out the soul of la Barbe Bleue.

He was still furious about his own murder, and disinclined to rational conversation. Death let him rant for a few minutes, then put him back into the moment of his death, and held him there. He came up angry, but shocked into wariness.

“I have a job for you,” she said.

La Barbe Bleue told her what she could do with her job. It seemed unlikely. Death put him back into the moment of his death again, and let him think about it.

(Death does not understand cruelty any better than she understands comfort. But even if she did, it is unlikely that she would have acted differently.)

“There is a man who needs to die,” she told him, and he smiled.

He was not smiling when she was done.

“You want to transform me into a helpless child, and use me as bait?”

“After which you will transform into a werewolf, and rend him limb from limb.”

La Barbe Bleue frowned even more fiercely. “There is no honour in that. Why not have me face him and kill him as a man?”

Death frowned. “First, you gave up any claim to honour when you murdered twelve women. Second, Philibert Montot has claimed falsely to be a werewolf, in order to murder innocent children. It is only right that he fall victim to an actual werewolf. Thirdly, whatever made you think you had a choice?”

Philibert Montot died on schedule, and exactly as he should have done. There were those in the mortal world who grumbled that he had escaped execution; Death knew that he had not escaped justice, but made a note to make her justice more public in future. She sent Montot on the trail of an inkeeper who had been murdering travellers in a particularly gruesome fashion, and stealing their belongings.

The innkeeper, in his turn, was sent to deal with a man whose false witness had led dozens of men and women to a traitor’s death.

And so she continued.

Death’s ninth victim was one of the Queen’s ladies in waiting. A spy and an assassin herself, Isabelle was philosophical about her own untimely death and recruitment. She was effective, too. Death was pleased, and put her to work uprooting a conspiracy of some dozen men and women who had been ruining young women financially, and selling them into slavery to pay their debts. Death had become involved after the third woman killed herself.

“You should take commissions,” Isabelle told Death one day. “You cannot possibly know of everyone who deserves to die. And there are many people who would pay a high price for the services of an unstoppable assassin.”

Her enthusiasm was unsettling. Death wondered if she had made the right choice with Isabelle.

“What of the innocents?” Death demanded. “A man may want another man dead, but that does not mean the second man deserves to die.”

Isabelle laughed cynically. “If a man is determined to see his fellow dead, believe me, he will find an assassin somewhere. Why should it not be you? At least you could determine that the death received was an appropriate one.” She shook her head. “Would you rather the innocents were slain by assassins who don’t care about justice?”

Death drew the young woman under her cloak. It was time, she thought, to choose another assassin.

Isabelle’s ethics were terrible, Death reflected, as she gathered up souls from the Saint Bartholemew massacre, drawing them gently under her cloak. But her last shot lingered. Death could not protect innocents from those who would harm them – and even punishing their abusers after the event did not truly restore justice. But killing innocents, however kindly, was not justice either. Or was it a form of protection from other, less gentle killers?

Death frowned, uneasily. Follow that logic to its conclusion, and she would be killing infants in the cradle, to protect them from future harm, or from harming others. That couldn’t be right, either.

It was, Death reflected, difficult to dispense justice when one had only a single tool at one’s disposal. And, while there was some satisfaction in dispensing deaths that were meaningful, Isabelle had a point. Death was not necessarily aware of every crime that was committed, or even the worst. Was justice still justice if it was inconsistently applied?

Winter passed by, and summer came, and Death had no answer. 1280px-stilllifewithaskull

Jeanne had done well for herself in the years since she had killed la Barbe Bleue. She had married the son of a wealthy tapestry maker, and had two sons, with a daughter on the way.

Her house was well-furnished and prosperous, her husband kind and handsome, and Jeanne herself was no longer pale and thin and anguished, but rather plump and pink of cheek and entirely content. Death would hardly have recognised her, had it been possible for Death to forget a soul she had encountered.

