The Count of Monte Fato
Chapitre 9: A Fête Expected Long
On the second Naréal, at Rue Baguechotte, No. 3, where Viscount Réginard had promised the Count
of Monte Fato a rendezvous, everything was in preparation for such a festivity, and such a guest,
as had not been seen in the Shiré since the days of Bilbon and the seven dwarf-dandys. The abode
of the Count and Countess de Pérégrin was a large brick building in the bad if /fachonnâble/
taste of Sharcoléon, albeit with one or two concessions to Aragonnist taste, such as the Aragon
Telbourbon coat-of-arms over the main entrance. The Viscount had his own quarters, complete with
a secret passage that served him in his amorous encounters with his friends’ wives, a
banquet-hall, a bedroom, a smoking room furnished with divans made in Rivendeau, a trophy-room
largely adorned with the heads of boars, and a chambre de mathons containing bric-à-brac from all
over Terre-moyenne. Réginard’s spoon collection was particularly esteemed; no less a judge than
the Baroness Sacqueville-Danglars qualified it as nonpareil. There was also a charming little
collection of faïence from Mont-Érébeur, and a gallery of genuine Folques-Bouffon nudes.
Although Réginard’s musical talent was not of the most stellar, he had placed his piano – a
Barbarbre of the ent-carver’s early bad manner, in a size befitting our hobbite salons – in a
prominent locale, between the smoking room and the nudes. The instrument groaned under the
masterpieces of Ludwig van Balinthorin, Durin Moria von Weber, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozarbul, and
Hydn Grétry-Birde Porpora Romendaquiles.
The Viscount’s pride and joy was his smoking room, which he had prepared with particular care,
relying on the counsel of none other than Pierre-Jacques-Philippe-Michel Boyen-Xènes-Baguines,
author of a monograph on 274 varieties of tobacco. On a table surrounded at a distance by a
pliant divan, every known strain of tobacco, from the yellow tobacco of Escargot to the black
tobacco of Umbari, passing through le long-botton, the marco-blanco 1601, and the bourzoum-ichy,
shone resplendently in the pots of faïence that the wooden-shoed estfarthingois adore. Beside
them, in fragrant wooden cases, were arranged in order of size and quality, puros, earendillos,
yavannas, and omentielvos – all the finest cigars of Terre-moyenne; finally, in an open cupboard,
a collection of dwarven pipes, amber brand-chibouques adorned with coral of the Haradrins, or
nazghoulehs encrusted in gold, awaited the caprice or the sympathy of the smokers in that
symmetric disorder that after coffee the guests of a modern nuncheon love to contemplate through
the vapor that mounts to the ceiling in long and capricious spirals, emulating the classic art of
Gandault and of Bilbon.
The first guest to arrive was the cabinet minister, cheese connoisseur, and professional
adulterer Lothien de Brie. As he unceremoniously planted himself on a divan, Réginard exclaimed:
“Bonjour, mon cher Lothien! C’est miraculeux! You whom I expected to come last, arrive
thirty-five minutes in advance! Has the ministry fallen?”
“No, mon cher truant,” replied Lothien. “The
ministry may vacillate, but it never falls. I’ve
been engaged all night with the Bromosel affair; it seems that the pointy-shoed minister had been
making the mint on the side with the Diqui-Dragon stock, which occasioned my having a
monumentally boring night sending diplomatic dispatches from Rivendeau. But enough of that: I am
hungry, feed me; and I am bored, entertain me. It is the least you can do to make amends.”
Réginard provided De Brie with an exquisite cheese of Longue-Clive and a translucent earendillo
cigar, and told him a funny story about Boyen-Xènes-Baguines and a goat. “Does this settle my
debt as aramphitryondo?”
“Settle it!” cried Lothien. “Most noble Viscount, it leaves me deeply in your debt!”
“Repay me by giving me the latest gossip from the diplomatic world. Has Don Elros found another
shaven-footed ballerina with whom to amuse himself?”
“Would I know? I take good care never to read the newspapers!”
As if on cue, the journalist, Monsieur Pierre-Jacques-Philippe-Michel Boyen-Xènes-Baguines
arrived and headed straight for the tobacco collection.
