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Darlene Hamilton

A romantic picnic | Knightsbridge, midday Thursday

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With such busy lives Darlene and Charles hardly ever got to see each other - a point she thought to remedy today, as she ordered her cook to fill the picnic hamper.  All sorts of yummy treats went in there, some few leftover cold meats from the night before, along with a pottle of pickles, cheese, freshly baked pastries, and a big bottle of cider. Darlene smiled as she watched it all going in "You are a modern marvel." She praised the cook. (It was a new cook not her old French one who was far too snooty.)

Her preparations marvelously made, the pretty Viscountess discovered a dampening cloud, quite literally when she looked out the window. A mist hung in the air, that didn't seem likely to lift.

"Don't worry, we'll just take the picnic indoors," she reassured her surprisingly strong made Maisy who was lugging the hamper down the hall. 

It did not take long for the city carriage to travel the short distance from Piccadilly to Knight's bridge barracks. She was hoping to find Charles in his office, but there was high chances he was off arresting people, horse racing, or helping his friends. Because those his favourite things to do. 

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Knightsbridge Barracks

 

The Household Cavalry consisted of The Life Guards and The Horse Guards. The Knightsbridge barracks was the compound where the Household Cavalry was quartered while in London, just bordering on St. James' Park. The 4th Company of the Life Guards did not have barrack space allotted to them in the Knightsbridge Barracks, as they were posted in Edinburgh, guarding the Royal Residence there.

 

The complex consisted of long, two-storied buildings, one for each troop, a common fencing hall, a small house for each of the regimental commanders to live and have offices in, stables with a closed dressage arena attached, two outdoor shooting ranges (one for pistols and one for muskets), and a wooded area surrounding all the buildings. The buildings are grey stone and slate ceiling, without exterior adornments but of solid construction.

 

Jumping out of the carriage Darlene hiked her skirts and ran the last distance, jumping and dodging puddles, and laughing at the sport!

"Do tell me Major Langdon is here today?!" She panted to the guard at the door (Maisy stoutly walked with her load behind Darlene, and would catch up any moment now) 

 

 

 

 

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"He's more often at his office in Somerset Palace on the river milady," the nearest trooper explained.  "But he's got an office  in the adjacent small building.  I can escort you there if you wish.  This building here is the Life Guard office."  He pointed to a nearby stone structure.  "His place in Somerset Palace is more for his own troop of men.  It's not walking distance.  You'll need your coach to go there.  But we can see if he is here first, if you wish.  I've not seen him, but I've been standing out front here.""

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"Oh but I thought his duties with the king were his priority, and isn't there some sort of emergency on at the moment?" Charles had been snatched away in the middle of their conversation just the other day, or was something else going on? She started to wonder.

Flashing a smile to the helpful trooper she quizzed, "or perhaps I misunderstood? Do you mean to say Lord Langdon does not attend his office here very often?" With how busy he always seem to be, Darlene was surprised if he was not going about lifeguard duties. She'd always thought his activity with the riffraff of  London to be a hobby, because he rarely got to arrest enough people at Whitehall. 

"But if you could have scored me to his office I'd be terribly pleased. I've prepared picnic." They always have been a chance that she wouldn't find child's today, it was a risk she took.  As that possibility sunk in she sighed, "If he is not there, are you hungry? It would be quite a shame for it to go to waste. And I brought cider too, men like cider, don't they?"

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Almost immediately the trooper realized his mistake.  Major Langdon must have told this court beauty that he was working around the clock in his office serving the King while being ... elsewhere.

"Oh but I am sure there is an emergency," the trooper hastily replied.  "I may have misspoken milady.  He is likely only not in the office because he is escorting the King or other members of the royal family about.  There are all sorts of dangers here at the palace and it is hardly the place to be keeping His Majesty safe ... I mean behind a desk and all."  It would be clear to Darlene that he was covering for her lover.

"Let's go take a walk there and see if he might be there ... giving commands to the troopers and writing important orders.  He is a very important lord."  He looked to the other nearby trooper who pretended to be standing guard and deaf to the whole conversation.

The trooper debated with himself about using a phony name if asked.  He was already on thin ice.  "Right this way.  His lordship is mighty lucky to have such an attentive ... and sweet lady such as yourself bringing him lunch."  They walked about 100 feet to a door to a building.  "If he's not there we could ask his aide."

It just so happened that Charles rounded the corner on the way to his office.  He had sent the morning on the walk with the King, at a distance.  He felt it necessary given the murder of the Dutch agent.  He needed to be seen doing his duty.  He was stopping by his office to read dispatches before heading to Somerset Palace.  He was quite lucky to encounter Darlene there.

