June 29, 2011 § Leave a comment
I’m continuing along with the story, and will try to top you up with another instalment of “Ash and Dust” on the weekend. Busy busy busy, just as I should be.
It’s short, but there were no natural breaks without making it about three times as long. SO ENJOY IT. Quickly.
Bond put down his fork, his stomach pleasantly full of rum and roast quail. Although he normally had tremendous respect for his cooking staff, they had outdone themselves today. He only had to remove three pieces of bird-shot, which was not at all bad. The dinner had gone as well as could have been expected. Griffin continually tried to look up Mina’s skirt, and suffered two black eyes from it, minor indentations in the air that looked like black pools floating above his shirt collar. Hyde sat beside Bond, constantly burping and staring uneasily at his cane. Mycroft quietly tested each piece of food for poison before wolfing it down faster than Bond could believe. Nemo, completely unapologetically, had brought along a full kitchen staff, who had prepared sumptuous stewed and curried vegetables on top of jasmine rice, served with iced Feni liquor. He quite ignored the quail, pork, and pies served by Bond’s staff, but Bond paid it no mind. He was content that Nemo was boring Mycroft and Allain rather than himself.
The drinks were flowing freely, and Bond felt the tension within him slowly releasing. Well, only some of the tension. Mina kept flashing him looks that could only be interpreted as “hungry.” She assured everyone that she had been well fed before coming tonight and delicately picked at a quail to keep up appearances. Allain was about three bites from simply taking hers from her plate, and seemed to be entirely oblivious to what anyone else was saying. This of course made him perfect company for Nemo, who was entirely oblivious to whether anyone else was listening to him.
Bond quaffed another gin and tonic, and was concerned. Although he was pleased to be the centre of Mina’s attention, it was quite unexpected and a little off-putting, even as he felt a familiar feeling just beneath his gut. He resolved to act on it just after cigars, conveniently putting it off until the foreseeable future.
Hawley was roaring drunk, and had begun to make inappropriate, well, more inappropriate remarks to the serving staff. Bond called Hannah over, saving her from another invisible pawing, and asked her for a refill. Charles came behind him and whispered into his ear. “There is an unnamed gentleman at the door requesting the property owner.”
Bond arched an eyebrow. “The property owner? An agent of the bailiff on a Sunday night?”
“No sir. He appears to have a small tag with his name on it, acheap suit, and a writing board with papers on it. I believe he is selling insurance.”
“Insurance? Is he daft? Who would buy insurance from any old bloke that comes to your door at dinnertime?” Bond checked his pocket watch. “6:30? By Jove, what self-respecting family isn’t sitting down to dinner now?”
“Shall I loose the hounds on him, sir? Perhaps the hidden door or the bee trap?”
“No, no need. I will see him off. I am curious about it.”
Bond excused himself from the table, and gathering up his drink, walked to the front door. Standing in the light from the house was a tall man wearing, as Charles said, a cheap black suit and a tall, peaked Oriental cap. Bond looked up, and was certain the drink was taking him places. Why else would he be convinced that Fu Manchu, eminent villain and antagonist of the League, was standing on his porch holding a clipboard and with a name tag that read “Mu Fanchu?”
Bond smiled his most winning smile, a smile that had wormed him into more bloomers and out of more sticky situations that his imagination could make up. “Yes, I am the property owner.”
“Mu” rubbed his hands together and stroked the long moustache he wore. He uttered a low laugh, and leered down at Bond, speaking with a terrific lisp. “Ah yes, mister…what is your name? For you see, we have never met and I certainly do not know this is the Bond residence, and would never assume that you were Campion Bond. Your name please?”
“Campion Bond. And Fu, what in blazes is going on?”
“Ah yes, as I suspected! And, may I ask, who is the Fu you speak of? As you can clearly see from my name-tag, I am Mu Fanchu, and entirely without relation to any Fu Manchu. I do not even know anything about the intelligent, wildly handsome, and entirely successful Dr. Fu Manchu. I could only wish that I was related to him, but as you can see by my name tag, that is not the case.”
Bond stifled a smile. “Of course. What can I do for you, Mr. Mu?”
“Ah yes, by any chance would this fine, fine old wooden home be insured against destruction or damage? It is very important to be insured in case of…unfortunate accidents. You would not want to be under threat, would you?”
