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Breakfast at Melvilles | 1st of Jan- Xmas 1677

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George arrived as invited at 10 of the clock that new years morning - it was a chill day but fine enough still and the road to Chelsea not really so long. In fact the scenery in the countryside was stunning.


The dapperly dressed Earl reached out silver tipped walking stick to rap on the door.


Behind him a manservant stood bearing a cloth covered hamper. The note enclosed read, "To your kitchen from mine." and included a number of pickles and cheeses*.





* Chichester was known for it's dairy.

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Melville House

This older house used to be the residence of Sir Thomas More. It was a two-story building with numerous chimneys, a slate roof, and many windows mullioned with white limestone. The otherwise severe façade of white plaster and blackened half-beams was softened in the spring and summer by carefully pruned rose bushes of many colours planted all around the house. In the winter though, the severity remained.


The house stood rather nearer to the King's Road than to the river. Between it and the way along the waterside were two large courtyards, and opposite was a quay. First was an outer court with a wide and straight graveled driveway flanked by carefully kept lawns, and then there was an inner green court with an oval-shaped driveway that reached the terrace in front of the house.


The Interior

Downstairs were, besides the service and kitchen areas, a spacious receiving room, a huge library, a conservatory full of orchids and other tropical plants, and a large, wood-paneled formal dining room. On the first floor were the master's suite including his private study, the lady's suite, the nursery and adjoining nurse's bedroom, a guest's suite and three additional bedrooms. The attic held the servants' quarters, while the cellar contained the food and beverage stores, and the wine racks.


The Grounds

To one side of the house were the stables, built later but in the same style as the house, with enough space for housing carriages and horses, plus hay and their keepers in the attic. In the back were the ample gardens, and in the center of the farthest one stood a large gazebo, designed for entertaining on summer evenings.

The door was opened immediately, without allowing time for lord Chichester to lower his walking stick. It was cold outside, after all, and it would have been impolite to let him stand in the cold for too long.


Cuthbert Beale, the butler, opened the door himself. Bowing respectfully, he welcomed the visitor. “A very happy New Year to you, lord Chichester, and welcome to Melville House. Lord Melville is expecting you”. A bit behind and to the side stood Thomas Merrett, the junior footman, who immediately signaled George’s manservant to follow him. There would be hot cider and warm food for him at the service hall, where he would be able to attend to his master without much delay, should the Earl so wanted.


Helping lord Chichester doff any outer garments he chose to divest of, Cuthbert led the Earl to the formal dining room, where Duncan stood near one of the two fireplaces, the one on the north wall. The other one, on the west wall, had a livelier fire, but the whole room was warm and comfortable, with plenty of light entering from the windows on the south side.


“Happy new year, Chichester! The season has been so hectic, that I’ve hardly had time to breathe… yet time must always be found to share with friends, don’t you think?”


There were only two places set at the table, one at the head, and the second to its right, the place of honour. Duncan walked towards the first, and the butler held the chair of the second for the visitor before retreating out of earshot.


The table was set so that every possible wish of their guest could be provided for. There were plates filled with fillets of beef, poached kippers, mutton cutlets, poultry, sausages, and eggs; breads, both of the plain and fancy varieties, biscuits, gravy, jams of various fruits, orange marmalade, dried fruits, and salted and sweetened nuts; spiced beef, ham, ox tongue, and pigeon pie. Should George state that he preferred something else, Mrs. Gage and the rest of the kitchen staff would be ready and willing to please their master’s friend. They knew the man was well-regarded.


There were also coffee, chocolate, and tea waiting in steaming pots made of blue on white Chinese porcelain, set with half a dozen matching cups, should those breaking fast want to sample all three. A little farther were two crystal decanters, one filled with port, and the other one with sack.


Chichester will find something he likes, I hope, Duncan mused. And Mrs. Gage has outdone herself once again.


A few moments later the senior footman arrived, setting cheese wedges and small plates with pickles on the table, giving Duncan the note that had come with the gift.


“You shouln’t have, Chichester, but the gift is received in the spirit in which it was given”.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Taking leave of his cloak, gloves and cane, George was then pleased to move deeper into the house where it was warm. Just where his servant was escorted off to he failed to note, though was certain that the hospitality of their host would include kindness to the servant.


"Happy New Year Lord Melville." he greeted with cheer and crossed the floor, hand extended to shake warmly. "That is is, that is is. Prized all the more when one's family is not all present." He was speaking of his own absence of sister this Christmas. As trying as Mirtel was, he still missed her at such times as this.


