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Remembering Zion, early afternoon, 15th September

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Close to the turret wall that led to the Upper Ward was a waterfall that in summer provided the beautiful ladies of court with some refreshment in warm summer afternoons. Even now it called with soft murmuring sounds to passers bye. Framed by well filled vines it held an unearthly beauty which whispered of fae and other myths of a far past. During the night the owl living in the hollow apple tree nearby called out its weary warning before going on his hunt for mice.

Drink, treacherous bastard that it was, had turned on Athenry. Or at least its absence had.

Proper fool (in both senses of the word) that he was, the viscount had considered it unseemly to drink through the morning of the first day of the season. Instead (being a proper fool), he had elected for a walk, the better to plan an approach, to debate ways to put into vision into action. Where better, Athenry’s line of thinking then went, than the waterfall where he had spent time upon his arrival at court, seeking a reassurance of divine goodness but finding instead that old biddy, Lady Ravenscar, and a freshly-arrived Lady Toledo back when she was still Kingston’s ward?

Perhaps this time he would be more fortunate. It was the Word of God, after all, that had led him to reject the life of a crippled country gentleman and indeed, seen a boyhood Cadell through the fever of his accident to began with. And, he considered for the umpteenth time, it was certainty in knowing the Word that led me to that other, great misadventure at Windsor. Strange, that the idiocy of youth had been so much stronger in him a scant two years ago.

“Upon the rivers of Babylon,” Athenry considered aloud, thinking of that particular psalm* for the second time today. He had found himself at the apple tree that marked the way, and as such leaned against it, thinking to give his trusty ivory-handled cane a rest. The morning’s excitement (as well as the single slug of brandy and glasses of wine) having faded from his system and left him in his usual state of being, a rather philosophic moodiness, detached, rational, but no less pensive. There was too much to do, and none of that fanatic certainty he had felt when accepting the offer to shelter those who might have needed to flee during the attack. “There we sat and wept…”

When we remembered Zion.

Sighing to himself, he reached into the pocket of his justacorps and pulled out a flask, holding it up to eye level and appraising it the way a jeweler might a prospector’s first sample of gold. “Blasphemous, potentially, to consider it in that context,” the viscount further mused, chuckling morbidly as an errant thought popped up. “Water to wine, however…”

He sighed again, weighing the pros and cons with himself further for a few, long moments. How shall we sing the song of the Lord in a strange land?

*Psalm 137, particularly the Douay-Rheims translation

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2A man’s voice behind Cadell added to his quote from Scripture:

“… there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. 

We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. 

For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us mirth,

Sing us of the songs of Zion. 

How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”*

The man was wearing aubergine velvet justaucorps and breeches trimmed with gray pearls and silver piping, an embroidered teal waistcoat, and black leather shoes with silver buckles. The ensemble was completed by an ebony walking stick with a cube-shaped silver head. A signet ring and a breast pendant with sapphires, pearls and polychrome enamel set on silver provided the final touch.

Henry had not meant to pry. But his valet mentioned that he would enjoy the walk towards the waterfall and, having nothing better to do, the baron directed his steps there.

“Henry Nathaniel Grey, Baron Grey, at your service”. He bowed politely. “I was advised that this spot was worth visiting, and it is true. It is beautiful”.

Lord Grey took his own flask form an inner pocket, unstoppered it, raised it to the health of his interlocutor, and took a long pull. “Not blasphemous, my lord…” Henry ventured the man was the holder of a title. If not, he would be promptly corrected, he was certain. “… In fact, taking in the surroundings it may be most appropriate. Please forgive my intrusion into your introspection. I will leave if you wish to be left alone”.

* Continuing the recitation of the Psalm but quoting the King’s Authorized Version instead.

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A wan smile crossed Athenry’s face as he heard another man continue the psalm in question. In London proper, he may have felt more on edge upon hearing the Anglican verse (the burgeoning respect he felt for men like Sprat aside), for there the Whiggish types were all too often emboldened by the mob. Windsor, despite its relative proximity to the city, felt more secure for one of the true Church – ironic, of course, given all that had transpired.

“How indeed,” the viscount echoed, his voice just barely hinting at a Welsh lilt, muted as much by an abiding distaste for his native Radnorshire as it was years abroad. For his part, the slender Welshman remained in the outfit he had worn to the reception: over a grey waistcoast given life by navy embroidering in a pattern a la turque and matching breeches rested a dark blue justacorps of Tourangeau origin. This, in turn, was accented in red, which matched both the heels of his shoes and the ribbon interwoven with his cravat – affectations he had witnessed at Versailles and made his own upon returning to England.

Slowly, Athenry turned to face the unfamiliar gentleman, grey eyes flitting over a man who must have been his senior by at least a decade if not more. “I think my personal Zion would be rather more urbane,” the younger of the pair assessed, smile warmer than it was a moment ago. “Nor am I grotesquely maudlin, to use the Babylonian captivity as an allegory, but I’m rather fond of these corners of Windsor all the same, yes.”

Soon, Grey prompted him for an introduction: “Athenry.” A pause while he bowed, and his tone grew somewhat more abashed, with a self-deprecating chuckle preceding further clarification. “Cadell Mortimer, Viscount Athenry, et cetera, to be precise. Well met, Lord Grey. In truth, if I took offense at intrusions upon my introspection, I daresay that I would be sorely lacking in friends and allies.”

He laughed again, returning the salute of the flask and washing down a pull of brandy with a usual ahem as it burned its way down. “Is this your first time at Windsor, then?”