Bond made a show of thinking carefully and rubbing his chin. He mimed stroking his non-existent moustache in the same way as “Mu.” “Hmm, that is true. But, thank goodness, I am underwritten by Royal Insurance against fire, theft, religious incidents, native uprisings, floods, bear attacks, riots, stampedes, and other incidents of destruction or damage for the sum of ₤25,000. I am assured that it is enough.”
“Mu” stroked his moustaches so hard that Bond was sure they would catch fire. “But sir, sir, think of the premiums you must pay! My employers would be most happy to offer you half off the premiums for the same level of service you enjoy currently!”
“But you don’t know my premiums.”
“Inconsequential!” He thundered. “Think of the money you could save if you came to us right now!”
Bond laughed. “I have no need to save money, and am quite content with the service I have now. Good day sir.”
He shut the door in Mu’s bellowing face, and walked off, shaking his head. The doorbell rang, and Bond’s smile disappeared. He turned and opened the door again. Fu was still standing there, but had swapped his name tag to one that said “Herr Manchu.” He had put a fake moustache on, which did not hide his native whiskers, and a clearly fake chin curtain. Both were blond. Bond rubbed his eyes. “Herr Manchu, are you here to kill me?”
“No sir, I am-”
“Are you here to threaten the British Crown or her interests?”
“No sir, I -”
“Then why are you bothering me?”
“ Herr Bond, I have a wunderful assortment of cloths and cleaning supplies to sell to you today.”
Bond slammed the door in Manchu’s face. Manchu opened the mail slot and yelled through the door. “You will have no peace Bond! I shall disrupt your little party to no end! I have surveys, products to sell, intrusive questions to ask at awkward times! There will be no rest! Your party will be ruined!” He began laughing maniacally.
Bond reached up to a carved gargoyle set into the lintel. He pressed the thing’s left eye, and there was a small click. A second later, a mechanism dislodged two bee’s nests that hung above the door frame. With a crash, they fell to the ground and disgorged thousands of angry bees. Fu Manchu began running away into the night, crying out into the darkness, “You haven’t won yet, Bond. There will be no victory while Fu Manchu walks this earth!”
Bond finished his drink and turned back to the hall. He nearly walked into Mina, who stood behind him as silent as a ghost. He took a step back in surprise.
“Mina! I did not see you ther-” The rest was cut off as she stalked forward, grasping his face in her hands. They felt as cold as ice and as strong as iron as she whispered into his ear.
“What say we end this fool’s game, and truly follow our…instincts tonight?”
Bond blushed as deep as her hair. “Why Ms. Harker, I don’t…”
She shushed him with a finger to his lips, gently placing a kiss on it. “No. Do not call me that. Harker is a dead name for a dead man. Tonight, I am just Mina, and you,” She ran that finger down his chest as he stiffened his back at her touch, “You are mine.”
June 25, 2011 § Leave a comment
My friend who was in the Master’s trenches with me, and as a queer man has a bit more perspective on this matter, pointed to a response to the gay marriage question from a queer viewpoint. It’s quite interesting, but as he said, their concept of “queer” and “working class” are very broad and question to whole concept of “class” and “orientation” so that a straight white non-working class male can identify with the struggles of trans- or queer, working class, “male” or “females” (forgive the quotation marks. Gender studies was not my major).
It’s an interesting read, and I would suggest you take a look.
June 25, 2011 § Leave a comment
Wait what. What. I know. Who doesn’t love politics? I wasn’t sure I was going to make it that kind of blog, but whatever. You can read it, you can ignore it, or you can hate me for it.
But if you are concerned, SPOILERS: strong opinions ahead.
Here in Canada, the courts are currently debating whether prostitutes can hire security, conduct their business indoors, and/or keep a “badwdy” house (which is an awesome word). Some people are pleased. Some are not.
I’m no legal scholar so I can’t provide any sort of reasoned commentary on the laws in and of themselves. I can only parrot one of the Judges who (bless her heart) asked the lawyer for the Crown why prostitution, if legal, was the only sort of employment that had these draconian measures.
