The Grand Christmas Tourney organised by Captain Bint was a great success with wide attendance. The random draw produced an excellent mix of opponents and the evening concluded without loss of life. The winner was the diminutive Pierre de Tutu, son of a dancing instructor. Small and dainty he may be but more importantly he was light on his feet and possessed of a most powerful stroke. His opponent in the final, Napoleon Blownaparte, had also acquitted himself well but had picked up a number of injuries on his way, and retired to the bar hurt after receiving two solid hits from his diminutive adversary.
Some gentlemen had brought their lady friends with them as well, and throughout the tourney there were several girlish gasps as attacks struck home. Mlle. Stique, who had come in attendance with Captain de Mystère, seemed to particularly enjoy the proceedings, while Eileen d'Overre was disappointed to see Captain de la Maison break his losing streak against her man Captain de Fromage. Marcie Panne was likewise disappointed when her champion was eliminated in the first round.
Other results of note: Robert Baronne, a strong candidate for tournament favourite was bested in the first round by Alexi de Camp. M. de Camp used a wall of steel defensive technique that M. Baronne was unable to pierce, and the formidable lawyer's son went out with his opponent's second successful riposte. De Camp's defensive style also gained him victory over Captain Vincent de la Maison, who found it equally impenetrable. However, M. de Camp then met M. Blownaparte who most certainly was able to find gaps in his guard and sent his opponent packing with two heavy wounds. M. de Camp then retired hurt.
While it is generally accepted that Captain de Fromage is a slightly more skilled duelist than his regimental adversary Captain de la Maison, the rules of Captain Bint's tourney placed a strong emphasis on good tactics. In their encounter this month, Captain de la Maison was the victor; two strikes to him, one strike to Captain de Fromage. Both gentlemen had been seen beforehand working carefully through their planned routines, but on this day Captain de la Maison proved himself the better tactician. Nevertheless, Captain de Fromage's second strike was only just a hair too late to count.
An unexpected result was the victory of Major de Choux over Captain Bint. Captain Bint was rather preoccupied, concentrating more on arranging the details of the tournament than on his own fencing routines. More than once he was heard wondering aloud whether there was enough tapioca, before shaking his head as if to clear it. When he demonstrated his own planned routine out of the good Major's sight, he belatedly realised that most of his moves were illegal under his own rules. He quickly constructed a new routine that omitted the illegal sequences, but in the fight proper he had completed his new shortened routine and surrendered before Major de Choux even managed to strike home. «But I hadn't -» his opponent protested, but it was too late. The sporting Captain Bint was adamant that he had been beaten fair and square and so on went Major de Choux into the second round.
Messrs. Piê Kéyy and Claude Lemoine do not seem at all suited to the business of duelling. Both retired badly hurt after but one strike, by Messrs. Blownaparte and de Tutu respectively. M. Piê Kéyy did manage a successful riposte against M. Blownaparte, for pride's sake, but that was all.
In the second round, both of the eventual finalists did convincing demolition jobs on their opponents; M. Blownaparte dealing with Major de Choux and M. de Tutu vanquishing Captain de Mystère, who had received a bye from round one. Both losers retired hurt, Captain de Mystère's gentle mistress offering to see to her lover's injuries, but strangely he seemed reluctant to take up this kindly offer.
The next fight was between the defensive master de Camp and the rather more aggressive M. Blownaparte. Here M. Blownaparte's greater speed was too much for his opponent to handle, and he secured victory in three strikes. Still, M. de Camp did successfully riposte one of the three attacks and thus M. Blownaparte found himself with another touche.
The fencing final was quite an impressive display of swordsmanship. In terms of skill, M. Blownaparte had the upper hand, but by this time he was moderately wounded, while his lightly-built opponent was still fresh. M. de Tutu's duelling sequence was an unsuccessful parry-riposte followed by two lunges, two more parry-ripostes then two more lunges, while M. Blownaparte used a lunge, a close, a parry-riposte and then a lunge. But by M. de Tutu's second lunge, he had twice connected quite firmly with M. Blownaparte, while de Tutu for his part was struck once. The combat was so fast that de Tutu's injury was not immediately noticed - M. Blownaparte leaves a very neat hole - but there was no doubt as to the true and deserving winner. And so a blushing M. de Tutu collected his prize of 100 crowns from Captain Bint, and the gallant runner-up stated his intention to replace his lost fluids at the Hunter's bar forthwith.