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Without gawking, Henry noticed Cadell's red heels and the red ribbon in the man's cravat. French affectations. Hmm… Henry’s own heels were purposefully 4black, and his cravat was frothy lace, without ribbons or bowties. That had been decided on purpose. Mr. Masoniere had understood when directed to stay as English as possible, within the limits of good taste. His outfit’s grey pearls had come from that line of thinking. An accent to recall England’s glorious past, the man had said.

“My personal Zion is located some fifty and five miles north of London, on the River Cam”. The baron was referring to the University of Cambridge of course. “Trinity College, to be precise. I used to be a Fellow there”.

Henry’s sigh could not be contained. Yet, although he longed for Trinity, he was fulfilling his duty for King, Country, and Family. On the plus side he could continue his research, even if at a slower pace, but unimpeded by budgetary restrictions. Perhaps later in life he would be able to return to Cambridge, at least when court and Parliament were not in session, and lecture. I can dream…

There was a slight hint at a Welsh origin in his interlocutor’s speech, but not enough to mark him as either low-born or uncultured. The nobleman’s grammar was correct, and his words carefully chosen. That, plus quoting the Good Book meant that Cadell had been carefully educated. Having been born in Wales or having resided there is not a sin and cannot be held against him, Henry thought.

“A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Lord Athenry”, Lord Grey added with a respectful nod, as the man outranked him. “And yes, this is my first time in Windsor”. The baron breathed in as he shifted left and right to take in the view. “It is too bad that Parliament is not held here. Perhaps decisions would be more constructive if they were made in these beautiful surroundings”.

A second, shorter pull from his flask, letting the warmth of the Spanish sherry brandy take the chill away. “I take it that you have been here before, Lord Athenry?”

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“Ah, an academic, then,” Athenry evaluated at Grey’s mention of Cambridge’s Trinity. “My understanding is that your Zion is a pioneer par excellence in the natural philosophies, is that not so? I am a man of St. Omer myself.” He smiled politely, awaiting the baron’s reaction upon referencing the pre-eminent institution for higher education available to English Catholics. It would have been a pity to make a new educated acquaintance, only for them to be barbaric on the matter of toleration.

Naturally, he had refrained from labeling it his own personal Zion, for while it was a close second, Paris and Versailles had stolen his heart. Already being open about his Catholicism, it was enough to help demonstrate the superiority of French culture and encourage cooperation, as bid by Chevreuse and Saint-Aignan, without labeling himself a partisan of le Roi Soleil.

The viscount’s smile grew at the sigh, sensing perhaps that there were shared interests between them, and he furthered his exposition on his education. “Books were ever my most boon companions,” he said with a glance towards his cane, by way of explanation. “So I suppose it was only natural that those years were the best of my life.”

Which was true enough – the French capital may have inspired him, but his time there was marked by the drama and intrigue for which he had volunteered since coming to court.

“I should think, Lord Grey, that hosting Parliament away from the mob would do wonders for its productivity,”’ Cadell agreed, careful not to offer too much commentary until Grey in turn revealed his leanings – and besides, it would be easy enough to ascertain where a Catholic would stand on many issues. He returned the nod, meanwhile, being both modern-minded and new enough to the peerage that their difference in rank meant little to him. "Although a cynic might suggest that this would contradict its intended purpose."

“And yes, my first season at court was here, during the wedding of His Majesty to Queen Karoline. Circumstance, then duty,” meaning his seat in Lords, “and finally my wife’s preference for life in Chelsea over the Radnorshire countryside have conspired to keep me at court.” He could only imagine the Duchess of Portsmouth’s apoplectic reaction to the idea of removing themselves to Dutlas – not that he would ever desire such a life himself.

Unceremoniously, Athenry took another swig himself, to loosen the tongue. It was early yet, but the company of l’Augier was becoming as familiar as an old friend.

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“Yes, my lord, an academic man. An astronomer, to be precise. One who likes to take telescopes apart, modify them and put them back together”. The technical details he would not discuss with anyone but Newton. “St Omer, you say?” A Catholic lord then. “It is located in Flanders, is it not? Or is it Artois? I seem to recall that it moved at some point. I must confess that although I have heard of the College, I am not well versed in its history. Jesuit educational institutions are renowned for their elevated level of scholarship, though”. That the Jesuits were also renowned for meddling in affairs of state in places they were not precisely welcome was left unsaid. “You are versed in the more genteel sciences then?” By that, Henry meant Philosophy, Theology, History, Geography, the Classical languages and works, and other such areas of human knowledge.

“To me, books are treasures far more valuable than gold,” Lord Grey replied to the Viscount’s comment on books. “And if the responsibilities of the peerage did not weigh so heavily, I would have remained at Cambridge. I also hold my years there as the happiest of my life”. A kindred soul, perhaps? Or a wit a la Merry Gang? Time would tell. I must make it a point to become active in Gresham College if I am to remain at Court. Perhaps that is the way forward.

At Lord Athenry’s comments on Parliament, Henry’s brow furrowed, and replied in a quieter, but not antagonistic, tone. “The Country Party complains loudly about how the King serves Himself and not England, and then they turn around and do exactly way they accuse His Majesty of”. By the way he had stated things, it was clear that he was not sympathetic to the Country Party. The last year or two had demonstrated how Parliament could most vociferously advocate for doing nothing. Plots, within plots, within plots. Smoke and semi-mirrors… and I am totally clueless about it all… this is something I must rectify.

“Ah! The Royal Wedding! That is one celebration I am sad I missed. It must have been quite the event”. A Royal Wedding was something Henry would have loved to attend. It was very unlikely that he would be alive for the next one. Then two places were mentioned. The first, Chelsea, was a place that his agents had been looking into. He was not keen on the idea as he had heard the rumour that it was favoured by the libertine circle. “Pray, tell me, my lord. What is living in Chelsea like? I might need to find a place of residence next season”. St James Square would be his first choice, but the market would decide. Something for my agents to work on, thankfully, and something I can forget about until next Court season, hopefully.

