This month in Paris began with the shocking and unexpected revelation that two gentlemen, formerly believed to be upstanding pillars of the community, are in fact knaves of the first order. Our social affairs correspondent relates:
Even before the October memorial service for officers fallen in the recent campaign season, there had been whispers around Paris of unearthly goings-on. One so-called gentleman decided that there might perhaps be a way for him to profit from these rumours, and so was born the ill-conceived idea of a séance, to commune with unholy powers. In order to protect the identities of those depraved enough to attend, all attendees at the meeting were masked. They did however include one anonymous informant working for this newspaper.
The evening seemed to start well, and there was a well-stocked bar available, so before everyone got down to business there were already many departed spirits in evidence in the room. But then our mysterious host called for silence, and the damnable business of courting the supernatural began. «Is there anybody there?» he called, in a mysterious yet quavering voice.
Our correspondent looked furtively round the table. Nobody had moved, and everyone's hands were visible. Yet the tap seemed to have come from right in front of us! Our correspondent felt the hairs rising on the back of his neck, and a cold draught suddenly blew from nowhere.
The host swallowed visibly, and called out again.
«If there is somebody there, tap three times!» he commanded.
TAP, TAP, TAP, TAP.
A momentary stir of puzzlement went round the table. «One, two, five, three,» counted our host, under his breath, then brightened up again in understanding. «Ah, so there is somebody there! What is your name, dread spectre?»
Then then came some more sounds - not so much tapping as clomping, and the next thing all present knew, half a dozen brave agents of the Commissioner for Public Safety stormed into the room! Never before has our correspondent been so relieved to see the representatives of God, law and order! Some loyal and pious citizen must have given them a tip-off. But obviously they were set on arresting all present, and thus immediate escape became of the highest importance. The constables seemed to have been forewarned of what to expect; as they got near they tried to grab for everyone's masks and reveal their identities. I and the man sitting on my left managed to escape through a window with our identities remaining concealed, but the host and his right-hand man were not so lucky. They fought their way free accompanied by the sound of tearing cloth and within a day the news of the disgraceful activities of M. de Lambe and le Toilet was common currency across all of Paris.
I for one am grateful to have escaped intact, and while I was only doing my duty for my newspaper, after attending this shameful episode I made my way to confession as quickly as if the hounds of Hell were already sniffing at my heels.
Another noteworthy event of December has been the ongoing attrition battle between Captain de Fromage and de la Maison, played out on the steps of Hunter's and Blue Gables for most of the month.
It is of course true that both gentlemen have learnt their lesson about not inadvertently inviting regimental enemies to their social gatherings, but even though Captain de Fromage is a highly-respected and popular host, he is not the sole hub of Paris social life. So it happened that on several occasions this month, Captain de la Maison's innocent meetings with other Paris gentlemen - Messrs. Blownaparte and Baronne - caused his path to cross repeatedly with that of Captain de Fromage. This has given our duelling correspondent ample opportunity to observe and analyse the two gentlemen's technique.
The first duels to come to your correspondent's attention (that is, in time to go to press) were the three battles between Captains de Fromage and de la Maison. Other incidents this month were the fights between Major de Choux and the two knaves; Major de Choux was fortunate to be the first Paris gentleman to be in the position to call these two out for their dishonourable behaviour, in week two at Red Phillips, just following the séance. In week three, Messrs. de Lambe and le Toilet had the effrontery to attend Captain de Fromage's party for his long-lost brother at Blue Gables, and hence there was a long queue of gentlemen wishing to censure them, some of whom were inevitably disappointed. The results of these duels will be published next month.
Between Captain de Fromage and de la Maison, it seems quite plain that the skills of both gentlemen have improved markedly, but the greatest improvement has naturally been shown by Captain de Fromage, as he was repeatedly the victor. Nevertheless, Captain de la Maison now has a particularly nasty trick in his armoury, and it was quite noticeable that in every fight, while de Fromage's superior skill eventually carried the day for him, first blood - well, at least the first strike - was consistently de la Maison's.
Analysing Captain de Fromage's routine, we note that he starts with a series of blocks and parries that are plainly intended to foul an opponent's initial attack, then he closes, slashes and kicks. De la Maison's counter-routine, which works quite well against this, is initially to jump back, then kick, parry and lunge. It was quite noticeable that Captain de la Maison's kick was consistently the first blow to strike home, and thereafter Captain de Fromage was playing catch-up, but would typically strike home with two blows (including an equally eye-watering revenge kick of his own) before de la Maison was able to attack again. Skillwise, de la Maison was beginning to look significantly outclassed by the end of the month.
Nevertheless, by the end of three weeks of attacks, both gentlemen were looking quite frayed at the edges. Whether de la Maison quite has a sufficient excess of endurance to outlast Captain de Fromage in a long-term attrition battle is a question still in doubt. In the short term, the indomitable Captain de Fromage has a clear (and growing) advantage. Over longer timescales, it's a somewhat closer contest.
At the same time that Major de Choux was attempting to censure Messrs. de Lambe and le Toilet in Red Phillips, the wily M. Blownaparte was as usual seen in the company of Anne Ode and her friend Pat Hétique in Hunter's in week two. Also present, and toadying to him, were M. Baronne and Captain de la Maison. This also gave Captain de la Maison the first opportunity of three this month to duel Captain de Fromage, who was present as a guest of Captain Bint.
