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Being a Man (is stressful) | @Brooke's Early Evening 29/12- Xmas 1677

Robert Saint-Leger

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Brooke House





The sandstone Brooke House on Pall Mall is the London residence of the Earl Brooke, Sir Robert Thomas St. Leger, and his family. Set on a few acres with a walled and tiered garden, the house sits on the rise of a small hill which slopes in the back to small fashioned pond. Climbing roses and berries grace walls and terraces interspersed with ivy with the occasional cluster of manicured fruit trees. It boasts a large royal oak just off the back corner of the mansion with two wide swings which used to be a familiar playsite of the younger Lord Beverley, Robert St. Leger and his sister Lady Doneraile. Now it is a frequent site of play for the lady's 3 little boys when they are visiting their grandfather although they most often stay in Battersea a few miles down the Thames. The garden wall and various garden half-walls are a familiar haunt for Lord Beverley to lay about and read or nap.



Brooke House itself is a large, thick rectangle. While wingless, the set of rooms on the second floor to the right rear, belong to Lord Beverley, the Earl Brooke's heir. The second floor to the left going down to part of the first floor are the rooms of Lord and Lady Brooke who traditionally keep separate bedchambers. Lord Brooke's rooms go down to his study and an anteroom on the first floor. Facing the garden between those apartments on the second floor is a garden room which is popular for a morning meal or tea. The rear of the first floor is dedicated to entertaining space with a large hall/dining room, library, and a gallery. Guest rooms are found on both floors but most specifically on the second floor facing the front of the property.


When arriving in front, there are always blue liveried servants with badges of the Earl's arms on their coats to greet you and attend to your needs.


Beverley could not remember being this nervous since Brooke had brought him to Cumberland to begin his position as a (very cowed) youth. His stomach was churning. He had barely eaten anything that day and had tried to keep his mind off the daunting task ahead of him, but he had to confront all of his thoughts and feelings now as he pulled up his horse Fleet in front of his (former?) home at court.


He had gone over and over in his mind what he might say when he arrived. Would they even open the door for him? Surely they would not leave him in the cold?


Taking a deep breath three times once he had dismounted, he walked up to the door with only the sound of Dudley's footsteps crunching behind him as company. He set his jaw and tried to ignore the slightly metallic taste in his mouth.


When he reached the door, he told the liveried servant, "If my lord father is in, ask him if he will see me." Unlike his usual custom, he was wearing his uniform that day due to not having the breadth of wardrobe that he might have otherwise commanded; his clothing, or most of it, still lay within the house where he currently found himself.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The servant bowed and nodded and disappeared into the house. The minutes ticked by slowly as Beverley stood outside. Five, ten, twelve. Finally the man returned. “He is in his study waiting for you.”


Beverley would find his father standing in front of the fireplace, a glass in one hand. Brooke did not turn around when he entered. “Good evening, Beverley,” he said, his voice polite but otherwise emotionless. It would be impossible to tell what kind of mood he was in.

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Beverley shivered in the wind and looked at Dudley in an odd sort of manner that was sullen, concerned, and disapproving all in one. As if it was somehow Dudley's responsibility that he was going to freeze to death; he hardly meant it that way, something the man would likely know. The rest of the look was because he was sad to be left outside and worried that it signaled the worst. His lower lip stuck out some. He blinked frequently.


If I catch my death it shall serve Papa right, he thought, hissing out a cold breath. His gloves were not typical winter gloves as it had not been winter when he left, so he looked somewhat like a bat, trying to pull the cloak over him and hide his hands inside.


"Perhaps I truly am unwanted...Perhaps a letter---," he had started to say to Dudley, before the door opened.


Finally! His teeth were almost chattering. Now that the door was open, he rediscovered some of his entitled hauteur.


Instead of relinquishing his cloak, he shot a disapproving look at the familiar doorman and said, "I will keep it, as I am freezing half to death." Without taking that off, he couldn't take off his swordbelt either. "You could have left me inside the door. If I die, this all dies," he added, scathingly. He might be something of a puppy in many ways to those who outranked him, but he had still be raised to be a future earl, and he could be very petulant in it.


That haughty sense seemed to die the more his feet brought him toward his father's study. Again, he began increasingly nervous, causing his stomach to gurgle loudly as it churned.


His father didn't turn when he entered and that cast Beverley's eyes down, dejectedly for a moment. Though perhaps it was easier to not have to look at his father's disappointment just yet, or anger.


"Good evening, my lord," he replied, still holding his cloak close. He did not yet bow, saving that for when his father would turn. He chewed his lips for but a moment and said quietly, "I am...pleased...you will see me, my lord, but do you truly wish to not look at me? Truly tell your servants to leave me outside in the cold if I were to come?"


He sighed. He had no planned for that to be what came out of his mouth, but with his father right there, he simply felt bathed in the hurt that had been stewing for months. Like he had cried to his Mama, it had just come out.


"I seek to repair things, to be an obedient son and heir to you, my lord. N-not because the situation is that I must but because I wish to and because it is right." His eyebrows raised hopefully over puppy-like hazel eyes.

