It was time for Queen Pirouette’s religious studies class. This was conducted by Père Clairmont, the Royal Confessor. Unlike the confessional, these sessions were not protected by any form of confidentiality, so Her Majesty was often reluctant to answer him with complete candor. Père often found this frustrating, but he understood her reluctance. Some answers, if posited fully would be politically lethal.
“Tell me, Your Majesty,” he began. “What do you think is the source of evil in this world?”
“I suppose its the Devil,” she answered tentatively.
“That’s a good answer,” he said with a benign smile. “Have you considered that it might be man’s desire to place his own will before that of God’s?”
“I suppose,” she said again.
“Forgive me, Your Majesty,” he responded patiently. “The questions aren’t meant to be answered with suppositions, but with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.'”
Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Paul 5:8
Tata Sous-sus was sipping tea and gazing out the window of her little room on the ground floor of the palace. “It’s more like a broom closet,” she’d complained when she first saw it, but now she found it cozy and warm with its big fireplace that took up almost an entire wall of the compartment. There was a knock on the door, a rare occasion, that made her jump.
“Come in,” she said without even thinking. Damn! She thought. I just want to be left alone.
She was not so lucky. When the door opened, the Captain of the Guard entered with two underlings. “Greetings in the name of the Queen,” said the Captain gravely. “Were here to ask you a few question, my lady.”
“Concerning the murder of the Baroness, Lady Greenmeadow.”
“Take one of these twice a day for three days,” the doctor paused to allow Abigail to catch up with her note-taking, “And then once a week as a-.” He paused again, groping for the right word, “Prophylactic!” He finished triumphantly. Handing Pirouette a jar full of a noxious-smelling, cloudy blue compound, he smiled with the benignity of the brilliant.
“It smells awful!” Observed Abigail. “What’s a single dose?” She inquired taking the lid from the doctor’s hand and placing it securely on the top of the jar.
In response to her query, the doctor handed Abigail a dropper. “One drop,” he said succinctly.
“Is it thin enough to extract with a dropper?”
“I assure you, my dear, that while it looks dense, this mixture is actually as frothy as air,” he assured the Queen’s Chief Lady of the Bedchamber.
“You may address her as, ‘Your ladyship,'” interjected Tata Sous-sus from a dark corner of the room.
Taking advantage of a break in the rain, la duchesse du Linge and friends decided to frolic in the gardens. Given her advancing age, such diversions were now rare in the life of the old King’s former mistress. Catching her foot on an uneven brick in the pavement that cut through the roses, she fell to her knees, tearing her new dress, knocking her wig into a precarious position and soiling her gloves as she braced herself from falling on her face. In her distress, she cried, “Oh, poo! Somebody help me!” As she tore off her blindfold, she smeared her eye makeup, giving her the appearance of a sad clown.
“Oh, happy day!” Shouted the old King when he heard of GarGar’s safe return to the capital. His Majesty ordered bonfires to be lit throughout the kingdom. When le comte des Deux Chats entered the city gates, the people thronged to see him. Some threw flowers in front of his horse. Others waved handkerchiefs and bright pieces of cloth from their windows. Canons fired the salute. Church bells rang, carrying the sound of joy in the air.
For his on part, GarGar was pleased to smile and wave at the people. It was a hot, sunny day, so he was obliged to exsiccate himself with his own handkerchief. Afterwards he tossed the bit of white cloth into the crowd and it was immediately torn to pieces by those who were eager to have a momento of that glorious day.
For a day and a half, Princess Pirouette had wept. On the second day after hearing the news, she dried her eyes and bid her ladies to dress her in black. Next she told her master of the horse to make ready a steed that would carry her to GarGar’s house. When her footman helped her into the saddle, it took all of her composure not to begin crying again. The last time anyone had touched her so intimately, it had been GarGar. The tactile memory was hard to bear, but instead of crying, she only made a guttural sound, as though she were choking.
“Are you alright, my lady?” Asked one of her servants. All she could do in reply was shake her head.
“Giddy up,” she said as she spurred her horse. Off she rode, with her ladies and guards in tow.
Bodies littered the streets. It pained GarGar to see that women and children were among the dead. “That’s the price of treason,” said his aide de camp with the callousness of youth. GarGar’s approach was more pragmatic. He pressed the survivors into work gangs, clearing the streets and throwing the corpses into one of several mass graves. Whole city blocks were razed to the ground in order to create space.
“This is the last time I lead an army against my own people,” said GarGar with emotion. “The very last time!”
“What kind of fashion statement is that?” Asked the recently rehabilitated Lady Greenmeadow. The object of her scorn was the old King’s former mistress (one of many) la duchess du Linge. Rather than the usual court attire, the omnipresent mantua, she’d donned a pair of baggy trousers. Men’s trousers were usually rather tight and form-fitting, so she could not be accused of cross-dressing. No, this was the duchess’ feeble attempt to influence court fashions.
When the old King saw Madame la duchesse, he said, “My dear, you’ve never looked more lovely. Where did you get those trousers? They are much too large for you!”