When GarGar, le comte des Deux Chats entered the old King’s bedroom, he found the old man standing by a window with Tata Sous-sus on one side and Princess Pirouette on the other. They were conversing quietly about something outside that had caught their eyes. While their exact words didn’t quite register in GarGar’s ears, he did think he heard the word, “raven.”
“I was taught that les corbeaux were most unlucky,” said Tata Sous-sus. “Not at all,” replied the old King. “They are very intelligent birds. You can train them to do anything.”
The old King was still bed-ridden with pneumonia. While it didn’t seem to be getting better, neither did it appear to be getting worse. With Princess Pirouette, Tata Sous-sus and la duchesse du Linge in attendance at the sickbed, His Majesty was under constant supervision. It was Tata Sous-sus who made a liniment by crushing the leaves of various plants such as cedarleaf and nutmeg. With a few drops of turpentine to seal the deal, she rubbed the concoction onto His Majesty’s chest.
“It was my own mother who taught me how to make it,” said Tata Sous-sus to Pirouette. “She called it ‘country comfort.‘ It works like a charm when a fever settles into the chest.”
“Ouch!” Cried Princess Pirouette. “I’ve been stung!”
“Let me take a look,” said GarGar, le comte des Deux Chats, reaching for Pirouette’s hand. “Let’s pull back your glove and see what kind of damage has been done.” Pirouette whimpered quietly as GarGar peeled the fine chamois fabric away. “It must have had a long stinger to get through this cloth,” he observed. And there it was, an angry red welt on the back of Pirouette’s hand. GarGar gave it a gentle kiss. “Feel better?”
“Oh, much better, kind sir,” replied Pirouette. “I’m afraid you may have missed your calling, Monsieur GarGar,” continued the Princess. “You would have made a fine chirurgeon.”
“Specializing in insect bites, no doubt.” GarGar laughed.
Once again the old King had taken to his sickbed. Despite Monsieur le Premier Ministre dire suspicions of poison, his fairly competent physicians had diagnosed pneumonia. For this His Majesty would require lots of bedrest and copious amounts of water to be poured down his gullet. While his Majesty was more than happy to loll around under the covers, he was resistant to drinking anything but wine.
Of course whenever His Majesty took ill, a quiet pandemonium would strike the court. Servants would stand and sit in small groups, gossiping when they should have been working. Various nobles would crowd around the old King’s bedchamber hoping to hear the latest news. Of course Princess Pirouette never left his side. There she sat, morning, noon and night, offering him broth, wiping his brow, adjusting his covers and whispering encouragement. With such a nurse, how could he not recover?
Against her better judgement, Princess Pirouette agreed to GarGar’s request that they take an evening stroll on the southern terrace. With Lady Greenmeadow and Abigail Hoffenhoff walking a respectful ten meters behind them, Pirouette felt reasonably safe. She even let GarGar, le comte des Deux Chats take her arm and slip it inside his own. “Please do let me escort you properly,” he said. By the glow of the torchlight, GarGar’s eyes shimmered seductively. Pirouette did her best not to look into his face for more than a second.
When GarGar paused in front of one of the large windows that looked into the grand ballroom, he released a long, heartbreaking sigh. “Look at our reflection in the glass!” He said. “Don’t we make the perfect couple?” This was one of those rare moments when Pirouette was at a loss for words. If she said, “yes,” it would be tantamount to an agreement to marry. If she said, “no,” it would be an immutable rejection, and so she said nothing. She simply sighed.
It was becoming obvious to all that Princess Pirouette was not taking the marriage game seriously. Every time a suitor was presented to her, she either reacted with cool indifference, or she found a way to make the poor gentleman look like a fool. One trick she employed was when she lured an unsuspecting victim onto the dance floor, only to shriek out in mock-pain as if he’d stepped on her foot. With this, and other such devices, the men who came bounding into her presence, invariably shuffled away with their heads down and their hearts downcast.
Enter GarGar, le comte des Deux Chats. After his most recent military victories, he’d finally been appointed to the King’s Privy Council. As the youngest member of this august body, one would think that he would remain circumspect, but such was not the case. Brimming with confidence and self-assurance, he made bold to approach Princess Pirouette without an introduction and to kiss her hand before any permission was granted to do so. While Pirouette accepted this attention with an outward show of cool indifference, inwardly she was enraptured.
As a general, GarGar le comte des Deux Chats was beyond reproach. Not one to hide in his tent during a battle, he was always there on the front lines, encouraging his men, directing the operation. After a battle, he was always sure to visit the wounded, making sure that they were getting the best of care possible. For this, his men loved him. It was obvious to all that he loved his soldiers in return.
In short order, the plaudits for le comte poured in. At court he preferred to wear his uniform, emblazoned with medals. He loved the feel of his sword as it bounced against his leg, especially when dancing. Unlike most of the men at court, he did not wear a wig. Instead he wore his general’s cap with its jaunty feather from a bird of paradise. With his confident stride and friendly smile, he was the bon vivant of the entire palace.