Chapitre 8. Carnival in Galadrona: Finale, or La Draga è Mobile
Arafrantz and Réginard saw no more dragons that day, nor the
Count either. The two friends resolved to profit to the utmost
from the Count’s generosity. In the evening, they took the
Count’s eagle to the Teatro Alqualonde, to see a performance of
Rohirrini’s Dwarfana in Umbari
Arafrantz and Réginard installed themselves in the Count’s
loggia. In the middle of a delightful chorus wherein the Corsairs
rejoiced at the large number of Dwarvish slaves they had managed to
procure for their master Elessardo, the Countess G arrove in her loggia
and directed her lorgnette towards the loggia of the Count. She
seemed so taken aback at the presence there of Arafrantz and
Réginard, that it would have been cruelty to keep her in
suspense; so the friends made their way to her loggia, avoiding with
difficulty to bump into the prostitutes, singers, and retired eagles
that had made the hallway their redoubt.
“Eh bien,” said the Countess as soon as the usual
pleasantries had been exchanged. “It seems that you have
had no business so hasty as to make the acquaintance of the new Jared
Hasselhoff,* and that there you are, the best friends in the
“Without that we be so advanced in the Count’s
intimacy,” replied Arafrantz, “I cannot deny, madame la
comtesse, that we have taken advantage of his graciousness all
day. After inviting us to nuncheon, he accompanied us to an
execution, and thereafter granted us the liberty of his eagle.”
“You know him then?”
“Yes and no.”
“I see that you have spent too much time in the company of us
elves,” said the Countess. “Will you not tell me the
“Wait at least until the story has achieved its dénouement.”
“What is his name?”
“The Count of Monte Fato, simply.”
“And who presented you to him?”
“He presented himself to us.”
“And did you meet the lovely spider-woman?”
“No, though I think we heard her sing. Sad and sweet was the sound of her voice in the clear night air.”
“He is a count, then?”
“A count of Gondor.”
“We could with difficulty find him other than charming,”
interposed Réginard. “A friend of years innumerable
would not have done for us what he has done – and that with a
grace, a delicacy, and a courtesy that indicate veritably a man who
lives in both worlds, and over both the Seen and the Unseen has great
power – the power of affability.” (Meanwhile, the
heroine was apparently dying – which was odd, given that the work
was a comedy and we were still in the first act.)
“Allons,” said the Countess with a laugh. “You
will see that my vampire is quite simply some nouveau riche who wants
to buy forgiveness for his millions, and will have taken the spittoon
of Véantour, that he might avoid the palantir of Marcel
Marceau.” (The heroine was not dying after all; only
“He has most generously offered us three windows on Piazza de’ Caliquendi,” said Arafrantz.
“By the négligée of Luthienne!” exclaimed the
Countess. “Do you know how much one window costs on that
square? 4546646444 maiars! Is he then a Dark Lord, that
man? Does the island of Monte Fato bring in so much
“Monte Fato does not earn the Count a bilbacco. He bought it on a whim.”
“The fact is,” said Réginard, “that he seemed
a bit eccentric. If he lived in Annuminas and frequented our
spectacles, I would say he was some buffoon or merry-andrew who strikes
a pose, or some poor devil who had read too many romances of M.
Trolquien; this morning he let out two or three sallies worthy of the
bel esprit Turin Turambard, except that he doesn’t wear
At this moment, a new visitor arrived in the Countess’s loggia,
and the friends withdrew. (The bass-baritone was pawing the mezzo
The next morning, Réginard had a dragon-costume
custom-made. He looked remarkably elegant in it, for it went
admirably well with his hat. Arafrantz complimented him on his
scales, and Réginard smiled with unequivocal satisfaction.
At this moment, the Count of Monte Fato entered. After graciously
allowing them the use of his eagle for the duration of their stay (for
he possessed at least half a dozen), and receiving their profuse thanks
with almost Elvish complaisance, he proceeded to speak of literature,
art, science, and the wings of Balrogues with an extreme facility, and
without the least pretension. Réginard found the
Count’s manners delightful, and considered that only his wide
range of knowledge disqualified him from being a veritable
The Count having made his excuses and departed, the friends resumed
their airborne pursuit of the ravishing dragon-ladies. There was
much exchange of bouquets, Greek fire, and raw lembasagna, and much
snickering and meeping. Réginard had so much success that the
draguine removed one of her wings. On arriving at their
tree-hotel, Réginard announced to Arafrantz that he intended to
write the lady a letter the next day. Arafrantz promised that he
could have the eagle to himself the next day; he knew his worthy
friend’s lack of discretion well enough to be sanguine of
learning of the smallest details of Réginard’s adventure.
