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Villiers Family Matters | 12/28 Late afternoon- Xmas 1677

Francis Kirke

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At the end of the Pall Mall street, wedged between St. James Park and St. James Square, stood a large mansion that in centuries to come would evolve to become far bigger with addition after addition until it was to be called Buckingham Palace.


Such a lofty name however was far in the future. The Buckingham mansion as it was now known was drawn up of fine white marble and sandstone, with clear Baroque geometry. Inside cherubs in a blue sky was fitted over the white plaster. Each room held a different color and nothing was short of lavish. The mansion was square, but inside the servants still had the habit to refer to the left as the west and right as the east wing; the west wing dedicated to the Duke's chambers, and the east wing deserted for he had send his wife to her father in the country, long since grown bored with her behavior which was an impediment on his fun. Paintings by Rubens, Rembrandt and Lely were displayed in the large hallway, created to impress the visitor, an enormous marble staircase drawing in the eye.


The front garden was filled with various flowers, although it was mostly greenery now. In the back there is a long walk designed by a garden architect, so that the duke could walk and find intimacy with his private guests at every turn. A large fountain in the middle sprouted moist into the air.


Francis arrived back to the house after a rather long day at the palace. He had not seen Buckingham that morning as he had arrived at the palace very early in the morning in case His Majesty wished the service of the long-legged Kingston for his walk. After an unexpected surprise in the hallways, Francis had later met Sophia in the Presence Chamber for a little chat.


He had plans to visit Gresham that evening for some academic presentation or discussion of some sort to which he had received an invitation. Francis had decided to take Tommy along; he had seen to the boy's education and kept him quite busy with books and work. Such a thing would be good for his youthful cousin.


He had not gotten a chance to ask the Duke if he wished to go as well, but he thought to seek out his uncle in the huge house if he was home. Aside from their sparring with His Majesty Saturday, Francis had not seen him as much as usual. There were a few mornings where Francis had left early and a few where Buckingham had left early, so he had not been there as the Duke's entertainment upon waking. Much was afoot with the Danby situation, he knew, even if he was not wholly privy to it all.


After his outer coat was removed for him. he asked the liveried servant, "Is His Grace at home?"

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"He is sir," came the dutiful reply. "You will find him in his office, likely catching up on his correspondence.


Buckingham had a secretary to assist him with the correspondence, but the man had been given a few days off for the holidays to visit family, meaning the Duke was left to his own devices to handle his letters. Truth be told, George enjoyed handling personal correspondence. During the holidays he was apt to receive many personal salutations.


Sitting at an antique oak secretary with a fold down door, Frances would find his uncle, sifting through a pile of correspondence. So lost in thought was he that he did not notice Francis entering.

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Francis chuckled to himself, thinking the Duke was in there so often about his writing or correspondence the rest of the house went much to disuse! It did not take him very long to make his way there. A familiar haunt for evening conversations or pontifications.


Buckingham seemed quite concentrated but had he wished to not be disturbed there were plenty of servants around to ensure it as well as a door to be closed, so Francis walked into the doorway and politely rapped a knuckle on the doorframe. He might have been funny and scratched on it like they reportedly did at court in France, but he feared with his mind elsewhere Buckingham would not hear it and thus both the joke and the purpose would be lost.


He waited for the Duke to look up before he offered his bow and then said, "Am I interrupting, Your Grace? Attending holiday well-wishers?"

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Looking up from the letter he held in his hand, Buckingham regarded Francis. Despite the festivities and the success that was building in his cause, he wore something of a troubled look that he did not bother to hide.


"Good afternoon," he declared . "No bother. Do come in." He need not motion to a chair as Francis was well acquainted with the most comfortable pieces of furniture nearby.


"Is it not curious that the volume of one's well wishers grows in direct proportion to one's rise in standing with the King?" He offered a wry grin as his eyes shifted to a large pile of letters. Sitting next to his hand was a glass goblet containing an orange liquid well-known to Francis as blood orange brandy. The Duke was coming to enjoy it as an afternoon beverage.


