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A Family Dinner | 28th evening- Xmas 1677

Ambrose Turnbull

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The House of Lord Cedric Doolittle, Baronet and shipping magnate


Although the area of St. James Square only recently became of interest to the wealthy who migrated westward of the city after the Great Fire, certain individuals have sought to build in a fashion that would make their grand new residences appear old and well-established. The Doolittle residence is one of this kind. Set back from the street, the Romanesque stone mansion boasts a façade of pillars, although it lacks the arched windows of the re-purposed monastic buildings. The small garden in the front of the mansion only hints at the expanse of groomed hedges and topiary to be found behind, but warmly welcomes visitors up to the vast double-doors of the front entry. With a mere 6 rooms on each of its 3 stories, however, this is not among the largest of London's noble residences. Still, it speaks of wealth.





Turnbull's buttons were shining resplendently as he mounted the steps to Doolittles house.


"Do I look resplendent to you?" he'd asked with a laugh to Winston.

"Bloody resplendent sir." the Junior trooper replied, "so resplendent that I feel like puking rainbows."

"Ha! That's just the effect I was hoping for." Ambrose laughed back.


He was in high spirits looking forward to the dinner, a family dinner. Having gotten off his shift early, he'd shaved and donned fresh shirt, applied a modest splash of perfume (lemon and spice) and headed out while it was still light.


He had to collect a gift you see, and had idled along The Strand looking at this thing and that, before finally settling upon some oranges. A vibrant and stimulating colour, he thought, much like Ellen was. Earlier he'd purchased a smaller gift, a pretty handkerchief embroidered with violets, but then he realised that was far too personal and so stowed it deep in his great coat pocket.


Finally, after his afternoon of preparations, he'd arrived at the grand house, pausing to look up at the size of it. The family was plainly very rich, probably one day an astute noble would turn up. A man would marry Ellen for a massive dowry in exchange for a title that was old as generations...


...but tonight He was to be their guest, welcomed into their family home. Tucking his tricorn under arm, he rapped on the door, before stepping back away from it to wait. Ellen would have been very surprised if she had known how much he'd been looking forward to this.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Everything was ready.


Tonight a meal would be served in the Hall - for that was how it was thought of as it retained many of the foundations of earlier times for the style had not been altered nor had the furniture that had been left when the Doolittles purchased it. The great wooden table with its scrolled working was placed at the top end of the room facing the large fireplace at the opposite end where a great portrait hung above. It was of Lady Doolittle painted before her illness when the bloom was on her cheeks and her smile was sweet.


Everything about the room was masculine so Ellen had thought to eat here to better provide some relaxed space for her father and their guest. She had imagined that Gentlemen would be comfortable in such surroundings but yet for her the smaller more intimate room on the west side of the house would have worked better.


She came for one last inspection in much the same fashion as her late Mother had.


Eyes missed nothing and here and there a small adjustment made until she was satisfied. The fire had been lit hours ago and so was by now well into flame and the heat would soon sweep into all parts of the room providing aganist the chill of the outside. Candles placed all about the room added light and that was reflected in the crystal glasses and made the pewter plate shine. White linen napery was ready and utensils too. The table was covered by a cloth and several platters placed about ready to hold foods and other delights.


Her Father's steward had seen to the straining of the wines then poured into decanters and then allowed to rest so that any floating matter would sink to the bottom. Since most wines were sweet and rather heavy there were small dishes that held spices such as cinnamon and ginger, nutmeg and clove ready to be added if they were needed.


Tonight there would be several types on offer - a Claret from Gascony in the south of France, A Renish from Germany and very strong. Also added by her request was beer or rather ale as it is made without hops and it is bit flat in taste. It can be flavored with just about anything and so she had asked for pepper and rosemary.


She turned as she was told of the arrival of her guest and nodded asking that he be shone into the smaller room just before this where she would greet him. Her Father would join she assumed at his convience.


The Lt. would find Ellen dressed in cranberry velvet with balck jet accents. Her hair up set with two hair pins the glittered as she moved. She had delibertly dressed down the more to make him feel at ease. That she liked him was a given and she felt he saw her the same way yet she would not push. Her Father would set the tone for the evening and at some point she knew the conversation would turn to topic bests suited without her presence and she would leave but then again mayhap she would remain.


He was shown in and she walked to meet him her hand outstretched in greeting and a smile gracing her lips.


"Welcome Lt. you have been well?"

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Turner was shown in, relieved of his coat and hat, and taken into a reception room - a different room to before.


He gazed around as he stood there in a formal fashion. The house had a rather masculine feel to it, or was that sober. He drew a calming breath, his enthuse of the dinner having transformed into a last minute spate of nerves. He’d be meeting her father.


And then she was there.


"Mistress Ellen." he crossed the floor towards her, she was dressed up. "You look real nice." he said too plainly, and then flushed, "That colour looks real pretty on you." he bowed, and kissed her hand. She smelt good too.


Thankfully she saved him with a sensible question.


"Yes very well thank you." he gave a smile, and looked at her. What she'd done with her hair looked nice, and looked like she had gone to some trouble. Though probably not, cause it was only him to dinner, not somebody fancy. This was probably just what she wore to dinner every night. Ladies were just so darn nice to look at did they even know.