Death visited Jeanne in the stillroom, while the children were taking their lessons with the parish priest.

Jeanne’s eyes widened at the sight of her, and she pressed a hand to her chest. “I thought I had fifty-two years!”

Death inclined her head. “Forty-one years, three months, twelve days and nine hours, now. We have time to talk.”

Jeanne grew even paler. “Then…” the hand moved to curve protectively over her stomach.

Death knew how to interpret that gesture. “The babe will live,” she assured her. Which was true, so far as it went. No mother truly needed to know the number of days her child would survive in the world.

“I need your advice,” she added.

Jeanne blinked and colour began to return to her face. She sank down on a bench that ran the length of the wall, and after a moment Death seated herself beside her.

“I want to create justice, but I don’t know how,” she said.

Jeanne looked at her, expectantly. Death looked back at Jeanne. What was the other woman waiting for? The silence grew.

“I think perhaps I need more information,” Jeanne said, tentatively. “What kind of justice? And what have you been doing to try to create it?”

Death told her. She explained about her early efforts, and the deaths that had been dealt to deserving villains. She told her about Isabelle and her efficiency. And then she told her about Isabelle’s suggestion, and her own misgivings.

Jeanne shook her head. “I think that’s a terrible idea,” she said. “You cannot possibly be in the business of justice if you are willing to kill innocents. That makes no sense.”

“But if they would die anyway? My assassins are under my control. Others would not be.”

“Even so. You want people to have the deaths they deserve. So tell me – if someone came to you right now and asked you to kill me, what death do I deserve?”

Death frowned. “I know what death you will have. Nobody is going to assassinate you, you will die of–”

Jeanne raised a hand to stop her. “Please. I don’t want to know. And I am speaking of hypotheticals. Not what will happen, but what should happen, in a truly just world.”

Death was not sure what to say to that. Jeanne did not deserve any death, particularly. But she would die regardless. So how could she answer?

Jeanne sighed at her puzzled look. “Alright. What if someone asked you to kill the young prince? That is not outside the realms of possibility, politics being what they are. He is only a child. What death does he deserve? What death could any child deserve?”

Death frowned. “He does not deserve to die, any more than you do. But he will do so, regardless. Am I to stand aside and let it happen badly, simply because he does not deserve it? That makes no sense at all.”

Jeanne shook her head. “The point is, most people do not deserve to be killed. For some people, the right and proper death is peacefully, in their sleep, of old age.”

Death was silent. This was certainly true, but it was not something she had any control over.

Jeanne sighed. “Are you sure that this is the right task for you? Not all crimes deserve the death penalty.”

Death sighed in her turn. “No. But so much of what I do is meaningless. How do mortals cope with living lives that make no sense?”

There was silence in the stillroom.

“Do you see everyone’s lives, from start to end, in their entirety?” Jeanne asked, after a while.

Death shook her head. “No. Not even yours. I only see the end.”

Jeanne nodded. “Then, if you will forgive me, you cannot be the arbiter and judge for all humanity. You cannot judge what you do not know.”

“So my assassins must come to know their victims, then, so that they can choose the right death.” Death nodded. This seemed fitting.

Jeanne looked as though her head hurt. “That was not what I meant.”

“And anyone who would use one of my assassins must be content to abide by their judgment, even if that means they wind up dying years before their victim does. If they do not, then they will die in the moment they attempt to act against their victim.” Death felt pleased. She could feel it coming together now.

Jeanne put her face in her hands. “I don’t know what that is, but I don’t think that it is justice.” She sighed. “Is it truly justice that you pursue? Or simply meaning? It isn’t right for mortals to die simply because Death is having an existential crisis.”

Death rather thought she was the existential crisis, and said so.

“Perhaps, but mortals still deserve better than to be simply toys. Tokens in some sort of game you are playing with yourself.”

Death frowned. “Death is no game to me. Wouldn’t you prefer a death that meant something over one that was random, futile?”