His eyes returned to the letter he held in his hand, a more sober look on his features. "A friend writes that Hobbes has passed." The man had gone missing from court in the last year or two. "Something about the holidays, that brings with it more announcements of death."


Not one to dwell on the morose these days, George's demeanor changed quickly. "A damn shame. Charles will want to know, if he does not already." Half of the elder statesmen at court had a connection with the philosopher and author. "We'll arrange a suitable toast to the old man." His mood was already recovering.


"What news of your master?" Nothing could make an intriguer forget his troubles more than a piece of interesting news. Failing that, any amusing tidbit would do.

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Francis had forgone the fine brocade for the day, opting instead for the more weather-friendly wine-coloured velvet coat. It was still trimmed with all the finery that Francis was coming to be used to, and the only sense of his personal tastes was born in a dangling, sapphire earring that was his statement of sea life. Otherwise, the copious lace at his sleeves and drape of his cravat was entirely the making of embracing his new life. At the very least, he was appreciating cutting a finer figure if only because it reflected well on his family.


As he came in and paused standing, he replied, "Indeed, and curiously also when one is ill." He chuckled.


Buckingham had made him aware, nearly on first meeting, that he was a useful relation mostly because he had his own money in comparison to many other poor and unfortunate cousins who had shown up on his doorstep with little to recommend them. That had, of course, all changed and evolved, but it was still amusing to think of how many might wish to ingratiate themselves to a man who had no heirs in his immediate family. He could only imagine the well-wishers as news spread of the duke's rival falling so spectacularly.


Francis, on the other hand, bore little thought about what the duke could give him, something the duke well knew. His uncle had offered him Helmsley, which would have been his father's, a very great castle in the North, and Francis had refused the generosity because it was not his place to take his uncle's property. Certainly not while the man was still living.


"Hobbes? Truly?" Francis repeated, his eyes casting down to the letter in Buckingham's hand. He frowned, "I thought he was disappeared?" One might then wonder how he had both been found and then dead. The blond procured himself a glass and poured himself a measure, pausing to refill the duke's. By then the servants knew that Francis preferred to do the serving himself when they were alone. It was as much privacy as it was respect. "Condolences, I know that Your Grace was fond of him; such a long life is to be envied."


He sat down. "The old do seem to make it a point to perish right after them," he agreed. "I can scarce imagine having a tutor like Master Hobbes. I should have liked to have met the man..." He pursed his lips as Buckingham said the king would wish to know. Bringing the king morose news was...well, morose, for a man who disliked such negative emotions. "I do not think that His Majesty does know, for he did not seem in any melancholy."


As to what news there was of his royal master, Francis was happy to move on to move entertaining things.


"Naught but another note from Mistress Envy," Francis replied with a cheeky grin and a chuckle. "Surely you knew that it was run to me at the palace by my valet." He bore no delusions that Buckingham did not know everything that went on in his own house.

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"The man had no sense of humor," the Duke revealed as he stared at nothing over his nephew's shoulder, his eyes focused on the past. "Charles' whipping boy was employed regularly," he chuckled. "Mine too."


"Do you know that when we were being tutored together, learning the origin of certain words, we took turns asking him the origin of fuck, swive, balls, cunt, and a litany of choice words. As hard as he fought, we fought harder," George laughed aloud. "After one anatomy lesson, and a study of Greek female statuary he caught me enjoying a rub under the desk. Though he ended the lesson abruptly I am certain he was amused in later life by my proclamation that it was mere experimentation consistent with the lessons provided. Despite his misgivings, I would say that I turned out fairly well, as did Charles." He was laughing as he revealed the story to Francis, confident that it would not be spread further. It was clear that he had fond memories of the scholar even though he had bristled under the yoke of the man at an earlier age.


