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Charles Audley

You, Me, and Euclid Makes Three | Royal Library, Afternoon Thurs April 7th

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The Royal Library

The ceilings of the Royal Library are 15 feet high. Shelves of polished walnut climb the walls to a height of 10 feet and are filled with books. Bindings of rich brown calf are interspersed with jewel-toned volumes of red, blue and green.
 
Windows set high in the walls above the shelving fill the room with light. A number of comfortable chairs in rich tobacco coloured leather are dotted about for the use of those reading for pleasure. For those who have a serious purpose, several tables and upright chairs are provided.
 
Damp is the natural enemy of the book. With the palace so close to the river, the battle is waged continuously. The Library has 6 fireplaces: fires are lit every day. The size of the blaze depends on the weather.

 

 

Charles sat at what had become his customary table in the library, which was rather less burdened than when last he had visited. Rudd's translation of the first volume of Euclid's Elements sat to one side, along with a sheaf of paper, pencils, a straight rule, and a compass. Charles himself had been pleased to find Rudd's supplement to The Compleat Body of the Art Military, and was passing the time while he waited to see if Henrietta would show up by reading through it. He swallowed a snort at Rudd's opinions that cuirassiers moved usually no faster than a trot and used their swords only as a last resort. Charles had been charged by enough cuirassiers to know that that was nonsense, at least. There was some value in the sections on artillery, though, and that was sufficient to make it worth the effort of hacking through, even if it did feel like drudgery.

Wodehouse was continuing his campaign to expand his master's colour palette, and so Charles today found himself clad in justacorps, eye patch, cravat and stockings of turquoise, and waistcoat and breeches of pastel yellow. Charles was unsure of how well such colours matched his complexion, but frankly it was not worth the effort of arguing.

Leaving his book aside, Charles reached for a sheet of paper and pencil and began to work the proof of the Pythagorean theorem. That was simple enough, but it had been quite some time since he had been called upon to do it, and it would be an interesting little challenge to see if he still could.

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Henrietta was late on purpose. For some reason, she  wanted Lord Chatham to wait for her. He brought out an impish aspect of her personality that she had not known she possessed until she had met him. She also didn’t want him to know how much she was looking forward to learning geometry. Knowledge was addicting and she craved it in all its forms. If she was a bit tardy, he wouldn’t think she was so eager for him to teach her.

 

She had devoured Ovid’s Amores and had found it quite … enlightening. There were parts of it that she didn’t understand and wasn’t sure that she wanted to, considering the confusing sensations those passages gave her. It was as if she longed for something that she didn’t know she wanted, a mysterious something that had no name, or at least not one she was aware of. Her feelings were perplexing and yet she welcomed them. Perhaps there were more books like it in the palace library that Lord Chatham could recommend to her … if she could find the courage to ask.

 

He was sitting at her table again, but Henrietta supposed that she could share. It wasn’t as if they always visited the library at the same time. One certainly couldn’t miss him in that bright turquoise ensemble. The vibrant colors suited his dark complexion.   Dressed in dove gray with soft pink accents, she felt drab in comparison. She watched him for a moment, seemingly engrossed in his writing, and then took a deep breath and walked up to him. “Good afternoon, Lord Chatham,” she said, approaching from the other side of the table. “What are you writing, if you don’t mind me asking?” If it was a passionate love letter, she really didn’t want to know.

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Let a, b, and c denote the legs and hypotenuse of the given right triangle, and let us consider three founding lemmata.

Firstly, that any two triangles that have two sides of the one equal to two sides of the other, and the angle included by those two sides also equal, are congruent triangles. (That is, they are identical.)

Secondly, that the area of any triangle is half that of any parallelogram on the same base having the same height.

Thirdly, that the area of a square is the product of any two of its sides.

Now, let us first construct two squares of side a+b. Dissect the first square into...

Charles frowned, digging into rather foggy memories. How did it go again? He sketched out the square, the details coming dimly back to him as he worked.

Ah.

...into six pieces — a square of side a, a square of side b, and four right triangles congruent to the given triangle. (Each of the four triangles has a side of length a and a side of length b including a right angle and are thus congruent to each other and the given triangle. See accompanying figure). The area of this square may thus be rendered as (a+b)^2 or as 4(1/2ab) + a^2 + b^2.

Therefore, (a+b)^2 = 4(1/2ab) + a^2 + b^2.

He grinned, pleased with himself, and moved on to sketch out the second square.

Dissect the second square into five pieces — a square of side c, and four right triangles congruent to the given triangle. (As above. See accompanying figure). The area of this square may thus be rendered as (a+b)^2 or as 4(1/2ab) + c^2.

Therefore, (a+b)^2 = 4(1/2ab) + c^2.

But as shown previously, (a+b)^2 is also equal to 4(1/2ab) + a^2 + b^2.

Therefore, 4(1/2ab) + a^2 + b^2 = 4(1/2ab) + c^2.

Self-evidently, 4(1/2ab) = 4(1/2ab).

Therefore, by subtraction, a^2 + b^2 = c^2.

He sighed in satisfaction and leaned back. It might have taken a little longer than he would have liked, but he had constructed the proof. (And quite neatly too, if he said so himself.)

Henrietta's greeting took him away from his self congratulations. He rose and turned to return her salutation and draw out a chair for her. Next to him, of course — he was quite looking forward to playing with the little mouse again, and it genuinely was better for tutoring her as well.

"Good afternoon my lady," he said, grinning warmly at her. "I trust you are well?" He normally would have complimented her (the grey looked good on her — it suited her stern, straitlaced charm, and the pink kept the overall effect from being overly severe) but a compliment from him could well have her running screaming.

"This?" He handed her the paper. "Just a simple proof to make sure that my mind is working. I should hate to embarrass myself, after all." 

He laughed, eye glinting merrily.

 

Edited by Charles Audley

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Despite his behavior the first time they had met, Lord Chatham was a true gentleman, standing up when she greeted him and pulling out a chair for her … next to him, Henrietta noted. “I wouldn’t be here if I was unwell,” she teased. “And I doubt you would be either. Therefore, I shall not inquire after your health."

 

He was quite fetching when he grinned, though the young lady was loath to admit it. She no longer feared him as she once had, and that unfortunate incident in the maze was beginning to fade from her mind. Perhaps she should thank Lizzie for her prank at the bachelor auction. If not for that occasion, she would never had known how intelligent he was or that he shared her thirst for knowledge.

 

Henrietta hesitated for a brief moment before sitting beside him and taking the paper he handed her. “Triangles and squares in larger squares. And all fit together perfectly. My knowledge of geometry does not extend that far. What does it mean?”

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Charles let Henrietta's teasing pass unremarked, merely letting his grin widen boyishly. It was a good sign, or so he judged. (Somewhat arbitrarily, it had to be admitted, as he still had no idea what end he had in mind for these little games with his little mouse.)

