Jump to content


Your Stories Await Telling

Playing tag with a beloved [morning 25/12]- Xmas 1677


Recommended Posts

The King's Apartment or Kings Lodgings was an entire wing of rooms, kitchens and withdrawing rooms that suited many people, and to which all of nobility had access. It was also, ironically, the Kings most private place. To guard what little was left of that Charles Rex had ordered that none may enter past the Presence room without his personal permission, save for those he considered family. Even the Life Guard on duty is only allowed into the anteroom just inside from the Presence chamber, leaving the King some modicum of privacy and peace in most of his apartments. The more inner rooms are attended by ushers, grooms, and gentlemen of the household, equally for the King's security, company, and service.


Well appointed, the ceilings covered in symbolic paintings by various Baroque painters (though not so well endowed as Windsor Castle had been) signalled that Charles was lord and master of his realm, Justice incarnate, subjecting Rebellion. In fact, most of his rooms were still in the style of his father, featuring Charles I and James I.


A small darkhaired page, no more than 10 years old, was walking around all over the royal wing, drawing a piece of read meat with him, an anguished look on his face. "Daisy," he called out softly, not daring to raise his voice, "Daisy, come girl. no more hiding."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Charles stifled a groan as he meandered aimlessly through the corridors, looking somewhat the worse for wear- skin pale, gait listless, hair tangled and solitary eye bloodshot. He was relatively certain that he was in the palace, though where exactly and how he had ended up there eluded him. He was still dressed in the greens he had worn to the opera, though his cravat appeared to have been knotted clumsily and with great haste. It had obviously been a long, active night.


Now, let us see. I definitely went to the theatre and I'm fairly sure that I met John there. Then nothing 'til I went back to my rooms to drop off my cane and refill the laudanum flask. After that, I recall not a thing until coming to slouched against a wall and thoroughly hungover. Wonderful.


Charles gave a mental shrug. His memories would return or they wouldn't and there was little he could do about it. In any case, so long as the night had involved neither murder nor marriage, he expected that all would be well. The earl yawned and ran his fingers through his hair, which was deplorably disordered, before hissing in discomfort as his digits pricked against some solid, thorny object tangled in his curls.


What the devil?

Carefully, he drew the offending item from the grip of his hair and held it out for examination. A holly branch. His eye widened.


How did... No, I'm probably better not knowing.

Charles dropped the evergreen irritant and moved on, fishing out his flask as he walked. He swirled it more in hope than expectation and was rewarded with a faint slosh. A smile twisted his pale lips before a voice caught his attention. Absent any pressing reason not to, Charles decided to investigate and strolled in its general direction, draining the last of his laudanum as he did so.


He had not far to travel, rounding a corner to find a palace page. Less interesting than he'd hoped but welcome nonetheless- he could find out how best to get back to his rooms at least. Aware that he was swaying slightly, Charles drew himself up and did his best to assume a pleasant and harmless expression.


"Excuse me young man, but could you tell me where exactly I am? I've gotten quite turned around I'm afraid."


Belatedly, the earl took note of the page's distraught expression and the red meat he held. Hungover sluggardliness warred briefly with curiosity and (though Charles would emphatically deny it) rusted sympathy. The latter forces won.


"Now, what exactly is the matter, hmm?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hastily the page hid the rope with the meat behind his back, a guilty flash on his face "My Lord, You are in the King's Lodgings, My Lord, can I assist you with getting somewhere?"


How did grown ups always perceive there was an issue poor litlte John Henry thought miserably as the Earl started fishing, oblivious ot the fact that drawing around a piece of meat was at least curious. "Oh no, my lord.. I .. I'd rather not say."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The King's Lodgings? Close enough.


Charles awarded his drunken past self seven marks out of ten for Navigating While Massively Inebriated. Past experience had taught him to be pleased with merely awaking in the same city he'd been drinking in. Managing to reach the same general area as his rooms was cause for celebration.


Alas, I lack liquor.

A problem to be dealt with later. The page was being difficult, in that awkward, boyish way Charles remembered distantly. The earl pondered for a moment. He was remarkably unsuited to dealing with children when in full possession of his faculties, nevermind in his current state.


Best, then, to treat him as a miniature adult.


Charles arched an eyebrow at the boy and leaned forward conspiratorially, lowering his voice.


