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Charles Audley

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  1. "That would be perfect," Charles said. "I do appreciate your help. It is a little outside the scope of my knowledge or talents." It was a wonderful thing, really, that Henrietta was now confident and comfortable enough to tease him. Had this always been in her, he wondered, or was it something of his making? It would be churlish, not to mention arrogant, to claim all the credit he decided. It had been Henrietta who had had the spirit and the steel to return his salute at the ball (which had been the moment that solidified her as interesting so far as he was concerned) and that meant that the raw material had always been there. He had, at most, been but the catalyst to bring it forth. "Then I wish you luck, my dear Selene, but perhaps we should turn our attention to geometry. I should hate to have it said that I lured you here under false pretences." (OOC: Fin?)
  2. Charles swallowed a laugh but could not help the wide grin stretching his lips. "By any commonly accepted definition you and I have one great vice," he observed, mirth bubbling in his voice, "though like you I cannot bring myself to view it as one." He turned his gaze back to the puppies. It would be deeply unwise to stay, he knew — even leaving aside the need to avoid suspicion, he had other calls on his time — but, oh, how he wanted to. It could well be months before he could speak even this freely with Sophia again, let alone anything else. But it would not be sensible. "I should not linger," he said at last, reluctantly preparing to take his leave. "Are you staying in London for recess?" (He assumed as much, for he could not imagine Toledo making her travel while pregnant.) "I'll have letters sent to the Red Lion, as we discussed, if you are." He bowed, adjusting his cravat one last time, and moved to extricate his dog from where the beast's sister had him pinned.
  3. "Very careful," Charles agreed. "There can be no sign that any of this is engineered. It must all appear wholly natural." He was trying to keep his focus on the dogs, but it was damnably difficult with Sophia smiling at him like that. He growled quietly, deep in his throat. "Have a care, Psyche, about playing coquette, or I'll remind you what else we do quite well together, inconvenient audience or no." He took a breath and forced his attention back to the animals. The temptation was real, coiling through him like a fever, and it was a genuine trial to resist. "I think we should proceed with what we have now, and start preparing the ground, as it were, while we wait to see what your maid turns up. We might not need to take further action, but if we do matters would be greatly simplified by more knowledge."
  4. "Sarah will read anything, truth be told. She was trying to hack her way through Herodotus when I left. Catherine is more discriminating. She generally prefers poetry, though I would be entirely unsurprised to find her buried in Caesar' Commentaries if she feels Sarah is showing her up." Charles smiled fondly. In truth, he thought showing up with a dog would win him sufficient credit with his siblings that he would not have to worry about their goodwill for quite some time, but he was interested to see what Henrietta would recommend. And more goodwill can hardly be a bad thing. It really was amazing how comfortable Henrietta had grown with him, Charles mused, drinking in the sight of her mischievous grin. "Perhaps I will ask her, when next we meet," he said, calling her bluff. "And you may feel free to make inquiries of my siblings if you like Selene, but they know very little, if anything, of my secrets." My stepmother, on the other hand...
  5. Charles Audley

    A Judgement at George's (expense!)

    Charles laughed at Rowley's question. "Festivities were altogether too advanced by then to be paused, though the close confines imposed a need for finesse rather than vigour," he answered, grinning. "She did not seem to mind." The story had been well received, if he was any judge. He had certainly done a better job delivering it this time. (That had of course been due to the fact that he had sought to win on points rather than narrative last time out, rather than any failing in his first recounting, Charles assured himself.) He inclined his head to acknowledge the company's compliments, because in this, at least, they were worthy judges and competitors, and their praise worth winning. It was good to be accepted as their peer, and Charles made a note to send his thanks to Nicolette for providing the impetus to seek them out, even if she had distanced herself from him after his black mood at Buckingham's party. The mention of Doctor Bendo did not mean much to him, and there was nothing to be gained pretending otherwise, he decided. "I have not heard of the good doctor, no," Charles admitted easily. "I take it his practice was... eclectic?" It must have been very eclectic indeed, Charles thought, if he was reading Rochester right, and Doctor Bendo had been one of the man's pseudonyms. This Father Bendito ruse sounded like capital fun, too. A pity I am unlikely to have time for something similar. "Share your findings and we can publish as co-authors," he suggested, joining Rochester's laughter. But the competition was not yet won, and Dorset had to play his hand. He played it well, too, God rot him Charles thought with reluctant admiration. Dorset had a good basic narrative, a good voice, and a gift for words. The blending of Classical references and religious imagery, calling back to both Rochester's story and his own, was a very nice touch, and could only have been spontaneous. You really could do nothing but applaud, and so Charles did. "It's an excellent story, and you tell it well. So far as the prank is concerned, I will concede myself outdone. But for our wager..." Charles smiled toothily. "That is what we have sought counsel to decide, no?" It was in the King's hands now.
