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Entertaining Arran | Friday, 8pm - Duncan’s room

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The room was small but comfortable, a large cherry bed resting against the east wall. The bed washung with plush plum-colored velvet, ivy in silver thread crawling up the fabric. Across from the bed was a stone hearth whose crackling fire kept the chill at bay. Small porcelain doves had been affixed to the edges of the mantel with silver satin bows and to the tie backs of the drapes and bed curtains. Two windows were set into the south wall, overlooking the Long Walk and Castle Hill. A small carved cherry table and chair set rested between the windows while a small door, hidden behind a plum velvet curtain with thick tassels, beside the fireplace opened into a little closet. Candelabras rested on the table and mantel, casting long shadows over the polished wood of the floor.

Duncan had taken Arran’s visit seriously. The young man would one day be a Scottish duke, so he should be treated with respect.

So, he had sent his valet to get finger foods from the White, enough for six people, and had his coachman go and fetch two bottles from Melville House’s cellars: an aged bottle of his father’s favorite usigee, and a dusty bottle of cognac gifted to the previous viscount by a French diplomat.

The clock was nearing eight, so there was nothing to do but wait.

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It did not take long for a knock to be heard at the door.  When opened, the young Lord Arran was wearing a brown velvet doublet with a warm cloak around him.  As he entered, he produced a bottle of Scotch whiskey and offered Duncan a quick smile.  "I hope you are up for a visitor Melville.  I do not wish to impose."  He had heard that Duncan was mired in sorrow.

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“Please, do come in!” Said the Lowlander. “The uisgee is much appreciated. What is its origin?” Scots tended to be very particular about their tastes.

Duncan’s manservant took care of the cloak first, and then produced a second chair that he had commandeered from… somewhere. After the two lords had sat down, he opened Lord Arran’s bottle, and poured two glasses.

“Your visit is much appreciated, Lord Arran. Being alone gets me down, but never a visitor!” It was plain to see that the viscount was happy with the visit.


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"Islay," the younger lord replied as he surrendered his cloak and took a seat. Duncan's demeanor seemed genuine, sothe visitor relaxed.

"As for me, getting away from my parents is a welcome thing," he declared as he raised a salute to Melville with his glass before taking a healthy swig.  "I feel as though they have written a play for me and I am but an actor in this drama," he confessed in his Scottish lilt.  "A different perspective on court life is a welcome one."

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Duncan picked up his glass and sniffed it contentedly. The peat aroma was strong, with accents of salt and seaweed. “Superb!”, he said, before taking a sip.

It was then that the servant placed a plate with sweet and savoury dainties. “I did not know your preferences, my lord”, said the Lowlander, “so there is a variety”.

He chomps at the bit. He is still young…

“You will one day be the premier nobleman in Scotland, and the clan chief of the Douglas and the Hamiltons. The rest of us will look at you for leadership. Some with admiration, others with envy. You are being forged to take that role…”

True, but perhaps Arran had been told that too many times. Perhaps something else should be added.

”You are like prince Charles Henry, or even the King himself. Most of their lives are also scripted because of their duties. His Grace Charles copes with that by fiercely defending his private time. I think you should do the same. What do you like to do when you are on your own?”

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Arran helped himself to the food and sat back in a more relaxed posture.  "I want to live life unfettered," he was quick to reply.  "My parents control all my teachers and what friends I can have.  I am followed by a Presbyterian pastor who says it is a sin to dance or have fun with women.  My parents want me to be religious, so they would have me do sword training, hunting and Bible reading all day.  No wine, women and song," he lamented.  "Though hunting and training are amusing, they grow old with repetition."

"My father has tried to marry me off quickly.  He thought he had a match for me and the Percy heiress and it seems as if the King favored Newcastle instead.  Undeterred, my father brought me to court to be a peacock for every matron to parade her daughter in front of my parents.  I would prefer to wait to marry and commit sin with wenches.  All English nobles let their sons do it," he insisted.  "Or, I could just marry some heiress and send her north and then I would be free of my father to carry on with women and friends as I please."  He was weighing the options.

Young men had an extraordinarily high libido and this young lord was in distress.  "You are a man of the world Melville.  Would it be better to go against my father's wishes and visit the White or take a secret mistress, or just marry some lady and then indulge all that has been forbidden me afterward?  It is unfair that my father will see no reason."  He took another fortifying swig of whiskey.  "I think I will have to do the latter and hold it against my father."

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Of all the people Lord Arran could vent his frustrations with, he had to do it with one of the most pious Presbyterian lords in all of Scotland. Still…

”If this pastor tells you that dancing is a sin, perhaps you could ask him why there is so much dancing in the Bible, including King David dancing half naked”. That would test the man’s knowledge. “Wine and song are also prominent Bible topics”. It was all true.

“I read the Bible every day, at dawn, for about an hour. I then meditate how I can apply what I read to my life. But I do not pick up the Good Book until the next day. I have much to do. There is a need for balance”.