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“Do not presume to tell me what I should wish to do.” It had not been Brooke's fault that Beverley had been left to stand outside. He had been … indisposed … and his servants knew not to disturb him when he was answering nature's call. The man who had gone the door would be taken to task for not letting his master's son wait in the foyer. In all likelihood, he would be dismissed. Beverley had always been prone to illness, and no matter how he had displeased him, Brooke did not want him to catch his death of cold.


As for keeping his back turned, there were two reasons why he did not look at his son. It would be more difficult the keep his stern demeanor if he saw Beverley's face. Despite his disappointment in his only son, Brooke loved him and had missed him since they had become estranged. The second reason was that he didn't wish to see a spoiled child instead of the man he hoped that Beverley had become.


His words sounded more mature than he had expected. Perhaps the boy had learned something, after all. Brooke took a sip of his brandy before answering. “And how do you propose to do that?”


There was a bottle and a glass on a table if Beverley wanted to pour himself a drink.

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"I would not presume to, erm, tell, my lord. Perhaps I presumed even to ask," Beverley replied, letting out a sigh from his nose. This did not begin well. He truly did wish to know if his father had intended him to be frozen. He did not wish to feel it was so if it was not so. It made him go cold in a bit of a different way. He sniffled and not because of tears but because his nose was runny.


"I thought we could talk...as gentlemen," he said and licked his lips again before he added, "but if you do not wish to even see me..." His voice was somewhat quiet and pained. "I cannot believe you do not wish to see me at all, Papa, but would invite me in any way."


As for the bottle, he would not touch it without his father's permission and surely not while Brooke's back was turned. Instead, he plowed on, hoping that something he might say would produce the result of his father at least looking at him.


"I have...resigned...myself that my dowry will only come to me with the estate," which was to say that it would only be his when he was the Earl of Brooke. "Your lordship had in-indicated that you might consider some changes when I had proven capable of, erm, handling them or after I had provided you with a little Ulcombe. I have, erm, secured my own lodgings at Whitehall and have not squandered what little income I have from my position. But I doubt we shall provide an heir if the stress of the situation continues for my lady wife. It would be selfish given that to stay away because of pride, and it would be selfish because it will hurt the family name and the future of the estate if I do not have your support."


Because he would look less competent and trustworthy if he was estranged from a very well-placed and well-respected father. Because he would not have the coin to continue to live in a way that befit their rank. Because he would not be able to make friends and allies without the coin to do so. There were dozens of reasons why.


Beverley might be very daft about many things, but he knew strategy and he knew how court operated. It never behooved a son to separate from his father unless said father was a wastrel of some type. He did not wish their family name dragged through the latest gossip.

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Brooke heard Beverly sniffle. He didn't want to think of his son becoming ill, but he would rather that his nose was running than that he was sobbing like a child because his father wouldn't look at him. It was yet another reason to keep his back turned.


He nodded when Beverley suggested that they discuss his situation as gentlemen. Brooke knew why Beverley had come. His wife had spoken to him and promised that he was finally growing up and ready to accept more responsibilities. He knew that Margaret longed for her family to be reconciled, and while he shared her sentiments, he was not yet convinced that Beverley wouldn't return to his old ways if he was accepted back into the family with open arms.


During their estrangement, Brooke had fought with his own feelings about his son and his failings. He deeply regretted their falling-out and often considered the possibility that he had pushed Beverly too hard. But it was imperative that when he was gone, the good name of the family continued and their fortunes and respectability remained intact.


He sipped his brandy as Beverley continued speaking. It seemed as if he had thought things through, at least. Brooke had been so infuriated when he had moved out that he had tossed a chair against a wall and broke it, a rare occurrence for a gentlemen who prided himself on keeping his emotions in check. Now he wondered if living in a small set of rooms and existing on his salary alone was actually good for him. If he knew what it was like to struggle financially while caring not only for himself but for his wife, he would appreciate his privileges more.


For a few moments after Beverley had finished speaking, Brooke remained staring into the fire. Then, slowly, he turned around to face his son, hoping to see that man he wanted him to be. His expression was neutral and impossible to read, but there was no hardness in his eyes. He crossed the room to the chair behind his desk and waved to the one in front of it. “Pour yourself a drink, son, and sit down.”


Again, he took a swig of brandy. “I understand that things have been difficult for you, but some nobles have it far worse and still produce heir after heir. You are responsible for your lady wife's welfare and contentment. Your troubles are of your own making, Beverly. I didn't throw you out, you know. You left of your own volition.”

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The warmth of the room did make the viscount defrost some on the outside, but on the inside he still felt rather chilly as he watched his father do nothing but stare at the fire.


He stood there still too, aside from one hand fiddling under the fold of his cloak.


When his father turned around, he raised his eyebrows hopefully. He could not read his father's expression, but he did not seem immediately ready to throw something at Beverley's face. That was, perhaps, better than what the viscount had feared.


The request to sit had him exhale softly a breath he had not realized he was holding. He felt a bit more thankful for the sudden air. He sniffled again and nodded.


