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Meandering through the festivities | Wed Afternoon

Francis Kirke

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After his morning preparing the German prince for the yacht race as the King had commanded, Francis had wandered out of the castle to take a walk through the bright tents assembled in Windsor Town. Having lived through many seasons of Carnivale in Italy, he had seen many varieties of acts and street performers, but he had never seen something such as this.


Too much of his time had been spent sailing and at war. He had not been on land in England long enough to have experienced a traveling group of this size and scope.


He went up to one of the beverage tents and purchased some ale to drink whilst he walked about in a wine-colored ensemble and his tall boots, sword at his side.

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George Churchill stood beside Henry  Howard, laughing.  The two of them had become friends at this court.  Howard was a Catholic and Churchill was in the service of a Catholic prince.

Francis might overhear "Davina led you on did she?" George laughed.  Howard nodded with a chuckle.  "She said she wanted me to escort her to the circus, or perhaps it was meet her here, I forget.  Do you see her about?" Howard replied as he looked around.  "Her company is rarer than some of the beasts in this circus."  The two laughed again as they watched a magician pull flowers from a hat.

"I think she likes me," George commented.  "I'd enjoy a roll with her."

"The woman is cold as ice," Henry replied.  "I'm her bloody cousin and she treats me like an unwanted stranger."

"Kissing cousins," George added.  "I bet I can get her kiss first."

"No doubt George," Henry replied.  "Let us find a more suitable wench to gamble on."  Both men cast their gaze about.

"A woman acrobat.  That is what I want," George laughed.  "Can you imagine her in bed?

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She was amongst a small grouping of those that still considered her to be a 'friend' and even if she was grateful she was under no illusion that it was all done just for show.

The idea of attaching oneself to someone of Note added a thrill to an otherwise predictable day of life at Court.

She had agreed to come on this outing as a way to keep her mind off what was to come later that night. She was still not truly convinced that anything would actually happen but a worry had lodged itself and so the thoughts came as well.

She had missed the planed outing with cousin Henry yesterday and so was not dressed in the all white attire to his black. No doubt he would scold for lack of manners but she would come up with a reasoning.

No matter that she was not in white the dove grey velvet with pale blue accents and a fur-lined cloak made her pretty enough to attract a second look.

Her gaze swept over the field in some amazement for it had indeed been transformed and was larger than she had expected.

There was much to see as they all trampled onwards  ......

Edited by Davina Wellsley
(timing error)
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Francis was not intentionally eavesdropping, but he could not help but overhear the topic of the men's conversation, and the name stuck out to him. He was one of few who knew the truth about what Davina had been embroiled within or perhaps conspiring toward herself. The poison debacle had caused quite the stir and with the attempted murder that occurred in the garden, all seriousness was to be taken with such matters. 


He had spent the better part of two days pretending to play cards whilst protecting the Queen from trouble she had not, at that time, known about. Thankfully, the heir had been born and was health, but there were always a threat. Just because it had been quiet did not mean that it was utterly safe. 


As one of the King's gentlemen, he had been tasked with keeping his eyes and ears open on any matter of interest to the royals, so he continued to listen as he drank and watched the spectacles.


He had to fight quite hard to keep an utterly straight face and not to snicker at their comment that the lady's company was more rare than some of the beasts, for he knew that Herbert had been stood up by her more than once, and it had become a topic amongst the younger sect of the household.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The pair's eyes searched out a female acrobat with half-hearted effort.  There was little hope that a suitble one could be found.  If they did spy one, and she was not ugly, George was sure to proposition her.  The gypsies were likely more easy than actresses to purchase.

As they looked about, they saw Kingston nearby and both gentlemen gave him a friendly nod.  It was unclear how a son of a Scottish knave that was blasted in the broadsheets could be so popular in the inner circles of court.  They knew him to be a cousin of Buckingham, nd that was an easy answer, but Buckingham did not bestow such favor upon other cousins.

