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Treating Oneself, approaching evening, 16th


Cadell Mortimer
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MARE'S NEST ANTIQUES AND CURIOSITIES

The Mare's Nest is full of possibilities. Dimly lit, crowded - is that half-seen item an antique valuable beyond measure or what is politely termed 'a collectable'?

Shelves and tables overflow with items - fine furniture stands cheek by jowl with dubious marriages of timber oddments which nevertheless may really be the clothes press of Old King Ned - King Hal's grandsire that was.

Mr Otway, the gentle greybeard proprietor, filled his speech with 'in the style of', 'reputed to be' and, daringly,'from the school of'. Buy it because you enjoy it, not for it's value, would be his advice - were he asked for it.

Gems among the current stock include:

A mirror, small and exquisite, the soft old glass reflecting with a gentle lustre. Set in a frame of Persian make, red lacquer and tiny pieces of mirror-glass scattered across it like shining foam on a blood-red sea.

A small portrait, Holbein-style, of a young blonde girl, 17, perhaps, her blue eyes wistful as she holds a white rose in one hand and, unusually for the time, holds a ribbon tied around the neck of a lamb in the other. Her gown is a rich blue brocade, so life-like you can hear it rustle. Sadly, the lady's name is lost to us.

An exquisite little table - it's modern, make not mistake - but truly a thing of beauty. Boulle inlay on rosewood.

Small enamelled brooch - King Richard's cap badge, lost and found in Bosworth field. Or so it is said.

An emerald and gold cross allegedly found after the wreck of a Spanish ship in the New World some 70 years ago. It's provenance may be dodgy but it's value is clear. 9 Fine large emeralds set in high grade gold, with a golden chain. A Papist ornament? Perhaps - but it can always be refashioned.

 

When Athenry had won the hand of his wife in His Majesty’s little contest, Baptist May had agreed that lands in Ireland would be suitable for Her Grace’s not-inconsiderable upkeep. Thus far, he had been hands off in its administration, preferring people who knew the land and situation. This had proven sustainable, and while not ludicrously wealthy, Cadell Mortimer had certainly done vastly better than mediocre set of sheepfolds along the River Teme.

But while Louise was kept up in the current French fashions and her whims provided for (as if she needed it, given the value of certain gifts she had received from their two kings), he had not yet made much in the way of expenditures for himself. Exceptions, of course, were made for imported cognac and an attempt (however middling the success there was) at adopting French fashion, several new books, and gifts for Lord and Lady Beverley to make up for missing their wedding. But on the whole, the viscount had not indulged himself much – some latent Catholic impulse, as well as being unaccustomed to the lifestyle of a social climber, had kept him relatively modest.

Nonetheless, Viscount Athenry also possessed the equally-Catholic sin of envy, and did desire more for himself. Furthermore, he was feeling relatively content and at peace, with plans for the future afoot. So naturally, he gravitated to the curiosities shop, whereas the tailor or jeweler would be eminently more practical (the bookstore, of course, being unnecessary for a man who presently had a stack of books he had not managed to read.

At the present moment, he was engrossed by the Spanish cross. “A bit ostentatious for the symbol of our Lord and Savior,” he murmured to nobody in particular. “But so it goes with the Spanish.” Their devotion to the Holy Mother Church was both admirable and extreme, with the Inquisition and such having done much harm.”

“Charming, nonetheless…” What was its price? Why was this store so crowded?

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  • 4 weeks later...

"Good grief you are a hard man to track down." A familiar voice rung out though the shop, and hand pressed down on Cadell’s shoulder.

It was the dapper form of Earl Chichester, who'd been on Cadell’s trail for the greatest part of half a day, always missing his friend by a quarter of an hour or even just a few minutes (though then suffering through small talk to try discover where his friend had then headed off to.

"It is good to see you again." he effusively drew the man into a hug, which was not the normal way between them, but the Earl was just a tad wild eyed and sort of anxious at the moment. "Damn good in fact, want to get a drink?" 

It was then that he noticed what had enraptured Cadell, a very non Anglican Cross, his eyes swung back to aforementioned gentleman, paling and feeling a little lightheaded.     

 

 

 

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“Curious, that,” the viscount observed, initially flinching somewhat at the hand on his shoulder before placing the familiar voice. His friend could not see it, but across Lord Athenry’s face was a pleased smile – Chichester and Lady Kendishall may have sent out wedding invitations, but had otherwise been equally elusive. “Given the advantage of speed nearly all possess over me, I’m left to conclude that I possess a talent for evasion that I never knew of, but might be positioned to utilize later on.”

