I managed to learn something of the history of Chaud-Mellé from him between political tirades and metaphysical speculations. The city was founded in 1315 by a Scottish deserter, Wraith MacDonald, who fought for the English at Bannockburn and fled to the Continent to escape the dirks of his brethren. Among the mountaineers of the Alps, he found a few who wished to sample civilisation. The original settlement had spread like gangrene, sheltered in a narrow valley between low hills. The Austrian Empire now wished to annex it—there was a rich seam of chromium below the streets—and had commissioned Benito von Clausewitz, the mercenary lens-grinder from Rotterdam, to crush all resistance.