As though to illustrate the point, he felt a wave of amusement at her minute hesitation to sit next to him, though he was careful to keep any hint of that from his face. That would ruin the game, he felt, though why he could not say. 

"It's a proof for the Pythagorean theorem, that in any right angle triangle the square of the hypotenuse is equal to sum of the square of the other two sides." He paused a moment and met her eyes squarely. He had no real experience of tutoring, but he had dealt with bright, eager young ensigns, and the principles had to be broadly similar, surely. 

"I do not mean to condescend, or insult you, but I wish to avoid leaving gaps in your knowledge by making assumptions. How far does your knowledge of geometry extend? For instance, do you know what I mean by right angle triangle and hypotenuse?"

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Henrietta had heard of the Pythagorean theorem and knew that it pertained to geometry, but that was about it. As he explained, she studied his diagrams and it actually made sense, though she wouldn’t have been able to measure it herself. Not yet anyway. She felt that excitement that accompanied any new tidbit of knowledge and she longed to know more.

 

Lord Chatham met her eyes and she forced herself not to look away. “No, your questions are not insulting. You can’t teach me if you aren’t aware of what I’ve already learned. I know what a right-angled triangle is and that the hypotenuse is its longest side. I can measure the area of squares, rectangles and triangles, and to a lesser extent, circles. Radius, circumference, and diameter have always confused me, but I do know the value of pi.”

 

She could feel heat blossoming across her cheeks. Hopefully, she had not embarrassed herself too much.

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Henrietta blushed most becomingly, Charles mused. He really would not mind seeing more of it.

But he had decided to at least try to take this semi-seriously, and so he gave himself a mental shake and pressed on.

"Not a bad beginning. Pi can be a tricksy thing," he said, "and better yet, it gives us a place to begin. Circles." 

He reached for his compass and a fresh sheet of paper, and scribed a large circle. He slid the diagram in front of Henrietta and leaned in to start his explanation.

"We shall start with the circumference, which is simply an overly-complicated name for the perimeter of the circle. When you draw a circle, what you draw, in effect is the circumference."

He drew a second circle to illustrate.

"The radius, then, is the distance between any point on the circumference and the centre of the circle. When you draw a circle, it is the distance between the two arms of the compass. See?" He held the implement up for her to observe.

"Finally, there is the diameter, which is the name we have for the length of a straight line linking any two points on the circumference that passes through the centre of the circle. That last bit is the important part of the definition - if it does not pass through the centre then it is not the diameter. The simplest way to think about it is to remember that, by definition, the diameter is always twice the length of the radius."

He grinned at her encouragingly. 

"As for the relationship between those values, you need but remember two simple formulae Selene. Firstly, the circumference is equal to twice the radius times pi. Secondly, the area of the circle is equal to the square of the radius times pi."

He paused, wanting to be sure that she understood.

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Henrietta watched as Lord Chatham drew a circle with his compass. The instrument reminded her of something she wanted to ask him. He really was an excellent tutor and explained the different parts of a circle much better than the author of the book she had learned from. He didn’t dumb his explanation down, either, simply because she was a woman and shouldn’t be able to understand advanced concepts.

 

The one-eyed Earl was nothing like the man she had thought he was in the maze on the night of the Christmas Ball. He seemed to believe that women had as much right to knowledge as a man. It was a refreshing perspective and she could forgive him for his vices because of it. Maybe this would become a regular thing and he would agree to teach her about other subjects as well. What, she wondered, would he say if she asked to be taught politics? Or was that where he drew the line? Maybe he had no line, except for the ones he literally drew with a ruler. It was an interesting notion. Perhaps she would test him.

 

While explaining the radius, he held up his compass for her to study. Why had it not occurred to her before that the diameter was twice the radius? Maybe because the circles she drew freehand were always a bit lopsided. He grinned at her and she almost forgot everything he had said, especially after he called her Selene. She liked the nickname he had given her at the bachelor auction. Lizzie had truly done her a favor when she left her alone with Lord Chatham that night.

 

Pulling her mind back to the subject of circles, she took one of his sheets of paper and a spare pencil and wrote down the formulae he had given her. It made more sense when she could see it. “I don’t think I will ever be confused about circles again,” she said with a genuine smile. “You are much clearer than that old book I learned from.”

 

Glancing at the compass, she added: “I’ve always wanted to acquire the right tools, but nobody will give them, or even sell them. to ladies. Can you get me a set, Lord Chatham? I will pay for them, of course.”

 

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Charles shrugged easily, surprised to find himself a trifle uncomfortable with Henrietta's praise and covering it with his usual cloak of glib bonhomie.

"It is a hard thing, to teach yourself from books, especially with no prior grounding, but an easy one to teach a bright and eager student. If I seem a skilled tutor Selene, then it is merely that you are an apt pupil, which makes my task both simple and pleasant."

Especially when you smile like that.

He frowned and clucked his tongue in annoyance with himself as she spoke of needing tools.

"I should have thought of that," he murmured, and smiled at Henrietta.

"You may take this set with you when you leave," he told her. "It will be a simple matter for me to acquire another for myself. But I shall hear no talk of repayment, hmm?" 

Edited by Charles Audley

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Charles hid his uneasiness well. He seemed as confident as always to Henrietta, who nodded at his observation. “Until I met you, I had no choice but to learn from books, not just geometry but anything else that isn’t related to sewing and managing a household.” The books she learned from came from the palace library. In this little corner of hers, she could study whatever she pleased without anyone knowing or complaining. Unfortunately, she couldn’t take the books home with her or they might be discovered.

 

Henrietta had been stating a fact, not attempting to flatter Lord Chatham. Flattering a gentleman was dangerous, because sometimes they took it the wrong way. She had once slapped a young man when he tried to kiss her after she had said something nice about him. A Duke’s daughter had to be above reproach, which, besides for her hunger for forbidden knowledge, she tried to be.

 

His praise for her attentiveness made her blush and she momentarily turned and pretended to be studying the bookshelves until she felt her cheeks begin to cool. “Thank you, my lord,” was all she said in reply. His methods of teaching and her way of learning definitely contemplated each other.

 

Lord Chatham offered her his set of tools, which was probably the best solution. As he said, he could always buy more. Gentlemen had no idea how lucky they were, to be able to acquire anything they wanted, though she supposed that a bookseller might look at them strangely if they asked for a book of embroidery patterns. Henrietta suppressed a chuckle as she imagined the one-eyed Earl doing just that.

 

She smiled again. “Very well,” she said graciously. “You are most kind to me.” Glancing at the compass again, she asked: “May I try it?”

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"Oh? And what other unconventional interests have you, then? Philosophy, I remember, but there are others surely."