"My lady," he called to Darlene with a smile.  The trooper attempted a bit of humor before slinking away.  "Looks like I'll be missing that lunch.  A good day to you maam."  With a nod to the departing trooper, Charles moved to take Darlene's hand.  "What brings you here?"

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Darlene had made at up enough stories on the fly, to recognise the over-helpfulness as suspicious. Which was hard to align with her vision of Charles, sweet sincere and caring Charles, whos first season at court was only interested in kisses. 

"Important papers you say?" Darlene had used those exact words before, and knew them to be a false trail to disguise something else. But why was this man making excuses for her blameless Charles, who's worst sin was having forgotten that he'd already proposed to her (which was a pretty big sin actually). 

"The Major has an aide." Darlene hadn't even realised that, "goodness he must be very important."

She was growing more and more suspicious. It was a very hard thing to think of Charles any differently then a knight in shining armour. 

'What if he's not there, he plainly isn't helping the king or the royal family today, nor any of the other excuses this cooper is inventing!'

Fortunately Charles then rounded the corner, Darlene beamed at the sight of him, "Lord Langdon, we have been hunting everywhere!" Oh and he looked so fine, all the silly worries she had disappeared completely. 

"Thanks for your help." She gushed to the departing trooper, only just stopping yourself before she promised to bring him a lunch one day also. 

"You see Charles," once the trooper left she explained, " I brought you were a picnic, because I've missed you so much, the days have been so busy haven't they."

Her eyes sparkled looking into his, yet with the innocently spoken words fears started to seep back in. Why was Charles so busy that he never came to see her. 

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"All officers have aides, well mostly they do," the trooper tried to explain.  He withdrew with a tip of his hat.

"A picnic.  Splendid," Charles replied.  He looked about at the dreary weather so common to London.  "It is a pity there is no sun."  He thought about alternatives.

She acted as if she had not seen him in such a long time, but they had seen each other Tuesday. In fact, he had asked to see her again but she claimed to have a dinner party.  "I have missed you too, and you are the only thing to brighten this dreary day," he flattered, though he was sincere in wanting to see her.  "Let me check my messages in my office upstairs and then why don't we enjoy the lunch in the palace gardens, under cover of an archway perhaps?  They are not far from here as you know.  Does that sound like fun?"

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Yes Darlene had visited him both very early and very late on Tuesday, mostly because she was beside herself after talking to Francis Cavendish at church on the weekend. Prior to that she'd seen Charles last Thursday or maybe Wednesday? It was not quite the passionate courtship she had imagined for herself - and so she contrived a reason to visit him. 

And Charles did seem pleased to see her, suggesting lunch in the garden,  though he was busy too.  "Shall I wait here?" She asked as he wished to check his office for messages. 

"Or I can go ahead and find the best place... before the lunch time rush." She smiled, there was very unlikely to be a rush of picnickers on this misty day.

 

 

 

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"yes," Charles replied.  "Give me a moment and wait for me please.  It would be my honor to escort you to the gardens.  I was thinking of a place with stone benches so we need not sit upon the wet grass," he offered.  In the back of his mind he was also worried that, if he allowed her to go on ahead, she would likely hide from him in some remote garden.  He knew her well enough.  "I will also find a tablecloth to requisition," he announced, "to place on the stone bench to keep your dress dry."

The officer darted inside, demanded a trooper to give him a nearby tablecloth , and then he sifted through his messages.  None seemed especially urgent, but it was important to check given that Ablemarle had no appetite to do his job as Colonel.

It was not many minutes before he hustled down the stairs and out the door to find Darlene.  He hoped she was content to wait.

 

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"That's so considerate," Darlene smiled, it was easy to forgive him for having work to do, when he gallantly thought of how to look after her dress. She must certainly wasn't going to tell him he was already a tablecloth and the picnic hamper! 

No

Instead, the moment that Charles rushed inside she turned and instructed Macy to open the hamper and hide the one they had into the bushes!

Problem solved she returned to arranging herself prettily for her beaus return. The Charles that she'd first met in '75 would never have had the thought of such advance preparations with ladies. Back then he'd needed a lot of 'telling him what to do', this new savvy Charles was nearly independent.

An entirely new thought then developed in Darlene's mind, 'He's going to need retraining'.  

Finally he reappeared, her smile at the sight of the uniformed Major was as appreciative as ever, "You managed to find table linen! The Lifeguards quartermaster's store must be even more marvelous than I'd imagined." Darlene happily teased as she moved to take his arm (which he was certain to offer).

 

 

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Charles was relieved to see Darlene waiting for him.  Part of him worried that she would follow him into his office and make a scene in front of his men.  Another part worried that she would be gone and play a game of hide and seek.  Yet, here she was.

