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Meeting Henneage at the Hens Toes,19th Monday, Noon


Charles Blount
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Mountjoy was smartly if not extravagantly attired in one of his ‘German’ outfits. Approaching the proprietor, he informed Mr. Clark that he wished a quiet table where he could converse without being overheard or disturbed and ordered lunch for two specifically requesting a large dish of jellied lampreys and steak and kidney pie if the house could oblige and for the good man to decant a bottle of their best Bordeaux. sliding over a few guineas to ensure good service.

Charles had made a date with Heneage for lunch. Usually, he would be looking forward to such an event as he enjoyed Heneage’s company but for this particular occasion he was not so enthusiastic for the purpose was not to reminisce about old times or argue good naturedly about minute aspects of the law but to discuss women issues and past relationships that might not be a welcome subject for his good-natured friend. From his father he had learned that Heneage had been taken advantage of by a dubious woman and was likely embarrassed by the occurrence. Knowing Hen he could readily believe such a tale for although his friend had a sharp legal mind he was very naive and trusting when women were concerned. Charles passed no judgments upon his friend and considering his own womanly issues could readily sympathize.

Now it was just a matter of waiting for Heneage to arrive, enjoy a decent meal and broach the subject without embarrassing or offending his oldest friend. He gestured to the bar boy for a pipe and tobacco. He normally did not smoke but the Physicians had been extolling the health benefits of the imported weed and purported that its inhalation was both calming and invigorating. One authority even contended that tobacco smoke blown up the anus was a sure cure for drowning. He surmised that the authority had probably been educated at Cambridge but who was he to deny science.

Thus anyone entering the Hen’s Toes could spy a dark figure in the corner wreathed in smoke like some Ranger from Bree.      

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Hen moved into the Inn and paused, allowing that moment for his eyes to adjust to the poor light before he looked about - though he was quickly enough approached by one of the helpful staff.  A pretty enough woman with dirty blonde hair approached, who earned a concerned frown from Hen at the question she quietly asked.  "I am here to have lunch with Lord Mountjoy." he replied louder than necessary. 

Mr Clark stepped in and swiftly took him to Charles at his table. 

"Good grief I did not recognise you, you are really taking the Teuton vibe too far." Hen chuckled with a measure of relief as he then settled to a chair. 

Drinks had arrived, but food not yet. 

"Don’t tell me we are drinking bear fang? It's all the rage at Windsor these past days." 

 

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He looked up as he was addressed and a genuine smile crossed his lips. He did not rise in greeting but the friendly eagerness of his words counterbalanced any lack of formality. “Sit down, sit down.” He said indicating the chair opposite. “This is just like old times when we used to lunch between lectures at that abominable Inn off Church Street. I trust you are still fond of a good jellied lamprey for I have ordered a platter and a steak and kidney pie. Alias, no bear fang. I have a Bordeaux decanted but perhaps we should start off with two mugs of their cheapest ale and it will be like we have flown back in time to Oxford.” It was true that if it were the old days at Oxford he would not have been able to afford a bottle of Bordeaux but the times were simpler then and he was beginning to long for simpler times.

He harumphed at Hen’s jab at his attire as he elaborately brushed imaginary dust from his lapels. “I see nothing wrong with favoring the customs of the homeland of our gracious Queen.” Before looking more critically at his coat and adding. “The Teutons do make a precisely tailored coat… even if it is a bit lacking in style.” Charles took his attire rather seriously and would normally bristle at any perceived slight from any man but Heneage was not any man thus he took the teasing with good natured acceptance before adding his own barb. “It is suitable for when I am at the bar dealing with mere solicitors and the like.” He smiled.

“But I do forgive you for having trouble recognizing me for, besides for our recent dinner where you were so kind as to let me bend your ear about my troubles, we have hardly seen each other for almost a year. And that is a great pity for I always enjoy our time together.”

He saw to it that Heneage had whichever kind of beverage he desired and then motioned to Mr Clark that he may serve whenever he was ready.

“So Old Boy, what were you up to while I was off in the Empire drifting through the seemingly inexhaustible number of minor German Courts? Am I correct in that you were also off on the continent?