For the uninitiated, prostitutes in Canada are not allowed to keep a house dedicated to prostitution (or one that is too bawdy), they aren’t allowed to hire security or drivers (as that entails “living off the avails of prostitution), and they can’t talk to someone on the street to assess them before bringing them inside.
That is the equivalent to having a Best Buy that can’t advertise, can’t maintain a brick and mortar store, and can’t hire anyone to help them sell their stuff. Even though the selling of said stuff is perfectly legal. I know. Double-standard much?
I’m going to be upfront and say that, as a super-nerdy historian and writer, I’m not exactly the type of person to go to a prostitute. Hell, I don’t even agree with strip clubs. Nothing against strippers, but it’s not my thing. And I know prostitution is a difficult thing because aside from the institutional frowning-upon that makes it difficult, there are many reasons that it is bad, unhealthy, and depends on actual criminal activity. In a letter to the Toronto Star, Sherene Razack, Professor of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education at UofT had a great, nuanced response. I’m not going to quote it in full (you can find it among other letters here), but I’m going to highlight some things she said, just as food for thought:
“Reducing the matter to moral conservatism and choice is dangerous because it prevents us from confronting the tremendous violence that is prostitution and having a real conversation about legal and non-legal strategies.
Scholars agree that most prostitutes begin as 12-year-old girls fleeing other forms of violence (in foster homes, in their own homes, and so on). The rate of drug addiction is extremely high (some argue that this is how one gets through it). Women engaged in prostitution end up murdered more often than others (there are hundreds of “missing” women, many of whom are Aboriginal in this group).
Prostitution is also a billion dollar industry that requires the trafficking of women. Of course, on this global landscape, many adult women choose to enter prostitution as their best option. It is a supreme challenge to determine how best to legally protect women and girls amidst such organized violence.”
If the structural conditions of prostitution as an industry are not daunting enough, it is intrinsically hard to make prostitution safe when men are buying the right to do anything they want to the body of another. It’s not the sex that worries me but the power arrangements that underpin the idea of sex by contract and the violence this breeds.”
It’s a good response that raises lots of points to consider for the future. But in the here and now, do you want my opinion? Because of the presence of these laws that intend to criminalize a legal activity women die.
Let’s say that again: these laws, that try to under-handedly criminalize a legal activity, put women (and certainly men, but the overwhelming majority are women, usually Aboriginal women) at risk of bodily harm.
Yes, that’s dramatic because this is a dramatic thing. People dying is bad, and if you don’t agree, then I don’t think you’re human. There is good news here, though. Although the end result is unclear, as crime and criminal activity (including the horrifying, horrible practice of human trafficking) do not necessarily go down in areas that have legalized prostitution, the legal arguments seem to be leaning towards repealing the laws.
Just in closing though, there’s one argument that I’ve seen tossed around a lot. “We shouldn’t legalize prostitution (ignoring the Derp that forgets that prostitution is legal) because it’s immoral.” I’ve also seen it tossed around as a sort of religious argument. That God doesn’t want prostitutes to, well, prostitute.
To quote the great John Scalzi: Whatever. You know what’s immoral? Letting people die because you don’t like what they do. Letting people get hurt because you think they’re dirty and scummy and gross. Letting people suffer because some don’t want to acknowledge that it’s legal. I think that, in the grand scheme of things, God would be happier if you looked out for each other.
Let’s just all get along, and hopefully, a few more women will make it through the year.
Now it’s happy time. DISCOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO CHASER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
June 25, 2011 § Leave a comment
Aww yeah. Good job guys.
Now only 44 to go, but tonight? Tonight we dance.
June 23, 2011 § Leave a comment
It’s done! It’s over! Assuming I didn’t fail, then I just finished my Master’s! In history!
The best part is that I actually feel it. Handing it in actually brewed a little excitement in my stomach. When I graduated, it didn’t really feel like anything, but when I walked through that door and passed over that paper…sigh. I think I made a mess.
But, because I feel I’ve been neglecting this thing already (What? Starting a major time commitment right in the middle of the largest project in my life is a bad idea? Nonsense!), as a sigh of my good faith, I’m giving you more content! Yay! Hooray! I hope you liked yesterday’s, because you’re about to get a heaping, steaming pile of more!
