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A Lady's Call

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A Lady’s Call, Early Evening Friday 16th

Octagonal Tower, The Room of Lady Oakham


Lady Oakham and he had discussed personal issues before so it was not inconceivable that she would contact him if the need arose. He had not seen or heard anything about the lady over the recess but when her missive arrived asking for advice he could hardly refuse so he made his way to the Octagonal Tower and found the door to her room. Tapping lightly with his walking stick he announced that a visitor had arrived.

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  • 2 weeks later...

As the evening fell, that was when the world closed in. Darlene alone with her thoughts, thoughts that were not always productive. 

She hummed to herself, a hymn.  Her late father had always told her to hum a hymn if she ever felt a bit low or reckless.  Darlene's moods had never been so stable. And particularely now. 


There was a knock on the door. 


The bedroom is small but comfortable, a large chestnut bed resting against the west wall. The bed is hung with blue silk damask, silver acanthus leaves embroidered into the fabric. Across from the bed is a stone hearth. Small porcelain doves have been affixed to the edges of the mantel with silver satin bows and to the tie backs of the drapes and bed curtains. Two windows are set into the south wall, overlooking the Long Walk and Castle Hill. A small chestnut table and chair set rests between the windows while a small door, hidden behind a blue velvet curtain with long thick tassels, beside the fireplace opens into a little closet. Candelabras rest on the table and mantel, casting long shadows over the polished wood of the floor.


The darkie maid Maisie opened the door to Charles Blount, and saw him two steps into the room before 'disappearing herself' to a darkened spot in the room. Available, but not overtly present. 

Darlene, standing, burst into tears at the sight of the so solidly upstanding and dependable lord, and rushed to thrust her arms around him. "Oh Lord Mountjoy, you came. I hoped beyond hope that you would!"

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Upon entering Charles thought he would receive a polite greeting and was prepared to offer a courtly retort but he was not prepared for the greeting he received. Normally women burst into tears after he had said something. He could not fathom what he could have done wrong in so short of time. He had little time to ponder before he was clutched in an emotional embrace. ‘Oh dear, this is unexpected.’  He thought to himself as he looked desperately around the room unsure of what to do.

He calmly patted the distraught Darlene on the shoulder and said “There, there. Do not cry.” That almost never worked but he could think of little else to say. Once freed he reached into his pocket and produced a handkerchief. He had ordered a dozen before arriving at Windsor but he had been using them at a prodigious rate and feared that, at this rate, he may run out. “Here you go. Dry your tears.” He guided her to the small chestnut chair in the hope that she would sit down. “Now what is it that has upset you so?

He looked around for her servant. “A glass of wine for your mistress.” He requested thinking alcohol was just the thing to mix with an upset woman.

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Darlene loosed some more sobs, shoulders shaking, and dragging in gasps of his scent mixed with a fragrance rather heady.   It was such a relief to have a man to assure, Lady Albemarle had been understanding yes, but it was completely different.  "You are such a good.... friend." Darlene sniffed trying to follow the instruction 'do not cry', and grasping hold of the fresh and crisp handkerchief emblazoned CB certainly helped.

"I've been so very gullible, oh and much worse than my usual amount." she sniffed and dabbed at her eyes.  With cheeks prettily flushed, and dark lashes clumped from tears she looked into Charles eyes. "You see I pinned all my hopes on a certain match.  I do hate to be widowed - and cannot bear the thought that anyone might ever all me a merry one - I am certainly not.  I am actually utterly despondent, and only pretending to be happy don’t you know." 

Words tumbled out. 

"But then the gentleman who'd spoken at length of how we would wed, then told me he had multiple mistresses and intended to take even more." (Well that last bit was for creative licence) "So I ended it with him immediately. But have been utterly beside of myself ever since." She took a deep breath and held it, trying not to cry again. In a peeped voice then added, "I think I've become a spinster!"

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Thankfully Darlene did calm down, her heaving sobs reduced to a heaving bosom. It was an improvement but only a slight one. Punctuated by sniffles she began to explain her problem which it was soon evident was of the male variety. If a man was trying to swindle her out of her estate, he would be able to put a stop to it. If squirrels infested her attic he could hunt them all down. But relationship advise, between the sexes no less, was a topic he was utterly ill equipped to address.

“Um…well…Ahem…you see…” Think as he might he was at a loss for words “There, there… it will get better.” Was about all he could muster. He glanced at the door remembering that the servant had not locked it after he entered. If he bolted for the door and made a run for it he was certain he would be able to escape. He sighed for that would be an ungentlemanly thing to do so, like Leonidas at Thermopylae, he turned back to face Darlene.

Her words tumbled out and he was finally able to make a response.

“That Blackguard.” He interjected at her intended taking mistresses.

“The scoundrel.” Followed when she said he intended to take more.

And, when she said she ended it he replied.