In view of the greater sample size, this list of the relative skill of the gentleman fencers of Paris can be considered more definitive than the last, although the previous caveat applies; namely that a spate of secret training or a significant difference in the levels of aggression between two opponents might cause «seeding upsets».
While the fencing tourney was certainly the high point of the Paris social scene this Christmas, it was by no means the only event over the festive period. M. Blownaparte was seen in Hunter's in week two, with Anne Ode and her friend Pat Hétique. Pat seemed a lot more relaxed this month and was gossiping with Anne about her new and much more eligible suitor, while M. Blownaparte watched the proceedings with a tolerant eye.
La Maison Char bawdy house saw custom from some of the new arrivals to Paris in week one, we are told; Messrs. de Tutu, Lemoine and Piê Kéyy were all present and having a great time. M. Lemoine was accepting toadies from M. Piê Kéyy as if born to the rôle, and doubtless this is true, as he comes from a family in show business. In addition to the usual carousing and womanising, M. Lemoine sang a variety of songs appropriate to the venue; most notably La Chanson d'Hérison. He is possessed of a passable tenor voice, although perhaps not with quite the ton of his father.
In week two the Blue Gables club was filled by M. Baronne and his coterie. Messrs. de Camp, Lemoine, de Tutu and Captain de la Maison were all guests of M. Baronne, although M. de Camp was toadying to Captain de la Maison and Messrs. de Tutu and Lemoine were toadying to M. de Camp. Captain de la Maison had brought Laura de Lande with him as well. It was also by now becoming apparent that the generous M. Lemoine intends to share his singing voice with the population of Paris at every available opportunity. However M. de Tutu showed no signs of intending to break into a pas de deux.
In week four Hunter's was again the place to be. The blood had all been mopped up by now and Captain de Fromage was hosting a party. Present were Messrs. de Camp, de Tutu and Major de Choux. M. Baronne and Captain de Mystère also arrived, but were politely turned away by the Hunter's doorman.
However, December was a somewhat quieter month overall than might be expected given the influx of three new arrivals into Paris. Many gentlemen who are normally active on the social scene chose this month to hone their fencing skills in preparation for Captain Bint's tourney, or for impending duels in January.
After last season's decidedly unsuccessful field operation, this season Lieutenant General Crocket ordered a flanking manoeuvre which successfully brought French forces up against a supposedly lightly-defended Austrian fortification at ------ (place-name excised for security reasons). But alas, Colonel Croquet of the Frontier Regiments misinterpreted his orders again and this communications breakdown saw the French forces scattered by an Austrian sortie. Many brave officers fell in the confusion.
Of particular interest to the readership of this journal is the news that the knave de Lambe was slain by some Austrian pikemen - but at least in dying he has retrieved his lost honour and all stains on his character are now erased. Meanwhile the heroic Major Jean-Luc Picoq twice rallied substantial forces of the Picardy Musketeers and a Frontier battalion and led them to safety. For each incident Major Picoq was mentioned in dispatches, and his Majesty has seen fit to reward these conspicuous acts with a well-deserved knighthood. Major Picoq now has three mentions to his name, and will doubtless be a popular celebrity on his return to Paris.
The upholding of honour is always a prime consideration for the readership of this journal, and on two occasions in November words were exchanged that will require bloodshed to settle. In an attempt to offer une amende honorable to Captain de Fromage, Captain de la Maison tentatively inquired of the former if he might be permitted to toady to him. Captain de Fromage demurred, stating in no uncertain terms that he considered de la Maison «below a knave» - so naturally de la Maison had no alternative but to issue a challenge. It is a matter for regret that the two gentlemen had only just closed the book on their last disagreement.