Arafrantz spent the rest of the day reading the brilliant oeuvre of Louis, Nymphs and Their Ways: L’Après-Love-life of a Faun
. That evening, Réginard bounded into the room, mechanically shaking a piece of paper.
“She replied?” asked Arafrantz.
“Read,” replied Réginard in a voice impossible to describe. Arafrantz took the billet-doux and read:
“Trewesday evening, at seven o’clock, dismount your eagle
at Via Casarrondo, and follow the Lottolorian dragon who will seize
your phial. When you arrive on the first step of the Church of
San Bingo, be sure, that she may recognize you, to wear a white feather
in your hat and hum Bombadillo’s aria about the badger.”
“I’d say this has the aspect of a highly agreeable adventure,” observed Arafrantz.
“I believe so as well; but I fear you will go alone to the ball of the Duke Fighetto.”
“MHmm,” muttered Arafrantz, noncommittally.
“And there is no question but that my lady is of the highest
aristocracy,” continued Réginard. “Her
Sindarin is exquisite, without a single sylvanism even in the liquid
mutation – and you know how poorly educated are the elves of
mezzo cito” (for so the bourgeoisie are designated).
“You have met your destiny,” said Arafrantz, returning the billet-doux.
“Laugh all you want; but I think I’m in love. I adore
Galadrona, and I’m developing a marked interest in
“At this rate, I expect that after two or three such adventures
you will become a leading member of the Accademia Sindarina
After dinner, the Count of Monte Fato was announced. For two days
the Annuminasians had not seen him; an affair, said Orlando, detained
him in Galadriella’s palace; he had only been back for an hour.
The Count was charming; either he was on his guard, or the occasion did
not awaken in him the acerb fibres that certain circumstances had
previously made resound two or three times in his bitter words.
This man was for Arafrantz as enigmatic as a Balrogue draped in shadow,
or an illegible manuscript of Trolquien. The Count could not
doubt that Arafrantz had recognized him; and yet, not a single word
seemed to indicate that he recalled seeing him elsewhere.
Arafrantz, for his part, maintained silence for fear of being
disagreeable to one who had showered him and Réginard with
kindnesses, lest such disagreeability be repaid by having all the
baguettes of Boucquelande melted in his stomach.
The Count had come to give the friends the key to his loggia in the
Teatro Alqualonde. Arafrantz and Réginard made the usual
objections, but the Count would hear none of it: he was going to attend
a performance at the Teatro Perianno, so the loggia at the Alqualonde
would be wasted, did they not accede. They acceded.
Arafrantz had little by little become accustomed to the Count’s
pallour, which was his sole defect – or perhaps his principal
quality. Veritable hero of Byrogond as the Count was, Arafrantz
could not – we will not say “see” – but even
imagine him without representing that face above the shoulders of
Aldarion or under the fur hat of Guimly. Tall as the sea-kings of
old, he stood above all that were near; ancient of days he seemed and
yet in the flower of manhood; the bitter recollection of some
unutterable wrong sat upon his brow, and strength and the most
exquisite manicure were in his hands, and he had an eye that was rimmed
with fire, but was itself glazed, yellow as a cat’s, and the
black slit of its pupil opened upon an abysm. His face bore a
haughty and mocking expression that gave to his words a striking
character, which engraved them upon the memory of those who listened,
as deep as the runes of power on the sceptre of the Emperor beyond the
sea, or as the wine-cellars of Sauron in the profound abysms under the
earth. Réginard did not stint in his admiration for such a
man; Arafrantz was less enthusiastic, but experienced nonetheless the
influence that every superior man – especially one possessing the
Ruling Ring – exercises over all those who surround him. In
reality, by one final resemblance to the Byrogondian hero, the Count
possessed the gift of fascination. Yet, Arafrantz had no desire
to be in Annuminas when the Count would grace it with his terrifying
presence, coming to triumph over the Shiré when all was won.