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“Oh yes I shall slay the steak and kidney pie,” one of Hens faves, “though I’ve gone off the jellied lamprey ever since I left an opened pot of it in my room before I left for a diplomatic tour.  The stench when I returned was… well despite the maids best efforts at cleaning, a lingering odour remained.  You shall probably recall how I opted to stay with my Father last season? Well, now you know why.”

And quickly enough they were supplied with a pint of the Inns cheapest ale.  “To high winds and mermaids.” He lifted his cup in an old familiar toast, and then laughed at the poke Charles made at his profession. (It was funnier because it was also his own.)

“Then I suddenly feel like I must take you more seriously.” Hen failed to rein in his smile, it being very good to be back in the company of his boyhood friend.  And Charles seemed to have missed him too, for even so much as said so. 

“And I cannot even say it’s been a very busy year.” Heneage replied with a shrug, “I suppose we must both have been a bit distracted.  I”ve been busy on a research project, but that is a poor excuse for not frequenting your door more often…” which opened opportunity for Charles to invent his own feeble excuse.

Charles then asked about his activities, with mention again of the European tour. “Ah yes or as I call it, the Lamprey period.” He smiled, “Then since, Father engaged me to trawl though some few bales of paperwork for supporting documentation for a proposal he’s been working on.  It’s more of a help distraction from his quarters really, though to be honest I’d have preferred the distraction of a trip to the Colonies.  Have you ever been there Charles?”

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“Then there will be all the more for me.” Charles stated as Heneage explained that he had gone off jellied lampreys before ordering a dish of potatoes roasted in bacon and buttered peas. He knew Heneage had a healthy appetite and, as a good host, he wanted to make sure Hen did not lack in options. “May the best of the past be the worst of the future.” He responded to Heneage’s toast as he clicked his mug and took a deep swig of his beer. “My heavens.” Commented he as he contemplated his drink. “I do not drink as much beer as I used to and forgot how refreshing it could be. It is not as complex as fine wine but there is something to be said for old fashioned simplicity.”     

Heneage explained his reasons for not keeping in touch and noted that few details were forthcoming. Given what Basildon and Hen’s father had told him a certain reluctance to bring up what could be embarrassing details was understandable. “I suppose it is very easy to let our current tasks and difficulties get in the way of such little pleasures as speaking with an old friend. I am as guilty of that as you.” He looked over to his friend. “It does not matter if it is a few months or even a year since we have last seen each other such is the depth of our friendship that it is very easy to pick up right where we left off no matter the intervention of time. There is no one else of my acquaintance that I could say that about. No matter the time or distance you shall always be as close to me as ever.” He had always felt he could tell Hen anything and would be understood and not judged. He also believed that in his own way Heneage believed the same thing about him. The trick was to start the conversation.

It was so refreshing to converse without a care that he procrastinated in bringing up the serious subject that was the reason for this luncheon invitation and indulged himself first in some pleasant banter. “The Colonies!” he exclaimed in mock alarm as Heneage divulged his preference. “Why under the heavens would you wish to go there for? True those wild lands are reputed to offer abundant hunting of wildlife of every description which, I suppose, is some inducement but it is an awful long and rough journey to undertake just for experiencing the fabled Moose and copious beavers the size of…” He held his hands far apart to demonstrate. “… well… very large beavers.” He shook his head. “You surprise me, you really do. The Americas may hold some alure but I can not see them ever amounting to much.”

Charles bantered in this vein until Heneage finally declined another portion of steak pie and Charles knew it was time to address topics that were not so pleasant as the eccentricities of the colonies. He cleared his throat and reached for the decanter of wine and poured two glasses for the following topics were not suitable to be discussed over beer. He thought to first to unload some of his baggage before attempting to induce Heneage to unpack some of his own.