In week three, we observe that as Captain de Fromage advances up the social scale, it seems that Blue Gables is now the preferred venue for most eligible Paris gentlemen - although Hunter's is seeing increasing activity as well. Captain de Fromage's «Welcome home bruv'» party at Blue Gables in week three was a big success and very well-attended. Indeed, even Captain Bint, a Hunter's habitué, was present, and that gave him the first opportunity to duel the reprobates de Lambe and le Toilet. The second instalment of the ongoing duelling campaign between Captains de Fromage and de la Maison was also fought at the party, with de Fromage winning once again.
Captain de Fromage's party also saw the drinking competition between M. le Toilet and de Fromage, and Captain de Fromage continued his month's winning streak. Here it was his greater constitution that won him the bout, rather than his skill; if anything, M. le Toilet's quaffing technique is the superior. Thus it is that the crown of Champion Drinker of Paris reverts to Captain de Fromage. Perhaps the other temporary holder of the title, M. D'Orcey, may wish to place his own challenge for the title?
By week four, though, things had quietened down somewhat. In the Frog and Peach, Captain de Mystère could be spotted by his distinctive jewelled rapier, and he was accepting toadies from a slightly sore Major de Choux. Major de Choux did however seem in quite high spirits, despite his slowly-healing wounds, and we gather this was a consequence of his acceptance by the lovely Claire de la Lune. In Blue Gables, Captains de la Maison and de Fromage were having their weekly duel while Marcie Panne was seen in the company of her beloved, Robert Baronne.
Congratulations are due to Major de Choux this month, as his generosity towards Mlle. Claire de la Lune has borne fruit. We would also speculate that Mlle. de la Lune's delectable taste in gentlemen should do much to weaken the family's regrettable reputation for insanity. What more rational choice could be made than for her to accept the advances of a dashing fellow like Major de Choux?
An equally rational rejection was made by Mlle. Pat Hétique, who was wisely having nothing to do with the knave le Toilet, and he left her company accompanied by a veritable barrage of thrown objects and the sound of barking dogs. Alas, poor M. le Toilet, and woe to him in discovering that Mlle. Hétique is possessed of a most fiery personality when roused.
Meanwhile, Captain Mer de Mystère was demonstrating his own iron nerve by exerting himself to attract the attention of Mlle. Sadie Stique. There have been no blood curdling screams so far - is that good or bad? This paper hardly dares to speculate.
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.
Anne is of course the lover of the fine M. Blownaparte, while Cath lavishes her affections on the charming Captain Bint.
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.
Marcie is dating the formidable M. Baronne.
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.
Pat Hétique is continuing to have nothing to do with M. le Toilet, and who can blame her?
Sadie's hobbies are giggling, filing her nails, fluttering her eyelashes and torture.
Sadie Stique has ensnared the Captain Mer de Mystère. Never before have we seen a happier captive.
Eileen is interested in contortionism, horse-riding and escapology. She has studied ballet since the age of 2½.
Eileen is still happily attached to Captain Louis de Fromage. No, wait. We mean his brother, Pierre de Fromage. Oh, la, those two handsome men are so hard to tell apart!
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.)
Mme. de Lande is now seeing Captain de la Maison, and we wish them much happiness together.
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.
Mlle. Claire is dating the brave Major de Choux.
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.
Lotte is seeing M. Laurent de Lambe. Can their love survive M. de Lambe's current shame? Can M. de Lambe survive? Only time will tell.
As a good Catholic, I find myself increasingly shocked by the damnable activities of those Huguenot heretics. I never thought I would find myself saying this - Hurrah for the Cardinal's guard and may they save your soul from eternal damnation.
What rot your other correspondent speaks about the summer of 1598 being hotter than 1604. Only the dribblings of a deranged mind could reach such an asinine conclusion.
Oh Marcie Panne, how sweet you are
For now I gaze upon you from afar.
To win your heart I would fight a duel
Oh I have already, I am such a fool.
Joy to me, Sweet Marcie is mine at last
and truth be told, I shall hold her fast
Gentlemen of Paris I give due warning
Mess around, and your family may be mourning.
Various reports coming in regarding the set up of a new hell fire club for those that are interested in the afterlife. Its opening event should be if rumour is to be believed a séance. Something regarding masks to be worn at all times to keep all those present a mystery. Add to this the tale of the ghostly apparition that has been heard all about Paris could make for a very lucrative business idea.
More shall be revealed as soon as my ears hear tale of it and be assured my ears shall be pressed to many a keyhole.
A party will be help on the third week of November at Blue Gables to honour the return of my long-lost brother, Louis de Fromage, from his expedition to the dark continent. All are welcome, and drinks and refreshments have been arranged in advance.
Pierre de Fromage
N.B. Any members of the 13th Fusiliers must apply directly to myself for an invitation.
CAPTAIN NELSON BINT
Invite all willing and honourable gentlemen to the Grand Christmas Tournament of the Noble Sword
With the prize of 100 crowns to the winner and the title of Noble Sword Christmas Champion
Entry fee 10 crowns
All entrants and their ladies are cordially invited to the after contest Banquet