At the Teatro Alqualonde, they again met the Countess. Arafrantz
resolutely steered the conversation away from the Count, saying that
such matters were best left for daylight, and dwelt instead on his
friend’s good fortune with the draguine. They parted during
the chorus of Ents, promising to meet at Duke Fighetto’s ball.
Finally Tuesday arrived, the last and most uproarious day of
carnival. On Tuesday the theatres open at eight in the morning,
and the bordelli even earlier; for at eight of the evening Lent
arrives, and with it a steady diet of lembasagna and water. The
festival attained the level of a bacchanal or an orgy, and rare was the
elf-maiden who remained a maiden at the end of it. Arafrantz and
Réginard exchanged fistfuls of arquenpierres with the other
eagles and with pedestrians who perched upon the treetops, nimbly
avoiding the eagles’ claws – without that the least debate
or skirmish arose therefrom. The Galadrini (for so the wood-elves
call themselves) are an excellent people in that regard; the author has
spent five or six years in Lottaloria, and does not recall having ever
seen a solemnity disrupted by a single one of the murders that are
always a corollary of such celebrations in the Shiré.
After the eagle-races had concluded with the joyous call, “The
Eagles are coming!” resounding from the canopies of Galadrona,
Réginard and Arafrantz separated; the former making his way to
the Church of San Bingo, while the latter watched the carnival reach
its peak in a reciprocal lighting and extinguishing of phials, that the
lights where all other lights go out might themselves go out, and that
no jealous spouse might behold anything other than comme il faut.
Then carnival came to an end, and the Galadrini made lamentation
for its fall; Arafrantz caught its name among the sweet sad words he
could not understand. Perhaps never in his life had Arafrantz known
such an abrupt change from gaiety to sadness; it seemed as if some
Balrogues of the night had, with their fiery breath, changed Galadrona
into a little bit of Mordor. It was with some difficulty that
Arafrantz’s eagle, or rather the Count’s, reached the
palace of Duke Fighetto in the glowering gloom.
The ducal palace is one of the most charming flets in Lottaloria;
Fighetto’s wife, the Duchess Alatara – one of the last
heiresses of the house of Amrotto – does the honours in a perfect
fashion: it results that the feasts he gives are of a middle-earthian
fame, and put those of Celeborno firmly in the shade. (It did not
help matters that Celeborno was widely believed to be unable to provide
satisfaction even to his wife, let alone his putative mistress.)
Fighetto was mildly chagrined to learn that Réginard had been
delayed by an assignation. “It’s a bad night to be
late!” he observed to the Countess, who had arriven on the arm of
“On the contrary, I find it a charming night,” smiled the Countess, vaguely not winking at Arafrantz.
“I am not speaking of those present, who only run one danger: the
men of falling madly in love with you, and the women of suffering an
atalantée of jealousy. I speak of those who tiptoe on the
treetops of Galadrona.”
“Eh bien!” replied the Countess. “Those who
tiptoe on the treetops of Galadrona will suffer the accidents of
eagles, says the proverb. Who would be so foolish as to allow the
Viscount to do such a thing?” She looked at Arafrantz, and
there was no hint of a wink.
“I might as well have sought to stay the course of Guaihiro in
the eagle-race this afternoon,” replied Arafrantz.
“Once Réginard sets his mind (or what he has of one) on an
amorous adventure, not the long wisdom of Bilbon himself could dissuade
Just then, a domestic arrived and announced “a Hobbite clad in
Orc-gear handed me a letter from the Viscount de Pérégrin
to the Baron d’Imrahil.”
Arafrantz seized the letter and read:
As soon as you receive this, oblige me by taking from my portefeuille
the letter of credit. Run to Dorthonia’s house and take
four thousand certar and give them to the porter.
PS.I believe now to lottalorian vanditti.
REGINARD DE PEREGRIN”
This note was underwritten in a foreign hand:
“Se alle sei della mattina le Quattro mille certar non sono nelle
mie mani, alla sette il conte Reginardo avràú cessato di
vivere. Et earello endorenna utulien.