  6. "Catherine is barely willing to wait now," Charles said, laughing. "Every day I wake to find that she has not browbeaten the coachman into conveying her to London is frankly both a relief and almost a surprise. The estate bores her almost as much as it did me." (He probably should not sound so proud of his sister, he knew, or so pleased, but he could not help feeling either for another soul so unwilling to live within the limits others had imposed upon it.) He shook his head, still chuckling. "I should be able to forestall them with sufficiently interesting gifts, though." A thought struck him, and he shot Henrietta a questioning look. "I don't suppose you could recommend something suitable? The girls both like to read. Well, Sarah does, and Catherine refuses to appear any the lesser by comparison." It was good to see Henrietta grin. He liked her seriousness and her decorum, but this almost girlish mirth was well worth seeing too. "It would take more than that to scare you off, if I am any judge," he said, grin widening. "In fact, now that I consider it, I should perhaps inquire if you are difficult to live with. You have a surfeit of spirit, I know, and your asking for help with board game strategy suggests that you are competitive, but is there more? Shall I and all the servants be stepping quietly in terror of your tyranny?"
  7. Charles accepted Sophia's objections with equanimity. She knew Toledo far better than he, after all, and arranging the removal of a trusted servant always presented a thorny problem. He forced down a smile at the sight of her finger tapping at her cheek. He was altogether too cynical and too long in the tooth to be so pleased by the childish intrigue and romance of secret signals he chided himself. And yet I am so pleased, damn it all. He had always been vaguely contemptuous of those men who lost their wits over women, his own teenage mooning over Barbara Palmer and that regrettable incident in Naples aside. Was this what it was like from the other side? Simply so pleasant that you did not notice that you'd taken leave of your senses? No, he decided, for if he had taken leave of his senses he would have already shot Toledo and carried Sophia off to be a pirate queen, or something equally stupid and romantic. Assured that he retained his wits, Charles focused them on the issue at hand. "That could work," he said thoughtfully, considering Sophia's proposal. "It would have to be carefully done, of course, but managed properly... Yes, that has promise, I think. Perhaps not enough on its own, but it's not the sort thing a man is inclined to think rationally about, which makes it much harder to defend one's self against." He hummed in thought for a moment. "Have you any friends you could trust in this, that Toledo would consider of good character? If they were to cease extending you invitations, or answering yours, on the basis that your bodyguard makes them uncomfortable, well, our friend starts to look like a liability, doesn't he?"
  8. "Then I have clearly not described them accurately," Charles said with mock dismay, eye full of laughter. He rather appreciated Henrietta's enthusiasm. (He would have laughed properly, though, had he known that Henrietta expected Mary to 'know her place.' His stepmother had not a deferent bone in her body, and what she thought of as her place almost certainly differed from his Selene's opinion.) "My siblings remained in Chatham, yes. I wanted to ensure things were settled before bringing them to London, and in truth I think them a little young for it. Dangling the prospect before them, though, has has a most salutary effect on their academics and general discipline. I will have to show action on that promise soon, though, or else I shall discover exactly how true their Audley blood runs." He grimaced theatrically at the prospect, and laughed. "My stepmother did come with me, for reasons of her own," he continued, sobering. "My father did not attend court, and I think she appreciates the chance to do so now, being not greatly older than me. I fear we are quarrelling at the moment, though." He frowned. He had not meant to add that last, but he could not take it back now. It weighed on him a little, he had to admit, this argument with Mary that he had now to admit was a serious one. Matters between them had to be settled, one way or the other. But this is neither the time nor the place to consider such. He grinned at Henrietta. "You may take that as fair warning, Selene, that I can be as difficult to live with as any or all of my family."
