Colleagues on a Train

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Colleagues on a Train

Post by Grand Duke Henry on Wed Jun 04, 2008 1:21 am

Dazzling light slants through the windows of the South Kingdom Express Trans-Russian as the deluxe train speeds past stunning vistas and sun-drenched steppes, illuminating the nostalgic splendour of the Russian countryside. Red Russian peasants bend to pick cotton crop, wicker headgear shielding their stares, and White Russian foremen gallop across the irradiated fields, golden trinkets glistering in the glorious gaze of le soleil.

Clarkeos sips a piping hot cup of lapsang souchong; opposite him Grand Duke Henry elegantly drinks from the limegreen elixir of life - a Chai Tea Frappuccino. Queen Olivina lies on a nearby couch, brought momentarily low by a migraine. Grand Duchess Sophie Clementine is still in her/Henry's suite, trying on her latest Irene Dunnian outlandishly sheikh fashion blends.

"We were so sorry that you couldn't make the soiree Clarkeos my boy," comments the grand duke as Joni Mitchell's River plays mournfully, "it was a fantastic event though: surpassed even our other recent bashes. Still, we are collectively planning a Garden Party at the Summer Palace on 12 July to celebrate the end of term for my youngest, Leopold."

"How old is Leo now?" asks Clarkeos interestedly.

"He was fifteen on the twenty-ninth of February this year... god, Clarkeos, time flies, eh?"

"Yes, I rather suppose that it does old friend."

"I remember my own teens," the grand duke's eyes fill with tears, clouding with memories, "not very well though... my father was so proud when I made Merton... it feels like yesterday in a way..." his voice becomes almost a eulogy to this almost forgotten time, "Those were the glory days... carefree, affectionate... I wish so much that this political rubbish could go hang itself..."

"Indeed, indeed. Does Sophie feel the same?"

"What? Oh, no, Sisi had a much more pragmatic, 'preparatory' childhood... all lessons in marrying well.We both did that, of course!" he seems to rally, inspired by the dual opportunism of the marital alliance. The Golden Fleeces of the Grand Ducal Saxe-Brunonen-Carandini-Hohenschwertenburgs, mingling over foie gras and appetisers with the country club arriviste meritocracy of the Thyssen-Hofstaufen. But this rallying is brief, in vain - the grand duke is forced to return, sadly, wistfully, to the present. "At any rate, Clarkeos, care to be our first official garden party guest?"

"Definitely my boy!" Clarkeos re-fills his cup with the ebony aromatic beverage. "Will Mettenburg be there?"

"I hope so - fine politico, Charles Wenzel. No-one doubts his ability, of course, it's just sad; no-one trusts him, really. He's fought all his life for a Lost Cause, the patrician power, fighting for aristocratic acceptance - but he will never get it. The upper echelons of his bourgeois class has money and taste, but that one magical, stardust of birth eludes them. And so it shall eternally remain."

The two nod, lost in their melancholic remembrances, and in the knowledge of their own class's mortality. Intimations of it are everywhere, a memento mori seen in the carriage's opulence. The slippery, deceiving, histrionic Mettenburg is the future - noble, elegant, saturnine Henry Louis Gottfried the past. There is much to be admired in Chancellor Mettenburg but, alas, many flaws.
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Grand Duke Henry
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