Jeanne shook her head. “That’s not the point. The point is, you shouldn’t be a player in this at all. Death should not be choosing who needs to die. It’s wrong.”

Death sighed. “So. I should not be both judge and executioner – and yet there are those who should die, and those who will die, regardless of what I do. And there are those who will kill, for a price, and will not quibble about how. Perhaps Isabelle is right – I should let others choose who dies, and concern myself only with how they die. My assassins will take any contract they are offered, but they will also be just. If they are required to kill a good man or woman, then they will do so – eventually. But only after that person has achieved what they most wish for in life.   And the price for my assassins’ services will be high.”

Jeanne shook her head again. “Ignoring for the moment the fact that you are now talking about cold blooded murder for coin, nobody will pay your price. Why would you pay an assassin who might not get around to killing the person you want to be rid of for a decade or more?”

Death almost smiled. “Because my assassins will also be unstoppable, and it will be impossible to link them to the person who hired them. If that person is patient, they will get what they paid for. And they will never know a moment of contentment afterward. That will be my price.”

“So you are punishing people for using your services.”

“Death should not be taken lightly.” It seemed entirely logical to Death. If one made the price high enough, then only those who were absolutely set on their course would pay it.

“And what should my punishment be, then? I killed my first husband, after all. Must I also never know a moment of contentment?”

“You killed in self defense. And with your own hands. That is very different from paying someone to do murder on your behalf.”

“And if I’d paid someone to stand beside me and do the deed, because I was uncertain whether I could defend myself fast enough?” Jeanne shook her head. “This is still not justice. And it’s poor business practice. I don’t think you can run a business when you have no respect for your clients.”

Death blinked. “I have absolute respect for my clients.”

Jeanne stared at her. “You want to cheat them of their goal if they want to kill someone who you deem innocent, and you want to punish them for trying even if they want to kill someone who thoroughly deserves it. How is that respect?”

Oh. “But those are not my clients,” Death explained, gently. “The dead and those who are about to be are my clients, and I will ensure that they have the best death possible for them. Death is one of the most important moments in a life. It should be a work of art – the culmination of who one is.” She sighed. Mortals never understood this.

Jeanne wrapped her arms around herself, as if she were cold. “And where are the victims’ families in all this? Humans do not live in isolation from one another, and the death of one person has consequences for many others. How do you justify the harm done to them?”

Death had not considered that. She thought about it.  “But we are speaking of people who would have been killed anyway. In many cases, I would be prolonging their lives, by taking a contract in place of someone who would kill them sooner. And for those who truly did deserve to die, it is hard to imagine that they would be much missed.”

Jeanne drew in a long breath, then released it. “I don’t know why you are asking for my advice. I could point out that even the worst of humans is loved by someone. I could point out that another assassin might fail where yours succeeded, in which case you would be killing someone who was not fated to die then at all. I could point out that none of this bears any relationship to justice. But you seem absolutely set on your course. If you want my approval, you do not have it.”

Death was silent. She did not need approval, but she had hoped for understanding.

“Why are you so set on killing people?” Jeanne asked, finally. “That is the part I don’t understand. Why must you take an active role here? If it is justice you want, it can’t always be about killing someone.”

“I have no other tools. No other way to make this world a better place. I can’t heal people, or rescue them. I can’t even warn them. In all the millennia I’ve been on earth, I’ve met only a handful of people who could see me. Yet mortals hurt each other all the time. They kill each other in terrible ways, and all I can do is wrap them in my cloak to comfort them and send them on their way.   Making the deaths better – making them meaningful – making the deaths of innocents have consequences – that is something I can do. That is a place where I can make a difference.”

“But is the difference you are making a positive one?”

Death thought so, but Jeanne evidently did not. She was not sure who was right. She gazed at the young woman for a long moment. “Very well,” she said. “I don’t suppose you would come with me? I would value your help. And your judgment.”