  9. "An easy thing to be, Psyche," Charles said fondly, smiling at Sophia as one hand quite needlessly fussed with his cravat. "I do not think bringing up a nascent romance would help, no. We are not close friends, your husband and I, and any event where we are likely to meet is unlikely to be the sort conducive to intimate conversation. It would be... passing strange of me, to discuss such matters, given that." Left unsaid was the fact that Charles rather fancied that Toledo would think, not wholly without reason, that being interested in another lady of the court would be not necessarily be an obstacle to Charles pursuing Sophia. He nodded briefly as Sophia rejected his plan. He had not thought she would agree, but it had had to be proposed nonetheless. "None it would not be a trespass to ask it of," he said after a moment. Grace might have agreed, had he asked it of her, but he would not. "Besides, bringing in external help complicates matters. We could perhaps find an actress and plant her in your household for a month or two before we stage the assault, but that raises the question of trust and reliability. I could look into it, if you like, but it would take a while to find a suitable candidate, and longer to prepare the requisite references and such." He turned his head to track the playing dogs, smiling, and spoke from the corner of his mouth. "The other simple option would be to plant some of your jewellery in his quarters and then have it discovered, but that is easier for him to bluster his way out of."
  10. It doubtless made him a bad man, to jape so lightly of his father's death, but Charles imagined that good men saw comely women smile rather less. He came out ahead on that exchange. "There is no need," he said, waving away Henrietta's apology. "You spoke from ignorance, not malice, and that is no sin. Besides, as you've doubtless surmised, my father and I did not get on. It would reek of hypocrisy for me to accept condolences on his death." Especially given that I wished for it not infrequently, and plotted it at least once. He dismissed the idle memories and focused on the conversation, and the appealing look of mischief in Henrietta's eyes. "A fairly small one," he answered her. "My father was the last of his siblings, and my mother and my elder brother passed when I was nine." His voice and expression were unchanged, for that was an old grief, long buried. "Among the living, though, I have a step-mother and three-half siblings. Two sisters, Sarah and Catherine, fourteen and thirteen respectively, and little Francis, who is nearly nine." "The girls are a delight," he continued, smiling unconsciously. "Clever and curious and completely unafraid. Catherine, I fear, may prove to be all my youthful sins returned to haunt me — she has a look in her eye I recognise all too well from my mirror — but for now it is their governess that must deal with her, thankfully. I find I enjoy spoiling them too much to relish the thought of disciplining them, even leaving aside the fact that I know exactly how difficult it is to discipline a headstrong Audley." He grinned. "They'd like you, I think, and Sarah in particular would be overjoyed to meet a woman of learning." He could have spoken of his sisters at length, and would quite have liked to do so, but the omissions would only stand out all the starker if he did. "Francis, I confess, I find a little too young to be interesting, and perhaps a little too attached to his mother's apron strings, but he's eager and earnest and usually cheery, which I suppose is all one can ask of a child that age. I plan to take a closer hand in his education this summer, so I shall have a better idea what he's made of then, assuming his mother lets me near." Which brought them to the last and most complicated of his family. "My step-mother Mary is a forceful woman, and a sharp one, and absolutely devoted to her children. There is a great deal to like there, but she does make finding it difficult on occasion." He laughed. "If you want to run, I shall understand entirely."
  11. "Please do," Charles said of Sophia's suggestion that she have her maidservant look into her bodyguard. "Anything she or you can learn could be of use. Ideally, he will have some exploitable vice, but even if not everything we know makes planning easier." His question had surprised her a little, he saw, but her refusal was much less vehement than he might have expected. He gave a mental shrug. His own comfort with and faculty for violence often made it difficult for him to judge how others might react to it. That was occasionally irritating, but also why he had learned to ask such questions and confirm his assumptions. He could move forward now knowing that subtle means were to be used for this matter. Ah well. It will do me good to exercise my wits. He listened to Sophia expound on the problem while keeping a wary eye on the monkey. He trusted apes even less than he trusted horses. "Well, with regards to making you look good — insofar as it is possible for you to appear any better than you already do, of course — we can perhaps make a start by having you tell your husband that you met me, and pass on my regards. It strengthens your trustworthiness in his eyes, that you would tell him of your own volition, and lessens the impact if your watchdog tells him later." He grimaced. "I might have to toady Toledo a little the next time we meet, just to reinforce the deception and give him an alternative reason why I might seek you out, but my pride can stand that, for you." He hesitated again. "As for having our spy dismissed, I am loathe to make plans until we know more of the man, but the simplest way would be to simply get him very drunk and have your maidservant accuse him of assaulting her. I shall understand if you are reluctant to embark on such a course, however."
