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Lunching at the Lion (Open) | 31st December- Xmas 1677

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The dining room is on the south western corner of the building. Although open to the public, the dining room is accessible only from within the inn. A door in the north wall leads to the kitchen area, a door in the east wall to the rest of the inn.


Sturdy but comfortable oak tables and chairs furnish the room.


The dining room is graced with three large windows - one in the south wall and two in the west. The depth of the sills show that the walls of the inn are a good foot thick. A fireplace is located on the west wall between the windows. A jug of spring flowers sits on the mantle piece. In combination with the windows, the whitewashed walls give an impression of space and light, punctuated by the dark wooden beams. As in the taproom, the floor is covered with the finest sand which is changed weekly.


The Red Lion is noted for the excellence of Mistress Golightly's cooking and the dining room is redolent with beguiling savoury fragrances. Particularly famed are the Carrot and Oyster Pie and the Grilled Beefsteak.


Settling himself at a table by the fire where he could enjoy it's warmth on this short and overcast winter's day, James smiled politely at the waitress and asked for a glass of white French wine whilst he waited and considered the menu.


He was hopeful that George might join him, though of course it was only a maybe. But he could hope. Regardless he was certain that he'd bump into his friend about court; perhaps tonight's ball if not today. Either way, after a busy morning stopping at the Lion for lunch was something of a reward for himself, as well as the comfort of the familiar. And the terribly good food.


Every so often he glanced towards the door, just in case.

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With a relaxed expression Chichester entered the dining room, a pair of pints from the taproom in his hands as his eyes searched about for James. It had been too too long since he'd seen his oldest and dearest friend...


And there he was.


George's face broke into a smile, and the tall man kinked his step towards James table, "You might be able to help me with one of these." he set the mugs down on the table, then on impulse extended his hands upon a desire for a back slapping show of camaraderie. "Lud, it's been a devil trying to right the worlds wrongs without you!"


He and James had had much the same philosophies back in the day, they had chewed the fat and shared their agreements. Though perhaps they'd not be quite so eye to eye anymore, with the some not-so-subtle shifts in George's views.


"And how's that bride and babe eh?" he finally claimed a seat at the table.

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James didn’t have long to wait. As he watched the door to the dining room it swung open and the ever dapper Earl of Chichester swept through, pint pots in hand. James wasn’t much of a beer drinker, but right now he’d drink anything; it was the company that mattered.


“George!” James rose as his friend reached the table, and once divested of drinks gladly shared a moment of back-slapping gentlemanly enthusiasm. George always had exquisite taste in clothing and personal scent, James observed, being the shorter of the two.


“Which particular wrongs have you been righting?” The doctor was intrigued. It was a favoured pastime of his own, but there was such a long list. “Do sit down old chap, and tell me all about it. I’ve missed your good company, and was ever so sad when we arrived at court to hear that you had not, but the road have been absolutely atrocious this season. I’m glad you made it.” James resumed his own seat and, lifted the pint George had so kindly supplied, and tilted it in his friend’s direction. “Cheers!”


George immediately asked after one of James’s favourite topics. “Both very well, thank you. Noni is quite recovered and little Rachelle is growing like a weed.” Technically his daughter’s name was Marie after her great Aunt, but James always used her second name. “And what about yourself? Are you an uncle yet?” It was some time since George’s sister Mirtel had wed. He wondered whether his friend was considering marriage again. George had had such terrible luck in love, but surely the handsome and reputedly wealthy Earl must have men throwing their eligible daughters at him.

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Amidst the warm welcomes George chuckled, "Figure of speech, why I've not hatched a plot to right a wrong since... well perhaps not since we were aboard that chaps ship. The Marquis with the Island. Do you recall? Lud, that seems so long ago no! What a strange excursion that was for sure." Though George remembered if fondly, as the time he'd realised just how much he had in common with James.


Settling himself to the table, "Though that said, I have made a few personal rectifications." and then picking up his mug of ale again he clinked it against his fellows, "Cheers!" and took a hearty sip. George was hardly an ale drinker either, but here he was at an tavern, so he thought to muck on in.


