Out of the House of Life: A Novel of the Count Saint-Germain (St. Germain)

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9780312890261: Out of the House of Life: A Novel of the Count Saint-Germain (St. Germain)
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More than a third of Saint-Germain's long, long life was spent in the shadow of the Pyramids, in service to the temples of Egypt--but the tale of those years has never been told before.

In Out of the House of Life, readers of Yarbro's series can at last discover how a bloodthirsty demon, captured and enslaved by the high priests of the temple of Imhotep, was transformed into priest and physician and then, finally, into an immortal being of great power and greater wisdom.

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About the Author:

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's interests range from music--she composes and has studied seven different instruments as well as voice--to history, from horseback riding to needlepoint. Her writing is similarly wide-ranging; under her own name and pseudonyms, she has written everything from westerns to mysteries, from science fiction to nonfiction history.

Yarbro's critically-acclaimed historical horror novels featuring the Count Saint-Germain, including Hotel Transylvania, A Feast in Exile, Communion Blood, and Night Blooming, have a loyal readership. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro has always lived in California and currently makes her home in the Berkeley area.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1
 
"Are you still up? Paille? It must be close on three." Alain Baundilet was sitting on a sack of grain toward the aft of the dhow, his features unreadable in the light of the waning moon.
Jean-Marc Paille started at the unexpected words, then did his best to appear calm. "I didn't see you there," he said.
"Small wonder," Baundilet sighed. "There's another sack, a little way along the deck, if you want it." He took his huge linen handkerchief and swabbed at the back of his neck. "I can't sleep when it's like this, so hot and still."
"It's like suffocating," said Jean-Marc, trying to sound more experienced than he was. He pulled out his watch and squinted at it in the sudden glare as he struck a lucifer and held it near the lace. "I make it two forty-nine."
Baundilet chuckled. "Suffocating at two forty-nine. Or smothering. The sheets were more weight than I wanted to bear. The air is weight enough. Well, at least my wife isn't with me. Can you imagine anyone lying close to you in this heat? It's unthinkable." He smoothed his lapels. "She's one to droop in the heat, in any case. I'd never bring her here; it wouldn't be right."
"You left your wife at home?" Jean-Marc asked, horrified that anyone could do such a thing.
"Better than having her here." He sensed the younger man's disapproval and raised his hand placatingly. "Good God man, look around you. You see what the Moslems are. Look at this place. This is no country for a Frenchwoman. We have other things to occupy our thoughts. Wives get underfoot, Paille, as you'll find out as soon as you acquire one." He slapped at his neck suddenly. "Damned mosquito. Big as a beetle." He stared at his fingers, but could not tell if he had killed the insect or not. "Lots of beetles in Egypt, and they're not all scarabs, either. I found one digging, last month. Thing was as big as my hand, I swear it was. It gave off the most appalling stench."
"Oh," said Jean-Marc, the matter of wives forgotten; he was enchanted by what he heard, though he was not very fond of beetles; he was caught up in the thrill of his adventure.
"You've got to be careful digging," Baundilet went on, enjoying the way Jean-Marc listened to him as if mesmerized. "It's not just beetles you have to look out for. Scorpions, now they're what you have to be careful of out here. They're deadly, for one thing, and you don't always see them. One of the natives took a bite from a scorpion not long ago; his suffering was dreadful. So take no chances. Be careful of scorpions. Snakes, too, though some of them aren't very dangerous. Don't take risks with them, either, whatever they're like. Better safe than sorry, that's my way." He looked up at the sails. "The designs haven't changed very much, you know. That lateen-like rig, and the long reach up the river. Going upstream, the wind's almost at your back. Coming down, you must use the current and the boats are harder to control. This river shapes everything in Egypt. It always has. The ships of the Pharaohs wouldn't look too out of place today, at least not the ordinary ships."
"Have you found any references to ships in your studies?" Jean-Marc asked it eagerly, and cursed himself for sounding naïve. He changed his tone, making it more confident, or so he hoped. "Have you some proof of that? Have you found a ship from the time of the Pharaohs?"
"Some. You see them in the wall paintings. There's been broken bits of gilded wood, and they might be ships, or catafalques or…who can tell?" Baundilet sighed and shook his head, folding his handkerchief with care before returning it to his pocket. "Can't keep linen crisp here. It's useless to try." He squinted at the steersman, who was pointedly paying them no heed. "He speaks a little French, you know. Not a lot, but enough to get along. He listens to us. So think about what you say when you see these fellows about. Most of them are ignorant and only a little removed from savagery, but there are those who are crafty and capable, who seek to profit from us and the things we do. It would be unwise to forget that."
"Thanks. It's good to be warned," said Jean-Marc, not knowing how he was to determine which of the Egyptians he encounterd actually spoke French and which did not.