Eyes continued onward and it was Viscount Stafford's son that spotted her.  "There is Davina," Henry spoke softly.  "Whoever gets her to kiss him first publicly gets free ale from the other for the season," he proposed.  "Fair enough," replied George, "but only one ale a day.  I shall try my luck with her now."

Both men started moving in Davina's direction, with George Churchill taking the lead.  George already had a plan in mind as he approached.  Hennry held back to watch.

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There were four in total that made up the charming picture. Davina had linked an arm with the quiet Mary and they trailed a bit behind the vibrant Gracen with her red hair and temperament to match and her partner in crime the fair-haired Anne. All of them daughters of Peers and current Maids of Honor save for Davina. Walking at a respectful pace were two attendants and one man at arms for no self-respecting Lady would venture out into this environment without such. The other two were busy plotting and were quick to see the approaching Gentlemen.

"Davina - is that not a cousin of yours? Another Howard I believe ..... Really they are like rabbits in number! So many of them everywhere."

"Hush Gracen!  You must not say such things  ... what if someone overheard and it got told to the Duke?"

"As if I fear!"  Said with a toss of her head.

"Well you might not but your Father certainly would if it got back. You could be sent down and a husband in the countryside found afore you could blink."

This from Mary who when she did step in always seemed to have exactly the right retort.

Davina spared a glance and saw it to be true.

"And with George Churchill in tow as well."

She gave a small sigh.

"I shall be scolded by one and 'flirted with' by the other. I shall feel better with you by my side."

"Let us continue on and if they come polite we shall ALL be   ......"

Knowing that the two in front would hardly pass up a chance for an encounter.

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Francis returned their friendly nods with one of his own. They did not approach him, so he figured either they wished to keep their duo or had been influenced enough by the broadsheets to wish to avoid being seen in his company.


Either way, he was content to watch the goings on and see what it was the gentlemen were up to with Davina. 


Since she was under some suspicion, Francis was more interested in observing than participating. Those who kept company with her and sought her company could be of some importance. Besides, it was not as if he had made plans to meet anyone, and he had no particular sights set for the day of what he wished to see.

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Unabashedly, George waltzed up to Davina and doffed his hat to the ladies.  Henry followed along but stayed behind George.

"Ladies, how you are like spring blooms to a fall fair.  You shall cause gentlemen to ignore all the attractions on display here, save you all," he flattered.  "Miss Wellsley, I have a rather urgent matter to discuss with you," George declared.   "I have just left the fortune teller tent and she promised me good fortune if I could garner a kiss from the first lady I thought of.  Well, even though I had not seen you in some time, I immediately thought of you and, as Fate would have it, you suddenly appeared.  It is destiny I tell you ladies.  Destiny.  Please, but a quick kiss so that good fortune may smile on me.  I have already had good fortune in encountering you today. Let us not us risk its wrath."  He moved closer, fully expecting a quick assent.  After all, she would seem popular with her friends.

Behind George, Howard looked at Davina and visibly shook his head in disbelief at George's yarn.  He crossed his arms and watched for his frigid cousin's reaction.  The fact that Kingston was watching this unfold was lost on him.

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Naturally it would be George that stepped forward but she could see her cousin a step or two behind and was quick to see his reactions.

"How fortunate are we that Mr. Churchill has such an entertaining manner about him! How Gallant and honey'd are his words that might well put a playwright to jealousy."

She favored him with a smile then as he got closer held up her hand adding

"This is, naturally, what you expect is it not Mr. Churchill?"

The others tittered knowing that the Gentleman had expected a brushing of lips as so many did in greetings.

"Mayhap after Mistress Wellsley you might turn towards me Mr. Churchill? Tis not right to single out just ONE Lady   .... Unfair almost."

This from Gracen who had come to stand to Davina's right.

Davina ignore her and gave a nod to Howard.

"Cousin. Shall you be next then ...."

The fact that her attention was not upon George would be much obvious but he could not fault her for her manner. 

A Game within a Game was how Court operated after all.

