Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from a manuscript
apparently written by a Frenchman, the Comte d'Arnauld, in the early
18th century. It was discovered recently during excevations in Antwerp
for the new European Common Market Council on Anchovy Trade Regulation.
The manuscript was apparently lost during World War II; prior to that
it was owned by a Teodor Povlinovsky, a Pole who emigrated to Belgium
in 1938, as stated in his diary,
"because it was safer". How the manuscript came to be in his
possession is unclear, but he had been using the margins to keep track
of daily changes in his phrenological measurements.
The manuscript purports to be about the life of one 'Signeur le Ronche',
and his travels about Europe and the Near East. The earliest events
indicate an approximate date of 1779; the latest are from 1805, but it
is apparent that the manuscript is missing significant portions of
either end, and most of the year 1801 was apparently used at one point
to wrap fish and is largely illegible.
It is unlikely that the manuscript will see publication despite its
scandalous nature, as other historical evidence for 'Signeur le Ronche'
is slim, being limited to a few mentions in epistles by James Boswell,
and a large amount of graffiti in various homes, castles, and churches
around the continent.
The Comte d'Arnauld, though undoubtedly a real person and
likely the correct author of the manuscript, suffered from severe bouts
of mental illness brought on by repeated infections of the sinuses
(attributed to almost constant nose-picking), and is both a shoddy
author and tended to forget what he had written before. Events from the
years 1796, 1797, and 1799 are mentioned at least six or seven times
during the course of the document, and le Ronche's admonition to Louis
XVI ("Of course you shouldn't worry about them. They swore their oath
on a tennis court, for Chrissakes!") is mentioned no less than 407
times in the nearly 750-page document.
Le Ronche left St. Petersburg as soon as the snows had died down.
Apparently, news of his equipment had reached the most excellent
Czarina Catherine, and she demanded that the Countess Hurinochev turn
him over to her at once. A rude ladder made of the Countess' undergarments
(for she was of a most generous figure) abetted le Ronche's sudden
I have not returned to St. Petersburg myself, but I understand that her
disappointment at missing le Ronche (who, as I have already stated, was
for exceedingly good reasons popular with the ladies, and had his breeches
custom-made) lead to her later experimentation with other sources and
means of obtaining greater-than-average satisfaction.
Le Ronche wrote me, his faithful chronicaller, as soon as he was able;
he was now in Danzig, and exhorted me to join him with as much haste as
I could muster, and could I bring his bags? He went on to describe the
city as one of Prussian orderliness. "It is no wonder, with their
meticulous attention to detail, that the Prussian people produce such
great philosophers and musicians. Or is that the Saxons? Some group
of sausage-eaters, anyways. As I was saying, their place has been
carved for them in history by the Almighty himself as a race of gentle
and scientific thinkers, whose desire for calm and order can only
lead to the greatest pacifism.
This is in contrast to the largely Polish
countryside, whose people are of a low, (the next several paragraphs,
apparently dealing with le Ronche's characterization of Poles, have been
drawn over entirely in black ink, and are illegible - Ed.)
"Come," he said, "my good friend and only trusted chronicaller, let us
go to Austria. For in this, the year 1791, here in the city of Danzig, in
Prussia, there is nothing happening. And I understand that Vienna is filled
with music these days - a friend has written to me, le Ronche, that a
new composer, Mozart, is writing low, earthy music, for the common
people. This 'Magic Flute' sounds just up my alley. I do like a good
"Well, he probably wasn't very good anyways," said le Ronche, after we
had arrived in Vienna. The snows had been light, but the temperature was
colder than I recalled a winter being for many years. Le Ronche had taken
to wearing the giant furred codpiece that his grandfather had left him.
"Good fashion never goes out of style," he observed.
We spent the new year in Vienna. I saw little of le Ronche, who had
taken up with the very cream of Viennese society. He gave several learned
talks in the state of affairs in our home country of France, and wrote
a very fine letter to Leopold the second congratulating him on his recent
military alliance. "Other than as a monarchy," le Ronche proclaimed,
"France has no future. Happily, without the spine of a God-ordained
King, she is of no military danger to anyone, allowing the crowned heads
of Europe a free hand in returning her to her former happy state."
We fled Vienna in February, after Domenico Cimarosa returned from the
hugely successful opening of his opera to find le Ronche's hugely
successful opening of his wife's legs. As usual, I was left behind to
settle le Ronche's debts; a few weeks later, he wrote from Munich to
request my company once more. "We must save our King!", he extolled,
"so come, d'Artan or Arnaud, I forget which, and join me here in Munich.
Make haste that you arrive before the 22nd.
I have been the guest of the captain of the guard, who is a half-brother
of mine, and just today he informed me that they would be firing the
cannons to welcome back their Duke on the 22nd. Alas, I have been
emptying my chamber pot into the various cannon (you know how cold it
is, and the walk to the garderobe in the castle is quite far), and
so will be leaving here on the 21st."
Thus it was in late February that we returned to France...
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