01 September 2012
A Snippet of Conversation before the Hunt. . .
The Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II and his ever-faithful English manservant Hives have been invited to spend a long weekend at the country home of Count Georg von Kleidsamke in the north of Stollen. An anglophile of the first order, von Kleidsamke has even organized a traditional English foxhunt. Frustratingly, heavy rains have delayed the start of the hunt this morning, and its numerous participants, all dressed up with no place to go, have been kept waiting beneath every available eave and doorway near the main horse barn on the von Kleidsamke estate. Let's join the Grand Duke and Hives now as they kill time before the rains let up, and the hunt can begin in earnest.
Irwin-Amadeus (removes clay pipe from his mouth and smacks lips loudly): Oh, I say Hives, that was some breakfast old von Kleidsamke laid on this morning. Eggs, bangers, mash, kidneys, toast, tea, and copious amounts of thick-cut orange marmalade. A feast fit for a king!
Hives (winces at the lip-smacking): It was a traditional English breakfast, Sir.
IA (distracted): What? What? Oh, yes, Hives, yes. Traditional. Scrumptious. It was simply scrumptious. Mind you, I could have done with a good lie-in under that goose down duvet afterwards though.
H: Early to bed and early to rise, Sir.
IA (slightly irritated): Yes, Hives, yes. I know. Who wrote that anyway? Some blighter called Ben, Ban, or Boberty something-or-other, wasn't it?
H (detached): Franklin, Sir. The man's name is Benjamin Franklin.
IA (stares off across the yard and into the rain while puffing his clay pipe thoughtfully): Ah, yes. Franklin. That's it. I knew it had to be in there somewhere. I say, Hives. . . (adopts conspiratorial tone) Isn't he one of those upstarts who has been behind some of that liberty, equality, and fraternity unpleasantness over there in the American colonies?
H (discreetly stifles a yawn): Mr, Franklin is an inventor, politician, and intellect of some considerable reputation and influence, Sir.
IA: I see, Hives. I see. Still, I've heard all sorts of talk about what he gets up to when he visits Paris, eh? The old nudge-nudge, wink-wink, hide-the-weasel, and all that sort of what-what with the ladies. Franklin and his crony Jefferson I mean.
H (mildly chiding): A gentleman doesn't concern himself with the personal affairs of other gentlemen, Sir.
IA (slightly taken aback): Oh, of course! Right you are, Hives. Of course. What happens in Montmarte, stays in Montmarte, eh Hives?
H (darkly): Indeed, Sir.
IA: I say, Hives? Do you think this blasted rain will ever let up? The hunt was supposed to begin promptly at nine-o-clock, and it's just gone ten.
H (removes an expensive looking leather-covered pocket flask from his inner coat pocket): It does seem to be lightening up a bit now, Sir. Perhaps the hunt can begin in the next few minutes.
IA (turns attention to pocket flask): I say, Hives. That's a damn fine looking pocket flask you have there. Mind sharing a nip of the stuff? It's a bit chilly out this morning.
H (ever-patient): It is your pocket flask, Sir. You left it on the dressing table in your room when you came down to breakfast. I've taken the liberty of filling it with some brandy.
IA (enthused): Ah! How forward-thinking of you, Hives. Delightful. I'll have a little now, and pour some for yourself.
Hives (produces two small silver cups from outter coat pocket): Very good, Sir. Thank you.
IA (changing subject again): I say, Hives?
IA (lowers voice): Know anything about this horse ol' von Kleidsamke has lent me this morning?
Hives: I'm told the Star of India is a somewhat lively steed, Sir. A young stallion of good Trakehner stock from the next estate but one over.
IA (bugs eyes slightly): Stallion, you say?
H: Indeed, Sir.
IA: Isn't the Star of India that big brute of a chestnut that we walked past on the way over here from the house?
H (hiding a very slight grin with the back of his hand): The very one, Sir.
IA (annoyed): Blast! He's huge. I'll need a leg up just to mount him. And von Kleidsamke knows I don't ride that well. He's done this on purpose. On purpose, I tell you! I would have preferred an aged gelding with rather less spirit. And smaller. Fewer hands in stature I mean. Hives, wasn't any of this conveyed in our letter accepting von Kleidsamke's invitation some weeks ago?
H: It must have escaped your personal secretary's attention, Sir.
IA: Oh, come now, Hives! You know perfectly well that you take care of the vast bulk of my personal correspondence.
H: Indeed, Sir. It must have escaped my attention.
IA (gaining the upper hand): Well, see that it doesn't happen again.
H (mildly chastened): Very good, Sir.
IA (resigned): Never mind, Hives. I suppose it's a bit late in the game to change now. I mean, I can't very well go on the hunt astride a mule, can I? Let's have another nip of that brandy. Good for what ails you and all that. It's helping already.
H (fills Grand Duke's small silver cup): As you wish, Sir.
IA (changing tack yet again): What's the news from Neu Sittangbad, Hives? Has ol' von Tschatschke managed to turn the tables on de Latte yet?
H: All has been quiet on that front for some time I hear, Sir. Something in the press about real life continually getting in the way. Especially with the start of the fall academic term.
IA (thoughtfully): I see, Hives. I see. Still, the tides of battle may turn yet. Victory is a fickle mistress I'm told, so General de Latte shouldn't be too smug yet. Ol' von Tschatschke might yet turn the tables and drive the Zichenauers from the field. If only we had a few more guns in our arsenal dash it all.
H: I am told, Sir, that our army recently took delivery of two 4-pdr. Valliere guns, which should join it in the field before long.
IA (impatiently): Well, what's the hold up then, Hives?
H: I have heard that the woodwork on the gun carriages still requires painting, Sir. That, and the workshop is out of superglue with which to attach the wheels to the carriages.
IA (with great indignation): Well, they had best get themselves to the local pharmacy and purchase some more then, hadn't they?
H: Indeed, Sir.
IA (brightening): Hives? I say, the rain seems to be letting up. Do you see that ray of sun peeking through the clouds over there? And here comes the Master of the Hounds now with his charges.
H: (replacing flask and cups in his coat pockets): Very good, Sir.
IA (resigned to fate): Well, Hives, it's now or never I suppose. Let's find the Star of India. Would you give me a leg up when we locate him? There's a good man.
H: Very good, Sir.
IA (chipper now): And who knows? I may just give that old Charlie the what for from atop my borrowed horse.
H (falls into step with IA as the two cross the yard): It is the hounds and the terriers that give the fox the what for, Sir.
IA (distracted): What? Oh, yes Hives. Of course, of course (slows his stride). I say, Hives?
IA: The Star of India does seem a frightfully large animal. Any chance of another nip of that brandy you have in your pocket?
H: As you wish, Sir.
IA: And Hives?
IA: Any word on the whereabouts of Mr. Bates?
H: I hear that Season Three will soon be upon us, Sir.
IA (feeling his oats): Ah, that's more like it! They knew how to dress back then is all I can say. Now, where is that horse?
H (through clenched teeth): There is your horse, Sir.
IA: Crikey, Hives! He is huge. . .