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A gentleman caller [Dec 31st, an hour before the ball]- Xmas 1677

Duncan Melville

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The Townhouse of Lady Kendishall


The town house was commissioned many years ago - and boasted a sweeping crushed driveway to expedite the arrival of carriages with guests. And what parties had been had in this house, it's libertine reputation remaining to this day.


Ivy had grown up the walls of the tall building, and in the spring and summer a glorious display of flowers brought brightness to its sober lines. Within its grounds were intermittently placed sculptures of frolicsome scenes of nymphs at play.


A liveried carriage with the coat of arms of the Melville family entered the driveway pulled by six dark grey horses. As soon as the carriage stopped, and the door was opened for him, the Scotch jumped out, and walked briskly to the door. Behind him hurried a footman, carrying what could be surmised to be some sort of case, covered in soft, red fabric. The contents of the case would not be easily ascertained by the casual onlooker, although when the carrier missed a step, the clink of glass could be heard by those close by.


“Careful, George. I don’t want the gift to break before it is given”, Duncan said good naturedly.


The viscount was dressed in a lavender velvet justacorps decorated with silver thread in fern leaf patterns, breeches matching color and fabric but without the embroidery, and a quilted brocade waistcoat in lime green and orange, accented by the silver chain of a pocket watch. Over that ensemble, the Lowlander wore a circular black velvet cloak lined with silver chinchilla fur. On his head was an old-style cavalier hat adorned with the tips of a trio of white ostrich feathers, while a fine huge oval-cut amethyst set on a pin decorated his frothy cravat. Blue and white diamond rings sparkled on his left hand, while on his right he carried a figured black walnut cane with a polished silver head shaped in the form of a cube, attached to the cane by one corner. At his waist danced the last piece of his outfit, a very Scottish claidheamh beag,the basket-hilt sword the Scots called “the small sword”.


As the Scotsman arrived at the door, he rapped it with the head of his walking stick. KNOCK! KNOCK, KNOCK! When the door was opened, the viscount asked, “Is Lady Kendishall receiving? Please tell her if she is to please forgive the unannounced visit, but that Lord Melville would like to have a brief word”. I hope she is not in the middle of getting dressed for the ball. Yet, I did not send word beforehand, so she is to be forgiven if she replies that I ought to return at some other date.

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  • 5 weeks later...

"Oh yes, milady, he's waiting downstairs now. I allowed him in. Said his name was Lord...Melville...yes that tis it!" the maid declared, quite pleased with herself she remembered the name of the Scotsman for she was sure he was that, given his accent. She knew that much, lifetime Londoner though she was.


"Melville! Oh! Well let him in...no wait, you already did that, good!" Caroline beamed as she turned from the mirror where she had been adjusting - for the umpteenth time- her necklace. It was not that expensive a one but she loved it for it had been her mother's. She still missed her mother, deeply.


"Have him wait by the fireplace and assure him I will be down momentarily," she ordered.




A few minutes later Caroline practically burst into the room, stopping then to gaze at the Scotsman with her big blue eyes.


"My Lord Melville, what a wonderful surprise! Twice now in two days...make that evenings. I have the pleasure of your company. Why are you here if I may ask?"


She should have already have left for the ball but she was dawdling. Again there was no escort for her and she felt awkward about that lack of male companionship. It was most uncomfortable to walk into any public affair on one's own.

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His cloak and hat were taken from him as soon as the maid came down the stairs, and he had been led to wait near a very cozy fireplace that had a good, warm, fire going. Ah, the comforts of a home well-led. This fire is quite comforting! His footman had taken the fabric-covered case to wherever the maid had asked him to follow. With luck, George would be served something to drink and, perhaps, a bite to eat. It was sure to be a long night for the man.


The lady of the house made her appearance a few minutes later. The Lowlander, who had been standing by the fire, bowed formally. “The pleasure is all mine, my lady. The purpose of my visit is twofold. First, I came by to drop off a New Year’s present. As we speak, my man must be placing it wherever your maid is directing him to. I thought you would enjoy a case of good champagne”. It was a gift Duncan thought would please her. “Second, I must confess attending the ball by myself was not something I looked forward to, so I came by, unannounced I confess, hoping that you would be home and had no escort for the evening”.