"Speaking as a past and present veteran of boyish mischief and harmless villainy, trying to hide the meat after I've seen it only makes you more suspicious. Better to come clean and hope I take it in good humour." He shrugged. "Or throw the meat at me and scarper."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The little page grew redfaced at this sage advice of the Earl. "Oh, oh.. right.. well.. ahem." He scuffled with his feet a little, drawing out his reply as if he coudl delay the inevitable.


"It is Daisy, one of His Majesty's spaniels," the boy blurted out suddenly, lest courage left him "She's forever escaping, finding little hiding places. She's missing again."


He bit his underlip and added "Couldn't happen at a worse moment. She's got a belly full of little ones. I'm going to be in ever so much trouble if I don't find her back before Noon. The King always wishes an update on her state before his lunch."


The poor boy looked ready to cry, sure he would meet with a switch to his behind before the day was out.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Charles was almost surprised when the page explained. He'd half been expecting the boy to take the latter part of his advice and attempt to escape. That, after all, was what Charles would have done in his place.


Such thoughts were irrelevant, however, next to the opportunity that had just landed in his lap. To be liked by the servants was no small thing and there was the slight chance of meeting the king. Charles would have to be considerably more hungover to even consider passing this up. Besides, tracking down a pregnant dog was unlikely to involve egregious physical exertion and it was not as though he had anything better to be doing. Mind made up, Charles favoured the page with a smile.


"Well then, we had best find Daisy post-haste, hadn't we?" Charles paused for a moment, thinking. Where would a pregnant lapdog go?


"She's bearing, so she's unlikely to have gone far. She'll probably have found somewhere quiet and warm." Charles nodded firmly. That seemed logical. He gave the page another smile.


"Can you think of anywhere like that?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Warm is easy enough, near the fireplace in the King's bedchamber, but quiet?" the page frowned, trying to think where Daisy might have gone off to. He had looked in all the likely places already. "There simply is no quiet .. not with all the clocks you see. They are all over the King's lodgings."


Little John Henry rubbed a finger under his nose "Perhaps one of the nearby bedchambers? They are bound to be more quiet." He glanced up at Chatham, indecision in his face.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Not exactly what I meant. I was thinking more along the lines of somewhere where there would be few people to disturb her."


In truth, Charles was making this up as he went along. Broadly speaking, his talents fell within three areas: Debauchery, Soldiering and Underhanded Skulduggery. Assisting an upset young page in finding a pregnant dog lay quite outside the reach of what he might term his core competencies.


Still, remember rule one: whatever you do, whether or not you have the faintest idea what you're about, do it confidently, decisively and with style. It'll all work out in the end.


Charles nodded firmly and immediately regretted it, as the motion sent lances of pain shooting through his skull. Masking a wince, he spoke.


"In any case, these bedchambers should be worth a look. After you."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The young boy's faces lit up. Here was an adult to take charge and give him direction. Everything would be well.


"There are the appartments of the King's mistresses, but they are no longer in residence," John Henry innocently remarked "On account of the Queen, you see." Just after her marriage she had made such an issue of the King's libertine life that he considered it better to house them outside Whitehall temporarily, though they held on to their large appartments.


"We are better of starting with the Grooms or Gentlemen of the Bedchamber. When they are not on duty," which involved sleeping in the King's bedroom on a small mat on the ground amidst the dogs and the chaos of clocks "They have their own lodgings, well most of them. Lord Kingston prefers to reside with his relation the Duke of Buckingham and Lord Rochester thinks it prudent to stay in his Townhouse. The dukes also have their family homes. Oh, an dhte King's men of the theatre also do not have residence here, though they are officialy part of the King's household." It was like a list long drilled into the young boy.


The page halted for a door and whispered "This is the room of the Groom of the Privy Chamber Maurice Wrynn. He is one of the senior ones, serving His Majesty since his coronation."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Yes, the Germans can be remarkably prudish about things like mistresses. Latin women have a much more sensible attitude to such matters, on the whole." A slow grin, and a misty, nostalgic expression. "Much more sensible." Falling slowly into the embrace of his last draught of laudanum, Charles replied with off-hand carelessness, forgetting for a moment where he was and to whom he spoke.


How old is he? Looks young enough that he shouldn't understand that, but he is a page at Whitehall... No matter. Focus.


Charles listened attentively to the boy's list, taking careful mental notes. The earl enjoyed collecting knowledge, and this could be of great use. Men with ready access to the King made for valuable acquaintances and the list of potential uses he had for empty rooms was practically endless.


He cocked his head, considering.