"Oh, I brought you these." remembering he passed her the bag of oranges. "They remind me of you, bright, bold, and with zing, and also I like them." he gave a chuckle then.

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She watched him as he came to greet taking her hand for a salaute and she in kind offered a small curtsey aware that she was being assessed.


"I am glad to hear it." She smiled back.


"Why this night bods well if begun on such flattering words - I have been called many things but never the three you have said. I hope that your vision of me remains unchanged after further acquaintance Lt!"


She teased but nevertheless accepted his gift looking inside surprised to see it contained oranges. That they must likely cost him a bit she knew and so moved closer to thank him properly.


"Tis a treat indeed and I thank you for it. Winter oranges are oft times hard to find. You must have very good Luck. May I display them or do I keep them close and not share?"


She half turned from him walking towards a round table covered by a white cloth on which rested a silver bowl filled with holly and red berries, three glass candleholders with white beeswax candles and a smaller silver bowl which she began to place the oranges in. Piled together in an artless way it created a nice tableau and looked Festive.


"I shall keep one back and save it for later."


Said over one shoulder as she gave the bowl a final inspection before turning and going back to where he stood. A small orange clearly held in one hand.


"But I am thoughtless. Please. Take any chair that you wish - might I suggest that one there - closer to the hearth and so might offer you comfort."


She herself relaxed into a tall high-backed chair and leaned back into the green cushion as she waited for him to decide.


"My father will join us presently but until then will you tell me of how you have been? Tis only been a few days since last we met but one never knows what can happen. These are strange times with talk of war and other things. And London is full up with this Christmas Court so even the smallest tasks can be an adventure!"

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"Was it the word zing that was too much?" Ambrose asked with a wry smile of her response. Hers had actually been a positive response he thought, like, maybe he was getting better at this. "I cant imagine you loosing your zing mam."


He watched her as she went to set the oranges away, her hips swayed with her movement, but he did not think she was doing it deliberately (like a seductress would). She was just a woman underneath, even if she tried act so tough. The Lieutenant continued to watch her as she then arranged them, and was pleased that she seemed happy, content in a moment even.


"They look nice there. They look like a painting I'd hang on my wall. Or, a wall anyhow." he frowned, wishing that his words did not feel so awkward. It was nerves. He should have had something to drink before he arrived.


"Thank you." but she as directing him to a chair, and he was happy to take it.


"I've been well. Ah, not really any adventures to speak of. But I did buy a horse, picked him up this morning. I named him Arthur. Been years since I rode, and this is the first horse I've owned myself. I thought I might need a horse, for instance if I want to visit somebody." it was his cousin he was thinking to visit. But he left that part out.


"How about yourself Mistress Ellen, how have you fared these past days. Did you and your Father enjoy the dinner at the Red Lion?"

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It pleased her that he was relaxing more for she could see he was still not tense but still unsure of the reception. That she had made too strong of an impression before had occured to her so she was resolved to go slower.


He took the offered chair and then answered her questions.


"A horse? Why how funny. Let me explain - you see at the Red Lion I had a conversation about riding and horses and such - and now you have added to it! And I too made reference to my lack of riding but more so for invitations than lack of a mount."


"Arthur for a horse? Why? There must be a story behind it - is he a Noble Steed perhaps willing to carry you into Battle? Or mayhap because of his color and stance where tis 'Kingly'?"


"I had a horse in the country but she was a gentle thing not like my father's hunter called Devil and rightly so.The Red Lion is as always - populated, warm, and filed with the delicious smells that emerge from the kitchen - I think you would have had a Merry time and I would have liked to introduce you around to help broaden your Horizons."


"You would like refreshment? My Father will provide at table but until then you can ask for anything and I am sure it will be found. The cellers here are well enough stocked with all manner of libations from far off places."

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"It must be this weather." The Lieutenant replied with a puff of humour, "being house bound has us all nostalgic of the outdoors." Just as being London bound has him nostalgic of the vast seas.


"Perhaps you'd like to practise with me in the Mews arena some time." he was quick to suggest as the opportunity presented itself.


"I'd not thought of King Arthur of legend." He felt suddenly foolish that the mental connection has not been made. "I'd just wanted a good sturdy name, a name that was dependable, which is surely what you'd want for a beast you are to sit on. But, now you mention the legend, well, I shall need think of something else. I don’t want people thinking I'm the sort of man to dream of such fanciful guff."


"That is not who I am at all... perhaps Edward instead."


"Unless Edward reminds you of something?" he asked, perhaps there was some other fable with an Edward that did not occur to him immediately. In a quieter aside he added, "I should think you better suited to a horse named Angel."


Ellen was a bit of an angel in his books anyhow.


He gave a close-lipped smile as she considered he'd have enjoyed dinner at the Lion. He thought he would have too. "Yet I count myself fortunate, for being unable to attend the Red Lion, it was then my fortune to attend a dinner here. I cannot recall the last time I ate home cooked fare at a family table. In my view it is the crown jewel of dinners, and at Christmas no less."


"Ah..." he faltered at her offer of a drink, "no I think I shall await the table." he did not want to be half cut when he got to meet her father, even if he wouldn’t mind the edge taken off his nerves. Besides, his nerves were abating, with the good conversation. "Unless you?" unless she desired company in taking a drink for herself?


