Paris 1932 – A fertile moment in time
Euphemia, la grande diva magnifique, continued to refine and redefine her own original, luxurious and unique creation: herself. As the best hostess in Paris, the sublime boho soirées that she held in her sumptuous pied a terre on Rue de Bucci in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, a stumble away from Les Deux Magots, were famous for being famous. Her constantly morphing gang included the moment’s avante-garde who’s who – from artists, writers, musicians, politicians, thinkers and poets to the always in your face, extremely decorative American socialites who were escaping their cultural sink of censorship, prohibition, increasing zenophobia and offensive puritanism that a particular brand of Americans do so well.
Eupemia’s salon was notorious. Even the blasé surrealists blinked during the notorious night of “hysterical luxury” when Euphemia and Josephene Banana Danced, wearing only fruit, on a leopard skin rug.
News of Euphemia’s salon significantly helped keep the French tabloids in business during the silly depression. It absolutely vexed Euphemia’s financial sense and sensibilities when she thought about the current global economic situation. That a generation of grown men would invest their wealth in the stock market and focus primarily on trade rather than in tangibles such as real estate was rather bemusing. Indeed, the salon itself was a personal poignant modernistic artistic ode to the times.
From Tuesday through Saturday night, Chez Euphemia was a free island where the state didn’t take things away and where those fortunate few who gained entrance could convene, have a simple breakfast of oysters and champagne, pontificate about the absurd, and pleasantly forget they existed. It became a badge of honor to have one’s drawing, painting or poem placed on Euphemia’s salon wall. “The Wall”, as it was known around town, was covered with hundreds of items overlapping one another from floor to ceiling in a cacophony of artistic styles and subjects.
Sundays and Mondays were however another matter. They were about the hunt. Euphemia’s passion for antiquities had become legendary in the upper echelon of European archaeological collectors. While rumors circulated, as rumors are meant to do, what Euphemia actually did with her alleged collection remained a mystery. There were whispers that Euphemia had converted the massive estate in an exclusive London enclave that she had inherited on the death of her father into a private club for archaeological adventurers.
It was on a particularly cold Monday evening in late December that Euphemia arranged a clandestine assignation in the back row of the newly opened Grande Rex Theatre with Porchey, a most uncompromisingly direct ladies’ man with impeccably compromised connections. From the cradle, Porchey had learned to appreciate the aroma of strong self-centered women. Porchey’s promiscuous and profligate mother, Almina Wombwell, the illegitimate daughter of the banker Rothschild, had taught him the art of ruthless callousness. His wife, Catherine Wendell, whom he had married to escape an arranged marriage to Princess Mary, while lovely, an exceptional chatelaine of Highclere Castle and a fine breeding mare, did not like playing musical beds with the abusive swine that was Porchey and was becoming a rather poor sport. Further, as a result of the economic times and his personnel narrative, which involved rather increasing time at the racetrack, Porchey had resorted to selling family treasures to maintain his lifestyle.
“Like what you feel there?” Porchey whispered as he slowly drew a cold object along Euphemia’s inner thigh, lifting up the edge of her very fashionable Vera Borea rough heavy linen day skirt.
“Depends on what is touching me.” Euphemia responded in a husky whisper.
“An ushabti. I found it just where you told me to look. The old bastard hid all the stuff in a cupboard between two rooms down below the cellars. But you already knew that, yah.” Porchey said with a bit of a snark.
“Yowzer! Is it the one we discussed the other day, the one with the boy pharaoh wearing a gilded crown and holding the royal emblems, the Crook and Flail? I never thought I would see that one again.” Euphemia purred.
“Yes it is. Why you want this old stuff is beyond me. But each to his own.” Porchey responded, removing his hand and the ushabti to a cooler environ.
“Always a pleasure doing business with you. As agreed, I have signed over the papers for that lovely little Arabian mare you have been ogling since she was born. Given her impeccable parentage she should prove to be quite an asset. Time for you to beat it before anyone sees us together.” Euphemia concluded, taking the ushabti from Porchey’s hand and placing it in her purse which was lined with thick quilted silk specifically to cushion such acquisitions during transport.
Having been excused, Lord Carnarvon kissed Euphemia’s hand and left.
Alone, Euphemia turned her eyes to the big screen to watch the rest of the German Expressionist cinematographer Karl Freund’s new hit film The Mummy. Euphemia tittered out loud at the role of Helen Grosvenor / Princess Ankh-es-en-Amon, played by Zita Johann. Euphemia must have enchanted the writer, as Ms Johann repeated entire sentences uttered by Madame Tula a decade earlier.
[Continue reading: Chapter 5.1]