LUIGI VANYA. »
“Trasque de Morgot!” thought Arafrantz, and, after making
his apologies, he immediately mounted the Count’s eagle and sped
back to the hotel. Inspecting Réginard’s
portefeuille, he found that between the two of them, he and
Réginard only had three thousand and nineteen certar. It
was true that Arafrantz could count on the generosity of the Dorthonia
family, and he was about to fly back to Fighetto’s ducal palace
(where the charming sylvan moneylender was telling an exceedingly
amusing story about Durin’s bane), when suddenly a luminous idea
traversed his spirit, and he summoned Orlando and inquired whether the
Count was chez lui. Orlando replied that he was.
“Then I beg you to ring his door-warbler and ask his permission to present myself to him without delay.”
Orlando hastened to execute this directive, and returned promptly, saying, “The Count awaits your Excellency.”
Arafrantz flew with winged speed into the Count’s apartments.
“What good wind brings you here?” inquired the Count.
“Would you care for supper? Would you like a Ring?”
“No, I have come to speak about a serious matter. Are we alone?”
“Perfectly,” replied the Count.
The Count read the ransom note. “Do you have the necessary amount?”
“Yes, except for nine hundred and eighty-three certar.”
The Count fiddled in his portefeuille, and handed Arafrantz the Golden
Fleece. “This should approximately cover the deficit.”
After profusely thanking the Count, Arafrantz looked at him fixedly and
asked, “Is it really necessary to pay this amount?”
“The postscript is precise,” said the Count.
“It seems to me that if you wished, you could greatly simplify the negotiation,” said Arafrantz.
“What influence do you expect me to have on a vanditto?”
“Did you not save Pippino’s life?”
“Who told you that?” said the Count, astounded.
“A little bird who was leading a guided tour at the Teleporneum.”
The Count muttered something about trasque aux ravens. “And you will accompany me?”
“If my presence isn’t disagreeable.”
“Not in the least; a little promenade in the Mirquewoudain
countryside can only do us good, and the wild game is quite
spectacular. Now where is the man who brought you the
“Down in the street.”
The Count went to the window that gave onto the street, and
whistled. “Minno!” he called, in the voice one uses
with one of the lower domestics in those unfortunate cases when a
Ringwraith or Fantôme is not available to discharge the
unpleasant task of addressing such canaille.
The messenger, a surly, grimy-faced and black-handed hobbite dressed in
long hairy breeches of some unclean beast-fell and a tunic of dirty
leather, obeyed without question.
“Oh, it’s you, Pippino,” said the Count.
“I dispense you from your vow not to wash for a year if I saved
your life. Please feel free to break that vow. Water hot
would indeed be of great benefit to your aesthetical quality.”
“If your Excellency commands it, I am your slave,” replied Pippino.
“That is an excellent way for a young fellow like yourself to
talk,” said the Count. “Now: answer my
Pippino glanced nervously at Arafrantz, and sniffed.
“You can speak in front of his Excellency, he is my friend; and
indeed, if you do your life will be longer and healthier than if you do
not,” said the Count affably. “With your permission,
then: how did the Viscount Réginard de Pérégrin
fall into Luigi Vanya’s hands?”
“Your Excellency, the Arnorian’s eagle crossed paths
several times with that of Dragontina, the chief’s mistress, and
it amused her to make sweet eyes in his direction – all this with
her lover’s consent. The funny thing is: he thought she
as a dragon … while not realizing that Luigi Vanya was disguised as the eagle.”
The Count laughed.
“My friend was captured by a dragon?” exclaimed Arafrantz in the greatest horror.
“Your Excellency need not be concerned,” said
Pippino. “She never eats hostages. Dragontina told
the Viscount that she liked being ridden, he mounted her, and the
affair might have become a matter for the guardians of public morals,
if Dragontina had not taken to the air and transported the Arnorian to
Dol Gouldour, where he remains. They had a rather diverting
exchange: Dragontina told the prisoner, ‘Now we will find out
what you know,’ and he replied, ‘I assure you, madame, that
I know absolutely nothing.’”
“An amusing story, no?” sallied the Count.
“I’m sure I would find it immeasurably droll, had it
happened to someone other than poor Réginard, who never cheated
at cards in his life,” said Arafrantz.
“Do not be troubled,” said the Count. “Not only
will we rescue your friend, but we will visit a highly picturesque part
of Mirquewoude. Come now; our eagle awaits.”
“You have one already prepared?” said Arafrantz, amazed.