  12. Charles Audley

    A Judgement at George's (expense!)

    Charles returned Rochester's nod and settled back, sipping at his scotch, as the others piled in. It was well worth listening to, really. People paid good money for this sort of entertainment in theatres. It might have been a tactical error to sit back, he conceded moments later. He would much have preferred to speak last, and he might have managed it if he had remained involved in the conversation and tried to nudge it. It would probably have made no difference either way, he thought, catching 'Rowley's eye. Whatever name he was going by, the King was well used to such social tricks, and an old hand at getting his way despite them. No reason not to have made the effort, though. Nothing for it but to play up now, in any case. Charles grinned lazily at the company and straightened, adopting an exaggerated mockery of the classical oratorical pose, one hand grasping his lapel, the other extended out in front of him, palm up. The inherent dignity of the stance was only slightly undermined by the fact that that upturned palm still had a brandy balloon resting on it, he assured himself. Now, the familiar dance. The facts when they suit, and lie the truth out of Christendom when they do not. "Well, while Rochester was perfecting his semantic arguments and auditioning for a role in the canon of modern Classics, I was indulging in a little scientific investigation, and what I believe we could call comparative theology," he began. "The roots of my scholarly endeavours, I suppose, lies in an entirely different wager I had made with a third party, concerning the acquisition of certain items, among them a church candle. I had lingered after chapel, awaiting an opportunity, and seized my prize when I thought one had presented itself." He laughed ruefully. "I was wrong. There was still a lady present, whom I had not seen, and she confronted me as I sought to abscond with the candle. She half-thought I was some sort of spectre, for which I cannot blame her. I look damn devilish at the best of times, and I looked particularly gaunt and haggard that day. She was spirited, though, and comely, all graceful carriage and flashing eyes, and I have no shame in admitting that I am highly susceptible to both. And, once she had established that I was flesh and blood, and mischievous rather than malicious, I established that she was the sort of sporting lady who is highly susceptible to mischievous rogues and has an interest in transgression, but has never before had the opportunity to explore it. You all know the sort, I'm sure." Charles laughed again. "The chapel, incidentally, was rather less discreet and private a place for such a liaison than I might have thought. We were interrupted by a deacon, and a woman looking for her younger sister, though fortunately early enough in the proceedings that we were able put ourselves in order and escape detection or suspicion. A servant came in searching for something when we'd set to in earnest, though, and we hide under the pews, which made for damned cramped quarters. She never came far enough in to see us, though, and after she left I was finally graced with the sight of a woman transported to ecstatic hysteria in a house of God, as those of pious bent occasionally discuss, though by far earthier means than they might wish." He paused for a sip of whiskey, for his throat was growing a trifle dry. "And as that thought struck me, my spirit of intellectual curiosity was roused. The heights of the lady's pleasure were perhaps no greater than I might have brought her to elsewhere, but she scaled those heights perhaps a little more easily than I might have expected, the situation being such that I could not give of my best. Perhaps, I thought, the somewhat outré setting added something, and was that not worth investigating, to quantify if nothing else? Of course, for proper academic rigour, I would have to, at the very least, experiment further with my paramour in a more traditional locale, and in that regard I can claim to have been a most diligent academic. But as I left the chapel, a wonderful idea occurred to me, that would both expand the scope of my inquiries and potentially solve another problem of mine." Another pause and sip, this time purely for effect. "I am a tolerant, cosmopolitan gentleman, and at the time I was in pursuit of a Catholic lady. Well, I say in pursuit, but by that point we were of a mind, and needed but the opportunity to slip the scrutiny of her husband and his servants to consummate the chase, as it were. Leaving the chapel then, I was struck by inspiration — surely, I thought, she would be afforded some privacy when she was at prayer? And as I thought on it, I thought, too, that the Catholics inject more spectacle into their religion, and set greater store by it, and so might not the transgressive effect I had set myself to investigate be more easily observed in such circumstances? It all seemed perfect to me then, and so I made arrangements." "On the day we had selected I went early to the Queen's Chapel and secreted myself inside. As an aside, gentlemen, should you ever be given a choice of religious