Jeanne shook her head. “I am content where I am. And I want no part of this.”

Death inclined her head, and then stood. “I will see you again,” she said, and stepped into the shadows.

steenwijck

Someone did kill the young prince. It was messy, and bloody, and sparked a new phase of the civil war.

It would have been better if Death had done things her way.

She did need a better sort of assassin, though. Unrepentant murderers might be willing to do the job, but they could not love Death’s clients as they deserved to be loved – as they needed to be loved, for their deaths to be perfect.

She cleaned up after the civil war. And she waited.

skull2

The first rock appeared in the graveyard a year after the war ended. There was no writing on it, no name that any mortal eye could see, but it bristled with intent.

Death knew precisely who had written it, and who it was for.

She went to the man who had left it there. He was in his fifties, she saw; an upholsterer and maker of furniture by trade, a widower with three married daughters and a son. He had two years, seven months and nineteen days left.

He looked a lot like his mother.

She brought Isabelle back for this last assassination. Jeanne’s granddaughter deserved justice for her own sake, and her father was willing to pay the price for it.  And it was an appropriate and just price, Death thought.

If Jeanne would not stand at Death’s right hand, her son would stand at her left. He was not a bad man, after all – just a desperate one who had been unable to rescue a beloved daughter by any legal means. M. Lachaise could be trusted to treat Death’s clients as they deserved. And when he had served his term, she would find another like him – a man or woman who acted from love and powerlessness, not cruelty or revenge.

She hoped Jeanne’s ghost would forgive her.

skullcit

The Père Lachaise might be a man or she might be a woman, but he is always a stranger, until she becomes the person who knows you more intimately than anyone else. Your friend or your lover; your student or your teacher; your valet or your confidential maid; your dearest enemy or your most perfect victim.

You will never know until it is too late, and if you have been good, you will never know at all.

But one day, you will have the perfect day. It will be a day of joy, of vindication, of triumph, of true fulfilment. And then, at the end of that day, someone will offer you a cup of coffee, or a chocolate, or perhaps a book. Maybe they will simply touch your hand. And in that moment, your life will end. The poison will enter your body, silently, gently, and you will fall asleep, and not wake up again.

(If you have been bad, your fate will be less pleasant, and you will certainly know about it. The Père Lachaise knows how to construct himself as the perfect victim, and he knows how to turn the tables, and repay you for every moment of suffering that you have inflicted. And there is no point trying to escape him. Once he has caught you, your fate is sealed.)

And if you are somewhere in the middle, as most of us are, well, it will be neither joy nor agony, but somewhere in between. But what is certain is that in the moment of your death, you will be known, absolutely and intimately, and you will die precisely the death you deserve.

Perhaps that is a comfort.

Death has never really understood about comfort. But she would like to be known. She is lonely, poor Death. Her job is still wearying. It is still all too frequently petty and pointless. It is still drudgery. But sometimes, there is justice. Sometimes, there is poetry. And when Death has her way, there is both.

She has had many servants over the years. Many left hands, who have entered into their victims’ lives and ended them as they deserve to be ended. There is some satisfaction in this, but for Death, there is no intimacy. No closeness. No friendship. This is reserved for her servants.

All Death can do is watch over them and, when the end comes, draw both assassin and victim kindly under her cloak.

She wishes that Jeanne had said yes.

oosterwijck

station

Cemeteries, Priests and Stations

Père Lachaise station opened in 1903.  It is on the border of the 11th and the 20th arondissements, serves lines 2 and 3 of the Paris Métro, and is named for Père Lachaise cemetery.  This is actually not the best station to use when visiting the cemetery, because it is next to a side gate which is now closed to the public.  If you are visiting the cemetery, Philippe Auguste station, also on Line 2, is a better choice.  (And don’t do what I did and arrive on a random bus from the 19th, go in a side gate without a map, and then become utterly lost for two hours and not in a good way.)