Charles grinned at Henrietta. It was perhaps not exactly gentlemanly to tease her like this, but he was far more comfortable with this than he was with earnest praise that he felt unearned. 

And this is tame enough, by my standards.

He was glad that she did not try to force the issue of repayment, though it was still as strange as ever to be called kind.

"It is not often I get to hear that," he said, smiling back at her. "Have a care my lady, or you shall put me to blush, and I do not carry that off half so prettily as you."

He cocked his head and hummed thoughtfully as an idle thought popped to the forefront of his mind.

"Can we call it kindness, actually? Philosophically, I mean. I have always felt that kindness requires some effort or sacrifice to count, and this is a small matter, really. What do you think?"

He shook his head, smiling ruefully.

"Forgive me the digression. Of course you may try."

He handed her the compass and straight rule, along with a pencil and a sheet of paper. 

 

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Henrietta hesitated when Lord Chatham asked her about her unconventional interests. If she told him, would he believe that she was sticking her nose into subjects that belonged in the realm of gentlemen? Would he be so disgusted that he didn’t want to see her anymore? Did she want to learn from a narrow-minded, chauvinistic gentleman ? No, it would be best to lay her cards on the table, and if he was outraged, then she could go back to hating him like she had done before the bachelor auction.

 

She didn’t really want to hate him.

 

She wasn’t sure why he grinned at her, though she liked the way it transformed his face. Did he not take educated women seriously or was he trying to show her that he supported her? There was only one way to find out.

 

“Politics, science, architecture, strategy, and law, to name a few.” There were others, but those were the first that popped into her head.

 

Lord Chatham had seen her blush, and had complimented her on it in a roundabout way. Henrietta felt her cheeks burning again, but this time she didn’t turn away from him. “I doubt you ever blush.” She was surprised at her own teasing tone.

 

Why was he humming? At least he was on key. Ahhh, he had been pondering the philosophy of kindness.  His question made her think and it was a few moments before she answered … long enough that he apologized.

 

“There is nothing to forgive. Everything we do requires effort and sacrifice, even something as simple as a smile. Curving your lips takes effort and the sacrifice is letting somebody else know how you feel. It is the same with hatred, though I think when you hate someone, you lose a little bit of your soul.” That was more than she had intended to say. She hoped he didn’t think she was daft.

 

Why did she care about his opinion of her? It was a strange notion, but for some unfathomable reason Henrietta wanted Lord Chatham to like her.

 

She took the materials from him, her fingers brushing lightly against his. Smoothing the sheet of paper in front of her, she placed the pencil in the holder of the compass and then lay the ruler in the center of the paper. She had read about how to use a compass in the geometry book she had studied from, never thinking she might have the chance to actually do it.

 

A small circle would be best of her first try so she measured out two inches. Removing the ruler, she carefully turned the compass, finding it a bit awkward. She had drawn only a small arc when the tool flew out of her hand and onto the floor. With a huff of frustration, she retrieved it and then glanced over at Lord Chatham. “Is there a trick to this or do I just need to practice?”

 

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Charles nodded, still grinning. Henrietta's answer was a little surprising, perhaps, and certainly unconventional (to the point that some would call it unfeminine) but what it was more than anything else was interesting. Charles did not often concede that he had read a person wrong, but perhaps his initial assessment of his little mouse had been inaccurate.

"Well, of architecture I am largely ignorant, and in terms of science and law I am but a dilettante, but perhaps I can be of some assistance with strategy and politics, if you like," he offered. "The former in particular is as close as I have to a field of expertise. Have you done much reading on these unorthodox interests of yours?"

He rather hoped she had, he was somewhat surprised to find. 

Henrietta really did have a very pretty blush, as she once more exhibited, but of far more interest was the teasing tone in which she asked her question. 

I shall have to concede it — I did misread her.

"I must admit that I do not remember the last time I was put to blush, no," he agreed, grinning boyishly, "but you are welcome to try and force one, if you doubt my word and must force the comparison."

He cocked his head to one side, eye locked on her as he listened to her argument. He was taking this as seriously as he would any coffee house debate, he realised with no small amusement.

"Hmm. I would argue that in such cases the effort and sacrifice involved are both so small as to be negligible, and thus do not count as either." He frowned. "But I attack the framing of your point rather than the point itself, which is poor rhetoric. Your thesis, if I understand you, is that even such minor actions require an investment of the self, and as such are valid evidence of virtue or vice?" He considered a moment. "I will concede the point, I think. Effort and sacrifice are not a fitting qualitative measure of kindness."

Feeling the brush of her fingers on his as he handed over the instruments he was tempted to let the touch linger for a moment, but held back. There would be plenty of time for that sort of thing later, if he so chose. For now, he was having far too much fun with this intellectual engagement.

He swallowed a laugh as the compass flew from her hand. He bent to retrieve it and found his earlier resolution rendered moot as his fingers tangled with Henrietta's once more. He did laugh, then, and straightened up slowly. (Rushing would have suggested that something untoward had happened, when it clearly had not.)

"Both, really," he answered her, taking the compass to demonstrate. "The trick is not to grasp it so tightly, nor lean on it so heavily. Just enough to hold it in place, yes? Then smooth, unhurried movements." He scribed a circle to illustrate. "After that, it is just practice."

He held out the compass.

"Now try again."

Edited by Charles Audley

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“I have,” Henrietta replied. “but it’s been rather sporadic. I wish I could spend all day in the library, but there are many other demands on my time. Social functions mostly, which I hate.” She wrinkled her nose in distaste. Why was she telling him this, a gentleman she hardly knew? “Most of the ladies at those affairs only want to discuss clothes and future husbands and needlework. Luckily the are so in love with the sound of their own voices, they don’t mind if I’m silent. And so I sit quietly and endure.”

 

There was more bitterness in her voice than she had intended, and she hoped Lord Chatham had not picked up on it. “I can’t remember the names of the books or the authors offhand,” she continued, moving quickly back on track, “and I can’t remember everything about them. I read so many diverse subjects. Perhaps I should concentrate on just one at a time.”

 

A slight frown crossed her pretty features. “Strategy is what I struggle with the most. You may think that it will be of no use to me. I will never command soldiers in battle. But what I can command are pieces on a game board, and it will help me in other ways too.” Henrietta didn’t mention that her younger sister was better at board games than she was. Lizzie was practically unbeatable. “I will be forever grateful if you can teach me more about both strategy and politics. I understand most of what I hear in the House of Lords, but some of the details elude me.”

 

Lord Chatham didn’t laugh at her, but he did disagree, which was, of course, part of what philosophy was all about. Even if you adhered to a certain school or tradition, your personal opinions differed at least slightly, from everyone else’s. “In a small way, yes,” she replied. “As for virtues and vices, some things can be both. You can smile with happiness or you can smile with malicious intent. Even kindness can be a vice if you are doing it for any other reason that from the goodness of your heart.”