"You're probably right. If the mistresses' rooms have been disused for so long, Daisy is unlikely to have obtained entry. Now, let's do this methodically, one room at a time, working down on the left and then back up."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No response. Charles returned the page's look and shrugged. He reached past the boy and knocked himself, knuckles rapping loudly on the door. Without waiting for a response he opened the door slightly and called out softly.


"Master Wrynn? Sorry to disturb you..."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No response came, but the door was open, and a modest room, with a equally modest smouldering fire revealed itself. There was a table and chair, and a small cot. No windows, as they came at a premium in Whitehall. At first glance no sight of a dog. The page quickly started looking in nooks and crannies, whistling softly. "Here Daisy, come girl."


In the cot a figure could be seen.. and heard with a small weezing snore. "What, what.." an elderly rotund man sat up suddenly, wearing a nightgown and cap. "Young master John Henry what the d... oh.. My Lord?" Confusion was clearly writ on his face.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Charles beamed brightly at the elderly gentleman, laudanum well and truly in effect now.


"Dreadfully sorry to impose Master Wrynn. No need to get up. One of his Majesty's dogs appears to have misplaced itself and I am helping young John Henry here in his search."


Charles glanced about the room, manic grin fixed firmly in place. There did not appear to be a pregnant lap dog present. He returned his attention to Wrynn.


"Once John Henry is done we shall be on our way and leave you to your rest."


An idle thought struck him.


"I don't suppose you know of any hiding places favoured by his Majesty's spaniels?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Daisy again?" grumbled Wrynn as he put two naked feet on the ground, his nightshirt revealing white hairy legs. Tentatively he sought his slippers with one foot. With a groan the older man came from the bed, "You are in for it now John Henry. If something befalls her, you may pray a birching is all you face. You were supposed to watch her. You know how she is."


The page sniffled supressed tears from renewed fears, but shook his head at Chatham. No Daisy here. "I am sorry master Wrynn. I only looked away for a little while, closed my eyes. Can't have been more than a minute."


"Sleeping on your watch?" sputtered master Wrynn as he grasped for something warm to wrap around himself. He tied the knot with a grim look on is face, trying to look dignified despite the night cap still on his head.


"My lord Chatham. Dreadfully sorry you got dragged into all of this. Have you thought to check the servant hallway leading from the King's Bedchamber to the Duchess of Portsmouth? It passes by the King's Drawing Room and there is a warm fire there that makes for a cozy spot even in the hallway."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Charles barely repressed a smile at Wrynn's ponderous attempts at dignity. It always amazed and amused him how tightly such petty men clung to it. In his own, far from humble opinion, dignity was an inherent quality. If one had it, it mattered not the state of one's attire or the circumstances one found oneself in- one was dignified and everyone else knew it.


Still, pomposity aside, the old man was at least trying to be helpful and Charles gave him a nod in recognition.


"I have not but we shall investigate it forthwith. Thank you for your help Master Wrynn, and my apologies once again for disturbing you."


Charles ushered John Henry out in front of him and shut the door softly behind. Wordlessly, he offered the page his handkerchief. He felt a flicker of irritation at the elderly Groom of the Bedchamber. Upsetting the boy did nothing to rectify the situation. Quite the opposite in fact.


Plenty of time to talk about punishment should we fail to find the dog, after all.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thankfully John Henry, still with quivering underlip, accepted the handkerchief, dabbed his eyes and then blew his nose for good measure, then offered the cloth back to his lordship wordlessly.


"The servant hallway, why didn't I think of that," the page exclaimed, now stepping forther with a little more boyance thinking of improved chances "Blimey, very good hiding place if you ask me. Have you ever been into one of them, my lord? They make a right maze all through Whitehall they do."


He stopped suddenly near a pannel. It was crafitly done, almost couldn't be seen by the naked eye, but there was a little ledge, and John Henry pulled it towards him, opening the door to one of the servant hallways, tight and dark "We should grab a candle," the page murmured and looked around, seeing one on a nearby side table which he grabbed.


"Come on then.." The darkness greeted them with a musky smell of dust, cobwebs and molt.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Can't say I have, at Whitehall at least. But they run all through Whitehall, you say? Interesting. Does anyone other than the servants use them?'"


Charles was not slow to realise the potential utility of such passages, and he paid close attention to John Henry's actions as the boy opened the hidden door. His face twisted briefly as the smell hit him. First the reticule of rotten tomatoes at the opera, now this!