“You know last time we spoke I unburdened myself to you about some difficulties I was having with the Margravina, Ursula to be precise. I am happy to say that we have reconciled those issues and are as close as we ever were.” He took a sip of his wine and plunged forward. “But life has a way of trying us. As we were setting off to Dorset for the summer Ursula announced that she was with child.” Even in spite of the present circumstances he was able to summon up a smile in remembrance of his joy.  “I cannot tell you how happy that made me feel. However…” He paused, took a breath and another sip of his wine. “…we had a slight mishap with the carriage on our return to Windsor and she was jostled about causing her to miscarry. She was not so very far

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“And pairs so well with a pickled egg.” Hen commented as Charles rediscovered the joy of a humble beer, “or salted nuts, or cured meat. Really, a beer is a fine pairing with most about any meal.”

Conversation begun to flow, and Charles mused that their friendships was such that it was easy to pick up where they have left off.  “Like family.” With a nod Heneage agreed, and being in a good mood he went on to claim “which can work just as well the other way around. I’ve an aunt, who I do not enjoy. No matter how long the time between seeing her to get my cheek pinched between thumb and forefinger, it seems like just yesterday.”

Of the colonies Charles was a skeptic.  “I know what you mean, they attract mostly misfits and reckless thrill seekers, and I don’t aspire towards either of those roles.  No but it is of interest to me for the foundations being laid… don’t you remember how we marvelled together about what it might have been like to have been around in 1066. A land mark year for English law… now perhaps the Colonies are soon to reach a pivotal time in their yet to be written history, I would be interested to be a part of that.”

He talked at length of the solicitor related visions for the Americas he held, so it took him some while to finish his pie (though he’d had 3 beers in the meantime to whet his whistle).  Hen relaxed, and seemed to fill more of his chair as he did so, he spoke freely - knowing that he’d not be judged by Charles.

Eventually Charles breeched a topic, and Hen felt suddenly a fool for not anticipating that there was some need of the other.   “Good grief Charles, I am sorry, how devastating.”

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He nodded in agreement with Heneage’s’ assertion that the opposite was also true in that a relationship could be perennially pernicious as well as pleasant. His relationship with the family of his paternal mother was such an example. Hen also made a fair point about the benefits of being able to contribute in a foundational way to an emerging society for they both believed that it was a society’s laws that governed the path of its culture.

Heneage reacted to the news as he knew Heneage would react. There was no doubting his sincerity and Charles was grateful for it. His look of thanks to Heneage conveying more than words. “It is devastating, I do admit, but devastating or not it is the air I must breathe. I will be able to take a little solace in searching for some legal means of addressing this inheritance issue but I worry about poor Ursula will bear it.” He shrugged.

“There is little to be done except wallow in pity and I do not choose to do that but even so it is a small relief to be able to unburden myself to you in this way. “It is possible that little Hope will become quite the heiress when she come of age. If you can settle down and find a good woman perhaps there will be a little Heneage to betroth her to?”

Here was an opening to move away from his problems, which really could not be settled by discussion no matter how frank and supportive it may be, onto Heneage’s own difficulties which had the possibility of being solved. Heneage had not had particularly good luck in his romantic interests as he was far too trusting and easily taken advantage of despite his shrewd intellect in other areas. “I am sorry that I have been away and since I have been back I have been striving with my own issues but I can see that you yourself have your own burdens to carry. You have not been your old self and seem overburdened with your own cares.” He became a bit stern as he said his next piece before softening again. “And do not tell me ‘it is nothing’  I know you too well to believe that. Are you wetting your bed again?”

There was one occasion at university, vaguely remembered, when the two had returned to their residence hall after an evening of indulging in more beer that was good for them and collapsed together in a bed (not their own). That morning they blearily eyed, experienced how the term “pissed drunk’ was coined.

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“Women take things differently.” Heneage nodded. He had tried to be peacemaker between Daniel and his wife enough times that he had learnt that the female viewpoint was a less reasonable thing. Or at least, less easy to reason with. 

“If memory serves, Scottish law accommodates such things more easily.” Hen frowned as she tried to recall matters of inheritance when it came to sole surviving females.   He, like Charles, was content to focus upon practical matters in regards this. 

He then laughed as Charles suggested another possibility.  