Keeping the linen draped over one arm, he offered Darlene the other.  "Thank you for waiting.  I hope I did not inconvenience you."  It was the polite question to ask.

As they walked, Charles made no attempt at speed or straight navigation to the Walled Garden, where he planned to steer her.  Rather, he chose a slow meandering path that seemed to follow any outcrop of colorful flowers.  He was not ignorant of Darlene's wish to be acknowledged as his future betrothed.  He had had her join him on his horse in a ride through London and now did not hide the fact that he was escorting her in the royals gardens.  It might spark busybodies to suspect a connection, but he owed her that.  They had spoken of a game in which their associates came to the conclusion that the two of them had become a couple.  This was an offer of evidence to the world.

There was simple talk of beauty of the gardens and how they could not compare to her beauty.  "How did your dinner fare?  I have to say I was jealous of those who were able to enjoy your company.  Who were they?  Any gentlemen that I should view as a rival?" he asked, mostly out of fun, but he was interested to know.

"Ah, here we are."

  • The walls are covered with climbing roses and ivy, while also containing many other rare plants, including a weeping willow. The enclosed walls give the impression of being separated from court, almost in another world. Not surprisingly, the Queen used to favor this garden by day, often drawing comfort from its surroundings and the familiar scent of orange blossoms from the citrus trees scattered throughout.

Moving her to a stone bench within the confines of the wall, Charles looked to spread the table linen on a bench of his choice, but paused to see if she preferred a different spot.  With a inquisitive glance, he sought her approval.

 

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Darlene was content to meander.  She was not particularly hungry, this was mostly an excuse to see Charles, whom she was awfully fond of and fancy making a life with forever. "If you would compare me to the flowers, then I would match you with the stately grandeur of the hedge rows." She smiled, "I've always thought we made a fine pairing Charles, I'm most especially intrigued of how we might grow together." 

"Tish, there was but one gentleman who was charged with being our escort, but you have no need to be jealous of him, he is an all air sort of a man - all of pretense of bravado but possessing none of it actually. You would have seen those sorts I'm sure, whose perception of himself does not match at all with their reality."

Her Charles was not like that.

"I hope I am not like that..." she paused to wonder out aloud, "I really try to be just as brave as I wish to be."

The walk eventually brought them to the walled garden, she knew of it of course, when she was a debutante this locale was draped with illicit connotations, it was a place we're all the young ladies thought gentlemen wanted to take them for secret kisses. But that was not likely the reason Charles brought her here now. Not now that Darlene was 21 and a widow. Even so she smiled and squeezed his arm, "Are we stopping here? Aren't you concerned I might try to have my wicked way with you?"

It I was plain she was happy with the spot he chose, as she moved to arrange her skirts and prepare for sitting. Masie was pleased too - at long last she could put down the weighty hamper. 

 

 

 

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 Charles considered himself a man of action, rather than one of bravado.  Yet, the two often traveled together.  Had he not battled with pirates, villains, and assassins?  He was a man of action, ever ready to race horses or arrest someone.  Yet, his thrill for action was tempered by his weakness for ladies.  He viewed men with suspicion but loved the ladies, and the one he was with had always been his favorite since he had arrived in court back in 1675.  That is not to say he did not have several sweethearts, such as Davina and Catherine, and other lovers, but Darlene had always been the one that seemed fated for him.  There were better political matches available for sure.  Susan Herbert was one of many advantageous matches available to him.  Yet, Darlene had always been that one that seemed the most natural fit, though her taste for danger and spontaneity was a risk to a traditional gentleman like Charles.

The challenge was that both had changed much in the three years they had known each other.  Darlene had married his good friend and seemed unhappy in her marriage, culminating in an attack upon Thomas Killigrew.  She had gone from a natural darling of court to a pariah in a single moment.  Yet, the care of the Duke of Newcastle, the time away and the death of Thomas had allowed herself to seek happiness again.  Perhaps Charles could help her in that regard.  Charles, had gone from a kiss-collecting virgin to something of an illicit ladies man.  He had also gained notoriety for his racing and law enforcement skills.  Each had matured significantly,; yet, when together, they reverted to their old selves.

"You are brave," he assured her, though applying a heavy discount for ladies.  "Though best leave the danger to me."

"Please do," he encouraged her attack upon him with a laugh.  "Even the rain cannot keep us cool when we are together."  They both knew that there would be little opportunity for a tryst even in this remote location., but it was fun to imagine.  "Now then, what sort of lunch did you bring?" he inquired politely.  "Seeing you has made me ravenous."  More ways than one.

