Brash Young Fools
I don’t recall preparing for a Ball ever being so much work before!
First of all, there were the costumes to arrange. Madame Beaumarteau, we were told, is the only reputable purveyor of such attire in Ubersreik, so naturally Karl and I proceeded there with all possible haste; it would not do to be left with the dregs deemed too mundane for any other invitee – how could a man in my situation ever live down the humiliation? Beaumarteau herself is an entrepreneurial woman of Bretonian descent, but I decided not to hold that against her. She did, however, make a mess of the feather in my nice, new hat, and that is nigh unforgivable. Were it not for the intelligence on the costumes of other invitees that she was able to provide while attending to my own costume I would have taken my business elsewhere. Of course, there is no ‘elsewhere’ available; how I loath these small towns.
On reflection, we all agreed that Boris was not best suited to civilised society, and that his limited talents were best employed in a position of employment. Specifically, Boris is to assume the role of coach driver, footman and general aid for the evening. I can only hope that this role does not prove beyond him – crashing the coach in full view of Ubersreik society would be more than I could endure.
For his own part, Boris appears to believe that he has the better part of this arrangement. I believe he intends to ingratiate himself with the female staff, while Karl and I attend to the serious business of the Ball, in search of what he terms “gossip”. I can only say that “gossip” has never been a term I would use for what is evidently his real intention. In the interim, he has apparently taken to honing his skill with a carriage, and even attempting to earn his keep, by undertaking coaching duties for persons of note around town. Karl interrupted these larks to provide Boris with a limited useful function gathering intelligence on the movement of other invitees. (The notion of Boris gathering intelligence amuses me no end!)
Karl and I made more productive use of our time at the Emperor’s Rest. We distributed juicy rumours concerning some of the guest and winning hands with equal aplomb. I dare say that we are becoming quite the regulars in that particular establishment.
Karl was also rather eager to devise a plan of action for the night in question. I did try to explain that the social circuit was my natural environment and I no more needed to plan for a Ball than he did to… well, I won’t repeat the somewhat vulgar example I used, suffice to say that for all his pretensions it is occasionally necessary to remind Karl of his proper station.
Even so, conscious of the value in setting Karl at his ease, I contrived a machination for casting doubt on the oaf Aschaffenberg and von Saponatheim, widely regarded as competitors for rule hereabouts, and thus rivals of the somewhat understated, but vastly more discerning, von Holzenaur.
Karl made good use of his less savoury skills in securing the assistance of a forger to draw up a document appearing to be an agreement of alliance between the two in exchange for the proscribed book I had the foresight to obtain up while we were in the company of Aschaffenberg. This agreement, together with the book, I have concealed in a dressing room ahead of the Ball. At the appropriate point, the two pretenders will be directed to the room where other guests will catch them colluding together over the illegal tome.
Only one thing remains to be resolved before the event itself – where the hell is Victor?