“Enter!” cried Réginard, a little belatedly. “Here is De Brie, who detests you without having
“That is only fair,” replied Pierre-Jacques-Philippe-Michel Boyen-Xènes-Baguines, examining the
tobacco. “I criticize him without knowing what he does. I will say this, though: the ministry
has scandalously bad taste in tobacco; they declare all the best strains to be contraband, and
only allow the king’s chief men to partake of them.”
“Oh, that has nothing to do with me,” replied De Brie. “That’s a matter for the ministry of
finance, whom Gandault placed under a curse of mauvais goût long ago.”
“Not bad,” laughed Boyen-Xènes-Baguines, “and I will even go so far as to say that if you could
succeed to maintain a ministry for longer than I can keep my pipeful of bourzoum-ichy lit, I
would support your party in an instant.”
“You positively must try the chandelle-dwarve,” urged the Viscount.
“Bien, that’s a consolation for having to listen to the speeches of Sacqueville-Danglars, who is
even duller in private life than he is in public.”
“Do not speak ill of Sacqueville-Danglars,” remonstrated De Brie. “He votes for your party; he
belongs to the opposition.”
“Then good is yet evil to have been,” said the journalist, tastefully mixing the chandelle-dwarve
with his bourzoum-ichy.
At this, the valet announced the celebrated and aristocratic talking-fox-about-town, Baron
Château-Renard and his friend Meurtrier Morrie.
“Permit me,” said the vulpine Baron, “to present to you M. le capitaine des Uruc-haïs, my friend,
and more: my savior. For the rest, the man presents himself quite well without my aid.” As
indeed he did, with his splendid uniform, half-Shiré, half-Orcois, and admirably decorated with
the Red Arrow.
“Mon cher monsieur,” said Réginard. "I am
dying of a curiosity far sharper than any épée de
“Oh, it’s hardly worth the bother of telling, and monsieur exaggerates,” said Morrie.
“What!” cried the fox. “The life is not worth the bother of telling! Par les cheveux de
Luthienne! We were fighting for Rohan in the war against Saroumand, and my horse had been killed
by rogue huornes; I was retreating by foot; six Druadains came galloping after me to slay me with
their poisoned darts; I drove two away with bright iron, and two others with my blondrebousse.
But two remained: one seized me by my tail, the other placed the point of his ghambourighan on my
neck, and I already felt the cruel cold of the blade when monsieur, whom you see, charged them
from a nearby cave, crying /Ckasâde aïménou/! (There’s a very amusing story behind that,
involving entwash; my friend will tell that on some other occasion.)”
“Yes,” said Morrie. “That was 5 Yavannidor, the day my father was miraculously saved, and I
always celebrate by some heroic action, usually involving damsels and chariot-tracks.”
“When is the nuncheon?” asked De Brie rather abruptly.
“At precisely 10:13 a.m., and not a minute sooner,” replied the Viscount. “I too await a savior,
one of the great benefactors of humanity, who saved me from the vanditti, of all hobbite-banes
the most deadly, save the One who sits in the Banc National d’Arnor.”
“He ransomed you then?” inquired Château-Renard.
“He was armed with more weapons than Arwenne, la Princesse guerrière,” suggested
Boyen-Xènes-Baguines, showing that his appreciation of Racine was almost equal to his familiarity
“He did not even carry the knitting-needles of Ginjoure, the other Princesse guerrière,” said
Réginard. “He said a few words, and the chief of the vanditti cowered in terror, set me free,
and even gave Arafrantz his hat – which was assuredly the most chic I have ever seen a bandit
“Ah, was he Gandault, then, this man?”
“No; he was simply the Count of Monte Fato.”
“I do not believe,” said Château-Renard with the sang-froid of a fox who knows the Terramedian
nobility to the tip of his tail. “Who is this Count of Monte Fato?”
“Ah! Now you ask much,” said Réginard.
“The little I know of his fascinating story would fill
many a feuilleton in the popular press. He is a wonder of nine-days, beyond the shadow of a
doubt. I esteem that one could travel throughout the inhabited globe and find none better, nor
more flamboyantly bizarre. I have heard it bruited that he was a wizard or a vampire; but he is
a good friend of mine, whether or no – and he has impeccable taste in everything.”