“Yes,” said the Count. “You see, I am a highly
capricious nature. At any time of the day or night, even when I
am asleep, if sleep it can be called by Men, I suddenly get the whim to
go to any part of the world, and I go.”
The Count rang a bell, and a Phantôme appeared. “Take
my eagle out of the flet,” said the Count. “No need to
awaken the eagle-driver: Gali will drive.”
In one minute, the eagle was ready. The Count and Arafrantz mounted in
back; Pippino sat next to Gali in front, and the eagle launched into
the air au galop. They flew over the Strada Finrodorio and past
the Forum of the Mallorni, and then crossed the Riviera, and departed
from decent places where there is siesta.
“This is good territory for spider-hunting, if we had
time,” said the Count, pointing at some rather quaint and rustic
cobwebs. Arafrantz did not reply.
Shortly the eagle arrove at a forest of dark fir, where the trees waged
war with one another, and their branches rotted and withered.
There on a stony height stood a black tower with a battlemented wall,
three great tiers of cunning masonry, and a few impaled heads with long
elf-hair. At the front was a small lodging for the sallow
half-Orc who served as concierge. Pippino knocked; the concierge
made a few difficulties until the Count grasped the Ring that hung from
a pendant around his neck; and the concierge immediately gibbered in
The Count smiled with amused detachment. “Take care of my
eagle,” he told the concierge, and he and Arafrantz dismounted,
followed by Gali and Pippino. They entered a vaguely spidery lair.
“Hola!” cried a sentinel.
“Melons,” said Pippino, who knew the correct reply.
The sentinel led them up a steep and winding stairway that ascended and
ascended and ascended up to the roof of the third and highest tier,
turned into a turret, and ascended up yet another stairway and through
a trap-door, until they reached the abode where Luigi Vanya toiled in
pursuit of evil. At the moment, he was busily playing pyramid
solitaire with the skulls of his enemies. His followers were in
various states of intoxication. Graffiti in Vanya-Orkish Creole
adorned the walls, along with a red V for Vanya.
As soon as the Count and Arafrantz entered, the vanditti rose and grabbed their weapons, shouting “Forth Vanyinghi!”
“Hola!” cried another sentry. Wearily, the Count turned him into a frog.
“This is not quite the welcome we expected,” he told Luigi
Vanya, as Gali kicked over the pyramid, stopping briefly to gnaw at
some of the contents. “We are the Count of Monte
“Put down your weapons!” ordered Luigi Vanya, making an
imperative gesture with one hand, while with the other he removed his
hat respectfully. “Pardon, monsieur le comte,” he
said. “But I was so far from expecting this visit, that I
took you for yet another entish vendetta attempt.”
“You have, it seems, a short memory indeed,” said the
Count. “For you forget not only faces, but binding promises
sworn upon the Precious.” He held aloft the Ring, and a terrible
light shone therefrom and illumined the entire fortress, showing
precisely how badly written the graffiti were.
“Which conditions have I forgotten, Master?” said Vanya.
“That not only my person, but that of my friends is sacred.”
“When have I done tha…”
“Did you not kidnap Réginard, vicomte de
Pérégrin? Eh bien,” continued the Count in a
voice that abashed and terrified the bandit chief, so that he could do
nothing but grovel on the ground and whimper nice master
, “this young man is one of my friends
this young man lodges at my tree-hotel, this young man was flying over
the treetops of Lottaloria on my eagle, and yet, I repeat, you have
kidnapped him as if he were le premier venu and held him for ransom,
sending this letter” – he contemptuously tossed the ransom
note at Vanya – “to my friend the Baron
d’Imrahil. Unless you make immediate reparation for this
affront” – he again held up the Ring, and one or two
thunderclaps resounded through the hall – “I shall take
this Ring and command you to leap from a precipice; and you will
obey. For such would be my command.”
Luigi Vanya turned to his band, who withered before his gaze as the Two
Cheeses withered under the absinthe of Ungolianne. “Why did
none of you inform me that the prisoner was a friend of the Count, who
holds the power of life and death in his hand? By the sword of
Turin! If I thought any of you knew that the young man was a friend of
His Excellency, I would hurt him with nasty cruel steel!”
At this, Luigi became aware of Arafrantz’s presence, and said, anxiously, “Your Excellency is not alone?”