On a more serious note, George turned back to his pile of correspondence as Francis revealed the letter from Miss Envy. "Ah yes." he did not seemed surprised by anything these days. "Is your master titillated by the game? I should hope so. It is different than the more obvious and blunt female tactics."


Sifting through the stack of letters, he seemed to be looking for one in particular as they spoke. It seemed as though he had been reminded of something.

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"Pfft, poor sods, though I might have more feeling left in my backside if I'd the benefit of one of those," Francis joked. Then again, perhaps not. Francis had a rather gentle nature.


He laughed heartily at the tale, imagining that boredom and the sight of tits could drive any youth toward having a rub. Though he briefly thought of asking more of such tales, he noted his uncle made no mention of his father, and decided it was perhaps best not to stoke memories that were like morose enough with Hobbes now dead. Loss was a part of age that Francis did not know well enough, but he knew it pained his mother to talk about 'then.'


Instead, he smiled and then chuckled lightly.


"Fuck, Germanic. Cunt, also Germanic," he put on his best pedantic voice. "Seems I was not the first to think of such questions. My grandfather was likely less amused than Master Hobbes and no one truly wished to account to him after tutoring nor explain one's vulgarity to one's mother." Although something told him that whipping boys likely did not save one from a rather pious now martyred king who probably also heard the tale.


"Well, we both know my royal master can easily fuck most of whom he wishes, so I think Your Grace's plan of a game is quite entertaining for the King. Novelty is something I am used to negotiating," Francis added. "There is a certain whetting of the palate for something one has not yet had. It is icing on the cake that she was named Lady of Misrule." A quirkly smile as he looked at Buckingham's face was a clear wonder if his uncle had something to do with the feat. It seemed a bit too much to be coincidence.

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The omission of Francis' father was intentional. There was no reason to ruin happier thoughts.


As his nephew identified the Germanic origins of such purple words, George found himself nodding. "Precisely. That was all Hobbes need reply, but he took umbrage instead. For a man that wrote about mankind's baser instincts, he had little tolerance for baser instincts." The Duke saw irony where others might not.


As for the mademoiselle, he gave Francis a smile. "She was destined to be the Lady of Misrule. Who was I to stand in the way of destiny?" He found himself chuckling. "You know that every important act at court has my hand in it somehow." He enjoyed demonstrating his acumen at moving pieces on the game board, as if it were all his idea. As for the whetting of royal appetite, he nodded his approval. "I should think 12 days of titillating Christmas shall have your master in a lather for his present."


Buckingham abandoned his search of correspondence. It seemed as though he failed to locate what he sought. As such, he pushed aside the parchment and ribbon in favor of looking at Francis.

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Francis chuckled as Buckingham noted the irony of Hobbes' views.


"I think that the position of all tutors, Sir. They are as much meant to subdue those baser natures as they are to teach classically, are they not? It is then that one is a matter of duty whereas one's writing is free from such constraints." A man as intelligent as Buckingham was likely the most formidable sort of student and being raised as a prince with princes likely did little to naturally subdue him.


For a moment, Francis smiled and took in amusement into his lungs, his chest bobbing for that short time. His own childhood likely would have been far different and perhaps full of similar ironies.


He found himself letting the laughter out airily and saying, "I imagine I might have noted a few ironies had you had charge of me as a boy." Indeed, he was quite certain there would be hefty moments of the adage 'do as I say, not as I do' which was just as amusing as Master Hobbes' treatment of the matter to the younger blond.


"Stand in Destiny's way? Surely not you, Sir. I would think you would most heartily hold her hand to escort her," Francis quipped, his mouth smiling to one side before he licked his lips and took a sip of his drink.


"I think you are right about that, and then the true games shall begin. She will need to keep his interest on more than just parchment." The younger man knew it was no as easy as it might seem.


"Have you lost something or have I distracted you?" Francis asked, noting the duke abandon his shuffling to look up at Francis.

