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Awaiting Dinner Guests (Evening 28/12)- Xmas 1677

Louis Killington

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Somerset Mansion (Lord and Lady Basildon)


A spacious home made out of fashionable geometric shapes with details in sculpting, and the walls painted terracotta and white. The front lane was dotted with white gardenia's, blooming early. The entry was covered in vines with little white blooms and two hanging baskets with fresh spring flowers in different shades of pink.


The mansion was three stories high, with enough room to house guests and hold several events. Downstairs one would find the parlour, the study, the dining room, the library and of course the garden room filled with a multitude of ferns and a jasmine brush. In the back a large lawn and a teahouse that looked small and frivolous.


On the second floor there was a Master bedroom and a Ladies bedroom, both with a walk in closet. The walk in closet of the Ladies bedroom had recently been expanded. The third floor housed the guest rooms and the old nursery. Servants stayed in the attic.


The fire was still roaring in his study as he added his signature to his semi-weekly letter to his wife. His letter contained the endearments she liked so well, as well as the code that they had fashioned prior to her departure. He reported diligently about the stories he had encouraged in their newspapers, promoting peace, religious tolerance, the advancement of trade, and support for the King. These were regular themes in the Gentleman Spectator. Of late, the open support for the Lord Treasurer had diminished and more favorable articles had been encouraged about the Duke of Buckingham. Great coverage had been given to Princess Mary and her trip to the United Provinces. Not only was Princess Mary near the hearts of the Basildons, but it was a chance to mention Lisa's role as her lady. The newspapers never missed an opportunity to praise any Killington for any reason. Nicolette would be promoted when the time was ripe. As for Nicolette, her initiation with Francis Kirke was mentioned in code so that Lisa would know that the plan for her status as royal mistress was advancing.


As for the rest of his week, it had been mostly mundane after the breakfast with Buckingham the day before. There had been the enjoyable interlude with the twins after waiting on Danby. He had missed their sweet caresses more than he cared to admit. Lisa had been adamant about their removal after marriage. Fortunately she had turned a blind eye to his darkie slave Diana. As long as he kept her out of view, she was tolerated because she was no threat for her husband's heart. It had been Diana that had satisfied his needs on the journey home from Jamaica and it was her servicing him in Lisa's absence. She had returned to the household and was now his personal chambermaid.


Monday had seen the obligatory fencing practice. Tuesday had seen the visit to the Royal Exchange to hobnob with traders, hoping to hear and pass the latest gossip. The gossip he shared was carefully orchestrated to advance his interests and often it was false. Then there had been the review of servants with Thomas Bromhill to determine which were likely spies for Buckingham, Danby and the King. He planned to threaten them with termination and offer coin if they would seek his edits to any reports they might send before they reported to their patrons. If he could turn their spies, it would be worth it.


There was still no word from Buckingham about Danby's location. Danby's daughter was at Basildon's disposal. Until he met with the Lord Treasurer, he was not certain what he would do. Louis had asked Thomas to acquire some opium so that he might lace Brigitte's drink either before or during the party. Many different scenarios were going through his mind as to how she might be debauched.


The letter was sealed and handed to Thomas. "He has yet to arrive?" Louis asked again. Hen and his Irish love interest were due to arrive at any moment.

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The sound of carriage rolling up outside was an answer enough, as Louis man took the letter to deliver he rose his eyebrows with amusement of the timing.


Siobhan peered out the window at the grand house, drinking it all in. "How's he related to you again Henny?"


And young lord Aylesford launched into a prolonged explanation of the string of marriages that resulted in the connection via Mary Capelle.


"Sometimes I think you must all be related." the girl crooned extending her hand for assistance from the carriage.


"Err, well that is certainly not the case." there was a whole host of families that he was not related to, "heh, or at least there are many one might prefer to forget any connection to." Danby for instance, likely his family circle was rather smaller these days. "Family at court is like.... a fungus. Er, no. It's like a..." Heneage wanted to make a clever simile for it, but curse it all, none came to mind.


Siobhan smiled of his fluster, "That is alright darling, I understand, successful and popular people have big families. You have a big family. Amongst other things."


Which set Hen to blushing furiously as he knocked on Lord Basildons door.

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Hen and his lady were shown in by the doorman. Taking their coats, the servant showed them into the parlor where they might have a glass of brandy before dinner.


It took but a minute or two for the Earl to sweep into the parlor. "Hen, good to see you." He looked at the Irish girl and took her measure. Had she charmed the Chancellor's son with looks, wit, or something else entirely? "Introduce me to your lady friend," he urged.