 

Henrietta probably should have let him retrieve the compass like the gentleman he was, but she wanted to hide her frustration and they both reached for it at the same time. Their fingers briefly entangled and she felt a jolt of sensation that she hadn’t experienced since her infatuation with Lord Maldon, whom she had believed was courting her until he had abruptly left court. No two men could be more diverse in appearance and personality, but they were both highly intelligent and encouraged her studies of unfeminine subjects. Maybe that was the reason for her strange reaction.

 

When they were both back in their seats, Henrietta watched and listened closely as Lord Chatham demonstrated how to use the compass properly. She took it when he held it out, making certain that their hands did not touch again. She didn’t want to feel those odd sensations again. Or did she?

 

Her second try was more successful, and she drew a perfect circle next to his. “There.” She couldn’t keep the satisfaction out of her voice. “Did I do it right this time?”

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"It can be... suffocating, when others seek to impose their own limitations upon one," Charles said quietly, studying Henrietta. That she would be discontent with the bounds set for her sex was no real surprise, given the interests she had expressed, but he had not expected this swell of... contempt? Bitterness? Both? He was not sure, but he still felt a strange kinship with her for a moment.

She did not linger on the topic, though, and Charles found himself grinning as she pressed on.

"I am the last to offer criticism on this score, but your efforts might well prove more fruitful if they were more focused, yes." 

He suppressed a twitch as she spoke of strategy helping with board games. That comparison had always vexed him sorely.

"You might be disappointed on that score," he warned. "War has more in common with cards than any board game, if the truth be known. However, you are not wrong, the basic principles can be usefully applied in many situations, and I would be lying if I said that I did not enjoy discussing them. But in the spirit of focusing one's efforts, a lesson we both need to take to heart, I will ask which of strategy or politics you wish to concentrate on first."

He would be lying if he said he did not enjoy discussing philosophy either, and he smiled with the simple joy of it.

"I will disagree there, my lady. We are told, after all, that virtue is its own reward. Surely, therefore, any seemingly virtuous action performed in expectation of reward or with any ulterior motive, is not in fact virtuous, whatever its outward appearance, but is instead a vice wholly its own, with no relationship beyond appearance to the virtue it apes? Kindness performed for base motives does not make a vice of kindness, but ceases to be kindness at all." He cocked his head to one side. "Though that does raise the question, is a sin born from virtuous motivation still a sin? Which matters more, the conviction or the act it births?"

It was amusing, really, the care Henrietta took to avoid their fingers meeting again as she accepted the compass from him. It was the contrast, he decided, between her confidence in arguing with him, or even meeting him at all, really, and the uncertainty he read into such avoidance, that intrigued him so. He examined the circle she had drawn, just for show.

"Much better," he agreed, and tapped a finger on the paper. "Again."

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Even though he agreed with her, Henrietta doubted that Lord Chatham had any idea of how many obstacles women faced in their pursuit of knowledge. She kept her studies from her own family, expecting that her mother wouldn't approve and her father would ban her from visiting the library altogether. Perhaps the one-eyed Earl had a sister or a cousin who faced the same restrictions. He was undeniably smart; his siblings probably were too, if he had any. From her own observations, intelligence seemed to be inherited.

 

Did he, too, have trouble sticking to one topic of study? “It’s difficult to concentrate on one subject when I am interested in so many and have limited time to spend in the library. I tend to flit from one to another like a bee to flowers. It’s a habit that is hard to break, but I shall try.”

 

Lord Chatham claimed that learning about strategy would be more useful when playing cards instead of board games. Henrietta had never played cards before but she thought that all games were a combination of skill and luck. From the accounts she had read about war, skill was most important but luck sometimes played a role in victory, such as a sudden illness sweeping through the enemy’s camp, depleting their numbers. He did, however, agree that knowledge of strategy would help her in other areas of her life. “I’ve never played cards before. That is something else I would like to learn.”

 

As for what she wanted to start with: “Strategy,” she answered without hesitation. “I know less about war than I do about politics.”

 

Henrietta was really enjoying their philosophical discussion, especially as he didn’t ridicule her when she was wrong. She knew she still had a lot to learn and mistakes were inevitable. Lord Chatham challenged her in a way nobody else had ever done, not even Lord Maldon, who had never been inclined to disagree with her.

 

The Earl made a good point … that no action could be both a virtue and a vice. It was one or the other, depending on its intent. “Very true. Kindness done for malicious reasons is not kindness at all. As for your question, I would say a sin is a sin is a sin, but suppose a friend is falsely accused of a crime and you can save his life if you lie. I think in a case like that, the motivation matters more than the act itself. If sin leans to goodness, does it then cease to be a sin?”

 

He was pleased with her circle, but demanded that she try again. As she positioned the compass on the paper, she tried to figure out how she felt about being given something that belonged to him. She would take the tools home, place them in a drawer, and take them out whenever she wished to practice. It would be, in a way, like having a part of him with her always, for she would certainly think of him whenever she touched them. The notion was, surprisingly, not unpleasant.

 

A bit distracted, she didn’t realize that her circle intersected with the one he had drawn until she was finished. Once again, a blush bloomed across her cheeks. “Well that didn’t go quite as planned. Shall I do it again.?”

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"There is a great deal to be said for intellectual diversity," Charles felt obliged to say, despite his earlier words. "If you are not studying with a specific end in mind, then there is no real harm in reading widely rather than deeply. Of course, if you do have a specific end in mind, then focusing on it would be obviously be best." He smiled at Henrietta. "But so long as you are learning, and enjoying yourself, it is all to the good, no?"

He could not help but laugh as she proclaimed herself a novice at cards.

"Well, as friendly advice, you should never, ever, under any circumstances, play cards with someone who says they have never played before. It invariably ends with an empty purse." He shook his head, still chuckling. "But if you like, some day I'll break my rule and play a friendly hand or two of piquet with you."

He nodded along with her answer as to which topic she wished to study first, tapping his fingertips on the edge of the table as he considered where to begin.

"I suppose it does not make much difference to start with, really, war or politics. The basic underlying challenge, the essential conundrum of both, the reason for their similarity to cards, and the reason that you should laugh at anyone who compares either to chess, is this — you do not control everything, you do not even know everything, and yet you must make decisions anyway, or you are lost." He looked wryly at her. "That is true of everything in life, of course, but especially so in such matters of which we speak. But from this challenge, we can extract certain basic principles."

He paused, assessing how Henrietta was taking his words. It was a secret, long-cherished ambition of his to someday write a book on just this topic, and it occurred to him that he might be one of those gentlemen who assumed that their passions were universal, and so made a dreary, impenetrable mess of them when given the opportunity to speak on the topic. He had no desire to bore or bewilder her.