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"I would never attempt to tutor children, especially adolescents," the Duke proclaimed with a laugh. His eyes were merry at the thought. "Not unless their parents wanted them ruined. I might have been motivated to teach them other things about life, things not found in dusty tomes." He also had little tolerance for opposition, on any level. So the thought of a rebellious pupil left a bad taste about any such service. "Men grown are much better pupils, and ones more worthy of my precious time."


"Yes, there would have been too many ironies for you to note," George agreed with a smile. Had he known of Francis' true parentage, he would have arranged better tutors than the Scotsman Kirke.


As for the topic of Mistress Vauquelin, the two men were in agreement. As such, there was little to add.


"No distraction. I was just looking for a letter from the man himself or a solicitor," Buckingham confessed. "When I saw him last he mentioned that he had some letter prepared to send me in the event of his death. I dismissed it at the time, thinking the old man would outlive me somehow, but now I wonder whether he spoke true."

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Francis chuckled, his mind supplying a number of ironies he likely would have experienced.


"Ironic, but perhaps more motivating and realistic," he managed to get out between chuckles. "Perhaps more room for fun and fucking, but I doubt - with your great patience for stupidity and fools - you would suffer an uneducated and apathetic pupil for a nephew. Boring tutors or not."


The younger blond knew firsthand the sorts of temptations of the flesh one could attempt at a young age in shirking of one's education. "You might have held more amusement or compassion for Will and I climbing out a window, escaping to a brothel, and attempting to rid ourselves of complicating virginity when I was twelve or thirteen." Francis snorted at the memory. Unfortunately for them, his grandfather had chosen to visit the same place.


"When you saw him last, there was something he wished you to know were he to die?" Francis asked. "Sounds mysterious given that he was gone or disappeared from court and then turns up dead. Was he...and might have known something of some importance?" He substituted a word for a hand gesture, knowing the duke would know what he was asking.

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"I would have used trips to the brothel as a reward," he declared pointedly. "I would have been certain to have quality work then. Disappointments would have been rewarded with Bible reading in a locked room," he added in contrast and a laugh. "I would have gotten the best out of you, as would the girls, but that is no matter."


The other subject was the more mysterious one. "It is hard to know," he admitted as to Hobbes' motivation. "A message from the grave, or perhaps a bit of information."


As to the hand signal, Buckingham nodded. "He was. You do recall that I am to be the Grandmaster this year. Imagine that Francis. The year 1678 shall be the zenith of all my paths. Danby's downfall, Monmouth banished, and Lauderdale under suspicion. Clifford is dead and Arlington is irrelevant. Shaftesbury does not see what is coming. The CABAL collapsed without me and my rivals are in ruins. Your Master recognizes my true worth again and allows me to sow seeds in his garden, including you. On top of it all, it is my turn to serve as Grandmaster, just as Hobbes passes. An interesting portend." The Duke was less taken with the mystery of the Masons than others. It mostly had been cloaked in secrecy to hide from the Church and tyrants as far as he was concerned, yet other prominent members believed strongly in the mysticism and its connection with past and future events. Still, there was no denying that there was something more to the Free Masons than a secret group of educated and rational secularists.

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Francis blinked a few times and then broke out into loud laughter, "Is that why you were taking me to the brothel after all those damnable lessons? To make sure I kept motivation up!*" He laughed until his chest hurt a bit, starved of some oxygen. He supposed it had worked.


He coughed and then took in air, shaking his head in amusement. "I take a similar approach with Tom." Hell, Tom had fucked Heather on their trip when Francis had not. He surely knew how to keep the boy motivated and loyal. Though he could not know any similarities he had with his father, for not knowing many stories of him at all, he did notice that he bore enough mental similarities with his father's elder brother.


Luckily for them both it had not been his 'father' who had seen to his education, but his grandfather's side; for he was quite convinced Charles Kirke would have preferred him kept dead stupid if not just dead. The same grandfather had sure he was brought into the very thing he and Buckingham were now discussing.


