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Darlene Hamilton

The Paperchase | 6th of May, Mid Morning

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Offices  Situated just below the Privy Gallery, a collection of ministers and lower ranked officials. Save those military appointments which can be found in the Knightsbridge's Barracks. The Hallways were filled with pages and clerks running to and fro.

 

Darlene was dressed in a pretty dress in deep pink with a lighter pink gauze overlay peppered with red embroidery rosettes.  There was a broad red ribbon about her neat waist, and a thinner one around her wrist, while she wore her mothers heirloom pearls around her neck.  Pinned in her gleaming mahogany locks was a real rose to complete her frivolity.  Her garb was not even the tiniest bit business-like, even though she was planned upon spending most of the day here in the very important offices. 

She now had two lovely gentlemen to offer a distraction to, which was very important work to do also.   

First, Lord Mountjoy. 

Coming upon his door, clearly marked, she took off her glove to rap upon it boldly.  The Marquis would be pleased to see her of course, though he'd not be gushy about, he never was. 

 

Office of the Solicitor General    located in a small auxiliary hall separated by a wooden railing where black coated clerks scamper about shuffling papers between numerous writing desks and file cabinets. There is a hard wooden bench for petitioners to sit as they wait. 

The private office of the Solicitor General is a narrow but long room tastefully appointed and dominated by a large window opposite the door that bathes the room in a soft light. In front of the window sits a desk, a vast mahogany affair with intricately carved panels and a matching high-backed chair. The desktop is very neat and covered in green leather with two orderly piles of documents in carved wooden trays one marked ’Exspecto’ and the other ’Perfectus’   which translates from Latin into waiting andDone. behind the desk jutting out from the window sill is a sun dial allowing for an approximation of passing time whilst gazing out to the quad below.

A state portrait of Charles II hangs above a small marble fireplace in front of which sits a Turkish carpet and a couple of upholstered chairs creating a sitting area where points of law may be discussed. Several carved mahogany bookcases and multi-drawer cabinets with tiny locks share the opposite wall along with a painting of the quadrangle of Christ Church Collage. Off to the side is a book-stand upon which sits a leather-bound tome entitled A History of Land Transfers in the County of Devonby the Lord Mountjoy.

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This morning Mountjoy was in lawyer mode dedicating several hours to become reacquainted with all the pieces of business and legislation which had accumulated in his absence. Unlike many Royal positions which were sinecures requiring little or no actual work the office of Solicitor General required actual labor. “No, No, this brief is flawed!” he said to a flustered Clark who was reminiscing how leisurely the past several months had been. “The authority and precedence is under the prevue of the Court in Eyre as the land in question is under Forrest not Common Law.” He thrust a sheaf of papers back to the hapless Clark. “Redo the brief.” He concluded as he reached for another file from an alarmingly voluminous stack.

This was the scene Darlene was able to witness as Mountjoy’s deputy opened the door to the office. His eyebrows were raised just a trifle higher than usual as well dressed and beautiful ladies were not in the habit of calling upon offices such as this. He wondered if she had just come from Court for her attire was not the type that Clarks or junior Lawyers saw in the course of normal business.

He was a young man, unmarried, and in fact still living with his mother so was unable to conjure up the capability of speech to welcome her or inquire about her business so just stood there with the look of some startled woodland creature about to be run over by a speeding carriage.

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While the clerk stood there presenting himself as a perfectly acceptable (if silent) figure of a responsible and diligent man, Darlene's eyes slid right past him into the interior of the office with Lord Mountjoy at his desk. 

"It is true!"  She crowed, almost crooned, with joy at the sight beheld, and moving forward though the door uninvited she did - as though her singular happiness was passport enough. (Her basket bumped the clerk, who might be jostled even more if he thought to blockade her ingress.)  "I could hardly believe my ears when I heard your name flittering about the halls this morning, but here you are and joy of joys you look even finer than when you left.  Although - " she grinned and held up her finger to make playful point, "- your shave is not quite as close." 

It was a private joke, though hardly even a joke, rather a reference to the rather peculiar (flirtatious even) relationship that they had.

