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Tea at Lord Melville's | Early Afternoon 31/1- Xmas 1677

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Beverley would have preferred to go to the old house of the revered Sir Thomas More by the river, but alas it was not the season for that and the weather was not friendly enough. Instead, he stayed nice and covered in a carriage as he rode to Melville's. It was one of the benefits of mending with his lord father. Now he could be pampered yet again by padding heated with warm rocks and all such amenities to keep him warm.


He was quite toasty now that he had access to his proper full wardrobe, and he could nearly sign into the fur that surrounded his neck. His lady mother's cozy present was soft and warm against his skin.


Walking up to More's house reminded him of his friend Sir Cadell, who had been so transfixed by More and had been astonished to hear that many generations previously that a Saint-Leger had written one of the most complete accounts of More. Saint-Leger then had clearly not wished to be a martyr and that was telling toward his family's current desire to not be martyrs for any Catholic causes.


There was a man who truly enjoyed Papa's library... His lord father was crazy about books.


He wondered what the place would look like decorated by Lord Melville. He would shortly see.


Dudley knocked upon the door for him and then stood by to the side.

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Dudley had not finished withdrawing his hand from the knocker when Cuthbert Beale, the butler, opened the door himself. “Lord Beverley", the man said respectfully, "you have been expected. Welcome to Melville House”. At his side was Thomas, the junior footman, ready to take any items that Beverley cared to unload on him.


The house was decorated for the season, although a bit sparsely. Part of it because the lady of the house was not present, and partly because of Duncan’s Presbyterian beliefs regarding pagan feasts. The butler had convinced his lord, though, that it made sense to at least pay lip service to local customs, so there were artful and fragrant displays of holly, ivy, mistletoe, and rosemary accented with spices, apples, oranges, candles, and ribbons in the colors of the Melvilles. They were smaller and fewer than they would be in the houses of the English nobility, but they were easily seen.


Dudley was asked by the junior footman to join him, and was taken to the kitchen where there were mulled wine and pastries waiting for him. If he dared ask, more solid fare would also be provided. Meanwhile, the viscount was preceded by the butler to the library, where he was announced.


“Lord Beverley, my lord”.


The library was to the back of the house, a long room running north to south, with windows on the north and west, and two large, roaring fireplaces on the east wall. There were also two doors on the east wall, giving access to an open gallery that was cool in summer, but almost unbearably cold in winter. The cases went all the way to the ceiling, and were full of books on many topics, but mainly on historical and military matters. Well-kept weapons and shields decorated the fireplace mantles and free spaces on the walls.


Near the northern fireplace, four wide, low, comfortable chairs made of walnut wood and upholstered in burgundy leather with brass tacks were placed to the sides of a long, low table. On the table was placed a blue on white Chinese porcelain tea set, with an array of finger foods on three plates. The edibles had been arranged somewhat by nationality. The largest, central plate was full of traditional English sweet and savoury morsels. Another one was full of Scottish delights, and the third one contained French-style sweets and chocolates. The teapot was full of a semi-fermented mountain tea ready to be poured, while there was also a bowl full of sugar to sweeten the tea with. A smaller table located nearby was appointed with varied brandies, whiskys, fortified wines, and flavoured liquours.


Duncan had been looking for a particular book, The Histories of Herodotus. It seemed that it had either been misplaced, or it was missing. The Lowlander made a mental note to make sure it was found, and soon.


“Lord Beverley, welcome!” Duncan said with a smile as the younger lord was announced. “Melville House is honoured by your presence”. He signaled with his hand for his visitor to chose a chair, and he would follow suit, sitting on the opposite side of the table, facing the Saint-Leger scion.

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"Good afternoon, Lord Melville. I am pleased to see you once more," the viscount said. They had spoken of having a dinner and night out amongst his master and other highborn officers, but as he recollected, Melville had left and it was thankful Beverley had not already sent out invitations or the other viscount might have missed the benefits of his own idea!


"I hope all is well?"


He took a seat graceful, showing little particularity about which. The light from the window was a welcome thing, so he merely sat facing that direction. He was quite comfortable between that and the warmth of the hearth.


Thankfully, the fare was far less exotic than the fare the night before!

