Authors: Anne Rice
“ORNATE LANGUAGE …
In the grand manner of
Interview with the Vampire,
Anne Rice’s new novel moves across time and the continents, from nineteenth-century Vienna to a St. Charles Greek Revival mansion in present-day New Orleans to dazzling capitals of the modern-day world, telling a story of two charismatic figures hound to each other by a passionate commitment to music as a means of rapture, seduction, and liberation.
By Anne Rice:
Christ the Lord
OUT OF EGYPT
THE ROAD TO CANA
The Vampire Chronicles
INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE
THE VAMPIRE LESTAT
THE QUEEN OF THE DAMNED
THE TALE OF THE BODY THIEF
MEMNOCH THE DEVIL
THE VAMPIRE ARMAND
BLOOD AND GOLD
A Vampire/Witches Chronicle
CALLED OUT OF DARKNESS: A Spiritual Confession
Under the name Anne Rampling:
EXIT TO EDEN
Erotica under the name A. N. Roquelaure:
THE CLAIMING OF SLEEPING BEAUTY
Published by The Random House Publishing Group
A Ballantine Book
Published by The Random House Publishing Group
Copyright © 1997 by Anne O’Brien Rice
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.
Ballantine and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 99-64898
This edition published by arrangement with Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
Annelle Blanchard, M.D.
and as always and forever
Stan and Christopher and Michele Rice
to the talent of
And the Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she conceived of the Holy Ghost.
I seek to do here perhaps cannot be done in words. Perhaps it can only be done in music. I want to try to do it in words. I want to give to the tale the architecture which only narrative can provide—the beginning, the middle and the end—the charged unfolding of events in phrases faithfully reflecting their impact upon the writer.
You should not need to know the composers I mention often in these pages: Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky—the wild strummings of the bluegrass fiddlers or the eerie music of Gaelic violins. My words should impart the very essence of the sound to you.
If not, then there is something here which cannot be really written.
But since it’s the story in me, the story I am compelled to unfold—my life, my tragedy, my triumph and its price—I have no choice but to attempt this record.
As we begin, don’t seek to link the past events of my life in one coherent chain like Rosary beads. I have not
done so. The scenes come forth in bursts and disorder, as beads tossed helter-skelter to the light. And were they strung together, to make a Rosary—and my years are the very same as the beads of the Rosary—fifty-four—my past would not make a set of mysteries, not the Sorrowful, nor the Joyful or the Glorious. No crucifix at the end redeems those fifty-four years. So I give you the flashing moments that matter here.
See me, if you will, not as an old woman. Fifty-four today is nothing. Picture me if you must as five feet one inch tall, plump, with a shapeless torso that has been the bane of my adult life, but with a girlish face and free dark hair, thick and long, and slender wrists and ankles. Fat has not changed the facial expression I had when I was twenty. When I cover myself in soft flowing clothes, I seem a small bell-shaped young woman.
My face was a kindness on the part of God, but not remarkably so. It is typically Irish-German, square, and my eyes are large and brown, and my hair, cut blunt just above my eyebrows—bangs, if you will—disguises my worst feature, a low forehead. “Such a pretty face” they say of dumpy women like me. My bones are just visible enough through the flesh to catch the light in flattering ways. My features are insignificant. If I catch the eye of the passerby, it’s on account of an acuity visible in my gaze, an honed and nourished intelligence, and because when I smile, I look truly young, just for that instant.
It’s no uncommon thing to be so young at fifty-four in this era, but I mark it here, because when I was a child, a person who had lived over half a century was old, and now it’s not so.
In our fifties, our sixties, it does not matter what age, we all wander as our health will allow—free, strong, dressing like the young if we want, sitting with feet propped up,
casual—the first beneficiaries of an unprecedented health, preserving often to the very end of life itself a faith in discovery.
So that’s your heroine, if a heroine I am to be.
And your hero? Ah, he had lived beyond a century.
This story begins when he came—like a young girl’s painting of the dark and troubled charmer—Lord Byron on a cliff above the abyss—the brooding, secretive embodiment of romance, which he was, and most deservedly so. He was true to this grand type, exquisite and profound, tragic and alluring as a Mater Dolorosa, and he paid for all that he was. He paid.
This is … what happened.
before the day Karl died.
It was late afternoon, and the city had a drowsy dusty look, the traffic on St. Charles Avenue roaring as it always does, and the big magnolia leaves outside had covered the flagstones because I had not gone out to sweep them.
I saw him come walking down the Avenue, and when he reached my corner he didn’t come across Third Street. Rather he stood before the florist shop, and turned and cocked his head and looked at me.
I was behind the curtains at the front window. Our house has many such long windows, and wide generous porches. I was merely standing there, watching the Avenue and its cars and people for no very good reason at all, as I’ve done all my life.