The second place Cadell mentioned was Radnorshire. “Radnorshire is located west of Herefordshire, is it not?” Henry’s geographical knowledge was not the best, as his interests were focused elsewhere. Yet, he remembered it was a sparsely populated part of England. That Lord Athenry’s wife preferred Chelsea to Radnorshire was not a surprise if what he remembered was correct.

Edited by Henry Grey
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  • 2 weeks later...

“Its location, like so much else, is a matter of debate between the Spanish and the French, but I believe that it would be considered artésien” Athenry answered on the matter of St. Omer’s location, using the French pronunciation for the adjective. The region had been contested fiercely between the two Catholic powers for decades. “To answer the more relevant of your questions, however,” he paused, smiling thinly. The Jesuits were not his favorite topic of late. “It is to the College’s credit that to this day consider myself a student of political and moral philosophy alike.”

“The humanist approach of such an education works, it seems, at least in imparting similar outlooks among its pupils.” A light chuckle. “Although it did little to imbue me with much of a head for figures – but that I can leave for the astronomers among us, hm? A fascinating field, to be sure.”

While Grey may have been deliberating, the less-straightforward Athenry had already decided that they were like-minded enough for the conversation to be worth continuing. On cue, this sentiment confirmed itself at Grey’s candid admission of his feelings on the Country Party – perhaps not the most politic of statements, but a safe one to admit around a Catholic. “I confess, my lord,” the viscount began, grey eyes turning towards the baron as he considered his words. “That in my view, the Country Party on occasion brings forth a grievance that is on the surface legitimate.”

“After all, any student of the humanities soon becomes aware of the principles of Man’s inherent dignity. That, in my inexpert view, is where the Country Party fails. Their supposed defense of this dignity attacks the system that protects these liberties and lets the open wound of paranoia fester until it becomes hatred.”

“But I have begun to rant –“ Cadell grinned, although he had begun to notice a familiar dull ache in his bad leg, numbed only somewhat by the liquor. “My worst habit. As to Chelsea, I find it fine indeed. The miasma is less intense than within the city proper, the architecture is quite pleasing, and one needn’t interact with their neighbors except by choice.” Left unsaid was that Chelsea was something of a village of mansions, one he resided in on account of Her Grace’s peculiar situation.

“And, of course, it is a rather more genteel setting than the Marches along the River Teme,” he added, nodding in confirmation at Grey’s geographical inquiry. Full of questions, hm? Perhaps they were kindred spirits.

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Artois, and a French domain. Religiously speaking, I prefer that. The French tend to be a lot more tolerant than the Spanish. The Spanish Inquisition had been a monstrous travesty of justice. Few things offended Henry as much as an Auto da Fé.

“Political and Moral Philosophy, Lord Athenry? I wish you the greatest of successes in the House of Lords and in Court in general...” Henry was about to continue when Cadell spoke on his views about the Country Party. Nodding thoughtfully, he observed. “Sometimes Magna Carta needs to be defended. But the ends do not justify the means. That same dignity you mention quickly evaporates when one does so”. A pause. “St Omer has produced quite the thinker in you, my lord”, he said appreciatively. And so has moved up in my scale of esteem of Academic Institutions by several places…

“I once told a certain man that I was an Astronomer. He replied that he was glad to make the acquaintance of an Astrologer and started talking about horoscopes. Sadly most people, either noble or base born, would do the same. That is why I consider that whether in Politics or Academics, ranting is the prerogative of those who by need must convince the unenlightened, so no slight taken”. Which did not mean Henry was not interested in a few unorthodox fields of study, like Kabalah, for example.

Hmm… perhaps Chelsea should be reconsidered. City smells would not be as bad, that was for sure. There would not be need of pomanders there… Interaction by choice was another point in favour of the place. Lack of city lights at night, so telescopes would give brighter images, was still another. Hmm…

Oh? A sudden thought brightened Baron Grey's face. Perhaps he knows! “Lord Athenry, a question since you have been in Windsor before. Do you know who the Castle’s seneschal is? I need to request permission to setup my instruments on one the towers’ roofs, and I do not know who to ask”.

Henry had brought three reflective telescopes with him. One was a Gregorian design, the second a Newtonian, and the third a Cassegrain. They were expensive instruments, so he had rented a house in the town where his coachman and bodyguard could be tasked to protect them from theft. But the town's houses had lights, so the top of the towers would be a far better place to make use of them.

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"You pay me an excessive kindness, my lord," Athenry half-murmured, offering a gracious – and deliberate – smile. The viscount gave a casual wave of his free, non-cane hand, casual in its resignation to political realities. “I am left to hope for any victories in Lords – but that is for another season, no?”

For the nonce, he had his head full of other ambitions, of building a circle of intellect through which to network. The servants of le Roi were clear about needing gentlemen of quality.

As to Grey’s other point (as well as the anecdote regarding an astrologer), there was a moment’s pause, the younger lord contemplating his words. “Many of the greats would consider it a Christian duty to offer knowledge to the unenlightened, but then, we also have the example of the pagans.” He let out a quiet, lilting expression of morbid humor that bubbled up from his throat.

“We may find astrologers unable to adapt to the advances in natural philosophy, or the mob misguided by the selfish and opportunistic, but I also remain wary of aspiring to the ranks of Socrates or Prometheus. I've no taste for hemlock, and my liver, I think, is quite pleased without the company of a hungry eagle.”

At least not yet. England's Catholics had a history of dying for their faith.