"Have you been set up with brandy? Try the cranberry brandy. It is seasonable," he suggested. "Dinner will be ready soon." With luck Hen would tell him all about the woman's background so that he would not need to pry it out of her. If she was not forthcoming, perhaps he might have someone take a peek, on behalf of Hen.

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Siobhan made a strong contrast to Hen's prior fascination. She was taller than Jane for one thing, with sleek dark hair and dark eyes. Siobhan was not a traditional beauty, with brows that were too heavy and nose too strong, while her physique was more of the athletic type (though the marvels of corsetry assisted her to show a swell of bust and nip of waist).


"Here he is, my Cousin Louis Killington, Earl of Basildon." Hen stopped what he was saying to his lady-love, and smiled broadly to Louis as he arrived. "Louis, this is the lovely lady I have been telling you about. My Irish nymph, Mistress Siobhan Devine."


Siobhan laughed of Hens introduction, and following her incline of greeting to Louis explained, "It is Devin really, might we say that Devine is Henny's play name for me." he grinned, her eyes glittering as she took in the unexpectedly handsome features of Henege’s cousin. Oh my.


"Its a lovely house you have here Lord Basildon, or, may I call you Louis?" her hand slid through Heneage’s arm again and she pressed her side against him. Hen beamed.

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"Meeting you is Devine," Louis played along with a smile. The girl was certainly not a beauty. She was, however, a bit pushy in wanting to call him by his first name so quickly. Yet, a pushy woman was what would prove successful with Hen, unfortunately.


Miss Devin seemed taken with his house and, if his eyes recognized it properly, his own attractive physique. Louis could not blame a woman for being captivated with himself after all, real or imagined. "Yes, you may call me Louis, privately of course."


The brandies were poured and the dinner was about to start. "So how did you meet Miss Devin Hen?" One needed to make small talk if something more important might slip later. Louis hoped the woman was some grand heiress of from a grand old family; but, he feared otherwise.

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The lassie gave a trill of laughter, eye sparkling with an admiring look at Louis, while her hands smoothed about Heneage who smiled as he’d never smiled before.


“Then I shall make sure to be privately with you often Louis.” Came her reply, her eyes slid down the Earls attire, perceiving a muscular physique beneath.


While his lady undressed Basildon with her eyes, her naive beau cheerfully took up the topic, “Well, I was traveling home from Ragley Hall, Alcester, where I’d been visiting my Aunt Anne Conway*, and had the good fortune to be staying at the same Inn as Siobhan. We met at the guests dinner table, where I found out that she too was going to London, but in a bit of bad luck – that worked out to be my good luck in the end.” Her he paused and gave her a wink, “she’d missed her carriage. So I offered her a spot in mine. And from there… well the rest is history.”



* Heneage Finch snr’s sister

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The gaze at his physique was unmistakeable to the trained eye, Sadly, for Hen, he did not have a trained eye.


"It is Fate perhaps," Louis played along, suspecting otherwise. "And you Miss Devin." The Earl turned his full attention in her direction. "What of your own family and your travels to London?" More brandy was poured to loosen lips. "I have not been to the Emerald Isle but I am told it is as lovely as the lasses birthed there." It was all flattery of course, covering the prejudice he had against the Irish, Scots and Welsh.


Dinner was served and the trio was ushered into the dining hall to work their way through five courses of holiday fare. All the while, Louis attempted to listen more than he spoke, eliciting information where he might. He also watched the Irish lady carefully for signs of affection for his cousin. There was no doubt that Hen was bewitched, but just how much did Miss Devin seem to care about the man that professed love for her?

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Siobhan smiled broadly with Hen's tale, and turned her attention upon him fully as she enjoyed the feeling of Louis' eyes now upon her. "My, but he is a curious one!" of Louis she claimed, before turning to look back at their host.


In lilting Irish accent she explained, "I was going to stay with a cousin, but dear Hen would hear nothing of that, and is putting me up in a darling little Inn out in Chelsea. For discretion of course." she gave a wink, "how could I explain to Finn and Anna of a gentlemen trotting to my bedroom door at all hours!" he giggled of that, and kissed Heneage. "Oh but Hen, are we going to tell your cousin our secret news?"


She was happy enough to drink freely, enjoying the high quality drinks, and snatching up the decanter to refill everyone’s glasses before they had to leave to to into the dining room.


"Well, perhaps not yet." Hen blushed as he helped the lady with her chair, avoiding meeting Louis eyes at that moment. Some things you don’t just blurt out.