"Oh," said Baundilet as he got to his feet, stretching a bit. "One more thing. I suppose I ought to mention that we have another person joining our expedition, just recently arrived, in fact." His smile--if it was a smile--was gone almost before it began. "There's a woman: young, wealthy, one of those aristos who got through the Revolution and has been allowed to remain French. Her family probably bribed someone or made a pact with the Church. Whatever the case, she has lands and money and some sort of title. She has said she has a genuine antiquarian interest, and so far as I know, it's true. She's rented a villa near Thebes, and she's paying handsomely for the privilege of digging in the sand with us. Her fees have assured us another six months here, no matter what the university may decide. I don't suppose she'll find it interesting for long, which is why I demanded so much money at the first, but while she's along, we won't be bored. We've an opportunity for variety, that's my assumption."
"A young woman? What would she be doing here?" Jean-Marc thought of his beloved Honorine and how he had felt about her accompanying him on this expedition, even if it had been possible. "Why did she come?"
Somewhere off near the shore there was a splash and a thrashing. Jean-Marc looked toward the sound, his eyes wide; Baundilet went on as if he had not heard.
"The guess within the group is that she's run away from her husband. You know what the aristos are like. Why else would a woman set herself up in a villa outside Thebes? This is no place for someone like her. Moslem law won't give her much more satisfaction than her husband, and if she imagines herself with a sheik for a lover, she'll have a long time by herself. Foreign women don't appeal to Moslems. Most of the Egyptians have wives to spare and take their outside pleasures with boys."
Jean-Marc could think of nothing to say. He nodded several times to encourage Baundilet to go on.
Baundilet was growing more pleased with his own observations. He moved a little closer to Jean-Marc. "I've given her some thought these last several days. She might be one of those women who seeks her own sex for pleasure, of course, but Egyptian women are cloistered as nuns, most of them. If they are inverted, they express it behind walls, where other women are. Besides, they do things to them when they're children--take out part of their female apparatus, the little nib, you know, and the inner lips; sometimes sew the mons veneris partly closed to ensure virginity--that don't lend themselves to women's perversions." His laughter was derisive.
"Then what is this Frenchwoman doing?" asked Jean-Marc, trying to consider everything Baundilet had said so casually.
"She is amusing herself. What else can it be?" Baundilet announced this as if it were his most recent discovery. "Aristos are like that, even now. She wants something new in her life, something that she can boast of when she is in high company. She wants a reasonable excuse to keep away from her husband without compromising herself. A trip to Egypt is just the thing, now that we have a little clue to the meaning of all those endless inscriptions." He took out his handkerchief again and swabbed his forehead. "In a month or so, she'll know enough to make it possible to return to Paris with her pride intact, a trinket or two, her reputation as a scholar assured, and her husband will dare not question her about her time in Egypt." He laughed, this time not at all nicely.
"What if she really does care? Couldn't she have a serious interest in antiquarian scholarship?" asked Jean-Marc.
"She would not be a pretty creature with money if she were. Women who care about scholarship are crabbed and ugly, disappointed by family and without hope of a husband, and none of those words fit la Montalia. Strange name, isn't it? From Savoie, or so I have been told, where they're almost Italian, some of them. Dark hair, a neat figure, the most amazing eyes, almost like violets, and an elegant manner. A century ago they would have fought duels over her." He laughed again. "Well, that is the woman who is joining us. You will want to make your bow to her soon, for I miss my guess if she is not one to stand by form."
Jean-Marc nodded, his mind distracted. "I will call on her."
"Fine; fine." Baundilet started along the deck, then looked back at Jean-Marc. "Have you brought any shaving soap with you? Proper shaving soap? We're almost out, you know."
"Actually, no, I haven't," said Jean-Marc. "I didn't realize we would need outside supplies of soap. But I believe I have three bars packed with my things. Will that do?" This shift took him by surprise and he answered with more candor than he had intended.
"Let me have one, will you? I want to freshen up in the morning, look my best. I'm afraid my jaw is about to turn to a complete rash with the muck I've been using. They don't understand about proper soap here. Everything is oil and sandalwood." He rubbed his hand over his chin to make the point, and then he added, "I hope you do well with Mademoiselle de Montalia. Someone ought to, and she does not seem to trust me, no matter how much money she has paid me."
"Trust you?" Jean-Marc was genuinely surprised. "What is her explanation for that?"
"She doesn't offer one. Women of her sort don't." He folded his arms and cleared his throat, preparing to make a crucial statement. "Someone is going to have to keep watch on her, but not too obviously. She isn't one of these women who can be left alone. She's too curious."
Jean-Marc frowned. "But why is that a problem?"
Baundilet wagged his finger at Jean-Marc. "We do not need someone of her sort keeping track of what we do. It isn't fitting. We're reasonable men, not from her class. We don't go on these expeditions solely for amusement." He touched his watchfob. "It's one thin...

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