“Though you might be on to something Charles, it may well be simpler to bequeath to a son in law than a daughter.  Alas, I am sorry that I cant help you out there – though I have nephews if you don’t mind linking arms with Daniel.”

“Shudup.” He pushed Charles arm at the bedwetting rub. 

“But am fine, really.  You must recall for yourself that a man can exist, quite happily in fact, without mooning about after a women.  Let is simply be said I made the odd poor choice in that regard, and I am reluctant to head ‘once more into the breech’ after that.   I am keeping myself occupied, and perhaps some day the right lady will come along. But I’m not holding my breath over it, and nor should you.”

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  • 2 weeks later...

“The Barony may pass to the female line as would my estates but then the heirs would no longer be Blounts. That my legacy would be that I was the last of my line would be a bitter thing to swallow. Barring a male issue, lawfully begotten, my only hope is to dig back into my family history and discover some overlooked eligible male heir. The law is quite settled on that.” He shook his head. It was true that the law could be finessed around the edges but there were some precedents that were settled and not open for debate. One could lament one’s position but more was to be gained by being practical and accepting things that cannot be changed.

“OOF! How dare you say such a thing!” came the reply when Heneage mentioned the possibility of linking arms with Daniel. As an adult Charles had an amicable enough relationship with Heneage’s elder brother but it was not so when they were younger and a certain engrained animus still lingered. “I do not things are quite so desperate as that.”

He listened as Heneage expressed a rather nonchalant attitude about his own relationship issues noting that he did not go into any details. He paused and filled up Heneage’s glass before he said softly and with concern “But honestly, are you fine? You have been rather contrite and not your normal self.” To soften the probing question and make it easier for Hen to respond he lighten the moment with humor. “I know that most people find your normal demeanor wanting but I for one have always found it appealing.” He got serious again. I understand that a bad liaison with a woman can make one gun shy but if one is fortunate enough to find the right woman the benefits and happiness outweigh all the sorrow and frustration that is incurred upon the way.” He looked earnestly at his friend. “Believe me, even with the difficulties before me, I would not wish it to be otherwise. I have been fortunate and happy and I would wish you the same.”

He recalled Heneage’s past luck with women. In his opinion he believed his friend was a good catch for a woman but was often the victim of unscrupulous women that took advantage of his good and trusting nature. “You do not have to tell me of your encounter if you do not wish to do so but if you do feel the need, you must know that I will be a sympathetic listener. And prey, do not let this latest setback prevent you from finding someone as deserving as you.”

A plan was beginning to form in Charles’ mind. Often there were knowledgeable matrons who made it their business to know all about the eligible bachelors and advise young girls or less connected mothers of the available prospects. He recalled meeting Lady Habersham who seemed to be just that sort of matron. He thought that perhaps she might be willing to turn her knowledge around and help a gentleman find a suitable Lady. The problem was that Heneage would never do such a thing himself but Charles were to act as his agent so to speak, he might be able to steer his friend into the path of a potential bride for it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a good character, must be in want of a husband.

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Hen inhaled slowly then exhaled, it were a slow sigh for his oldest friends problem.  Alas the intake of air, unfortunately, did not beget his mind a solution. "Well if there is anything I can do." he could only reply with sincerity.

At least he'd made Charles laugh and declare that they were not so bad a state as to need help from his brother Daniel.  Though Daniel was not so bad as all that, Hen was a forgiving man, the standing joke would continue through their lifetimes. 

"Yes yes, I am fine. And really, a recounting of my foolishness would only make me feel despairing of myself again.  I would prefer it left in the unrecounted annals of my unfortunate with women history."  Charles was kind to say that Hen was different after that, for in Hens vision nothing had really changed. He'd never been a ladies man, and so nothing was really different.  

"By the by, so may I assume you shall be too busy to join me on a trip to the Colonies in the recess?  I am keen to travel to New York then on to Maine, to see for myself the effect of the new Treaty of Casco.   I hope to also be there for the ground breaking of the new Fort Charles." 

