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  1. Blackguard

    A Mother's Gift

    Baptist May was a busy man collecting and paying royal debts, as well as engaging in creative fundraising. A calendar of minor meetings was pushed aside to accommodate the Duchess of Norfolk. She was the Duke's second wife and former mistress. Though many showed her little respect, the Norfolk lineage was proud and powerful. "Your Grace, please have a seat. May I offer you mulled wine? I am honored you wish to see me." "No thank you Master May. I am here on business rather than pleasure." "I suspected as much." May admitted as he pretended to not know why she was here. "I'll not bandy words sir. I am here on behalf of the Howard family and my son George." She smoothed her expensive skirts as she launched into her speech. "George is the natural son of the Duke and me. The Duke, my husband, is willing to give George one of our many estates and we would like him to gain a title with it. I was thinking an earl but the Duke indicated that a barony would be a good first step." May played well the ignorance card for a time. "Have you spoken to Finch? He is the Royal Chancellor and the one who could pass legal judgement on it." "I have consulted the Chamberlain and the Church. They have each expressed understanding and have vowed to not have it within their power to accomplish anything without the King's blessing. That is why I am here sir. April 23rd is rapidly approaching and I know well that the King has used St. George's Day or his own birthday in May to grant new titles. Never has there been a son of England more deserving of a title from His Majesty. I am no ninny sir. I know there is a cost and we are prepared to pay it. You sir are the man to see. I have yet to negotiate the proper ... gratuity to the Privy Purse. You have but to name it." "I am flattered that you think me so important your Grace. I am but a simple adviser to the King and help him achieve his financial goals. This will be very difficult and complicated you see. There is little time and these things do take time. It could take years, even if it were possible." "Cut to the quick sir," she bade him. "The price?"
  2. "Are you saying that you will convert to the Church of England then?" Lady Habersham inquired, surprised as to this development. "And your children? They will be raised Protestant?" The comment about bodyguards warranted a response but she withheld it pending the question she had posed.
  3. Kingston's dare was encouraged loudly. Dorset had a good chuckle. Chatham was a good sport and gave it a strong showing and uttered curses about the quality of the brew. The reference to Satan's piss caused a cascade of laughter from everyone present, except Rochester, who uttered "I, on the one hand, cannot claim to know the taste of Satan's piss, so I will defer to experience." He turned to glare at the other hecklers. "May you all learn that your last lover was a leper. This ale was purchased from the Green Ribbon Club I will have you know. This was to test my theory as to the insanity of the Country Party. Something had to be clouding their reason and I thought it must be the ale they drank." He eyed Roos who was a prominent Whig. "Now that you have had the ale, do any of you feel like declaring a republic here in England?" "What do you have against a republic?" Merriweather asked, being a wealthy merchant and likely benefactor of such a form of government. "Because merchants are boring," Johnny replied. "Nothing is so comic as watching grown men seek to kiss the royal arse and his ministers think themselves so worthy of the riches they embezzle for themselves." Dorset quipped "then let us practice a form of democracy here tonight. How many of you want to discuss politics and how many of you prefer to discuss fucking?"
  4. "In the summer I prefer the sea. In the cold, coaches are warmer and provide a better view," Edith replied to his query. He then went on to tell her he loved her. Even the strongest lady forged of steel could not have avoided a misty eye at such a show of dedication. Softly, she replied "you are always in my prayers George. I thank God each day for our friendship." It was more emotional than she had planned and her voice croaked a bit as she began. As he found his errant glove, Edith returned the Earl's smile. She said nothing as he accused himself. And so it was that plans were set and Chichester took his leave. A matron pulled forth her kerchief as the coach moved away. No doubt she would blame the wetness in her eyes and nose on the London dampness. ~ fin
  5. Blackguard