The table was ready for them, much as his appetite was. "This looks magnificent, it is a Kings Breakfast." Chichester complemented as he claimed his seat. Duncan had something of a repute as a gourmand, and the spread that was laid out before them explained why.


"How it is you are not the size of a house?" George laughed with a measure of glee as he spied not only sausages and eggs, but some manner of pie. George did love pie. "I can only guess you have a rigorous exercising schedule in place also!"


Soon enough the Earls plate was filled with portions of his favourites, and he with a sensation that he'd never been so hungry in all his life. He tucked into some scrambled eggs to begin, it was as light and fluffy as heaven, a perfect compliment to a bite of juicy sausage. All the while he eyed the pie, anticipation for it growing...






OOC: lordy I am so hungry now!

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Duncan shook Georges hand friendlily. “Aye, when family is absent, friends are all the more important”. His wife, child, and mother were back home in Lothian, so his house in Chelsea felt colder and emptier somehow. “Friends are a balm for the soul”, he said half for his visitor's benefit, half for himself.


The table was indeed an impressive sight. Not that Duncan broke fast in such an opulent way every day, but he had a guest, and guests were treated well in Melville House. Truth be told, the Scotch could not afford such a table every day, as his sister’s dowry had taken a huge dent in his available cash. Although his finances were solid, it would take time for his reserves to get back to its previous level, and thus the viscount had tightened his belt. But Beatrice is a countess now, and her children will have the Lindsay name. That, to me, is worth a lot more than the dowry.


He helped himself to the poached kippers, some mutton, biscuits with lots of gravy, and a serving of ox tongue. The plate was full, but not overly so. “The secret for a soldier being trim is, of course, exercise. I practice with blades twice a week, firearms also twice a week, and tactical maneuvers with Langdon’s regiment another two times a week. That keeps me fit enough, I guess.”


The viscount was not plump. In fact, he was a bit thin. His health had not been the best the past two years, although he could not be called sickly. He noticed Chichester eyeing the pie and, as any good host would, passed it on immediately. “Pigeon. A specialty of Mrs. Gage. Please, have some!”


Although smiling, Duncan was not about to take a no for an answer.

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"And you have been a friend in deed." George returned a bit seriously. Not everyone had remained so during the difficult times of the past year. But Duncan seemed not to let gossip and rumour or even the Earls actual confinement in the Tower as any reason to look the other way.


"I was sorry to be unable to receive your visit the other day, I was..." how would he phrase his visit from Edith Habersham? It was an unlikely relationship, not a romance but something akin, whatever the true definition might be he'd been selfish of it and unwilling to share! "... err, paying homage to a potential arts parton."


The pie was pressed upon him. "Pidgeon you say?" the lilt in his voice revealed delight, "I'll just have one slice." said as though a slice was a modest portion. The crust was buttery and marvellously crumbly, while the meat within it's own gravy melted in his mouth. "Perfection." George purred after swallowing his first bite.


"Being a soldier demands a great deal of your time then." George considered after hearing of Duncan's schedule. "Mmm..." a thought occurred, and he then asked, "You are much connected to Lauderdale’s fabled forces?" After all they were both Scottish, and did they not talk about the great quantity of men of war under the Dukes command. He'd be interested to hear Duncan’s take on that?


Another bite of pie was took.

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Duncan smiled and nodded. He was secretly ashamed that he had not visited George in the tower. He should have, just as he had done with another friend in the past. But being an outsider looking in, at least he could empathize with the earl. His friend was Catholic, something the Scotch did not approve of, but that same fact made them more alike, with the viscount not being Anglican either.


“I sometimes think I should have been a better friend”, was all he said.


“An art patron?” Duncan’s look was first puzzled, and then turned… mischievous. “Or an art patroness?” The last word had been stressed, exaggerated Scottish burr included. “Not that I will pry, Chichester, but if it was the later, good for you, my friend, good for you!”


The Lowlander was pleased that George had taken not only one slice of pie, but two. I know what to send, when there is need of a small gift… good! Mrs. Gage would be commended for her pie… in front of the rest of the staff.


The second slice of pie that George took, and the morsel Duncan was chewing on gave a few moments for the Scottish peer to compose his answer. “No, I am not an officer in His Grace Lauderdale’s fabled forces, as you call them. Although I would do my duty if I am ever called to be in his command, and I would not mind at all being appointed Lord Lieutenant of Edinburgh. I was an officer in Dumbarton’s first, earning my spurs in that regiment, and attaining the rank of brigade major. I had to resign my commission due to health reasons, and now I am a major in Langdon’s regiment. I mostly take care of the training of the men, which takes time, it does indeed. But slowly and surely those lads are shaping up to be a credit to His Grace Charles, not an embarrassment, as they were when they signed up”.