Duncan often did things on a whim. That was how he had met Sir Cedric, taking a stroll at night. That was also how he had almost been killed, another London night when he let his feet wander without much thought. Consequences had been both good and bad on his wanderings, but on the whole, he could not complain.


He bowed once again, very formally. “So, Lady Kendishall, would you give me the honour of escorting you to the King’s New Year’s ball? Or have I made my request too late, and you are waiting for another lord to escort you?”


The viscount held his bow for effect.

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Immediate greetings satisfied, Duncan got right to the point, first generously presenting her with a New Year's gift, champagne. But more exciting was his sudden offer to escort her to the ball! The former she appreciated and the latter she was genuinely excited about.


"Thank you, my lord, I am embarrassed but I did not buy you anything for the season. My apologies," she made a little pout but that vanished with the escort offer including even a gallant bow.


"Really? Ohhh, thank you, thank you! I have no one taking me, no one even asked me so that - if I did not like him - I could have turned him down. I miss Lord Maldon, I am confident he would have at least inquired about me. So yes, certainly I would love to go with you....honored even," she approached him even closer then planted a quick kiss on one of his cheeks, "You are very kind."


Then she thought of something.


"Your wife. she will not mind, will she?"

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  • 3 weeks later...

“No apology is necessary, Lady Kendishall. Besides, your company this evening is gift enough”, he said gallantly. “Lord Maldon is a most proper gentleman. I wonder what he is up to nowadays? I made him an offer that I will fulfill, should he still wish it”. Duncan had offered either allowing Maldon to sail on one of Horizon Ventures’ ships, or to bring exotic plants from the Carib back to England.


The kiss on the cheek was accepted with a friendly smile. Then, an inquiry about Ophelia minding them going together to the ball.


“My lady wife is not fond of social functions, not fond at all”, he explained. “And she understands that her husband ought to be a knight in shining armour on occasion. She will not mind at all, I assure you. In fact, she would probably encourage it”.


After all, there was no hidden motive behind Duncan’s request. For a man of his station, having female friends and being seen with them in public was expected, up to a point. Being caught in a private place or in a compromising situation with a lady friend would be something entirely different, of course.


Duncan took his watch from the waistcoat's pocket, looked at the time, and put it back in its place. “We should think about leaving soon. Keeping the king waiting is never a good idea”. The king would probably be bored by the event, but it was not good form to be too late. “Shall we?”

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Unsurprisingly they agreed on Lord Maldon, they both liked the man, despite his physical drawbacks, he had been a wonderful fellow to engage with. Caroline missed him already, maybe someday he would renew their acquaintance. She also made certain that Lord Melville's wife would not take offense to the man taking her to this ball, he assured her that was the case and she thought him a man of his word. All she knew is if she herself had a fine husband such as Duncan, she would jealously guard him from other womanly temptations. However she had no intention of doing anything immoral with him. She doubted he would even go along with it and while she was libertine, she wasn't that libertine! Even she had standards.


He then checked on his watch, suggesting it was time to go, they would not want to annoy His Royal Majesty by being late. Caroline was ready.


"Yes, by all means, let us depart. I simply cannot wait to show off to all the ball what a distinguished gentleman accompanied me this night. I promise you I will do nothing to embarrass you or make you regret this decision," she pledged.


And with that they departed and clambered into his carriage. It was cold out but Caroline didn't mind, suddenly she was very very happy.

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Sometimes things grew organically. No plans, not plots. Simply a thought, and a follow through. This had been one of those times. Caroline seemed to be happy, and Duncan was definitely content. An opportunity for a friendship to grow. All was good.


The Lowlander helped Lady Kendishall into the carriage, and asked her to sit facing forward. He then took the seat facing backwards, for propriety's sake. Once inside she would not be cold, though, as most of the heated bricks were in the seat she had taken, and their warmth would suffice, or so the viscount hoped. There was a Bohemian crystal decanter full of whisky, and a pair of glasses, in case the lady wanted to partake.


"To the palace, with due haste!", the Scotch lord directed their coachman. Isaac Hawkins was an old hand at navigating London, and he would get them as fast as was humanly possible.


OOC: thanks for the company! Would you like to post the entrance to the ball?

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  • 2 weeks later...


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