In week two in the Bois de Boulogne, two affairs of honour between gentlemen were settled. The first was the contest between Captain Bint and - now Major - Robert Baronne over their exchange of insults in December. Here, Captain Bint found himself in the unaccustomed place of being the underdog. This was then followed by Captain de la Maison's attempt to seek satisfaction from Captain de Fromage, which, alas, ended in frustration for de la Maison once again.
In the first duel, both parties had arranged seconds; Major Baronne had engaged the services of his new military subordinate, Captain Blownaparte, and Captain de la Maison, while the laid-back Captain Bint was attended by Captain de Fromage. This was quite an efficient way of managing things, because it meant the Captains de Fromage and de la Maison could then duel one another immediately afterwards. In terms of skill, Captain Bint outclassed his opponent by a considerable margin, being significantly faster and more agile. His duelling sequence was a block followed by a furious slash, a parry and then a kick, and he connected solidly twice with his larger opponent. Major Baronne used a simpler sequence - a slash followed by a furious slash, and also connected twice. But whereas two such strikes were quite sufficient to remove all will to fight from Le Chevalier d'Honneur Picoq, at this point in the contest Captain Bint showed no signs at all of intending to cave in. But then disaster struck for the energetic Captain; closing in on his slow-moving opponent in the teeth of the latter's slash, Captain Bint had the misfortune to encounter a heavy follow-up cut coming the other way. His own momentum carried him into the stroke and his side was laid open with a most gruesome wound from Baronne's excellent blade. This blow would surely have killed many other Paris duellists, and even Captain Bint found it necessary to concede after taking such a serious injury. Clearly Major Baronne is not a force to be taken lightly even by the more skilled.
The second duel was a nail-biting contest between Captain ‹Vin› de la Maison and his long-standing adversary, Captain Pierre de Fromage. After they had finished this, the swordplay began. Captain de Fromage had been expecting a second to arrive, but after a while it became apparent that Major de Choux was unavoidably detained, and as Captain de la Maison was keen to open proceedings without further delay, both parties saluted one another and set to. Here again, events did not go quite as expected. Captain de Fromage has only lost once to Captain de la Maison, and that was with the foil. With the rapier he plainly expected to secure his two touches in short order and be home for medical treatment and a light breakfast before nine of the clock.
What actually happened was that Captain de la Maison's initial jump back was perfectly timed to evade his foe's opening lunge, but then he was caught by the following slash. He then kicked and struck home, only to be caught twice immediately afterwards by Captain de Fromage's lunge and cut. At this point Captain de Fromage seemed to think he had secured victory as usual, but instead he found himself facing a furious lunge from de la Maison, and was forced to respond with two hasty slashes of his own. Clearly, the bloody and determined Captain de la Maison did not intend to let his adversary off the hook so easily this time, and he continued to fight on despite his injuries. But the fight was over moments after that as the two combatants exchanged cuts; de la Maison may have forced Captain de Fromage to the brink of surrender, but it was at a heavy personal cost, and with six separate injuries by this point even Captain de la Maison's will to win was exhausted. The two gentlemen shook hands again and went their separate ways, de Fromage once again acknowledged as the victor, but by the conclusion of the fight he too was looking distinctly shaky. Both parties must know full well that Captain de la Maison came within a hair of stealing victory from a technically superior opponent.
Your correspondent notes that by now Captain de Fromage is becoming a formidable duellist, and in this area the skill gap between him and Captain de la Maison is continually widening. De Fromage may not have quite the endurance of some other Parisians, but he is probably now the most skilled gentleman fencer in Paris. Nevertheless, given the disparity in their skills it is very impressive how Captain de la Maison consistently forces such a superior opponent to work so hard for his victories; and of course Captain de la Maison's fencing skills are plainly maturing too.
In week one, the Blue Gables was the busiest club in Paris. Present was the newly-appointed Major Baronne, and a crowd of hangers-on; Messrs. Alexi de Camp, Piê Kéyy, Lemoine and Captain de Mystère. M. Kéyy was toadying to the musical M. Lemoine, while the others concentrated their attention on a contemplative M. Baronne, he being a little preoccupied with mulling over the tactics for his forthcoming duel.