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Duncan made a small hand gesture, and Cuthbert helped Beverley with the comfortable but rather heavy chair. The butler would be waiting on them himself, instead of assigning a footman. It was a detail that the visitor would probably miss, but it told the house’s staff how much their lord respected the Englishman. Meanwhile, the Scotch took a seat in front of his visitor.


And there they were. The scion of one of the oldest families in England, heir to a very rich and very important peer, visiting a much more obscure Lowlander whose pedigree was almost as old. In a sense, they represented the state of affairs between their two realms. England had precedence over Scotland, even though the Scots fought for equality in all areas of life. But unless they came to terms and actually helped each other, England and Scotland would not be able to keep up with the powers of the age, much less grow in relative power over the likes of France, the Dutch Republic, Sweden, Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire.


“I am likewise pleased to see you, my lord. And yes, all is well. My wife and daughter are warm and comfortable in Melville Castle, my sister married Lord Balcarres only a few weeks ago, and my health has held reasonably well, so I have many things to be thankful to God for”. Indeed, life had been good to the Lowlander. He couldn’t complain.


“Tea? Or perhaps something else first, to take the edge of the cold off?”


The question was a signal for Cuthbert to do as the visitor wished. The man would pour tea or serve wine or spirits according to the reply. Beverley would have to take the food himself, as the butler would not dare touch the visitor’s food, even with gloved hands. Chinese porcelain plates and sterling silver cutlery had already been set on the table.


“Pray, tell me, how is your lady wife? How has married life been treating you? You do look well, I must say”. There were slight signs of stress on Beverley’s face, but Duncan would not mention them. The two men were not close friends, so it would not have been polite to inquire. Besides, small talk came first. More serious talk would wait until polite exchanges were done with. Talk of war, of possibilities of war, and of needs of war. And talk of other, no less important, matters.

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Beverley smiled at the offer of something stronger, but he graciously deferred. He was rather a light-weight when it came to liquor. "Tea is fine. I had some mulled wine on the ride over. If there were sun today, it would have been a prettier trip."


There might be some snow yet, but it was very grey. Rather dreary. SInce his last few days had gone quite well, he rather wished the weather followed suit.


"She is very well," he replied. "Enjoying that we have new rooms at the palace as well as a grander space at Brooke House. Court does not afford as much privacy. At Windsor we had our own leisure."


Cumberland spent much of his time at Windsor, so Beverley oft found himself there as well. THe last recess the Queen had been there whilst the King went gallivanting about. His Majesty had come for a short time, but Beverley always thought and felt himself more of an onlooker with such matters. The King had his diversions with his gentlemen and friends.


"I approve of married life whole-heartedly," he said, raising his cup with a grin.

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Cuthbert poured the tea, and sweetened it if directed to do so by the English viscount. He then placed the cup in front of the visitor, did the same for Duncan and then retreated out of earshot, but within sight of a hand signal. The man knew his job… and his place.


The Lowlander gestured towards the plates of food, but only got a morsel if his guest did. Then he eased back into his chair, getting a bit more comfortable. “I am glad that your wife is enjoying life as your wife. Court can be a hard place for a newly wed lady, if her husband has important responsibilities, like yours”. To Duncan, Beverley’s position as Rupert’s aide was a very impressive post. “And yes, the palace affords little privacy, or so I am told”. After all, the Scotch had only been a visitor there, never a resident.


Then a smile formed on Beverley’s face. No, not a smile. A wide grin. Aye, married life does have its… perks. Duncan raised his cup. It was only tea, but given the circumstances, it would do. “To married life, lord Beverley, to many sons and daughters, and to an heir worthy of the ancient and honourable name of St-Leger!”


After that, Duncan changed the topic. “May I be so bold as to ask about the possibility of war? I know there are things you can’t comment on, so feel free not to answer, but I do need to prepare if it comes to conflict. If Langdon’s regiment is deployed, I would have to go with them, and I would prefer if I had a little time to settle a few affairs before leaving, just in case. As a married man, I am sure you understand my line of thought”.


No soldier liked to talk about death, but to those that had seen it in the battlefield knew that it could and would come when you least expected it. If his regiment were to deploy abroad, even as a token garrison, Duncan would have to write a will. I would make things much easier for his wife and daughter if it came to him dying.