I’m also doing this because I have no idea how to parse it out. This story was my sick, or tired, or in space cop-out, but that won’t work for serial fiction. So I guess I’ll post double time this week, and, I don’t know, maybe write more? Ridiculous. Not when there’s internet to waste time on.
And monkeys to feed watermelon to. More story!!!!
Bond couldn’t resist himself, and thrust up two fingers at the Captain’s departing back. Three footmen led the coach away, while the rest went into the house to leave Bond alone with the peacocks and the carpet. He went to follow the Prince when he heard a soft cough behind him.
The blood ran cold in his veins as he turned. There, standing at the end of the gravel road like two hungry beggars with murder in their smiles, were the esteemed (the most lovely, and assuredly unattached) Mina Harker, née Murray, and the lowly, vile, vicious and vermian Dr. Henry Jekyll. They whispered together while he laughed at something known only to the two of them. With a flourish, he offered her his arm as they walked down the carpet.
She was resplendent in a perfectly fitted, black, high collared gown that swept down to her ankles, occasionally showing a hint of blue beneath. A simple necklace of golden chain hung about her neck, and she carried fine deerskin gloves with her pale, pale hands. A broad black touring hat sat atop her head, but her unbound, and shockingly red, hair blew about in the breeze like a mane of flame behind her.
Dr. Jekyll was singularly undignified in a rumpled grey frock coat, a hastily and poorly tied bow-tie, while a sweat-stained brown derby sat atop his greasy hair and a chipped tippling stick filled his hand. It was common knowledge that the stick was filled with both a sample of his “marvellous” potion, and more often than not, cheap gin. He smiled through a mouth of broken teeth, but Miranda seemed quite taken with him, talking and laughing animatedly. A spurt of jealousy, bitterly hot and filled with bile, sprayed up inside Bond. He could barely contain a sneer at the good doctor.
They came up to Bond, where Mina gave a shallow curtsy and Jekyll offered his hand. Bond shook it, trying his best to smile.
“Good day, Campion. Good day indeed. It was capital of you to invite us into your home. It has been a very long time since I’ve been out of the laboratory, what with Fu Manchu’s latest disappearance and all that.”
“Good God Doctor, I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to invite you out. Were the invitations from the zoo not forthcoming enough?”
Jekyll smirked, but a sadness filled his eyes. “Sadly, Mr. Bond, we are not all as gifted or as lucky as yourself. But in any case, the invitation is appreciated. Has anyone other than…his Eminence arrived? I do dread another retelling of how his great-great-uncle fought off the Emir of Turkey with nothing but a diabetic elephant and a bowl of hashish. I admit, the part about the blind assassins is amusing, but a man tires of the same stories from wasted greatness.”
Mina laughed, her voice like a thousand silver bells being played by deaf and drunken men. “Come now Henry, would you prefer Griffin’s or Quatermain’s stories? They tend to go something along the lines of: “I saw the animal from a mile away, using my spectral talisman I won from a shaman in a game of plinkets. Capital fellow, wore nothing but ostrich feathers. I pulled out Matilda and bang!” She mimed firing a gun, even as she had slipped into a perfect imitation of Allain. At once, she changed her voice and spoke with the gruff voice of Hawley Griffin, colloquially known as the Invisible Man, although in Bond’s opinion, whether he earned the moniker “Man” was debatable. “Or would you prefer Hawley? ‘I saw a pretty girl, so I followed her home and watched her change out of her bloomers because I’m invisible!”
Bond laughed, while Henry politely tittered. Henry rarely went out of his way to earn the enmity of the others, mostly because in his case, it was freely given. They turned to go in the house when Mina put a hand on Bond’s arm. “Campion, a word, if you would. Go along Henry, we’ll be in in a moment.”
Henry politely excused himself, while Bond’s heart leapt into his throat and began pulsing thickly. He nodded at Henry and turned to look into Mina’s coal-black eyes. He had always been slightly terrified and enormously attracted to Mina. However, the terror was always disproportionate to the attraction. He smiled nervously at her predator eyes. It was so easy to forget that she drank blood for a living.
“You ought not to go so hard on Henry. He’s had a difficult life, and for the most part, he has overcome everything in his way.”
“Overcome? The man still turns into a raving beast at the drop of a hat! How can I treat him with respect? He made himself a monster!” Bond scoffed.
