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The Marry Gang (22/4)


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It was late at night, when even the courtiers sought their beds. The King was having trouble sleeping of late and had invited the Merry Gang to visit his royal study. The candles burned low in the sconces with no servant to replace them.


In his padded chair King Charles II stared into the golden goblet in his hand, only half filled with wine. The King had been acting more soberly than he should. This was odd, given the amount of wine consumed, as well as the presence of the Earls of Rochester and Middlesex. Neither man were known to spark pensive reactions.


"Both of you are without wives," the King reminded the pair in his presence. "Happily so," retorted Rochester, far deeper in his cups.


"Louise needs to marry. It cannot be someone without title and she'll want an English lord so that she might have cause to stay in England," the King muttered softly.


"Don't look at us Your Majesty," Middlesex beseeched, being less inebriated than Johnny. "She doesn't like us first of all. She might like Johnny more," he teased. "I've got the pox!" Johnny quipped. Whether he was serious or not, he was the most likely member of the Gang to contract it. The King looked back at Charles Sackville, convinced that Rochester was a bad idea for his mistress.


"Your Majesty, if I were the last eligible man in England, I would consider this royal service. Gratefully, I am not. There are plenty of men at court; or, even better, in the country, that would be more suitable husbands under the circumstances. I should think you want a compliant person and one low on royal favor and backbone," Sackville laughed. "This is not a task for one of your inner circle unless it is Bab."


"Baptist May! Brilliant!" Johnny slurred. "He's your royal pimp. Who better to marry one of your whores?" Rochester was rarely deferential in the King's presence as he should. "Give him a title with a French sounding name and and she will be convinced that they are distantly related," he giggled. For a moment, the King smiled at the thought. Baptist May could be trusted with the task, as with all others involving his many mistresses. Yet, Louise would refuse. She was a Duchess and quite particular as to who she might marry. Though happy to beg coin of the Privy Purse, she would find it intolerable to marry a man she regarded as little more than a clerk.


"Maybe you should leave your mistresses unmarried," Sackville whispered. "Does it not satisfy the Queen that your ladies have been imprisoned in Chelsea?"


The King rubbed the leg that continued to ache, especially on cold dank evenings. "I worry about who will take care of her after I am gone. She has no one. In the days ahead, she will need someone capable." The King had been feeling more mortal of late. Perhaps it was the presence of a young Queen and a growing hatred of the French. "Think on it and tell me if you meet someone suitable."


"Why not hold a contest and the one in last place must marry her?" Rochester offered too gleefully. In response he gave Johnny a royal glare. "Take care sir or I'll have you marry her, pox or no. Really, gentlemen, she is a far more wonderful lover and mother than you credit her." The King was annoyed with Rochester, as usual.


"It is easy to say that," snapped Rochester. "Given that I give her no credit at all, it should not be hard to give her a farthing's worth."

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