Monday, 28 May 2007

The Gendarmes come to call


One does not expect ,perhaps, to be woken on ones wedding anniversaire by the sound of gunshots close at hand, however being the mistress, as I am, of Chez loufoque I am not easily surprised and therefore the retorts from a the rifle did little but startle me in an untimely manner form my slumbers. I presumed naturally that it was Madame Grognonne shooting rabbits from the kitchen window comme d’habitude. However when the returning volley came from a different direction I realised something was amiss and kicking Chief Patissier sharply in the shins to wake him leapt from the bed to the window to investigate.

Down below in the stable yard crouching behind two large cider barrels and an abandoned plough I espied two gendarmes guns pointed in the direction of the hayloft. I was understandably horrified what if they accidentally shot Madame Grognonne in her good arm , who would make my breakfast tea! Calling to my husband to stir himself immediately I bravely opened the window and demanded of the officers of the law what they thought they were doing hunting in my domain at this unearthly hour! This it tuned out was a rather silly mistake as they were unaccountably nervous and one standing up swiftly to see where my voice was heralding from inadvertently let off a bullet which lodged itself in the shutters by my right hand!

I stepped back hurriedly and Chief Patissier chose to take the opportunity to grab my waist from behind and fling me on the bed, which was most unexpected and under other circumstances might indeed have been quite welcome but I reprimanded him instantly explaining this although the appropriate place was most certainly not the appropriate time as it would appear to be under attack form the local guardians of the law! His sharp reply was unnecessary hurtful I felt, it would have been sufficient to reassure me that he was in fact acting to protect me from harm he need not have added that he certainly had no intention of doing anything else with me, especially in such a horrified tone. It was after all our wedding anniversary a day when a lady might reasonable expect her husband to be even a trifle gallant towards her.

Chief Patissier crawled across the floor towards the window on his hands and knees a not unattractive sight in his purple silk pyjamas and carefully raised his head above the sill, waving as he did so a something flimsy and white from the window ,the better to attract their attention and calling upon them to cease fire immediately. I am certain there are more embarrassing things that might happen to a wife than to have one’s husband reveal the intimate secrets of ones lingerie to the local gendarmerie , for he was indeed gesticulating with a pair of my best silk slips, but at that precise moment I could think of none. I was mortified!

After a rather bizarre conversation conducted between Chief patissier and the officers hiding behind the barrels, it would appear that the police thought it was we who had been shooting at them. However, it was established to the satisfaction of both parties that neither intended to shoot the other, and both parties agreed to put down their arms and to make their way to the front door where the matter could be cleared up. Although what harm the gendarmes believed my husband could do them clad as he was and vigorously waving a delicate item of white silk and lace I have no idea, he did however very sensibly leave my undergarments behind when he left to go downstairs. As he departed I tiptoed to the window to watch the proceedings in secret and noticed the diminutive figure of Henri creeping out of the stable door and away in the direction of the wood and Madame Grognonne watching him go armed with her rifle . No doubt Henri, as unaccountably shy as ever, was beating a hasty retreat in order to avoid having to endure the social small talk he finds so difficult.

Satisfied my housekeeper was unharmed and no one of the household had been injured I dressed hurriedly and directed my steps down to the kitchen in the hope of discovering what had occurred to merit such a commotion. At the bottom of the stairs I encountered Madame Grognonne now stowing her firearm safely in its rack in the scullery, and asked her in hushed tones to divulge all to me, which she did most succinctly! It appears that waking early to muffled sounds in the yard Madame Grognonne had spotted two shadowy figures approaching the stables and in the gloom not seeing their uniforms had presumed them to be villains of some description and had therefore taken the wise precaution of shooting at them as any sensible person would.

Vexed at the prospect of l my housekeeper being handed over to the care of the Gendarmes I felt my best plan was to handle the matter swiftly, which I did , cleverly asking my husband to direct the policemen into the salle where the imposing portrait of Chief patissier the original standing underneath put them at an immediate disadvantage as I had hoped! Acting the martinet I bade them remain standing and commanded imperiously that they explain themselves, all the time shaking behind my brave mask!

It would appear that a rather fine horse went missing some weeks ago from the stables at St Juste and that hearing we had acquired a horse which matched the beasts description had come searching for it, thinking it prudent to do so at day break before the house stirred so as not to alert our staff whom they believed to be caught up in the matter.

It would appear that they had information that led them to believe we had in our employ a new groom who was somehow mixed up in the matter and had come to interview him . I assured them in my most imperious tones that we did in fact employ no such servant and ordered Madame Grognonne to fetch the household account books from my desk where I was able to prove that our only staff were Loic the one armed wooden legged gardener and Madame Grognonne. We do of course have Henri but as we have still yet to pay him or persuade him to wear livery I don’t really believe he counts and therefore did not think it necessary to mention him.