M. Baronne also took issue with Captain Bint for duelling both Laurent de Lambe and Disab le Toilet in week three at Captain de Fromage's «Welcome Home» party for his brother. Baronne initially complained that Captain Bint was merely greedy to have hogged duelling rights to both miscreants to himself, but, warming to his theme he progressed up the chain of rhetoric and in short order had painted a verbal picture of Captain Bint as a corpulent blubber-encrusted trough-swilling hog. But the cool-blooded Bint, recognising M. Baronne's hidden agenda, countered with a surgically-selected array of insults of his own. M. Baronne for his part had no qualms about calling out Captain Bint on these matters, and having secured himself choice of weapons, Captain Bint was only too ready to accept. The duel has been arranged for week two in January at an undisclosed location in the Bois de Boulogne; both gentlemen promptly set about arranging seconds and there was no shortage of people eager to oblige. M. Blownaparte has indicated his availability, and so too have Captain de la Maison, Captain de Fromage and also, this paper is led to believe, Major de Choux. This means that both the duels between de Fromage and de la Maison, and between Baronne and Bint should be fully endowed with all the necessary supporters, and those supporters will include some of Paris' most experienced duellists.
It seems that M. le Toilet has left off pestering Mlle. Hétique, at least for the time being, and this has left an opening for another Paris gentleman - the newcomer M. de Camp - to seize his chance. With M. de Camp, Mlle. Hétique showed the gentler side of her nature, smiling graciously when he first introduced himself, and permitting him to wine and dine her on several occasions. But it seems she is not so relieved to be temporarily free of M. le Toilet as to fling herself into the arms of the next gentleman she meets; she is making even the much more eligible M. de Camp work for her affections. Nevertheless, the signs are far more hopeful in M. de Camp's case than they ever were for le Toilet.
Next, Major de Choux was seen proudly stepping out with his new lady; while Pat and Anne were discussing the charms of M. de Camp in Hunter's in week two, Major de Choux and Mlle. de la Lune were seen attending a theatrical performance - François de Belleforest's (rather old) history of Denmark. The ghost at this performance was quite exceptionally well-done and Mlle. de la Lune seemed very grateful to have a brave, strong man to comfort her while it was on-stage. Also present at the same performance was the Commissioner of Public Safety and his wife. Regrettably Mme. Croisvert seems to have been even more profoundly affected by the ghost than Mlle. de la Lune, and she had to be led from the theatre halfway through 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: I'm sure our regular readership know the routine by now. Rankings in parentheses for last month refer to new arrivals in Paris, who have been inserted into last month's sequence in the correct relative positions. Rankings in parentheses for this month refer to gentlemen currently on campaign, whose social rankings are frozen while they are away doing their duty.
If anyone wishes to challenge the current drinking champion of Paris, I can be found in Hunter's most weeks of the month and would gladly invite anyone who wants to try their luck.
Only one challenger per week though, as the pink elephants tell me that any more than that is bad form.
Pierre de Fromage
(In addendum to the above.)
Captain de la Maison is welcome to try and attend. However, his previous gatecrashing incidents and knavish behaviour mean he would feel the point of my sword before he reached the bar.
Pierre de Fromage
Captain de Fromage,
I would challenge you, declaring bellies to be the weapon however I fear that your extensive practice at the bar has extended your natural girth advantage to the point where the cause is hopeless.
Coward de Custard
Sweetest Sadie, I say that life with you is blissful
If I lost you, I'm sure that I would eat my pistol
My father may only be a lowborn miller
yet I know what I want for a stocking filler
Captain Mer de Mystère
If you desire to become a captain in one of his majesty's more prestigious regiments, yet find that your path is blocked by incumbents then fear not. Captain Mer de Mystère is aware of the need for fresh talent in the Military, and is therefore willing to assist at no cost to a candidate with prospects.
Robert Baronne cordially invites Gentlemen of Paris (SL 6+) to join him at his expense in Blue Gables in weeks 1, 3, or 4 of January 1608. Prospective Gentlemen (SL 3+) may also attend at their own expense.
Please notify me privately if you intend to participate in any of these convivial associations so that your name can be placed upon the guest list.