Monday, August 15, 2011

One Hella an Umbrella

One day the Count Alfred d'Orsay, the celebrated Anglo-French dandy, was performing his daily ablutions in front of the mirror; dressing, preening, and perfuming himself. A knock at the door interrupted this sacrament. A bailiff had snuck into Gore House dressed as a baker's deliveryman. The man served Lady Blessington, the Count's patron and suspected paramour, a writ saying her property was to be confiscated. The Lady and her young and handsome companion had run up a staggering amount of debt - she on her lavish house and he, naturally, at his tailors. Lady Blessington immediately sent one of her footmen to d’Orsay’s room. The Count, annoyed by the interruption, sent the footman away, but he was badly shaken and knew the time had come to flee. On that Sunday, he packed a small number of essentials and left Gore House forever. He paused to look at his scant luggage, including a prized umbrella of his. “Well,” he said, with true dandy sang-froid, “at least, if I have nothing else, I will have the best umbrella that ever was."

When I was a younger man my Uncle, a prominent Indian politician, took me aside to show me his treasured heirloom umbrellas. His father, also a politician, was nervous about assassination attempts, so he thought the best defense against both rain and would-be Gavrilo Princip-types was a concealed umbrella weapon. One was the typical black English sword umbrella of the kind made famous by John Steed of the Avengers. The other featured a flip-out hidden trigger and a chamber capable of holding a single shotgun shell. The umbrella could only be used once - the shot would tear apart the shaft and, more than likely, the user's hand. But the lesson is an important one - no gentleman should be without the protection afforded by an umbrella.

Our umbrellas are not firearms or swords, but they do feature a single solid carved piece of cherry wood as a handle and shaft, and come in a delightful variety of colors and patterns. And they are more than ideal for the traditional uses of the umbrella: rescuing attractive people cowering under awnings, poking the motionless to make sure they're still alive, and, of course, keeping one's Doyle Mueser Bespoke suit pristine and dry.

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