Interview with Mr. Chatty Wood, the Butler of Ballanche Castle
Henceforth referred to as Mr. Wood.
The interviewer is me, Sonya Karline 1.
Karline: What was the Doctor’s personal life like? That is, to an extent not intruding on the deceased’s privacy.
Wood: He was late to retire at night. Naturally he rose late as well. But I do recall him getting up before noon. It was usually past eleven when the maid would bring tea and biscuits to his bed. He ate very little. When the Ladies (Fatima) were around they would by 10 beat him to... err... the gentleman would be awake by then. Yes.
Karline: What did he like for breakfast? Such as brands he preferred...
Wood: Yes, yes. Usually the gentleman took a pint of hot water in a teapot -this was a Ginori 2, or a Meissen of the Four Elements Series 3 which he brought with him when leaving the Ballance estate- with black tea. Something like Hediard’s 4 vintage Darjeeling or La Tour D’argent. If we had it, some Melrose’s 5 tea or even Lipton’s teabags 6 when we were running low. With his tea he would enjoy either freshly baked butter buiscuits or waffles with honey, marmalade (orange), on occasion he would take blackberry. Plums, and sometimes walnuts with cream cheese. With which he’d have two slices of parisian 7 and five or six olives.
Karline (perspiring lightly): That’s a rather ordinary breakfast, wouldn’t you say?
Wood: Yes. When Ladios Sop would visit, they would have a Japanese-style breakfast of rice, dried plums, broiled fish, miso soup and pickles. Sometimes they would order rice porridge with chopped vegetables. They would come downstairs and eat sitting on the rug... The two most prominent figures in the galaxy, having totally forgotten their manners. Ha ha ha.
Karline: My goodness... Now, what about lunch?
Wood: He didn’t take lunch, but he would have a light meal at around two in the afternoon. When his children were here, they would eat plum pudding together.
Karline: Now how about tea time?
Wood (clapping his hand): Prepare something for our guest to eat!
Karline: Thank you. I’ll have noodles with shrimp and rape, Beijing style, if you don’t mind.
Wood: He drank tea more often than coffee. He liked a hardy blend, like Jasmin or Earl Grey, and would eat Fortrum and Mason cookies, Maxim de Paris millefeuille 8, Demel’s tortes 9 or Barrons scones with strawberry, or sometimes ask for peach buns from the Tim Sha Chun Center in Hong Kong, shrimp dumplings or bean paste gelatin with chestnuts in it from Toraya. Did I say something funny?
Karline (falling back in her seat): Well this is the gag page, isn’t it? 10
Wood: Oh I see. I’ll try to answer appropriately.
Karline: Tell me about the children.
Wood: Oh my yes. They were so cute... Beautiful would be more accurate. So full of fun and cheer. I was employed during the time between Aglaia and Clotho. What a handful! Cream, jam and whatever all over the table cloths and chairs... We had to reupholster twice a year, I recall. At that time all the furniture was upholstered with fabric, but nowadays everyone thinks leather is the best covering because it so classy and expensive.
What do yuppie upstarts from the working classes know about luxury? Leather upholstered limousine seats... Bosh! Leather is a material for welders and blacksmiths, cloth is best for the gentlepeople of this world. For no other reason than it’s easy to replace. Now, leather is the best covering for seats in sports cars, that’s a fact, but there are fools who think that leather is luxurious because it’s used in sports cars. The same is true for furniture. In clothing as well, leather is for active people. Inch for inch, cashmere is the same price and doeskin three times more expensive... Hotel employees and storekeepers can’t comprehend such logic anymore. What are we to do?
Karline: Please excuse my leather skirt.
Wood: Not at all, my dear. You’re working today. There’s no need to apologize. However, would you wear a leather dress to a dinner party? Or a doeskin or cashmere outfit out fox hunting?
Karline: I see what you mean. [To herself: But I would wear a leather skirt to a night club, vische with garters and stockings.] Please continue.
Wood: I’ll never forget the time that young Lachesis stuffed a combination of ginger snaps, meat pie and mango gelatin into her mouth along with a guest’s rice cake, fell over in her chair and went into convulsions.
Karline: You mean Sop’s Lachesis?
Wood: Died right on the spot.
Karline: Not the Lachesis who debuted over at Juba’s castle?
Wood: Juba? I'm not familiar with that name.
Karline: But... but... but...
Wood: They must have dressed some mannequin up for that ceremony.
Wood: Miss Clotho and Atropos were darling little girls... Except when Lachesis would come into the room. The other two would start making "yuck-yuck" noises, or talk to her with their mouths filled with nattou 11. Her hands were dirty, the elastic was always coming out of her dress, she’d put teeth marks in the paper cups... When she came to Ballanche’s tenth-year memorial service so dignified and dressed so beautifully she still managed to give me the evil eye when I met her at the door.
Karline: The "evil eye," you say.
Wood: One of the dirtiest looks I’ve ever seen.
Karline: Do you mind if we change the subject? Could you tell us something about the castle?
Wood: Certainly. Our staff included myself, a cook, two waitresses, three maids and two chamberlains. Housekeepers come in twice a week to clean. When the children were here, each was assigned a chamberlain. When we entertained a lot of guests, we’d open the west annex and borrow help from the Shangri-La Oriental Hotel in Bastogne.
