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wesley58 on June 10, 2014 :
A good introduction to the Von Crapp brothers. The second book, Safari in the Mist, is a must read.
A Von Crapp Brothers
A Short Short Story
“You kissed his wife,” Vic, the Gentleman Adventurer said quietly, cutting his poached eggs on toast with a silver knife and fork. The sun was just rising over the Italian bay and both men sat on their balcony eating breakfast.
“She wanted to be kissed,” replied BA, stabbing a piece of bacon with a spoon and shoving it in his mouth.
Vic stared at his brother for a moment, shaking his head. “I still don’t know how you do that. Spoons are not stabbing instruments.”
“Everything is a stabbing instrument, Brother.”Chewing his bacon, he cradled a hot mug of coffee in his thick hands and blew on it, steam swirling in the cool morning air that wafted from the quiet bay.
The von Crapp Brothers, sometimes referred to as the Brothers von Crapp, spent much of their leisure time in contemplation of the world around them. Here, in this small Italian town, locals moved along the street beneath their balcony and small ships sailed on bright blue water, while soft white clouds skittered across the early morning sky.
BA sat in his chair drinking his coffee, black with two sugars, a thick mixture that he swallowed in measured gulps. His blue eyes sparkled as he watched the people, and he propped one large, bare foot up on the balcony rail. His short-sleeved shirt was unbuttoned, except for the bottom button, which kept the shirt together at his waist. The button was in the wrong hole. BA didn’t deign to notice.
Vic, dressed casually in black slacks and a starched, long-sleeved white shirt, sleeves rolled up exactly two turns and shirt open at the collar, carefully sipped black tea from a china cup. Taller than his brother, he was also thicker at the waist, though not by much. Vic looked at BA’s cropped red hair and ran his left hand through his own grey hair, pushing it back from his forehead.
Vic growled. “Nevertheless, you did kiss his wife. In front of him. At a party.”
BA stopped for a moment, gulped from his mug, looking over the edge at his brother, eyebrows raised.
Vic sighed and ate another bite of egg and toast, washing it down with a deep drink of freshly squeezed orange juice. “He is a friend of a friend of the family.”
“So is she!”
“Not that good a friend.”
“All I did was kiss her. Once.”
“Well, he had no choice but to challenge you to a duel. Illegal here in Italy of course, but we have to show up or lose face.”
“What a load of …”
“Please don’t say it. I am still eating.”
“You know I’ll have to kill him.”
Vic rolled his eyes. “Well, I know we can’t let him kill you!”
BA snorted as he speared a piece of bacon with his napkin and tossed it in his mouth. “As if he could,” he muttered.
Vic finished his tea, carefully wiping the remainder of his egg from his plate with the remaining toast. BA looked for something else to spear more bacon. He finally just grabbed a piece with his fingers.
“Well, I do have a plan, Brother, but I’m afraid it is going to be distasteful.” Vic stood up. “And we need to change clothes.”
Their carriage rolled onto the grass under the trees in the park at the edge of town.
“Lovely day for a duel, gentlemen.” The carriage footman opened the door and helped them out. “Shall I announce you?”
“Please do,” Vic replied, stepping down and brushing non-existent lint from his immaculate black trousers.
“I feel ridiculous,” muttered BA, tugging at his waistcoat.
“The von Crapp Brothers, Signore BA and his second, Vic, arriving for the duel with the Count of Gillarme, at precisely one o’clock, as agreed.”
“Not the best of introductions,” whispered Vic, sotto voce, to his brother as they walked toward the two men under the olive tree. The eyes of everyone there ogled them as they walked forward, but both Vic and BA refused to notice.
A well-dressed servant standing off to one side stepped forward and cleared his throat. “I present the Count of Gillarme, Signore Patrizio, with his brother Damiano as second.”
“You should not have kissed my wife, Signore!” Patrizio looked pale, but stood straight. “Offer an immediate apology or face the consequences!”
BA tugged again at his coat, drawing everyone’s attention. “I never apologize. As for kissing your wife, no doubt I should not have done so, but I must point out that I had a few drinks in me at that point, and she seemed to want to be kissed.”
“My wife, Signore!” The Count's hands shot up, expansively.
BA waved his hand dismissively. “Yes, yes, but I didn’t know that, did I? Well, I wasn’t fully aware of it at the time. And,” he grinned widely, “she didn’t indicate her relationship with you, either.”
Vic stepped forward with his hands held out to his sides and smiled broadly. “My dear Count. My brother meant no offense, and no real harm done. In fact, unless I am a poor judge of the feminine nature, I suspect her response to your defense of her honor was quite, perhaps we’ll say, grateful.”
The Count Patrizio Gillarme blushed and his brother laughed loudly.
Vic waved his arms wide. “On a beautiful day such as this, it seems a waste of time to be here in a duel with my brother. He is, by the way, the most deadly man I’ve ever known and will no doubt kill you. He might, at that point, even decide to use a weapon, perhaps one of these swords, and kill your brother. He has a temper, you see.” Both Italian brothers went pale.
“I have no choice, Signore! It is a matter of honor!”
Vic stroked his white goatee and smiled. “I do understand. Honor is important in these matters, and I’ve spent some time studying some of the most famous of duels here in your fair city.”
A fly buzzed near BA’s face and he snatched it from the air between his finger and thumb and crushed it, then pulled a garish yellow handkerchief from his spotless dress coat and cleaned his fingers. The Count and his brother stared.
“I am afraid, my dear Count, that we cannot duel you and the duel must be cancelled.”
The Count’s eyebrows rose. “And why is that, Signore?”
“We clash, you see.” Vic waved his right hand in a dismissive gesture at the two men opposite, indicating the fine evening dress both gentlemen were wearing.
“Indeed. You and your brother, though most impeccably dressed, clash with what we are currently wearing. There is no way that I can sanction a duel under these circumstances. It would be uncivilized.” Vic bowed, the bright green of his shirt sleeves showing briefly at the cuffs of his purple coat.
“We … clash?” The Count and his brother both eyed the bright purple and green clothes of the von Crapp Brothers. BA used his handkerchief and snapped it at a passing fly, neatly slicing it in two.
“I’m afraid so. There is a precedent. In 1514, early on a Wednesday morning in May, a duel between two Counts was declared void because neither party could dress appropriately for the occasion. So, Gentlemen, my brother and I bid you buona sera, and hope that the rest of your day is pleasant.”
Vic and BA, the von Crapp Brothers, turned and left the speechless Count and his brother standing under the tree and climbed back into the carriage.
“I could have taken them, even wearing this ridiculous outfit.” BA tugged at his shirt as he sat down in the carriage. “And I wouldn’t have bothered with the sword.” He was twirling the kerchief between his fingers.
“No doubt, but then we’d have such a mess on our hands.”