That was much less of a concern when it came to philosophy, thankfully. She was clearly engaged in their debate, and so was Charles, somewhat to his own surprise. He was rather enjoying himself, if he was honest, and frankly could not remember the last time he had felt quite so... involved in an intellectual discussion.

"I think it must, yes, or else what meaning has the word sin at all? We can, I think, only judge an action on its effects, and if those effects are good, or even merely not evil, then it is no sin, as I reckon it." He paused. "I will go further — even should some of those effects be evil, should the balance lie towards the good, and the world be made a happier place for it, then it is no sin."

He had to swallow a laugh again as they returned to geometry, and Henrietta flushed red. For no reason, as he saw it, for it mattered nothing that their circles intersected.

"You really are beyond pretty when you blush," he murmured, only to realise what he had said.

"The circle is perfectly formed," he said smoothly, pressing on. "It is of no consequence that it intersects, once you are happy with its construction."

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“You are right, my lord. On some days, I have a specific goal in mind and then I get distracted by other subjects. There are also times when I would rather just learn for the sake of learning. I suppose I should become more disciplined or I will never have more than a cursory knowledge of anything. Enjoying yourself is important, but so is being satisfied with what you’ve learned. Usually I am left wanting far more.” Henrietta shrugged. “That, I suppose, is the plight of the lady who wishes to expand her education beyond what she is expected to know."

 

Lord Chatham laughed again. She was an insecure young woman and knew she wasn’t witty like Lizzie and many other ladies at court, but she was positive that he was not laughing at her. Apparently, devious individuals claimed they had never played cards before so that their opponents would have a false sense of security which they would then exploit. The same thing probably happened with chess and backgammon, but those games were usually played for fun or small stakes while you could lose a lot of money at cards.

 

That was one reason she had never tried it. As a novice, she would have to lose in order to learn, and even ladies played for money. Henrietta didn’t want to be chastised for throwing money away on trivial games. Rumors that she lost more than she won would also hurt her reputation and make it difficult to find a husband. No gentleman wanted a wife who squandered his money on gambling, even if she was the daughter of a Duke. Then again, it was possible that she would have a knack for it. She would never know unless she tried.

 

“In my case, it’s true. As you will see.” She grinned mischievously. “But I won’t promise you that the student won’t surpass the teacher one day.” Henrietta wasn’t confident about much, but she did take pride in being a quick study.

 

She listened intently as he spoke, nodding in understanding. Without politics there would be no war, except perhaps in primitive foreign villages where everyone went around stealing each other’s cows. War in those places was a way of life and there was little bloodshed or loss of life … unless one was trampled by a cow when swiping it from one’s neighbor.

 

Henrietta was not bored listening to Charles; she was intrigued. “And what are those principles?” she asked, her eyes alight with curiosity and anticipation.

 

Back to philosophy, she pondered his opinion for a few moments. “I agree, but it also depends on the motivation behind it. Killing to defend your country is not a sin, as long as protecting your homeland is your goal. But annihilating  innocent native populations so that your country can expand its borders is a sin. No matter how you rationalize it, the incentive is greed, pure and simple.”

 

His compliment not only deepened the color splashing over her cheeks but made her extremely uncomfortable. Her eyes widened and her weight shifted on her chair, giving the impression of a bird about to take wing and fly away. Henrietta always felt awkward when flattered, particularly when flattered by Lord Chatham. An image of their first encounter popped into her mind. Had he told that blonde woman that she was pretty? Was that why she had … done what she had with him?

 

All this went though her mind in the mere seconds before Charles spoke again. This time he complimented her circle. She relaxed back into her chair. I’m overreacting again, she thought. He didn’t mean anything by that comment. But did she hope he had? Once more, he had her confused. “I think I shall make another, so that I can see it without the distraction of yours.”

 

And so she drew another and studied it. “There. I am happy with this one. What do you want me to do now?”

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Charles smiled, genuinely pleased by Henrietta's apparent interest.

"The first," he said, holding up a finger, "is this — only fight a war under the following conditions: it is one you can win, you have something to gain from the victory, and that which you would gain cannot be obtained more cheaply by other means. Only when all three are satisfied should you fight. As a corollary, you must have a precise, defined goal for your wars, and you must calculate to the least fraction exactly what it is worth to you. As soon as that goal is achieved, or the cost exceeded you must seek peace."

He looked at her. "That principle applies to battles as well, once the war has started. Too many battles, even victorious ones, and your army is ruined."

 "Second, even when at peace, study the enemy. Well, the potential enemy. You must know their strengths, their weaknesses and, most importantly, you must know what they want, for only with that understanding can you even begin to predict what they will do. You must study, too, the ground over which you will fight, for it will tell you how the fight will happen, if you pay attention. Finally, remember random chance, and know that war is father to chaos. Grand designs are a thing of vanity. Your plans must be simple, and allow room for adaptions and improvisations, and leave as little as possible to the vagaries of fortune."

He frowned. There was no contradiction there, he knew, but it sounded like there was. How to explain it properly? A sudden inspiration struck him.

"Think of it like sailing a ship. You cannot control the wind or the tides, but that does not mean that you do not patch any leaks in the hull, or leave port without charts or instruments, yes? And so, though wind and wave may drive you from your course, you can correct for it, and arrive safe at your destination."

His smile became a bleak humourless thing as they moved on to moral philosophy.

"Ah, but defending your country can be a nebulous concept, Selene. For myself, I think we are long gone from Eden, and we are none of us innocent, and so long as we all seek to prosper and improve our lot, we shall inevitably come to conflict."

Perhaps it was the unwelcome intrusion of his cynicism that left him unthinking enough to voice his thoughts on her blush. She was clearly uncomfortable, and for a moment he thought she was like to bolt. That disappointed him, though he could not say why. The thought distracted him while Henrietta scribed another circle.

"Hmm? Well, there are one or two interesting little constructions I can show you, now that you can use a compass, if you like." He paused and looked her in the eye.

"Tell me Selene, what perturbs you so when I say you are pretty? Is it the compliments, or the fact that I am the one voicing them?"

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As Lord Chatham explained the basic principles of war, Henrietta listened avidly. As she had expected, the they could be applied to many other things as well, such as debates, ambitions, and even revenge … the latter being a desire she had never experienced but had heard much about from her friends and particularly her sister.

 

She now understood more about the various factors the King and his military commanders must consider before making the decision to go to war. The nobles in the House of Lords were well-informed too. She had heard their deliberations and ideas. Some had sounded better than others, but she was woefully lacking in the knowledge required to make that kind of assessment.

 

Perhaps she should be glad that she had been born a woman. She didn’t have to worry about such things, though still wished to know the reasoning behind them.