My husband stood stony faced through out the proceedings and when they gendarmes asked to see our new horse accompanied them briskly to the stables despite being unsuitably clad in only a brocade dressing gown over his night attire. Madame Grognonne and I exchanged anxious glances as the description of the missing horse did indeed seem to match that of our own Marron, all excepting of course the fact that Marron has a rather distinctive white flash across his forehead and the missing horse does not.

The gendarmes left soon afterwards having extended their apologies with sincere assurances that they would not disturb us again, I thought it wise not to lodge a complaint regarding the bullet lodged in my window shutter in case it alerted them of the fact that it had been my undergarments waved in their general direction which I am sure we would have all found rather embarrassing.

The gendarmes were adamant that our dear Marron could not possibly be the stolen horse as he has as I mentioned a very distinctive white marking on his forehead, In fact my husband noted with some interest he now appears to have several more white markings than he had the night before, which would seem a tad unusual . However for all I know it may be quite normal in horses, as I have stated before I know little or nothing about equestrian matters. Chief patissier tells that our visitors commented upon a very strong smell of turpentine and oil in the stables but he explained to them that, as a prolific painter, I had very likely been working in the stables and no doubt the aroma was lingering from that. I am quite certain I have not being painting in the stables however I can not see it is of importance.

I was more than a little perplexed when I was preparing my palette for my magnum opus which I plan to call “The disgruntled bride” in honour of the anniversaire of our nuptials ,that it appears I am missing all of my white paint. This is particularly irksome as obviously I wished to depict the bride arrayed in white. I an not for the life of me imagine where I have mislaid it!

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This is a photograph of the gendarmes going about their business outside the bar tabac in the village having retired there for a petite aperitif after leaving Chez Nous. The man in the dark uniform sitting between them is Monsieur le facteur who delivers the post and the one in the large sun hat is Claude who has rather a thing about hats , normally his sunhat is decked in flowers but one of the Gendarmes suffers from hay fever so Claude has taken the flowers off so as not to exacerbate his condition. The one in the beret is Olivier who has come to complain to the Gendarmes that someone has stolen his trouser belt in the night, he is very sensibly holding his pantaloons up with his hands and waiting patiently until Claude finishes talking. Claude is demonstrating exactly how big his breakfast baguette was this morning. It is an unspoken rule here in France, never to disturb a man engaged in boasting about his baguette.

13 comments:

Fennie said...

Oh la la! Quelles horreurs! How shocked you must have been, dear, and how impossibly brave and resilient. Nevertheless I do think you might have offered said gendarmes a petit cognac, the morning no doubt being early and the scare they must have had from Mde Grognonne's rifle. Anyway I do hope they saluted when they left and disappeared in one of those blue vans clad in corrugated tin clad going ooh-ah, ooh-ah.

The Country Craft Angel said...

Oh, this was brilliant-particularly how you tell of Chef P throwing you onto bed!!

And those baguettes are most amusing.

warm wishes

sally's chateau said...

I too am surprised that you did not offer them a cognac or at the very least partake of some form of refreshment yourself for your nerves must have been well and truly shaken. I do so fully understand of course that you may not wish to share all your intimacies with a wider audience although I admit to being slightly surprised at your bold reference to your undergarments !

lampworkbeader said...

Now I know why my mother always impressed upon me the importance of pristine undies. You never known when they may need to be shown or waved around.

Frances said...

Perhaps in my last comment I was wrong in wishing you an eventful Monday. Now that I have learned of the early morning excitement, it may be wise to wish you a calming Monday evening.
Your resillience is inspirational.
xo

countrymousie said...

Lordie - I thought for a minute you were being swept for bugs as per our Sally. Mothers are always right - clean knickers at all time - love mousie

Cait O'Connor said...

Hilarious as ever. I have sent a link to your blog to my daughter.
Caitx

Grouse said...

My dear! So heated was I by the description of the bed-throwing I had to lie down for a moment with a large absinth! Poor, shy Henri...I do so hope he recovers his confidence before Marron needs clean straw. I fear the shock of gunfire was the cause of the creature's extra grey hairs.....

LittleBrownDog said...

What a full and eventful life you do lead, un peu! Can't wait to read more...

annakarenin said...

Have had a wonderful time catching up. This one, the artist's models and the black stallion had me in stiches. Also love the little comments on the pictures so funny.

jackofall said...

Do you not know, UPL, that baguette is French slang for a man's wotsit? And a breakfast one is usually bigger.

Pondside said...

What next chez Loufouque??? Life in the country is meant to be soothing and guiet - this is altogether too much excitement for a gently raised person such as yourself!

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Oh deary deary me - suspect there are rats in your stables . . .