"That is good to hear, good to hear." he was smiling to hear of his child growing so well, nobody liked to hear of a sickly babe. Vigour was something to celebrate. "And is Noni attending the season as well, or remained at the estate with the Babe?" George asked, partly to determine how much of James time he could monopolise. If his wife was with him in London, then, he'd need to share.


"Would not know, dont even care." of Mirtel he replied a shrug, "She was difficult at best as a maid, but once engaged became wildly unpredictable. She took a great huff with me and the rest of court over lord knows what, and following her wedding went off to Europe on a tour. I've heard hide nor hair from her since."


He paused at that, "Sorry to shock you old friend, but there is the truth of it."

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“Truly?” James asked, not believing a word of it. His friend was far too active and intelligent, and too self-effacting. “Then what’s this I hear about proving a lady was buried alive?” He asked archly, proving that he did have some vague idea of what went on in the world around him. “Really George, you are far too modest.”


But yes, James most definitely remembered that most bizarre weekend. “I could hardly forget.” He murmured in dry tones. After all, it had been that particular even when James and George had really become acquainted. “What sort of ‘personal rectifications’ George?” James asked, intrigued by his friend’s statement. “Have you found a lucky lady at last?” Perhaps George meant that he was engaged, that would make sense. “You must tell me what you’ve been up to, I’m dying to know!”


“Noni is here in London for the season, yes. She missed the last so it was only fair.” And James wanted her with him. He hoped they might try for a son, now that their daughter was growing so well. “But I shall be about town plenty. Also, we’re having a tea for some friends in a few days; we’d love it if you’d join us.” George would be the perfect addition to the party.


James wasn’t quite sure where to look or what to say over George’s revelation, though his heart went out to his friend. “I’m very sorry to hear that; it’s tragic when families fall out.” Mirtel had never struck James as difficult, but then he didn’t know her well. Perhaps she’d been perfectly proper in public and impossible at home. And George, much as he loved him, didn’t strike him immediately as a good disciplinarian. “Then you must come to tea with us.” James insisted after a moment’s pause. “We can’t have you spending Christmas on your own.” And he would not take ‘no’ for an answer.

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"Oh you heard about that?" George laughed with some surprise, blushing a little to boot.


"It was largely unreported by the papers... but ... but yes I did sleuth out foul play following an auction. Terrible stuff. Horrible way to die, though arguably the victim was asking for trouble. Those that dabble in witchcraft," George had dropped his voice to a hush, " - cannot be so surprised when the devil comes knocking."


James was quite the man for questions, barely had Chichester answered one, that another popped up. "Well... it's hardly a secret that I was a lost man after the death of Wilhelmina Boyle." he spoke honestly. "In a way, I had to die myself before I was able to life again. Ack, I am speaking metaphorically of course. Suffice to say, there is now a new dawn." he gave a small smile at that.


"Er, and yes, perhaps a new Lady I hope to court." he gave a daring wink of that - then lifting his hand to signal the help, he ordered two cherry brandys (while gesturing for their barely touched pints of ale to be took away!)


“I'd love to come to your party." George was swift to say. "It shall be your first since your marriage, though I hope far less dramatic than that day was!" warmly he chuckled, it had been a wedding and a half. Noni had been lost, and then Langdon had objected mid-service, so that when it was all over and the pair were actually married, it had been a surprise for most everyone.


Candid of the situation with Mirtel, he was warmed by James response -- not judging him, but instead opening his doors. "I'd love to, but how about you allow me to play host to my favourite couple, come join me for dinner tomorrow night after the sleigh racing at the city house. I'll hire a pianist and we shall dine and sing till we collapse happily to sleep. You’ll stay over of course. Though I must warn you, I am promised to attend Church early the next morning. Anglican church that is."

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  • 2 weeks later...

“Indeed I did!” James confirmed, quite proud of his friend. “You’re making the world a better place.” He declared, before turning more sober. “Yes, a truly horrible way to die.” He concurred in quiet tones, thinking of another coffin many years ago with scratch marks on the inside, the corpse with bloodied hands, only one of many fresh graves dug up in the name of science. “But then one should not meddle with things man was not meant to wot of.” He agreed. Let dead dogs lie.


