Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Roof is on Fire

HUNSRUCK, Aug. 16--Returning to the ballroom down the grand staircase, the Prinzessinnen Sophie-Vittoria and Maria-Aurora were greeted with effusive wamth by Maria-Aurora's older sisters, Eleonore Philippina, the Landgrafin von Hessen-Unfried, and Caroline, Grafin von Hohenlowe-Ingelfingel. The ladies were escorted onto the portico overlooking the fountained lake of the Hofgarten by the Landgraf, the Graf and Freiherr von Scheurebe, resuming his courtly attention to the Prinzessin Maria-Aurora.

At the stroke of midnight, the pyrotechnics commenced, overseen by a team of attendants from the Ruggieri Brothers of Bologna, famous for their displays at Versailles, and a pair of Tradgardlander specialists, all retained by the Ducal Technical Counselor von Traun. Girandole rockets whooshed skyward into the night, bursting into showers of gold, emerald, sapphire and ruby, while mortar shells burst overhead with spectacular reports. A veritable forest of fountains and Catherine wheels were arrayed on the garden grounds, spouting gouts of smoke and flame over the water of the lake, while the musicians accompanied the display with a medley of themes taken from the Prinzessin Sophie-Vittoria's favourite operatic ouvertures.

About half an hour into the display, though, a battery of tourbillons southwest of the lake misfired with a thunderous explosion, sending their spinning shower of sparks over a hundred yards in all directions. While the audience on the portico was well clear of the range of the mishap, shouts heard from the stables west of the Schloß itself, audible even as the tourbillons continued to discharge, indicated that the mishap was not without consequence.

In a matter of minutes, the damage could be seen. A red glow backlit the face of the stables visible from the portico, and dark smoke illuminated by the fireworks still underway in the Hofgarten billowed above the building. The evening breezes fanned the flames, and soon the fire spread to the servants' quarters adjoining the stables. The household staff organised swiftly to fight the flames, while the guests remained safely on the portico, and the musicians played on. The western face of the Schloß was bathed in a spectacular orange glow, as the stables burned and the animals therein were led out to safety; but this drama was largely lost to those on the portico, who were illuminated not only by the glow of the stable fire, but also by the ongoing stars, candles and fountains of the diplay on the lake.

Attendants shuttled back and forth from the major-domo to the Duke, who affected a nearly glacial placidity throughout. After nearly an hour, by the decisive action of the household carpenters to sever the breezeway connecting the servants' quarters to the Schloß, the fire was brought under control and confined to the service buildings. As the partygoers were reassured on this point, the Duke made a short announcement saluting the efforts of the staff and presenting the major-domo with a purse of 100 pfalzthalers to distribute to those most diligent in fighting the flames. As those within earshot applauded politely, the Duke and his family conspicuously returned their attentions to the pyrotechnics on the lake.


MurdocK said...

Talk about cooler heads prevailing!

This is one Duke that needs a field command...or perhaps a key garrison or fortification?

Bluebear Jeff said...

The Saxe-Bearstein ambassador wonders if this was indeed an accident or the result of a vile Stagonian plot.

Koenig Maurice the Vile has been quiet for far too long . . . perhaps those rumors of an assassination attempt have a grain of truth in them.

On the other hand Stagonia may have been attempting to lull Europa into a false feeling of security.

-- Jeff of Saxe-Bearstein

Stokes Schwartz said...

Your narrative reminds me of the scene at the palace, during the costume ball, at the end of The Pink Panther (1964). Great reading!

Best Regards,


ColCampbell50 said...

Nice to see that you have used a picture of the "Burning of the Castle" from Heidelberg. I got to see that many years ago from a Neckar River tour boat. It was magnificent!