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Davina stopped George's progress towards her lips by pretending to believe that he wished only to kiss her hand.  George showed surprise in his face.  He dismissed the other ladies with but a smile as he returned his attention to Davina.  "No one wins favor with the Fates by boldly kissing a hand," he objected.  "Only a woman's lips can affect the weaves of Fate."

As Davina asked Henry if he was next, her cousin replied "blood always comes before bluster.  Cousins kiss naturally whereas kisses with potential charmers can present their own peril."  He stepped up beside George.  "If you were to kiss a gentleman here, who might be the more proper choice?" Stafford asked.  

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"But a hand offered nevertheless in kindness is refuted and is that not tempting your own fate back?"

"How Brave you are to stand so sure and boldly claim such knowledge."

"I shall never forgive myself if I followed thru and did as you ask. So a hand must satisfy."

"And, in curiosity, why did you come to me?"

Her gaze went between the two men a tiny frown between her brows.

Her cousin then came to Churchill's side and offered up his own question.

She smiled a little 

"Well allow me to look for one afore I answer  ...."

And she turned her gaze out over the area.

It was not an insult in the proper term merely her showing them how things stood.

She felt the touch of Mary's hand on her arm then and her quiet voice saying

"How unfair Gentlemen. To make Mistress Wellsley make so pointed a choice between you."

"One will be hurt while the other crows. And so conflict between friends begins."

"And thus proves how 'Fortune Tellers' are not to be trusted."

She had intruded to prevent things from escalating on the side of Mr. Churchill.

He was known to them all and she privately thinks he needs a guiding hand to help him to navigate a better course.

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"Your hand I will kiss surely then," George replied.  "But only your lips will allow Lady Fate her full weave."  He reached for her hand.  "Surely a friendly kiss with a gentlemen is all in good fun, especially at a carnival like this.  Maids kiss gents all the time," he insisted.  He was beginning to think Henry might be right about Davina's disposition.

Henry watched Davina and the maid beside her.  "There need be no hurt if you kiss us both," he pointed out with an attempt at mediation.  "Just to be safe, you should greet me first, then Churchill, and he can still gain his fortune."

George's eyes flashed at the challenge.  "What fun is it to kiss one's cousin, and I do not know what havoc may be caused with Fate by being treated so secondarily?"

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Davina her surprise at Mary's input not showing was beginning to get a bit irritated.

"Honestly George how can you simply take to heart what you paid to hear?"

Said as she withdrew her hand after his 'kiss' with a few steps taken backwards in pretense to settling her hand back inside the small furred muff she carried.

"I mean all she had to do was glance at you both to know there was coin to be had and say the answer to your questions."

"How many times a hour do you think she says it I wonder? Shall we Ladies then have to guard against the barge of Gentlemen who are equally demanding?"

"And You cousin adding in does not help."

She favored him with a long look from her blue eyes.

"And so a challenge has been issued ........"

She looked between the two men and knew that some kind of solution had to be found.

"Ah .... Since you are intent upon a kiss then I suggest we Ladies decide on how it shall be given."

"That is fair is it not?"

She was deliberate in her inclusion of the other three.

"Why must it be HERE?"

"Ladies ...."

She drew them all into a small huddle and chuckles and sly glances back would be seen by the two men as well as heads nodding.

Gracen the boldest of the group came forwards and smiled.

"It has been decided that over the next week each may or may not be in receiving of said 'offering' at a time and place of OUR choosing."

"Objections ....." She fixed George with a pointed look and then to Henry. "And the arrangement is Done."


She almost tapped her booted foot on the ground. She did find this all too much Fun and so hoped that no objection would be forthcoming!

Davina for her part was satisfied. A challenge with a challenge that few men would resist.

She smiled back at her cousin and George.

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As Davina withdrew her hand, George was initially surprised.  He had not encountered such resistance before.  Usually, most any young woman would play coy and then give a kiss.  Davina seemed more reluctant, as if a kiss were something of great consequence.