Duncan had graciously evaded voicing his feelings towards Lauderdale, or so he thought. It would take a much more direct question from his friend for him to say what he really thought about John Maitland.


The pox on Lauderdale!

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"Ah, yes patroness if we are being specific." George replied with an awkward laugh, "Not that I meant to misguide you there. Yes it was a woman." But then Duncan's cheering return had the Earl realise that he'd gotten the wrong idea! "Oh no, it's not like that." George returned, cheeks pinking, "Not that she does not possess a cherish-able charm, and a delicate needfulness that is attractive too, but... well she is older than me for a start, and I. Well." He rattled on.


The feast before them gave an interlude of a sort, and conversationally they moved to a more substantial topic - Lauderdale, and the related military ambitions of the breakfasting Scott. "Hmm, Lord Lieutenant, is that something of a figurehead title, with not much practical attached?" George inquired, taking a sip of his tea. And looking across at the man's man, his eyes rested for a moment on Duncan's lips.


Shaking his head he returned to the moment. "Ah yes." George nodded as Melville explained his current regiment of service.


"Langdon’s is the Queens troupe is it not? Now there is a Gentlman with fingers in many pies, also Lord Lieutenant of London, and then he has his common troupes dealing with crime in London." George paused considering the latter.


"Alas I think the London guards or whatever they call themselves, are more brawn than brain. I was witness to an assault and robbery last week, and they have made no progress finding the culprits." A pause. “Hmm, I wonder if alongside military training the men might need coaching towards clue finding and such things…” George imagined he himself might be a good man for that task, as he had a certain amount of success hunting out such things in the past. But George was not a likely choice for any such service, even if the idea was deemed to be with merit.


"It was a break in upon a Weaponsmith named Percival Smith a couple of blocks away from the Strand, did you hear about it?"

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“Age has no importance whatsoever, unless she is over eighty and you are under twelve”. Otherwise, nature would probably take its course.


At that moment, the Lowlander thought of his wife. He really missed her. She may not be a court beauty, but she had a good heart and a sound mind, attributes that would only improve with age, the viscount was sure. How I would love to take you in my embrace, my dear Book Mouse, kiss you passionately, and make love to you all day long! Alas, that was not to be, at least not that day. It did not stop Duncan from vividly seeing it all in his mind’s eye, though.


“The Lord Lieutenant is in charge of organizing and leading the militia”, Duncan paused to get a bite of kipper. “But now that I think of it, Francis Kinloch of Gilmerton was made Lord Provost of Edinburgh earlier this year and is thus ex officio the Lord-Lieutenant of Edinburgh”. Another bite of kipper. They were extremely good. "Thus I could not be appointed Lord-Lieutenant of my county. I could be appointed in his stead, though..."


Between the kippers and voicing his thoughts, the Lowlander did not notice George looking at his lips.


“I am an officer over those very same men with more brawn than brains that you speak of, and I must accept, you are mostly right, at least as of now”. Turning common men into professional soldiers took time, and teaching them to police civilians effectively took even more time, as it was an entirely different matter. “Yes, most of the men are not good at subtlety. If someone were to teach them, that someone might perhaps find a spot as an officer of Langdon’s Regiment. It would be for Langdon to decide, though, but if he were to ask my opinion, I’d say yes”.


To the Scotch peer’s mind, it was all rhetorical. He had no idea that Chichester was speaking about himself.


Duncan stopped eating for a moment. A break-in at a smith’s, very near the Strand, and he knew nothing about it. “Percival Smith, you say? No, this is the first I hear about it. Does Lord Langdon know, or is it only his men that are trying to find out who did it?”


Duncan’s interest was piqued.

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But Lady Habersham? It was a strange thought indeed, and George hardly thought that was in her mind, just as he did not think it was in his own. It was merely that they enjoyed each others company, and... yes that was all.


George thought it best to say no more about that, and ws pleased to speak instead of Lord Lieutenancies. Military men did seem to have many ways they could aspire. Like Charles, Duncan was interested in that leadership. "I see..." he nodded to the duty as explained. "So during peace, your time will be your own to serve in your other capacites?"


That was what he supposed, it often enough sounded like such men were holding down multiple full time jobs - so some of them needed to be token positions, the physical limitation of 24 hours in a day demanded such.