"It's a pity you cant meet Lisa." he changed the topic, "She's away with the Princess for the marriage." he met Louis eyes again to ask, "How long until she returns?"

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Very little useful information was forthcoming. "Ah, you must mean the George Inn in Chelsea," he remarked in a manner that was complimentary. "It is the finest establishment for gentlemen and ladies on the King's Road west of London." Now knowing her residence, Louis would be in a position to have his French sibling spies keep an eye on the affairs of Hen's new lady friend. "Of course not," Louis joined in the laughter about travels to her bedroom door. It was hardly something to be uttered by a maiden he judged.


"Yes, do tell the secret news," Louis urged as they moved into the dining room. He could only hope that Hen's likely foolishness could be reversed.


"She'll not be back until the spring I should think,"came the reply as they began their soup course. Lisa would stay in the United Provinces until then. "Perhaps the war will be over by then."


"Although the war hysteria has tempered the violence against Catholics," he added lazily as he finished his soup. "How long since you have been to the Emerald Isle?" the host asked. "How are things there?" He could not help but wonder if she was Catholic.

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So Louis might learn that whoever this woman was, she was not fool, she was playing the game carefully. Which might suggest she was in it for the long haul.


With Louis encouragement, and Siobhan’s' eyes goading him on, Heneage flushed a scarlet. "Well, I have proposed. And..."


Miss Devine's eyes glinted at that moment, as though she'd reached a significant mile stone. Her spine straighter, the girlishness of her facade slipped away. "and naturally I have said yes."


"Come along Henny, ask Cousin Louis what you wanted to ask of him."


Heneage Jnr was keenly aware that many people would look down on such choices, but for some reason he was upon her strings. "I - I wanted to ask you to be my best man."


"Mm... lovely soup. Such a shame then, that she will not be back in time for the wedding." Siobhan said, dabbing her lips dry after a spoonful, and then reaching napkin to dab Hen's lips too.


"I've been in England three or four months now. We've our troubles too, as you've no doubt heard, yet life in the provinces is charming enough. I live by the motto that life is what you make it, after all. Where does not matter quite so much as How." she smiled winsomely, and swatted Hens hand away from a bun with an uttered, "You will spoil your appetite for the main."

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What was feared was revealed. While most would express reservations under the circumstances, Louis knew that he would need to play along that he was fully supportive. When women thought their target's friends were against a match, they managed to turn their betrothed against such friends. To manipulate things properly, he needed to win over the Irish woman.


"Splendid. Congratulations," he replied. "I would be honored to stand as your best man." He attempted to portray himself as supportive while noting that Siobhan was pushing for a hasty wedding. As such, it suggested caution.


"Then you have already met her father and gained his permission?" He needed to reinforce the protocols to Hen so that he could slow down the runaway coach. "And what of your own father? You know his assent is important. I can accompany you and attest to your lady's suitability," he offered cheerfully. "When he sees how happy you are, how can he do aught but bless the union?" Left unsaid was that he suspected otherwise.


"When were you thinking of having the wedding? I shall wish to reserve the date of course." If they were thinking of a period as short as a fortnight or less it would be evidence enough that there was something to hide.

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"Siobhan said her cousins would be fully supportive, and are the nearest thing to guardians she has here in England. Though I am yet to meet them my self." he admitted this last with an indulgent look at his sweetheart, "we keep getting distracted." and he was blushing again.


"Thank you Louis, I knew you'd be there for me." he expressed his gratitude that Louis would be his best man.


"But no, I've not told my Father yet. Daniel has a saying, easier to beg forgiveness than permission. I don’t think Father will understand a love match." Hens mother and Father were estranged, and had not talked more than civil necessities for years.


"We were thinking a small private ceremony."


"On new Years." Siobhan provided the date.

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It was fairly obvious that Siobhan had ensnared Hen with sex. It was a wonderful way for a woman to charm a man; but, she needed to move quickly before the novelty faded. It was becoming apparent to Louis that the Irish woman was taking a page out of the script that he had seen played out several times before. Louis, as a young rogue, had attempted the reverse at times when he wanted to ensnare a woman and turn her against her parents.


"Ho ho, a merry wedding then," Louis laughed as if enjoying the tale. "Hen a private ceremony is apt to be considered more like a morganic marriage. The church will not recognize marriages without the proper banns being read in church. You know that," the Earl lectured. "You should treat your future wife better. Siobhan deserves better. Do not let there be a reason to whisper behind her back that she is not your Countess one day. It will not be you that suffers, but her. No blessing from her father, your father, or the church will mean that Siobhan will be given that look from proper ladies all the rest of your life together. You know what I mean." Louis gave a look at the Irish gal to see if his plan was working.