"So, you do not believe in Fate Davina?" George accused.  "You do not believe that some persons are better at reading the future than others?"  He looked at Henry briefly, who shrugged.

"I did not see the fortune teller," Henry admitted.  "Yet, I felt if George was worth a kiss, then certainly I have better standing to receive one.  After all, I am likely your favorite kissing cousin ... and I was abandoned by you yesterday when you wished an escort from me.  I should think that sets me above Churchill here, a jovial fellow in search of Fate.  After all, the Fortune Teller said nothing, I am sure, that you had to be unkissed by others."  He wore a smirk.  Both men largely ignored the ladies with her.  They were here to interact with Davina alone.

Davina spun her own challenge, hidden behind the whispers of feminine collaboration.  "I object," George called out, casting a glance to Henry.  "I expect that several carnivals are full of kisses between young men and pretty young ladies.  It is a merry time and place after all.  It was you I thought of and I need to kiss you first if I am to have good fortune.  I cannot afford an hour, a day, a week.  You are the only hope I have," he added with a hint of rehearsed pity.

"You will just need to wait your turn George," Henry replied.  "Then Miss Wellsley will come upon us suddenly in the coming week to bestow kisses upon us at random, when she feels the desire.  Who knows, but I think she might want kisses from us both daily, and we will need to give her what she wishes."  His smile indicated a bit of jest in his statement. 

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There was an objection how could there not be. This caused Gracen to narrow her eyes a bit and as she was not used to her wants being disregarded.

"Very well. Since that is how tis to be then I think tis time to seek out other amusements."

"Mistress Wellsley we shall meet up again no doubt."


She offered a very tiny dip and then took her leave with the other two ladies in tow.

Davina watched them go and it was how she had thought and she was left alone to deal with what was after all a matter for her alone.

"I believe in many things George. That the Sun will shine. The rain will fall. And as for Fate  ..."

She gave a small shrug of one shoulder.

"Fate has not been at all favorable to me of late so I suppose I am not the person to ask that question of."

Her cousin then had to chime in as well giving his opinion as well as his scolding for her standing him up.

"Well as to not meeting you yesterday I am sorry for it but I was indisposed and Poppy was tending to me. But I heard nothing from you as well."

"You could of sent someone to check on me you know."

Her words a touch accusatory.

She then looked to George and knew that in this she must concede.

He was going to hold her alone to that challenge and she had no recourse but to comply.

"Very well. Then it will be of MY time and place and will be a single exchange only. Do not over-play it George."

"Or I can simply give it now ....  A kiss on a cheek."

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The other ladies took their leave and the men were glad of it.  They preferred to play with Davina, for she was inscrutable at times.

"It is just a kiss Davina," George offered with a laugh.  "Young ladies should collect them like ribbons.  They are not to be dreaded."

Henry laughed as well.  "Just one George.  Do not be greedy.  Let Davina choose the time.  Perhaps it will be in front of the whole court at a ball or the yacht race."

Davina tried to deflect the guilt of the missed meeting onto Henry.  "We were to meet here as I recall.  But it is of no matter.  You seem to be amazingly recovered today," he insisted.  "Shall we go see the animals?  The show is about to start."  He did not ask her for a kiss, deciding to bide his time.  "Come on cousin, this is not a time to be alone."  

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And so it was decided.

Her cousin put forth the idea of her choosing and so she added

"Very well I agree to it being my time."

"It is of no real consequence anyway and as you say tis just a kiss."

She favored Henry with a small smile at his rejoinder and so it seemed that they were now a trio and off to see a show.

It would have pleased her to be alone but she had suffered that far too much of late and so this outing could well be beneficial. And she was sure that Henry was plotting as he had said nothing about her kissing him.

"Then lead the way Gentlemen  ....."

She would place herself between them if it was possible.

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So off they went to the big tent to see the big act.  An odd trio they were, Davina was afforded placement in the middle.  The Earl of Bristol leaned on his cane in the distance as he watched the trio depart together.  Davina had yet to wear red.  His attention shifted to watching Kingston from afar, wondering how he might be alone this day.  With joints aching, the celebrated earl moved slowly in the blond's direction.