What transpired next likewise came as a shock to Cadell – never a very physical communicator – who turned slowly, grip tightening on the ivory raven’s head of his cane…only to find himself drawn into a hug. “…likewise, my lord!” He managed once the surprise quieted down somewhat, free hand awkwardly patting George’s back. What in the...?

Positively baffling, my friend!

Slowly, smooth and polite, he extracted himself, grey eyes scrutinizing the earl’s own. There seemed to be a nebulous something about the other man, an undercurrent of tension that cut into his words. “Gaudy, isn’t it?” He asked by way of distraction, noting where George’s gaze fell, chuckling, “I cannot claim the gift of prophecy, but something tells me that His only son would be more…bespoke.”

Shrugging it off – a crucifix was a crucifix, not a confession of a nefarious Papist scheme to revert England to the Holy Mother Church – Athenry’s visage took on a more relaxed, friendly element. “As for a drink…saints alive, man, yes.” Chichester appeared to need it, while he…he was growing accustomed to a taste of cognac by this time of day.

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George gave a pitched laugh at Cadells quip, “then perhaps I should take lessons from you.”

While the surprised tone in the others voice should have effected George’s manner, the self absorption of Georges anxiety failed to notice.  “There comes a time in every mans life when the company of a male friend is frankly essential.  There are but 4 days till I am married, and I feel too sober of it.”

The sight of the cross was very Catholic, especially to a (currently) highly strung ex Catholic; A Relic of the Conquistadors, sent to torment me.  

While Cadells words revealed a far more harmless interest - it was after all the approach of the Royal Christening also, the shop was open late and busy with persons trying to find the perfect present.  

“A drink or two shall beget inspiration,” George agreed, “Besides there is something I need to ask you. Lud, I don’t know how I forgot to, any earlier.” Turning George called to the crowd, “Make room, make room, Invalid coming through!”

He’d apologise later, for using his young friends impediment as a means to exit the shop with greatest swiftness. Meanwhile – it worked, and clientele parted like the red sea before Moses.

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“Ah,” Cadell uttered upon mention of George’s particular troubles. The wedding. That would be it.

It was, curiously, a crisis that he was not particularly familiar with. There had been no true courtship of Louise, only his rapid entrance into her orbit as a friend and champion, and then the two had made their play at the May Ball. Equally so, the knowledge that the marriage was not to be true – at least at the time – had been enough to keep away most of the jitters.

He’d gained his titles, his wealth, and eventually his connections to his friends in service to the Sun King. That had been enough.

Had been.

But George was in need now, and the Viscount Athenry was not so callous (indeed, much the opposite) as to discount a friend who had shown him nothing but kindness. “Of course, my lord,” went the sotto voce reply. “It is almost mandated that a drink steady a man’s mind in these times.”

George’s method for clearing the way to the exit was…unorthodox, but kept from being galling if only for the fact that he’d grown up hearing much worse from his father and brother. May God judge them fairly. It was not a kind wish, although such disloyalty to family might have had to have been squared with the Lord later. Regardless, once the gathering about them started to part, Cadell understood the ploy – and more to the point, felt obliged to humor Chichester here.

Making something of a show of using his cane (not that it wasn’t already a requirement), the viscount put on a suitable grimace and followed his friend out, finally answering the charges when George escaped with a lilting little laugh, “Invalid, hm? Just for that remark, the first round is on you, my lord.”

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"On that I discover myself upon full agreement." He was awfully pleased to be around a fellow, as th nerves he discovered made him horribly aware of spending an unregulated time around women in the recess.  Of a sudden he missed male jocularity, even if he was not much of a roughhouser himself.  But then neither was Cadell, Esteban or and Beverly (men he considered his closer friends). 

Exiting the curiosity shop, the tall Earl's eyes darted up and down the street to locate the nearest public house. Located he gestured with raise of eyebrow if it suited his friend as well? "Yes I am sorry about that, but, I’ve a unexpected anxiety within that I have so little time remaining." 

"First drink? I shall buy us a bottle! In recompense perhaps I shall invalidise myself so you might return the service of shouting out for me as I stagger later."

  

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“Think nothing of it, my friend,” Athenry assured Chichester, offering a genuine smile. “The late Sir Hugh Mortimer was rather…vocal in his revulsion at the notion of his youngest son being an invalid for the rest of his life, and ‘twas not out of paternal love. I’ve heard worse, Chichester, and with far less good intentions behind it.

The aforementioned smile remained on his face throughout that explanation, as two decades had came and went since a young Cadell had been thrown from the horse and suffered through a fever, broken bones, and a leg that had never been set right. His father’s vitriol had stopped mattering to him after the first; the loss of Cadell’s other brother* - thus making Hugh’s least favorite child the unlikely heir – had vindicated he who had kept his nose in his books and his faith in God. Even faced with estrangement from his mother, the future Lord Athenry refused to mourn.

