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Cadell Mortimer

Unlikely Duelists, late afternoon, 13th

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Half Moon House - Chilchester's Townhouse

 

A short drive ended at a carriage door that led through the soft, parchment-plaster facade of Half Moon House, the face of which is broken by numerous gleaming, white, sculpted window frames.

Centering the front of the house was a pair of heavy doors featuring a bronze knocker fixed by an ornate network of celtic knots. Stretching out before the door was a set of white steps and a path of cut stones that angled through a phalanx of carefully trimmed hedges to the gate leading out to Pall Mall.

A matching coachhouse and service entrance is round behind.

 

Cadell Mortimer, Viscount Athenry etc., had found himself wishing for rain.

While it was a general rule that the Welshman was less than fond of his roots, to the point that obtaining a title had been worth it simply for the fact that he would not be reminded of them every time he was addressed as “Sir Cadell”, this fact did not quite extend to the weather. The sight of mist blanketing both sides of the River Teme had always held a somewhat magical quality, the sound of storm clouds jostling for position over the hills possessing for themselves a soothing quality. The palace of le Roi had been no good for that: Versaillais weather was, at its worst, horrifically mild and tolerable.

No, he did not miss much of England and Wales while away, but the land of the Britons could have done the sensible thing and offered up some old-fashioned rain for his visit to Pall Mall.

Several days ago, Lord Chichester had extended an invitation for Athenry to call upon him. A slight tumble, however, renewed old pains, ones that the viscount had soothed with Sydenham’s tincture and a fellow alumn of St. Omer’s dissenting opinion of Leonard Bruni’s republican panegyric – light reading, without a doubt. But he had not forgotten the invitation, and so he had donned a justacorps of subdued blue accented with dark cherry, with a waistcoat matching the latter, and so on until he felt reasonably certain that he did not appear a total fool. Something about Chichester’s attention to fashion provoked a sort of self-consciousness within him, not that such was a difficult task to begin with.

The Duchess of Portsmouth’s overly-ostentatious carriage (Cadell could not pretend to claim ownership over it, even nominally) delivered him to an area reasonably near Half-Moon House, where he would not have to limp overly long to reach the destination. He was not certain that Chichester would even be in, but it seemed the polite thing to reach out regardless. Besides, the man had always struck him as sharp, as befitting a chess player, and in the absence of a calming torrent of English rain, the company of a fellow duelist might shake out the cobwebs of his mind.

A bottle of l’Augier, that almond-and-fruit temptress, was cradled under his arm as he set aside his cane long enough to use the brass knocker (of fine craftsmanship, he noted). He smiled wryly, planning to announce himself with a lilting "Tell Lord Chichester that one of his favorite foes has arrived." Once done, he could be found fiddling with a newly-acquired pockerchief - having seen and heard of its merits first-hand during Easter services.

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It had been a busy day, and even sociable, how life had changed for Lord Chichester this past year.  It was one of those changes that sort of stuck up on one... 

A part of him missed spending forgotten days alone painting in his studio at the end of the garden. 

In fact he was stood at the window looking in that direction when his man announced an arrival. "Favorite foes?"

Visitors were still very infrequent, and there was no masking Georges surprise that he had a visitor. "You have not left them outside the door I hope."

And fortunately the Earl servants were better trained than that.  Cadell had been received into the house, relieved of his hat and coat, and provided with a warm cloth to wipe the toil of travel from his hands. 

"And I'm just in the mood to deliver a proper thrashing!" George greeted cheerfully as he recognised the man in the entrance way. "How good to see you, I'm so glad you made it." 

Cadell was well turned out, a bit more polished perhaps, though somehow awkwardly so. Like a foot in a new shoe.

 

 

 

 

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“Like a foot in a new shoe” was a descriptor that, if vocalized, would have left Cadell hard-pressed to offer up a dissenting opinion. It was not simply in the arena of fashion, where he was clearly aping those with finer sensibilities; his political leanings and knowledge of court’s great families came second-hand. Nor did the viscount believe that his scant achievements were his own: avoiding further entanglement with the whims of Father Petre’s conspiracy seemed to him a blessed coincidence, while his sham of a marriage was a fortuitous event based almost entirely on guessing what a man of greater savvy might have done.