    Partners In Rhyme | Tuesday 10 pm

    Dorset had meant mostly the lengthy time of applying layers of makeup. It could take hours. "Let us find you a grand event to try it then. Perhaps a masquerade ball where you can pretend to be a gentleman and hear some lady prattle on and try and get into your breeches, or play coy when you try to get under her skirts," he laughed. "A new star. How glorious," he observed. "But are any stars truly new? Perhaps we should pick a random star of the thousands in the sky and call one the Sackville star and one the Devereux star?" "Do not say I did not warn you," the earl cautioned again. Her bravado was something to admire but did she have the finances and patience to endure? "His Majesty would be quite cross if we were to bring a woman unless it is for his carnal pleasure. There are some that would revel in swiving a woman in front of an audience and then there are those who like a bot of mystique with the fairer sex. His Majesty is the later."
  6. "I think the ladies would disagree with your definition of plain Kingston," Sedley drawled in response. "They have an eye for wit as well." Merriweather offered his own wit. "Chatham does not have an eye for beauty." It referred to the Earl's missing eye. Sedley nodded. "A rare bit of wit from Merriweather." Dorset smiled at his cousin and replied simply. "The man is not here. How do we know it is not a forfeit?" A knock came at the door. Much to the chagrin of Rochester, it was not Master Rowley. Chatham was ushered into the hallway and then into the room. Rochester, annoyed, scolded the Earl by insisting "swiving your cook on the way here is hardly an excuse." The others greeted Chatham with muted greeting. They did not know him well. Sedley encouraged Kingston to drink the ale because "the sooner it is gone, the sooner we can send for something better." Roos grumbled in agreement. "Gentlemen, we are all here," Rochester announced, seeming to want to get down to business. "We are here to hear tall tales and odes to seductions during the past four months. Drink up and I have some cigars from the colonies. " He opened a finely enameled box to display two dozen rolled pieces of tobacco and a nearby candle was available. "The smoke is good for your health," Johnny insisted, having tried everything to get his pox under control. "You are just hoping the smoke will cover the taste of this ale," Sedley grumbled as he took another swig. As a stage manager, Sedley had imbibed in the worst sort of ale, so it really did not bother him. Rather, he knew it would bother Rochester to complain about it.
  7. "Perhaps for a week then," she admitted grudgingly. "Just to get new planning underway." She looked about for her man to arrange logistics. "when would you want me to visit?"
  8. "He is not carrying your coat then?" Rochester replied absently as he went towards the front of his house to look for the King in disguise. Johnny could imagine the King listening to the ruckus from the hallway. Sedley grumbled when Kingston mentioned youth and beauty. "Youth is wasted on the young and beauty draped upon the plain is more remarkable." Everyone present knew Old Rawley. Roos asked "he knows about our wager then?" Merriweather piped up "he is not eligible to play." Roos was annoyed at the interruption. "Why, because he has a larger cock than you? If that was true, we would all be disqualified." Dorset looked at his friend and cousin and shook his head slowly. "If the King knew of the wager and the reckoning, he would be here. Methinks Chatham owes Kingston a favor, or perhaps the other way round." He was not calling Francis a liar because tonight was about boasting, falsehoods, and laughs. It was the favored fare of the Gang. "As for favoring the young and beautiful, modesty requires me to say that, other than me, my dear Kingston has a chance, though he is hardly young." "If he is getting a fuck on the way here, it should not count," Merriweather announced about the Earl of Chatham. Sedley invited Kingston to have a seat. "Kingston drink the swill that Johnny calls ale. The cheap bastard is trying to poison us. I've a mind to send a runner for a keg of rum."
  9. A skeptic hearing George's assurance of a royal portrait might conclude nothing more than the Earl had no commitment from the Queen and was likely fabricating the whole affair to impress someone. Yet, to Edith, George's words sounded like an ironclad guarantee. Of course, she could not imagine any other outcome, His offer came as a further surprise. He asked so nicely. Her dignity required some formal resistance to demonstrate that it took great persuasion to come around to the idea. "Surely there is work to be done, but to move in with you ... seems ... unnecessary. I would not wish to burden you with an old woman's encumbrances." In truth, the offer was intriguing. It would give Edith a perch to observe the machinations of the French doxy that hoped to take George away. Almost as important, the last time she visited George's house, she had noted that the maid had pulled the shade on a window to hide the fact that she had not cleaned it. Edith knew all of the tricks of servants and she had checked when George had not been looking. The poor bachelor was far too indulgent of lax housekeeping quality. She knew she could help him there, and in so many other ways.
  10. George seemed at a momentary loss of words, which was unusual in Edith's experience with him. This only amplified her thoughts that George was undergoing second thoughts on his marriage engagement. Wishful thinking no doubt. "You have been given approval then? How wonderful." Edith had been planning on sitting in the Queen's receiving room for weeks if necessary. "You wanted it to be a surprise," she observed quietly, now guilty that she had placed so much stress on him. "That one painting would be a triumph," she admitted. Even the masters would envy that commission. "The court would be unpatriotic if they did not attend. We shall need a bigger hall," she began to mumble to herself as she was beginning to plot new preparations.
  11. The girl sought to defend her decision, wrapped in common sense and loyalty. It was an effective ploy because it required unraveling a knot that was strong and tight. It would require significant time and energy to unravel; but, any such effort was likely to be futile. Caroline spoke in conclusory words that signaled an end to debate. The message was clear. "Loyalty is an admirable trait and it gladdens my heart to hear you have it aplenty. George shall need loyal friends and family in the days and years ahead." It was a rare compliment. "You are a French Catholic? These days that is an unpopular combination in London. How are people treating you?" The last tactic was to note the harm she would bring to George's potential rise politically. She said nothing of it yet.
  12. Admitted he was. Rochester's man showed Francis into the small ballroom that had been converted to the Merry Gang meeting Hall. There was even a place for a stage. Rochester liked to audition actresses privately. There was a rumble of greetings from the gentlemen assembled. Rochester came alive and stood. "Kingston, do tell me that His Majesty received my invitation and is en route." No such invitation had been sent but Rochester was disappointed that the King had yet to make a surprise appearance. Surely, King Charles had far more conquests than the formidable group of despicables gathered this evening. Merriweather announced "I think the last to arrive should be forfeit." There was a rumble of agreement. "Unless Chatham arrived in the same coach as Kingston, I think he should be disqualified."
  13. "I think I understand," Edith replied with her motherly voice. A young girl desperate for her freedom finds it; but, once found, she was willing to barter it away again in a single conversation. There were silly girls who believed in true love that acted rashly and unwisely. In Habersham's opinion, the strongest love was the kind built over time, though the passionate love felt stronger and more intense. George and Caroline seemed to share neither kind of love yet. "It does seem dear that what you sought to flee you now embrace. I would certainly agree that George is one of the finest gentlemen in London and, no doubt, a saint compared to your late husband. Yet, do you not find it curious that but one conversation convinced to to restrict that freedom? When a gentleman asks you to marry them, it is entirely appropriate to ask for more time to get to know one another first. After all, you would be with him for the rest of your life and each of you would need to forsake all others, for eternity." She sipped her tea to punctuate the point. "It is a decision that requires reflection, assurance, and an understanding of the risks involved. It is not unlike a business decision at times, unless there is a strong and passionate love that defies the passage of time." Left unsaid was that George was both a passionate creature and a somber one. What about the Boyle girl that ended so tragically? He seemed to have impulses that drove him to quick decisions. Did he tire of the marriage chase and, upon impulse, decide to settle for the first lady of his acquaintance that seemed agreeable? To Edith, this is what she suspected. Likewise, Caroline might be acting on impulse that the freedom she was enjoying was a hollow one and she was desperate to find a man that could fill the void she felt. It was quite possible that the couple would grow in time to love one another, Habersham imagined. Yet, it seemed like this marriage was a compromise by both. That seemed sad to her somehow, even though she was old enough to know that compromise was necessary in life. Perhaps it was the pedestal she placed George upon and the hope that he need not compromise. She continued to sip her tea and survey Caroline's face and features, as if she might she the future buried within.
  14. Blackguard