As such, he was quite well-read on those sorts of matters. Whether or not one believed in the most deep mysticisms or not, many shared belief that the world moved in a direction for a reason (guided by sciences or other similar things), such that if things came together in such ways, it was meaningful. Coincidence was not coincidence, especially from the outside looking in.


From the inside, even Francis could understand that there were a number of calculated actions that brought Buckingham to such a place. It made him wonder what other meaningful actions might have been taken toward such things that were not done by Buckingham himself.


Questions he would not know the answer to and mattered very little in the scheme of things. The part of learning was different than the parts of doing, and Francis was fine with such notions.


"Had he been working on anything particular at that time?" Francis asked. "Or spoken of any specific correspondences?" He could not help to wonder at what it might be. He was young and had an active mind. He sighed, "You shan't know for sure unless such a thing arrives, I suppose."


(*LMFAO when Tanja and I discussed his recess once, she said he'd take Francis whoring too, y'know camaraderie and all that, so when you had him say that I died with laughter in how Francis would put this whole thing together)

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"Perhaps," Buckingham chuckled with an air of feigned mystery. "I wanted to see if morale was the only thing that could get up at the brothel," he teased. "Then I shall assume that Tom is suitably motivated."


On the subject of Hobbes, Buckingham grew more serious. "He made certain that I had a copy of Behemoth and suggested that he was working on a new book, but did not let on as to the topic." Behemoth had been an embarrassment to the King because it laid bare the mistakes that led up to the civil war. It had been banned in England. "But then he made reference to a letter of some sort and then a challenge. It was enough to make me wonder whether he was well. I assumed his disappearance from court was a retreat to the countryside to recover his health," the Duke summarized. "No matter, we will see if something comes or not." His mood brightened after that as he sought to change the subject.


"What do you think I should give Mall for New Year's? I have a hand carved tobacco pipe from the New World. It may be one of the few things she has yet to procure for herself," he chuckled. "Is there something you would like? You should tell me or I'll give you the mittens she thinks I should give you," he jested.

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"I'Faith I had been wondering that very thing that night, for I such a younger man than you," Francis quipped, purposefully taking his uncle's meaning wrong, and pairing it with a cheeky grin.


"He gave you a copy?" Francis asked. He blinked once. He had heard talk of Bohemoth, but he had never read it. There were rumours that unauthorised copies could be had on the continent. He wondered if it was true that it spoke of things...detrimental...to the Martyred King's memory. At least in way of pointing out what had led to the conflict. He had not heard it mentioned in England and likely had only heard of it because he had been a captain of the sea.


"The letter he wished to send you if he died, or another letter?"


This was all quite strange and intriguing. It was almost a break from the typical courtier fair. It was like being an intellectual adventurer, which was almost as good as being a real one when you could not really be a real one anymore.


He wondered if Buckingham had checked the binding to make sure that nothing had been hidden in the leather of the book itself, but considering it was a common methodology among that sort, he wasn't sure if asking such a thing would be insulting. He held his thoughts for the time being.


"Aside from the trip to Brighton, Sir, I cannot say that I know your lady sister very well at all. I fear I would be not much help." In fact, so far as he knew, the duke might not have even told her Francis' true identity. "I can provide something to put in the pipe if you wish," he added, with a chuckle. His ships had to carry tobacco to make their opium blend. "Though not precisely how the natives might do it."


As to a gift for himself, he blushed some. He had never exhibited much of a nature to be entitled.


"Fine mittens I am sure they would be," he replied with a chuckle, buying time to think.


"Some might say it is New Year's every day for me. I am already gifted." He licked his lips and said, "Knowing Your Grace, I would say you will think of something anyway." It was simply truth as Francis saw it. Buckingham already took charge of all his expenses and his living. To Francis, who had never lived such a way, it was quite gifted. His grandfather had been a fine gentleman, and Francis had fine things by that measure, but all of this by the duke's measure was a different finery and largesse indeed. The Duke wanted him as his nephew, he finally knew the truth about his family and his father, so there was little to want in Francis' world that was not already provided.