Grey soon asked after the castle seneschal, a question Athenry found himself unable to answer. “I fear, my lord, that my arrival was late in that season, and my newness precluded much familiarity with Windsor's keepers.” His mouth furrowed into a slight frown, and he added, “And I would have missed any subsequent ventures of the court to the castle, having been in France with my wife until April last. However…”

An errant, sole idea popped into his head. “Do you know Lord Beverley?” He queried, pausing a moment before explaining. “He’s an upstanding man of good breeding, a friend of mine, and most importantly, the one who arranged much of this season’s accommodations. It stands to reason that he would know the one you might speak to.” It could not hurt to do Grey this favor.

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Henry sighed. “Yes, that is for another season”. No meetings of the House of Lords while they were at Windsor. Which suited the man of science just fine. He would have more time to see his beloved Selene through the telescopes. “Still, when the time comes, I will be listening intently to what you have to say”. Even if Fate cruelly denied him instruction at Cambridge, I will be paying attention. He may need Codnor Castle to hide himself from the mobs after he speaks.

“History tells us that Christians do not behave much better than pagans, I fear. The Crusades are but one example. At least Richard Coeur de Lion and Saladin were civil to each other. Most of the rest, sadly, were not. Perhaps we should learn from and follow King Richard’s example…” Perhaps I should follow it… “I pray both hemlock and hungry eagles stay far away from you, Lord Athenry. If you ought to die, may it be of old age and surrounded by a score or two of descendants!” Cadell seemed to be a man with a keen intellect and a polished education. That he was a Catholic was something Henry would not hold against the man. At the very least, the man’s religion was not enough in Lord Grey’s view to wish him a painful death or undeserved suffering. Alas, his fellow members of the House of Lords may become hemlock, eagle, and crow next season. A sad thought.

France… wife… I wonder who his wife is. But I will not be as tactless as to ask. I will wait until he introduces her to me. "How did you find France? Did you go to Paris? Or Versailles? I am afraid that I have only travelled through Paris, never really visited it".

“Lord Beverley, you say? No, I do not think I have had the honour of meeting him. But since you speak so highly of him, I would like to make his acquaintance, no matter if he knows who I can speak to about the towers or not”. Lord Grey knew that prestige was everything at court, and Lord Beverley seemed to have quite a bit of it, at least in Cadell's opinion. Henry would also have been pleasurably surprised if he had known that the man was the son and heir of the Earl of Brooke. He may have even considered it an omen. “Perhaps you would grant me the boon of an introduction?”

Lord Athenry seemed to be the type of person Henry wanted, and needed, to cultivate as a friend. “If and when I arrange the use of the tower roofs, you and your wife will be more than welcome to look at the night sky through my telescopes, my lord. Not as soul-stirring as a good poem or discourse, but the Creator did brush beauty in all of His creation”. Of that, Henry was certain.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The back of Athenry’s mind, meanwhile, had noted the ache in his leg, dulled somewhat by the drink. “Ah, but King Richard and his Saracen foe had the might of armies behind them, and could thus afford the civility. If Prometheus had kinsmen behind him, or were Socrates a bolder sort, their mission to enlighten others may have fared somewhat differently,” he considered, cocking his head to the side somewhat. “All of which is to say that us men of peaceful, scholastic inclination must needs tread softer than most.”

And I, my lord, would consider myself grateful in the utmost to pass with any descendants at all, and to avoid a lynching besides.

The morbid thought gave Cadell pause, parsing over what to say next behind a small nip from his flask, as if more for the flavor and ritual than for further benefit. “But you surpass me in kindness again, Lord Grey – I will pray that St. Joseph aid you in similar endeavors.” He made the Sign of the Cross, knowing the High Church sorts to at least acknowledge the intercession of saints, even if they did so incorrectly.

“In order,” he began when the conversation turned to France, by way of explanation, “we saw Brittany, then Paris and Versailles, staying outside the chateau for the better part of a year. The salons of the former were nearly as impressive as the pageantry of the latter. It isn’t for nothing that le Roi is so taken with ballet, if you understand me.”

It had been equal parts honeymoon, a chance to be seen supporting peace, and privately, a means of familiarizing himself with the expectations of the French party. As to Beverley, the viscount nodded in agreement. “But of course. I’ll endeavor to either mention it or to draw the attention of the other, whichever comes sooner.” His lips pursed, half-amused. “That it may aid my own chances to observe the heavens may be part of the draw.”

“Ah, I beg your pardon, my lord, but I must sit. Pray do not interpret it as rudeness, only an old injury.” Athenry eased himself up against the tree, smiling blandly – Grey could either stay or leave, and neither would be considered offensive.

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“Especially those that, like me, are more likely to hurt ourselves with a blade or a firearm than hurt someone else”, Henry replied to Lord Athenry’s comments on threading softly. “Which is why one of my coachmen, an Irish cavalry veteran, is very well and very promptly paid, and he and his family have above average housing in Codnor lands. Never underestimate the dissuasive power of an angry Irish veteran wielding a brace of dragons*! If you do not have one or someone similar in your employ, perhaps you should”. He does look like he can afford a bodyguard, after all.

In times past, Lord Grey would have opposed any form of Catholic outward sign or reference. But then the fire had occurred, and the local priest had stood head and shoulders above those around him, metaphorically at least. Although it took the baron a moment to control himself, his words were placid and thankful. “Prayers are much appreciated, Lord Athenry”. After all, he is not a heathen. He prays to the same God I pray to, even if he is misguided in the way to go about it.

Bretagne, Paris and Versailles?” Henry used the French pronunciation of the words. “How wonderful it must have been. I must confess that Salons intrigue me. Free exchange of ideas must be something extraordinary”. The baron had never attended one, although he had heard that Lady Ranelagh either held or used to hold scientific meetings at her residence**.