 

And of course, even the best laid plans could be ruined by chance. Henrietta didn’t need his analogy about sailing a ship, but she appreciated it nonetheless. It did make the concepts he had spoken of a bit more clear. Lord Chatham was, she thought again, an excellent instructor and not a bit condescending, which she imagined most gentlemen would be if a lady asked them about anything to do with politics or war.

 

“I see what you mean now about strategy not applying to board games.” Her voice was thoughtful, contemplative. “Some of it does but much of it doesn’t. However it can apply to many other areas of life, such as carving out a place for oneself at court. I have no such ambitions.” Henrietta smiled mischievously. “Yet I imagine you do.”

 

Why did goosebumps pleasantly flutter upon her skin whenever he called her Selene? Was it because or its meaning or its air of mystery? It was certainly not as dull as ‘Henrietta.’ She had never cared much for her name but she was stuck with it. Or was it because of the way he said it?

 

She did not miss the cynicism in Charles’ words. “There is still innocence left in the world,” she countered. “It is just easily destroyed by those to whom it has no value. I still believe that defending one’s country is honorable if sitting back and doing nothing will destroy everything and everyone one loves.”

 

Using a compass was not as easy as it looked, and Henrietta was pleased with her progress. She was looking forward to what Lord Chatham would teach her next. His question caught her completely off guard, and the tool slipped from her fingers and hit the table with a soft metallic clang. The blood drained from her face, accenting the crimson blush on her cheeks. He was as perceptive as he was intelligent.

 

How could she answer when she didn’t know how she felt? If there was one thing the shy lady hated, it was being put on the spot. Again, she was attempted to flee, but then she would lose an outstanding tutor. Charles was more of a gentleman than she had first believed, and if it was him who upset her, he would stay away from her. Oddly enough, that wasn’t what she wanted.

 

Henrietta was tempted to look down, but forced herself to hold his gaze. “I’ve never been comfortable with compliments,” she said, her voice quiet. “I am the daughter of a powerful Duke and one of the most eligible ladies in London. When a gentleman flatters me, I think he is only after the benefits he would receive from an alliance with my father. I also know I am not the prettiest lady at court by any stretch of the imagination.” This was the truth, just not all of it. She smiled a bit sheepishly. “And I’m quite easily embarrassed, as I’m sure you already know.”

 

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"Are you suggesting that the root of all human interaction is conflict?" Charles asked teasingly, matching Henrietta's mischief with his own. "I broadly agree, as it happens, but I would not have thought to hear you espouse such a position." 

He laughed.

"But seeing as you raise the topic, I find myself curious — what are your ambitions, hmm?"

His lips twisted sourly as she spoke of innocence and honour.

"Show me this innocence, Selene, for I have seen precious little of it," he said, more sharply than he meant to. He held up a hand and sighed.

"Forgive me. Let us move on, I pray you. This topic makes me unfit company."

Not that he did much better as they did move on. Indeed, for a moment, as the colour fled from Henrietta's face, Charles thought he might have killed her with sheer panic, and for several moments after that he thought she might bolt.

And why should it matter to you if she does? Would that not be amusing, and is the amusement of playing with her not your purpose here?

Charles ignored that little voice with the ease of long practice, meeting her eyes and listening closely as she explained. 

"Do you think I have been insincere?" he asked softly. "I will not lie, there will always be there who are, but do not let that fact make you think that everyone is. As for the rest, why should the fact that other women are also pretty make you any the less so? And you are pretty, in a way well matched to your charmingly earnest nature. And you are clever and brave, as I learned when we first met." He laughed softly. "You did not just run, you pushed me and ran, and you've never run from me since."

He looked seriously at her, his sole blue eye boring into both of her hazel.

"In short, it is a great shame that you have been brought to think that your company and person are not desirable in and of themselves."

He had taken her hand he realised, and wondered if he should let go.

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“At least we agree on something,” Henrietta replied with a playful smile. She generally didn’t like being teased. Nor had she ever spoken to any gentleman in the same manner. She found she quite enjoyed their lively discussion, and that she was even holding her own. Lord Chatham was teaching her more than just geometry. She felt she was finally learning how to communicate with the opposite sex without stumbling over her own words. Thank you, Lizzie, she thought again.

 

Her ambitions? Nobody had ever asked her that before. Gentlemen assumed that ladies had only one goal in life … to marry and have children. Henrietta wanted that too, but she longed for much more than just being a wife and mother. “I want to expand my knowledge until there’s nothing left to learn. Marriage is inevitable, but I hope that the gentleman my parents choose for me is open-minded and will encourage me to pursue my studies. Instead of throwing parties like most ladies, I wish to host salons like they have in France, where no subject is safe from being discussed and debated. Sometimes I think I might like to travel, but the thought of visiting new places is as frightening as it is exciting.”

 

The one-eyed Earl was so opposed to the idea that innocence still existed that Henrietta wondered what had shaped that opinion. War, perhaps. Or had something happened to him that had made him pessimistic? She was about to tell him that she would show him innocence, but he asked that they speak of such things no longer and the more she thought about it, her comment would have been too suggestive. Strangely enough, she didn’t think that Charles would interpret it that way.

 

Things turned personal quite quickly anyway, though not in the way she had assumed they would. Her cheeks were still burning, but Henrietta forced herself to hold his gaze as he complimented her yet again, not just on her appearance but on her personality. Was she clever and brave? On that night in the maze, she was confused and scared by the scene she had intruded upon. And angry. He actually made her feel pretty, which nobody else but Lord Maldon had managed to do. Why did she keep comparing the two Earls? They had absolutely nothing in common except their encouragement and willingness to help her gain the knowledge she craved.

 

“I know you weren’t lying to me. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, after all.” The corner of one lip curved slightly. “And you deserved being pushed. I would not be telling the truth if I said I regretted it.” Henrietta still didn’t understand what she had seen that night, nor did she allow herself to dwell on it. The past was the past, and Lord Chatham was not the kind of man she had initially thought he was.

 

An unexpected heat suffused her hand, and she realized that his was wrapped around hers. When had that happened? The muscles in her arm tensed. She knew she should pull away, but she believed that his intention was to convince her of his sincerity and not to seduce her. And she liked the way it felt. “I’m nothing special,” she sighed. “Just one young lady in the midst of many. I’m not witty or charming or artistically talented. Why should anyone want to spend time with me when they can choose a lady who possesses those qualities I lack?"

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"Hmm," Charles cocked his head to one side as Henrietta answered him, considering.

"There is always more to learn, Selene," he told her, smiling. "But the pursuit is a worthy endeavour of itself, I think, and I hope you are given the chance."

It had always seemed to him that only a very weak man would seek to keep his wife limited and lessened. Where was the attraction, or even the use, in an ignorant milksop? But his opinion on such matters was unconventional, Charles knew.