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"Yes," George acknowledged without the slightest guilt in his voice. "Hobbes gave your master one as well. They spoke privately of it. Anyone else would have been imprisoned for it," he acknowledged calmly. "You know well enough that your master enjoys avoiding inconvenience. There are certain inconvenient truths in that tome." In fact, it was even painful to Buckingham to have to relive the so many mistakes that had been made by the martyred king. The wrong people had been trusted. Petty squabbles, blindness to growing threats, and a failure to act decisively were lessons to be learned.


On the subject of the letter, George's typical collected demeanor was changed to one of regret, and not just about the war or the book. "I should have paid more attention to what he was saying," he confessed. Just as when he was a student, he had not listened as closely as he should have. "I think he said I would be receiving a letter. I thought he suggested that he had one last lesson for his students." It was clear that he was searching his memory vigorously.


For a man that had so much power, wealth and fame, it might seem odd that he should care so much about something so curious. Yet, Francis would know otherwise. A curiosity could drive even the greatest man to distraction. The older man's eyes shifted back to the stack of correspondence as if he did not trust that it was the complete, regretting at once that his secretary was on holiday. Now that he was focused on it, Francis might know that he would not be content until he received the promised correspondence, if at all.


The flattery received a dismissive smile, but the Duke, truth be told, welcomed it nevertheless. "I shall think of something. From what I hear, your morale need not be lifted." A chuckle signaled that this referred to the prior topic of using a brothel to raise morale. "Maybe the mitten is better used on something other than your hand, given how bare another appendage is likely to be this season."

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Francis was well-aware that his royal master did not like anything which pushed him toward the morose or negative. Not that Buckingham dealt with those things much better. Indeed, even in that moment his uncle seemed troubled in some way. His own eyes flicked down as he thought for a few moments. Losing two fathers to political upheaval was something Francis could scarce imagine, and one could not chase away the worst of feelings with a laugh every time. At the very least, there was little reason to concern of his bareness around Francis.


He then watched as Buckingham looked at the stack of correspondence. Francis was very used to the bouts of Buckingham being consumed with one manic pursuit or another.


Licking his lips, he said, "But then he said students or insinuated? That is more than just you, more than singular. When you knew His Majesty had a copy, did Hobbes say something similar to His Majesty or promise him any letter?"


He looked at the stack too for a moment, thinking further on what the missing letter might mean.


"Forgive me if the questions are a bit...impertinent, Your Grace, but did you check all the binding and boards of the book? Or even the text itself, perhaps. I know such methods are the bread and butter of those with such controversial thoughts and who keep such company: concealment and cyphers. If it was so important a matter on thinking of his death, would not such a man take measures so not just anyone would understand it or even be able to read it?" If anything, he hoped to spur the duke's memory. Sometimes talking it through could be helpful for beinging things forward. Words could trigger recognition, after all.

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The conversation returned to the letter as it was a more intriguing topic. What educated person did not enjoy a riddle, unless one had forgotten a clue.


"He said student. I am certain of it." As to whether something similar was said to the King, the Duke found, to his vexation, that he did not know. "I cannot say for sure," George answered while rubbing his chin briefly. "He had other students." He paused to recollect. "Devonshire," the older man blurted. "He was always fond of Devonshire. I shall have to learn whether Cavendish received a letter." It was apparent that he would be annoyed if the Earl received something and he did not. "Maybe you can learn if your master received a letter."


It was then that Francis suggested that the book might hold a clue. "Good idea," he acknowledged, already moving towards the cushioned window seat in his study. Lifting the lid, Buckingham fished inside, searching for the tome he had hidden from sight some time ago. Beneath a red velvet cloth he unwrapped the book.