 

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 When speaking with Heneage senior, and with Louis for that matter, Charles got the impression that Heneage the younger was in a bad way and this latest womanly debacle exceeded his other unfortunate liaisons with the fairer sex so much so that they had recommended intercession. Either they had over reacted or Hen was being overly stoic. At this point he was not sure which was the case. What he was sure of is that when he had broached the subject and offered his assistance not only was hen reluctant to discuss the details, he actively entreated Charles to let the matter be and not force him to recount what was obviously an embarrassing interlude. Charles was willing to help in any way possible and he was sure that their relationship was close enough to withstand embarrassment but when asked specifically to leave the past in the past there was little for him to do but follow his friends wishes.

To split hairs, and they were both lawyers who made a habit of doing just that, Heneage did not say he was soured on finding an appropriate woman so Charles’ notion of facilitating the meeting of appropriate women did not run counter to Heneage’s wishes.  

“I would not want you to despair of yourself. You are a kind and forgiving soul, and despite those glaring handicaps, a good Barrister with a legal genius approaching that of my own.” He chuckled. He would make such statements to Heneage’s face but behind his back he would brook not the slightest hint of rebuke towards his friend. “If only women acted in accordance to proper juris prudence things would be so much easier. Mayhap you will approach your next dalliance with the foresight and circumspection of one negotiating a contract or one inspecting a horse for purchase.” He shrugged. “I say that in the sprit that it is easier to give advice than to follow it.” Mountjoy certainly did not follow that advice when engaging his own marriage.

Charles mused upon the feasibility of identifying a suitable prospect for Heneage and flinging her into his path when Heneage upended such musings by reiterating his designs to depart to the colonies. What manner of women would be thrust into his path in such a land. For all Charles knew the women of America ran bare breasted through the forest waiving tomahawks. Hardly a suitable talent for an English drawing room.

“I have no doubt that the lately renamed New Amsterdam could use a good dose of English common law and the prospect of being a modern day Decemvirs is intriguing but having lately returned from the continent now is not the time to absent myself again so soon. The Margravina did not relish my time away and with her recent trials and tribulations I do not wish to stray far from her side. So, you are correct that I will be much to occupied with our own English laws to spare time away creating new ones in distant lands however alluring the prospect. So I shall share my recess near the comfort of my fire with my dogs and my wife… ahem… I mean to say with my wife and dogs (he didn’t want to make that mistake again) wile you huddle in your wigwam deep in the wild forests of New York. I do prey that, if in your sojourn to Maine, you come across any fantastical or exotic beasts you do shoot them for me.”

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Those conversations had been, however, in the previous season some months ago, when Heneage Junior had been at a truly low point.  There had been a crisis at that time.  Time however adjusts, so that now the young-ish man was simply resolved to abandon all hope in that regard.  It was a sensible decision from the mostly sensible man.

Still Charles was compelled to provide him with more advice.  Hen smiled and replied, "This being from a horse buyer who did none so much himself.” Which was a friendly jab at the other.

“Yes Yorks ties with Holland have really been taken an advantage of.” He replied to the comment of Dutch influence in those parts. I dare say it is difficult to disagree with ones step family, "to be honest I’ve seen very little English benefit from Yorks daughters marriage to Orange.”

“Wigwam? Hah!” he laughed at this next ribbing.  “But yes you shall no doubt enjoy some much needed winter monotony instead. While I, a young and free adventurer, do not have a millstone, ah, I mean wife, to tie me to one spot.”

Saying it like that Hen almost sounded like his brother, who’s influence upon hen Charles had never agreed with.

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Charles was willing to do whatever it took to help his friend. Of course, it would be better if Heneage was not in a situation where help was needed. He appeared to have gone through a sticky and embarrassing situation but to all appearances, and Charles hoped that it was more than just appearances, to have survived the encounter with only bruises to his ego. He was relieved that it was so for he did care about Heneage but he would perhaps pay a bit closer attention to Heneage’s romantic affairs than he had previously.

“That is a fair retort.” He said to Hen admitting that his own engagement was hardly a thought out and reasonable affair. “I can only point out in my defense that it was his Majesty that instigated the hastiness of the engagement and I, as a faithful and devoted servant of the crown, could no nothing else but to accede to His Majesty’s wishes. Mayhap you should ask the King to do the same for you?”