    Partners In Rhyme | Tuesday 10 pm

    "A stage expert can make up a man to look a woman or vice versa, though it is a lengthy affair. You must have the patience of Job, or so I am told," he replied with a languid tone. "Best to save those efforts for a major ball and not routine affairs." As Anne draped herself on another couch, Dorset stood so as to recover his own chalice and pour some whiskey for himself. As he returned, he sat more upright, not wanting to spill any liquor on his own furniture. "Astrology is an intriguing study. Frankly, I wonder whether it or religion has substance at all. The two seem at odds with each other. I cannot recall a single Biblical verse that discussed the astrological aspect of Jesus, or anyone else for that matter. The study of the stars seems a very deep affair, one that I have little patience to solve. I would rather rely on the efforts of others," he confessed. "The Merry Gang is merciless to women," he commented as to her stated goal. "Nell has been one of the few to hold her own in our company but I suppose you have demonstrated sufficient mental and emotional fortitude," he complimented indirectly. "It is not without its costs. Literally, we fools are prone to spend too much coin on drink and wagers. They'll not spare you if you want to be a regular member. And, of course, the ladies at court will assume you are a whore despite your title. We men get away with it far better. You should give the matter further thought," Charles advised. "I should think there will be no poetry contest any time soon. Between the intrigues of the French, Dutch, and others and the imminent arrival of a royal heir, His Majesty has been distracted, though we in the Gang are contemplating kidnapping him for a night of entertainment. Perhaps later this month."
  15. "I would rather piss in a mug and drink it than drink what you call ale Rochester," Merriweather complained. "That may happen before you know it tonight," Rochester warned. "Once I have won the prize, I shall bring forth the good vintage." "The only way you are getting any of our money, Johnny, is at gun point," Roos declared. "That may happen too," Rochester laughed menacingly. He drank the ale in his mug and swished it around his mouth before swallowing. "It is a beastly brew, tis true; but are we not all beasts to be here to brag about our triumphs over ... helpless ... women ... or men. You are all despicable and should be ashamed of yourself. So drink and sod off." He looked around the room and went to his window. "I wonder when Kingston and Audley will show?" "If they will show," corrected Sedley. "Each are better gentlemen than us and may have forfeit the game." "Speak for yourself," Dorset chided. "We merry gang are but a reflection of the merry court and our merry monarch, forever may He reign."