Transporting it back to his writing table, the elder Villiers moved a candelabra closer and reached for his magnifying glass. The binding was in excellent condition. George examined the cover, running his hand along the leather binding to discover anything irregular. Disappointed, he looked inside for a clue. His hand ran along the inside cover and binding. He flipped through the pages, looking for a possible note that might have been hidden within, to no avail.

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Francis nodded as Buckingham said Francis could likely find out if the King had received a letter.


"Well bringing the topic up will be easy enough since either one of us could ask if he knows of the man's death. Surely it would remind him of fond times with Your Grace, I doubt he would wish to hide such things from you if there's the promised diversion of a mystery. How many people that His Majesty trusts and is close to would have your knowledge of such things?" While it might have been flattery from another, Francis well knew his uncle was far more educated and intelligent than most.


"If you wish me to ask and will let me take the letter, I can ask our royal master in the morning. Unless you wish to come with me? The King will truly know something is afoot if you're awake at that hour," Francis joked with a warm smile.


He watched as his uncle went to what appeared to be a secret stash, somewhat pleased that the man would do so in front of him. Buckingham was an exceedingly careful man and that sort of trust bolstered the younger blond in many ways.


The duke examined the book as Francis looked on, careful not to get in the light. Nothing turned up so Francis heaved a sigh.


"I could help you search through all your correspondence if you wish, unless that is truly all of it?" Francis asked, nodding to the pile. "And...shall I keep this news of Hobbes' death to myself for now, aside for His Majesty?" It seemed, perhaps, an intelligent thing to do while such mysteries were afoot.

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Buckingham gave the matter thought as Francis considered the possibilities aloud. Even in front of his nephew he would not display indecision. "Best look into the matter of correspondence with your royal master. You can mention that you heard from me that Hobbes is said to have passed. Speak of it to no one else. No one else need know of it."


The Duke enjoyed being at an informational advantage over third parties. This was a matter that he preferred to keep to himself until he could learn the truth of things. "If you learn of something you can tell me. Otherwise I shall pay a call, at my leisure to Charles. You are right to recognize that I would be the one that could pry out anything he might know about Hobbes."


The offer of assistance with his correspondence was one he declined. "Thank you but I shall be fine. It is nothing but an excuse to take my correspondence more seriously," he jested. Frankly, if he did locate the letter, he preferred to read it in private anyway.

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Francis nodded, "As you wish, Sir." His bread was buttered with the Duke and the King, so he had no reason to have loose lips about any matter, making him a very reliable servant and nephew.


And, it was a good thing that Francis did not mind mornings in the least. He did lament that leaving early enough to be a potential walking attendant did keep him from sparring with Tom at first light, which was his habit, but he could always do so after he came back to report on things whilst the duke woke up.


He thought, perhaps, he might try to find time for a nap the next afternoon, for he was rather eager to have all his energies for Caroline's party.


"Nobody is a substitute for Your Grace and surely not I," Francis added as the duke complimented him on realizing his uncle's special prowess in regard to being confidant of the King. "If I am back, I shall tell you either way over your coffee." He usually attended the duke when he was waking if he was home anyway.


"Perhaps an excuse for an appreciative present for your secretary too, Sir," Francis quipped.


"I take it with your mountain of noblesse oblige that you have little wish to see the presentation at Gresham with me this evening. I believe it is planetary or astronomical." He knew that the duke was generally as fascinated by such things as the King, as many Masons generally were with scientific discovery, but he also knew the duke was quite singularly focused when something baited him like this matter with Hobbes. "Do say that you will not miss the party at Lady Kendishall's tomorrow, though. I am hoping His Majesty shall want to sneak away for some pleasure and it is a party for the more merry sort."


Sneaking out, the King, and Buckingham were three things that went together very well in Francis' little experience of court pleasures. If the King did go, he doubted his uncle would wish to miss it, for then other gentlemen could sidle close to their royal master.


With this letter and Hobbes, he would not wish Buckingham to forget everything else that might be advantageous to him.