“Pardon, but I believe I can help to rescue you from embarrassment, messieurs,” said Meurtrier.
“Monte Fato is a small volcanic island to the south, in the Bay of Gorgorot: an atom in the
“Precisely so,” said Réginard. “Now of this atom he of whom I speak to you is king; he will have
bought it on a caprice. The Count is very free with his money, and seems to have no lack of it.
Once he came up the hill on an eagle laden with an enormous valise and a couple of caissons of
mallorne wood, no doubt full of treasure acquired in foreign parts, and dumped them into the
Nimrodello on the grounds that the jewels therein were only mathomes.”
“I find mallorne exceedingly tasteless,” said De Brie. “Monsieur may say what he pleases; but
Lottaloria is a strange place, and its nobility are even more strange.”
“And monsieur may say what he pleases, about that which he understands even less than politics or
tobacco,” said Pierre-Jacques-Philippe-Michel Boyen-Xènes-Baguines. “Mallorne makes an exquisite
material for pipes, and is so rare as to be almost impossible to find.”
“En tout cas,” continued the Viscount, “if you have read /The Thousand and One Pipe-weeds/, you
will recognize the Count as being veritably a character thereof sprung to life; he even styles
himself /Éarendeau le marin/ and keeps a subterranean court worthy of an Al-Viggo. But /chut/!
Do not say a word about that in front of him. Arafrantz entered his cavern blindfold, and was
served by mute fish-eating gangrels and by women – although he wasn’t quite sure of the women,
since they didn’t enter until after he had partaken of hashberry; so that he might have taken for
women quite simply a quadrille of lamp-posts.”
But the Viscount did not convince his audience. They all, to a man or fox, gave him a look that
clearly meant: “No doubt you’ll tell us that Trolquien wrote a mythology for Escargot, or that
Balrogues wear cravats.”
“You in vain to play the skeptics, messieurs; the Count of Monte Fato exists, as surely as the
ears of Glorfindeau.”
“After delivering you, did he not make you sign a document in fiery letters, yielding your soul
and mulberry wine to this mysterious vampire?” sallied De Brie.
“Mock as you will, messieurs!” cried Réginard, a little piqued. “When I see our Annuminasians
heading to the bistro or promenading down the Champs-Valinorées, and think of that man, it seems
to me that we are not of the same species.”
“I flatter myself that this is so!” said Château-Renard.
“Your Count of Monte Fato is doubtless an excellent personage, leaving aside his little
arrangement with the vanditti,” added Boyen-Xènes-Baguines.
“There are no vanditti,” said De Brie.
“No cravats of Balrogues,” added Boyen-Xènes-Baguines.
“No Count of Monte Fato!” concluded De Brie. “Now shall we have nuncheon? It is precisely
thirteen minutes past ten.”
These railleries were brusquely interrupted by the appearance of a great shadow, in the middle of
which was a dark form, of human shape maybe, yet greater; and a power and social éclat seemed to
be in it and to go before it. It came to the edge of the fireplace, and the flames roared up to
greet it and to light its brand-chibouque of chalcedony; and a black smoke, faintly narcotic,
swirled in the air. Its streaming mane kindled, and blazed behind it. In its right hand was the
aforementioned brand-chibouque; in its left hand, an exquisite mithril walking-stick like a
stabbing tongue of fire. It nonchalantly lifted the walking-stick, and there was a roll of
thunder; the whole hall, with the exception of the new arrival, became as dark as night. When
the valet announced, “His Excellency, the Count of Monte Fato,” the effect was distinctly
“Really, monsieur le comte,” said Réginard. “These are hardly the manners considered usual in a
“Pardon, it was an inadvertence,” said the Count, resuming his normal form, simply yet
exquisitely clad in classic black, with a cravat that seemed to extend from wall to wall. “I not
infrequently forget how awesome my powers seem to those not so fortunate to be an homme
superieur. Moreover, I am foreigner, to the point that it is the first time I come to Annuminas.
So I ask that these messieurs pardon any breaches of etiquette that I may accidentally commit,
or if they find something in me too Haradric or Lottalorian or Orkish.”