"So now tell me, was your horse named Devil before he showed a temper? That is, did the naming of him inspire him to live up to his reputation... or was he re-named thusly after his disposition was revealed?"

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He made her an offer - as she had perhaps intended - to ride and she nodded her agreement adding that she


"Would leave the planning of it up to you Lt. for I have not such a schedule as you must."


She had made him uncomfortable yet again


"No that name is well enough! I chose 'Maude' for my own mare withut much thought except for her rather moderate temperament. "Arthur' is indeed a good and sturdy name so I think you shoud leave it. And there is the possibility that He indeed might become a legend by comparrison to others' of his kind."


Her words were matter of fact said and it was hoped that he would detect no hint of her feelings in them.


"So you think I am Angelic then? Despite you knowing of my temper and how it can display itself - well I see that I have much to live up to in your eyes yet I will take that as a complement. But be warned nevertheless that I will no doubt fall from Grace on occasion!"


"I am glad then that you accepted this night. And as for food, well, I know we shall not starve as my Father likes his foods, and I can promise an array of things to tempt even a Sailor's palate. And cook will have laid a hand on things for tis been a while since there had been any to dine - since my sister married Lord Melville and went to her own household and now with a child who grows rapidly we do not see them here."


"My youngest sister will soon be of an age to join in but I fear she will only think of how wonderful Everything is and long for a Life that she had heard of from song or book. She is I fear too much a dreamer and has been indulged yet I will press my father to find a suitable husband for her in a year or two once she has outgrown her ways and has matured."


"I too shall wait for table."


"That beast was Father's and so called from birth. I did however manage to ride him without permission on several occassion and paid the price for such disobedience. I think I was a trial for my nurse and tutor then - eager to test simply because I was told "NO"!"


"And I will then ask the same question of you Lt. Did you dream of the Sea and so followed it or were you pushed towards it?"

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"Then let us say Thursday morning then." he answered swiftly.


"I do not wish for a legendary horse." Ambrose was disquiet of it all still. Not sure why it bothered him so. Perhaps it was just that he did not want a horse with greater achievements than his own. Since he'd been in London, he'd come to feel like a very underwhelming fellow surrounded by remarkables. Now even his old horse was higher ranked than he.


"Any woman who remains my friend deserves that title." he replied, "I am fully aware that requires a heaven load of forgiveness. There is nothing else to say of it." she did not need earn that title in his eyes, for she already had.


She explained of the menu, and guest list too. "So you sister will be joining us also?" previously Ellen had seemed convinced her younger sister would marry before she did, but tonight, well she painted a different story. Ambrose found it curious. It was almost as if she was trying to put him off the younger and more social girl. Ambrose felt flattered of her effort, though possibly he'd gotten it all wrong. Possibly she was just chattering of the first thing that popped into her head.


Then to the tale of the horse. "Ha, we have all heard of the devil tempting Eve, this tale of the devil tempting Ellen is less renowned certainly!" it showed a side of Ellen he'd never have expected. "Might I ask again, to why you refused my suggestions at the ball. This reckless spirt must still be resident within you?"


"Ah, the sea. I always knew I was destined for the Kings service, my father raised me upon tales of the ocean, and the splendor of our ships, the glory of our victories, and discoveries of distant lands. So yes, I dreamed of the sea, though perhaps too I was pushed towards her? A fathers hand can be quite steady, yet I cannot say I have any regrets of it. It has been a fine purpose served." and he stopped on that. She already knew that he felt aimless currently.


"My younger brother Jeffrey was destined for the church, and seems well aligned to it. Unfortunately the same can hardly be said for my elder brother, I mean of his being new lord of the manor. I shall be frank with you Ellen, that his failings are the very reason I an compelled to remain near by. Though to be honest there is scant little I can do - Jeffery writes me weekly of Trent’s progress."

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He set their appointed time and she, allowing him to lead, smiled her reply of it.


"Am I? A Friend I mean? I should like that."


She blushed ever so slightly at his complement and his words warmed her heart even if they were flowery yet she had learned eneough of him by now to see that he was quite decisive when he wanted to be.


"No my sister will not be joining. Perhaps by this time next year she will but that all depends on how she handles herself. My late Mother was much strict in how we girl's were to conduct ourselves - both at Home and in Company - and I fear I have taken up that mantle and so will no doubt be cast in the rolé of hateful Villian!"


She was for a moment reminded of Sophia and that made a small smile play about her mouth in remembrance.


"That is a thing I have already asked. How can I hid what resides inside? Try as I might to pretend otherwise so to answer you yes, that 'reckless spirit' is much present, and of late wanting to come out. But I can not allow myself to be so ... so unrestrained for too many unplesant things might occur. And I have no wish to incur my Father's Anger."


She listened as he spoke of himself and of what was clear his Love for the Sea. But then she noted how he too worried.


"Tis a usual thing or it used to be. The Eldest to inherit, the second third and fourth for the Church, The Law and Military. All well placed positions. I am glad that the younger is well within his and perhaps, since tis early days yet for your older brother, he will learn. If there is some 'impediment' that gives cause to your concerns whatever it is then you are wise to remain close."