James was full of questions indeed. It had been quite some time since he’d last seen his best friend and he wanted to know all about what he’d been up to. “Yes, I confess I held a concern for your good self, after that tragic event.” He told George, who had seemed quite devastated after the loss of his fiancé. Understandably. James would be the same if he ever lost Noni. But now apparently things had changed. “So a rebirth of sorts then?” James suggested. How very interesting.


What exactly his friend had changed became rapidly apparent, as George spoke of a new lady in his life, and of attending Anglican church! James never thought he’d seen the day that George converted. “Well now, I am glad to hear that you’re embracing life once more.” James enthused. More glad than perhaps George could know; he had worried. “May I ask this lady’s name? Or are you playing things close?” He asked only out of interest, James would never tell nor interfere.


“Excellent! You shall be most welcome, we’re having a few friends over and hopefully a fun afternoon. Very relaxed and lighthearted.” He assured George. “Invite your lady, if you will. Or perhaps I should invite her?” If George hadn’t made his intentions known, it might be a good opportunity. James for his own part hoped never to have a day as dramatic as his wedding again. It was the kind of event that entered into urban lore, and quite beyond his tolerable stress level. But the outcome had been worth it. “Allow me to hope that your own wedding might be rather less dramatic.” He said dryly.


Then George suggested an evening of his own. “A marvellous idea, we’d be delighted!” The doctor enthused. “That sounds wonderful. And we can all head to church together the next morning, our servants can pack our clothes.” Unspoken was that they would bring their maid and manservant, that was expected for a stay. Plus George’s house would be closer than Chelsea. “Here’s to old friends!” James scooped up the glass of cherry brandy that George had ordered – much more to his liking – and had a healthy swig.


Whilst the two men were talking one of the waitresses quietly brought the board over with the day’s lunch menu on it.


Partridge Pie

A creamy filling of partridge and leeks, in a crisp, flakey crust. Served with bread and mustard.


Beef Wellington

Roast beef wrapped in flaky pastry, served with gravy, chutney, butter and a fresh, crusty roll.


Soup of the Day

A hearty chicken, leek and barley soup, flavoured with chives and pepper and served with a fresh roll, butter and a wedge of local cheese.


“I do declare that Mrs Golightly endangers my soul more every season, old chap.” James said in mock horror as he regarded the board. “Lead me not into temptation, I can find the way myself.” He added dryly.

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George did not encourage the subject on, yet felt an inner satisfaction of the modest praise given. "Thank you." It was rare to be recognised, and it warmed his very soul.


"It is very far from settled," George confided in James, "she has given me an indication of her interest, quite a strong indication in fact." In George's terms it seemed strong at least! Though of course there had been not a kiss nor even touch of hands. "Her father however, is another story. I received my first rejection from him swiftly, yet the battle shall go on." he paused, "her name: Frances Cavendish."


George paused, watching his friends response.


"I am not permitted courtship yet!" He laughed out loud at James unwittingly audacious suggestion that he bring the lady along! Or even that he could invite her himself. "Nor do I wish for any plotting of that sort, the Duke would think me behind it, and hold reduced opinion of me for that. No, I shall attend your party solo, it sounds like we shall enjoy a fine time. What would you like me to bring?"


Bringing along a lady was not the method Having ladies in attendance was not necessary in George's books, for a good time.


"Ha, if we are making plans like that, then may I twist your arm to promise a picnic, the pair of us, on the banks of the Thames before hand." It seemed an age ago now, George had picnicked with James, had planned to confess his heart. But had not. His deep fondness of James was still there, yet it was different now time had trampled upon it. Matured perhaps, or was it merely laying dormant? Why was the Earls imagination fuelled with invitation that James (and wife) stay over night...


"Excellent!" he beamed, and lifting his glass at the toast.


Yet there was a menu to consider, and appetite of another sort. "Mmm, the Partridge sounds good, will that be in a white sauce do you think? Ah, but what man can pass by beef well cooked." George mused... realising that he was extremely hungry. In fact, perhaps he could manage both? Looking across to James he stalled.

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  • 2 weeks later...