“You could also stop by the house I rented in town any night you wish, Lord Athenry. With the moon so dark, these days are a good opportunity to watch the heavens. They do reflect the glory of their Creator”. A safe statement, theologically speaking. “The castle’s tower tops would be much better, though… less ambient light”. Thus, pupils would be dilated, and the eye would see more.

Then, Cadell sat.

“Do you mind if I do likewise, my lord. We do not even need to talk. This place deserves one soaking in it...”

* A dragon is a pistol-sized blunderbuss. Think a sawed-off shotgun.

** Historical. I will edit if it is not so in our AU.

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Grey replied that he would be a greater danger to himself than others with a weapon, prompting a smile, and had the courtesy not to suffer an apoplexy at the idea of a Catholic including him in his prayers. Yes, they were certainly shaping up to be kindred spirits of a sort, despite differences in age, background, and preferred academic disciplines. Perhaps it was the inherent optimism of the cognac, having made up for its earlier treason against his mood, but to Cadell, this meeting had the feeling of a positive omen about it.

Already, the viscount had worked to befriend a scholar with a seat in Lords. For one whose most focused short-term ambition revolved around becoming a pre-eminent salonnier, this potential friendship was a small victory. On that note…

“London has not been without its attempts at the salon,” Athenry weighed in. “But while His Majesty’s domain is, as you know, particularly adroit at building ties between natural philosophers, but I fear that we lag behind when it comes to making that spirit of fraternal discovery accessible and marrying it to the humanities, aut delectare aut prodesse*.”

He gave a shrug of his thin shoulders, setting his cane aside as he elaborated on his thoughts, “I admire that the Parisians oft combine the subjects into a single setting over many evenings, and without the usual French regard for rank and protocol…” They were, of course, a notoriously strict people on matters hierarchal. As Grey asked if he might join Athenry, the latter nodded, patting the ground nearby in silent acquiescence. “…ah, but I beg your pardon, my lord. It is something of a goal of mine to rectify England’s dearth of philosophic camaraderie in this field, and have begun to ramble accordingly.”

The cognac, again, was redeeming itself.

The baron then extended an invitation to stargaze in earnest from his rented house. “I would be delighted to partake of either view,” the normally subdued viscount agreed excitedly. “And to rectify my own ignorance of one of the Lord’s more…enigmatic creations. Or perhaps it’s only enigmatic as I haven’t the head for the sums required to understand it!”

*”To instruct and to delight" or to "please and educate", Horace’s definition of poetry’s aims

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The idea of hosting a philosophical salon had much merit. There were a few hurdles, of course. First, the Viscount was Catholic. Second, that salons felt… well... French. Still, the difficulties were not insurmountable. Perhaps… “Perhaps you will find success in your quest if you make sure to invite the right people, and that they attend. One such that comes to mind is Dr Thomas Sprat. He is not only His Majesty’s Royal Chaplain, but also a founding member of the Royal Society. If you have him speak about any topic at the first meeting, it will help much to achieve success”. Dr Sprat was well-versed, well-known, and well-liked. If the man were to attend, it would imprint a sort of royal seal of approval to the event, which would do much to counter Lord Athenry being a Catholic. "Alas, I cannot provide an introduction, or I would. Do you know him?" A quizzing look. A Catholic that had contact with an Anglican minister was less of a threat in the public view.

“And if you send word, I will do my best to attend”. It was not that Henry did not want to. He was enthused with the prospect. But he was looking for a bride, and he did not know just how anti-Catholic the families he had considered were, as much as he now sided with King Charles II on the issue of toleration. With the notable exception of the Howards. But that was not necessarily due to religion, at least not anymore.

“I do think that the Trivium and Quadrivium could be improved upon by the free exchange of ideas”. A pause to sip from his flask, with the warmth now spreading from his stomach to his cheeks. “Even further studies in the three higher faculties* does not account for the breadth of human knowledge, which expands even as we speak”.

Rambling? The man was correct!

“Not Rambling, my lord. Your cause is a worthy one. I pray that it spurs a wave of toleration for diverse ideas and younger men to seek knowledge for knowledge's sake”. It was not likely, but one could always hope. That their viewpoint was unpopular with the masses and those that manipulated them, but was the one the King espoused was, in the Baron’s view, a plus. “Who knows? With time even the King himself or one of his close gentlemen could attend. That would be a great victory”. Although the King was known for more… physical… leisurely pursuits, he was also intelligent and inquisitive. Perhaps His Majesty would test the meetings first and keep informed as to who attended and how the meetings went, but they would certainly make him curious.

“A question, Lord Athenry. Are you planning on allowing ladies to participate?” It was a bold question, with pros and cons either way.

* The three higher faculties consisted of Theology, Medicine, and Law.

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Athenry’s grey eyes widened slightly in amusement at Grey’s mention of Sprat. “Dr. Sprat, in fact, was one of the first gentlemen I considered inviting,” he confessed, with a wry little smile. “I was introduced to him over the recess through a mutual friend – a good soul, despite our…personal differences, with a keen mind and an enviable way with words.” It was a pity, truly, that the man’s faith was what it was. The Holy Mother Church needed more modern thinkers, a new generation of Thomas Mores and Erasmus of Rotterdams. Tradition and the blessing of the Lord’s only son had made Rome strong, but its patronage of the humanist disciplines would keep it that way.

In that respect, Cadell still sympathized with the Jesuits, and the command of St. Ignatius of Loyola to ’Ite, inflammate omnia’*. Personal experience and the words of Chevreuse and Saint-Aignan had merely made him question their methods in doing so.