"But I come bearing gifts, as a welcome back to your office." she came to calm a little, taking in the full and glorious sight of the man who'd left such a hole in Whitehall when he'd left (though the same might be said for herself if it was not vanity to say).  And here he was, it was a sort of homecoming to see him again. 

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The clerk who stood there as a perfectly acceptable figure was in no state to prevent her ingress although he did break his silence with a startled “Um…”  and moved to follow her. On her way across the room if she diverted her eyes to the wall she would notice a curious cabinet that stood there constructed with many drawers and compartments for the storage of documents, certainly an improvement on the shelves in his old office.

Mountjoy stood and arched his brows in surprise as this confluence of pink gauze and brown curls surged towards him with her typical bubbly effervesce. “Lady Oakham! He ejaculated as she approached.* “What an unexpected surprise.” He moved from out behind his desk and offered the lady a polite bow.

He became a bit apprehensive at the prospect of this unexpected meeting. It was not that he had any animosity or ill will towards the Lady but also thinking back to the same encounter as Darlene and remembering the episode in an entirely different light he was of the impression that the lady was head over heels and besotted in love with him and could scarcely keep her passions in check. Although this was entirely understandable it was a distinctly complicating factor in their relationship.** However complicating or apprehensive the situation was to him he was an educated and cultured man who’s breeding and politeness came to him as second nature so his response matched the tenor of her greeting oblivious to the tenor his own reply conveyed.

“Why yes Lady Oakham, I have but recently returned.” He blushed a bit at her compliment. “Expressing joy of joys might be polite hyperbole but I am glad that your joys are mounting.” He then exhibited an example of his naiveté concerning Darlene for when she playfully mentioned his close shave or lack there of his hand went immediately to his chin in embarrassment and that most British of expressions escaped his mouth. “I am dreadfully sorry! I will speak to my man straight away and beg you to forgive the state of my toilette.” He took her hand and gave it a kiss… an air kiss so as not to chafe her delicate skin with his imaginary stubble.

It was at this point that the clerk had composed himself enough to respond to this confusing tableau “My lord there is a Lady to see you.” Which, if one was to be critical, was a bit tardy to be a pertinent announcement. It did cause Mountjoy to break away from Darlene and address his staff. “Yes, thank you Percy, observant as always. I think that will be all for the moment.” Indicating that they could withdraw which they did with some alacrity.

As they left he smiled at Darlene and directed her to one of two chairs that faced his desk. “Pray be seated if you please.” And instead of resuming his place behind his desk he took the neighboring chair. “Gifts you say… how very Grecian of you, I shall be mindful not to look you in the mouth!” He was trying to be witty but paused for a bit hoping that he would not take the comment comparing her to a gift horse amiss for although in his mind being compared to a horse was a compliment he had come to learn that many ladies did not care for such a comparison. “it is very kind of you to take the time to visit and be so thoughtful as to bring gifts. I must say that other than yourself the only thing awaiting me was a stack of legal papers to be gotten through for alas the Kings business never stops.” 

“I do thank you for your complements for while I was away I was able to engage in quite a bit of sport for the Germans are keen hunters, a sport which I am sure you are aware that I am extremely fond of. I have not quite caught up with the gossip of the Court but if I am not mistaken I believe you also took a brief sojourn. Was I informed correctly and if so were your travels pleasant?”

He sat back expecting an enthusiastic reply for Lady Oakham could be accused of many things but reticence was not among them.

 

 

 

 

*Get your minds out of the gutter you perverts, it’s a perfectly correct English phrase !

** That’s my story and I am sticking with it.

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Blount’s cabinet went utterly ignored but for the whisper of frilly hem against it’s base as she passed; Darlene only had eyes for the flesh and blood holder of information and keeper of secrets.  

Loosing a giggle at his cheery greeting, her eyes slid to admire him as he stepped out from behind desk.  It was another joy to then dip into a pretty curtsy as they exchanged the pleasantries (& she noticed at that moment what a particularly full head of hair he had).  “Do you know, Lord Blount, its only just occurred to me that you would make a marvellous Governor for one of the nations outposts!  I need now add to the petitions in my prayers that nobody else happens to notice that, for if I lost you to foreign missions a second time I would be beside myself with grief!”  Darlene’s eyes were sparkling with joy as she claimed as much.

