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Old Friends | Sunday, Night (CD)- Xmas 1677

Charles Audley

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Charles frowned.

The lock is sticking.

Carefully, he examined the mechanism of the long-barrelled holster pistol. Not the showpiece frippery he had tested at the range the other day, this, and its twin lying on the table, were of a far more practical cast, and had obviously seen hard use. There were countless nicks in the barrels, and the brass buttcap of the one in his hands was heavily dented. Charles had carried these pistols since Tangiers, and had in that time tried to replace them with newer, sleeker models many times. But always, when the sulphur reek of gunpowder filled the air, he had found himself returning to his old, faithful companions. Heavy brutes they might have been, and too long to draw or reload quickly, but he knew exactly how they shot, and the stark simplicity of their walnut and brass construction seemed to him to have a beguiling elegance of its own.

He had cleaned the barrels already, but now found to his chagrin that the lock was in need of a good oiling. The springs were still good, at least, for those were the very devil to replace. He sat and worked, absorbed in his task. There was a wonderful clarity to such simple tasks, the reason he attended to them himself. Many times he had been struck with inspiration while undertaking such, his mind free of distractions.

It rankled doubly, then, that the only thought that had struck him was that he had grown lazy.

Oh, he could argue that he had been distracted by Juliana, among others, that this was not a season for serious work. But he could not help but feel that he had not taken full advantage of such opportunities as had been presented to him, had allowed himself to fall into the trap of easy gratification.

(On some level he was aware that he was perhaps being harsh on himself, was letting the black cloud that occasionally afflicted him consume his thoughts, but that awareness was no defence.)

Well, the season is not over, and tomorrow is an opportunity.

The thought lacked the full measure of the conviction that would normally underlie it, but the mere fact that he could form it at all pleased Charles.

Perhaps this has not been wasted effort after all.

Nodding grimly, Charles bent to begin oiling the second of his pistols.

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