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"She is a credit to her lord father in that way, though young. She knows her part and lacks no finery," Beverley said with a fond smile. Neither of them truly knew what they were doing in the marriage department, only sticking to the scripts mostly.


In the area of food, Beverley also stuck to what was familiar and very English.


"Indeed, to married life and heirs all around," the viscount agreed, tilting his cup in a delicate salute.


"That is for Parliament to decide, but we have been making preparations nonetheless." He had been meeting with Cumberland and Pepys about that very same thing that week.


"I do not know if there are any plans for your regiment. I do not know if they would be moved from London." That had seemed to be their initial purpose. "But I should make such arrangements anyway, for one never has guarantees, war or not."


Beverley had nothing to will away, really. The estate that his wife brought to the marriage was part of their family estate, so it was his father's until Beverley became the earl.


"You could likely seek an appointment whether Lord Langdon's regiment goes or not if you wish to fight the French. If not, there are other ways to be supportive." If one thing was guaranteed, Beverley was always on the look-out for ways to fulfill his duties, no matter what strange unsuited task his master tried to throw at him. Funding the Navy and Rupertinoes from thin air was the latest.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Duncan nodded. Beverley was happy, or at least content, with his marriage. Good. An unhappy marriage makes for an unhappy man, or at least an irascible one. The happier he is, the easier to be entreated. The Lowlander was lucky in that way. He actually loved his wife. And perhaps she loves me too… He smiled at the thought.


“Yes, I better make arrangements, as you say”. Without an heir, things would be complicated regarding Melville Castle and its lands. Only his Chelsea property and his partnership in Horizon Ventures were unentailed. At least his sister was married to an earl, but he also had his mother to think of. At least Ophelia and baby Ellen would not want for anything except, perhaps, a title. “I will make it a point to write to my solicitors as soon as New Year’s day is past.”


The idea of an appointment outside his regiment had not occurred to the viscount. “Hmm… a non-regimental appointment? There is an idea. If I could be of service, lord Beverley, in any capacity, I will be gladl to serve”. Duncan’s mind was thinking military contributions, not financial ones. Then other ways were mentioned. At that, the Scotch paused. He did not want to speak about the plans to outfit their frigate as a privateer. The pause might have felt a bit long or forced to Beverley, though.


“And what ways would you suggest, my lord? I am always the King’s good subject”.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Beverley thought it was a matter of course to have some form of a will, especially when one had something to will at all. He did not particularly think there was to be much danger in the upcoming months. He rather doubted there would be war at all, but he knew that not everyone knew such things.


"I shall be sure to keep that in mind if His Highness is in need of something that would be well-suited," the viscount replied. His mind was like a spare bank for Cumberland, as well as spare eyes and ears, so knowing the skills of many was important to his position.


"Knowing that you are already seeking a Letter of Marque* through Sir Franc-, I mean Lord Kingston, you are already doing something," Beverley said, as a matter of course, figuring Melville would realize that he would know because of his position. Just that week he had been going through Letters of Marque and readiness reports with his master.


"Aiding to convince others that it is patriotic to help fund the naval efforts by private donations would be one way. We are also speaking of sponsorships of the new Rupertinoe cannon and selling the elder cannon."


(OOC - I asked for a mod call this way I could skip some of Beverley's sales pitches as he already knows Duncan is doing the Letter of Marque ROFL )

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Duncan had been more of a soldier than a nobleman for most of his life. It had only been the last few years that he had had to assume his responsibilities as a peer of Scotland. Thus, things like wills had escaped him. He would have to remedy that, and soon.


Also, as he was not part of the highest military circles, the Lowlander did not know that war was not really the King’s wish. If he had known, he would have counseled to do exactly what was being done, perhaps even more so: to make it appear as if the King desired war, making sure everyone, spies included, saw the realms prepare for it, while at the same time making sure France knew that the negotiating table was there, ready and waiting.


“You are very kind, Lord Beverley”, the viscount nodded in thanks. “It feels wrong somehow to have benefited France with my military expertise all these years, while doing nothing for His Grace Charles’ own realms”.