Inside the tent, Stafford paid the fare of the three, with George professing poverty.  Pushing their way through the crowd, George moved them to the front.  Davina would see Sophia with her husband and Langdon with Susan Herbert and her mother.

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Her cousin saw them entered and she allowed herself to be in the front close to where all the animal must be which gave her some anxious thoughts.

Of the two men only her cousin seemed likely to offer protection but hopefully that would not be put to the test.

Settling she took to looking about the area   .....

              there were the Toledo's and THAT was in of its self an oddity! Her so obviously pregnant and flaunting when she should be kept at home.

              Davina knew that that was near impossible given Sophia's nature and so there was some sympathy for Lord Toledo

              Then Lady Pembroke and her daughter Susan and was that  ..... no? Why yes t'was indeed Lord Langdon! 

She narrowed her eyes a bit and took a more careful look. There was no other reason for them to be all together  - so it must be that was Charles was courting Susan and her mother was there as chaperon - what else would it be?


This made her sit back and she realized that while it was a surprise she felt nothing. No pull at her heart. No twinges of jealousy. Nothing.

She smiled bit at this realization and knew herself to be glad that he had moved on. She would follow this with interest and might even one day be able to offer her Congratulations.

"What   ..... did you say something cousin?"

Her thoughts had prevented her from hearing and so she thinks she might have missed something.

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Henry had been talking but only now Davina was listening.  "I said what kind of husband would bring a wife so pregnant to a carnival?  She should be in bed.  I had heard that Spaniards were strict with their wives."  He was looking for a response from Davina.


George noticed Langdon. "Look, Langdon is with Susan Herbert."  He was a man that enjoyed gossip and matches.  He was looking for a match himself but could not aim so high as Herbert.  "I always thought himself a man more interested in whores."  By that, he meant that he had married a whore and had a royal whore as a mistress.  Obviously, he was unaware of any connection between the officer and Davina.

When the elephants came out, both men applauded.  It was quite a show, and one unlikely to be witnessed again. 

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Davina and Company

"Lady Toledo is not a 'typical wife' of any nationality." She answered back. "I have known her for some time and while she has matured in some ways she still thinks nothing of doing whatever she wants."

"I can not tell you of all the talks we have had about so many topics and it always ended up with me being too frustrated."

"Perhaps Lord Toledo allows her because she is pregnant? A woman goes to Hell and back giving birth and I also think he is too superstitious to do much."

She did not need to elaborate for Henry might well guess she spoke of Toledo being a Catholic.

George then interjected and made comment about Susan and Charles.

"You have his Company then George? Why would you think that?"

His words had given her some surprise.

Then the huge beasts appeared and attention was drawn to that.

"How can they ride with so little fear?"

 Referencing the women that rode atop each elephant.

"Would you ride one?"

Asked of the two men collectively.

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Being that Francis was very purposely watching without trying to be obvious, he had noticed Bristol on the outskirts, but he had paid little mind to it. Many courtier had made their way to see what the carnival was about. 


Bristol was related to Lady Jane Digby, he knew, who the King had gifted her family barony not so long past, but he had not seen the lady in some while. It seemed very long ago that they had chased assassins around. He could not recall ever having spent time around Bristol though.


He watched the trio depart and continued drinking his ale, looking around at the scenery and passers-by.


It was then that he noticed Bristol moving in his direction. 


"Good day, my lord. Enjoying the sights?" he asked, with a respectful dip of the head.

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At a certain age and a certain level of fame, a lord presumes that courtiers know him, whether they have met formally or not.  The Earl of Bristol was a man of legend, but now in his declining years.  Every wound he had taken over the years was now more pronounced, the pain more noticeable.