Whether or not any of that hatred had been internalized was irrelevant. On the outside, it did not bother him, nor did any remarks of “cripple” or “invalid”.

Faced with George’s choice in public house, Cadell gave an affirmative little nod, and led the way inside, selecting a small table by a hearth. “We will work the matter of payment out later, my lord,” he uttered with a wink as he gingerly eased himself down into the chair. “But allow me to make the selection, while you begin to tell me what troubles you so.”

If Chichester acquiesced, he would flag down a waitress, and ask for a bottle of Burgundy red, which was presently the de rigeuer drink at Versailles, but was willing to settle for a good claret if the tavern wasn’t up to his French-influenced standards.

*whose name I cannot remember and there’s no documentation on

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"Fathers can be utter pricks." George frankly said, having found that to the be the case also. Not that he trumped Cadell on that, but rather to empathised.  

"Yes this shall do." the tavern was not your showy sort, but serviceable for men requiring liquor.  George slouched out of his outer coat and threw it over chairs back before settling down upon it.  With reckless disregard for happenchance creases it might cause. 

"I alleged the forthcoming wedding is not even troubling. My intended is a good and sensible sort, and has given me her word more than once that she plans to make a good go of it. More than that, she shall provide an heir. Which to be honest is far more than I have come to believe possible." George's head swam of it, though he was reluctant still to get to the very point of what had him all jitters.

With well practised ease Cadell had the drinks ordered, "There now that is what I’m talking about, proficiency at any quarter.   If I needed to choose someone to stand by me I would be you. In fact, that is what I want to ask you, why I have hunted you down so to speak .   Cadell, will you, be my groomsman?" 

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“That is indeed the correct choice of words,” Athenry agreed on the matter of fathers. Despite the king’s declaration to the contrary, it seemed unlikely that Cadell would become a father to a legitimate child, but a small part of him held to the hope that he could fulfill his duty as a gentleman and a peer. This part also clung to the belief that he would be a much greater, kinder, involved father than Sir Hugh – but it was silenced, in turn, by the much larger part he knew his future was in expensive cognac and fabrics imported from France.

But again, this was a digression. Chichester claimed his spot across the viscount with an unusual disregard for tidiness, more proof of the mood that had taken him. He nodded as the earl went into detail about his bride-to-be, whom he had only met once. “You have chosen well,” Athenry finally declared, letting his friend speak. “That you have apparently covered this topic amongst yourselves speaks to a sense of responsibility and openness between you.” Which provokes an envy I can feel in my stomach.

For that thought, he turned away from the tavern crowd, and made a very quick sign of the cross when it became clear that nobody was looking. The Burgundy was brought shortly thereafter, and the viscount gestured for the waitress to stop as she began to pour. Instead, he took the bottle and surpassed the universally-traditional pour amount by half again, smirking at Chichester and explaining, “The occasion calls for drastic measures.” Which certainly became true, moments later.

“My lord- my friend,” he began, feeling less like Athenry and more like Cadell. Crimson colored his cheeks and the back of his neck, having never been invited to do such a thing. Nonetheless, he was grinning ear-to-ear as he proclaimed, “You flatter me too much, Chichester – too much!”

“But…yes, of course, man. You know damn well that I will - 'tis the second greatest honor I have received! Now…” He grabbed his wine glass, gesturing for the earl to do likewise. “I think first we toast, secondly we discuss the rest, no?” His grey eyes watched George expectantly, for once alight with joy.

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They had not spoken about Cadell’s family to any degree before. George paused then for a moment to reflect upon what had been said.  “Was it the injury or his response to it that was worse. “ he sighed, “The impressions of a Father remain imprinted upon ones psyche long after their life is passed.  While an injury can heal and it’s effect then be managed, put upon a low priority. The injuries to the heart, those are another matter, and oft claim prominence in the mind daily, though they are the most unwanted of thoughts.”

Settling in with a drink to hand, he spoke of his bride to be, and was surprised at Cadell’s revelation, while it took an ex catholic to spot the half concealed and quickly made gesture.

“Is your Lady Wife is not disposed towards speaking of the future?  Have you attempted the topic with her, perhaps she would be pleased of it.”  A pause. “Did you just bless yourself?”

Which was neither by nor leave to George, the important thing was that his friend responded favourably. Very favourably!

Taking up his glass at Cadells prompt, he raised it into the salute, “To Friendship through thick and thin!” George clicked his glass, “and to Harmonious marriages, also women who are biddable and obliging.” 

Had George really found these things in Caroline, for seemingly he’d finally lucked it out!

“Second greatest only? Ha, I shall happily concede lesser prominence than your own fine match.”

Edited by George Hardwick III
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