He shrugged at the mention of York admitting. “Now that His Grace is now second in line for the throne, I am much more inclined to view him in a more favorable light. There is I am sure residual Dutch influence in the territory but that should not be a detriment. I think the possibility of an extension of French influence southward into Maine would be more worrisome.” He knew very little of the political or military situation in the colonies other than a broad overview that he picked up from the gazettes.

Now that it seemed that his friend had accepted his fate and was not in need of assistance Charles was able to relax a bit and allow the conversation to stray from Hen and hen’s wellbeing. “You know your evocation of the conversations we used to have while at school has reminded me that I have been thinking of Oxford of late. I have done well for myself and have been thinking that it might be time for me to do something for my alma mater. Cambridge has stolen Newton for their nefarious purposes so perhaps I should endow a chair for the sciences or perhaps fund the construction of a law library for the benefit of the law students. Even something as simple as an endowment to help the King’s Scholars might be advantageous. It might be nice to get involved in something and walk those old halls again if I could find something of interest that would benefit the facility or students.” He had enjoyed his time at Oxford and the officials were unlikely to turn down a potential patron.    

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“Your interest in Hildebrandt was already well known.” Hen interjected, “Though you are correct, at that point you could hardly refuse.”

“Fortunately for the rest of us, Our Kings current success has distracted him from meddling in marriages.” For CR had also thrust others into marriage, Catriona and Adam for instance.  It had gotten to the point when people never knew who would get overnight married - to be the subject of a well meaning king’s hijinks was something most men dreaded.

“Hmm.” He ruminated upon Charles French thought for a while, “I dare say it has Cumberland notice.  But does the situation actually interest you Charles, or are you just being polite?”

“Great idea.” He replied as his friend told him of his interest in a legacy of a sort at Oxford.  “You probably heard of Kingston’s recent appointment at Cambridge.  As far as I can make out it was not because he was academically gifted, nor that he had sufficient coin, but that he knew the right people.  You probably need to get  Duke or two in your pocket to pull something truly notable off.  Which of the Dukes went to Oxford can you remember. An old boy would be a good start.”  Hen pushed aside his plate to sample a chunk of cheese. 

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Charles smiled as Heneage recounted the King’s predilection of meddling in the marriage game. “Might that not be the real reason that you are off to the America’s? Perchance you are afraid His Majesty might play Cupid and loose an arrow in your direction? I might have a word next when in his presence and I am sure we could have you wed before you could say knife.”  He chuckled. He would never do such a thing of course but the threat of it was amusing.

“Well, I can not say I have an enthusiastic interest but I do like to keep abreast of the happenings abroad just not enough to trek across a stormy ocean to a place where I doubt one could get a decent piece of stilton for love nor money. There is enough in England to hold my interest and if I get the urge for wilderness and incomprehensible savages I can always go to Scotland.”

This was light hearted banter but he did become more serious. “I can understand the appeal of helping to mold a new society from its inception. To leave your mark on a new land but I prey that you will be mindful of the dangers of founding a fort in what could be hostile territory. Be sure to take a few trusty men with you as such a trip is not the same as a journey to France or Italy.” He was sure Heneage would have a warrant from the King or at least from his father the Chancellor which would give him some authority. He was sure Heneage could take care of himself in society but the colonies were a rough and tumble place with but a thin veneer of society.

When talk turned to Oxford it was good to hear that Heneage thought well of his idea. “Yes, Kingston’s election was perplexing at first but upon closer inspection it became less so. The position was Buckinghams to take and he is not one to refuse laurels but Kingston is a special case as I am sure it was he who prevailed upon the King to put forth Kingston. Buckingham does not do anything without a reason and I think he has very good reason to elevate Lord Kingston. I can not comment upon Kingston’s academic prowess which I believe was not steller… but it is Cambridge after all so how accomplished can they expect him to be. I do believe he has the administrative talents and the disposition to do well in the position.” He chuckled at Heneage’s assumption. “I do not wish to pull something truly notable off. I shall save that till later when I am old and grey for, I have thought of returning to Oxford when I retire from public life. For now, I am thinking of something more practical than taking up the Chancellorship and battling Kingston for academic supremacy.” He chuckled. No. I have some coin which I think could do some good and some little influence I may be able to use for the University’s advantage. I think perhaps next season I shall take lunch there and query some of the Don’s. Perhaps a large equestrian stature of me for the quad would be just the thing to motivate the fellows.”        