My poor clothes. At this rate I shall have to burn them.


Charles sighed softly at the thought as John Henry seized a candle to light their way. He gave the boy a quick grin, lest he think the earl frustrated with him and once again descend into tears, and gestured grandly into the passage.


"Lead on, but stay close. 'Twould not do to misplace one another."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Into the dark they plunged, the young boy fearless. The burned wick teased Charles' nostrils. It was difficult to see outside the sphere of light.


John Henry shrugged artfully meanwhile "Not often. They lead to servants places and which lord wants to be there. Nearly all of them lead to the kitchen in fact." He paused and threw a glance over his shoulder 'Well, some of them lead from the King's bedchamber to his mistresses. He says its quieter this way, but I hope you'll keep mum on that." The page would not like to be in trouble with the queen who might have a word or two about that. Surely though he was part of the league of gentlemen.


Taking a little courage the young man revealed "Some of the gentlemen of the King like to stroll here, and peek into rooms, especially the ladies rooms."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Charles nodded slowly as John Henry expounded on the extent of the passages and the frequency of their use.


"Useful things to know your way around, I imagine. The ability to move unnoticed about Whitehall would be widely envied about court." Charles grinned thinly. The King almost certainly prized it highly, and probably all the more now that he had somehow chained himself in wedlock to a prudish German iceblock.


Though I imagine it would be entirely premature to raise a glass to the memory of Old Rowley. He is, by all accounts, a most cunning gentleman.


The earl arched an eyebrow at the boy's revelation of the habits of some of the King's gentlemen. Though a devoted worshipper of the female form himself, Charles had never understood the appeal of that sort of clandestine voyeurism. It had always seemed a trifle... juvenile. The thought prompted another thin smile.


"How ungentlemanly of them."


Charles began to whistle softly as they walked, an air he fancied he remembered from the previous night's opera. The effects of the laudanum had him in a most pleasant mood.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Yes my lord, quite so, but not all of the Merry Gang can be said to be gentleman like," Young John Henry said knowingly,ruining the effect by adding "Cook says they might even chase her around the kitchentable."


As they arrived near the King's lodgings again, this time through the servants hallway, there were torches and a Lifeguard was posted. "Halt, who goes there?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"They are truly so depraved as that? Oh my." Charles did his best to conceal his amusement but it was a lost cause and the earl dissolved in paroxysms of laughter.


"Thank you young John Henry. It has been some time since I last laughed so well." Charles wiped a tear from his eye. "Now let us press on."


Charles resumed his whistling as they advanced. He had not felt so boyishly carefree in almost a year. Doubtless there were a dozen things he should be doing in place of this but he couldn't bring himself to care.


The challenge of the Life Guard silenced the earl's whistling. Charles stepped forward, fixing his features in a stern expression and spoke in his best parade ground voice.


"No, no, that shan't do at all. Oh, the 'Halt' was acceptable, I suppose, but 'Who goes there?' should be a demand, not a question. I should be awed by your stern and righteous authority, not nitpicking the manner of your challenge. What troop are you, sir? By God, I'll speak to your commanding officer about this, see if I don't! This slovenliness shan't answer, I tell you!"


Charles spent a moment glaring fiercely at the man before deigning to show mercy, his face relaxing to a more amicable expression and his voice softening to a bright, conversational tone.


"Anyway, in answer to your question, I am Lord Chatham and my stout young companion here is Master John Henry, one of the palace pages. On the advice of Master Wrynn, with whom I am sure you are familiar, we are searching the servants' hallway for one of his Majesty's spaniels, which has misplaced itself."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The trooper, like all Lifeguards a gentleman, though of lower standing than the officers, was somewhat confused by the critique, such a demanding voice. Was this a surprise inspection? "Sir," the trooper felt compelled to salute as if being spoken to by an officer "Only doing my duty sir, thank you."


His eyes glided to the page "Daisy again?" Throwing a glance over his shoulder, the passageway a little better lit now that they entered royal quarters "Haven't seen her around, but.." The trooper hesitated, then decided there were enough troopers in the rest of the hallway to risk it. Who was to know after all? Surely Langdon would never find out.


"Go along then, have a look if you can find her," he relented.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Now that is a gratifying reaction.


Charles was immensely pleased by the results of his impromptu mini-tirade. It was good to know that the intervening years had not meaningfully degraded his officering abilities.


Still, it was best to leave the man some measure of dignity. Charles gave him a grave nod in response and waved John Henry on.