 Nearly everything Athenry had gained transpired from the latter, after all, not through any particularly valiant effort. Either God truly looked out for His servants, or his instincts had been blessed by Fortuna. It was only a very recent thing that he could no longer hazard a guess as to which one was the truth.

“How fortunate that you are here, my lord,” Cadell offered by way of greeting, smile still on his face. “Elsewise my introduction might have seemed a poor one.” A nod of graciousness was given towards Chichester’s servants, and he took the cloth readily - cleanliness was indeed next to godliness in the Welshman’s book, the byproduct of a certain fastidiousness learned from a life indoors.

To that effect, the inevitable apology: “I must beg your pardon, of course, for the intrusion. We had discussed earlier in the week, but-” His voice trailed off as he returned the cloth to the servant, grasping the ivory raven’s head of his cane in hand as he proceeded towards George. Admitting the weakness of his lifelong injury had always seemed more difficult around men, particularly those of higher status.

But this soldier of the mind on occasion must needs retreat to Sydenham’s Morpheus for days on end.

“Ah, no matter!” Athenry gestured with the cognac bottle in his free hand, adding a deliberately chipper quality to his tone, Welsh lilt creeping in less deliberately. “Here, a symbol of our truce, however ephemeral – the best of la maison d'Augier. You simply wouldn’t believe the quarrels I had to pick with coachmen and ship’s steward alike to expatriate this from its homeland.”

Edited by Cadell Mortimer

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On 11/12/2021 at 6:44 AM, Cadell Mortimer said:

We had discussed earlier in the week, but-” His voice trailed off...

"... but never to mind." George filled in warmly, "you are here now. Come on through to the lavender room." 

George was not blind, he understood what Cadell meant by the dropped sentence and leaning on his stick.  But one did not put a magnifying glass on a friends weakness - so George moved on. Literally.

The lavender room was just that; predominantly a lavender floral wall paper with accents of sage green on a cream ground. Lovely blousy lavender curtains were plump and fulsome, augmented with sage tassels. The upholstery was another flowery design, on smaller scale to that of the walls, with fat cushions in a range of shades of cream scattered about.  A plush floor rug was in a deeper shade, with dark green leaf motif.  

"That sounds like a quarrel worth retelling," George grinned, gesturing Cadell to take a chair as he moved across the room and opened his own drinks cabinet. Pinching together a pair of nip glasses (that cheerily chattered) he returned and placed the receptacles on the table before them.  "I find it hard to imagine you haggling coachmen and sailors. What of your finesse? You must have had to abandon it entirely."

 

 

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Having ambled slowly behind the gracious host that was Lord Chichester, Cadell took in the surrounding room done up in green and lavender, unable to decide if the earl’s sartorial sense was reflected in the décor of Half-Moon House. It’s certainly opulent enough, he decided, considering if his own tastes were simply the more-austere sensibilities of the academic mind. He had claimed only a single room as a personal lair in his new Chelsea home, and it had been adorned with references both curious and expected – Nell Gwyn’s Pantalone mask, a bust of his old hero, Erasmus, shelves lined with folios on political philosophy, and a hanging carpet a la turque that was said to have some resemblance to the heathen religious art of those people. But he was no aesthete, and therefore could afford no judgment, leastwise when George had proven jovial enough at the unexpected arrival.

His friend provided the glasses, and so it was Athenry that held up a hand briefly to stifle any dissent as he insisted, “Allow me, my lord.” Dissent thus stifled, the viscount poured for George first, and then himself, then raising his own with a polite, “To the health of you and those around you, my friend.”

Waiting for George before he let the drink warm him, its presence a much more soothing agent than Sydenham’s and tincture of willow had been, Cadell managed a grin at George’s query. “No amount of finesse can smooth out the tension that transporting all the comforts Her Grace my wife is rightfully accustomed to tends to provoke.” His tone grew self-deprecating as he added, “Nor was this talent that you claim I possess present in any meaningful sense by the end of our sojourn to Versailles. It is all a great ballet there, as befits the tastes of le Roi, and as you might imagine, I am no dancer.”