Week two was a much quieter week, as the entire core of the Paris social scene were engaged elsewhere, as has been related above by our duelling correspondent. Captain de Mystère took the chance to conduct Sadie Stique to the Frog & Peach, where the two of them spent a quiet evening together. Meanwhile Messrs. Piê Kéyy and Claude Lemoine had a far more raucous evening at the Festering Cyst Bawdy House, we are told.
In week three, a slightly sore Major Baronne was back in the Blue Gables, celebrating his victory. M. Lemoine had composed a lay in honour of Major Baronne's duelling victory, and thus the evening had a distinctly musical tone. It is a shame that these odes to victory had an all-too-apparent depressing effect on the highly-competitive Captain de la Maison, who was still wincing with his every movement. Admittedly, this gained him much sympathy from his lady friend, the kind-hearted Laura de Lande, who was also present, so the evening was not a complete loss for him.
Captain Bint was consoling himself in Hunter's, drinking alone and working his way through the spirits section of the bar, while at the other end of the club a somewhat more ebullient Captain de Fromage was accepting toadies from M. de Camp and engaging in yet another contest of honour with M. Pierre de Tutu. Mon Dieu! Another duel? Why yes, and this being a grog-drinking contest, it was naturally taken just as seriously by the participants as the swordsmanship competition of the week before. As a victorious Captain de Fromage later remarked, looking some two feet to the left of the interviewing Toady reporter, «Grog at Hunter's is so excepshionally smooth it hardly affects your eyeshight at all. Hic. Good day to both of you fine gennlemen,» before his heavy exertions of the day caused him to unexpectedly lapse into a deep and refreshing sleep. As far as the drinking technique of the two gentlemen is concerned, the tactically-astute Captain de Fromage commences with a slash, then uses a belch - quaff - quaff - knock back - quaff sequence which few other Paris drinkers can match. His opponent's routine was decidedly inferior; slash - drink - drink - slash - slash - drink - drink and he soon fell behind in the reckoning. This was mostly because the wily de Fromage used his weak-bladdered opponent's frequent breaks to extend his lead until it was completely unassailable.
In week four, Captain Bint having by now found a solution to his depression (cognac, we believe), he was back in Hunter's again accepting toadies from M. de Camp and Lemoine, while M. Piê Kéyy toadied to M. Lemoine. Once again, the irrepressible M. Lemoine was holding forth in musical tones, while in the Blue Gables, M. Baronne could be found in the company of a slightly nervous-looking Marcie Panne, Captains Blownaparte and de la Maison, Captain Blownaparte's girlfriend Anne Ode, and M. de Tutu. The reason for Mlle. Panne's nerves soon became clear - attending as her guest was the aloof and aristocratic Mlle. Candide Ièlse. Of course, it was an impressive social coup for Mlle. Panne to have successfully persuaded the most eligible lady in Paris to come as her guest, and the evening seemed to go very well, much to Mlle. Panne's pleasure and relief.
The following letter having been released by the censors just too late to make the December press cut-off, we are printing it now with apologies for the delay. This does much to show the fighting spirit of our brave men at the front - it was dictated by Major Jean-Luc Picoq to his batman, Cpt. D'Orcy, November 1607, just before the siege of ----- (excised). The last few words are jerky and heavily smudged, as if written by someone walking as he writes, and the letter is slightly crumpled and muddy, as if dropped in haste. We think it is disgraceful that the messenger services should treat a letter dictated by a French hero in such a cavalier fashion.
We hab recently arrived ad our station widt the ----- (excised) regimend ad ------ (excised). Wedder is turnig inclemend - I feel a code coming on. Sebberal thousand Austrian troobs are laying siege, and loog likely to attag within the hour. We hab been ordered to bead them back, and though we our outnumbered, each Frenchman is the equal ob five Austrians. Those that fall will do so knowing they do id for Fran-
Cabdain? Where are you goig? The Austrians are thad way! (The letter trails off at this point.)
Unfortunately not all French gentlemen have the moral fibre of Major Picoq. His batman was recently cashiered from the Picardy Musketeers on poltroonery charges and now serves with the frontier regiments.