George revealed a little more detail about the lady who had caught his interest, and at the last James's blonde brows rose in mild-mannered surprise. His friend was aiming high indeed! But why not? "That strikes me as rather unreasonable." He opined of Newcastle's rejection. "A man of your station and means is a very fine catch. And now that you've converted, he can hardly object on those grounds." Why, the good doctor was rather incensed over the rejection of his friend. Still, as his own marriage had proven, a 'no' was hardly the end of the conversation.


"Well then, perhaps we shall have to see about changing his mind." He asserted, as though it should be a simple enough thing, and George could rest assured that James's considerable intellect was already at work on the problem. He wanted to see his friend happy, and if he too were married and to a fine lady of court then perhaps he might be inclined to attend more regularly and the two of them might have more time together. Much as he loved his wife, James missed the intelligent conversation of his peers, including his good friend George. "Bring yourself; your company is gift enough." James assured him. "If you insist, bring a bottle of something we might share."


Almost as though he had read James's thoughts, George suddenly asked whether he might twist James's arm to a picnic. The last time the two had picnicked together, James had been about to get married and understandably rather distracted. The opportunity to spend time in his friend's company in a more relaxed frame of mind was to be jumped at. "Done!" He declared. "Though the party is an afternoon tea. How would you feel about a dinner picnic" He suggested. It would be a welcome excuse to get out of the house.


The conversation was interrupted by the arrival of the menu as both men gave it the serious consideration such things deserved. The information mused upon, George put his finger upon the nub of the problem. "It sounds like a white sauce." James agreed on the subject of the Partridge pie, his grey gaze meeting George's dark one as his friend looked over at him, undecided. James gave a concilliatory smile. "Why don't you order the pie, and I the beef, and we can share?" He suggested, since he himself had been pondering the same problem. It was a most simple solution.


The problem adequately solved in his mind, James turned to a question that his friend might be best placed to answer. "Could I ask some artistic advice?" James queried his friend. "I've seen your most delightful landscapes, but I wanted to ask whether you paint portraits as well, or know someone who does?" He enquired. "I appreciate good artwork of course, but I hardly have your depth of knowledge on the subject."

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  • 3 weeks later...

"Ermm... you are a little biased as my friend." George spoke to Newcastle’s defence. Perhaps it was his own modesty at play somewhat, but George was under no illusions to the past ruin upon his repute. "You were not about at Brighton to see for yourself, but... well. Suffice to say that I embarrassed myself rather well. Frankly, I was fortunate to only be confined to the Tower for the remainder of the season. I've little explanation for it myself, other than being seized by a manner of hysteria. When I think back now, I feel a disturbing fuzz over is all. Yet others unfortunately remember it with far greater clarity. Newcastle, would be one of those.


Truth be said, it was highly unlikely that Newcastle would consent to the match. But for now it was an uplifting thought, and assisted George with his quest of turning over a new leaf and seeing optimism in the world once more.


"I have a plan." James, the dear soul, offered his assistance though in that particularly un-pushy way of his. "Time and balance shall recommend me eventually, I shall become my own reference over the coming months and years."


The conversation flowed, as they did, and somehow the men were fondly speaking of picnics, "Ha, a Dinner picnic yes! Ah, but are we perhaps pining after the spring?!" George laughed.


One thing for a certainty, they were both hungry. "An excellent solution." he agreed, flashing a smile across the table. And so the men finally ordered from the patiently waiting waitress.


"Portraits." James likely knew of George's previously expressed aversion to portraiture, it was possible that he even knew the real reason for it. (There had been a very difficult situation the Earl had found himself within - following which he'd conjured every possible excuse to not paint another portrait!) But George had changed. (He had even agreed to teaching Sophia to paint.


"Well in fact," he paused for a moment, then launched, "I may myself be available, come the end of the season of course. You are thinking of a family portrait of Yourself and Noni? Perhaps she seated Madonna-like with babe in arms, and yourself positioned stood behind her in omnipotent protector pose. Delft School-style subject with religious overtones, it’s background umbers might a grant drama to the scene.” He imagined out loud. “Or… well now, what had you been thinking.”

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