"Has he, your elder brother, people about him to instruct? I ask simply because my Father has no son to inherit and I knew that once it was clear that no more children would come then I as his eldest daughter needs must begin to study. So I did and do."


"His Business is not any easy thing for there are obsticals in my path at every turn. Tis a Man's World still Lt. and will always be thus and I am but a mere woman. One looked upon as 'wife' and to pass over my inheritance to a husband ready to take control as soon as we are wedded and bedded."


"I am more skilled than many that would try to run this Business and that angers them I think, but there are those too that look kindly on me and welcome my comments and even at times suggestions. Yet all of them think that Lord Melville, his son-in-law, will rightfully inherit but to do that he needs a son. If I marry and make a son before that well ...."


She gave a small shrug of one slim shoulder


"But enough of this for I bore you I am sure! Tis most likely why I remain unwed."


"I think I will have a drink - will you join me?"


She rose lightly from her chair and went to the table where some things were laid out calling over her shouder " Mulled wine perhaps or brandywine?"

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  • 3 weeks later...

It seemed to be less of a family dinner as he learned the other sister was not to dine too. Ellen spoke broadly about it, attempting to reduce the implications he supposed. But the fact seemed quite pointed that he was to dine solely with an eligible woman and her father. "Oh, I see." he replied of all of that. But she'd said that he was not at all suitable as a match?


Lighter topics were the theme, and so he launched his question, and chuckled of her reply. "I suspect that you sit as a far sterner judge of yourself than any others of court would be." He'd heard of any number of common born woman catapulting to grand careers with application of their wiles at court, "I've not met your own father of course, but most parents desire their children’s ambitions to be realised. I wonder if really the impediment to daring in that arena, is not your father nor the improperness of it, but your own lack of desire for it? That perhaps you'd rather dare, if any dare is to be made, into the field of travel and or business."


"My Father was a traditional man." ne nodded of her statement. There had been no creativity when it came to the late Baron of Hamilton. Though this new Baron, his brother, would challenge that if he could. "Ahem... he did indeed have a swarm around him, but the lot of them were leeches and goaders-on, with not a brain between the lot. I sent them all packing when I got home."


Talk of his brothers lack of sound associates seemed to be the opening she'd waited for. She detailed her own recommendations then, and Ambrose nodded as he followed along, though the point of how it related to his sibling was lost on him. Unless. Did she recommend herself to become his brothers wife, with her fine organisational skills that Trent desperately lacked. "Would you like to meet him." Ambrose finally asked, with mixed emotions on that score.


Upon that pause she re-offered a drink. "I'll wait for the table." he confirmed... mind awash with the thoughts she'd raised. It was probably sensible he supposed, his brother was entirely suitable for her match.


The Lieutenant was green to the cleverness of Londoners, he'd been oblivious to the intrigue that simmered under the surface - not thought to wonder of a real reason she'd invited him to dinner. You need to sharpen up old man, he told himself. The invite made perfect sense now.

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He gave answers that seemed to be fine yet she still had this feeling that he wasn't at all atuned to how things really worked here in London.


"And I suspect that you have not yet encountered any of those Courtiers that will tell you otherwise! I am a daughter of a Man that bought his Title do not forget and while we think that sort of Ambition is a step up there are many that will sneer and think Him above his Station. And yes, there are women like Nell Gwyn, God Bless Her, who manage to achieve great things but they are few indeed."


"Yet there are those, few that they are, that seek my father's advice. Lord Melville is one and he is now a son-in-law. Men come to London every day in the hope of enrichment Lt. Those of my sex are made to be wives and bear children. Here in my World tis a bit easier as wives assist husbands and children help fathers. But we are still the property of father or husband and can own nothing. A widow may as that is the Law."


"So your thinking that I might be 'free' to do anything in relation to a business or some other such thing will not be looked at with any kindness let alone support. There is the chance that I might marry and he would die and if he was employed of his own then I could, I suppose, inherit it and thereby call it my own."


"I desire to be my fathers heir. He has no son. Yet my sister is young and will no doubt provide a son and if that is the case then what is His will then become that child's in time.'


She gave a small sigh followed by a rueful half smile teasing him with her next words


"Tis such a tangled web is it not this business of marriage and heirs. Mayhap I should marry as you say and beat my sister to it! Might you know a worthy candidate?"


She wonderd at the relationship between him and his late Father but could hardly ask that.


"He must have been a good man, your father. He must have had a good eye for how things should be done too. A trait you have inherited as well perhaps?"


"Meet him? Your brother? Well if he comes to London then I shall extend an invitation but only because he is your brother."


She smiled across at him clueless as to his thoughts.


(edited with permission)

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  • 3 weeks later...

It was highly unlikely that Turnbull was attuned to London, he'd spent the last decade or more at sea, his memory of the place was gloried. Though the glimmering fiction he'd placed over the city was peeling away... even when he tired to keep it in place. The Lieutenant was steadily realising that it was no cornucopia of opportunity.


Ellen told him again about how drear her future was. Every bone in his being wanted to object, but there was nothing to be said.