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"I shall Try Charles, but you must know I get terribly bored when life runs too smooth. I was never designed for a life of mediocrity.  I'd much prefer a day that ranged from tears to laughter, than one of merely breathing an existence." 

And she told herself her nature was part of her appeal to Charles, and had been to Thomas too, even if he had come to regret it.  

Once artfully settled, skirts carefully arranged, knees turned towards him with ankles crossed allowing a peek of her pretty red slippers beneath her hem - Darlene crooned "Did you ever think we would find ourselves here like this, all the time that has passed, and adventures, is it could be just yesterday that we were sitting in the garden in that year that we both first came to court.  You could quite set upon collecting kisses do you remember? Which number kiss was I? I'm sure that you were counting - so don't deny it." 

Darlene had been counting too, counting hearts that she won. 

But yes the hamper. 

"We have cider." She was pleased to announce, while hoping he'd be just as pleased to hear it.  Her maid began lifting things out and then sitting containers on top of the hamper like a little table. "We have cold cuts of meat: smoked chicken, roast beef and cured ham. We have a selection of cheeses, pickles and also sliced apples. Sliced Apple goes so very well with cheese, have you tried that?" 

Maisie meanwhile hunted for the bottle opener, then gave Darlene a 'look'. The bottle opener had been forgotten!

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"A smooth life is a good one," Charles countered.  "Chaos is not good.  I think you must mean that you dread a boring life," he ventured.  "We could have a smooth life that is still interesting.  Court life can be interesting.  Travel can be interesting," he offered.  "Quiet intimate nights with the right person and a good book perhaps ... ."  It caused him to wonder.  "What is most exciting to you?"

As she turned her knees toward himself, so too did he pivot so that their knees nearly touched.  "Well, I did imagine us together like this," h replied.  "Though I di not imagine the rain," he laughed.  She reminded him of his quest to collect kisses. He had collected over 20 kisses from ladies his first season!  "I remember well," he continued in a humorous mood.  "Our kiss was the first that I remembered."  It was mostly true.   In her presence, he could only remember their first kiss.  They had kissed afterwards, including when she was married to Thomas. 

The description of the food in the hamper caused his stomach to growl.  Like most men, Charles was a carnivore.  "A feast better than the King's," he proclaimed.  He had expected far less, perhaps bread and cheese.

When the top was stuck, Charles reached for the cider bottle.  "Let me."  Most had corks or sealed tops that could be pried off with a dagger point.  At worst, he could break the neck of the bottle.  He worked with his fingernails for a time.  "I may need to break the top of the bottle.  We have glasses do we not?"

 

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“Oh yes that must be what I mean.” Darlene spoke a white lie. A quiet night with a good book, no matter who else was in the room, sounded tedious to her.  Her eyes slid to her beau, surely he was teasing? Yet he held a straight face throughout it all. 

She could do that too.

Keeping a passive expression she replied, “Well I would never say that the night I was abducted by the French was exiteing, I lost one of my favourite slippers in the mud.” That adventure had been a highlight of her first year at Whitehall. “And its not as though I’d try to stab Mr Killigrew again, even if he does deserve it.”  Because he did, and in the same circumstance she'd dish him his comuppance one more.  Well. Perhaps not in the Ballroom next time. Or if it was, she'd wait till everyone else had left.  

“You must know I am most partial to gardening clubs and the sewing circle.”  Which she was actually, but only because her favourite type of adventures did not grow on trees. Orangeries and Pincushions were more reliable in that regard.

Whatever her thirst for adventure was, she still had to admit to herself that this moment right here was nice. Their knees, through many layers of fabric, touched.   

“And I would have it that my kiss shall also be your last - after having lived a happy and full life together…” she smiled softly. It was a special moment, memorable, even if it did not involve running for her life though city street muck.

Leaning forwards she thought to kiss her beau upon his lips.

“Yes yes we have glasses, well tumblers.” There was a robust pair of enamelled tumblers in the hamper, along with matching  plates. As Charles managed his duty of opening the cider bottle, Darlene picked some choice pieces from the array in preparing him a plate. She imagined this was just like the common folk did. “We should sing that song Charles, the Lavenders Blue* song.” So that by the time he had managed to pour, she was ready, and offering him a filled plate.

 

OOC * Remember the historic Dilly Dilly song :) I think it was Maureen who sung it here most. 

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Darlene seemed to agree with him about excitement, but then it was hard for him to tell.  When one loves another, they see what they want to see.  She seemed to rue her adventure with the French and with Killigrew. The mention of her lost slipper caused him to notice the red slippers she wanted to display.  He nodded in agreement.