"You should travel, too, if you find yourself with the opportunity. It is good for the mind, and broader horizons would be a great boon for your career as a salonniére, to which I shall look forward with great anticipation. I love a good salon."

And Henrietta would make a good salonniére, he thought. Oh, she was still perhaps a little naive, and her rhetoric a little in need of polish, but the raw material was there, as their little philosophical aside showed. There was deep vulnerability there too, though, and Charles found himself unexpectedly moved to help. Even more unexpectedly, it seemed to bear fruit.

"Deserved?" he asked, pouting in reply to her curving lip. "Oh, you are cruel Selene."

He felt her hand tense under his and wondered if he had made a mistake. She made no move to draw back, though, and so he focused on her words. He was not quite sure why it so mattered to him that Henrietta be assured of her worth, but it did.

Perhaps I see an echo of how I might have been, had the dice rolled differently.

"'Nothing special?' Come now, Selene. You have a mind, and the willingness to use it, and you are in fact charming when you forget to worry about trying to be. There is steel in your spine, too, even when you are not angry, or you would run screaming from me, or at least certainly not agree to meet with me. I do not think you realise quite how uncommon those qualities are. Any gentleman worth the knowing would count time in your company well-spent." He smiled at her. "And if you will not believe that, believe this — I am a cruel, selfish man and I would not spend an instant that was not necessary in the company of one who was 'nothing special.' Life is too short to waste any of it on boring, unremarkable acquaintances."

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“Of course I’ll never possess all the knowledge in the world,” Henrietta grinned. “The fun, as you say, is in the pursuit. I also look forward to all the new inventions and innovations that will shape our future. Life as we know it today may be drastically changed for the better by the time we are old and gray.” She purposefully admitted that it could also get worse. The ill-fated Commonwealth came to mind. What if something like that happened again? Or what if the Duke of York took the throne and insisted that everyone in England become Catholic? She hoped that the Queen would give birth to a boy.

 

She was still unsure about traveling, though as Lord Chatham pointed out, it would help her if she did become a salonniére. Henrietta had never spoken that dream aloud except for mentioning it to Lizzie once. Her sister had laughed at her and told her to move to France if that was her goal. Salons would never become popular in England. Maybe Lizzie was right, but how would Henrietta knew unless she tried? Her charming companion didn’t seem appalled by the notion, so perhaps it could actually work.

 

His pout made her laugh, and she narrowed her eyes teasingly. “You know you did. You should have found a room in the palace instead of cavorting where innocent ladies could come upon you.” Henrietta had only a vague idea of what Charles and the blonde lady had been doing, and that came from one of Lizzie’s racy novels that she had found, After a few pages, she had put it back in its hiding place, disgusted and confused about what she had read.

 

Acutely aware of the warmth of his hand wrapped around hers, she listened as he described her as intelligent, charming, and courageous. The first Henrietta already knew, but was she really charismatic and brave? That sounded more like Lizzie that her. However, she didn’t think that Lord Chatham was lying to her. He truly believed what he said and she couldn’t help but be flattered by his words. She had always thought of herself as timid and boring, but in truth, she had never really tried to speak with gentlemen. Usually when one engaged her in conversation, she stumbled over her words and blushed profusely.

 

Why do I have no trouble at all when I speak with Lord Chatham? she wondered. Why do I feel so at ease around him? As he said, I should have run from him, but instead, he intrigues me.  Hie is like no other gentleman I have ever met..

 

“I don’t think you are selfish and cruel,” she remarked, squeezing his hand before gently extracting her own from it and primly placing it in her lap. “You would not have offered to tutor me if you were. You are not a typical gentlemen, my lord. You appreciate traits that other men find disagreeable in ladies. I find your attitude refreshing and wish there were more men who think the way you do.”

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"It was outside, in the middle of the labyrinth, at night, in December. I think we were entirely justified in thinking that no innocent ladies would come upon us 'cavorting,' as you put it," Charles groused playfully, holding his pout, though his eye twinkled with amusement.

'Cavorting.' Good God. She really has no idea what she stumbled on, does she?

He cocked his head to one side as a thought struck him, and he grinned at Henrietta.

"While we are on the topic, though, a question occurs to me. What drew you to the labyrinth that night? I do not think that I have ever asked."

Given her evident innocence it was unlikely to be anything interesting, but Charles wanted to see if he could make her blush again.

He felt oddly regretful as she withdrew her hand, and wondered at the gentle squeeze she had offered. She was no coquette, but... he gave gave himself a mental shake and stretched his lips in his best wolfish grin, studying Henrietta through a half-lidded eye as she spoke.

Such a sweet, innocent little naif. Think you this the full extent of my nature?

"Oh Selene," he murmured, laughing softly. "It would be ill-mannered of me to argue with such freely-offered sincerity, and I have trod that line once already, but please. Do not mistake me. I am a twisted thing." He forced his grin wider as he continued. It was important, for some reason, that she understand more fully what sort of creature she sat with.

"At the auction," he whispered, "I had the glimmer of a thought to seduce you. But then you turned out to be interesting, and I found that I enjoyed speaking with you, and so I set it aside. So you see, Selene, that when I say that I am a cruel and selfish man, I speak nothing but the truth."

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Based on all the factors Lord Chatham had given, Henrietta understood why he and his lady friend had thought that they had complete privacy, not just from innocent girls but from anybody. “You should know, my lord, that one is never safe from discovery at court, no matter where one goes. There are a lot of Scots here. They like cold weather. You could have been interrupted by an entire group of them who wanted to drink together in seclusion. Or perhaps the King himself wanted some seclusion!"

 

Why had she sought the labyrinth that night? “I wasn’t feeling very merry and I wanted to get away for awhile.” She omitted the fact that she felt awkward because ladies were supposed to ask gentlemen to dance and she was too shy to approach anyone. Lizzie had found her dance partners, but she had not wanted to impose on her sister too much. She had fled from the ball much like she fled from everything else that made her uncomfortable.

 

Henrietta had almost run away from Lord Chatham at the bachelor auction too when Lizzie played a trick on her and left her alone with him. She was now glad that she hadn’t.

 

Or was she? His grin, which she had found fetching, was now frightening. He looked as if he was about to devour her. She wanted to shrink back but forced herself not to. She should have been appalled that he had thought about seducing her, but for some reason, she was flattered that he had considered kissing her (which was all Henrietta knew about seduction).. It wouldn’t have worked. She would have slapped him so hard that he would have worn her handprint on his cheek for days, and her father would ruin him for attempting to dishonor his daughter. He might have been exiled from court forever.

 

Henrietta looked into his eye. “Why do you want me to believe that you are twisted, cruel and selfish?” The tone in her voice was perplexed. “You sound almost proud. Is that what you want people to think of you?”

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Charles leaned back in his chair, lips still faintly curved. His eye fixed on Henrietta's two, reading her confusion. 