As his father moved to sit, Beverley took off his cloak (finally) and put it near the fire. It was a good excuse for him to stand there close to the hearth and warm himself for a moment as he took his sweet time taking off his swordbelt as well. He blotted at his nose with a handkerchief before he walked over to the chair and poured himself a drink before sitting down.


"You had made it very difficult for anyone who felt himself a man to s-stay, my lord..." he replied quietly. "But I wish I had not left so hastily and after such words. They were not deserved." He looked down for a moment and took a sip of the brandy.


As to being responsible for his wife, he blinked and considered what words to use. "It is in my own desire to reduce her stress that I come to repair things as much for her as for me." He had already said that he would not be selfish by staying away if it put his wife in bad humors. She certainly was not being taken care of in a matter that she was used to, and he feared that it was going to shame them all if things were not mended before gossips could get wind.


"It is not fair or logical, though, my lord, that you censure me that she is my responsibility when you have taken for yourself the responsibility of us, by your own decree. I do not see how both those conditions could be true. Either I have an income of some sort by the marriage with which to take care and bear responsibility for her as my wife, or I do not. You have chosen that I have no such thing, that you have it instead. In that arrangement, we have a, erm, joint responsibility."


In Beverley's mind it was nonsense to say he had responsibility for his wife but withhold the means and trappings of being responsible for her.


He licked his lips, "I am here because I, erm, recognize my part in her care, even if I must make sacrifices for it." He did not wish her to feel punished because he and his father had argued over their living.

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Brooke would never admit how pleased he was to finally look upon his son's beloved face after so many months apart. There was no new air of maturity about Beverley, but he wasn't pouting like a child either, which was perhaps a good sign. He seemed genuinely sorry for the argument that had caused the rift between them. In Brooke's mind, Beverley had been in the wrong. He had only been trying to protect his son, whom he still didn't believe was ready for the responsibility of running an estate.


He was going to have to prove himself. His humble attitude and apology was a promising start.


Brooke let Beverley speak without interrupting. His gaze did not leave his son's face, and he set his brandy on the desk and leaned back in his chair. The boy did seem sincere and if not eager to make amends, at least resigned to it. Brooke's hackles rose when Beverley spoke of making sacrifices, but he was determined not to lose his temper. The only sign of his annoyance was a flash of irritation in his eyes that was so brief that it was barely noticeable at all.


Knowing his father so well, though, Beverley might have seen it.


“Life isn't easy, son, and running from your problems only makes it worse. I bear responsibility for both you and your wife only so long as you live under my roof. A gentleman must live with his own decisions and by moving out, you had to accept the consequences. You are welcome to return to this house and I assure you your wife will have everything she needs.”

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"I was not running from my problems, my lord. I was acting on my problems which is a wholly different sentiment. I said things I regret and behaved in a disrespectful manner, and I will own that and ask your forgiveness for it properly if you will let me, but I do not regret my protest of your treatment of me as a gentleman, erm, as your only son and heir, your adult son and heir." He looked down. It still hurt. It had wounded him deeply that his father had misled him and robbed him, telling him only afterward. Then Brooke had told Beverley that he would not even get the semblance of any sort of autonomy in the least, no household, no coin of his own, no responsibility (but to have an heir and pretend his authority was his wife's ultimate authority when he held none of his own authority at all). He was twenty-three years old.


Holding his drink, he sighed and ventured softly, "You treated me meanly, as a possession, by method of the same, erm, lying by omission that you censure me so often about. You told me after the fact what you had known all along. I deserved to know that I would get nothing from my marriage but a mate with which to give the estate an heir. I am not a stud horse, Papa, I have feelings. I thought we were closer, that my thoughts mattered to you…my thoughts mattered in who I wished to marry..." Why not at all in how they lived their life or in what they should have or spend? Who he married was a very important judgement, after all, perhaps the most important of his life, and Brooke has asked him his thoughts for that! Why not on this other very important judgement. “And you told me so abruptly and coldly that I felt things I did not know I could feel and thus said words I did not think I would ever say to you.”


As to his father not having been the one to kick him out and that he could come back home whenever he wished and have his wife provided for, he sighed.


"I do wish to learn from you and come home, Papa, and I do not object to your oversight, but surely we can discuss what is best like father and son rather than as if I am not even of age and still that seventeen-year-old boy you were so angry with? I shan’t come home as that boy. As you say, my lord, I must learn to live by my decisions and wish to do so, but then I need the ability to make more of them on my own whilst you are still here to advise and aid me, rather than doing it for me."

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His son was so young and still naïve in many ways. In thirty years, he would look back on this day and see what Brooke saw: that he had acted on his problems by running from them. If Beverley had accepted his decision without question, they would not be having this conversation. But the young never understood that their parents knew what was best for them.


Brooke didn't want to argue with him. He didn't want this attempt at reconciliation to end with conflict. Beverley had asked to be forgiven for his disrespect. It was another step in the right direction. Brooke did forgive him, but he didn't want to get the boy's hopes up by telling him so. Not yet. Not until he had heard the rest of what his son wished to tell him.