This was not strictly true, of course. The regimen and pageantry of the French court made a great deal of sense to the mind of a Catholic politico, particularly compared to the laxness of the English court – where an obscure baronet would be allowed to request the hand of a royal mistress and be rewarded for it. And more importantly, it allowed Louis to project a power over the nobility that once rebelled against him, a power that in England would have allowed the Stuarts to righteously scatter the damnable mob to the four winds.

“I dare say that even our own battles were less exhausting in their intricacy.” Grinning again, he added, “Although I fear that neither Versailles nor battles past and future may be as interesting as, ah, developments in your own life, hm?” He had not forgotten that the last time they spoke, George was in the company of a (seemingly) genteel lady.

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"A toast that is amusingly self serving," George chuckled in raising his glass, then drank back the liquid enjoying a full gusto of it's promised wonder.

And a marvel it was, as he smelled it tastebuds burst to savour the particularly rich and elegant, plainly elite with lingering flavours. The afternotes warmed, dilating the eyes with appreciation. It was good. George wished he'd sipped it more slowly so the taste would last longer. "Then must I thank your Lady Wife for her inconvenience, this is certainly worth pressing past protests, please don't tell me this is the only bottle brought?"

"Oh yes the pageantry, I have not played a part in the nightly parade of entertainment at Versailles, though have toured the route during daylight hours. The hall of mirrors quite spectacular, you will agree. Though there is something I would call disquieting in its theatre of duplication. 

"Would you say it's a curious thing to build a palace so far out into the country, been to simulate a crush of the most congested Parisian Street!"

On another note, given that newly married Cadell had travelled to his wife homeland, and the usual reason for that being. "... And so you met your wifes family, if I recall correctly she also has a sister of some note..." George quizzed.

And women was not only a topic for Cadell these days. George gave embarrassed laugh, "Haha, yes I am near to resolving Chichester's future. In fact Lady Kendishall is due to arrive presently, she's a very striking woman of substance and honest speech," this was the view that he had at least. "Have you had the ,fortune of making her acquaintance previously?

 

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Athenry let out a lilting laugh as Chichester responded to his toast, retorting in turn, “Is enlightened self-interest not the very cornerstone of society?” Noting that George then tossed the glass back entirely, he did likewise, silently grateful even as he fought off the liquor’s bite with a small ahem. Cognac was best served swirled and then sipped, but he’d grown accustomed to certain comforts in France, liquid courage among them.

Something had to break in the new shoe, after all, so that the foot might walk in it comfortably.

"Do not worry, I brought enough that a bottle for a friend is an acceptable sacrifice." The talk turned to Paris and Versailles, and he nodded along with a knowing smile and added, “The smell may, in point of fact, be worse than a Parisian rue, which receives the occasional breeze.” And to think Chevreuse and Saint-Aignan had once complained about the Thames! “Crowded, odorous, and more than a little dangerous…I have begun to suspect that the intended impression is one of the capital during la Fronde, with the Hall of Mirrors reflecting it back onto the ones who waged it.”

The conversation continued to shift, the pair of them discussing women and family next. “Lady Pembroke? She is here at court. A gentle girl, from what I know. Calm.” Cadell gestured vaguely with his empty glass, letting what went unsaid speak for itself for a moment. The lions and bears weren’t the only menagerie around Pembroke. A half-mad half-Villiers, his brother and wife, a royal mistress, and a royal bastard.

Oh, and a crippled Catholic who ingratiates himself into any scheme that gives him the time of day.

But George was speaking of Lady Kendishall, and it would not do to brood overmuch. “Only briefly, when you introduced us and Lord Mountjoy – you travel in rather interesting circles, friend,” Cadell answered readily, although the back of his neck soon flushed once he realized what he was infringing upon. “I realize now that I am even more than an interloper than I feared, however, and you needn't feel obliged to entertain me much longer.” He’d been of a mind to visit Brooke House before the night was through, to see if Beverley was still there.

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"Touche!" George cheered on Cadell’s summation. 

"Ah I have missed your company, thank the heavens that you managed to escape the stench of Versailles!"  This former he said mostly out of appreciation for the recently returned point of view.  Cadells description was humoursly said and entirely amusing a patriotic way. "...though I must admit I would still be tempted to view the full scene - properly armed with pomander."