"Yet if you wish to tie the knot in three days, we need to do some shopping tomorrow. I shall do what I can to free some time before the party tomorrow night. You are going to Lady Kendishall's party tomorrow are you not? It can be your last great adventure as a couple together before you wed." Already a plan was formulating in his mind. He would find a way to ruin the relationship at the party and he would fabricate evidence against the girl quietly. Perhaps he could use Bridget Osbourne as a tool. Yes, there were so many delicious ways to manipulate things. He was happiest when he was scheming.


"Shall we get together them mid-afternoon? We will need to find the right gift for the new love in your life." Siobhan seemed to be a clever girl but, even if she guessed the game Louis was playing, she could not could not risk the chance that she was wrong. If he really was supportive of her, she could lose a valuable ally. Louis was counting on that caution, or her obliviousness.

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"Fie," Siobhan replied quick as a fox, "What of the merry Rochester, stealing his bride and marrying her, there were no banns then either." Louis argument was deflated, "and I think my dear Henny's family of the sort to do right by me... and the babe."


Yet again Hen's face turned a scarlet, it was practically a perpetual shade, yet if Louis looked to his eyes he might note a secretive pride resident also. He's never got a woman pregnant before, he was just a tad proud of the achievement.


Louis suggested shopping some time, and Hen looked to Siobhan to try come up with a time. The topic was not easily settled, for the pair had already rather filled their days. Ove this topic the dinner ran, each course fit for a king. Till finally the desert plates were set away, and it was time for port and cigars.


"Not for me." Siobhan deferred prettily as a maid, "but may I use the conveniences?"

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Rochester was hardly the model to cite for any proper action. Nevertheless, Louis laughed along with Siobhan.


So it seemed that Hen had gotten the girl with child, Rather than flee in prudence as any right thinking lord might do, Hen seemed rather proud of himself. Once she excused herself, Louis had but minutes to try and talk Hen out of going through with it. Yet, a plea for reason would likely fall on deaf ears. Louis must use a different strategem.


In a quiet voice, the Earl leaned in to whisper with the prospective groom. "I must say you are braver than I Hen, and so many others. You must know that I impregnated a dozen girls in my early years. I did not marry a one, as you must know. There are women made for fucking and then there are women made for marrying. You are brave to not notice a difference," He pretended to compliment his friend. "Most any lord would provide for the child and keep the woman, but not you. You are a braver man to abandon your future at court. A man who will spend the rest of his days wrapped in scandal, visiting Irish relatives you have never met, and living in likely poverty and obscurity. Not every man would give up everything for a woman that he thinks he loves. I have been in love a dozen times. It is easy to love a woman that you fancy. Had I married one, I would have been in obscurity too. I would not have this fine house. I would not have ever met you and been your friend, celebrated at court, and be on the cusp of achieving every ambition. I waited to marry Elizabeth, your cousin. It just so happens that I love her too; but, she is a lady for marriage because she opens doors rather than close them." It was a grim picture he was trying to paint.


"I'll speak to your father on your behalf. I am hopeful that he will not disown you. Perhaps he could give you a small allowance so you can live as a country squire somewhere far away. If you are thrown into the streets in poverty, I shall help you. I'm sure I can provide some rooms for you and your wife at Basildon. Perhaps you can find some comfort there. I could come visit you occasionally with all the splendid tales of court and you can keep an eye on my steward there. It is not much, but it will give you time to consider your next move. Perhaps you might go to Ireland and live with Siobhan's relatives, who you have never met. You might find happiness there ... some day." Perhaps he was overdoing it, but Hen needed to know the risks.


"Look, I'm your friend. I can help try and find you a comfortable life somewhere if you wish to marry the girl. Some do not aspire to power, fame and wealth. Or, I can help you take care of the child and your lady love as your mistress, as every lord does. You would then marry some lady that will open doors for you at court, and there are many that would be interested in you, while you spend your free time with Siobhan and the child. You could have it all, or just a piece. It is your choice really."

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Heneage was a gentle man, and Louis had only ever spoken to him gently before. So it was that his eyes flared with shock as Louis said the F word! Louis had certain gained his attention, and was more than aware that Louis thought that his Siobhan was that former.