establishment to hide yourself in, choose an Anglican one. Perhaps it is simply that the current climate has the Catholics wary, but there were altar boys dashing about tending to candles and priests doing, well, God knows what, and in the end I had to hide in the chancel, wondering if my stroke of inspiration was actually so brilliant after all. I am not used to doubt, and was just musing that it was ironically appropriate that I should find it in a church, when my Atalante arrived." (He had chosen Atalante because it was not a name he had ever actually used for a lover, because it was not one that would make anyone think of Sophia, and because that heroine had rather infamously fucked in a temple.) "It was plain that we could not remain where we were, and that the confessional, while concealed, was too cramped, and so we made our way to the organ loft, reasoning that it offered more space and greater warning of any risk of discovery. We had just made the stairs, though, when Lady Arundel arrived to make confession, which my lovely wanton took as a signal to start proceedings there in the stairway. We did eventually reach the organ loft, though, and, well, were she to have told her husband that she had spent the time praising God, she would not, in fact, have been lying." "Now, my investigations have not yet concluded — for one thing, it is bad practise to have but one subject on each side, and for another, at Kingston's suggestion, I have decided to expand the scope of my inquiries to include synagogues — but my preliminary findings are that the transgression is not a decisive element of the ecstatic hysteria, but it does add something. Spice in the wine, if you will." He bowed, and settled back. (OOC: Dear God, this one fought me.)
  13. Charles smiled, watching Henrietta's nose wrinkle. He enjoyed those little unguarded moments when she let decorum slip a little. "I thought the same," he said of the benefits of being in the King's inner circle, "but your father's point was that access to the King was far more valuable than any office, and thus should be cultivated more assiduously." It was surprisingly easy, really, to talk to Henrietta, and so the only difficulty he had when the conversation turned to his own father was suppressing the urge to brush that long curl back into place. It would be... improper, and Charles had surprised himself to find that he wanted this courtship to be as proper as he could manage. It seemed only right, given how fairly Ormonde had dealt with him, and much he was coming to genuinely like Henrietta. "We did not get on when he was alive, no, but we quarrel rather less now," he answered her. He cocked his head in unconscious mirror of her. "You really do know very little of me and my family," he mused. "I suppose now is as good a time as any, if you would like to learn a little."
  14. Charles laughed softly as the pups began play fighting. His own little beast, he saw, had either been taken by surprise or had taken Diva entirely too lightly. A good lesson either way, Charles decided. He switched his focus back to Sophia, admiring her graceful carriage and (what he could see of, with that damned monkey) the curve of her neck. It had been eight days since that wonderful interlude in the organ loft, which was about seven days and twenty-odd hours too long for his liking. They probably couldn't risk anything here, with that great blond oaf so near at hand, but they could make plans, surely? He was shaken from his idle thoughts by Sophia's words. "That will have to be handled carefully," he said. "Do you know anything of his habits? It would help discredit him if we knew his vices." And they would have to discredit him, Charles thought, for he did not think Sophia would countenance murder. Though I have been surprised before. "Of course, before we remove him, we need to either have a replacement ready that will be loyal first to you, or have some way to convince your husband that no replacement is necessary." He hesitated. Best to be sure. "I assume, of course, that you would rather this not be... physical."
  15. Charles Audley

    A Judgement at George's (expense!)

    Charles listened to Rochester's story in appreciative silence. The other earl was a rogue and a proper showman. As one such himself, Charles rather liked him, and admired that blend of audacity, wit, bare-faced effrontery, and charisma. None of which meant, of course, that he was going to meekly yield the field. "Hercules famously did forty-nine in one night," he commented drily. "The daughters of... Thespius, I think? Who must have been quite a ram himself, to have such a surplus of daughters." He refilled his glass and sipped. "But classics aside, by your own admission, you had twenty-nine oysters and only one pearl of note, however admirably you play with the semantics — and I do admire the enterprise." He raised his glass in salute and smiled. "But I am curious. What was the revelatory trait in this tale of your? I would guess the condition of her hands and fingernails, for I have ever found that a reliable indicator, but I am always open to the wisdom of my elders."
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