The earl waited until they out of earshot before shooting the page a conspiratorial glance and allowing his amusement to show.


"Oh my. Did you see his face? He looked like a freshly landed fish!"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The trooper heaved a sigh of relief, his eyes lingering on the oddly matched pair as they continued down the servants passageway.


John Henry giggled at the Earl's description, feeling far more confident and safe now under the mans direction, his admiration for the man growing to hero like stature. "Aye sir, that he did. You scared him good."


They turned a corner, and another one. At strategic intervals more troopers stood, but they assumed they had business here and did not further question them, giving them polite nods but not hindering their progress.


"Here is the King's Receiving Chamber," whispered the page, and sure enough, the somewhat chilly passageway warmed considerably as they drew closer "They keep a fire at all times, for it is said the King can't abide the chill since his days in exile when even coal was an expense too dear." At strategic intervals there were holes in the walls, allowing people to observe beyond, and presumingly timing their entry so as to cause the least disturbance.


John Henry stopped and called softly "Daisy, Daisy .. be a good girl.. I have a bit of meat for you if you are good."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Charles shrugged modestly.


"I've been dealing with men like that for a decade. 'Tis no large matter anymore." He lowered his voice. "In truth, I'm a little disappointed that 'twas so easy. One should not be able to bluster one's way past the Life Guard in such a fashion."


That kernel of professional disappointment grew as they were simply waved past the further pickets. Oh, it was undoubtedly convenient, but Charles would have had the flesh off the back of any man under his command who let strangers pass unchallenged merely because they had not been turned away by the first sentries.


Be fair. They know the boy and these are peacetime soldiers. You served at war, by and large, with vigilance a necessity and infiltration a constant threat. Besides, can't flog a Life Guard. Blood's too blue.


Charles snorted. True enough.


By God, if the Foot Guards are a quarter this sloppy!

Forcing those worries to the back of his mind, Charles returned his attention to his surroundings, noticing the rising temperature. His suspicions were confirmed immediately by John Henry.


"Well, let's hope our search is almost done."


He left the boy to call for the dog and examined his environs. A thought struck him.


She'd never have gotten into the Receiving Chamber itself, would she?

Bereft of anything better to do, Charles stepped to the nearest peephole for a quick sconce.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For sure the troopers appeared to be gentlemen by the sight of their long locks of hair. They appeared attentive enough, but their service was also part of the tedium of court life as far as they were concerned. Real soldiers, like FitzJames had been , might have other standards, but enforcing them had not been popluar, at all.


As Charles put his eye to the peeping hole he was treated to the sight of a tranquil receiving room.. till seconds later the doors were pushed open and a laughing King and Duke of Buckingham entered. "Good's teeth," the monarch muttered to the Duke with a droll look on his face "that took forever." There was a mischievous grin on the Duke's face before he schooled it into an impassive look "Yes, your Majesty".


Servants rushed and offered refreshments, but it seemed like the couple was in high spirits and after just a few draughts of ale, they started to undress. Away with their coats and waist coates.


"Daisy.. OH!" Johnny Henry exclaimed behind him "My lord, here she is, and .. look!"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, that was serendipitous.


The thought ghosted across Charles's mind as he observed the King and Buckingham. They did not seem so different to him, here behind closed doors.


His ruminations were interrupted by John Henry's triumphant announcement and then his surprised entreaty. Charles sighed.


Don't tell me...

"She's given birth, hasn't she?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Yes," John Henry whispered full of awe "Oh my lord, six puppies, the King will be so pleased." The young spaniels, half in the dark, looked like little rats, squirming to get to their mother's tits, making soft squealing noises.


The page turned towards the Earl, his eyes full of excitement "Will His Majesty not forgive me, you think?" The poor boy had his mind firmly on his backside.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"He shall be overjoyed, I'm sure."


Charles spoke somewhat distractedly, mind occupied by a new logistical concern.


How do we move them? We'll need a blanket, or something...


With muted horror, Charles realised that they had but one thing that could serve such a purpose. Slowly he doffed his frock coat, eying it regretfully. With a sigh he offered the garment to the page.


Wodehouse is going to kill me.


"Wrap them in that. It'll serve as a blanket."


Belatedly, Charles took note of John Henry's concern and managed to smile at the boy.


"I have no doubt he shall. In fact, he is currently next door and seems in a most merry mood. Shall we present him with his latest subjects?"

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

This topic is now closed to further replies.
  • Create New...