"Why did Killigrew deserve it?' Charles asked innocently.  To try and murder someone needed a major justification.  "What ... what did he do to you?"  He was beginning to suspect that the Killigrews may have tried to rape her, though he said nothing of his fears.  Rape was a powerful motivator for female revenge.  They had discussed her excuse for it, but they had not discussed the cause of it.

The kiss was gladly received and returned as she tried to make gardening and sewing sound exciting.  There was a silence sigh of relief from Charles.  If she found happiness in such mundane activities, he might be able to limit her recklessness; or so he thought.   "That shall be the way I shall wish to die, in our bed with you kissing me farewell  ... maybe I have been stabbed saving the kings life ... on the battlefield ... and you shall lead my funeral procession through London."  He was laughing by the end of it as he was trying hard to think of the most heroic death.  "Perhaps that might be a bit much.  Maybe I will just expire at a ripe old age in my sixties with you and our dozens of children and grandchildren surrounding me."  That sounded both preferable and sad at the same time.

"Yes, a song to break the mood."  He poured the drinks.  "I know the words, but I would hear you sing it first.  You have such a beautiful voice Darlene and I do not recall having heard you sing other than in church."  Charles was a bad singer.  He marveled at Martin's ability to carry a tune.  He was certain that Darlene would sound like an angel.

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"I'm glad you asked." Darlene's eyes flared at this opportunity to set at least one persons mind right. "Well you know how I was organising his office for him, and planning entertainments and events because he was completely disinterested in it.. well one day when I got to the office I found a whole lot of cookie crumbs."

That had been the real cincher.

"There had been other clues too, clues that he was misappropriating money. You don't think the Killigrews had been rebuilding the theatre from their savings do you? No.  They're pretty thieves, and he is the worst of them." 

"I was so completely upset about it, perhaps I should have done something else about it.  I'm sure I tried to tell somebody but they didn't believe me. And so I thought I would have to be Judge and Executioner myself."

It was not a romantic topic. She had said way too much about it probably, and Charles was not likely to take her seriously anyhow. 

Sighing she tried to move past that trouble. "I hope it least God does not forgive him." It was a little comfort to think Thomas Killigrew would go to hell. 

There was a kiss, and a pledge, one that Charles seemed to like as it caught his imagination. "That's a good idea, your parade shall be the finest, with streamers and everything." She agreed. The opportunity to plan a fete made a good compromise for loosing another husband still in his prime.

"But why not both!" She had a better idea. 

"When you are old and dottery, you manage to save the King another last time, having already done so numerously. So that the King declares it a national day of holiday, and there's a Grand parade, and all our children and grandchildren get to attend it. What a fine day that shall be. You can watch down from heaven, and think what a good life it has been."

She smiled when he suggested that she sing first, he was hungry. He couldn't eat as well as sing! "Very well my darling...

 

 

 

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"Stealing money from the Crown?  That blackguard!  I would have believed you.  I would have arrested him ... or at least have him questioned."  Stabbing the old man with a dagger seemed a bit much for embezzlement, but the couple appeared to share an exuberance for law enforcement, so Charles said nothing.  "Next time let me do the stabbing," he offered in jest s a way of lightening the mood that had become serious.

"An even better idea," he acknowledged as Darlene concocted a better ending.  "I could clobber the assassin with my walking stick," he played along.

She sang a lovely tune and he mouthed the words with her softly, not wanting to ruin the music.  As he sang off key, perhaps they could create a harmony.  "Another lovely picture," he commented at the end.  All this talk of marriage was starting to feel like the walls were closing in on him.  "Did you have singing lessons?" 

He finished the sandwich as if he had not eaten in days.  With a dab of the napkin he asked "tell me of your brother the Earl.  I really do not know much about him.  I cannot say I have ever seen him attend the House of Lords.  That is quite unusual."

 

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"I should have told you Charles, what was I thinking." Darlene lamented with a smile of relief that he believed her.  Although it wasn't really very long ago, she could hardly remember the exact details. Who had she told that didn't believe her? "I was all a little bit upset at the time." There had been other difficulties she'd been dealing with (or not dealing with) 

"Yes, I'll just sharpen the dagger. Or pass you your walking stick!" She grinned, very taken with the idea of teamwork.

So Darlene sung the little folk song, and being a performance-focused soul she put on a good show. As Charles tried to join in too - she was delighted. 

"I'm entirely self taught."  She then revealed to his fan-questions, "but I've been putting on pantomimes since I was four don't you know, and practically lived at the local theatre once I discovered it." 

If Charles lingered on that subject she would be bound to launch into her love of the playwright Moliere!  In fact, her eyes brightened and she drew a deep breath -

But then Charles asked about her eldest, and favourite, brother. 