And so he listened to the accusations that he had treated Beverley poorly, that he expected more out of his marriage than he had been given. Had he truly expected his father to hand the dowry over to him so that he could gamble it all away? What would his wife and his in-laws think of him then? Everything Brooke had done had been for Beverley's own good.


He wasn't going to defend himself. It wasn't his way. “Your thoughts do matter to me, but your behavior the last time we spoke showed me that you aren't ready to manage your own household, much less an entire estate. What are you going to do when one of your tenants displeases you? Stomp your foot and flounce away in a huff?


“You must prove your worthiness, son. I know you are no longer a boy, but you still have a lot to learn. You say you want to make your own decisions, but look what the first one you made has cost you. Your wife is unhappy and you can barely make ends meet while living in the palace. I am willing to help you and teach you what you need to know to take over my position when the time comes. But if you want to be treated like a man, you must act like one. A true gentlemen does not hurl accusations and threats at his father.


“I will overlook your impertinence and trust that it will not happen again. The past cannot change, but we can put it behind us and start anew. I am willing to do this, Beverley, but are you?”

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Beverley stared across the desk at his father, his lips slightly parted. His mind was a rustling of tactics in a harsh wind. Disorganized but desirous. Desirous of some way to make his father understand.


His drink was long forgotten. His eyebrows knit. If ever there was a look of entreating frustration on his countenance, it was outdone by this instance.


"You are not my tenant or my underling or even a master of some craft. You are my father. You know all there is to know of me. You have heard every confession I have ever made. I need not hide behind a mask of nobility to you, Papa. That does not mean that I cannot act as befits me everywhere in public life. Do you think I stomp and flounce in my duties when I am frustrated? I do not." He would never have been able to keep his position much less get his own promotion if that were the case.


His father was stuck in a land of underestimating him, and Beverley had been in a place where he overestimated himself.


"Start anew in the same fashion as before I was married or start anew entirely?" he asked, quietly. He was unsure if that was a subtle suggestion that he would need to make a confession and that it would be best to start with that. For the time, he took it as it was on the surface. "I do wish to talk about the particulars of how things will be settled in a way we did not before because I behaved poorly." Brooke had spoiled him and while he might still display those traits to his father, he did not display them elsewhere. He was, however, willing to play the part of the one in the wrong. "And I shall try my best for it to never happen again. It is not my intention to disappoint you, ever."


Beverley was not spiteful. He was too coddled and well-loved for that. It was not in his nature, at least with his family.

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Why did he have to use that word?


It brought back memories of the little boy who Beverly used to be, an affectionate child who would climb into his father's lap when he was doing paperwork, and sometimes crawled into his bed at night. Brooke recalled the way he used to reach into his pockets when he came home, knowing that there would be a gift in one of them for him, that adorable smile, the feel of his arms wrapped around his neck and the sloppy kisses on his cheek. He had been sweet, but he had also been spoiled and overindulged, which was no one's fault but Brooke's own.


Having waited so long for a son and heir, he couldn't help coddling Beverley and giving him everything he asked for. His son had learned how to take but not how to give and his poor behavior at university was a reflection of how he had been raised. That one simple word reminded Brooke of all the joys and heartaches of the past, but he couldn't ask Beverley not to use it.


Because as much as he hated to admit it, he liked being called 'Papa.'


“A mask of nobility? Is that what you think it is? A lord should not act noble; he should be noble, particularly to those he cares about the most. I know you don't act like a spoiled child with Cumberland. You aren't stupid. You know that if you do not give your best that he will replace you. I cannot replace you as my heir. All I have will one day be yours. You need to give your best to me too. That is all I ask of you, Beverley.”


Brooke knocked back a long gulp of brandy. His son was trying his patience, but he didn't want this meeting to end badly. Beverley admitted once again that he had behaved poorly. Perhaps he really had learned something from the past few months.


“How we start over is up to you. I would like to hear your ideas on how you would like your affairs to be handled. Let's discuss this man to man.”

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Beverley could not help but look down at his father's words. That had not been his meaning, but he wondered at his father reading that meaning into his words.


He did not look up when he said, "It sounds that you wish to anticipate 95% of my behaviour based upon less than 5% of my actions. Do you think I lack nobility that you say that, my lord? I did not mean nobility is an act. I meant the, erm, aloof mask of court that the nobility presents so well. Do you wish me to act that way to you, to hide things in favor of propriety? Do you wish me to treat you the same way as my master, the Prince, even in our own house?"


The viscount was not entirely sure what his father was getting at, for he thought he acted quite finely for a nobleman. And, he was already very formal with his father and would not dare even raise his voice at his father in the public sphere.


"And I do give you my best, Papa. Not even our Heavenly master expects perfection," he said, in a tone that was nearly a complaint, that his father would ask more than God.


As to discussion what Beverley's thoughts were on his coin and living, he took a deep breath.