“My dear Count, there is no need to apologize; on the contrary, you have done me a service in
showing my friends that you are indeed capable of prodigies,” said Réginard, who then turned to
his guests and added, “Messieurs, this is the Count of Monte Fato, chieftain of the Club
Dunedani, wielder of the Walking-stick Reforged, lender of eagles, victorious over bandits, whose
hands bring hashberry, the Caliph, Possessor of the Most Exquisite Cigars (do not dare to
contradict me in this, M. Boyen-Xènes-Baguines), Connoisseur of All Things Edible, Potable, and
Smokeable, and the most brilliant conversationalist of our time. Shall he join our modest
“Eh! Sans doute!” replied the guests.
“Permit that I introduce my friends,” said
Réginard. “This is the Count of
nobility goes back to the Twelve Peers of Mirquewoude, and whose ancestors sat at, or under, the
White Council; M. Lothien De Brie, particular secretary to the Minister of Boundiers; M.
Pierre-Jacques-Philippe-Michel Boyen-Xènes-Baguines, dreadful journalist, and the terror of both
the Arnorian government and of every tobacconist in Annuminas who dare sell products of less than
elvish quality; and finally M. Meurtrier Morrie, capitaine des Uruc-haïs.”
At that name, the Count, who up till then had saluted civilly, but with a coldness and passivity
proper to a Lord Adam, stepped forward despite himself, and became one or two degrees less pale.
“Monsieur bears a uniform that is veritably a fine hobbite-velours in which to cover one worthy
to be a prince of the Eldards.” One could not have said what sentiment caused the Count’s voice
to vibrate so profoundly, or made his fair red eye sans lids to shine.
“And under that uniform beats a heart capable of a deed so heroic, that not Doudelé Du Rite could
boast thereof,” quoth Réginard.
“Monsieur is a noble heart; so much the better!” said the Count, astonishing his interlocutors
and especially Morrie, although his intonation was so mild that none could take offense.
“Veritably,” said Château-Renard, “Réginard has not deceived us, and, although I have seen and
heard of remarkable doings, the Count is far more a prodigy than even that a hobbite have the bad
taste to sleep under a tree. What do you say, Morrie?”
“Ma foi,” said the captain, “he has a sympathetic voice and a frank eye, however unusual its
coloring, so that I like him, despite the bizarre reflexion he has just made in my regard.”
At this, a servant announced that nuncheon was served, and the assembly – having inserted their
heads into elegant glass vessels of cold water, in accordance with the national custom – made
their way to the dining-room.
“My dear Count,” said Réginard when all were seated. “I hope that our baguettes are not
displeasing to the palate of one accustomed to the cuisine of the Black Land.”
“If you knew me better, monsieur,” replied the Count, “you would spare yourself a preoccupation
that is almost humiliating for one who feeds one day on bagronc from Morgoule, the next on cheese
from Isengard, the next on tipped kow from Rhoûne, and the next on nothing at all – who, in
short, has made an art of eating whatever and of sleeping whenever he chooses. I possess indeed
an infallible recipe for sleeping when I am bored and cannot be bothered to distract myself; or
annoyed, but not inspired to kill; or hungry, but not in the mood to eat.”
“Voilà what would be excellent for us Uruc-haïs, who rarely have anything to eat, apart perhaps
from the leavings of the shirriferies, if one could stomach them,” said Morrie.
“Oui,” said the Count. “Unfortunately, my recipe, excellent as it is for an altogether
exceptional man like myself, who am as nonpareil as the White Weed of Gondor, would be fort
dangerous for an army, which would sleep when one had most need of her – as indeed happened when
Saroumand took the Horne-bourg.”
“May one know what this recipe is?” inquired De Brie, dipping his crêpe in brandy.
“Oh, mon Dieu, oui,” said Monte Fato. « I
make no secret of it: it’s a mélange of excellent
opium that the Balrogue in Morie was so kind as to proffer me (indeed his opium is even more
select than his justly renowned coffee), combined with the best hashberry harvested in the East,
c’est-à-dire in Minas-Morgoule, where the Fantômes have made an art of it. One joins these two
together in a pill that produces the contentment of logs. I am never without these pills, lest I
should want them, but not have them.”