“I am with the person to whom the ransom note was addressed, and
to whom I wanted to show that Luigi Vanya is a faithful servant and not
a master’s bane.”
‘Be welcome among us, your Excellency,” said Luigi, rising
from the ground and stepping forward to greet Arafrantz. “I
will make up for this error in any way I can; not for the glittering
caves of Alcarrondo nor for the favors of Lutienna would I that similar
thing had happened.”
“Two things I ask as wergild: your hat, and the release of my friend,” replied Arafrantz.
Luigi immediately handed Arafrantz his grey fedora, made by elven
crafts in the Elder Days. Arafrantz bowed. “And my
friend?” he inquired.
“I hope that nothing happened to him,” said the Count, fingering his Ring in a faintly menacing way.
“I will announce to him myself that he is free,” said
Vanya. He led them through a secret door, cleverly disguised as a
Valinorean pointy-eared huorn-cactus. There they saw
Réginard, draped in a greyish-green cloak borrowed from one of
the bandits, losing badly in a game of whist against his guard, a large
black Orc with hairy arms and foul breath and two eyes made out of coal.
Luigi Vanya looked at Réginard with a certain admiration, for
few even of the bandits had ever dared play whist against Eustachio
Clarenzio Skrubbloûc. He went up to the prisoner and tapped
him on the shoulder.
“Why the Morgot are you interrupting my game?” grumbled
Réginard. “I only have an hour and a half before you
execute me; the least you could do is let me finish my game in peace
first. Trasque de Sauron! Last night I dreamed that I was
dancing the brequedanse de Gandault with the Countess G at
Fighetto’s ball. Then, when I woke, this fellow challenged
me to a game of whist, and by Morgot, I mean to win the game
yet,” he said, lamely playing the deuce of clubs. He yawned
“I have come to tell you that you are free,” said Luigi.
“My ransom is paid then, I suppose,” said Réginard,
as Eustachio won yet another hand and proceeded to write in his diary.
“No, someone whose wish I could not refuse has come to claim you.”
“That someone is bien aimable!” exclaimed Réginard. “Was that you, Arafrantz?”
“Not I, but the Count of Monte Fato,” said Arafrantz, not without irony.
“Par Érou, monsieur le comte,” said Réginard,
adjusting his cravat and his sleeves, « you are really
precious, first for the affair of the eagle, and now for this, and
though all the mighty elf-friends of old, Hador and Hurin and Turin and
Jean-Pierre Elfeaux and Béren himself were assembled together
for a game of boules, yet you would be victorious over them." He
extended his hand to the Count, who shuddered a moment to take it, yet
took it nonetheless. Vanya looked on, stupefied to see a prisoner
who could not be bothered to tremble before him; as for Arafrantz, he
was delighted that Réginard had been able to uphold the Arnorian
honour even before a bandit.
“If we hurry,” said Arafrantz, we can still make it to the
ball at Dorthonia’s, and you can resume your brequedanse.”
“Yes, my eagle awaits,” said the Count. “You
may go back to your pyramid, Vanya. “But I recommend you
improve the aesthetics of this place.”
Réginard, followed by Arafrantz and the Count, exited the
trap-door and headed for the guardroom where the Count’s eagle
was being fed some unclean beast. As they walked, the entire band
remained standing, with their hats in one hand and their spears, which
they banged against their shields, in the other. “Westu
Monte Fato halo!” they cried. Vanya accompanied them.
When they arrived at the guardroom, Vanya bowed and said,
“Messieurs! This offer will perhaps not be very attractive,
but should you wish to make me a second visit, you would be
“Monsieur, I find the prisons of Dol-Gouldour de fort mauvais
goût,” drawled Réginard. “The torments
of the Orcs, ça assomme, enfin. In short, your palazzo is
Luigi Vanya looked terribly embarrassed.
Arafrantz bowed and said tactfully, “As soon as we have finished
saving the world, we will be pleased to. And your pyramid was
Réginard lit a cigar with Luigi’s torch, and they
parted. The eagle, egged on by Gali, sped like the night wind
visible, and by two o’clock the three entered the palace of
Fighetto. Their arrival was a nine-day wonder, and the Orc-gear given
them by Vanya immediately became a rage.