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"You wouldn’t dare!" his stomach lurched at the thought! It almost put him off taking a bite of cheese, but fortunately Hen was made of sterner stuff.  Instead, he pushed the goatmilk delight into his mouth, and through the chewing of it mumbled, "Knife, wife, strife, you could have been a poet Charles."  

Jesting aside, Charles then gave him some good advice. "Hmm, you make a good point there." Hen washed down the cheese with a sip of beer before reaching for a pickled onion. "I wonder if Father can finagle a few troopers my way?  Half a dozen would hardly be missed here. Or perhaps we can call them reinforcements for the local corps, in which case perhaps a good 20 or so might be managed."

Distraction was what Hen wanted, not death! 

Charles waxed on with thoughts about Oxford, and Cambridge too regarding Kingston. But it was the mention of their battles (there had always been competition between Universites) that brightened Hen’s face, animating his conversation. "There should be a debate. Oh yes, I love a good debate.  You could host at an inn perhaps in town, and challenge Oxfordian’s to respond to their betters." The phrasing would of course need to be finessed, one did not want to anger the Duke of Buckingham.  "Perhaps that is the way to get Cambridge's eye back upon you?  You might be the shining star, second only to me."

 

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He laughed at the apprehension his threat of enlisting the King to find a bride caused Heneage. He would do no such thing but it was satisfying when his teasing hit the mark. “A good orator must have something of the bard in himself and the law has a poetry of its own. You would know that if you had spent more time in practice rather than theory when at school.” Heneage was a brilliant lawyer but did his best work behind the scenes rather than at the bar. They oft teased each other about their respective styles of practice.

“What other point would I make.” He added smugly as Heneage admitted the soundness of procuring some bodyguards. “I am sure the Chancellor can arrange something. If not, I have a few sturdy Irish lads that know their way around a scrap I could lend you. They are quite reliable if kept away from drink. Who knows what could happen between the locals, the French, the wild animals and the Indians. An adventure is a fine thing but do take care of yourself old boy.” Charles would not like it if anything bad were to happen to Heneage and the Americas were a distant and savage land.

Charles joined Heneage in taking a slice of cheese. He had been mulling over a building project or an academic scholarship but Heneage’s suggestion was something he had not thought of. “A debate?” He mused. “Now that is an intriguing suggestion.” Heneage was obviously enthused by the idea and Charles was becoming more so the longer he thought about it. “That is a surprisingly good idea Hen. Perhaps a series of debates on the seminal ideas of our time be it political, social, or scientific. I could patronize a likeminded union of Oxfordians that could gather and debate their Cambridgeian fellows to foster a spirit convivial competition.” He thought about the practicalities. “You are correct that things will need to be finessed but I would not anticipate any strenuous opposition other than to certain logistical matters which I am sure could be worked out. I could host a nice dinner afterwards for the participants.” He grinned at Heneage. “When did you ever see a professor or a fellow decline the chance of a free meal!”

Mulling the possibilities over he mused. “I think when you are trapsing about the wilds of New York I shall take a trip to the more convivial environs of Oxford. Dr. Fell is Vice Chancellor there I believe. He is a Christ Church man with a good reputation and by all accounts should be amenable to such a scheme. Besides it would be good to walk Tom Quad again and perhaps even see our old lodgings.

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  • 3 weeks later...

"Surprising?" Heneage objected, "I should rather think that you ought anticipate such gems from me. Any surprise that you feel is due only from your own lack of foresight my friend." 

Actually Heneage was a bit miffed at Charles saying he was more about theory than practise, but right now he felt too content at the moment to bother challenge and seek grounds for the others claim. 