"I merely wish to exercise more personal control over my affairs, not remove you from them, my lord. I would at least hope you would see the wisdom in, erm, giving me a portion of the yearly income from Pauntley Court to manage at will so that I needn't seek your permission for everyday things. You need to expend coin to exercise your position at court, but I have a position as well and have need to do the same now that I have become more important to my master.


"You wish me to be a certain man and a noble man, but I cannot do as you ask whilst you hold my hand, Papa. I will obey you, and I shan't keep secrets for you, I do not ask for that to change. You are a very fine example, and I simply wish the freedom to show you that I can follow that example. I wish to administer Pauntley with your oversight and perhaps Beverley too. You have much to manage already, Papa, between your houses and estates, Mama's, and now Little Lord Big Breeches*. I wish to lighten your load like any good son and it will all still be within your control."


He said nothing about having a household of his own or living separately. After all, he had achieved a modicum of that by gaining rooms in the palace. He now didn't have to come home and that gave him more social freedom that he had gotten on his own. How his father responded to his request for some form of allowance from the income the estate his marriage would bring them would determine whether he asked for his own servants.


(*His sister Annie's son is a wee baron, and he and his two younger brothers are under Brooke's guardianship, so Brooke administers all that estate too.)

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He didn't understand. He never did.


Brooke sighed. “You lacked nobility when you misbehaved at university. You lacked nobility when you refused to see reason and moved out of your family home. You lack nobility when you question everything I say now. I'm sure you act the way most courtiers do at court, which is far from exemplary. I expect more of you than that.


“But yes, I do prefer formality when we discuss business and the future. I wish you to treat me with the same respect and honor that you give to Cumberland. I don't deserve less just because I'm your father. Later, when all this is settled, we can return to informality.


“God may not expect perfection, but he does expect a son to honor and respect his father. If what you have given me lately has been your best, I would hate to see your worst. Think of this time we have together as a time to redeem yourself in my eyes. Let us speak of this no more.”


He listened silently, his eyes never leaving his son's face. Of course, the first thing Beverley would mention was income. At least he seemed to be willing to work for it and didn't expect an allowance to be handed to him on a silver platter. Brooke did not need help managing the family's estates. He had everything under control. But he did want Beverley to learn the ropes and he dared hope that …


His face darkened at the way his son spoke of his nephew. “Using derogatory nicknames for your nephew is both childish and rude,” he snapped. “Is this what you call noble? He has a name. Use it. He also has feelings. Respect them.”


He said nothing else for a few long moments as he took several more sips of wine.


“If you move back into this house,” he said finally, “I will let you help me manage Pauntley Court. You will perform every task I set for you and you will not complain. You must learn how to administer an estate from the ground up, not from the top. We will discuss everything together and I will always take your ideas into consideration.


“I will give you a small allowance beginning on the day you start to assist me. At the end of the first week, you will get another allowance. This one will be for a month and the amount will be based on the time and effort you have put into helping me run Pauntley. If you are diligent, you will receive more. If you are neglectful, you will receive less.


“I will not make you account for everything you spend your allowance on, but when it's gone, it's gone. You will get nothing else until the following month. At the end of the second month, we will discuss new terms and if you have done well, you will be given more responsibility and a larger allowance. Does this arrangement meet with your approval?”

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"It is not less," Beverley replied, quietly. "It is honesty and love, trust." His father had always strove to have Beverley understand to be honest with him, but when it came down to it his father only wanted honesty sometimes. And he wanted obedience. It was sometimes difficult to rectify the two. "Is this because I left, because I disagreed, that you wish to hold me at arm's length?"


Be damned the part about not talking of it anymore. You could not both wish to talk as men and expect to rule the conversation with an iron fist! If one thing had evolved, it was that Beverley was not quite so willing to be spoken to like a child expected to blindly obey. Perhaps that was the manhood Brooke had so hoped for but he was not quite so willing to entertain it as he had thought to be.


"I do not know what evidence you wish, my lord. Was I ignoble when I managed the affair of the Dover party staying at our family seat? Was I so when I gained my own promotion? When I impressed Lord Worcester at dinner or Lady Worcester at Brighton? You speak so often of my bad behaviour, father, no matter what else I do that it is very disheartening. I do give you my best. To say it is not good enough and to poke at the notion is to say I am not good enough. I am not as good a man as you, but that does not mean I do not try to please you and impress you." HIs voice crackled some at the end. "Do you love me so little and think so meanly of me that you tell me you think me not noble after all I have worked for and done?"


This was all quite upsetting. He had hoped his mother might have had better luck in convincing his father that he was more deserving than Brooke had thought, instead he was getting scolded like a five year old for calling his child nephew a moniker he had very well earned. So much for talking as men. His father had never complained of that before, although perhaps he had never used it aloud.


"My lord, I wish nothing but to make you happy and to agree with your wishes, but you know I cannot fully move back into this house after my master has gone through such lengths as getting me a room by his so that I might be more close at hand for my duties. I can hardly be so ungrateful and such a thing is a great honor to us. Nor is it any different than when I go with him to Windsor when he resides there."