She’d always know that he was secretly in love with her, it was just that he was too upstanding an proper to cheat.  (It was Darlene greatest despair that she fell for the guys that were too noble to be naughty with her.)

“Hyperbole? But Lord Mountjoy, I don’t even know what a hyperbole is.” Sadly, that was actually true, “were you to say wicker-bowl I might agree though, well, wicker basket actually.” Cheerily said she lifted her basket, with a shoulder wriggle of joy as he flirted. (Or at least she thought his further talk of joys and mounting rather saucy.)  

He was practically gushing, and she was in bliss

“I could arrange the man again, if you do not object?” she replied, “why I would have done so already if I knew you would not. Only I was concerned that you might think me overly forward, and well, I might actually be that sometimes – but being it and people thinking it, are entirely different things. Ah. Court politics!”

Perhaps she was gushing just a little bit too.

Percy was not gushing though, if anything he might have been a little stunned.  Darlene gave him a wiggle-fingers wave as he left, so he knew she did not hold him responsible for his mouth-gape.

“Thank you.”  Settling to a chair, she smiled wondering what he meant when he called her Grecian?  It probably meant something nice though, because he never said anything less.   “Except pickles are not very Greek I don’t think.” Said she revealing the contents of her basket, she passed him a jar of pickled onions, and a jar of gherkins too.  Darlene did not like pickles herself, but had noticed men seemed to enjoy a pickled crunch with a glass of ale well enough. “Welcome home to England.” The girl declared, though she was no longer sure if pickles were English at all.

A remarkable thing then happened.  Everyone knew that if Charles got  chance to talk about hunting, he did so, and in protracted detail.  But today, just then, he moved past the topic.  Darlene was refined enough not to show her surprise, but she was. Very.

“Oh yes, I am only recently returned to court myself, it is not a year yet since my Thomas’ passing.  I know I might have kept solitude longer, but I was becoming sadder and sadder still without the company of my friends.  I only hope that my return does not reflect poorly upon Him, you must know for all of our troubles, and isn’t every marriage a challenge at times, that I respected him above anything else.” She gave a little shrug at that, though Lord Mountjoys opinion on that would be very significant.  She did not want to dishonour Thomas in death, even if she might have (just a little) while he’d been alive).

“Court gossip…” Charles had expressed an interest, though it was not entirely to Darlene’s self interests to regress into that.  Her incarceration in the Tower, and after relese her recless flight to portugal, her retrival by husband there-from, her attempt at reform, and then Thomas' sudden death.    “… is all surely yesterdays news.” she smiled,  “Now that we have returned, separately of course, yet with a unison in timing, then might I claim that the days in front of us shall be more relevant than what went on before." 

“… although, that said, what manner of hunting did you engage in abroad?” bright eyed Darlene retestted the Soliciors restraint. 

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“I am of course at His Majesty’s command to serve however he sees fit but I do share your reserve of a foreign posting for to leave such diversions and amiable society that London has to offer would be a sore trial indeed. I would not be adverse with an occasional continental foray now and again but in reality it is in the lands of England that my heart dwells.” He said of her views of continued foreign service. “I am glad to be back even if I am confined for the moment to Whitehall to catch up on administrative matters yet ever grateful to you for providing a diversion from those matters.”

He smiled as she gushed forth with a string of subjects in rapid succession. He wondered how she could sustain such a whirlwind of thoughts and suggestions for she was like a bubbling pot on top of a hot fire or one of those little dogs that yapped and ran about the furniture with inexhaustible vigor. But, however a man might like compliments and praise, the prospect of presents was even more interesting so his attention shifted as directed to the wicker basket. “Oh! pickled onions… and gherkins as well… how very thoughtful and how very welcome for there is nothing as fine as a tart pickle to satisfy a nighttime craving. As a boy Nanny would often give me jar to put near by bed so if I became peckish I could easily grab my pickle to satisfy my urges. Sadly when at University I did not continue the practice for if my nighttime pickle was left exposed after lights out it would surely garner unwanted attention from my roomates. I thank you very much for such a thoughtful gift. If I awake suddenly during the night with a craving I will have you to thank for satiating it.”