He was not going to try cheer her again, knowing a further rebutal would be his. Falling hush Ambrose looked down at his hands. It was an abysmal topic, his appetite was leaving him. He felt as ineffective here, as he had since stepping foot in London. The bright point of the week of the invite to dinner, dimmed, he'd pinned too much on the evening probably, he'd been foolish once more.


"Maybe." he uttered of his inheriting his father's 'good' ness. Not that it meant anything. Meanwhile her reply about meeting his brother seemed motiveless, so perhaps he'd gotten the wrong idea on that.

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She was a bit taken back by his seemingly change of temperament.


"I think perhaps you are too hard on yourself. You have achieved a measure of Success have you not? Suruly that is a thing inherited from your Father. Yet we are still newly acquainted are we not so mayhap we both have things yet to be discovered?"


She smiled across to him as she caught the signal from a servant and rose from her chair to walk to where he sat her hand outstretched.


"Come. My father awaits and we have been sent for. I think he is pleased to have another Man in this house of Women and I am glad to have a chance for Company!"


Her brown eyes were clear and bright as they met his and the light from the candles gave them a dancing quality. That she was glad of his being there she hoped he had already seen and she hoped to further their acquaintance over the meal to come.


The Lt. might even find himself asked again.

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The Lieutenant gave a nod. Women perplexed him, their logic so different. He vaguely recalled Heather and Fiona, whom he'd understood no more or less than Ellen. "It may take a lifetime."


Some signal was received by the hostess, and Ambrose stood upon his cue. "I have heard a good deal of Lord Melville." speaking of men in the Doolittle family, Ambrose volunteered this comment. "a man for whom every person has a positive comment. I dare say your Father misses his company."


A little awkwardly he offered his arm to Ellen, not entirely certain but he supposed that was the correct thing to do to observe propriety entering the dining room. He was a tad nervous of meeting the ever hard working father whom he'd heard much of but never seen before.

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Cedric Doolitle watched from his position being placed in the direction facing the doorway as his eldest daughter entered with their Guest. At forty two he enjoyed good health and was thankful for it, made plain his thoughts and expected those that served him to obey and be loyal.


He drained the glass of its contents and held it out for a servant to refill his brown eyes watching ... assessing ... the man that walked by his daughter's side. He'd asked around the docks after this Lt. but had come up empty - which was neither good or bad. He was no longer the anxious 'Father' determined to marry off his offspring as he's once been earlier in the year.


That exerburance had made him laughable and that did not sit well nor did it encourage Business not Profits. Instead he had calmed himself and looked to the Future. His middle daughter had birthed a girl but sons would follow but yet by his own lack he knew it was possible not to happen. And so his eyes began to fix of his eldest. His Ellen. So much like the Mother yet now he saw himself in her thoughts and dealings.


As they came closer he fixed a more pleasing countance to his features and set his glass on the table rising to meet them.


"Father. Here is Lt. Turnbull." She said then turned to the other "Lt. Turnbull my Father, Sir Cedric Doolittle."


She smiled between then aware that her Father was taking his measure so she was determined to put their guest at ease.


"We shall make use of small space at this large table and so I have made the places there."


She lead him to the heavy wooden chair all dark wood and scrolled with flowers and acorns with padded cushions in blood red for comforts sake. Her Father would take the head with her to his right and the Lt to his left. Each would fine pewter plate and imported Italian forks, a pristine white line napkin ready to be draped over a shoulder or simply in a lap, pewter tankards as well as crystal glasses for their drink of choice.


She sat herself with ease her brown eyes going to her Father.


"We were discussing Travel to distant lands. The Lt I fear is missing the Sea."


She smiled across at him then signeld a servant to fill her glass then to offer the Lt if he wished. "Shall you have some of this - tis a red wine from Spain I think. Or there is ale or beer as well. You are free to chose."


She made this small chatter as the two men sat themselves and made ready for the meal.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ambrose made his own assessment of the man as they approached - a man who had a commanding stature by reputation if not in presence, in fact Cedric Doolittle had a humanity in his bearing that the Lieutenant had a not expected - but was pleased of.


"An honour to share your table, Sir Cedric." he made small bow of a sort, and with a lopsided smile appended, "that is the correct form of address, I believe." Sir_Firstname. "though I must admit that it was some rather blatant hinting for an invite that reduced Mistress Ellen agree to it!"


He'd have helped Ellen to chair, but it was unnecessary, and so he took his own upon Fathers opposing elbow. "It is true."


Ellen did him a favour to launch a topic and the sea was something he was familiar with.


He settled with a request for beer, and then looked to Cedric again. "You must have travelled a good deal with your profession also, I dare say you understand the call of the unknown, the prospect of adventure upon yonder horizon." His eyes flicked to Ellen, and he gave a nod of thank you.

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For her part Ellen would stay quiet allowing her Father to lead the initial conversations. Her eyes would be on the meal service and the household making sure that nothing ran wrong or was missed.


Her eyes rested upon her Father than moved to the Lt. curious to see if he was the same here or might he act different.


Doolittle nodded, gave a small 'grunt' in answer to the question about titles, then waved his Guest into his seat.


"Ttiles are all well and good and with their Place. No formality at this table but I appreciate the gesture. Did she?"