“You most certainly should have. I will say that you showed amazing restraint not to have slapped the cur.”

In the past when if had annoyed women he usually got slapped in the face, except for his sisters who would kick him if he was bratty.

She looked as if she was about to cry again. Charles at least had recovered enough wits to intercept the possibility by leaning into her and patting her shoulder and readying another handkerchief. He was down to his last one.

“There, there. Shed no more tears for the rogue.”

“Oh… piffle. You are hardly a spinster. You are an attractive woman and do not look anywhere near your actual age.”

UH-OH. It took only a fraction of a second to realize what he had said. The last time he had said something like this was one of those times he received a kick from his sister. He realized his only option was to use Darlene’s hurt and emotion against her and distract her to save himself.

“That is to say, you are a prize to any right-thinking gentleman who would be lucky to have you. You have suffered greatly from the pusillanimous ministrations of some reprobate who cannot comprehend the jewel of a woman that was before him.”

He saw a little deeper into her situation.

“He did not encumber  you as a result of his deception did he?”           

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"Oh you are right! I should have slapped him." Darlene wailed as the Entire Country's foremost solicitor pointed out her mistake. "He certainly deserved it. Can you believe he thought I would be understanding. As though any woman could accept such brazen vileness. I am quite embarrassed in fact, that I ever considered him a noble man." 

She was trying to keep it together still, but then Mountjoy, while in tones that were reassuring, pointed out her age.

Naturally the brunette burst into a fresh flood of tears.  

"Oh if only I were 18 again, and not a horrid 21. I am practically ready for the grave." she sobbed taking the second handkerchief, while hugging tight to the body wordlessly offered.  Still sobbing she added, "He deserves to be ruined, but there he is gaining award after award.  If the King knew his deceitful character ... then. Well I don’t even know what he'd do either.  He's a horrible horrible man Lord Mountjoy. I can hardly believe that I was prepared to put aside my adoration of you and settle for him.  He's nothing like you. Nothing at all!"

They did not usually talk of their secret love for each other, but this was out of the usual circumstances. 

Pulling herself together again, she was just gaining her composure as 'The nicer Charles asked' about that.  "Fear not for that at least." Darlene replied with a sniff, "I suppose it is more a case of pride wounded. But also. Well truly I doubt that anyone might actually want me. He was my last hope you see."

It was all very well for persons like the Duchess and here now, the Margrave, to say she was a desirable match. But she'd never actually been sought out, unless she counted Jerome Digby.  The men in her life had come to be there because she'd hunted them out.  But hunting did not work - her life results thus far was testament of that.

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He was doing so well until he foolishly mentioned Darlene’s age and reopened the floodgates. “Oh no… no… not at all. I did not mean that you are old. You are not…I… I meant that you are mature and wise enough to realize that you are but a fresh flower finally opening to the sun.” Being a gentleman and knowing his duty, however painful, he sat there in stoic desperation as she took his last remaining pocket handkerchief.

He felt naked.

He felt other things as well as she hugged him tightly. Were her hands moving downward?

She was beginning to get herself under control again as she described the litany of faults of her abuser. Comfortingly he agreed with her accusations and offered platitudes. Anything that would comfort her and stop her tears.

“Yes, yes, you have been very ill used.” “

I agree with you completely.”

“You should never have put your adoration aside.”

“You can always rely on me.”

It was then his brain engaged and he realized what he had just said. His Majesty’s Solicitor General for England and Wales and Master of Horse to the Queen, Doctor of Civil Law, Oxon let out what could only be described as a squeak.

In an effort to hide his outburst he coughed and rummaged in his pocket for a handkerchief. ‘Damn.’  He thought as his hand came away empty.

Grasping, he hastily agreed “Absolutely, your pride may have been injured but your beauty and reputation is intact. Why there are a plethora of eligible men that would consider themselves lucky to win your hand.”

He thought to himself what gentlemen were available. There was Francis Kirke but he had his own issues and besides he could never marry someone with better hair than him. George Hardwick was rich enough to smother Darlene with money but he was already spoken for. Heneage was in desperate need of a wife but he suspected Darlene would be a bit too much for him to handle. Charles Whitehurst was said to be handy with the ladies. Perhaps he would be just the man to take Darlene’s mind off her troubles and sweep her off her feet.

“Don’t you worry My Dear… um… Darlene…er…Lady Oakham. Be brave, why the season has just started. There will be plenty of opportunities and if you are patient enough you will find that the perfect man will have been right in front of you the whole time. As my grandfather used to say ‘There is always another badger in the hedge.’

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“Mature?!” Well that started off the tears again, he might as well have pronounced her rigor mortis.

Fortunately he called upon a flower, even if it was an opening one, and, so Darlene mind she was upon the brink of potpourri.  

She was a very very terrible situation.