"Ah good." Assured that this was not the only bottle, George reached to pour them a refill. Intents to sip slowly upon it - rather than to get the younger man drunk.  "For all of that I might comment that the worst trait of the French is their predisposition to taking everything far too seriously."  he made comment.  After all stink was not really so different in one city from the next.  "I do hope that your dear Lady Wife is rather English in that regard.  My Lady Kendishall has French roots too did you know, but she is not easily offended, why she's almost alarmingly self contained in fact." 

Was that a note of pride in Georges voice?  And how was he managing to pull the topic back to Caroline so easily.

"I am sorry." he duly apologised for muddling locale of Cadell’s new branch of family tree.  Yes of course the sister was Lady Pembroke, resident in England in fact.  "Gathering at the Family Christmas banquet must be quite a daunting affair."  Which he meant by way of a compliment. Cadell had married very very well. 

But then he'd managed to be talking about Caroline again - this time accidentally prompting the others apology. "Not at all, remain seated, I insist.  Lady Kendishall is sure to be pleased to make your acquaintance more properly, you must stay to dinner with us.  It is in fact the first time we are to dine together, and truly I shall be grateful for the support. I am rather unpractised with the courtship of ladies - feel free to kick me under the table if I say anything incorrect.

For, remarkably perhaps, Cadell was the chap with greatest experience. 

George sighed, and possibly proving his point then said, "Lady Kendishall does not seem to enjoy talk of philosophy." 

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George seemed positively chuffed at his present engagement, a sentiment which provoked mixed feelings within the younger, lower-ranked lord, who smiled behind a sip of cognac. Is it folly or fortune that I might never experience this? After the second sip and the earl’s comments on Lady Kendishall’s “alarmingly self-contained nature”, he burst into a short, pleasant laugh. “She sounds quite refreshing,” Cadell commented, before lowering his voice and giving George a conspiratorial look. “Madame la duchesse is quite French, I must confess. Proudly so, in fact.”

It was not for nothing, after all, that court gossips had deemed the Duchess of Portsmouth the Weeping Willow. “Such seriousness might simply be a trait of those accustomed to the presence of power, however,” he said with a shrug, implying that it did not bother him overmuch. The statement applied equally to his lady wife and France in general. “As regards French seriousness and English laxity, I again maintain the humanist position,” he said, returning to a conversational tone. “And find that the truth is somewhat in the middle.”

In some sense, that was an explanation of Athenry’s present state of mind, though he would never vocalize such thoughts. He was a humanist who admired an absolutist state, a Welsh Catholic with an Irish title and a seat in the English Parliament who belonged to the Francophile camp. Things were, as Master Ashburnham had warned, very muddled.

George’s apology on the matter of Lord and Lady Pembroke was to be dismissed with an idle wave of his hand and a breezy reply. “Think nothing of it. Dreadful provincial that I am, such matters are new to me. Courtship included,” went the answer, and he paused to take another sip and consider his words. “But I know enough to avoid the topic of Pascal and Protagoras around well-bred ladies – our mutual friend Lady Winchester exempted, of course.”

""More's the pity, of course." With a wry grin, he added, “My own courtship was an unconventional thing.” If it could be called that. “Yours…” Grey eyes flicked coolly around the room. “I suspect yours will be fine. With my assistance, naturellement.”

Edited by Cadell Mortimer

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"Humanist?" George gave a pause at Cadells statement.  Middling opinion was dull to a mind that enjoyed colours, even if George was a man more for middling values himself.  "Or perhaps is can be said that the Nations take pride in differing things, might that be a more neutral perspective perhaps?  That the French aspire one way and the English another - while the majority of folk are less different than any would like to think."

 

George avoided a reply upon the gentleman’s 'Weeping Willow', which he'd not meant to bring up in a negative way at all. Rather he gave a sympathetic smile men might give to each other when brushing past the topic of women.  

 

"Well mine is far from traditional also, it might almost be called arranged though by the persons who it involves rather than fathers. There was a sensible discussion you see, and a mutual consensus. Thankfully there was no flighty emotion involved on either side."  That said George had intents to admire Caroline and already had begun to lay the groundwork there of.