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Brooke was perhaps being a bit unfair, but there was a method to his madness. He needed to keep his distance emotionally so that their discussion would not escalate into yet another argument. So many nights he had lain awake, pondering their last meeting and considering how he could have prevented its unfortunate outcome. There were many things he wished he had not said and others he wished he could have done differently. He had been harsher than he should have been, even if Beverly had pushed him to it. This discussion would not end the same way. He wanted to banish those regrets that interrupted his sleep, not add to them.


He had already told his son he wished to conduct their business formally. Beverley was offered no r further explanation. There were some things he needed to accept without question.


Brooke turned his head to stare into the fire again as Beverly continued to speak. Yes, he was proud of his son's accomplishments, but once again, the boy didn't know when to let go. He seemed itching for another argument, one that his father refused to participate in. Let him think upon his own words. Let his mind turn them over and over in the dark of night and draw his own conclusions. Perhaps they would speak of such things later, but when Brooke said a subject was closed, the subject was closed.


Only when his son fell silent did Brooke turn his gaze back to him. Beverley didn't seem against his offer, but he was adamant about not moving back into the house. If the Prince really did need his son close to him, there was not much he could do about it.


He leaned forward, his eyes boring into Beverley's. “And was it your idea or his that you should move into the palace?” Brooke wouldn't be a bit surprised if his son had suggested it himself.

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Beverley nearly pouted as his father pointedly ignored him. His lips did part some as the action stung. A moment after he set his jaw some, trying to recover from being ignored.


Then his papa stung him again. Beverley blinked and then he blinked again. He was so shocked, his lips moved to make words but none came out right away.


"How can you ask me such a question, my lord!" he finally asked. "It is not my place to ask my master such a thing. That you ask me if I would do so! I would not." He said it all quite vehemently, very insulted by the insinuation. "Rooms at the palace are a premium I would not think myself worthy of that I would even think to ask such in my wildest dreams. His Highness wished it and saw to it."


He fought the desire to cross his arms over his chest. He succeeded there but there might have been a bit of a huff.


"I do not have to reside there wholly as here is also close, but I must be free to do so as is necessary. There have been many things that have happened that we have not spoken of, my lord. Opportunities, honest ones, which have presented themselves to my lady wife and I. Things must change, but I do still need my father." He had, after all, somewhat promised his mother to appeal to the fact that he still needed his father's guidance. He was, actually, quite aware that he did.

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At least Beverley caught himself before he pouted. Brooke found that particular expression off-putting. Grown men didn't pout. Maybe his mother. his wife, and his mistress found it cute, but his father thought it distasteful. He wanted his son to grow up and put aside his childish ways.


Beverley was so shocked by his question that Brooke had no reason to doubt the boy's words. If the idea had been his, he would have been angry, but he would have silently applauded his son's initiative in the back of his mind. Beverley went on to say that he could reside in both places without any trouble. It pleased Brooke that he was willing to compromise. No matter how harsh he seemed now, he wanted to see Beverley frequently, whether they were discussing the running of an estate or simply enjoying each other's company.


Brooke smiled, albeit only slightly, for the first time when Beverley mentioned he had been given new opportunities and that he needed his father. “I'm glad to hear it. We will speak of that in a moment. First let us conclude the business with Pauntley Court. Other than moving fully back into this house, do you accept the terms I gave you? And are you sure that you will have the time to devote to both the estate and your duties to Cumberland?”

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Beverley shifted some uncomfortably as his father asked if he accepted the other terms his father offered.


"Overall, I do, my lord," he began. The pull of his brows up at their center illustrated there was yet more on the viscount's mind. "You say I must learn from the ground up, but you have been showing me already for some time. I have gone through the books with you, I have written whilst you dictated. I simply wish not to start quite on the ground."


As to his father's comments on his duties he let out a sigh from his nose. "You handle much more. Should I not be capable of the same?" He shook his head, "If you were not here tomorrow, Papa, God forbid, I would need to do so and much more. Those two things are a nobleman's only occupation."

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Questions. Always questions.


When had sons stopped obeying their fathers without question? If Brooke had spoken to his father they way Beverley spoke to him, he would have been caned. And occasionally he had been. But times had changed and the Earl prided himself on being able to change with them. Unlike most men his age, he was not set in his ways and usually open to new ideas.


“You have helped me with the books and letters, but you have no practical experience. That is what I mean by working yourself up. You will be given tasks that you must perform without my supervision and your responsibilities will increase a little at a time until you are running the estate on your own. You might think you are capable of full control now, but there is still a lot for you to learn. Patience, as you will discover in time, is a virtue.


“And so is freedom. The more of my duties you take over, the less free time you will have.”


Brooke said nothing about his eventual demise. He was healthier than most men half his age, and he kept himself in shape by enjoying many diverse outdoor activities. He expected to live to see his grandchildren grow up and bounce his great-grandchildren on his knee.

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Beverley had surely experienced getting a thump on the head or a backhand if he was disrespectful, and it had never been his particular inclination to be so. If they were going to talk man to man as his father had agreed, though, Beverley was less apt to concern over phrasing his worries and negotiating for his best outcome. Such was business, a negotiation, was it not?