The Père Lachaise cemetery was founded by Napoleon in 1804.  It was named for François de la Chaise, a Jesuit priest and the confessor to Louis XIV, who lived on this site in the 17th century.  (Thinking about the geography of that, he either didn’t spend a lot of time at home, or Louis XIV didn’t spend a lot of time with his confessor – you can’t get much further away from Versailles than that and still be in the vicinity of Paris…)  It is absolutely enormous – Google tells me it is 44 hectares – and laid out with straight avenues and winding lanes, almost as a garden with graves and statuary and lots of trees.  Père Lachaise the remains of a very wide variety of famous people, most but not all, French or French by adoption – notable graves include those of Heloïse and Abélard, Molière, Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison (who has inspired a large amount of graffiti within the cemetery, I’m sad to say), Edith Piaf, Balzac, Bizet, Proust, and more.

I’m not sure what to say about this story, which started as a kind of crossover in my mind between Death and Father Christmas (Père Noël in French), but then collected a bunch of stuff that has been lurking in my subconscious and dreams for a good decade at this point and went downhill from there.  I want to give it some sort of disclaimer, because I’m pretty sure I don’t agree with its conclusions, such as they are, and I am not at all sure I like what it says about me that I wrote it at all.  (There really was something compelling about it, so that while I found it extremely uncomfortable and upsetting to write, once I started, I couldn’t write anything else until it was finished.)  I very much hope that, Halloween notwithstanding, this story traumatises you less than it has traumatised me!

The story is situated very, very loosely in the 15th and 16th centuries, but I really was writing fairy tale, not history, so not all the events are sequential.  France was involved in wars in Italy on and off for about sixty years from 1494 until 1559, and the French Wars of Religion kicked off in 1562 and ran for another 30 years until the Edict of Nantes in 1598, so Death had plenty to do and good reason to find the whole thing dissatisfying and wasteful. Philibert Montot was one of three men tried and convicted in 1521 of being shapeshifters and murderers – men who transformed into wolves and then killed and ate their victims.  The innkeepers are not historical, as far as I know, and now I can’t find the horror story I was referring to, so you will just have to imagine something terrible and hope for the best.  The assassin Isabelle was certainly a member of Catherine de Medici’s Flying Squadron, and the Saint Bartholomew’s Day massacre occurred in 1572.  As far as I know, there were no young princes assassinated during this period, at least in France, though François II of France did die at the age of 16 in 1560, of an abcess (or so they claim).  This doesn’t really fit the rest of the timeline, but Death’s sense of time is fairly fluid (or so I claim).

The deaths that frustrate Death at the start of the story are those of Émilie du Châtelet (who you have met elsewhere), Henry IV of France (who you have also met), Jean-Baptiste Lully, a composer and conductor at the court of Louis XIV.  None of these deaths fit into my extremely loose timeline at all, I’m afraid.

The main image of Death sitting at the foot of a young woman’s bed is Death and the Maiden by Marianne Stokes (~ 1908).  The small images of skulls are details from 17th century Vanitas paintings by Antonio de Pereda, (1632-36); Adriaen van Utrecht (1641); Philippe de Champaigne (1671); Harmen Steenwijck (1640); de Pereda again; Pierre Francesco Cittadini (before 1681); and Maria van Oosterwijck (1668).  All of these images are in the public domain and available from Wikimedia Commons.

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fleur3right Gambetta

2 thoughts on “Père Lachaise

  1. Loki

    I really liked this story. Complex and lacking in easy answers, just as death is.

    In regard to your innkeeper, I don’t know what story you were referring to either, but the trope of murderous innkeepers goes back at least as far as Procrustes, so the story works just fine without all the details.

    Reply
    1. Catherine Post author

      Thank you – I’m really glad you enjoyed it. It was difficult, because in real life I am entirely on Team Jeanne, but while writing it, I really wanted Team Death to prevail, which was a little unsettling…

      Reply

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