I remember that in 2990, we opened the whole castle to guests the whole year through. We have entertained Prince and Princess Atowight... You may know her as Lie Ex. And distinguished members of the Chrysalis family many times, but never His Majesty Amaterasu. Lie’s gotten so big! And Icarus was by her side constantly, when he wasn’t playing hide and seek with her feisty daughter. She is the spitting image of her mother.
Karline: Would you mind showing me around the castle?
Wood: Ah, dessert is here. A fried seafood bun.
Karline: Thank you. [biting into the bun] It’s delicious...
Wood: Well now, let’s start from the main floor. Here off the main hall, that opens up to the second and third floor balconies, there are three waiting rooms. But Ladios Sop ignored them, preferring to drink his tea in the hall. There are four guest rooms each on the second and third floors, each with a bedroom, bath and small living room. On the fourth floor is the grand duke’s bedroom Dr. Ballanche is a grand duke. It is a brightly lit area opening out into a sunroom. The fifth floor has two rooms for the children. There is also a space jutting out of the back of the fifth floor. The first basement is a storeroom, half of which is used as the garage. There is no second basement level, while basement levels three and four contain computers and the laboratory where the children were created. As for basement level five, I have never been there, but it seems that the good doctor was conducting some extremely important research down there. 12
Karline: So much for the castle. What do we have out on the grounds?
Wood (facing the castle): Well over on the right there is the powerhouse and another laboratory. Farther over to the right, there is the dock for mooring ships. The hill behind there was a favorite playground for Lachesis and her sisters. There is a teahouse in the central area.
Karline: There was also a mortar headd here. Why is that?
Wood: I suppose no one would mind if I tell you. Yes, the basement of the six-sided silo over there contained the components for one Bang Doll.
Karline: Oh my God! No. You’re kidding me, right? Really?
Wood: Yes, ma’am. Yes, one complete kit, just like the Grand Duke himself. Heh, heh. You see, if there were no mortar headd available, he wouldn’t have been able to conduct the final checks on his fatimas. Power gauge tests were also conducted here.
Karline: A real Bang Doll... Right here in Trun, I can’t believe it!
Wood: You see, the Grand Duke designed its control units. As far as I know, he showed it to no one, not even Ladios Sop. But I suppose Sop suspected, since most fatima meights have their own mortar headd control rooms.
Karline: [lets out a huge gasp]
Wood: Excuse me, Miss Karline, but you would you mind closing your legs?
Karline: I’m having trouble breathing.
Wood (clapping his hands): Get Miss Karline a stole or something. [maid runs in carrying a stole] Now get her some tea... ah... Fauchon Apple.
Maid: Right away, sir.
Karline: I think I’m alright now... By the way, that maid looks familiar.
Karline: I don’t think I can stand this haunted house much longer.
Wood: That’s not the first time someone has used that term to describe this place.
Karline: Please continue. Thank you for the tea.
Wood: I should tell you that after the Grand Duke’s passing, we returned the mortar headd to Cobalkan. But there is still one complete mortar headd...
Karline: Now you’re going to tell me there’s a Siren here.
Woods: No, no...it’s called the Arusqull. Mr. Sop brought it. It probably needed tuning or something. It was taken away by someone the other day. Since they had the keys...
Karline: Really? Who was it?
Wood: A beautiful young woman, actually. With longing eyes. It may have been... Oh, never mind.
Karline: Dr. Ballanche had an automobile, didn’t he? One of those vintage super-digs, wasn’t it? 13
Wood: Oh yes, indeed. It was a Tipo 330P4, to be exact. 14
Wood: Yes. Dougulus Kaien came and took it away. He told Ballanche, "Listen grandpa, you’re in no condition to drive it anyway. Dibs!" That’s gratitude for you.
For normal driving, there was a family sedan dig, a Ferdinand VR6 15, with split windows. Then there was a Super-Marine RR and a Silver Phantom. Oh yes, and there was the dig that Mr. Sop borrowed to get here from Bastogne in JC 2988 when the last debut was held. I wonder where that could be?
Karline: Moving along... Could tell me about the women with whom Dr. Ballanche liked to keep company?
Wood: That was quite an expensive vehicle...
Karline: Excuse me, Mr. Wood...?
Wood: Huh? What? Women? There were the maids, and of course over forty fatimas at one time or another. There was Lie Ex... and Toki, when she left her headdliner, and Odette used to come often to amuse herself.
Karline: No, what I meant was beautiful women. With blondes... You know?
Wood: You know? I can’t help noticing the resemblance between you and Eatta. See... If you just... like this...
Karline: What are you doing? I’m not ready...
Wood: Oh, my goodness, what are we doing?
- Sonya Karline: See Fool for the City
- Richard Ginori of Italy
- Meissen of Germany
- Melrose’s of Scotland
- a baguette
- millefeuille: French dessert. Meaning: 1000 leaves.
- Demel: Austrian bakery since 1786. Mozart used to go there. Except for one chain store in Japan (of all places!), it still maintains a single storefront.
- This interview has some humor in it so not every detail can be taken as solid fact. For example, there is no France or Austria in the Joker Galaxy.
- A fermented soy bean dish from Japan. Nattou is eaten mostly in the Kanto region of Japan (Tokyo is in the Kanto region). Nattou is truly nasty and not recommended.
- Actually, it’s where the Mirage machines and fatimas were designed.
- a dig is a hovercar quite common in the world of Five Star Stories
- Tipo 330P4 - a Ferrari
- probably named after Ferdinand Porsche, the designer of countless early Benz cars and the Volkswagen Beetle
Special thanks to John Wisnom for the translation and FSS fans for editing and revisions.