The breath of spring air intended for regalia of the French playwright was then transferred to honor James. "...oh yes my brother is more focused upon the sciences than politics, but not to neglect his duty, for believe he's given his proxy vote to the Cavandishes. He is married to one of the cousins, did you ever meet Gracie St John?" Darlene and Gracie got along swimmingly. 

"My brother the Earl is on the verge of a breakthrough. Something to do with a vacuum. Do you know what a vacuum is Charles? I didn't until James showed me, it is a giant glass jar with a hose on a pump that can suck the air out of it. And whatever you put inside the glass jar badly reacts. It's horrible actually, but James says it's important."

Darlene was so happy chatting away with Charles she didn't even feel like eating. But she did cup her drink of cider in both hands, and now and then paused to take a sip of it.  "Do you think we should do this often? Picnicing I mean. Except when the season ends of corse. I'm so looking forward to go in to see Cornwall... I told all my friends about it, and that we will probably hunt pirates while at it. Everyone is so jealous."  

Darlene had their recess all planned. 

 

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"Self taught?  Are you sure?" he flattered.  "You sing like you had an expert tutor.  My ward, Frances, sings well and I hired a tutor.  I should think the two of you could sing a lovely duet."  Better them than he.  "Have you met Frances Smith, or her mother?  I do not recall.  They are in my care."  Curiously, he was not sure that Darlene had met any of his lady friends, other than Davina and Anne Scott perhaps.  It was one of the reasons that he worried Darlene would not react well to his development in the past year or two.  She likely thought him friendless and all work and no play.  She would learn soon enough that such was not the case.  And what of her?  What did he really know about her and her circle of friends?

Her brother seemed a very serious sort.  "I believe I met Gracie once or twice when she was at court," he acknowledged.  Another Cavendish connection between them was a good thing. Charles had no real contact with the Howards other than through Davina.

"I have no idea what a vacuum is.  It sounds like an explosion," Charles admitted.  "A jar with a hose sounds dangerous.  Is there liquid in it by chance?"  He could hope that Darlene kept her distance.  "I should like to meet him soon."  He was thinking of a recess visiting Darlene's family so that he might get to learn more about Darlene through her family.  Yet, quickly enough, she expressed a desire to visit Cornwall.

"Yes, we could go to Cornwall together," he agreed readily.  "It is the jewel of England really.  It has the most wondrous scenery and it is filled with royalists, rather than those Country Party republicans.  There are pirates, merchants, and the birthplace of Arthur Pendragon.  I am the Baron of that very castle and my men unearthed Merlin's seeing stone.  It is really quite exciting."  She could tell as much from the boyish glee in his eyes.   "You might never want to return to court," he warned playfully.

As for picnics, he agreed.  "Let's pick sunny days next time."  Unfortunately, London seemed to have too few of those.  "Maybe we can invite someone or another couple sometimes, just so they can be envious of us," he laughed.

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"No I have not met Francis-smith, or her mother. What do you mean 'in your care'? Do you mean you put them in jail - but why would someone in jail deserve singing lessons?" 

It made no sense to Darlene, who indeed thought that Charles worked all of his waking hours, unless he happened to be horse racing.

His questions about her brother were easily answered, and with an assurance that it was completely safe. "The pump I can go the other way too, and make more air then should fit in the space, go in. It was telling me some reason that that was important too, but I don't think I was paying attention."

Then they talked of Cornwall, and a little concern raised in her mind. "Oh dear Charles, perhaps you did not know this, but my brother is a little bit country party minded, and why in fact the Cavandishes are highly-educated too." Darlene knew very little about politics, that she remembered how the duke used to talk to her, his thoughts were somewhat radical. 

She had a sudden feeling that James and Charles might not always agree. 

"I'd still like to go to Cornwall though."

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Would Darlene be understanding of things about the Smiths?  Taking a breath as he composed his thoughts, he began to explain.