Of course, Henry’s meaning was also somewhat transparent – the right people contextualized the suggestion of Sprat in a way that, a few years back, Athenry would have vocally bristled at. These days, however, his sentiments were more muted. The splendor of le Roi and the cause of peace were not furthered by antagonistic outbursts against one who seemed to be trying to help. “You, my newfound friend, will be one of the first to receive an invitation.”

He regarded the older baron curiously at the mention of the Trivium and Quadrivium, and then again at the polite dismissal of his own self-deprecating admission of rambling. “And that breadth of human knowledge would grow exponentially if understanding is furthered on a variety of topics. The natural philosophies make artistic theory more valuable, for example, and as you yourself put, we are given a glimpse into the power and beauty of God’s creation by knowing the skies.” Athenry eyed his flask, deciding against another pull for the moment. “I would, of course, be flattering myself too much to think that His Majesty might one day find an interest, but I will say that the idea of introducing a salon culture in full force was inspired by discovering that the French have not just their own equivalent of our Royal Society, but a matching institution for the humanist disciplines.”

“Is it too much to think that perhaps England, too, might catch up to our cousins across the Channel in that regard?” He asked rhetorically, revealing the extent of his ambitions as pertained to forming an intellectual circle. “We are already home to a great many philosophers, some of whom have membership in the Royal Society.”

Finally, Grey asked about the admittance of women, which was less transparent than his earlier line of questioning. The baron did not strike him as particularly lecherous, nor entirely rigid in the other direction, so Athenry wore a quizzical look as he explained, “Traditionally, salons are hosted or at least patronized by women, and I was thinking of enlisting the assistance of my lady wife.” It would give Louise something to do, keep her in the eye of the court without stepping on any royal toes, and perhaps enhance both their prestige. “And there are a number of women of quality and intellect who I feel would enhance the discussion – the Dowager Lady Winchester, for example.”

He shrugged, looking over at the baron. “It would have to be limited to those whose attendance was appropriate, of course.” If a former(?) royal mistress was to host, then avoiding a scandal would need to be a priority. “Why do you ask, my lord?”

 *Go, set the world on fire. Ignatius often ended his letters to Jesuits going on mission with this phrase.

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Henry’s suggestion of Sprat had been without guile. The man was well-liked for his sermons, a member of the Royal Society, and had published two major books plus other smaller works. If Dr. Sprat were to attend, the event was bound to attract the notice of the very circles Lord Athenry wanted. That the churchman would be one of the first considered was good, very good. That Henry would be invited too, was something the Baron appreciated, but did not know how to go about, at least not yet. It might depend on which side of Tolerance my future family by marriage will be... something Henry could not voice. “You have my thanks”, he said politely.

“I do believe that England would benefit from a Society of the Humanities, my lord. I just humbly suggest that you thread lightly for a time. There are two factors I see. First, that someone might want to mobilize the mob against you or against someone else attending. Might be best to keep it private for a time. Second, that time is on your side. As the prince gets older and stronger, and preferably other princes are born, anti-Catholic sentiment will lessen. In time, certain laws will be repealed, and Catholics will be able to take their place in Lords too. It is a matter of patience, I think”. After all, the most rabid anti-Catholic had already fallen. There was one still that held much power, but with the birth of the prince and with Monmouth exiled, Lord Grey though the man was losing more and more power each day. Henry raised his flask. “To Tolerance”. He gave a good long pull. The flask was getting empty.

The man of science had no idea who Lord Athenry’s wife was, so he surmised her to be a lady of good breeding, but no one of great consequence at court. “I ask about ladies because in natural philosophical circles they are frowned upon. In French Salons, as you mentioned, Ladies have a much more prominent standing. A patroness or three might be to your advantage in this endeavour, although I would not know how to coordinate that”. His branch of knowledge was a much more individualistic affair, but whatever the Baron thought about women in the sciences was not mentioned.

And then Athenry mentioned Lady Winchester. She had almost made Henry’s list of marriage prospects. Two factors had risen against her, though. The first, that she had given birth to no children, whereas her husband had issue with a previous wife. The second, that she was a Howard. An accident of birth, not her fault at all, but the Baron did not have it in him to marry a Howard. Lord, will I take this hate to my grave? 

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“To tolerance,” Athenry echoed, pulling from his flask again – although it came with a heavy sigh.

Doubtlessly, the drink was about to loosen his tongue somewhat. Grey was a gentleman through and through, the viscount could tell, of obvious intellect. He also did not seem especially political – a Royalist, certainly, and not unsympathetic to the plight of England’s Catholics, but unless he was a Country Party spy on a very unnecessary mission to discover that a Catholic favored, of all things, toleration, the baron did not seem especially savvy. Not unintelligent, obviously, but there was little politicking done when the topic of Lords had first come up.

He was, however, being somewhat pedantic in a way both scholars and Protestant “friends” tended to be.

Athenry arched a thin eyebrow as the baron made his suggestions, most of which were practical but…wholly irrelevant, information that nearly every Catholic knew. Rubbing the scruff on his chin, he contemplated his words, choosing to first agree, “I’ve no intention of making a play for any society without a deal of support, yes. Indeed, t’is hardly a plan, nor even a true ambition – call it a fantasy, a concept, nothing more than that.” A dismissive flick of his wrist accentuated this point. “But…” He frowned. “I do not mean to be rude, my lord, nor give offense. But I have made an observation, and not for the first time.”

