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Preparations [CD] | Before the Opera, Dec. 24th- Xmas 1677

Charles Audley

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Charles frowned at the mirror and clucked his tongue in disapproval. His eyebrows were in utter disarray.


Well, that is simply unacceptable.

The earl set about plucking the stray hairs with a will, whistling a jaunty air as he worked.


"You're wondering why I sent that letter to Shaftesbury."


Behind his master, Wodehouse started in surprise.


"I am," he admitted. "There seemed precious little point to it."


Charles laughed as he admired his freshly pruned brows. He reached for a bottle of softening oil and began to rub it into his beard.


"Would you like me to explain my reasoning?"


"It would be appreciated." The manservant's tone was dry as dust.


Charles laughed again. "Very well. Firstly, our relative strength has changed since we last crossed swords. I have risen far and he has fallen somewhat. His enemies are not negligible in number, power or influence and the sooner he reopens his campaign against me, the sooner I am announced to them as a prospective ally. Hmm." He glanced at his valet. "Would a dash of scent go amiss this evening, do you think?"


Wodehouse considered for an instant, seized a bottle from amongst the collection of cosmetics and began to apply its contents to his master.


"Sandalwood should serve admirably. But you were saying?"


A snort of amusement.


"I knew there was a reason I tolerated your insolence. Anyway, secondly, one of the main reasons behind coming here was to find my father's former secretary. But to find one man amongst thousands is an impossibility. We could search for years and find not a trace of Cadogan. He could find me very easily, though, and the sooner Shaftesbury cranks his rumour mill to work, the sooner dear Arthur will hear of my presence. Then he'll either flee to the continent, which is all to the good, or contact me to try and extort me with what he thinks he knows, which is better. Pass me the cravat, would you?"


Wodehouse complied and gave the earl a considering look.


"Are there any other reasons?"


Charles bared his teeth in the mirror.


"Oh yes. Lastly, but far from last in my mind, the thought of the old bastard having apoplexy when he reads it shall keep me warm at night for many moons to come. Frock coat."


Wodehouse helped Charles into the garment. The earl stepped away to snatch up his cane before turning and spreading his arms for his manservant's perusal.


"Shall I pass muster?"


"You'll do my lord. You'll do very well indeed."

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