[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Author Index][Search Archives]

A Cautionary Tale for Feast Stewards

Unto the habitués of the Merry Rose, greetings from Alfredo.

 An Atlantian who happens to frequent the Eastern Kingdom's
tavern (or whatever they call their mailing-list) sent me a
copy of a story that appeared there.  I enjoyed the story,
and decided to repost it here, so that y'all could enjoy it.
Is that so wrong?

-- Alfredo
...The story of Vatel, for those who are unfamiliar with it. Technically,
it is from outside period; Vatel’s leap into history occurred in 1671, but
it is such a great example of what not to be that I thought we might make
an exception. Here it is, from a letter by Mme. de Sévigné:

Moreuil has just told me what happened at Chantilly, apropos of Vatel.
Here is the full story. The king arrived on the Thursday evening; the
promenade, the light supper in a spot carpeted with jonquils, everything
was as perfect as one could wish. Supper was served, and there were a
few tables at which the roast was lacking, because of a number of diners
who had not been in the least expected. This obsessed Vatel; he said
several times: ‘I am dishonoured, I cannot bear such a disgrace.’ He
said to Gourville: ‘My head is spinning, I haven’t slept for twelve
nights: help me to give orders.’ Gourville assisted him as far as he
could. The roast, which had been lacking, not for the king’s table, but
for the twenty-fifth table (in order of precedence) preyed on his mind.
Gourville told the Prince de Condé. The prince went to Vatel’s room and
told him: ‘Vatel, everything is all right; nothing could have been so
excellent as the king’s supper.’ ‘My lord, I’m overwhelmed by your
kindness; I know that there was no roast at two tables.’ ‘Not at all,’
said the prince, ‘don’t worry, everything is going well.’ At midnight
the fireworks failed because they were hidden in mist; they had cost
sixteen thousand francs. At four in the morning, Vatel went on his
rounds and found everyone asleep; he met a little merchant who had
brought just a couple of baskets of fresh fish, and asked him: ‘Is that
all?’ ‘Yes, sir,’ he answered, not knowing that Vatel had sent to all
the seaports for supplies. Vatel waited a little longer; the other
merchants did not arrive; he grew hysterical, and thought that no more
fresh fish would  arrive. He found Gourville and told him: ‘I shall
never survive this disgrace.’ Gourville laughed at him. Vatel went up to
his room, placed his sword against the door, and ran it through his
body; but he only succeeded at the third blow, for he gave himself two
other wounds which were not fatal, before he fell dead. The fresh fish,
however, came in from every side; Vatel was wanted to distribute it,
they went to his room, knocked, broke down the door, and found him in a
pool of blood. The prince was in despair when he heard; the duke wept;
his whole journey to Burgundy depended on Vatel. The prince told the
king, full of sorrow; people said he had done it because he was so
sensitive about his honour; he was much praised, praised and censured
for his courage. Gourville tried to make good the loss of Vatel; it
_was_ made good; dinner was excellent, supper, promenades, games,
hunting, everything was scented with jonquils, everything was under a
magic spell.