“Indeed? A monster? And do we hate all monsters?” Mina’s eyebrow arched into dangerous territory.
Flustered, Bond tried to regain some of his composure. “Well, what I meant to say was that the man had no choi…(neither did Mina) ergh, that he cannot always control him…(neither can Mina) argh, rather that I meant…”
Mina interrupted him by putting a finger to his lips. “I believe you mean to say “I am sorry, you are correct, I will go and apologize to Henry?” For from what I have seen of the world, all that you’ve said about monsters and raving beasts applies equally to men of “class” as it does to your “monsters,” Campion. Especially men who think that dead deer are suitable decorations for a party.”
Bond’s eyes shamefully followed the trail of disturbed gravel, blood droplets, and scraped fur to see the massive behind of the deer sticking proudly around the corner of his house. He could only pray the leaves in the tree hid the dangling foxes from her sight. He sighed, and nodded to Mina, only just realizing how close her face had gotten. A strange look came over her face, one that filled Bond’s personal areas with urgency just as it filled his animal areas with dread.
She sniffed very clearly at the air around Bond, sticking her nose out in a very unladylike fashion. Bond fought the urge to take a step back, and fought an equally strong urge to kiss her.
“I say Bond…what…cologne are you wearing?”
“Uh, cologne? I touched up with a few drops of lemon after my bath, but I’m not wearing…”
“It’s marvellous. I, I…it is simply breathtaking.”
She had begun breathing heavily, and Bond took a step back. Campion Bond was not the most experienced of men, but he could see danger when it was so close to him. Especially when it had fangs an inch long which were almost brushing his neck. It seemed to do the trick, as Mina blinked and looked around with confusion on her face.
“Are you alright Mina?”
“Of…of course Campion. I was only a little distracted. Come along, the others will wonder where we’ve gone to.”
“Go on without me, I’ve a behind to deal with.”
She went inside, and Campion strolled over to the side of the house. His heart was pounding and his palms clammy, but a strange excitement filled him. Mina had never gotten so close before! Even to berate him! Progress was progress, and he began to whistle as he dragged the animal behind the house. Without the fear of being caught, it went much smoother, and he was very nearly content as he finished.
He fixed his jacket, settled his hair, and, checking his face in a bucket of water, was satisfied that he was again prepared for meetings of class. The front of the house was empty but for a few clucking peacocks and the carpet spattered with droppings. He opened the door, and turned to shut it. It caught slightly, and he gave it a hard pull. Something yelped, and Bond started from the door.
A familiar, if unwelcome, voice began accusing Bond.
“Oi, fancy that, you bleeding rotter! Chap tries to go through the door and the big ponce acts like he can’t see em? Well excuse me a poor, working fellow can’t deck himself in finery and the jewels of the fecking Orient, don’t mean he’s below your sight!”
“Griffin? Is that you?”
“Is that me? Can’t you fecking see?”
Bond stared blankly at the open doorway and driveway. There was no-one there. One of the peacocks looked up at Bond and splayed his tail feathers. He was no help.
“No, Hawley, I can’t. You are invisible, remember?”
The open door began to wail. “Oi, what’s that all about? Got to remind a chap of his fecking infirmity all the bleeding time? It’s never, “Mr. Griffin,” or “Lord Hawley,” it’s always the fecking “Invisible” Man. Do I call Mina the “Vampire Woman?” Do I call Allain the “White Devil?” Nah! I’ve got the fecking decency to call em by their name!”
Bond was perplexed. “Hawley…I just did…”
The Invisible Man was having none of it. Bond let him rant over the injustices of his life over how difficult it was to be afflicted with invisibility. Griffin bored Bond to no end. He was the definition of a ruffian, without respect for anyone but himself. His attitude of constant persecution won him no friends, but in all fairness, neither did his smell, his lechery, or his larcenous attitudes. Regardless, he was a Gentleman in (good?) Standing, and Bond had invited him.
A sudden thought occurred to Bond. “Hawley, are you…” his voice fell to a conspiratorial whisper, “Naked?”
The voice went silent.
Bond stood awkwardly, making sure his hands were firmly attached to his sides.
“You…wouldn’t happen to have a pair of decent clothes for a chap, would you?”