No it was not groping hands he felt, but continued slumping of lady’s spirits.  And to each of her complaints he agreed, even when she spoke of their secret love of each other.  Darlene sniffed, and rested heavy head against his chest. 

“But for what might I reply upon you for, when the law’s of the land keep us separated.  Yes we might keep gentle company, like we have, and express kind sentiments, perhaps more. But upon our honour that is all there might ever be.”

Because she knew now more than ever, that it was actually Charles Blount who’d be her perfect match.  She should take the place of his wife, and be Mistress of the Robes organising Her Majesties household.  I could do that with ease, and I’d not loose any rhinestones he gave me.

“Do I want anyone other?” she asked plaintively, “when I’ve discovered a faithful spirit in my breast.”  Even Darlene knew she was usually fickle. “Do say it Lord Mountjoy, do tell me, that it you were free to, you would wish to marry me.”

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Darlene started crying again. ‘Well Shit.’  Passed through Mountjoy’s mind but being a cultured literate gentleman, he internalized it as ‘merde’ instead. Her tears were left to their own devices this time for how many handkerchiefs could she expect a man to carry. He gave a tug at his cravat which suddenly felt as if it were tied too tight.

This was not the first time Darlene had overreacted to a situation and had put Charles in a delicate situation but this time it felt a bit different. It seemed that she was genuinely distraught. That did tug upon Charles’ feelings for although Darlene was a wild whirlwind, he did not wish to cause her any distress. He had known that Darlene yearned for him (what woman wouldn’t) but she now admitted in her desperation that her feelings were much deeper than he previously realized. How could he tell her that he was devoted to Ursula and felt for her no more than brotherly regard. In her current state such a revelation would cause her more distress that a handful of handkerchiefs could remedy. She did however offer some glimmer of hope in her realization that he, as a married man, was prohibited from reciprocating her feelings.

“Yes, you do wisely see the predicament we are in. I am a married man.” He almost added happily but thought better of it. “We are like Pyramus and Thisbe with the laws of the land being the wall that separates our two gardens. We can speak softly through our wall but must live in our own gardens.”

It was then that she asked him to say that he wished to marry her and would do so if he could. He had no desire to further upset her as the poor thing had been hurt enough by the cad who had played light with her feelings. He did not wish to do the same but he also did not wish to lie to her. He decided to split the difference and rely on Darlene’s calm rational mind to recognize the situation between them.

“Oh Darlene, you know how deeply I feel for you. How can I answer such a question when I know such a thing cannot be since I am married to another. My dear bosom sprit, I can truthfully say that you affect me like no other woman ever has. I cannot bear to see you tormented so but I am not free to give you what you desire whatever my feelings. I beseech you to find room in your breast for another so that I may see that you are happy even if I am not the man to make you so. I am an honorable man and I have sworn to love and cherish another and can do naught but to keep my troth. If I had met you before things may have been different but, as with Pyramus and Thisbe or Aeneas and Dido our love must remain unrequited. Be thou my Dido, Queen of Carthage, and go forth with the confidence of your beauty to build a new city of your heart.”

Surely, Darlene, as any rational and composed young woman well versed in the classics, could not fail to comprehend his references to the Greek tragedies and the futility of her desires. 

“There, there.” He said yet again this time squeezing Darlene back in sympathy. Hopefully that would be just the thing to calm her down once and for all and allow her to see reason.

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He called her wise – nobody ever did that.  Darlene knew she was not very acedemic, but what she lacked in education she made up for in imagination.  It was kind of him to call her clever though, and proved once more how deeply he cared for her.  He wanted her to feel good about herself.

“Lord Mountjoy, you are the kindest and most sincere man who ever walked.” She blinked and gazed into his ever loving eyes. 

She could tell this conversation was very hard for him.  He hated being trapped in a marriage he did not want, and to have to tell her that they were like Pyramids and Frisbees. Or was that Pharisees he’d said?  Darlene remembered the priest talking about the Pharisees at church, and Jesus had turned over their tables. Or was that the Tax collectors? It was an awful situation in any case, just as awful as Charles not being able to marry her and fully declare his undying love.

“If only we had a gate.” She spoke the solution, while not really understanding why he talked of garden walls either.  Still.  A proverbial gate would be a good solution, and he was sure to agree with that.

The wall must be Ursula.

“Or, no wall at all.” That would be the better solution, Darlene thought.

But the most important part was how he told her, clear and plain, how deeply he felt for her.  Well, that she knew how deeply he felt for her. And she did.

Unfortunately he started talking Greek again, it was probably Greek at least, it sounded like areolas and dildos though.  Charles was, after all, a man of the world.  He’d be a creative lover she was sure. 

“I shall, Lord Mountjoy.” Though she couldn’t quite make herself say she’d be his dildo, cause, that was just too much for her at the moment.  Lets cross that bridge once we are married.  Returning his squeeze she said, “I think you are beautiful too.”