“Madame,” said the Viscount de Pérégrin
advancing towards the Countess G, "yesterday you were good enough to
promise me a brequedanse, and I come a bit late to claim that promise;
but my friend will testify that it was not my fault: I was detained by
some dragons and Orcs.” And with that the music began, and
Réginard danced a dance with the Countess, whereof Gandault
himself would have been proud.
As he looked on in very mild jealousy, Arafrantz recalled the singular
shudder that had passed through the Count when he had been in some way
forced to shake hands with Réginard.
The next day, Réginard and Arafrantz betook themselves early to
the Count’s chambers, that the Viscount de Pérégrin
might express the depth of his gratitude.
“Monsieur le comte,” said Réginard, “I am no
poet, despite all the efforts of my tutors, nor am I skilled in verse,
beyond perhaps a comic and slightly off-color rhyme at a soirée
– so I cannot express my meaning as I ought. It should be
an operatic aria. What I mean is that I will never forget how you
came to my aid, and will always remember that I owe you my life, more
“My dear neighbour,” replied the Count with a laugh,
“you greatly exaggerate your obligations towards me. I have
merely spared you the expense of some four thousand certar, and all you
owe me is a tiny economy in your travelling expenses and voilà
tout; you can see that it is hardly worth the bother of
“Nevertheless, I hold you to be my liege-lord, whether you claim
it or no. If there is any way I can assist you, your wish is to
me as a command. My father, the Count de Pérégrin,
who is of sudfarthingois origin, holds a high position in Arnor and in
Rivendeau, and I place myself and all who love me at your
disposal. Little service, no doubt, will such a great man of the
world and bel esprit as yourself think to find in so abominably poor a
whist-player as myself; yet such as it is, I will offer it, in payment
of what I obstinately persist in calling my debt.”
Réginard drew his sword, beautifully decorated with a carving of
the Luthienne de Milo, and laid it at the Count’s feet.
A pale smile, like a gleam of cold champagne on a winter’s
soirée, passed over the foreign aristocrat’s face.
“Eh bien,” said he, “I avow, monsieur de
Pérégrin, that I expected your offer and accept it
gladly. I had already singled you out in order to ask you a great
“I do not know Annuminas, I have never been to Annuminas. I
would indeed have gone long ago, had I any relations there to introduce
me to the monde.”
“Really!” cried Réginard. “You have been
able to live up to now without having been to Annuminas, or even
possessing any acquaintances there? It is incredible! A man
“And yet, it is so,” said the Count. “But as I
recognize in myself no other merit than to be able to compete in
affluence with M. Lathschpelle or M. Angbando, and I do not go to
Annuminas to play the Bourse, that little circumstance held me
back. Now your offer has decided me. Do you engage, M. de
Pérégrin” (the Count accompanied these words with a
singular smile, not unlike that of the Bouche de Sauron), “do you
engage, while I am in Arnor, to open for me the gates of a world to
which I am as foreign as a Druadain or a Calorminois?”
“Oh, as for that, my dear Count, à merveilles and with
pleasure!” said Réginard. “And all the more
willingly since I am engaged to an alliance with a very agreeable
family that possesses the best possible relations with le monde
“I cannot imagine a better occasion for realizing certain
projects on which I’ve been ruminating for quite some
time,” said the Count with an almost Orkish nonchalance.
Arafrantz regarded the Count in an attempt to perceive in his
physiognomy some indication of the designs he had in mind, but it was
difficult to penetrate the soul of that man, when he veiled it with a
smile and a ring.
“My address is rue Baguechotte, No. 3. But are these not
plans built upon air, like the lamented Church of St.
Ménétarmeau, which was defaced by wayward eagles?”
“Vous êtes un ninnihammier de premier ordre, vicomte,” said the Count with amiable amusement.
« But when will you be in Annuminas? » asked Réginard.
“But when will you be there yourself?” returned the Count.
“In three weeks, by the Fête du Ring at the latest. I’m leaving more or less immediately.”
“Eh bien, I will give you three months, but by Naréal I
shall arrive without fail. Will you expect me at Rue Baguechotte,
No. 3” (he removed his watch from his pocket and glanced at it)
“at 10:13 a.m. on the second of Naréal?”
“A merveilles!” exclaimed Réginard.