Moving on from nighttime picklery he was brought up by her explanation of her own doings. While he was traveling some news of the happenings in England made it to him but the details were not always informative and he chided himself for broaching a subject that might not be a welcome topic of conversation. “My condolences on your loss Lady Oakham, forgive me for so insensitive an inquiry.” He said in case the subject was still emotional but Darlene appeared to have come to grips with her loss and did not burst into tears like women were prone to do… for which Blount was immensely grateful as he was ill equipped to confront female tears. “Oh, do not blame yourself for desiring the comfort of friends during such a time, It is only natural that after a certain period of grief one must go on with their life no matter how deep their feelings of loss are.” He reached out and took one of Darlene’s hands and gave it a gentle and comforting pat. He had read in books that females enjoyed that kind of comforting so used this occasion to put such knowledge into practice.

It was then his turn to have the conversation put him on the back foot as Darlene mentioned the troubles and challenges of her own marriage which immediately made him think about the recent issues with his own relationship with his spouse. “Ah…yes…” he stated somewhat more subdued than previously. “I have until recently been fortunate enough to have an entirely salubrious marital relationship but, upon my return, have discovered that such unencumbered bliss is the exception rather than the rule so I can now commiserate with you that marriage is indeed a challenge. It is passing strange that in a relationship the greater one feels a sense of regard and respect for a person the more difficult it is to convey that very same regard and respect.” There might have been a note of melancholy in Charles’ last statement but as he had never before shown any melancholy in Darlene’s presence it would be an easy thing to miss.

It was then that a perfect (for him) avenue of discussion was reopened as Darlene specifically asked about his hunting experiences so any further discussion of his relationships would have to wait as such was a topic that he did not have to be asked twice to indulge in. True the Margravina had given him covert glances when his hunting tales began to verge on the tedious and he was making a concerted effort to curtail his tendencies but the Margravina was not here and Darlene did ask so off he went.

“How kind of you to ask, if you are interested there are quite a few differences in the way hunts are conducted on the continent and here in England…” And then he was off giving Darlene a very detailed account of his hunting engagements. “There were a pair of curious Badgers in Baden-Baden that gave us a frightful chase by scurrying in and out of the hedgerows…in Silesia there are Bison which are unlike any animals we have here in England, sort of a large powerfully built humpbacked bull with short horns and a shaggy coat. One hunts them with boar spears which you must hold like this to make the killing thrust…” He mimicked the stance needed in case Darlene needed to protect herself from a sudden buffalo charge as she strolled through Piccadilly.   

He went on for nearly a quarter of an hour with tales providing Darlene with more information on the geography of Central Europe, the fauna to be found there and how to kill it than she would ever wish to know. “In Saxony we were charged by two very large bears and dispatched them with spears and hunting swords. In fact I have a souvenir of the encounter.” He fished in his desk drawer and withdrew a bear claw fully six inches long. “Here, please accept this trophy with my compliments.” He said as he handed over the object magnanimously thinking that every lady of society in London would be in desperate need of a bear claw. While not eminently feasible in a practical sense the presentation of the bear claw did provide a lull in the ongoing saga which would allow Darlene to interject and change the subject if she wished for it appeared that, sans interruptum, (as lawyers liked to say) Charles was quite willing and capable of continuing with his stories for some time.

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“And you are so well suited to London, and for that matter, to that which holds your heart.”  While anyone spying on the Solicitor Generals office might assume they were talking about his wife, Darlene knew it was far more complex than that. Confined to Whitehall indeed.  “Few men of your generation are so loyal, though yes, one can still enjoy a little distraction while remaining attentive to daily duty.”

Darlene's smile was warm with the secret knowledge shared, such a great secret that to speak it might utterly break it! Or would it? One day, perhaps a kiss. But you could not rush such things with affairs as remarkable as this.