Ursula had to go, he'd not said it in so many words, but that was what he meant. Only once he was widowed would they be free to requite each others love.  


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His allusions to the Greek tragedies apparently did the trick as Darlene seemed to have calmed down. There was nothing like Greek allegories to quiet a woman and bring her to reason. When she mentioned that she wished they had a gate he was impressed with the deep and perceptive understanding of his meaning she exhibited by using the allegory of the Wicket Gate from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress wherein Christian is pulled from the Slough of Despond to reach the Wicket Gate and through it onto the road of Salvation. He was glad that they could speak so clearly and understand each other so well. So many times his politeness and chivalry were misconstrued and he was happy that he and Darlene recognized that although there was a certain amity between the two, any kind of a romantic relationship was impossible. Now that they agreed that there could only be a plutonic friendship between them Charles became more relaxed, relieved even that he had avoided an uncomfortable situation and could rely on Darlene’s sound judgement.

“Now then.” He went on more confidently and even brushed back a wayward curl from her forehead. Like any brother would do for his sister and used a soft and calming tone that always comforted his horses. “You see now that things are not so bad as you first thought. You have no need to cry or be upset for true love is not gone from your life. Be happy and gay. Be confidant in your abilities and your love will be yours.”

He smiled reassuredly as Darlene joked about thinking him beautiful as well. It was nice that she did not let her emotion overcome her sense of humor. “You are always so full of surprises. I am glad that you called upon me for you do not deserve to be sad and I admonish you to not fall into despair.” He squeezed her hands.  “But for now, however pleasant your company may be, I must tear myself away from you and bid your leave.”

Although Darlene was upset when he arrived, he had been able to reassure her and calm her down. He always tried to be of service to a Lady and he was pleased with himself for being able to help Darlene this incident behind her once and for all.     

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She could feel him relax.

He too had been as anxious as she over this really quite unspeakable problem. But everything was out in the open now.  The look in his eyes, and then he brushed her forehead.  "Oh Charles, you are a tonic." her eyes slipped closed as she savoured the sensation long after it had stopped, and squeezed a single last tear from her eyes. This one was a tear of happiness.

"I shall commit your words to paper, they are a greater comfort than any vow, and shall keep me strong if times ever feel hard again. Bolstered, I am prepared for my vigil, for time if not calamity shall surely bring with it our reward."  While she was overcome with a great longing to kiss him,  the magnificent man managed to control his own ardour, directing much meaning into the gentlemanly squeeze of her hands.

"Ooo, Lord Mountjoy!" she was near to a swoon, bosom heaved and, being the weaker vessel she was unable to stay the gate, but brought his hands to her lips to kiss gratefully. 

Her head was reeling with all that had been said, while much of it unsaid also. Yes they really were the perfect pair.  And her friend Duchess Albemarle would surely support that he be rid of a German in favour of a proper English wife. And her brother James, would be so proud also, and would at last be able to stop worrying about his little sister. But best of all was that her previous suitor would be kicking himself for not having the foresight of her future suitor.   

"I dare imagine your schedule is terribly busy, how happy you have made me to hav found the time to see me, a humble admirer of your council. Would it be awful for me to now hope I might gain your council and comfort upon more occasions in the future. In the very least...  dare I say that I now eagerly anticipate the occasion of my future wedding day, and your place within it. For a certainty you shall feature strongly, and with vigour! But yes, you must now leave before I become over excited."

With flushed face she arose and bade, "Until anon!"  heady of matrimonial desire at that moment, Darlene was near to imagining all manner of things with Charles. 

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Darlene’s bosom heaved again. He did not categorically object to the visual display but he did begin to wonder if she was coming down with a cold and was having trouble breathing. A kind inquiry as to her health was stymied as she took his hands and brought them to her face. ‘Is she going to bite me?’ He thought briefly but no she kissed his hands. ‘Why would she do something like that? She must be light headed from all the bosom heaving.’  Was the only rational explanation he could come up with.

He could but smile and dip his head in humility at her kind comments. She was even so thoughtful as to invite him (and he was sure she meant the Margravina to be included as well) to her wedding which pleased him greatly for she was assuredly in need of one.

“I can think of nothing I would better wish than for you to have a fine man at your side and there is nothing that would keep me from that day. I shall do nothing but anticipate the day.”  

And he meant it too for a cheerful wedding would be just the thing to cheer up the Margravina. He rose and bowed. “If you have need of me, you have but to call, for I shall ever be your most faithful and obedient servant.”

As he took his leave, he reflected that the meeting went pretty well and he was glad that Darlene felt better and had been able to solve her man problem. As he closed Darlene’s door and turned to make his way to his own apartments he glimpsed, in a corner, what he thought could be, a mouse.



{Fin... or is it?}  

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