“As for marriage, I humbly suggest you accept your father’s decisions. He wants the best for you. Besides…” a momentary shadow passed over Duncan’s face. “Once I married, i had no need for other women. Once we became friends, our lovemaking was most satisfactory, often more than once a day. Marriage is not as bad as some say it is”.

But this young man is in heat! What can I do to help him make fewer mistakes?

“I would never advise togo against your father’s wishes. Having said that, if I were in such a predicament, I would choose the White, but with the following caveats: I would never go when drunk, I would always go with someone I trust to watch my back, and I would always, ALWAYS, use a French sheath. I would not want to be the next Rochester”.

Hopefully the advise would be followed.

”No mistress. You do not want or need bastards. No marrying against your father’s wishes either. You may want to be unfettered, but you were born into great responsibility. You must accept that, and own it”.

The viscount took a savoury pastry and ate it. The chat had become something he did not expect. God help me!

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"Exactly," Arran replied to Duncan's Biblical reference.  "It was the Puritan's that ruined everyting," he declared.  "No celebrating holidays.  No dancing.  Nothing," he sighed.  "Good riddance."  Many of the Puritans had left for the colonies.

"Would you go with me to the White?" he asked.  "My father allowed none of my friends to accompany me."

He sat back and took another swig as he awaited an answer.  "What about Francis Kirke?" he asked suddenly.  "What do you know of the man?  His father was a Scot," he noted.

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Would I go to the White with him? Egads!

After everything Duncan had said, it would have been a slight to say no. “His Grace has not forbidden it, so I guess I can until he says no”. There went the possibility of marrying Arran’s sister. “Do you mean tonight?”

Duncan sipped from his glass. He needed the comfort of uisgee.

The next question raised all types of alerts. Careful, Dunc. Say something, but reveal as little as possible.

“Lord Kingston arranged a letter of marque for me while we all waited for the war that never was. He has an in with Prince Rupert, it seems. He has always treated me civilly. Why do you ask?”

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"Tonight would be great," he exclaimed.  "Tomorrow night is the masque.  I could pretend to go but then sneak to the White.  But, the idea of dancing with young ladies has an appeal," he confessed.  "Tonight might be better, but they will be looking for me.  I could say I was with you in your room," which had the advantage of being true.  It revealed the appeal of befriending Melville, who no one could question was a sober and responsible man.

"I must appear to be just some minor gentlemen at the White.  They must not know who I am."  At least he had thought this escapade through, to some extent.

Duncan seemed guarded in wht he said about Kirke.  It was very limited.  It was unclear whether the lowlander liked him.  "His name came up as we rode south and discussed who I might meet," Arran began.  "He is the son of a ... disliked person with little family in Scotland, but has grand connections on his mother's family and has risen like a crossbow bolt into the sky.  Some say he is close to the King and the Duke of Buckingham, who is kin to his mother.  Yet, I also hear tales of troubling things.  There are pamphlets aplenty.  So, my question is how a scoundrel, if the reputation of his father and the tales in broadsheets are correct, could rise so high.  I was thinking of meeting him, but I would like to know of whom I meet."  Another sip was taken.

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Duncan sighed. It seemed Fate had conspired against him. “Very well. William”, he said to his servant, “get the carriage ready with two pairs of horses, and no livery in men or horses. And if anyone comes asking, Lord Arran and I took a bottle of uisgee, two plates of edibles, and went on a ride”. It would all be true.

“Lord Arran, a question: do you intend to pay in cash? I do not think you want to open an account in your name.”

Meanwhile, Duncan removed all jewellery except his mourning ring, and donned all his blades which, besides broadsword and dirk, included an armpit blade, and one that fit inside his tricorne, among others. Old habits died hard.

Then a further question about Francis. “I have read the pamphlets too, and they do no resemble the man at all. People envious of his rise into royal favour, if you ask me. My suggestion is you meet the man and form your own opinion. Do not be swayed by what others think, including me”.

“So, sir James, ready to go to the White?”

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It was a pleasant surprise.  Arran had worried that he would face a stern lecture and then retreat, looking for a different path into the White.  His face showed surprise.  "Great!  I have five pounds.  Will that be enough?"  He had no idea the price of fancy whores.  He had heard that streetwalkers would sell their bodies for a shilling, but they were not likely clean.

Duncan seemed wise in such matters, but his need to take his broadsword and hidden knives seemed to indicate that the White was not safe.  The young man said nothing, not wanting to show anything resembling fear.

As they went to the coach, Arran explained that his father had his eye on one of Newcastle or Ormonde's daughters.  They were plentiful, but that meant their dowries would be lessened.  Susan Herbert was mentioned, but there was said to be madness in the blood.  Lauderdale had a daughter, but she was pledged to a King's bastard.  There was no mention of Catriona or Fiona, though he had met both.  He had found both appealing, but his father warned of their reputations.

In the coach, the conversation turned to Kirke.  "So, he is more a Villiers than a Kirke?" he asked.  "The Villiers are a noble line, even in France," he mentioned offhandedly. "Kirke was in Scotland this Summer," he revealed.  "Searching for something.  I suppose you would not know about that?"