“There is a marked tendency among those of your faith, when confronted with a modicum of ambition from one leal to the Church of Rome, to immediately warn of the consequences and mention the restrictions,” he explained. Grey had done it, as had May when he had mentioned needing purpose, and John Ashburnham once before. “As if we Catholics are unaware.” His smile was soft and slightly sorrowful. Accusing an intelligent man of ignorance was not easy. “As if my gentle wife and I have not been pelted with rotten veg and threatened with a lynching while seeking to fulfill the basic requirements of my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

He crossed himself. “Or as if we are not aware that any of us could have the spark of genius that could benefit  His Majesty’s kingdoms beyond fathoming, but find ourselves barred from meaningful official service.” Athenry took a deep breath, voice growing a bit hurried – antagonism was to be avoided, but Grey, surely, could understand if it was explained to him. “Or that my rights granted by the Magna Carta are in jeopardy because of a spurious rumor? Surely, sir, you see my point.”

Silence hung in the air for a moment longer. Having to be educated in a foreign land, taking Mass in secret, hiding priests in pantries and holes, a history of having a kingdom restored to the true faith and then stolen by whores and usurpers – even Anglican friends did not understand what it meant to be true to the Rock of the Lord. “Again, this is no accusation, sir – but I ask this, as a scholar and a man I sense to be good,” he paused. “From whence this advice, which we already know? If you are concerned for England’s Catholics, and I thank you for that, then would not reason suggest more practical methods to stand up for what is right?”

“Forgive me for the previous impudence, my lord, but it is only…for my part,” Cadell concluded, face flushed from the drink and the impromptu speech, “I know that whatever I do is dangerous, not because of the choices I take,” unless one counted a Jesuit plot, “but because of who I am, my lord. And I know that I have few options if I wish to make an impact.”

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Cadell was right… from his point of view. The point of view of someone who had needed to live on his guard his whole life. Perhaps that was the reason why he could not have known how hard it had been for a Grey to raise his flask to Tolerance. Besides, the Baron’s warnings were not those you direct to an upstart to stop him, but rather those you direct to someone you consider worthy of success, to guide him. Henry’s family had suffered firsthand what Religion could do for reasons of state. Cadell was suffering in the here and now the full swing of the pendulum. Neither was right, Henry finally understood. May God have mercy on us all!

“If it were in my power, I would loose the Langdon regiment on those who so mistreated your wife. I hear it said that the Colonel is not averse to arresting anyone who crosses his path…” the Baron said trying to lighten the mood a bit. “No way to treat a lady. No right to treat a lady so. As for Magna Carta and the rights it gives you, Lord Athenry, it is a sad state of affairs to see them so trampled. It is even sadder when a man has to change the manner he worships God to keep what Law has given him”. There were plenty occurrences of that, not only Catholic, and not only among the nobility.

A deep sigh, followed by pulling the last of his flask’s contents.

“Let me tell you a story; two actually. You know the first one, I am sure, but not the other”. A pause, to collect sentiment-filled thoughts. “On the year of Our Lord 1554, February the twelfth, a seventeen year-old girl was beheaded because she would not convert to Catholicism. Some remember her as the Nine Days’ Queen. Some as Lady Jane Dudley. Others as Lady Jane Grey. Her sin? Being protestant and too young and too weak to stop power seekers from manipulating her”. The reason my blood boils still against the Whites, the Howards, the Stanleys, and the Bourchiers. There was no need to kill her.

A pause, to compose himself.

“The second story is of a humble Catholic priest who, when my House caught fire, did not think about personal safety, ran as fast as he could, and tended to the hurt and wounded even though I had never given him a farthing in his life, while the local vicar I generously support arrived late the next day, because he could not be bothered to get out of his bed in the middle of the night”.

“So I was faced with a quandary: who is my neighbour?” Henry then recited the parable of the Good Samaritan from memory. “It has been a learning experience, Lord Athenry, one that has not ended yet. A man that I would have taken to the authorities for being a Recusant did all he could to help my people… to help me!” The tug of war in Henry’s soul was evident. Generations of hate were crumbling down, even if slowly.

“I propose to you, my Lord, that England faces the same quandary. On the one hand Catholicism had done much evil. On the other the Church of England has done the same. These facts have made us fight, and kill, each other, while other nations take advantage of it. But then along come a few, a very precious few like the priest in my story, that fight evil with good, hate with love. They are the best of us. Theirs is the example we should all follow. To tell you the truth, Lord Athenry, that Catholic priest placed a mirror in front of my face, and I was ashamed of what I saw in it. May God grant me the strength to change. Not religion, mind you, I still think Rome is doctrinally wrong, but in thought, word, and action. May God grant me the strength to defend your right to think, and worship, as your conscience dictates, even if I disagree. That is what I mean when I toast to Tolerance”.

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Athenry gave a bland little smile at the mention of Langdon, knowing that Grey was likely attempting for levity – and rightfully so – but thinking instead of his brother-in-law’s vitriolic outrage over the man. Not unfairly, he considered as well. Pembroke may have been half-mad, but that was even more reason not to dishonor the man’s sister. Instead, he managed a quiet, contemplative, “Sad indeed.”

For it was a sad state of affairs that England found itself in, particularly for its Catholics, and sadder still that he had let his true feelings (or at least some of them) briefly get the better of them. This feeling would only continue to grow as Henry relayed his stories.

Lady Jane Grey. Foolish. I should have realized.

For his part, the viscount managed to sit there, listening and toying with his flask. It did not seem right to interrupt, given the solemnity the other man displayed and the severity of the topic. Finally, as the baron concluded his little speech, he gave a respectful nod. The lady was executed for her father’s treason and the illegitimate acts of her cousin, sir, he thought. Which did not necessarily make it just, but went to show the weight of differing perspectives.

“Lord Grey,” he annunciated, deliberately pausing. “You see precisely my point, and what I was attempting to get at. You see the situation for what it is; one needn’t be a Catholic to be aware of what is needful - the sentiment of advice, but applied to your voice elsewhere. There are but two ways the situation will end, after all.”