"I am not you Louis, nor am I a man like my brother. Finding love has never come easily to me. I cannot treat it as a penny for a dozen. As for obscurity..."


But Heneage was not here to talk about ambition, of that he had little. He shrugged.


"I would rather live on the wrong side of a closed door in happiness, than in any ivory tower all alone. For alone is the only other option available to me. You have seen me seek a partner, a wife I can create a life for myself with. You have seen me struggle for years with it. Siobhan is the first. I wont even count Jane, she had never wanted to be with me I now realise. She flinched at my touch, and kiss -- I kissed her and she thought it was rape. That was not love. Siobhan is the only woman who has ever loved me besides my Mother."


Heneage was upset over this, and now stood. "I do not expect you to be best man when you feel this way."

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"Very well," Louis admitted as he saw Hen become unmoved by his dire warnings. The man was infatuated and unlikely to consider reason. "I was just trying to make sure that you were truly serious," he attempted to explain. "Sit down. It is not like you have met many ladies Hen. Just because you had a hard time with a couple does not mean that there is not a sea of fish out there."


His original plan had failed, so it was time to concoct his second plan. "I'll be your best man on the first. We can have a private celebration at the George Inn in Chelsea. I will sponsor the drinks and arrane a suite for you and Siobhan to celebrate. How is that? I also know a pastor that frequents the Chelsea area and shall arrange him to marry the two of you. I shall take care of the costs myself, just to make it up to you, as a gift. Then the two of you can slip out of town whenever you like. What do you say?"


His scheme was to hire an actor to play the role of the pastor and pretend to marry them so that, should Hen come back to his senses in a matter of months, he would not find himself legally married. Surely his father would approve. Now he just needed Hen to go along.

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Hen re-sat, he did not want to row with Louis, Louis was his best friend at court. "I am serious Louis." he said very seriously, "I realise that this is not the politically savvy thing to do, it's not what my Father would want, nor my mother. Even Daniel would advise me against it if I thought to tell him, plainly I have not."


Which made it all the more important to him to have someone endorse him. "You've always been the optimist for my prospects." he said quietly. But even Louis must concede that the Chancellor's youngest had no appeal to the fairer sex.


Then finally Louis came around. Relief swept over the rotund mans face... "That would be wonderful Louis." Was Hen gullible? To this subject he was, an aching absence in his heart had him discard questions of anyone’s motives, not of Siobhan nor Louis. "Thank you."

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Louis merely nodded as Hen recounted his view of how his family might react. They would know it to be foolish too. The nodding might appear to be sympathetic, but they were intended to be more sympathetic to his father's likely view.


"Do tell me that she is not a Catholic," he whispered before the woman could rejoin them. His voice was wary, as if cautioning Hen against a Catholic bride. If she was a Catholic, it would mean they would need to be married in a Catholic church too top be viewed as married by the Catholic church. That might be useful. It would also heighten the chance that he could build a case for an annulment in the future.


Adopting a lighter attitude, Louis replied "I have always been a champion about your prospects." He nodded with a smile "and I will continue to be so." All of his scheming was for the benefit of Hen, or so Louis imagined, so the Earl was feeling quite noble in that moment. Of course, he would tell Hen's father about the sordid affair and give his benefactor an opportunity to ask a favor of him. The Royal Chancellor had done him the favor of quashing the threatened paternity suits of wronged women, so it was clear that Basildon owed Finch a favor.


Wary of Siobhen's return, Louis turned to lighter banter about dessert and the final round of brandy.

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"Jane was Catholic." Heneage mentioned as reply, the issue had not been so contentious to Louis then. For all of his Cousins efforts to be accommodating Heneage understood that Louis was struggling with it.


"When you get to know her, as I do, you shall look past all that." He replied quietly. Footsteps in the hall indicated Siobhan was returning.


Hen too saw benefit to shifting tack on the topic as she entered the room. "We are thinking to remain the winter in England, then go on to the Continent in spring for a tour. Isn't that right?"


The lass looked between the two, then smiled "Unless your cousin can convince us that Jamaica shall provide greater thrills. Henny tells me that you have sugar plantations there?"


Yes to sweeter topics they progressed...



OOC: shall we fade out on the dinner party here, and prepare for the next chapeter in this story

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And so they chatted about the exotic and the mundane for another hour or so, with a series of toasts to good health. All the while, Louis was planning the best way to protect Hen from himself. The man did not think he needed saving, but Louis could see that he was about to take a step off a steep cliff. In the end their were farewells and plans to make, leaving the Earl to ponder his next move.



~ finis

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