It was hard, almost impossible, for the Lowlander to think about King Charles as the King of England. The Stuarts had been Kings of Scots before they had become the English royal house. To Duncan, Charles the Second was, by the grace of God, king of Scotland, England, and Ireland, in that order.


It didn’t surprise the Scotch one bit that Beverley knew about his request for a letter of marque. “Aye, every good subject should be doing his best at this point”, the Scotch viscount said, “and if the Letter of Marque is granted, I would be very interested in purchasing some of those elder cannon you mention. I had considered purchasing some from our allies the Spanish, but if the Navy Royal were to allow such a purchase, I would prefer to buy them in England, definitely”.


The Lowlander had been thinking about approaching the Spanish ambassador and asking him to arrange such a purchase. The Toledo foundries were famous, and if they were to be used against France, Duncan thought such a purchase would be authorized by the Spanish government. Still, he much preferred that the money stayed in Britain, even if the cost was a little higher.


“As for private donations and sponsorships, I will make it a point to speak about them to the Scotch lords I know as soon as I go back home. I am certain that my lord father’s name will carry some weight still, and that at the very least some lords will consider it”.


It would not be many, Duncan knew, but if it was a Melville asking, instead of a Lauderdale imposing, perhaps something could come out. At the very least out of national pride, not letting the English get all the glory. It would have to be in small meetings, even personal ones. A speech in Parliament would sound good, but achieve little.


Besides, it could also have other, interesting side effects… hmm...

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Yes, I do believe my master will be deciding upon the reselling of the cannon quite soon, and I do think that you can count on some being available for you to purchase once the details for the Letter of Marque go through."


Such things happening on quick notice always came with costs and strings that it was not yet Beverley's duty to discuss, especially as that Kingston seemed to be middling the negotiations as it were.


"Yes, I hope that they are amenable to you, for it is in your favour that the Scots do not much like the French either. There must be some old lords who cannot go to war who would love to have a family motto or the like engraved on a cannon that will pummel the French in the name of our King." It was a patriotic issue and lords did have a duty in war. Capitalizing on the dislike for the French was a good tactic in Beverley's mind.


"We shall need funding soon to be prepared in the Spring."

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“I would be thankful if that is the case, Lord Beverly, very thankful”.


By then, the Lowlander had learned that every favour was paid for, either immediately or in the future, whether in currency or in the form of another favour. Although Beverley never mentioned himself, Duncan knew that he would be in the young man’s debt too.


Many Scotch lords resented their king living in London. They did not resent the king himself, rather they resented Lauderdale. Some definitely disliked Lauderdale more than they disliked the French. By the same token, if they could show their loyalty to their king in any manner that was not through the hated duke, they would probably favor it.


“I will make it a point to travel back home as soon as practicable, and do my utmost to help them see the value of supporting His Grace in all this”.


It was left unvoiced that not only the higher commands in the army and navy, but the king himself would notice who gave voluntarily and who didn’t. It would take a lot of work, especially in winter, but any results would benefit both the war effort, if it came to war, and the Scotch viscount himself. He would, even if he failed to obtain much, be seen as a dutiful subject at the very least.


“Some more tea, perhaps?” Melville signaled Cuthbert to pour more tea for both Beverley and himself. He also availed himself of a piece of black bun, and started nibbling on it thoughtfully.


God willing, there will be a fruit of my labours, and I will be noticed for it. One could always hope...

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"You must be sure to write and tell me how things progress so that I might keep your doings fresh in the Prince's mind," Beverley said, with a nod. He knew Melville was not always familiar with all the eccentricities of English court, so he wished to help the man to get ahead. Those with a mind to support his master were ones Beverley needed to give his attentions. It was in all of their interests.


"Yes, such warming things are far more luring in this weather," he added. The viscount had selected a more familiar thing than Melville to nibble on. French things, in this instance, seemed a bit safer than Scottish ones.


"My master might also be holding an afternoon of shooting followed by dinner. It is another method of gaining funding. Since we were never able to arrange the dinner you suggested, I thought of combining such a thing with an idea of Lord Chatham. Do you know him?"