"Good day Kingston," the older man greeted.  "I have been hearing many things about you, good, bad and outrageous.  I can empathize with that."  He offered a small smile and adjusted the brim of his hat to block a bit of sunlight in his eyes.  "You are too young to have so many enemies.  There is time aplenty to accumulate more."  His smiled to demonstrate that he was jesting.  He understood Francis to be a King's gentleman and also a cousin of Buckingham.

He looked around the fair ground.  "Everything at court has been quiet so far."  He paused as his eyes finished a circuit.  "Maybe too quiet."

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Francis lowered his mug and then chuckled brightly and gently. "Indeed, I think all of court and half the countryside has heard. I am told that when a gentleman experiences any rise in status, the jealous attacks oft accompany, perhaps even moreso if one has Villiers blood." The lopsided smile that followed tried to shrug the notion that it bothered him away. However, anyone would be naive to think that it did not impact him or his life at court. 


"Too young," he raised a brow. "Is youth a protection from such things? Not that I am. A youth, I mean. I am nearing 3 decades." He looked like a youth still, he was well-aware, but thirty was a solid middle age when many did not make it to their mid-forties. "But in this case, I think it clear that it is not just my own enemies that I need worry about. My cousin, the Duke, has many enemies and has created jealousy in many a man over his years, and his fondness for me makes me an easy target to attack him. Or, with the plots afoot, even those who have reason to be dissatisfied with His Majesty might wish me out of the way."


Francis was not privy to Bristol having been made Mistress Wellesley's keeper, but he was one of few who knew the intimacies of that debacle with a poisoner threatening the Queen since she had gone to Buckingham. Francis had stood surreptitious guard around the queen with Lord Mountjoy afterward, so he was more aware of most things in regard to the girl than most. 


The attack on him had included things which would threaten his position as a Gentleman of the Bedchamber, and Lord Arlington had done his best to get him dismissed too, so separating anyone trusted from protecting either the King or the Queen was another potential reason for disparaging Francis.


He laughed at the joke that there was time aplenty to make enemies. "Well, my detractors also say that I am ambitious beyond my station, so that ambition must extend to getting a good long list of enemies before I have any greys."


The notion of "too quiet" made Francis snort. "Have you experienced how packed the halls of Windsor are, my lord? I don't think anywhere is too quiet! Unless you mean a different sort of too quiet?"

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"Youth is a protection from many things," Bristol observed.  It was also a handicap.

"Yes, your Villiers blood shows," the Earl acknowledged as he looked upon his hair and face.  "It is good that the Villiers blood was stronger than the Kirke blood in you."  Bristol knew Kingston's father, and Francis did not seem to have the more crude features of the Scotsman.  His mother's marriage was a curiosity  to those old enough to remember.  Bristol's daughter's marriage to the Northern Secretary had its own oddity as well.  Bristol knew how the whispers of scandal could undermine matches, as well as offices.

"I swear that Buckingham secretly revels in the number of his opponents and enemies.  He seems to carry them with a badge of honor," he jested.  "You suffer from the penumbras of that emnity.  The bad comes with the good.  There is a divine balance mostly."

As for the quiet, Bristol was quick to wave his free hand in a widespread arc.  "Yes, the halls of Windsor are too loud for an old man like me.  No, I mean the sinister sounds at court.  I see nothing and hear nothing, but my bones tell me that something is lurking here ... something wicked."  He sighed and added with a grin "but then, I felt it was going to rain today too."

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As Francis felt the elder eyes upon him, he realized he had not considered that Bristol was old enough to not only have known Charles Kirke, but also to have known his real father, of whom he bore a very close resemblance; the strongest difference being he held Buckingham's blond hair where Francis Villiers had dark hair.


"I did not know the man, honestly, aside from a handful of meetings when I was but a small boy in exile. He tried to dangle me out a window once, so I am happy to not visibly bear anything of his. I can thank God's providence for giving me a strong inheritance of Villiers blood, long list of enemies included," Francis replied. 


