And I'm sitting here going, ain't no way it's gonna get any better than that. Ain't no way. I was so, so wrong.
The guy who had Fanny's fanny locked up in that swank apartment is this really old skeezy guy named Timothy Tickels. Yeah, I know. Take a minute and recover from that one. So Tickels meets this younger skeeze, the Chevalier Duvall (I mean, no, we're not supposed to know he's a skeeze yet, but Thompson's making it really damn obvious what with the descriptions of how sophisticated and ageless and smoove he is), and the Chevalier's like, "You've got to meet my sister, the Duchess Duvall." Now, let's think about this a moment. How, in a world where titles are passed down to sons right over the daughters' heads, does the unmarried sister have a higher title than the brother? So I'm calling bullshit immediately on this one. I haven't gotten further than chapter four, but I will bet you cash money that the Duchess Duvall turns out to be neither 1) a duchess nor 2) French nor 3) related to Robert Duvall or 4) even Clea Duvall, for that matter. So the Chevalier takes Tickels to the outwardly modest but sumptuously furnished Duvall house (and sidenote here: the most pornographic element in 19th-century lit, I have discovered, is the author drooling over plush interior decoration), where there's the obligatory classical statuary and foot-thick Turkish carpets and artfully arranged flowers and beautiful babe draped evah-so-gracefully over a divaaaaaaaan. The Duchess is this babe. Also, she is topless. (That's a new one in the bag of tricks as far as I'm concerned. Well played, sir!) The Chevalier, without so much as batting a lash, is all like, "I've got stuff to do. Have fun!" And so he jets. And Tickels is still in the doorway drooling on himself. So the conversation, once he has sufficiently fumbled over to the divaaaaaaaan, goes a little like this: "You may kiss my hand, and kiss my cheek, and kiss my lips, and HOW DARE YOU MAKE SUCH ADVANCES UPON MY VIRTUE, YOU CALLOUS HEEL! No! No! It's all right, come back! Sometimes I am just too overcome with womanly passions to contain myself. Goodness me! My self appears to be topless! I had no idea!" So she coyly covers herself up, right? NOT EVEN! "If you continue to look at me thus"--if! IF!--"I will have to cover myself with a shawl!" Meaning that he "averts" his eyes and... she's totally still out there! And then there's this way creepy monologue where Tickels decides to strategize and he's all like, "Well, since I am old enough to be your father, and you've just told me the heartwrenching story of how your father the Duke killed your mother and her lover and then himself when you were young, why don't we pretend that I'm your father! That's right! I can kiss you and hug you if I'm your father, because that's a father's right!" And at this point, Thompson actually has to asterisk this whole thing and say in a footnote, "This passage is actually supposed to clue you in to how freaknasty Tickels is, and how the Duchess is actually manipulating him the whole time." Here's the thing, though: Thompson could have achieved this just as easily by saying, "...because that's a father's right!" and then shown the Duchess, like, snuggling up to Tickels with a sly grin on her face or something. But he doesn't show anything--it's just an uninterrupted, unqualified soliloquy. You know what this means, right? You get to have your incest jollies and feel morally superior, which: EW. And then? AND THEN! The Chevalier busts in with a pistol, all "HOW DARE YOU PREY UPON MY HOSPITALITY AND MY TOPLESS SISTER! TO THE DEATH, SIR!" And Tickels is all like, "But--but--I'm useless, man! I've never even held a gun before! But--I have money! How much do you want? A hundred?" And the Chevalier is like, "I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU WOULD THINK THAT MONEY COULD BUY BACK MY SISTER'S TOPLESS VIRTUE!" "Five hundred?" "SIR, YOUR IMPUDENCE DISGUSTS ME!" "A thousand?" "Well, you know, we do need to reupholster the carriage... Five thousand." "WHAT?" And so on. Until Tickels is parted with his money. And that's where I stopped, because I was like, "It is necessary that I tell the good people on LJ about this. Like, yesterday."
P.S. I have reason to suspect that they're totally not brother and sister at all. Unless brothers in 1840 were accustomed to commenting on the quality of their sisters' bosoms.
P.P.S. We are promised subterranean "Chambers of [Totally Involuntary, But Extremely Well-Decorated] Love" in the basement of a brothel. I can't frickin' wait for that hilarity.
P.P.P.S. DUDE! I didn't even tell you the best part! If you click on the link, the picture on the cover? Is an illustration of the topless "seduction" scene. It's reprinted in full inside the book, and, indeed, the Duchess is quite without top. Only she's as unnippled as a Barbie doll. It's a little unsettling, y'all.