So whilst his father might be thinking about his mouth perhaps meriting the application of a birch, Beverley was blissfully unaware. There was no place for birches in man-to-man discussions or business arrangements, surely.


"I simply wish to be prepared, Papa, not impatient. And to prove myself to you." That was probably only partially true. He did wish to be prepared, for it was common enough to young and healthy people to take sudden illnesses, but he was also impatient. Not impatient for his father to die, because he would rather a father than an earldom to himself, but impatient to be seen as an adult, as an ally, as his own branch of the family, not as a boy. "And I shall agree to that situation very easily."


If he could do some things on his own so that he might know what he knew and yet needed to learn, that would be most logical. Beverley's mind was quite strategic.


"I am not concerned about my free time, my lord..." Beverley had not liked learning useless things from boring people, but he had never had an issue with more actionable things. "I am not so selfish. There are goals to my time, Papa. I do not bandy about looking for diversions all the time."


He did sometimes. He liked fun. He also knew what responsibility was and what things were more important than oneself. He could be an idiot, and sometimes he lied to his father, but he did wish to do their family well.

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Brooke knew that Beverley was impatient. All young people were. He had been the same, but he believed he had shown that he was responsible at a younger age than his son was now. He had certainly not thrown a fortune away on gambling and had given his father no reason to distrust him. That was what he remembered, anyway. The mind was a funny thing. The more time that passed, the more one's memory sifted out the bad in favor of the good.


“Very well. We have agreed on the matter of estate management. You will help me run Pauntley Court from now on. You will receive a small allowance on the day you begin to assist me and another in a week, based on the time and effort you put into it.” Since Beverley had not agreed to move back into his house, the amount would not be as much as he had first planned on.


“That's good to hear. I want you to make one more promise before we move on to those opportunities you spoke of.” He leaned over his desk. “You will continue to avoid gambling. Not all gentlemen gamble. Some avoid it on principle or because it goes against their religious beliefs. I would like you to become one of them. The longer you stay away from the tables, the easier it will be.”

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"Thank you, Papa." He was far more hard-wired to show his love for his father in private than the most strict of formality, so he had long forgotten that his father had wished to be treated like Cumberland.


Beverley's eyebrows furrowed with concern when his father leaned forward. He knew more seriousness was about to abound.


Perhaps it was a testament to how much he wished to come home or how much he missed his family, but Beverley did not feel much desire to argue over gambling. He and his father would never agree on the matter.


His hazel eyes dipped down for a moment and then his chin followed.


"I will continue to stay away from the card tables, my lord," he agreed quietly. He felt as if his first bits of freedom were couched in far too much chastisement. In his mind, he had been a very good son for six years or so. "I have done my best to stay away since Oxford." He had not been wholly innocent, but not had he been foolish since the Great Beating when he was seventeen. "I always try to be an obedient son to you."


He swallowed some emotion down. It just seemed his father felt so little regard for his own son's capabilities, but such was always the plight between fathers and sons of their station. Beverley would probably learn it once he had an heir of his own, or the seven sons just like him his father had 'cursed' him to have in his thoughts.

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Brooke was satisfied with Beverley's behavior. This was the closest they had ever come to having a mature discussion. Although the Earl didn't realize it, he tended to believe that his son conducted himself well only when he was agreeing to do as he was told. Control was very important to a man like Brooke, and he had no intention of losing it where Beverley was concerned.


He sat back in his chair and picked up his brandy glass, smiling again when Beverly promised to stay away from the card tables. “I'm glad you have seen the error of your ways. Now that we have settled that, tell me about the opportunities that you said have come your way.”

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Beverley had seen the error of what he had done at Oxford, and even then it had hardly been as conniving as Brooke might have thought, but he did not see the error of occasional gambling at all. He was simply tired of arguing that with his father. It was easier just to try to stay away from the card tables.


"I confess they are more opportunities for all of us than for just me, my lord, and for the family's future," Beverley started. He knew to spread around, liberally, a lack of selfishness when dealing with his father.


"The Prince has indicated to me that the Queen might be predisposed to taking Mary as one of her ladies. Mary, being at Windsor with me whilst I was serving Cumberland, had occasion to cross paths with Her Majesty, who was there for her relaxation and condition. It seems there was the beginning of a liking there or however it is that women are with each other." Beverley was rather clueless about ladies and their thinking. It might have been as simple to say that they got along.


"His Highness wished Mary to borrow some jewels..." Unsaid that it had been offered because Beverley had none. "...but for all of this to come to fruition more that my master's support will be needed." And Beverley then piled on the buttering up, something he was infinitely talented at doing with his father. "Such things are far more suited to the planning of a family patriarch than an heir, and I need your guidance." He liked his lips, "For example, your lordship and the marquess are both Privy Councilors, perhaps you can drop hints for support to His Majesty?"


Beverley was of the thought that the King had no idea about Viscount Beverley, and Beverley was anxious over any interaction with the King so that was (mostly) fine with him. However, he knew the King obviously knew his father.