He who allows oppression shares the crime, his hero Erasmus had proclaimed.

It was his turn to sigh, and he glanced over at his flask again, deciding he’d had more than enough for now. “Toleration or extinction, I fear,” Cadell pronounced. “Until then, only more antipathy will be bred. My harsh tongue is proof of it, I fear.” Anger was both gift, a motivation to act, not wallow, and poison, something that had caused him to act more foolish than Lord Grey could know.

“As to the Lady Jane, I know not what to say, my lord. It is another tragedy of an era rife with them, and a particularly awful one, at that.” But inevitable. Edward wrote her fate, and Wyatt sealed it.

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“I beg to differ, but it is impossible for me to see your whole point, because I am not a Catholic. I cannot know what that is like. Now, do I believe things should change? Definitely! Do I think things will change? Yes, but perhaps not as fast as you and I would like them to. A protestant heir to the throne will calm the mob down, that is certain, but the Country Party will not let the matter die quietly, I fear”. What the Earl of Shaftesbury would do now that he could not use a possible Catholic succession as a political tool was something that intrigued Henry. And therein lied the end of his tolerance. Catholic peers with full rights in the House of Lords, and Catholic gentry with full voting rights in the Commons could even be healthier than the current state of affairs. A Catholic king was an entirely different matter. That I would have to oppose.

“I agree, Lord Athenry. Toleration is the only way. Now, to build it one step at a time, I do think your proposed Salon is a good start. And since you have already invited me, I will take the liberty to attend, and often”. Alea jacta est. “May I ask who you have invited or decided to invite but have not been able to yet? Perhaps I know one or two of them already”. It was an innocent question, a result of a curious mind. It never occurred to Henry that it could be construed as prying.

“Lady Jane… yes. A pawn sacrificed in the altars of ambition. Northumberland did not do right”. If Lord Grey had known that Cadell though that one of the culprits was Edward VI, he would have been appalled. “Neither did Suffolk, his father. Pardon my words, Lord Athenry, but may both rot in the depths of hell!” The baron tried to be fair in his historical analysis. His namesake had been greedy, ambitious, power hungry. John Dudley had been the same.

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The matter of the succession was a difficult one – for reasons both religious and personal, Athenry had little reason to dislike the notion of York securing the throne. The younger Stuart may have been intractable on a number of issues and more than a little dour, but it was he, who through Father Petre, that a then-Sir Cadell had met, dined with, and sometimes gained the ear of. But inwardly, he also recognized that Grey had the right of it. The mob seemed to have quieted somewhat of late, and a Protestant heir seemed the more stable option.

In truth, he was more curious to know the thoughts of the Sun King on that matter, but those matters went far above the scholarly Welshman. “I have no doubt that you are right on both counts,” he intoned, sighing once more. “And so we come full circle, back to the Country Party.”

“But as for tolerance, I ought thank you. All that can be asked for, in the end, are more Samaritans and less Levites.”

The conversation became more gentle, or at the least, academic. Cadell answered the inquiry with a slight tilt of his head to the side, considering his prospective guest list again. “Dr. Sprat, of course, and Lord Chichester, who implanted the notion in my head. A few friends. Master Ashburnham if I can pry him away from his duties.” A pause, and he chuckled. “As for the ladies, certainly Lady Winchester – perhaps the Lady Dorothea as well, although I have not been introduced. And…” A second chuckle. “We married men are oft at the mercy of those whose households we head, and I haven’t yet asked Her Grace my wife. The list may change entirely.”

At Grey’s damning of his own ancestor, he raised an eyebrow. Few men would take that position – his distant ancestors in the Earls of March always seemed half-admirable, despite their scheming. “A difficult time, to be sure,” came the diplomatic response. “I find myself torn sometimes by a certain relativism, in that all men are acting on the deeds of their predecessors and contemporaries, and the benefit of studying history as it pertains to morality.”

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“Yes, the Country Party, and Tolerance”. Henry sighed too. “With Dr Sprat and Lord Chichester in attendance, plus Lady Winchester and your Lady Wife, I think your salon will be a success my lord…” Her grace my wife. Who is Lord Athenry married to? Am I overstepping my boundaries?

As he tried to ponder on the identity of Cadell’s wife, his brain simply refused to work. It was then that it occurred to Henry that he was most probably drunk.

Getting up with some degree of difficulty, having to both use his walking stick and the tree as support, he bid his leave. “Lord Athenry, our little chat has been most agreeable, but I am sad to say I must now walk off the effects of my flask. Although I have not met her yet, my most profound respects to your lady wife”. After an unsteady bow, Henry left, walking in what would bever be described as a straight line.

OOC: thank you for a most enjoyable thread. Until next!

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"For that, I can only hope," Athenry replied, warm inside and with a loosened tongue, but not quite drunk. He'd had practice enough holding his liquor in recent days, and paced himself accordingly. It is a dance with a woman. One does not attempt to make her from the outset.

Then again, the viscount could drink. He could not, as a matter of fact, dance with a lady.

Grey, however, seemed to be feeling it more keenly, and gave his well-wishes. Briefly, he wondered if he should help the man to his feet, but decided a cripple helping a drunk walk would be more comical than effective. "I will be sure to pass it along, my lord," he promised. "It has been a certain pleasure to make your acquaintance. Thank you again for giving me much to think about."

As the baron walked away, Cadell Mortimer made a quiet sound, halfway between a hum and one of those recurrent sighs that came so easily to him. He would watch the waterfall for awhile longer, before hobbling back to the castle proper. A nap seemed most agreeable right about now.


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