He turned a questioning eye on his daughter


"She is not an easy mark yet her instinct is high so the fact that you are here has little to do with any hint but entirely on her own idea. Yet I am glad of it for tis been too long since a Guest was entertained."


For a moment some sadness crossed his features then it was gone as he reached for and drained his goblet holding it out for a refill.


"The Sea? A Nasty Bitch to be sure and you will be knowing that first hand. I make my Living transporting back and forth across those waters and in the beginning I'd wager everything was an adventure but now, well I tend to books and inventory. My daughter is not keen on me taking ship."


His laugh in her direction was not meant unkindly but it was a truth.


"Mayhap you can convience her otherwise Lt. I am in my Prime and fit."


Ellen smiled across at her father then turned to the Lt. saying


"My Lord father has this request all the time and says that he is ill treated by me. I am not his keeper but he knows my thoughts. Tis always a chance that you might indeed be able to convience me so now is a perfect time to try ...."


She teased him as she took a sip from her goblet her eyes filled with amusement.


"Spin your Tales then. I want to hear of your adventures and how there is benefit in it for my Father."


She was asking him to be somewhat entertaining but not to "Sing' for his supper!


She knew that her Father carried a yearning for the Sea - indeed she had seen it in the Lt - so his coming here this night might just be what was needed.


That her father held loneliness close was a fact and so she also hoped that the Lt might fill the gap and provide that male companionship she could not.

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Doolittle seemed a solid sort of man, and Turnbull eased into conversation. "I hope her ears hear your high opinion sir." he added with his own smile of that. Ambrose had gleaned it already, no doubt that Father was even more aware of Ellen’s pessimism on that score. Accepting her fathers high praise might be a good start towards her remedy of spirits.


"Ha, they call the ocean a sailors mistress, and like any woman one need tolerate a tantrum or two." he raised to maritimes defence in good cheer. Doolittle could hardly believe an ocean faring life was as bad as he claimed, for he'd made his very livelihood based upon it. Indeed, he practically asked Ambrose to pacify Ellen to letting him put hand to the ropes.


Ellen claim that she was openminded on the topic... yet Turnbull drew breath and said. "Well my adventures are of no benefit to your fathers, and I have no qualms in admitting just as much freely!" honestly spoken, and with a nod to servant that moved about the table serving drinks.


"Yet I have never slept better than after a days working in the sea air, not to mention the calibre of appetite. Even the scarcity of life’s little indulgences seem then to make them all the more wondrous in enjoying - such as enjoying a cigar and nip of port. Now perchance there is a fiddler aboard ship also... now that is an evening comparable to heaven itself!"


"Yet of practicalities, I was most recently stationed in the carib. By way of a distraction I took up collecting local proverbs - they speak english of a sorts, though have a rather queer way of talking. And entertaining, yes to no end! Now i wish I'd bought my notebook with me, yet a few I can cite from memory. Like -- 'Betta belly buss dan good food waste' - meaning it's better to overeat than to waste great food!" he chuckled, eyes crinkling as he looked from one to the other.


He'd told Sophia a Jamaican proverb once, but she'd not been interested in it - he hoped that this pair might be more inclined to appreciate it.

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Content to allow her Guest to hold sway Ellen sipped and nibbled as food was presented her eyes moving between the two men reconfirming yet again how her Father had missed the bravito that can only be shared between men and that she, as a woman, lacked.


Glad that she had persued him - for she had after all in a quiet fashion - but it was plain nevertheless and now it warmed her heart to see animation on her fathers face.


The language shared was natural to both men and Ellen hid a small smile at the Lt. words regarding Life at Sea and perhaps he did have a point. Her father was not 'old' yet but now in middling years and so needed to have a care but really who was she to gainsay him if he truly wiahed to go? Her Lady Mother was the reason. Ellen knew it.


"Why of course your experiences are beneficial!" She chimmed in. "Adventures of all sorts, Tales of Lands far off .... You must understand that I am accostumed to sea-faring stories - the nicer ones admittedly - but please do not refrain now."


She listened intrigued by his words of life aboard a ship and her father, watching from his place at the tables head, looked between them his eyes resting on the face of his eldest who was made pretty by candlelight but he suspected was truly by the man. And what of the Lt?


That he was tough and formed by rough Life was clear yet was it not as it should be for as a Man that stood you in good stead. He would have thought less then less if their guest had turned out to be as so many "Men" about Court were - soft lumpy and with no backbones.


He barked out a laugh as the Lt. told his proverb. "Aye, I've heard it said just so by those that have traded there, that the natives speak a jibberish of our own language. And is that not a Truth? better overeat than to waste ...."


For her part she was aware of being watched and even of the speculation of her 'relationship' with the Lt but her Father would say nothing until he was well satisfied and had gathered enough of his own information. But she was happy that her guest was indeed holding his own.


"There must be others' as well ... for we have many of our own so tis likely that is the same with them - I am envious Lt of your sex. Such Freedoms and the pleasure to enjoy them."


Her words were meant to tease and she gave her Father a smile so that he knew it too.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ambrose did think Ellen was pretty, he'd thought her as beautiful as an angel the night they had first met, and her ongoing gestures of friendship cast a luster upon her, in his eyes - a luster that was perhaps comparable to the luster of half dozen candles in their sconces.


