Thursday, December 11, 2008

Aux Bains-Thermes

The morning after his arrival, congratulating himself on his easy triumph over the virtue of his coquettish chambermaid, Herr Stechung took a late cafe au lait and pain au chocalat on the veranda of La Pensione Thelemitissima, savouring the breathtaking vista of the blazing cerulean sky over the Baie des Singes before calling for his caleche to the Pump Rooms of the Bains-Thermes.

Announced to the Master of Ceremonies, Stechung deployed his most effusive bonhommie negotiating the social inquisition which ensued, making ready reference to his mercantile intimacy with the best families of the Rheinland, his previous stays at the spas of Aachen and Bad Skt. Nikolaus, and the quality of his own breeding. Rewarded with an indulgent smile by the Master of Ceremonies and a conspiratorial aside on the superiourity of the virtues of honest toil over self-indulgent aristocracy, Herr Stechung was directed to his attendants for his first session of thalassotherapy.

Brought to the Romanesque bathing hall, Herr Stechung's attendant, while preparing Stechung for the baths with preliminary treatments of salt and grapeskin, rehearsed the history of the spa, and indeed of the city of Monte Cristo itself. From its legendary founding by the child-god Harpocrates during his quest for the missing parts of his slaughtered father, through its classical history as an entrepot of Carthaginian and Corinthian trade and down to its tenuous existence during the Wars of the Henris and its revival since.

Entering the baths proper, Stechung followed the prescribed course of alternating hot and cold soakings for the balance of the morning, before finishing with the novel Turkish treatments with birch rods and a final cold soak.

Redressing and regaining his personal effects, Stechung returned to the Pump Room, and as instructed by Chancellor de Montglace, fixed the Master of Ceremonies with a deliberate stare and carefully enquired if "there was not a closet to which a man of affairs might retire for consideration of his accounts." With a gesture to one of the Pump Room attendants, the Master of Ceremonies directed Stechung to the corridor leading back to the baths, down which the attendant led him to a nondescript service door and thence to a descending staircase which connected in turn to a lengthy, but well-lit series of subterranean passages through which the attendant led him on a serpentine course.

By now quite disoriented, Stechung was now led to an ascending staircase which led to a single, unlocked door which opened into a small, but well-furnished bureau appointed with a desk, leather chaise longue, and a glass cabinet well appointed with local vintages and imported distilled spirits. From the door on the opposite wall, the only other point of access into the room other than the small windows lining the wall to the left along the ceiling, a bespectacled man shortly entered the room carrying a leather binder thick with documents.

"Welcome, M. Stechung, to the Presipapal Bank for Sustainable Development and Constantly Increasing Profit. We are pleased to offer you a full portfolio of instruments to meet all of your financial needs. How may we be of service?"

"I bear a letter of credit drawn on the banking house of Tellson et Cie. in Paris in the amount of 25,000 livres with which to open an account and to engage your brokerage services in the consummation of an international transaction of great delicacy, in which, I have been led to understand, your firm has some expertise."


abdul666 said...

Monte-Cristo is from the start a freaky anomaly in EvEurope: a peaceful and officially demilitarized statelet. Rumours of spies / counterspies ‘games’ were milling around then and hopefully some of such interactions would take place in the Presipality. Thus it is extremely gratifying that a fellow Ruler –and a gifted storyteller at that, also adding a lot to the setting- sends emissaries to take advantage of the peculiar facilities our little country has to offer.

Did Cardinal Maximilian resume his interrupted chaotic journey?
Last time we heard of His Eminence his ship was coming to Monte-Cristo. In all likelihood the good Cardinal, shuning our traditional welcome of prestigious guests, in a self-imposed righteous quarantine, adamantly declined to disembark.

But then… Opinions kept in the dark elsewhere as ‘unconventional’ / ‘controversial’ are free of censorship here. Thus, at least our scholars don’t ignore that a few ‘historians’ claim that Shakespeare was just Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban,’s figurehead, and that Joan of Arc did not deserve her designation as ‘Pucelle de France’ – and was not burnt at the stake. Some members of this ‘school’ also maintain that Saint Louis did not die from plague at all, but deserted his own Crusade to settle down incognito in Tunis with a comely Fatma. Given such precedents, who knows?


Prinz Geoffrey said...

Treachery!!! Fabulous story but I have a uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach from this.