Bond sighed deeply. “I will send Charles upstairs to pick some clothing for you. Wait in the salle de bain, and he will be along presently. Now go, before anyone sees you.”
Hawley muttered a quick “Thanks,” and a set of dusty footprints walked upstairs.
Campion waved Charles over, and explained the situation as quickly as he could, and with all due graces.
“The bleeding idiot didn’t wear any clothes. I sent him up to the bath. Can you find him some clothes and make sure he’s…as presentable as Hawley Griffin can be?”
Charles sniffed. “Of course sir, although lacking a teacher of manners, several tailors, a battalion of priests, and several bottles of gin, I am afraid I am doomed to failure.”
Campion waved him off, and satisfied that everyone had arrived without (much) incident, he entered his salon, a cheery smile on his face.
Quatermain was sitting on an ottoman by the fire, a disassembled gun spread across the carpet. Allain was still wearing his boots, and was entertaining Hannah with stories of Africa. His booming voice entertained the others, whether they wished to be or not. Dr. Hyde sat with a glass of champagne in front of him, barely touched, while Mina was boisterously laughing as she quaffed a highball of Dark and Stormy and listened to Mycroft Holmes, who contented himself with tea. Nemo sat beside Mycroft, servants standing quietly nearby, talking loudly whenever he got the chance.
Bond nodded cheerily to everyone, and sat in his chaise besides Hyde. He leaned in to speak with Hyde when he suddenly shot out of his seat.
“Mycroft! You’re here? But you said that you couldn’t attend! I received your RSVP two weeks ago!””
Mycroft looked up at Bond, his bland, jowled face betraying none of the surprise Bond was sure he showed. He brushed his plain grey suit and leaned back in his chair. “Ah, Mr. Bond. I deduced that the enemies of the Crown would be shamelessly eager to do Brittania harm should they learn that the entire League was in the same place at the same time. Therefore, I set out both to mislead them and astound them, and the deception was necessary both to protect yourself and the interests of the Crown. First, I made sure I was seen entering the office this morning in London, exactly 76.64 miles away from your estate here. Second, I left the office precisely at 10:34 AM, after changing my clothes and establishing a dummy in my stead. Estimating that the dummy would fool a common thug for, on average, twenty-three minutes, I hurried into the Underground. I boarded the 10:43 to Hammersmith, where I got off the train, changed my clothing again, and boarded a motorcar. After following the M25 to Maidstone, to fool any trackers, I arrived at a secret airship landing pad at precisely 2:21 PM, well ahead of schedule. Risking nothing, I hid the motorcar in a forest, underneath a peculiar specimen of Pinaceae and traversed on foot to the pad. Meeting with the crew, tongueless Eunuchs liberated from China, they took me aloft in a micro-zeppelin. I then abseiled from the gondola to your backyard three minutes and twelve seconds ago. Finding it quiet, I entered through a small window that you had cleverly sealed and locked. Slipping through your house, I dressed as a servant to avoid detection, and inserted myself into this room 52 seconds before you met Mr. Griffin at the door, requested a tea from your staff, and settled myself to await your arrival.”
Bond’s head spun, but none of the other Gentlemen seemed plussed. In fact, they were entirely nonplussed, treating the Head of the League’s paranoia and ridiculous security measures as completely normal. Bond nodded weakly and took his seat by Hyde again. He waved down a maid and asked for enough rum to float a boat, with two ice cubes.
Hyde leaned in and whispered to Bond. “Mycroft is still wearing an apron.”
June 23, 2011 § Leave a comment
I am 98% done my Masters paper, due tomorrow at around 3pm.
No, I did not write something this week.
Yes, I have something for you. It was a project I did as part of an experiment. It’s more humorous that scary, so same deal applies. Hope you enjoy, and I should start posting much more regularly, now that it’s over.
Also, I need a miller. Or about 10.
The Vampire’s Touch: A Slightly Naughty Comedy of Manners
featuring the exploits of Allain Quatermain, Campion Bond, Mycroft Holmes, and other members of the
LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN
“No no, my darling, that absolutely will not do. If you had remembered my precise instructions, then you would have simply known that Dr. Jekyll cannot be seated next to Ms. Harker. Tell me, would you sit a wolf beside a gorilla?”