“Would it be indiscreet to ask to see this recipe more wondrous sans doute than the draughts of
ents?” inquired Pierre-Jacques-Philippe-Michel Boyen-Xènes-Baguines, hoping to catch the stranger
in a lie.
“Non, monsieur,” replied the Count. He removed from his pocket a great pill of a clear green,
set in a silver brooch that was wrought in the likeness of an eagle with outstretched wings. So
great was its beauty and so ineffable the fragrance that wafted therefrom that
Boyen-Xènes-Baguines was enchanted. "C’est cosmique!” he cried.
“Eh! Ne bogartez pas,” said De Brie.
“What a remarkable emerald!” cried Château-Renard, swishing his tail. “I have never seen the
like even in the chicken-coops of the wargues.”
“It is not an emerald, but an elessard, custom-made for me by the firm of Celebrimboro, a
jeweller so exclusive that he had never accepted a customer since the fall of Sauron,” replied
Monte Fato. “I had three such. I gave one to the Great Lord of the Dead of Doun-Harou, and he
placed it on his sabre; the second I gave to the Lady of the Galadrini, and she had it encrusted
on her tiara; I have kept the third for myself, and had it hollowed out, which diminishes its
value, but renders it more apt for my purposes.”
“And what did those sovereigns give you in exchange for such treasures?” said De Brie.
“The Lord of the Dead, the liberty of a spider; Galadriella, the life of a hobbite,” replied the
Count, retrieving his opium ring and inhaling it.
“Éarendeau is returned!” cried the Viscount.
“He has never been away,” said Monte Fato. “I am Éarendeau as well as the Count, and belong to
Lottaloria and Arnor as well as to the South.”
Everyone regarded him with astonishment.
“Messieurs,” said Réginard. “I must tell you a remarkable story, should my amour-propre suffer
therefrom. I believed myself the object of affection of the descendant of a Finwe or a Legolà,
while I was tout purement et simplement the object of the amusements of a Contadina, and I say
Contadina to avoid saying dragon-lady, and that’s …that’s the truth, if you follow me. Eh bien,
I was even more a ninnihammier than Thingolaud was when he decided to essay a dwarvish liqueur,
for I was about to get into a highly compromising situation with said dragon-lady, when she took
to the air and, faster than the inebriation of absinthe, brought me to a terrible orc-hole, where
I found the chief of the bandits highly lettered, ma foi: he was reading Elrond’s /De bello
orcico/, and deigned to interrupt his reading to tell me that, if he didn’t have four thousand
certar in hand by tomorrow, I would be as dead as an Aftian horse. I was at a désespoir like a
frost on Barastille Day. The letter exists, it is in the hands of Arafrantz, who will confirm
everything. Voilà what I know. What I do not know, monsieur le comte, is how you succeeded to
strike the bandits, who honour so few things, with so great a respect.”
“It is quite simple,” replied the Count. “I could have turned Luigi Vanya over to the whips and
chains of Galadriella; doing so did not seem worth my bother; so I did not. As this left him
free to besiege Mina Tiretta and inflict cruel damage upon Gondor with impunity, he naturally
felt some gratitude.”
”And the people of Gondor? Your solicitude for them is charming,” said
“Perhaps it will seem strange to messieurs the socialists, progressives, wizards; but I never
concern myself with my neighbour, or seek to protect a society that does not protect me, or jump
down a dragon’s throat – or even abstain from pipe-weed – to save the life of another.”
“Finally, someone dares to espouse the purest and most brutal egoism! Bravo!” cried
“But it seems, monsieur le comte, that you violated your own principes in saving Réginard from
the horror of the vanditti,” said Morrie.
“Monsieur le comte, vous voilà pris au raisonnement, you who are the most subtle logician I have
ever met!” cried Réginard. “The biter bit, the hawk under the eagle’s foot, the spider in the
steel web of an evil tower!”
“Not at all,” replied the Count. “After having lent you my eagle, served you nuncheon, spent
carnival in your company, and taken you to see that delightful execution, it would have been rude
in the extreme to leave you to the tender mercies of the vanditti – besides of course rendering
our present tête-à-tête impossible. For, as I said at the time, my intention was that you would
serve to introduce me to the monde of Annuminas, as you have promised to do.”