“Nuncheon will be ready, and I will order the most exquisite
mushrooms for the occasion.”
“Excellent,” said the Count, writing a note in fiery
tengouards, and then turning to Arafrantz. “And you,
monsieur le baron, are you leaving as well?”
“Yes, for the elvishly lovely city of Escargot, where the canals
reflect the shimmering palace of the doge and the Cathedral of the
Sacred Snail,” replied Arafrantz. “I must drop out of
the story, for la narrative irrelevancy, c’est moi,” he
added, with the farsightedness of his kindred.
“Say not so, monsieur,” protested the Count.
“You have yet to play a minor role in one of my projects.”
“Vous me faites là, monsieur le comte, one of those
consolations that, were they not ridiculous, would be
sublime, » returned Arafrantz.
“Bon voyage, messieurs,” said the Count, extending a hand to each of the young friends.
It was the first time that Arafrantz touched the hand of that man. The
hand had only four fingers, but they were, Arafrantz esteemed, more
than sufficient; for as he grasped it he felt a thin piercing chill,
and he saw to his astonishment that the hand glowed with a pale light,
although it was black and yet burned like fire.
“It is decided, then?” said Réginard.
“10:13 a.m. on the second Naréal, at Rue Baguechotte, No.
“It is decided,” replied the Count, suppressing a barely
perceptible shudder at the mention of that place. With that, the
two Arnorians bowed and left the Count’s apartments.
“I confess that I am concerned that the Count has made a
rendezvous with you in Annuminas,” said Arafrantz when they were
“Why so?” askd Réginard. “I’ve
always observed you to be rather cold towards the Count, but on his
part, I have always found him one of the Kings of Men born into a later
time, but touched with the wit and the perfect taste in cigars and
cognac of the Elder Race. Do you have anything in particular
“Perhaps,” said Arafrantz.
“Have you seen him before now?”
“Yes, but in other guise than we saw him here. But I will say no
more unless you swear by the breasts of Luthienne never to repeat a
word to living man.”
Réginard complied, and Arafrantz related everything about his
dealings with the Count heretofore: the hashberry, the statues, and the
colloquy at the Teleporneum.
“My friend, I fail to see anything reprehensible in what you have
told me,” said Réginard when Arafrantz had concluded.
“He comes out of the class of nouveau riches, and I’ve
never heard anything good about such people,” said Arafrantz,
somewhat tactlessly given Réginard’s rather modern
pedigree. “Moreover, he began speaking in the style of one
of the Lottalorians, but then his voice changed, or I at last
understood it … He evidently knows something, and more than
pleases me; but that is no reason why you should assist him in
realizing the projects on which he has ruminated for some time, as he
“Non, I am not in accord with that. If he were an enemy, his cigars would feel fairer and taste fouler.”
“But the Balrogue, the Fantômes, the vanditti?”
insisted Arafrantz. “Is it not an occasion for pause when
one’s host makes use of the powers of darkness?”
“So do all great lords, if they are wise and have a taste for the mildly exotic,” replied Réginard.
“But the bandits of Luigi Vanya kidnap in order to steal.
What do you say of the Count’s influence over such
“I say, my friend, that according to all probability I owe my
life to that influence, or at the very least four thousand certar, a
price for which certainly no one would have appraised me in Arnor,
which goes to show that in Doriat, Turin has less esteem than in
Nargue-le-Rond,” laughed Réginard.
“Who is this Count?” persisted Arafrantz. “In
what far time and place did he enter the world, and when will he leave
it? Whence does he come, what language does he speak, how did he
obtain the remarkable power that he wields with an even more remarkable
“When you had recourse to the Count on my behalf, did he not use
his powers to aid me? Did he ask who I was, where I dwelt,
whether my passport was in order, what business took me away east of
Brie, whether I had learnt the lore of the living creatures? He
did not. And the purpose that takes him to Arnor is pure
benevolence; he hopes to compete for the prize Sandihomme, which is as
you know the prize that the Baron Sandihomme awards each year for acts
of remarkable virtue. Yet you ask me to begrudge him an
introduction into Annuminasian society. Your attitude is
emphatically not as sure as the speech of the Shiré.”
It had to be admitted that reason was on the side of Réginard. Arafrantz said no more.
*A notoriously witty vampire.