She was his London friend. As unlikely as that may have been.


But for now he was happy to have a yarn with the father, and share a little laughter amongst it all with reciting odd Caribean proverbs that were cannily true despite sounding so childish of words. "True indeed, and to the point, lets all eat up!" There would not be any waste on Ambrose's plate. He was a man with a healthy appetite.


"You'd not envy the life of the women abroad." Ambrose made replying comment, with a nod to the father who no doubt could confirm. "There is no romance to sticky heat, plagues of insects all about and shortage of fresh water. Nor can I say that life aboard is weighed towards marvel so much - there is much we men will never speak o. It is an effort I suppose to shelter those with delicate sensibilities. Yet perhaps by doing so we paint a picture of a idyllic life of travel and wonders. But truly, Mistress Ellen, England is the finest place a lady could be."

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A silent 'sigh' as both men as well as herself partook of the foods her eyes still watching and making sure nothing was left unattended. Her father looked pleased and Happy and for that alone she would always be grateful to the Lt.


She listend with interest as he described what he saw as Life aboard a Ship


"That it is a hardship I have never debated. Yet I can not agree with you on all counts - there are much the same things here insects, heat, and our own water is suspect tis why few actually drink it! You speak from a jaded prespective now for you have traveled widely while I have not."


"I have only read about or seen drawings and heard Tales of the places you have traveled to so I desire to know more. The idea that I might yet travel is there. Although my Father would say otherwise.


For his part Dolittle was content to listen but knew when to interject


"The Lt has fine points daughter as you must admit. A life at Sea would not be for you for you are too accustomed to what I provide. I do not begrudge you those pleasures but in all Truth the idea of you aboard a ship is not a thing that will happen."


He was perhaps a bit rough in his words but he knew his eldest well and the fact that her mind was sharp and her abality to think better than some of his own sex made him seem as if he cared little for her feelings.


"Why I can picture that time, as I'd imagine you Lt. can as well, with her aboard a Ship all made up and ready only to discover at the first bit of pitch or sway the sickness that would keep her confined below deck huging her bed linens! Crying out to be taken back safe to shore!"


He barked a laugh and took a deep drink of his wine his eyes resting on his daughter gaging her reaction. Was he egging her on? Perhaps. She could fight back as he well knew but with their Guest across the table he doubted it.


Ellen narrowed her eyes a fraction as she listened to him concealing her surprise that he'd taken that direction for the conversation. He might well intentionally cause her hurt she knew but she was ready. There was no way she'd be humiliated in front of the Lt.


"How narrow minded of you father. Would you put such a description on all those of my sex who follow husbands to Sea then? Now I am even more desirious to test that out. The Lt has indeed painted a picture of Travel and Wonders and Lt, there is no need to 'shelter' me from anything, I am not that delicate."


"I love this Country and yet I think I might benefit from a wider expanse of my horizons and so come Spring will you advise me then?"


She smiled across the table at him as she placed her question to him. That he was now in a perdictiment she knew but he was quite able to hold his own as he'd proven and she wanted to cause some irratition to her father at that moment. The fact was she probably did not mean a word of it but right now she did.

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Ellen disagreed with his explanation of what life was like for a lady of quality in places like Jamaica - Ambrose drew a breath, frowing he'd not wanted arguments.


So it was that the Lieutenant was initially relieved when the father spoke then, and he gave the man a quick smile of gratitude, pleased to be spared the discomfort of the situation he was in. He knew a gentleman was not supposed to argue with a lady, so was he supposed to agreed with her? No. Bite his tongue and say naught? Well, yes, he'd managed to to do that.


The father tried to make light of the tense situation. "Heh, yes I dare say." Yet the Father went too far, insulting his daughter.


The calamity of conversation continued to become worse.


Ellen took a great upset, and now openly called out her fathers rudeness. Reasserting that she should travel the oceans.


It became plain to Ambrose that this was no new conversation, but some one they routinely raged. "Ahem." The cleared his throat, cheeks flushed with embarrassment of what he had to witness. "I seem to have become caught in the middle of an ongoing argument here, why perhaps that was the reason that Mistress Ellen invited me. Was I exhibit one? Or was I to be judge? Meanwhile I have no desire to act referee between you, to the favour of either side."


He stood. "Mr Doolittle, may I state that your daughter is of keen intellect and I think she is indeed capable of her own decisions. Though I firmly agree with you that ocean life is not a life for a gentlewoman, perhaps your daughter does not see herself through the eyes that we would regard her with."


"Perhaps she is one to don breeches and climb the rigging. No doubt you, like I, have heard rumours of such women before. Those pirate queens. Perhaps they too begun by arguing with their fathers? I would comment that family is family, and better to mend a tear in a sail when it is small than when it is ripped fully in half. I hope you may sort out this argument you have, before you stand half a world apart."


"There, that is my humble opinion, you may take it with the pinch of salt it deserves. But for now I shall thank you for a fine dinner, it beats that of the Knightsbridge mess-hall hands down. I bid you both a good night, and will leave you to your topic." he made a small bow to both.


Ambrose was not at all experienced in satiations like these (ie. being caught in the middle of a family disagreement). Perhaps he’d just made it worse? He certainly had not made it better! It was very embarrassing.