They arrived at the White with little fanfare.  The establishment was a popular place for young lads from the school and elsewhere to gain their first experiences as a man.  The Scots were greeted courteously, and Duncan was left to negotiate and see to the arrangements.  Obviously, Arran wanted the prettiest of the bunch.

OOC~  Once you have set the arrangements, we can assume that he is gone an hour while Duncan is left to his devices.  Arran returns a happy man and likely to want to engage in more of this sort of behavior in the future.  You can assume that they will return to the castle and can discuss whatever in your next post.


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The White was probably safe, but Duncan took his responsibilities seriously. If he was going to take Lord Arran to a whorehouse, albeit a top-class one, the Lowlander needed to be ready.

”If your father decides for a Newcastle daughter, please, please, do not become like His Grace Albemarle. Seek instead the company of Lord Cavendish, their cousin. Much better company for you, I think”. If His Grace Hamilton decided that Lady Frances Cavendish was to be his son’s bride, Duncan stood no chance. I not think I have met the other ladies”.

“All I know is that Lord Kingston was in York on His Grace Buckingham’s business. I offered the hospitality of Melville Castle, but he has not made use of it so far”. It was all true.

When they arrived at the White, Duncan took care of details. As Arran left to enjoy himself, Duncan feasted on an oyster pie simmered in Rhennish wine, veal cutlets in gravy, and a nice glass of claret from Gascony. Everything was charged to the Lowlander’s account.

Once in the carriage, on their way back, Duncan asked, “may I inquire as to your interest in Lord Kingston?”



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"Are you suggesting that the Duke of Albemarle, Commander of the King's Life Guard, is not fit company?" Arran asked in a surprised manner. "His father was a great General."  He paused to allow Duncan to explain. "Are you suggesting too that I not look to Newcastle for guidance, but look to his Cavendish cousin, the Earl of Devonshire?"  This seemed even more confusing as Newcastle was the power in the north and a fit partner with a Scot.  There would need to be an interesting explanation or correction.

"They say Newcastle's eldest, Monck's wife, is ... odd and barren.  His second daughter Frances has something wrong with her as two matches have been withdrawn," Arran whispered.  "His third daughter Margaret is said to be headstrong."  That was not a flattering trait in a wife.  "I respect the Duke and his Lady wife surely."  He said nothing of Ormonde and his daughters at this point.  "I shall meet with the candidates my father favors," he sighed.

He was in much better spirits when he left the White, for obvious reasons.  He was already plotting a return trip.

"So, Kirke was on a mission for Buckingham," the younger lord mused aloud.  "He is now Lord Kingston.  I should like to meet him but you should say nothing of our conversation about him."  He did not explain why.

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“No, I am not suggesting His Grace Albemarle is not fit company. What does worry me is that he is not as… involved… in his military duties as his father was. I may be wrong, because I grew up being a soldier, but the Life Guard sometimes seems to me more like a muster of peacocks than a military unit. Unless they are only for show? I maybe wrong, what do I know?”

”When I spoke about Lord Cavendish I meant the Earl of Devonshire’s son”, Duncan continued. “He is active in both politics and science, as far as I know, so I think him the better role model”. Siding with the Country Party notwithstanding.

”As for His Grace Newcastle, everything I have heard about him makes me respect the man. Seeking and following his advise would be very wise if you were to wed one of his daughters”.

”I can arrange an introduction with Lord Kingston if you so wish. And I will tell him nothing about our conversation. I only ask that you also keep private my thoughts about His Grace Albemarle”.


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"I see," Arran replied quietly.  "I shall need to watch the Life Guard more closely then."  He would need to make his own assessment.  It seemed odd that the King would place peacocks as his bodyguard.

"I do not know Lord Cavendish.  He is a friend of yours then?" he queried.  The advice seemed curious to the young lord as Duncan bypassed Devonshire, a man greatly respected and Newcastle was praised, but it seemed like the advice was to listen to Newcastle only if he married one of his daughters.  Perhaps the drink was getting to him.

"Yes, our lips should be sealed for everything said and done between us this night." There was a greater risk to Arran.  His father would not be pleased.

It was but a short ride back to the castle.  "Introduce me at the Christening," he suggested.  "I had best return to my father's quarters soon.  He may begin to look for me.  Thank you Lord Melville.  I am indebted.  Maybe another trip Monday night might be in order?" he asked hopefully.

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Perhaps Duncan had had too much to drink. Perhaps Arran was not ready for the advice the viscount was giving him. The Lowlander’s conscience was clear, though. He had tried his best. ”From what I hear, Lord Cavendish is following his father’s footsteps. That is a good thing”. Those were his last word on the subject.

”I will introduce you then, unless he is attending the king that day. It will have to wait if so. As for another outing, we will see”. Duncan just hoped Arran would not get caught on his way back to his room. “Good night, my lord”.

Taking the bottle with him, but leaving the food plates for the servants, the Scot directed his steps towards his room.

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