The path of True Love between Mlle. Cath Ode and Captain Bint has, regrettably, entered a rocky patch. Captain Bint was seen visiting Mlle. May Bea, surely for the most honourable of reasons, but, alas, the suspicious Mlle. Ode was all too ready to jump to a most uncharitable conclusion and has informed Captain Bint that she no longer wishes to see him. Doubtless this was why a distraught Captain Bint threw himself onto Major Baronne's sword in the duel in week two - it must have been a plaintive cry for help from a man heartsick with grief over the loss of his beloved.
Also seen visiting Mlle. Bea, albeit very briefly in week two, was tournament champion Pierre de Tutu. He narrowly escaped being thrown in the horse-trough just outside the Bea residence, and taking the hint, decamped without further ado. Plainly mere martial prowess is not enough on its own to impress Mlle. Bea.
Meanwhile, the handsome Alexi de Camp has been accepted by Pat Hétique, and we congratulate her on her fine taste in dishy gentlemen.
In week four, the long romance between Captain de Fromage and Eileen d'Overre is still on-going. The considerate Captain took his beloved to the Opera, where the couple spent an enjoyable evening. Fortunately there was not a repetition of the fiasco of week two, where it seems a second opera ghost who didn't even know the words seemed determined to participate in the performance.
Regimental vacancies currently stand as follows:
Candide collects Dutch impressionists, jongleurs and clowns, and has the finest croquet lawn in the Isle de Cité.
Adèle likes giggling, filing her nails, fluttering her eyelashes and peeking at prospective suitors over the top of her fan. Her favourite stones are diamonds, rubies and emeralds.
Mlle. Bea is an accomplished dancer and calligrapher and practices lacemaking. She also enjoys knitting, crochet and metalwork.
In her spare time, Ruth rules over the Paris Sewing and Tapestry Circle with an iron fist. She is also secretary of the Paris Flower-Arranging Society and likes finding witches.
The three Ode sisters share their late father's interest in natural philosophy and alchemy. Anne likes catching butterflies, Di collects cute little fluffy kittens and Cath likes fox-hunting, bear-baiting and cock-fighting.
Mlle. Panne likes wearing beautiful clothes and jewellery. Her interests are shopping, flirting, dancing and archery. If Marcie was a tree she would be a rowan tree; if she was an animal she would be a duck.
At the time of writing, the mysterious Mlle. Onne has refused to give an interview. All we can say is that when travelling around Paris, she is seen always in a silk veil - a different colour every day.
Pat is waiting for a handsome prince to sweep her off her feet and carry her away on a white charger. In the meantime she plays a formidable game of cribbage.
Sadie's hobbies are giggling, filing her nails, fluttering her eyelashes and torture.
Eileen is interested in contortionism, horse-riding and escapology. She has studied ballet since the age of 2½.
Laura de Lande is from Brittany and came to the capital only recently with her two aunts. Laura likes fishing and falconry and also breeds rabbits. (For the falcons). She loves the open air and all of God's creatures, especially veal, venison and foie gras. Mme. de Lande is a widow; her husband was the late M. Wintewun de Lande, who died tragically in a skating accident in the summer of 1606. (He drowned.)
Claire is the elder daughter in the de la Lune family; it won't be long before her younger sister enters the social circuit as well. The de la Lunes are well-known for their big round eyes and enviable ability to party well into the night. Sadly, the family is occasionally touched by insanity but there has not been any history of that for several weeks.
May studies philosophy, theology, astrology and taxidermy. She is a Libran and her favourite colour is yellow.
Lotte could drink a pint of sherry in 4½ seconds, but she has since improved on this record and can now perform the feat in 4¼ seconds. She plays the viola and the crumhorn, sometimes both together.
The Serb says: As usual, rankings in parentheses refer to gentlemen currently on campaign, whose social rankings are frozen while they are away doing their duty.
Need a ghost writer?
To Messrs. Baronne and Mystère,
I must extend my sincerest apologies for the incident at Hunters at the end of last month. Due to the late arrival hour of your RSVPs, it transpired that the doormen at Hunters were not aware of your intention to attend my gathering, which resulted in the unfortunate turning away of your good selves. I shall endeavour to ensure that this does not occur again and wish to assure you that there was no insult intended in the origin of this action.
Pierre de Fromage
Your apology is accepted in the manner it was offered. It seems the art of grace is not entirely abandoned.
Captain Mer de Mystère, and M Robert Baronne