The serving girl, young for her eighteen years, bowed her head meekly. She knew better than to take anything that Mr. Campion Bond, spy and savant, saviour of England, holder of Victoria’s Cross, and member (in good standing) of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, as rhetorical. “No sir. I would instead wonder why the two had been seated at the table.”
Bond sniffed and turned back to the mirror, fixing the precise angle of his cravat. It was made of the finest Bloodsilk from the Guandi’ang province of Imperial China, and worth its weight in gold. Which, admittedly, wasn’t much on account of the fact that it was, indeed, silk despite all the blood involved in the manufacture. Bond, however, had been reassured that it was the rage with all gentlemen of class and quantity in London. While perhaps lacking in quantity compared to say, Mr. Hyde, Bond would be the first to argue that he did not lack in class.
He spoke over his shoulder to the unfortunate girl. “Indeed. No points for cleverness, Miss Meercourt, especially since it was your error. Switch the doctor’s seat out with Mr. Griffin. If he tries to slip out then, at least we’ve got her nose to track him down.”
Miss Hannah Meercourt curtsied and fled her employer. The servants continued to bustle about his country home, setting out the fine silver and the finer china. While Bond’s home in Kent-on-Downing was not as extravagant as, perhaps, any building that Captain Nemo, née Prince Dakkar, had stepped his ivory boots into, Bond was determined to show off what he could.
Bond examined himself in the mirror again, pleased at what he saw. His fine Bloodsilk cravat topped off an elegant silk jacket and embroidered silk waistcoat, all of the finest Bloodsilk. Actually, his entire wardrobe for that evening, with the exception of his shoes (but not the spats,) was made of Bloodsilk. Bond belonged to the certain group of gentlemen that believed if those of class and quantity were taken with a certain item, than it was best to take as much of that item as possible.
There was a ringing at the door, which interrupted Bond’s sartorial sojourn. His butler, the indomitable Charles, née Charles No please sir just Charles, answered the door. The delightful Allain Quatermain stood, smoking a pipe and with a fine brace of quail over his shoulder. He was dressed in tweed Norfolk jacket, with accompanying knickerbockers and hat. Mud from his boots mixed with blood from the quails, and Bond stifled his displeasure and greeted his colleague. “Hello, hello Allain. A little shooting before tea, eh? Catch anything worthwhile?”
Quatermain paused long enough to take his pipe from his mouth, absentmindedly tap out the ashes on the floor, and offer his hand to Bond. Nearly quivering with distaste, Bond shook the grubby, dirty hand, wincing as Quatermain’s powerful shake nearly tore the fingers from his hands.
“Lovely place you have here, Campion. Not big enough to be pretentious, not small enough to be crowded.” He unloaded the quail on Charles, who positively fled with the dead birds at arm’s length. “And the hunting is marvellous! There’s a buck and a few foxes for you out there. Now, if you’ve a drop of brandy around, that would be capital. The scent of gunpowder always sparks such a thirst in me.” He said the last few words as he walked away from the door and down the hall.
Bond yelled out at the departing hunter. “What Allain, what do you mean there’s a buck for me…” His voice trailed off as he saw what waited for him outside. A dead stag, probably three hundred pounds with an impressive rack, was laid across the threshold, and a full half-dozen foxes were tied together by their tails. Bond began to ventilate slowly, waiting three seconds between breaths as Dr. Hyde had told him. “Stay calm Bond, it’s just a bit of dead meat. Just fetch the help, and they’ll take care of it.”
As he turned to call Charles, he saw a plume of dust from down the lane. His heart palpitated into full-blown hysteria as he realized another Gentleman was coming down the lane. It would simply not do to have dead animals strewn about his doorstop like he was running a butcher’s shop! Glancing inside, he saw that some of the serving staff were attending to Allain, who had his muddy boots up on Bond’s fine Turkish Ottoman, while the rest still bustled in the kitchen and the dining room. In a panic, he realized that he was the only one who could move the dead animals in time.