Her gift given prompted the most charming story – it unfolded very visually in the playhouse of Darlene’s mind, and as he brought the curtain to close she clapped her hands daintily, “I had no idea!  How wonderful it is, and what a lovely nanny you had might I say. I trust that there is room on your night stand..."  His double entendre could not have been bolder, she could not have planned a better gift if she’d had all the spies of England working for her. Things were hotting up!

Nighttime picklery indeed, "...oh my.”

In the midst of their reckless flirtations, the topic of her late husband was and almost a natural progression.  What with kindly reverent tones from Charles, and reassuring from Darlene. “That is quite alright Lord Mountjoy, adjustment to death necessary in life, and his memory is now immortalised in my heart… and might I add a good many others as well. He was highly regarded by all.”  

And then the good man reached with a pat to her hand. Darlene realised her mistake, but it was too late to put on an act of inconsolable grief now, ah! Ho might he have comforted her if she had?! Perhaps with a fulsome embrace?  Rats

But instead her free hand moved atop his, his own being briefly trapped in a hand-hug she supposed – and meeting Lord Mountjoys eyes (her own full of deep and barely restrained emotion) she uttered, “thank you for your sympathy.”

Naturally the gentleman’s still-very-alive wife was next to the softly spoken conversation, yet with a tone that touched her heart. “Oh dear...” As a romantic herself, and a woman, she was attuned to such things. It was an opening, she could become a wedge between or a force to unite…

“might I help somehow. Perhaps a female perspective upon such things might assist the restore. Heaven knows I am qualified on the subject, my own dear Thomas was likewise torn. It took me the longest time to realise his silence was saying so very much.”  

… so she’d chose the one that would place her deepest still into his own heart.

The second test broke him down, and he was off talking in great detail about the hunts attended. As lengthy as it was, hearing him thus made one feel like all was right with the world again. (CB not talking about hunting would be parallel with the sun not rising in the morning!)

“Did you keep that shaggy coat?” her eyes brightened at one point to ask, “I happen to have a furs collection you see.” A collection given to her by Weroance Anne, whom Darlene had befriended when she’d visited England in ‘75.  

She was meanwhile impressed with his acting skills, perhaps when she finally did finish her play, she should place him on the stage in some dramatic and masculine role. Perhaps that masculine figure (now pictured bare chested) would be smitten with the heroine (herself natrually) , and then they would fall into a thick bed of furs and the curtains would close on their mad and passionate lovemaking…

Her reverie was broken as she suddenly discovered her hand in possession of a bear claw. Naturally enough she shrieked, while her hand itself was frozen still in the shock!  What was this about? (She really should have been paying attention to what he'd just been saying)

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Darlene was very sensible when she opined that one could find some distractions while remaining attentive to duty. He was just thinking that he might be able to jaunt off to Epping for a day of sport without interrupting his duties. It was uncanny how they thought alike. “Yes temptation is so near and it does call to me.” Looking at the stack of papers on his desk he shook his head. “Perhaps I could be tempted but for now duty comes first.”

As they spoke of her late husband and she accepted his comforting and looked into his eyes with emotion he realized then how much she still loved her husband and responded with sincerity “Your heartfelt emotion gives me hope that whatever absence or barriers are thrust between two people true love can conquer them and surmount any obstacles if one remains true.” Her example had given him hope that he and his beloved Ursula could surmount their present problems for together or not his heart would always belong to her just like Darlene’s heart would always belong to her husband. This caused him to divulge some things about the recent tension with Ursula since his return. “I have found the Margravina somewhat changed since my return. Previously our duties kept us occupied for I was busy with the Law and politics and her position as Mistress of the Robes is very time consuming but we always found little snippets of time to be together. I do believe I am like your Thomas in that my silence is not indicative of indifference but it seems that my absence abroad has made the Margravina comfortable in her own solitude and that her duties to the Queen is enough to make her happy.” He did not go on to say that he was in love with Ursula and would continue to be as long as there was breath in his body for he believed that Darlene already knew that and it was comforting to speak with her as he would to a sister.