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"Yes, a report over coffee tomorrow," the Duke agreed readily, hoping that Francis might be able to gather something useful. One way or another the Duke was confident that he would learn the truth of it. He had to remind himself there were more important matters at hand.


"An appreciative present? Bah," Buckingham retorted in jest. "My secretary is lucky that I let him go spend time with his family. Next year I might not be so generous." His threat was empty, as Francis might know, because his secretary was privy to many of the Duke's secrets and his service had been long and loyal.


"Kendishall. Yes, if Charles goes, I shall certainly be there. He had an eye for her at my last affair. One has to be careful of too many French mistresses. Tell me of her. She plays at innocence yet I think she is anything but. Do we need to direct her onto another path?" She was a variable that could complicate his plans. Unless George was confident that she would dance to his tune, she would need to be pushed to the outside. "We need your master to sneak away in the direction we suggest."

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"I think she has an eye for pleasures of the flesh in general, Sir, and not in specific." Francis' eyes crinkled mischievously. "But I do not think His Majesty had a deep interest in her, for I was with him when we were speaking to Lady Kendishall, and there was no...comment dites-vous..." The King had a voracious appetite for women and appreciation of them, but those that could capture his interests in more important ways were far fewer. "Spark? Not like our mademoiselle in the very least. Besides, is it not better to have many ladies of interest in one's pocket, for then they are less likely used by others?"


Francis licked his lips. "I have it on very good authority, Your Grace, that she was very recently a unicorn." He could not contain his smile at his comparison. "A virgin widow."


He doubted Buckingham would miss the fact that Francis was the authority for having been the one to alleviate the condition. "The lady wishes fun and merriment after a drab marriage. I do not think her aim is to right away saddle herself in obligation with another older man, no matter His Majesty's charms, nor would she be ready for such a task." That should assuage some of the Duke's concerns. Lady Kendishall wished to play the lot. She was a widow so had means of living on her own without needing one man. Perhaps when she tired of that things would be in a different state.

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"A virgin widow? Good God." He seemed to chuckle to himself and shake his head slightly at the thought. He could conjure stories in his mind to explain it; but, he also knew what the outcome of it.


"We shall not need to keep her away from the King," he announced lightly. "We shall need to keep her from fornicating with each and every guest," he laughed. "No doubt she will be well-oiled by the footman before the event even begins." Virgins were known, of course, to develop a voracious appetite for sex after they were freed from their previous condition.


"Shall we keep count of the number of guests with whom she closets during the evening?" Already he was thinking of a possible wager.

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Francis laughed airily and lightly.


"Oh, I think she has more control than that! She might wish to sample everything, but any woman with a mind knows to string along the hunt some. She is no mindless whore with no other charms; plus, she will be playing the hostess, Sir, so she'll have other things to do than see to her own desires of the flesh." His lips pressed in amusement as his eyes crinkled at the thought.


"We might wager about who shall stay the night with her, but I think we should see the field first before placing any wagers on it." He could spot a wager coming as quickly as any courtier, especially a libertine.


"Perhaps we might place a number to kisses, for any lady can liberally show that affection at such a party."


(OOC - we can wrap this up )

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"Let us hope not," the Duke replied as to Caroline's mindlessness. The accusation had been done in light humor anyway.


Francis seemed to prefer a wager on who might stay the night with her. "Oh? I do not know her so I would have no idea." He preferred the sport of a wager but felt he would be guessing blindly. "A gentleman's bet then. Who do you think then?" He doubted it would be the King, but it was possible. "I am thinking it could be you." Was that a wager or an encouragement?



OOC~ finis?

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"Let us make our bets that evening after seeing the field," Francis offered, with a grin. "But before the end of the night where the favored gentleman would be obvious."


He chuckled, "Indeed, it might, but I have a feeling she might prefer to take advantage of the new delights her party would bring when I could claim her affections easy enough any day." Perhaps he was wrong, but that was how a man would behave, taking advantage of novelty.


(Yes )

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