 

"Pascal and Protagoras, check and check." he marked those topics off with a laugh, "then perhaps we must plunge into such prior to her ladyship arriving - though I should prefer to revel in the marvel of the Fibonacci sequence." The earls eyes lit up, "I have just procured an instrument for, a set of callipers really, and the use of them has me entirely absorbed." With that the Earl pulled the set from his pocket in a ‘taa daa’ sort of movement.

 

I'll invite Caroline to join us now :) 

 

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Caroline was not one to normally get nervous, she was one of those people who could enter any room with any crowd and act like she owned it. But this was going to be the first dinner at her husband to be's residence and a lavish place it was too. As her carriage pulled up by the front door, she alighted then paused to look it over a moment. Yes, she liked it! Far better than the Glandon manor house and also superior to her own London residence, granted she had not chosen nor bought the latter but it had been owned by her first husband, now happily deceased.

Caroline had taken this first visit quite seriously and had spent the entire afternoon having her hair done up and just perfect, something her maid was actually more than merely competent at. Her gown was frilly and a robin's egg blue or so the shoppe owner had called it - she herself had never actually seen such an egg close up. The only time she had climbed a tree in her life it had been to rescue that damnable monkey of Sophia, her good if a bit addled friend. Well, at least addled in her choice of pets. Speaking of which she suddenly wondered if George might consent to let her buy one of those impressive looking Irish wolfhounds. The pair she had encountered in the park the other day and even petted had obviously left an impression on the young woman. Once they were married, she would ask then, George seemed the sort to easily agree to such a request.

As for jewelry, she wore the pendant that was once her beloved mothers and she had even purchased new shoes of the French fashion, blue velvet latchet-tie shoes with narrow squared toes. Right now her feet hurt but she'd get used to it, new pair and all.

It was obvious alright she was expected as she did not even need to use the door knocker before the door flung open and a servant both welcomed and invited her within. Leading her into the very plush interior it must be said, he informed her he would let his master know of her arrival. Caroline scoffed at such formalities, this wasn't some state visit of ambassador to royal court, she was here to dine with the man who would soon enough be her husband.

"Nonsense, my good man, I can well represent myself thank you," she flashed him a saucy grin then barged right past.

Just before entering the room, Caroline heard voices. One recognizable, the other not - both male. So he had company already or was he talking with another servant, perhaps the cook about the dinner? No matter, too late now as she sashayed into the room like the place was hers.

"Ahhh, my lord! I hope I am not too early?" she announced, smiling at her husband to be but sparing the other fellow a glance then too.

She recognized the face....the name was coming with more difficulty. Caldwell? No... The fellow was quite handsome though, in her opinion. He had at least that going for him if not a memorable name.

Oh well she would let George fill her in on that exact detail.

But she simply could not help herself at seeing the instrument in George's hand.

"Interesting dining utensil, my dear," she smirked.

Edited by Caroline Despanay

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“Consider not neutrality, my lord, but universality. That is the essence of humanism,” Cadell – who would have been quite offended to hear his principles thought of as middling – retorted. Just as Chichester might wax poetic about the arts or a military man the principles of warfare and gallantry, this was his domain, where he could speak with true knowledge – or in this case, declaim at length. “All men share certain characteristics, no? We are born of Adam and Eve, and consequently all want and desire..”

“However,” he punctuated the point with a raise of his glass. “Man was redeemed by His only son, and ergo we are all possessed of a certain dignity of person. Whether we speak of the individual or the Nation, these two constants persist – and therefore, I cannot rightly say if the individuality of the Englishman or the seriousness of the French is preferable. No single societal summum bonum* can be reached if all men have desires that differ and the right to pursue them in a Christian and lawful manner.”

With that rant out of the way, the viscount took a long sip of the cognac, and chuckled abashedly. “Forgive me, my lord. I, ah, have a great many thoughts on this subject.”

Truly, he could have gone on for hours but for their agreement to drop the topic of politics and philosophy and two developments. First, Chichester brandished an intriguing little invention whose purpose was not entirely clear, prompting him to ask, “The golden ratio? I can remember but some of natural philosophy.” The principles of government, theology, and human nature held more appeal to one with the twin failings of ambition and a somewhat socially isolated youth. “And I cannot begin to rival your sense of aesthetics.”