One thing that was un-sisterly in her behavior was her interest in his hunting stories for his own sisters found them exceedingly dull. As his story progressed she followed along and never once made an effort to change the subject or declare that she had gotten a headache and despite her fascination with the tale needed to go lie down for a moment. She even asked him a question, a pertinent one even, about the buffalo hide. “Why yes I do believe it was packed in my baggage with the other trophies, it would make a fine fug to set before the fire or a carriage wrap to keep you warm while driving in the park on a blustery day. I shall have Padeen search for it and send it over to you with my compliments.” He then thought of a small gift he could present to her in person for he had brought several bear claws to the office to play with so promptly retrieved one and presented it to her expecting a bubbly torrent of pleased squeaks of gratitude.

The expectant squeak was not what he was expecting; it was not really even so much of a squeak as it was more of a shriek and it did not sound joyful. “Oh Goodness!” he exclaimed at her alarm as he stood to ascertain the cause. “Did you see a mouse? We have had some trouble as they like to nibble on the papers.” He explained as he looked around for the offending rodent, the only reasonable cause for such an outburst that he could think of. “Do comfort yourself with the bear claw and I will have the Ratter called straight away. Percival did bring in one of his Mother’s cats but it did not help with the problem as it just sat there staring at me with a look of disapprobation and did not catch a single mouse. Believe me I get enough condemnation from the peacocks back home to suffer such here.” Percival was hastily called in and instructed to notify the Royal Rat catcher that vermin were frightening the ladies of the Court and to do something about the problem and no Mountjoy did not want another of his Mother’s cats as it was best to leave this to the professionals.

With Percival dispatched to begin the demouseifying Charles turned his attentions back to Darlene who at least had had a few moments to compose herself.

“Prey, I do humbly apologize for the agitation. Would you like a spot of brandy to calm your nerves? Or if you prefer, I have a lavender scented handkerchief that I may waft in your direction for it is said that the aroma of that flower is calming.” It became quite clear that Charles did not consider the presentation of a body part of a wild animal to a lady an unusual occurrence.

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Good heavens. 

The way he said that, and then looked at his desk – was he considering having her right now atop thereof!?   

“Oh Lord Mountjoy.” Darlene eyes flared and she flushed, thus naturally sought her fan (she was hardly prepared for such passion, and this, a Wednesday morning) “might you settle both in one fell swoop?” 

Was he about to kiss her?  And yet see how miraculously he maintained his business-like exterior, you’d hardly even know he was all a boil beneath is robes.

Perhaps he too saw the midweek timing as just too much, or was he, like she, even a little scared of taking that oh so inevitable next step.  For both took up the topic of her dead husband with diligence. 

“It is true, I love him beyond life itself.” 

“Thrust between, yes quite,” He was still speaking so racily! She fanned herself a little more, the lace at her neckline fluttering, “yet even the greatest obstacles can be mounted, even done so with relish.  There might be nothing quite a satisfying as reaching that elusive mark. It is certainly worth diligent efforts.”

Frankly, Darlene was ready, and yet the devastatingly delicious man did continue on to further tease her.  Now he talked more fully on his wife, all while stood there with a clear brow, how did he manage it without even raising a suggestive eyebrow!

It was a challenge for Darlene, but she truly did try to match his poker face. 

And talk about his wife.

“When the old routines have gone or fail us, then new behaviours need be made.” Said she, and by accident she was thinking about her lost Thomas again. “I wish that I had discovered excuses to keep his company more, as time passes in our own absence from each other I begun to think I was only an obligation to him. But, well perhaps it was not so. Perhaps he’d have liked to keep my company also. We can come to think such silly nonsense if we are not interrupted.”

Speaking of foolish, Lord Mountjoys playing it ‘hard to get’ tease backfired on him, for she was so easily distracted and already was forgetting her passion. Rather then break and throw herself at him, she became quite happy to talk about melancholy.  Poor Lord Mounjoy, it might be weeks or days before she thought of him that way again, or at least some good few minutes.

“Perhaps orchestrate something, a duty perhaps, something that you might work upon together.”