"Proud?" he mused. "Perhaps I am. I know what I am, and the worth of it, and I never allow myself to be less than it. I do not lessen or censor myself, I do not accommodate or compromise. I am always purely, wholly, and absolutely myself." He allowed himself a soft chuckle. "Even when myself is lamentably pompous, hmm?"

He was enjoying this, he found, assessing the impact of his words. He never felt much need to justify himself, but it was satisfying nonetheless to lay it out.

"That is close enough to pride for our purposes, no, Selene? And I have answered one of your questions there, too, though I shall state it plainly anyway. I do not give much thought to what people think of me. Life is altogether too short and uncertain to allow myself to be constrained for the sake of others."

He straightened up and stretched languorously. 

"Which leaves us with but one question remaining — why do I want you to have some glimmer of understanding of what sort of creature you share a table with?" He shrugged easily. "I suppose I think that if we are to be friends you should have no illusions as to my nature."

He smiled beatifically at her.

"And I should like us to be friends, at least until I can think of some way to convince your father not to shoot me when I ask to court you."

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Oh, how lucky he is to know exactly who he is and to embrace it, instead of trying to become what everyone else thinks he should be. Most courtiers, including herself, tried to fit into the mold that society had created for them. Henrietta was supposed  wish for nothing other than to be a wife and mother, and to be content with managing a household and throwing parties. She had to hide her intelligence and her thirst for knowledge. Improving one’s mind was seen as unseemly in a woman. No gentleman would want to marry her if he suspected how much she loved learning. And no man wanted a wife who was smarter than he was.

 

She laughed when Lord Chatham called himself pompous. “You said it, not I.” Teasing him was starting to feel natural, which was both exciting and a bit disturbing.

 

“Being proud of who you are is not a sin.” Perhaps being cruel and selfish was, but she thought he was either exaggerating his negative attributes. Maybe he saved his twisted tendencies for half-naked women in labyrinths. To her, he was kind and understanding. It was difficult to believe he could be any other way. Nobody else had made her feel as if she was deserving of compliments, that her opinions were valuable and her company desirable. Was the picture he painted of her who she really was, even if she couldn’t see it herself? 

 

It didn’t surprise Henrietta that Charles didn’t care what others thought of him. He didn’t wish to please other people; he only wanted to please himself. That, she supposed, was considered selfish, but it was also freeing. If only she could do the same. She felt that she cared too much about how she was seen. Lord Chatham didn’t have to answer to anyone else. She was under her father’s guardianship and had to make sure that she didn’t disgrace her family’s good name. When she was married, it was her husband’s honor that she would have to uphold. A woman was never truly free.

 

She watched with interest as he leaned back and stretched. For some reason, he reminded her of a majestic lion, sleek and graceful.

 

Henrietta was definitely curious as to why he was revealing so much about himself. Why should he care what she thought of him when he disregarded the opinions of everyone else? He wanted her to know what he was like because he wished the two of them to be friends. It was what she wanted as well.

 

His smile was quite charming, unlike that feral grin he had given her a few moments earlier. His next sentence completely floored her, though the notion was not displeasing. Her hazel eyes widened, and her lips parted slightly.  It took her a few seconds to find her voice. “You … you want to marry me?” she whispered.

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Well, that was unexpected.

Charles had been teasing, in truth, and had anticipated that Henrietta would react with horror or outrage. He been quite looking forward to it, actually, in a petty, childish way. This more subtle, restrained reaction threw him slightly. Surely the idea could not appeal to her? A young lady as well born and generally proper as Henrietta could not think him a fitting potential husband. 

But yet...

The idea was not without attractions for both of them, now that he considered it. And her reaction had been by no means displeased. The thought floated there for a moment, shining brilliantly, and Charles seized on it with the blend of instinctive calculation and gambler's passion that had always inspired his best ideas.

After all, why not?

"We enjoy one anothers' company, do we not? And we are not terribly far apart in age," he answered her, abandoning the usual artifices of his speech and speaking with plain sincerity. He leaned forward again, holding eye contact. "Physically, I find you attractive, and your mind and spirit more so. I would far prefer an intelligent and educated wife unafraid to argue with me to a milksop without a thought of her own. There are pragmatic reasons for me to seek your hand, too, and I shall not insult you by pretending that they do not exist."

He smiled wryly.

"For your part, I am not only permissive but encouraging of your pursuits, and I feel no need to lessen you to elevate myself. I flatter myself that I am not an ogre, in temperament or looks, though my face is perhaps not what young maids dream of marrying."

He paused and laughed softly, mostly to disperse the unfamiliar feeling of self-consciousness.

"I think it would be a better, happier match than most made at court," he said at last, smiling.

"Assuming your father agrees, and that you have no objections."

 

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Henrietta fully expected Charles to tell her that he had been jesting. Yet he didn’t. Stunned beyond further words, she simply stared at him while he described the advantages of marrying each other. Yes, she definitely enjoyed his company and he seemed to feel the same about her. He was close to her in age, which was also a plus. Sometimes she had nightmares about being forced to wed a lecherous old codger who constantly leered at her.

 

When he leaned forward, she unknowingly did the same and did not look away from his intense gaze. Eyes never lied. There was not even the tiniest hint of deceit in his gorgeous blue orb. Lord Chatham truly believed what he was saying. She blushed again at his compliments. It seemed as if he was the kind of gentleman she had been looking for all along … one who saw her as more than just a womb.  Of course, every man wished for heirs and she wanted children too. The thought of kissing him was not repugnant and she wondered if his beard would tickle her chin if he did.

 

Henrietta appreciated him stating outright that her family’s connections and influence was important to him. Most gentlemen pretended that they weren’t paying attention to her simply because her father was a wealthy and respected Duke who could do much to raise their own status in court. Charles admitted that he was interested in what her father could offer him, without making her seem like nothing but a means to getting into his good graces.

 

Perhaps best of all, he would not try to force her into the role that society expected of her. To have a husband who would encourage her pursuit of knowledge and who was able to teach her much of what she didn’t know was like a dream come true. Their little philosophical discussion had shown her that they were well-matched in intelligence and that he did not mind her disagreeing with him. He actually seemed to enjoy it.

 

No matter what he said, he wasn’t ugly. He was striking in a roguish sort of way. Looks had never mattered much to Henrietta anyway, and she tended to avoid those gentlemen who were too handsome, as they were usually so arrogant that they thought she should be honored just to be in the same room with them.

 

By the way Charles laughed, Henrietta sensed that the usually confident Earl was a bit nervous. For some reason, she was endeared by that. Then he smiled and she found herself grinning back at him. “I am not opposed to the idea. I agree that our union would probably be happier than the marriages of most of my friends.” Her blush deepened again. “Perhaps until you speak to my father, we can continue to get to know each other better?”

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