The second interruption came with the arrival of Lady Kendishall, bold as the day was long and (admirably) dressed in the French style. He rose slowly to bow and greet her, leaning on his cane and giving George time to speak before having a lilting laugh at her quip. It was not his place to reintroduce himself, and so he chimed in with, “Your inimitable fiancé was quite taken with the idea of showing off this fascinating dining utensil, Lady Kendishall.” Thus both ribbing the other gentleman and talking him up, he added, “My hope is that it will obfuscate my intrusion on the both of you.”

 

*The highest or greatest good of ethics

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Cadell's response was unexpected.  Oh George knew that his chess partner was a serious and thought-filled fellow, but he had not realised this 'Humanism' was anything but a work he'd coined on the spot. That Humanism was in fact a topic of study.  And by the manner it was spoken of, it was studied to the same degree theologists studied their creeds.

 

"Universality." the Earl repeated, the word brought to mind the discussions on Toleration etc that he'd had with Sprat. "With that angle of perception you might argue there is more nature to unite than divide.  And yet the Anaximanderian principle, and even the  The Weeping Philosopher* too, witness the balancing extremes in existence - where in the separateness is even necessary for the unity of the whole." 

 

It was terribly interesting of course, and George had no interest in a mutual consensus, but rather it was debate that scintillated the mind.     

 

"Have you perchance met Mr Sprat yet Cadell? I think such an introduction would begat most lively and stimulating conversation." he spoke approvingly.  While they thought to leave that topic for now, the prospect of revisiting it appealed. (Just not when he was slightly on edge anticipating his lady guest)

 

And speaking of the devil, Lady Kendishall arrived, just at the moment that George produced his callipers. 

 

"Aha!" George smiled and stood as she swept into the room. Her manner was oddly pleasing, or perhaps the word was reassuring. She was not timid of her setting, but rather self possessed and in control of her own being. And she looked finely turned out to boot. (She could not be more the opposite of Wilhelmina his first fiancée.)  He smiled at her greeting, and then chuckled as the pair of them put his display of apparatus on the spot. "What these?" he lifted the devise a little higher to describe, "these are a tool for application of the most remarkable equation in natural science ever discovered."

 

But that needed to wait for a moment, as George gave pause to properly introduce the pair, and with hand gesure he drew Caroline into the room to claim a chair.  "Caroline, please greet my guest a humble practitioner of chess whom I like to thrash, Cadell Mortimer the Lord Athenry." said with a wink to his friend, "And Cadell, here in the flesh is Caroline Despany, Lady Kendishall, whose name I am intent to change in the impending, pray never foreboding - future."

 

* Heraclitus

 

 

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The stranger rose to greet her sudden entrance with a nod and a smile, she noticed he leaned on that cane of his. He seemed almost surprised to see her here but she felt the same about him. He was quite friendly though and even at least pretended to be amused by her quip about whatever the devil George was holding.However even Caroline knew it was not of course an eating utensil.

George on the other hand seemed delighted with her arrival, he had invited her here for their first dinner together at his residence after all. First of many she hoped.As to her joking assertion of the thing in his hand being used for eating, he did his best to explain what it actually was. However even after he told her, Caroline still had no idea what he was talking about. Her education, such as it was, had never included much if anything about science. A boring subject anyway in her opinion. But she was not about to admit such to the learned gentlemen.

"Oh, how exciting then," she tried to get that out without sounding sarcastic, she hoped.

George then introduced his other guest, seems they liked to play chess together. So a friend or at least companion, nothing of a business nature. Well, she would not begrudge her soon to be husband such pleasures, in fact she approved.

"Lord Athenry, a pleasure to meet you but I do believe we have indeed already seen each other. Sadly I cannot recall the details but I never forget a handsome visage," she tossed him a sincere smile, "I hope you can forgive me."

That same smile was turned toward George after he affirmed their soon to be union.

"I am of the same mind, George, the sooner the better," Caroline decided to use his Christian name since he had used Cadell  in the conversation, it seemed this would be a relaxed evening not bound to applying all the proper dignified titles.

"So then...is your game over already? Should I even inquire who won or would that embarrass the unfortunate loser?"

Personally she could care less either way but sometimes men took these sorts of things far too seriously. She recalled how angry her father would get when her mother would beat him at Jeu royal de la Guerre, a French card game.

Edited by Caroline Despanay

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