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“I will make it a post to keep you appraised of any and all advances and setbacks”, Duncan said. “Mail might not be at its best over winter, but if there is anything truly important, I will send it via packet ship. I am sure your name on the letter will expedite its delivery”. Although it was meant to be a compliment, it was most probably true. Beverly was, after all, the Lord Admiral’s personal aide.


Noticing that his guest preferred the non-Scottish edibles, the Lowlander repressed a smile. I must teach you that not every Scottish dish is haggis, my lord! A second smile tried to surface at the thought, but it was successfully stopped.


Cuthbert Beale served them both a fresh cup of hot tea, and retreated once again out of earshot.


Then, an unexpected invitation. “I would be honoured to attend! Will that be game or target shooting? I ask so I arrive properly prepared”. Yes, the dinner had been a good idea. Perhaps it could still come to pass, maybe in the next season. Meanwhile, the event being organized sounded quite appealing.


“Lord Chatham? Lord Chatham?” Repetition was a device to attempt to trigger memory, to no avail. “I do not seem to recall the name, although my mind plays tricks on me sometimes. I am sorry to say I can’t be certain either way”.


His mind felt a bit tired.*


“May I ask what idea did Lord Chatham propose?”


* OOC: shielding against a possible time knot, just in case.

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Beverley discriminated equally against all unfamiliar food for reasons other than taste. He had a sensitive stomach and was prone enough to illness that he rarely ventured from staples.


"Target, I believe, for then we could have fires and such so the weather would not matter much. It was Lord Chatham that proposed the shooting. I suggested we have a dinner afterward to warm up and have opportunity for talk and strategizing."


And socializing, but Beverley tended to have a one track mind where his duties were concerned.


"I will be arranging the time and that quite soon. My master's schedule is rather full with the obligations of the season and of the oncoming war." Or at least funding for war... "Perhaps I shall know tonight or even tomorrow at the sled races that are planned. Do you plan on attending?"

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Duncan observed what Beverley chose to eat, making a mental note. Next time, the menu will be adjusted to his particular tastes. It was the duty of the host to do so, after all. He would still make sure to have a few delicacies that would not seem too foreign, even though they would be. After all, it was to the other lord’s advantage to be exposed to such things, even if he did not care to try them.


"Targets, you say? I would be honoured to be counted worthy to attend". Although Duncan was not as good a shot as Louis, to whom he had lost a competition a couple of years before, he could hold his own, especially in battlefield conditions. Blades, on the other hand, were a different matter. With blades the Lowlander could be murderous... as he had been, on more than one occasion.


"Should I take my personal arms with me?" The viscount's weapons were not fancy, but they were kept in pristine condition. Even his flints were checked for chips regularly, and there was never a hint of rust on the steel of his barrels. "They have not much in the way of decoration, so they may seem out of place at such a gathering, but they have served me well, and are what I am used to". To fire anything else would take one or two practice shots to get accustomed to the weapons.


The dinner had originally been Beverley’s idea, even though the young lord had stated a few minutes earlier that it had been Duncan’s. An accomplished courtier, and a credit to his family and our king The young man had earned much respect from the Lowlander. He knew how to get things done at court, a skill the Scotch lord had yet to master.


“Sled races?” Duncan’s brow furrowed until he remembered that his valet had mentioned them as one of the must-attend events. Then his forehead cleared. “Ah, yes! The sled races. Yes, I will attend, God willing. Do send word here, though, just in case something unexpected comes up”. There could always be something unplanned for developing from an unforeseen quarter.


"Will you be there?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

Beverley had an image of the Scot with all his guns and ammunitions, which he imagined to be quite great because Scots were Scots and he imagined that savage lands required much protection! Thus, he smiled at the idea of Duncan arriving with a horde of servants in tow.


"A few, certainly, or anything you have which is novel, historical, or odd. My master enjoys such things within the realm of militaria," Beverley nodded.


"I will," he affirmed. "I may arrive with my master, for we have another meeting right before. Saturday is a very busy weekend in the court calendar, do you not think? Many are seeing their court patrons or family patriarch as well as all of the events and the gifting ceremonies for His Majesty."


Couple that with being a busy time of lobbying and courting people to his master's (and the King's) stance on war with France, and Beverley found it all rather exhausting.