"You recall that I arrived at court in the Spring of 1675 as an orphan.  Both of my parents were dead and I had no close relatives.  Therefore, I was placed into the Court of Wards until I turned 21.  The Court of Wards was administered by someone worse than Thomas Killigrew.  His name was Silas Moorhead.  He tried, for a bribe, to sell my betrothal to some Catholic tobacco merchant's daughter.  He was looking for a title for his daughter.  Naturally I resisted and stalled until I could have my birthday in May.  Silas then tried to sell my betrothal to an MP's daughter, but I would have none of it.  As a way of stalling for time, I agreed to work with him as an assistant of sorts."  He paused to see if Darlene was still interested.  "Thomas Smith was an MP who was murdered along the wharf, leaving a wealthy widow and young daughter.  Silas abused his power to get the mother declared insane so he could access her money and to get control of the girl.  I would have nothing more to do with him and refused to be his assistant any further.  The mother went to Bedlam and the daughter, Frances, ran away and hid in the city.  As providence would have it, the girl showed up at my door one day, begging for food.  I recognized her and immediately gave her food and shelter and then marched into Bedlam and freed her mother so that the two of them could stay free from Moorhead.  I learned that whilst in Bedlam, the jailors had done unspeakable things to the poor woman, including making wounds to her head.  She would not speak.  I inform the King of this crime and Moorhead was arrested and the Court of Wards abolished.  Instead, the King placed the mother, Abigail, and the daughter, Frances, in my care.  As for their wealth, I invested some in buying Dorchester House and having it fixed up.  I also purchased the King's hunting lodge at Bagshot, figuring both to be good investments.  So, I do not own either Dorchester House or Bagshot.  The Smiths do and I am the trustee.  I am hoping to generate enough wealth to purchase both properties from the trust one day.  So, they both live with me.  The mother has spoken only once and is content to work with a ball of yarn all day.  She ... is ... not right in the head.  I have consulted doctors.  A sailor claimed to be her brother, but she was supposed to not have a living brother, so I chased him off.  I put Frances into the care of a school this season because she needs to be trained like a lady.  She is 12 and almost 13 years old."  He paused to see the effect on Darlene.  He viewed himself as a hero of the story, but would Darlene?

As for her brother's politics, Charles nodded.  "That is fine."  He could tolerate differing views from a future brother-in-law.  "The Duke of Newcastle was the most ardent supporter of the first King Charles against Cromwell, so I expect the Cavendishes have always been loyal to the Crown," he replied.

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"Country party members are still devoted to the King." Darlene had to say, from her perspective.  She was politically illiterate enough to think her Bother and the Cavandishes were radicals, "They are simply free thinking enough to not follow blindly. But isnt that the whole purpose of parliament, to discuss various views The last thing anyone of any party wants is another civil war."

The matter of Charles tale of heroism gained her silent attention... it was very dramatic, such a tale as she'd never imagined of him.  Till now she'd never even thought about his parents, though mention of the Court of Wards rung a ball. Catriona had also had something to do with that.  And Moorhead, his name had been in the papers, she thought.

"Oh dear..." Charles completed his tale she replied quietly while her mind reeled. She hardly liked the idea that there were other women living in his house already. It was definitely a dampener. And also, that he didn’t own Dorchester house, which she'd become a tad attatched to.

"Will Mrs Smith die soon do you think?" She tried to be subtle in how she asked, but it was a bit of a cannon ball whatever the tone used. "While the girl Frances, she is old enough now to be wed - but when she marries, the investments you'd made on their behalf will go to the husband will they not?"   The dead wood of mute mother would also become the new husbands responsibility. 

Which while it was a way to get rid of these hangers on, meant that Charles would be of reduced means. Her brother James might not be so pleased of that. 

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There was no disagreement on politics between them.  There were more important things to discuss.

"Mrs. Smith is in her mid to late 30s," Charles revealed.  That seemed a bit old, but then he had married a woman of the same age.  "I suppose she might live a decade or so," he mentioned without thinking.  Though often blind to the thoughts of most ladies, especially Darlene, Charles sensed that Darlene was concerned about the presence of the Smiths.  Darlene appreciated his financial position, which was why he had asked about her wealth.  He had hoped it would be sufficient to purchase both properties.  It was not.

"I do not lose those assets until Frances is wed and I control that date until she is 21," he offered as a consolidation.  That was almost nine years from now to enjoy the fruits of the Smith wealth.  It would give him more time to earn money to purchase the properties for himself.  "I suppose I could keep the mother as a ward after Frances marries and I could keep one of the two properties as the mother's estate," he estimated.  It seemed like plenty of time ... almost half of his lifetime. "The mother's wealth would pass to her daughter on her death."  There would be no benefit in that.  Why was it that he found himself, ironically, in the role of Moorhead.

"This should not be a problem should it?  They mostly stay to themselves.  I was thinking maybe bringing them both to Cornwall with us, and I might leave them there for a year or two, just to enjoy the country air."  That seemed like a way to relieve Darlene of their presence while not shirking his responsibility.  Both of the Smiths would enjoy Cornwall, he was sure, and his steward would look after them.

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There was no good news on the Smiths front, unless you counted stalling the girls marriage till she was 21. "We'd have to keep her wealth a secret." she said, "or we could have my brother marry her, he's 28 already, and I'd feel far happier if he retired from the sea."  Infact it was such a fine thought that Darlene was smiling again.   

"Yes Walter should marry her immediately, that would look far less self serving than if your own brother did."