He briefly looked up and then tried not to laugh out loud at Bristol's caricature of Buckingham's approach to enemies, so the result was a mild titter and shaking of his chest. "It is a badge of his closeness to His Majesty, so he does wear it with a certain air of pride and also dissimulation. He feels himself above betraying that such things bother him. Not to mention he has been rather impervious to such things. Challenges, trips to the Tower, to be sure, but he is still himself and others have long faded to oblivion."


As to something lurking, Francis nodded, "I do not think the challenges of the end of last season simply faded away. Such is not the way of things. I always have my eyes open. I believe it was when we were last in Windsor that I chased about some villian with your relation, niece or cousin perhaps, Lady Jane? With my position now, I am expected to be diligent in my perceptions, but I haven't seen anything of particular note. Yet, at least."

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Bristol did indeed know Kingston's true father.  The likeness was apparent.  It had been the motivation behind his statement that his Villiers blood was dominant.  If nothing else, the likeness alone would have driven the Duke to want to be closer to his cousin.

"Yes, His Grace has risen above it and has not faded, as so many of the CABAL have." He had a friendly nod to acknowledge the achievement.  "And you, young sir.  Do you aspire to politics like the Grand Master?"

As for Bristol's disquiet, he seemed partially mollified.  "I know you shall keep a close eye on things.  It would take a lunatic to try something here, but there are enough lunatics in every country, to cause concern.  I have always seen it in the eyes.  The eyes of a fanatic will give him away.  They are unschooled."

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Francis smiled at the thought of aspiring to politics.


"If I aspired to politics, the calling would be in the future, for I am but a neophyte in understanding such things. Even a grand master of politics could not coach me up in but two years. Most of my age have been learning it from a relation since they were in their early youth and have a decade and a half of knowledge and experience more than mine."


He had other experience, yes, but it was not the same as politics. War, the sea, trading, negotiation, strategy, they were all pertinent and applicable skills, but it was not a life at court. 


"I am sure the Duke would have preferred to pontificate to me from childhood." Francis chuckled, "At least I know my Latin and Greek, or I'd be an utter embarrassment." He had a skill at amused self-deprecation.


"Ah, yes, unschooled and unhinged. The ones to be wary of in any port have a similar look. However, when they recruit sympathizers, do those have a look, my lord? I do not think Mistress Wellesley did, for none suspected her, and she was close to the Queen."

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Duncan approaches Bristol and Kingston


Duncan had not left his room much in the past few days, as his melancholy had gotten the best of him. Visiting Cat and being on the receiving end of her motherly ministrations had helped him much, and chatting with Lord Kingston at the Buckingham suite had also lifted his spirits. But after that, loneliness had fallen on him like a sack of barley, and it was only his valet’s remarks about the circus that had raised even the faintest interest in his depressed soul.

Perhaps the sounds of people enjoying themselves will lighten my mood, he decided as he allowed his manservant to fetch appropriate clothing. William convinced his master that a black-clad man with a gaunt countenance would probably scare children or, even worse, he could be mistaken for <gasp> a member of the troop dressing as the Grim Reaper. So, he helpfully suggested an ensemble of dark forest green with tasteful brown accents and copper threading. The viscount did not want any accessories, but his savvy valet remarked that it would dishonour the Melville name if the viscount looked like a mere rich merchant. With a sigh, the Scot allowed William to add baguette-cut emerald cravat pin and ring, gold pocket watch, and gold-headed maple cane as final additions. The silver with a central garnet and carved scrollwork mourning ring never left his finger, so it remained even though its coloration clashed with the rest of the ensemble.

The Lowlander walked aimlessly through the circus grounds, not really enthused by anything, until he recognized two lords chatting some ways off. The first was his friend Lord Kingston, to whom he had pledged his help in finding those that were trying to disgrace His Grace Buckingham through him, and the second was Lord Bristol, who he had met at Melville House while Lady Digby had been there as a guest. Although he did not approach within earshot, so as not to interrupt any private discussions, Duncan did place himself within sight of both lords, with the intention of joining them if signalled to, or nodding politely to them and continue his meanderings if not.

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