06 October 2012
Meanwhile, back at the Residenz. . .
The Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II sits for a portrait, painted by noted Stollenian aritist Herr von Bahlsen, while Hives hovers just off camera.
Meanwhile, as battle rages on the frontier around Neu Sittangbad, we rejoin the Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II and his steadfast English valet Hives in the music room of Krankenstadt Palace where they observe the work so far on a new portrait of the Grand Duke and ruminate about various items in Stollenian life and society.
Irwin-Amadeus (peering at the canvas through a lorgnette): Oh, I say, Hives! It looks nothing like me so far. Where the devil did we find this chap, von Bahlsen anyway?
Hives (dusting various Chinese vases arranged on a table across the room): They say his pedigree is impressive, Sir. From what I have been led to believe, Herr von Bahlsen comes to us from the Academie de les Artistses here in Krankenstadt where he has taught painting and sculpture for a decade after many years abroad in Stockholm and then Saint Petersburg where he painted portraits of various members of the nobility in Sweden and Russia.
IA (wrinkling nose): He certainly sounds impressive enough, Hives, I'll grant you that. But it still doesn't look much like me beyond the general shape of the forehead and the jawline. By the way, where the devil is old von Bahlsen?
Hives (moving on to a large and ornate porcelain dragon on the mantle of the fireplace): It has just gone one o'clock, Sir. My best guess is that he is taking his midday meal at a nearby restaurant for gentlemen before returning this afternoon to continue his work.
IA (leaves canvas, crosses room and sits down at harpsichord nearby): Returns, you say? I haven't seen him yet today. We were supposed to have sitting at 10:30 this morning, but the blighter never turned up.
Hives (dusting the dragon deftly and with considerable enthusiasm): I'll speak to the housekeeper Frau Goetterfunken about the matter, Sir, though it occurs to me that one must remain flexible with the more artisitic members of society. They sometimes operate on their own schedules.
IA (picking out a few chords softly on the keyboards): Oh, dash it all, Hives! It's not that I mind very much, but old von Bahlsen does take rather a lot of coffee breaks while he's here. So much so that it seems to be taking rather longer for this new portrait than I was originally led to believe when we commissioned Herr von Bahlsen late last May.
Hives (absent-mindedly): You don't say, Sir.
IA: (frowning): I do say, Hives. And he repeatedly asks for the same kind of biscuit with his endless cups of coffee, a Leibniz something or other.
Hives (rasies eyebrows): A Leibniz, Sir?
IA (Impatiently): Yes, Hives, a Leibniz. Some sort of a rectangular buttered biscuit covered with milk chocolate on one side and imported from Hannover. Frightfully good they are too, though now von Bahlsen's got me started on the blasted things, and we never seem to have enough of them in the house.
Hives (with an ingratiating bow in the Grand Duke's direction): I'll speak to the kitchen staff at once, Sir.
IA: Thank you, Hives. See that you do. It's almost more than I can bear to think of a later afternoon cup or two of coffee without some of those Leibniz biscuits on the side. Fancy that. No new portrait yet, but the start of an addiction to one more sweet treat. It's a conspiracy, I tell you, Hives. A conspiracy. No doubt put into action by a band of revolutionaries, republicans, and libertines. I'm sure that man Jefferson in America is at the bottom of it. Probably in cahoots with that cretin Voltaire!
Hives: Very good, Sir. Shall I fill your favorite pipe with some of Mr. Jefferson's finest Virginia tobacco?
IA: What? Oh, yes Hives! Please (tickles the ivories and starts to sing along). Oh, Princess, Princess Antoooon-ia. Why'd you invade my ho, ho, ho, ho home-a? With the setting sun, my men were on the run. And my sawmill on the way back to vile Stag-oooo-nia!
Hives (winces behind the Grand Duke's back and interrupts): Sir? Without wishing to trample on your finely developed musical sensibilities, the harpsichord is in need of retuning since the weather turned cooler.
IA (stops mid-song): What? Oh, yes, Hives, yes. Of course. I thought things were a little off when I hit those last several keys (plinks one of the offending keys a few times with his right index finger). Yes, Hives, you're quite right I say. Still, it was fun to give the old epiglottis a few runs around the vocal ring. Haven't sung that one in quite some time.
Hives (relieved): No, Sir.
IA (pivots on bench to face Hives): I say, Hives?
Hives (gathering and stacking sheet music on nearby table): Sir?
IA: What the devil is going on down there around Neu Sittangbad anyway? What are those two ne'er-do-wells up to? I've never seen a battle take so long. They've been at it for months!
Hives: I'm told, Sir, that the situation remains in the balance for the moment. While General von Tschatschke has unleashed a cavalry charge by his cuirassiers against the right flank of General de Latte's front line, the former is nevertheless continuing to withdraw his second line, covered by the first, back through the town and across the the river into the Grand Duchy of Stollen proper.
IA (adopting a pensive, thoughtful expression): I see, Hives. I see. Pray, do continue.
Hives (examining a piece of sheet music more closely): For his part, General de Latte is continuing his frontal assault on von Tschatschke's position, but the movement of his cavalry and some infantry is hindered on the left side of his lines by the presence of a large marsh, which, apparently, if we are to believe the reports by the press, is impassible to all troops but infantry in open order.
IA (snapping out his momentary lapse): Well, they'd best get on with it then, hadn't they, Hives? May one's dice always roll high and all that, eh?
Hives: Indeed, Sir.
IA (rubbing hands together): I say, Hives?
IA: I think I'll take my own midday meal in the upper drawing room on the south side of the palace today. The way the afternoon sun comes through the windows during the afternoons at this particular time of year is most pleasant to say the least. Would you have the kitchen see to it?
Hives (finishes with the sheet music and straightens his back): As you wish, Sir.
IA: Oh, and Hives?
Hives (arching his left eyebrow): Sir?
IA: I'll have a few of those Leibniz biscuits with my pot of coffee afterwards. Please ask the the kitchen to open a new packet, would you?
Hives: Very good, Sir. And if we are out?
IA (a note of panic in his voice): Out?
Hives: Yes, Sir. I fear were are nearing the end of our current stock. Should that be the case, what are your instructions for coffee?
IA (collects himself and then winks at his valet): Well then, Hives, if we're out, I'll just have to find a Hannoverian princess to marry, or her less attractive younger sister, ensuring a steady supply of the things. Desperate times call for desperate measures, eh Hives?
Hives (opens door of music room to leave for kitchen): Indeed, Sir.
-- Curtain Falls --