He grabbed the foxes and looked about for some where to put them. The finely manicured gardens had bushes trimmed to exacting standards, his own, actually. Regardless, they were completely too small to hide a dozen dead foxes. Looking up, he realized the oak tree from the backyard grew branches over the side of the house. Realizing if he planned to move the stag, he had no choice but to hurry. Risking a prayer, he gingerly grabbed one of the fox tails. The dead animal hung limply, as did the other eleven. Unseeing eyes stared back at him as he gritted his teeth and closed his eyes. Spinning them about like a strongman whirling a chain, he loosed the dead canines at the tree.
He opened his eyes in time to see them fly like, well, a dozen dead foxes tied together by the tails. They whirled like a macabre boomerang and mercifully caught on a tree branch. Although the branch groaned alarmingly and swayed dangerously, it held the foxes but left them to droop. They looked like nothing but a flock of bats sleeping upside down. Smiling viciously in success, he turned to the stag.
As he began to drag it across the gravel, he felt the full weight of it. Although he was by no means a weak man, the strain of dragging a stag thirty feet began to tell on him. Fear gave new strength to him as the plume of dust came even closer, and he threw himself into moving the stag. He was almost around the side of the house when, with a horrific snap the tines he held on to came clean off the stag. Risking his fine suit, Bond grabbed the body in a bear hug and dragged it the last few feet, dropping it out of sight with a thump.
Breathing heavily, and feeling the sweat run down his face and down his back, he walked back to the front of the house to greet the arriving carriage. With an increasing rumble, a brilliant white carriage pulled by six white horses bedecked with ostrich plumes and with a train of footmen pulled to a stop in front of the house. Feeling the modesty of the two-story stone building more and more, Bond resigned himself to the brilliance that was in front of him.
Footmen dressed in gold-threaded pantaloons, with their impressive chests bare, ran to place a stool in front of the carriage door, and rolled a brilliant white carpet to the door. Men with clothing finer than Bond wore opened the door, and Bond’s heart sank when he saw Captain Nemo.
Now, Bond had no particular dislike for Captain Nemo. Far from it, he respected the man as a colleague and a gentleman of decency and, of course, good standing. But he loathed everything about Prince Dakkar. The Indian Prince would never hesitate to display wealth so ostentatious that it put the Crown to shame. Indeed, several peacocks had been released from boxes strapped to the back of the carriage to peck about for the few seconds between his exit of the carriage and his entrance to the house. That wealth, that position, that opportunity…Bond saw it as completely wasted on the man who based all his achievements on what other men built for him.
Bond was acutely aware of how he must have looked at that exact moment. His blood-red suit was wrinkled and possibly sweat-stained, while his face was flushed and running. Some of his hair fell loose across his brow, but he stood with all the grace he could muster. At least, he wagered, Nemo came alone. I won’t have to share this indignity with anyone other than Quatermain, who wouldn’t give a damn how I looked unless I came in wearing a lion skin.
Captain Nemo, it seemed, cared deeply for how he looked. He wore ivory shoes that clacked as he strode down the carriage steps, beneath pants of white silk threaded with a diamond sash. Another sash crossed a white jacket decked with more medals that must have been on Wellington’s chest. His dark skin nicely contrasted with his white suit and bejewelled turban atop his head. A twirling moustache that would have put Ambrose Burnside to shame dressed his thin lip. He smiled broadly on seeing Bond, and offered his hand in a genteel shake.
“Marvellous day for a gathering, don’t you agree Bond?”
“Why yes, Captain, that is why I chose it for today…”
“And the countryside! Simple, rural, and entirely isolated from the graces of good society, and yet, despite all, beautiful!
“Well thank you Captain. I’ve always believed that my family suspected that their last five generations had good taste, despite all the problems.”
Nemo was entirely oblivious to Bond’s sarcasm, and blathered on without stopping. “Why, in function, but I assure you not in form, it reminds me of my family’s estate out in Delhi. Of course, you do not have a flock of flamingos imported from darkest Africa, or a fountain in which elephants can bathe, but yours has a certain rustic charm.”
Bond felt his temper rising, but maintained his calm demeanour. “Why, thank you, Captain. If rustic is the best that we can manage, we assure you that this evening will be as rustic as possible, just for you.”
Nemo smiled at him, revealing teeth as white as his carriage. “Why Bond, you do me an honour.”
He strode off toward the house, footmen sweeping the carpet before his feet while a violinist followed him, strumming furiously.
Fin, for now.