They were several drinks along, and they were well into these next refills. 

"Hah." Hen pushed his forefinger at the bar mat with the public houses logo emblazoned upon, and with a lopsided grin said, "My toes." 

"Lets just have one debate for a start though Charles, best get one under your belt before you plan a whole series.  You've always been a bit over eager." 

There, that was revenge enough for Charles theory vs practise rub.

“We could host the debate here, my toes will probably do a little dance over that.” had he reminded Charles lately, of his nickname 'Silver tonged Finch', Hen really shone in that format.  

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

“Ah, Heneage old boy, you constantly surprise me. You are a font of continual wonderment that never ceases to amaze me.” He replied with a hint of good-natured smugness as the comment could be taken as both a compliment or jab. It was his steadfast opinion that his was the superior legal mind but they had thankfully never found themselves opposed to one another and to be frank with himself he would not relish the prospect for, although playful rivalry aside, like his father, the younger Heneage could be considered one of the finest legal minds of his generation.

But he had known Heneage much too long to ever admit such a thing in his presence. He was want to be temperate in his midday meal thus the rich meal of meat pie and eels combined with the abundance of drink had pleasantly satiated him into a suitable contented mood so he was not interested in nit picking with Hen however fun that could be.

He laughed at his friends joke about the similarities between his name and the establishment. “I’ve heard of Pubs named Fox and Hounds, White heart, the Stag or The Bull … they must have had some strange hunting round here to name this the Hens Toes.” He opined his mind naturally tending to equate things to hunting. “Do hens even have toes?” he asked rhetorically as he was not in a state to give it much thought.

“Bah!” he said when Heneage urged a modest beginning with only one debate. “You are always such a duddy-fuddy. You should be more of a finch and let yourself fly instead of a hen with its toes on the ground.” He chuckled at his whit. Perhaps it was the unaccustomed beer speaking but he thought the former was uncommonly droll. Reaching for the decanter to pour himself another drink he harumphed and admitted. “Perhaps you are right… you usually are when you are not in one of your moods.”

“If you will not be in America overly long you could participate for I recall you were always fond of rhetoric and debates at school.” He thought back. “Wasn’t there some sort of big debate with the other school  (no self-respecting Oxfordian would name their rival if he could help it) when we were up? I think I was home at the time but you were slated to participate but got sick if I remember correctly.”    

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"Excellent point." Hen laughed as Charles questioned whether chickens had toes, "I think not. Shall we find the Innkeeper and take it up?  You have whetted my juices with all this talk of debates, and I am coming into the mood for some slippery talk."
Hen pushed his mug closer for a refill while Charles was at it.
"You mean fuddy-duddy, that is the correct way to say it, although is it not strange that the words are arranged counter-alphabetically? It must have been coined by a student of 'that other school' struggling with a basic grasp of the alphabet."


Then Charles spoke of weeks away when he was planning to be in the Colonies.  But there had been no need to bring up the poison ivy incident.   "Shut up."


"There's no need to delay.  I have availability starting tomorrow, or next week if that's better."
   

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  • 3 weeks later...

As they bantered back and forth the idea of a debate solidified and Heneage seemed to warm to the idea willing to be an active participant rather than simply be the progenerator of the idea. “Well, regardless of the precedence of fuddy over duddy… the fact that you chose to refute the presentation rather than the allegation I shall leave uncommented upon.” He said with a smile as he reached over and filled Hen’s proffered cup.

Indeed, Hen seemed to be so keen that he offered immediate involvement. “do you propose we have the debate in a week? Do you think we could organize such an event within such a short time? That would hardly allow enough travel time for the participants. Kingston is Chancellor of Cambridge and is at hand so he would be able to facilitate his sides involvement but neither of us speak in any official capacity for Oxford so we would have to approach the college faculty for approval and when have you ever known them to do anything swiftly?

He thought about the situation. “I am keen to for the students to debate but perhaps for this occasion we can invite prominent alumni. There would surely be enough at Court so that might be an avenue if you wish to have the debates before you leave.”

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