Luke Upward Meets Monsieur de Crapaud
As Luke Upward’s patron, the amiable Marquis de Tarpaulin, became more and more devoted to his collection of old cars, his soirées became more and more over-run with old car bores who did not know a salon from a saloon. Upward found himself wasting some of his finest figures of speech on people who thought that adynaton was an old-fashioned type of generator. The Marquis realized that these people were a threat to his reputation as a literary patron, but he was too amiable to turn them away, especially if they came from his part of France. This was the perennially damp province of Lot-Pressure, where the Marquis had served several terms as Mayor of its chief municipality, Aix-en-Toste. When asked where he lived in France, the Marquis liked to shout “A Lot, a Lot!”, a joke which Upward found grating on its 845th repetition.
The Marquis was quick to welcome four visitors from Lot to a soirée where he proposed to unveil one of his most magnificent acquisitions. M Taupe was a short-sighted gentleman, curiously attired in a thick black velvet suit despite the stifling conditions. Upward was quickly irritated by M Campagnol, who was a minor poet. M Blaireau was grumpy and silent. But the youngest of the four, M de Crapaud, was transfixed by the Marquis’ collection. His already glaucous eyes glazed over at each motor car, and he made strange gurgling noises.
Finally the Marquis removed the family tarpaulin from his new acquisition. Even the normally indifferent Upward had a momentary intake of breath. It was a gorgeous 1930s Hispano-Suiza, which had once belonged to the French confidence trickster, Serge Stavisky. Under the direction of Ricky Rubato, the twelve specially tuned car horns within the previous collection sounded a fanfare to the new arrival, the theme for Alain Resnais’s elegant elegiac film Stavisky, composed by Stephen Sondheim (the one that goes Dah-ti-tum Dah-Dah-ti-tum-ti Dah-ti-tum-Dah-Dah).
M de Crapaud’s eyes now began to swivel. Several politicians present begged him to join their party, but he did not hear them. His strange noises merged into a continuous “Poupe-Poupe!” Before anyone could stop him, he flung himself into the driving seat of the idling Hispano, wrenched it into gear, and drove it out of the grounds. A few miles away, still saying “Poupe-Poupe!” he was extricated from the motor, which he had crashed into a ditch. It was still roadworthy, but its priceless flower-holder was beyond repair.
From the regular court, M de Crapaud received sentences of one year for removing the car, and another year for driving it without a licence. The court added 18 years for cheeking the police. He received a matching sentence from the special French Cours d’Élégance, which is responsible for policing the chic.
After this incident, the Marquis lost interest in his cars, and Upward resumed his rightful place as the chief ornament of his collection.