Not to mention that without his father, Beverley had no coin for Mary's gowns either, much less any other accoutrements. A little expenditure was sometimes necessary to gain positions which gave the family influence and security. If Mary served the Queen, someone in their family would be in the service of every royal but York.


"What other things might we do, Papa? What is needed for such a task," he asked, leaving off on a deferential note.

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It would definitely be advantageous if his daughter-in-law became a lady-in-waiting to the Queen. Brooke thought that if His Highness was pushing for it, then it was only a matter of time before she was chosen. He assumed that the jewels the Prince had loaned Mary were family heirlooms that would insure she was noticed by his niece. It didn't occur to him that any lady wouldn't have jewelry of her own. Surely she had brought some with her when she was married. Or, if she had left most of her possessions with her parents, she could easily retrieve them.


As for what he knew of the Queen, she valued simplicity and modesty. A pious demeanor would impress her more than jewels or fancy gowns. Ostentatious finery might hurt Mary's chances rather than help them. Such was the opinion of a man who didn't concern himself much with the affairs of women.


“It would be an honor to us if the Queen chooses her to attend her, I will do what I can.” Brooke knew many people who could be of assistance in such an endeavor, though it would take cleverness and time. “As for what else we can do, your lady mother and mother-in-law should be able to give her some advice on how to win Her Majesty's favor. They would know about those things better than you or I.”

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One could be proper, demure, and generous whilst representing one's expected rank at court with noblesse and largesse in Beverley's opinion, though he was no great master of women either. It was also based upon his master's words on jewelry boxes. If his own niece would not like that, it would not have been pressed. Thus, Beverley thought it just as important as it was in other royal households; after all, you represented the power and plenty of who you served.


His father's tame response was somewhat disheartening, and his face fell some. How can he act so very nonchalantly? He frowned. Are there no congratulations for gaining such interest?


"It would be," he replied of the honor. When his father said he would do what he could, Beverley simply added, "Thank you." He fiddled with his cup some, a sure sign that he wished to say something which he did not.


He licked his lips, and he almost said it. Instead, he said, "Do you recall that Her Majesty wished donations for a charity? Perhaps...perhaps you can have Mary make one? Your Lordship always stresses the importance of charity and generosity, and it is a fitting time of year. You could take it out of what you would give me, Papa."

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Brooke saw his son's face fall at his response. He had said that it would be an honor to have his daughter-in-law serve the Queen. In his opinion, any congratulations should go to Mary after she had obtained the position. He also hoped that serving the Queen would not prevent her from producing heirs. That was her most important task as Beverley's wife.


He nodded when Beverley thanked him, knocking back the rest of his brandy. Standing up, he rounded the table and poured himself another drink. “I've already donated six hundred pounds to Her Majesty's charities in our family's name,” he divulged. He had known that she had asked for five hundred and felt that he should best the other lords by offering more. “Another contribution might seem like bribery.”


Brooke returned to his chair. “But I'll leave that decision up to you. If you think it will help her chances, then you can use what I give you, or save it up if you'd like to make a larger donation. I will not give you anything in advance.” If he did, Beverley might shirk his responsibilities if there was no more money forthcoming immediately. His son had not yet proved himself to Brooke, but if he was diligent and dedicated when it came to helping him run the estate, he might be willing to grant such a request at a later time.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Beverley blinked as his father put back the rest of the brandy and then got up. Beverley got up too. It was not proper for him to sit if his father stood. He was expecting that he was being somehow dismissed, though he had no idea what he might have said, because his mind did not really fathom his father thinking to pour himself a drink with his son, or any subordinate, in the room.


When it became clear what his father was doing, he blurted out, "Papa, you know that I will do that!" Then his eyebrows went up some as if he was surprised by his own outburst. He then said quietly, "You have forgotten me, my lord, if you forget that I will serve you..." Then he blinked and a fear came tumbling out, "Or is such action a commentary that you do not need me? Are you punishing me by this coldness?"

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Brooke had no intention of dismissing Beverley. When he left, it would be of his own free will. The Earl didn't have any plans for the evening. If his son wanted to spend the rest of it with him, he would be pleased. Pouring himself another drink, showed how comfortable he was with Beverley now. Things had gone well and he thought the time for formality was over.


He hadn't really expected Beverley to stand when he did, but he appreciated the sign of respect. It wasn't necessary while the two of them were alone together. By the boy's words, Brooke realized that he was confused about how he was being treated. Perhaps trying to speak to him as if he was a business associate instead of a treasured son had not been a wise idea, but Brooke had needed to distance himself until he was certain that this meeting would not turn out like the last one. He had been determined not to lose his temper no matter how angry he became and the only way he knew how to do that was to hold himself aloof. However, Beverley's behavior had impressed him and now he felt that he could let down his guard.


“There is no room for affection in man to man discussions.” Brooke's smile was genuine. “But we have covered the most important matters and can now speak as father and son. I'm glad you came to see me, Beverley. You are no longer the boy who stormed out of the house a few months ago and I commend you for that. You have matured and I believe that we will be able to work well together for the benefit of our family."

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