And Walter would let Darlene play the Belle of Dorchester house.

Edited by Darlene Hamilton

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Darlene's answer was to marry off Frances to her brother; but, that would be worse.  "If we were to marry, you would supervise her and her wealth. That is better than your brother doing so.  Brothers do not always do what you ask.  I should know," he answered in a semi-humorous manner.  Surely she would see that direct control was better than being the sister of someone in control.  "I have one brother William on the Continent.  He is very smart but he does not care for my opinion.  He almost never writes.  He wants to marry some professor's daughter rather than letting me help him.  It is not that we are unfriendly towards one another.  He is just ... independent, you might say.  He does not need anyone's advice.  Then, there is my youngest brother Bradley.  Sometimes he wants to be a soldier.  Sometimes he does not.  He thinks I should do more for him, unlike William, but at least he is here and we can eat dinner together and serve in the Guard together,"  He was thinking of revealing embarrassing facts about Bradley, but withheld.  Darlene was too much of a gossip.

"What of your other brothers then?  Walter is a sailor but what of your other siblings?"  He supposed he needed to know more about his potential in-laws.

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"But my brothers always do as I ask." Darlene blinked, Charles had had such a silly thought. "It is a pity you have'nt any sisters, for then you'd have known that.  But then again, now you have me, so you must know that my ideas are such that everyone agrees to go along with them."

Darlene paused breifly at that point as she remembered that Charles was the one fellow who'd disagreed with her.  Which while possibly proving his prior point, did not suit her thinking still. Walter would like some land, a fancy London house, and probably money too.  But better yet he'd not be dead from the ocean, Darlene still missed her brother Henry whom the Cape Horn waves had claimed.  

Perhaps her beau read her mind, for he then asked about her other brothers. "Aside from Walter there is only Percival left, for my dear brother Henry was lost at sea. Do you remember the Memorial Statue I had raised, to comemorate all the those at sea, and the service for Henry there that Percival led.  Percy is in the Church you see, though lowly within it.  And he's never talked much of marrying, and most certainly not to me."  

If Charles thought to win her over with talk of bossing his ward around, it was not working.  "... I dont think I like Frances, she sounds like trouble if you ask me. I have enough trouble already dont you know." Darlene pouted, ready to sulk if Charles did not agree.  

   

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Maybe it was different for sisters.  Charles could not be sure.  He was inclined to do what ladies asked of him, but he could not imagine a brother just handing over the dowry to his sister.  At a minimum, Charles imagined that Walter would keep one of the two properties and all of the money that was included.  Why keep half when he could administer the whole?

"I am surprised that Walter would give you the entire dowry to manage if you asked," he replied, wondering if she might reconsider that impression.  "What would he have to do and live on?"

"Yes, I recall the memorial well."  It seemed so long ago, but it wasn't.

Frances was going to be trouble most likely.  The girl would think Darlene a harlot perhaps.  That is what she imagined for Catherine. Still, he did not want to speak badly of the girl.  "You should meet her.  It might be that the two of you will bond and become famous friends.  She might be like a younger sister for you.  You might like that," he attempted to advocate.  One could always hope.

oblivious to the oncoming sulk, Charles asked "what sort of trouble do you mean?"  He feared she was in a bad mood about Frances because Darlene had a problem she needed Charles to fix.

 

~OOC  Apologies for missing this post!

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"Oh no I dont imagine he will give me the dowry," Darlene clarified, Walter was not a fool. "But he will let me oversee the young ladies at the Boarding house. I always fancied I would provide them with the most useful and interesting instructions - besides I have always wanted my own coterie that hangs off my every word."

 

Charles had dangled Dorchester house before her that way for what seemed like years now. His pesky renovations had taken far far too long - and now she learned that he did now even own it!  Still she'd forgive Charles this.

 

"Well yes I suppose. She might soon stay at Dorchester house herself, for of course we shall not want her knocking around the house after we are wed. Nor her mother for that matter...  We shall exist in a idylic bliss, our hours of making love only interupted by bouts of daring adventures setting wrongs to right." 

 

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"I will let you oversee it too," he replied.  "No need to bring Walter into it." 

Charles was surprised about the negativity shown to Frances and her mother.  Did she not understand that he was legally responsible for them?  They were no threat to her surely.  It made him wonder for the first time whether Darlene was cold-hearted.  Those fears faded as she explained that he needed them removed so that they might make endless love and adventure together.  Only then did it start to make sense to him.  Dorchester House might be a good place for them.

"Yes, that might be better than Cornwall.  Frances does not seem to approve of any of the ladies in my company anyway.  Perhaps she might not like you either, except you could win her over.  You are good at such things."

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