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Had Duncan known what mental image Lord Beverley had of him, he would have burst laughing, mainly because it would be partially true. Not so much because the Lowlands were dangerous, but rather because of his military experience in the Continent.


“I will make it a point to take some… unusual… items to the event, along with my pistols and musket. I hope His Grace Cumberland does not find them too… unrefined… for his taste”. I will make it a point to take a claidheamh beag, a claidheamh-mòr, a Highland targe, and perhaps a few other items for show. Since it is going to be a shooting match, my personal pistols and musket, of course. Nothing else comes to mind except powder and shot.


Duncan tended to be rather picky with his powder and shot. He bought powder made by monks in the continent, as popular wisdom held that powder mixed after wine-drinking monks urinated on the ingredients was the best. It had never failed the viscount, that was for sure. As for shot, one of his servants, a veteran, cast the lead balls for him. The man was very careful, so the shot was quite even from one batch to the next.


“I will see you there, then. And yes, the whole season is rather busy”, the Lowlander agreed. “Days are full, and nights even more so. I do hope you are allowed enough rest after everything you do for your master and the realm”. Beverley was, to the Lowlander, an extremely busy, successful, and effective courtier, and he admired the man for it. “If not now, then perhaps as soon as the season is over. You do much for His Grace and his realms”.


God knows I prefer the battlefield to court. At least there, enemies do not smile at you, and thus are easily identified.

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  • 1 month later...

(EEK, I thought we finished this, but apparently we were actually wrapping up Sorry )


"My master is like any royal. He likes his things to outshine his lessers," Beverley said, with amusement*. "Unlike many others, though, he likes all manner of things. Old things. Rough things. If it is militaria it is sure to not offend. All gentlemen like to talk of the stories of even their most mundane of weapons." He nodded, sagely. He had been present for many a such story between his father and his friendsand then also his master and his friends. It could be boring for the onlooker if the stories were all of old men...and one had heard them a million times repeated.


"It is no true toil, I assure you. THere are many clerks, underlings, junior officers, and servants in such a household and office of State. My duties are quite social in nature."


Which was almost a nice way of saying gathering and giving information, talking to people, arranging things, answering correspondence. Only a truly naive person would not realize that any great man's household members were his eyes and ears everywhere and anywhere.


"There are, erm, simply more people to talk to during Christmastide, especially one preceding war," he conceded. "It is good to have things to do if you enjoy them or they are for great purpose, but mention of such varying obligations shall have me taking my leave, Lord Melville. Though I would much rather continue conversing, there are several lords I need to find and speak with the next few days, the older sort." He sighed, "Every time I speak to one, I cannot help but think they are going to report on me back to my lord father."


It was no easy situation to have a father who was a Privy Councilor and a master who was a royal, for everything always seemed so very public and reflecting on far more than just himself. Much pressure for someone who was not the best conversationalist to begin with.

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  • 1 month later...

Although Duncan did not have Beverley’s position, he could somewhat relate to the young man. His guest was the scion of an old family, someone who one day would take his father’s place, most probably as privy councilor too. The name of Saint-Leger was well known and, depending upon who you were, either respected, or feared. In Duncan’s case it was the first.


It seemed it was time to bring the meeting to an end.


“Lord Beverley, although it may seem that all you have are duties, I will say this: thank you for your service to His Grace Cumberland and, through him, to His Grace Charles. You honour both your family and your country with what you do”.


Duncan stood up, which was a cue for Cuthbert to fetch whatever Beverley had left at the entrance, and to signal the English nobleman’s carriage to be ready at the entrance.


“My father was Secretary of State for Scotland, and I know what it is like to be on constant duty to one’s monarch. My father lived that way for years on end. So, any time you feel the need to get away from it all, the doors of More’s Great House are open to you and yours…” Duncan had purposefully used the original name of the house, not the current one. “You will be treated as an honoured guest, and no need to give word in advance”. To Duncan, as to many other Lowlanders, hospitality was something to take seriously. That he made the offer meant that he had given his word, and his staff would welcome Beverley whether Duncan was in residence or not.


“Until we meet again, my lord, and may God’s peace be with you”. The Lowlander extended his hand.


OOC: I wonder what Beverley would say if he knew how much Duncan respects him

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