“I will keep my word; but I fear you will be disappointed, my dear Count. Here no adventure ever
takes place, and if it did, it would be universally regarded by our staid citizens as a
repulsive, uncomfortable thing that might make them late for their soirées. Our Lottaloria,
c’est Mme Bordelle’s café; our Champs-Valinorées boast of far more bourgeois enjoying a mushroom
with their mistresses, than archangelic beings; our Great Desert of Harade, c’est l’opéra de
St.-Michel-D’Elvingue. Your robbers make pyramids of the skulls of their enemies; ours construct
them of plum-seeds, and run with terror from any mangy dog that guards the mushroom fields. The
one service I can do is to introduce you everywhere; but one with your name, fortune, esprit, and
exquisite taste in jewellery has no need of introduction” (the Count bowed with a lightly ironic
smile) “and is received everywhere. Nor can I share my lodging, for though I do not profess
egoism, I am egoist par excellence, and so am constitutionally unable to share my lodgings except
with a woman.”
“Ah, voici a reserve altogether conjugal,” said the Count. “Must I then congratulate you on your
“My father has indeed a project of marriage in mind, with Mlle Éowénie Saqueville-Danglars.”
“Are you married, Count?” inquired Château-Renard.
“Non,” said Monte Fato curtly, and a penetrating observer would have noticed a slight obscuration
of his red eye.
“You have at the least a mistress, surely,” said De Brie.
“The beautiful and mysterious spider lady?” added Réginard.
“Better than that, I have a slave,” said the Count. “You borrow your mistresses at the opera or
the mushroom-dinner; mine, I bought and paid for at the marketplace in Quirithe-Oungallant.
Admittedly that cost me somewhat more, but I have no complaint to make about that.”
“But do you not know, monsieur le comte,” said De Brie, “that the government of Aragon-Philippe
has abolished slavery, declaring even gardeners and gatherers of mushrooms to be free?”
“And who will tell her?” said Monte Fato.
“Why, the first person she meets.”
“She only speaks the tongue of the spiders.”
“Dame!” said Château-Renard. “Do you also have eunuchs-snagas?”
“Non, I do not carry orientalism quite so far,” said the Count. “Although they seem less alien to
me than the foot-barbers of the hobbites.”
“Where will you stay, monsieur le comte?” asked Morrie. “Do you require assistance in finding
“Thank you, non, monsieur,” said the Count. “Gali has already found me an excellent place.”
“That somewhat peculiar fishy mute?” cried Réginard. “What can he possibly know of Annuminasian
“He knows my tastes, and that is sufficient,” said the Count. “He bought a home for me at
“But that’s a royal palace!” cried Boyen-Xènes-Baguines, startled out of his rêverie induced by
“So I gather,” replied Monte Fato – whether
ironically or naïvely, no one could tell. “I have no
doubt that it will be satisfactory. I have also bought a delightful suburban villa in
“Mon cher,” said De Brie, rising, “your guest is charming, but there is no company so good that
one does not leave it, and even for bad company, as Aragon observed on leaving the bed of Arwenne
to chase after Orcs. I must go to the ministry, but I will use the memory of this meal as a
consolation for the abominable taste in mushrooms that reigns there. Au revoir, messieurs; votre
très humble erchamion.”
And he left, crying, “Make way for the seigneur of the Ring!”
“I too must be off,” said Boyen-Xènes-Baguines. “I have to offer my readers something better
than yet another of Sacqueville-Danglars’s speeches.”
“De grâce, monsieur, not a word; let me have the honor of introducing the Count to the world,”
“The Count? I was thinking of the tobacco,” said Pierre-Jacques-Philippe-Michel
Boyen-Xènes-Baguines, and departed.
“Monsieur le comte is truly the most extraordinary man I have ever met,” said Château-Renard.
“Like the tree of Nimrot, he reigns alone in solitary bizarrerie.” (Monte Fato bowed.) “Are you
“One moment, permit that I give my card to the Count, who will indeed promise to pay us a small
visit, at rue Jadis-Joppelin, 14,” said Morrie.
“Monsieur may be sure that I shall not fail,” replied the Count.
The fox departed with the captain of the Uruc-haïs, leaving Monte Fato alone with Réginard.