The pie was excellent, he begun on the second slice.


"Then I forsee a visit upon the Provost is in your future." He smiled readily as Duncan begun to develop a plan towards his goal.


Refilling his teacup, George's expression fell with dismay as he realised his error. "Forgive my ignorance, no insult was intended towards the men." So Duncan was beating the guards into shape was he?! George had had no idea!


Yet Duncan was a realist, and conceded that the rag tag collection of men were more likely suited to mindless battle than any mental work solving crimes etc. Nodding (with some relief that Duncan was a reasonable man) he replied, "There is more need for intelligence in the policing of London, than there is for guns and violence. You have heard the saying of a bull in a china shop? Those men are like bulls in china shops looking for the burglars that had been there before then. Their presence is too fearsome for onlookers to want approach to tell them valuable information, and meanwhile trampling over the scene so that whatever other clues that might have been there are lost."


At least that was his opinion.


"Well actually Lord Langdon was also with me when the attack happened. However he's not been looking into it personally, but leaving it to his London guards to come up with anything - of which they have not. I got the sense that they had decided the matter was settled as a basic botched burglary and left it at that." George replied, biting his tongue from saying what he thought of that. That Langdon held so many full time positions that he was doing none of them justice by being half arsed at them all. Better a man do one job well as far as George was concerned.

Not that he thought ill of Charles, he liked him well enough, he was upfront and honest were few were, just very young for so much responsibility.


"I have promised the woman involved, one Lady Tamsin Faraday, that I shall look into it personally. With Langdon’s agreement of course, I advised that I would not hinder in any way any formal investigation that may be taking place, if indeed any is being conducted."

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George let the matter of his lady friend slide, and so did Duncan. He had not meant to pry. It was just that he wished the best for his friend, and if there was a lady that the earl was interested in, it would make the viscount very happy. May you find someone who makes you feel like my Book Mouse makes me feel!


“Many lords have a number of offices, just as they may have more than one title. Some of them need the holder’s direct and constant attention, but many do not. That is the way with many military appointments during peace time, yes”. Of course, the current possibility of war would not allow such office holders to grow idle. “And even some others are tended to through stewards, assistants, and proxies”.


“Or I become Lord Provost myself”. The Lowlander paused for yet another bite. “To tell you the truth, I would not mind being the holder of a Scotch office. My father was Secretary of State for Scotland and, although that is not an easy position to attain, there are others that might be…”


Topic was then changed to Langdon’s regiment.


“Aye, Chichester. To police a city, an iron fist is not enough. It must be sheathed in a velvet glove. Otherwise, the populace will not cooperate”. That was an understatement. “Perhaps you should approach Lord Langdon. He is bound to see the wisdom in your words, especially if instead of telling him to fix what is wrong, you volunteer to help amend it.” Artists had a fine eye and attention to detail. Those qualities were very useful for police work. “Or perhaps you would like me to approach him instead?” After all, George was his friend, and such a favour would be nothing.


The matter of Lady Faraday seemed to be a heavy burden for George. “Perhaps I could be of assistance in this… investigation of yours? I can provide the brawn where you have been applying brains, and I do happen to be able to act in an official capacity. It would take a direct order from Lord Langdon to stop me, and if you two have talked about the matter in the past, I do not think that is very likely. Besides, two is almost always better than one”.


Duncan was, after all, always up for a good adventure, especially if it included pistols to fire and blades to cross. "And perhaps, solving this mystery of yours first would make Langdon more amenable to your line of thinking..."

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George kept his silence as the other spoke of how most others held numerous honours and offices at court, so many that they had stewards and wards tend to the work. Personally George yearned so greatly for a significance, and had tried to gain an office many times. But was ignored, set up and occasionally laughed at, meanwhile others... well, it was what it was.


“Lord Provost has a certain ring to it." he agreed, "it would suit you well." Duncan was one of those men who heaped up honours and offices too. Like his father before him apparently. Perhaps if George's father had not disowned him, his life would be different now.


"I do not think I am the right man to speak to Langdon, he... ah, he has a opinion of me." George replied on that, "No, rather I would be content if you would consider my thoughts and incorporate questioning into your training of your men."


"It would give me some peace of mind if you made sure that the Langdon Guards are indeed pursuing the matter." George accepted Duncan’s offer of muscle. "Though please, do not tell him that came from me. I promised not to interfere with his current investigation, rather to only augment with my own discreet inquiries."


It had to be carefully done, Langdon's attitude towards George had never been very friendly.

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