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He'd sat his goblet down leaned forward elbows on the table and with chin resting on his hands stared intently at his guest. Listened as he made his monologue and then made ready to leave. But before that occured he spoke ...


"I'd imagine better manners as seen upon arrival yet now you display the opposite. Take umbridge at what is new to you, in all fairness, yet is old history amongst my family."


"Sit Lt and ease your mind. While my daughter presists in her fashion I see she has aquired a Champion of sorts in you and thus must I be rightfully thankful yet now I needs must educate on another topic."


He did not raise his voice but it would be clear that he was not even tempered


"You are welcom'd into my House. Sat at my table and drank my wines enjoying the discussion that was passed betweixt us three. Understand this - you are not known well enough to be see as anything but a "Guest" so do not give affectation to yourself in the belief that some other thing served as motivation.. My daughter is miserly with her invitations unless she thinks a person worthy to give it."


He eyed his daughter who sat still her eyes fastened upon the Lt her cheeks tinged in blush.


"You so fresh off a Ship has not skill to be Judge and as for exhibit I am not sure what the meaning of that is. Do you?'


He addressed this to Ellen


She knew it was to her that some peace might be found and so she was cautious yet tried to add lightness to her words.


"I think that it is unfair of me to have created this Lt and so I needs must beg pardon for the display between Parent and Child. Tis a thing not offered an audience and yet here it is on display. Your kind words I shall take to heart and mayhap even my Lord Father shall, after contemplation, find agreement."


She rose and quietly walked to where he stood and placed a hand on his arm her voice gentle made to sooth.


"If you desire to take your leave then I can not alter that but I would wish for you to stay and begin to understand how we are. This is not out of the ordinary amongst Family I am sure but perhaps tis foreign to you? Taken singular we are well enough yet I fear in pairs oft times made to much to bear!'


Her eyes were on his and she truly hoped he would calm himself, see reason in her speech, and return to the table. But she knew too that he felt he had been somehow duped by the invitation.


It would be his decision now.

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It was certainly not the first he'd offended since arriving at London, though the circumstances different this time. Ambrose expected the Fathers claimed injury was in part embarrassment of rude behaviour (their common roots showing as they openly argued in front of a guest.)


Ambrose bit his tongue as Doolittle said he'd excuse him because he was ignorant to the way of things on land.


"I have no desire to offend, but find the argument distressing. Your daughter sir had already spoken it oft with me, and I have previously tried to advise against travel, with belief it is no life for a woman aboard ship. The topic continues to rear itself unpleasantly. I have a sense that I am the instigator of it by my very existance. Since I am so fresh from the seas, as you point out, so that Mistress Ellen speaks of little else in my company.


"Yet is is a life on land I wish to make, I would avoid reminisce of my former life if at all possible. I certainly do not want to be the catalyst for arguing."


"Mistress Ellen, it is true I am not accustomed to this manner of conversation you deem normal." Was it really normal for woman to argue with their fathers like that, to flatly disagree with a mans comment if she did not like his viewpoint? "I am from a house of sons." and one where his father would not tolerate backchat, but demanded respect.


"I think it best." he gave a further bow then, before he took his leave.

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For a moment her mask slipped and it was as if the tennis court was being revisited and the same sense of being thought less of took hold. He could not help but see the distress as they were close nor escape the slight sound of surprise that crept out. It seemed an eternity to Ellen but was in reality a brief thing. Then her features resumed their 'natural look' and once again the veil descended (metaphorically speaking).


She removed her hand then made some space from his nearness as if burned. Her voice was flat and her words were for him but some may have carried to her father.


"Well. Then. I had not understood that I had been such a distressing companion to you all this time. Again I say that you are nothing that speaks of instigator not here or anyplace else yet I think me you see it otherwise. You should have stopped me from wagging my lose tongue on a subject that distressed you."


She could not continue and all that was left was to curtsey to him in Politness as he made it clear he could not be fast enough to escape from her. From her father.


It had been a disaster.


Her eyes looked to her Father and he, observant, nodded his head and rose from his place.


"It is never a good thing I think when one is forced into a place they do not wish to be. I am, for myself, saddened to learn that there is no topic upon which we might have common ground Lt. I had hoped .... But never mind. Perhaps after some time passes an opportunity will allow for a different conclusion."


He eyed a man-servant and with a small nod indicated that the Lt should be shown out watching the retreating back before he turned on his daughter his eyes ablaze. He went to her side and roughly pulled her to face him his fingers digging into the upper part of her arm where a mark would be the next day.


"Disgrace. Embarrassment. Disprespect. Have any been missed I ask you. Have they? You bring that man into my house yet by his own words I hear how you managed to offend by conversation chosen. I am too leneant with you. I could and should beat you bloody but you are too old for that trick.


"You will keep the House and the Accounts as a good daughter and once this blasted holiday ends you shall not come to the warehouses until I say otherwise."


He released her with a small shove and strode from the room.


She heard his boots on the floors then the bang of the door and her abality to continue to stand left her and she slipped to her knees her head falling into her lap and then the tears came but she made no sound. Only the rocking motion of her body an indication of her emotions.

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