Oh yes, he was regretting distracting her from their prospective passion, and now tried to coax her with gifts, the first a fur was received gratefully, but the presentation of a claw caught her by surprise. She'd even shrieked. 

“Oh… oh yes I believe it was a mouse.” She agreed, while he was pressing the claw upon her again. “ah, but, perhaps you hold the claw.   I should not want to break it somehow. For if I spoilt it, I would become very distressed, thus not find the claw giving comfort at all.”

“Yet certainly I’d agree to a little brandy, and the fragrance of lavender I’ve always found very soothing…" she sought a seat as he fussed about, if there was a chaise about she'd the good sense to now claim it. 

The kissing was to start soon surely. 

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Mountjoy began to feel that something was amiss in their interactions when she said that the bear claw did not give her any comfort at all. How could such a thing be so? Even as a young boy he would have been overjoyed to have a bear claw for his very own but perhaps Darlene, knowing what an intimate gift such a talisman was, wished to keep their acquaintance on a very proper level. Women were such unfathomable creatures and often did unfathomable things. He was glad and relieved that Darlene was proving to be such a mature and reserved person. “I see. I had no intention to obligate you with an inappropriate gift.” He said kindly. “There are no longer any bears in England and even in Europe they are becoming increasingly rare. I was very lucky to take one and found the claws to be a welcome trophy for they are rare and do not grow on trees… obviously as they grow on bears but, if you wish to limit yourself to the shaggy bison pelt I will not take it amiss.” He di not wish for the possibly of offending Darlene but she seemed to recover quickly from the fright of seeing a mouse.

Unfortunately lawyers seldom had use of a fainting couch or day bed thus his office, although abundantly furnished, did not come equipped with an appropriate place for her to swoon so Darlene had to make do with the chair she was sitting in, which at least was padded. Charles did attend to her other wishes as far as he was able and served her a small cordial of brandy (smuggled in from France), for Lawyers were not adverse to imbibing to the point of needing a day bed and fishing out an appropriately scented lace handkerchief. As he waited for the calming aroma to take effect he told her a story. “I always make it a point to carry a surfeit of handkerchiefs for my grandfather was fond of telling me a story about one of our ancestors from a time long long ago… even before the Romans came, when our ancestor was swept away on a great adventure by a mysterious stranger in grey without even a single pocket handkerchief in his possession. He told me ‘It is a dangerous business, my son, going out your door,’ he used to say, “you step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.’   It was not quite clear if he was just telling an innocent tale to take up time or making a reference to their (in Darlene’s mind) close brush with passion.     

Noticing that she had been fanning herself, the room was a bit stuffy he had to admit, he obligingly opened one of the panels of the large window that took up most of the wall behind his desk. He was always ready to call attention to the window for he was inordinately proud of it. Whitehall, despite being a large palace was, apart from the State and Royal rooms a rather crowded place due to the numerous court functionaries and ministries housed within that vied for the limited space within and thus to have a spacious office with such a window loudly proclaimed his status and influence to the Court and he had gone through great pains to obtain such an window.  He replaced the bear claw in a drawer and retook his seat next to Darlene thus continuing their conversation in a more normal fashion only occasionally wafting his handkerchief. “How clearly we understand one another.” He declared in response to Darlene’s suggestion that he and the Margravina work on something together. “It was my thought that, as her duties as the Mistress of the Wardrobe occupies much of her time as she must often be in attendance to the Queen, and my position as Her Majesty’s Master of Horse, which is more of a sinecure position, I could expand my duties to assist the Queen and also be able to work more closely with the Margravina. When I mentioned such a desire I fear she misinterpreted the suggestion as an attempt to diminish rather than enhance her position. As her husband I am aware that I have some authority over her actions but I hesitate to require such obedience as that would abuse the trust and regard I have for her not to mention being oafish and ungentlemanly. I believe that you understand that I would never let my love and passion impinge upon a Lady’s honor or put a Lady in a position of disadvantage. Tell me, if you do not find the questions impertinent, did you, as a woman, prefer your Thomas to be more or less forceful in his desires?” 

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