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Ace of Schemes 7-9

October 29, 2017 08:47PM
Chapter 7

Toby took what many would have considered to be an early night after dining with the princes, being in bed by two in the morning. The dinner had been long and elaborate, and they had not been able to get away until after midnight, and Toby had made his aches an excuse not to stay and play cards, an excuse which had to be made delicately so that Aunt Amabel did not guess what he had been at. Prince George had laughed and wished him well, and Lady Remington was so relieved to escape that she did not ask why the afternoon had fatigued her nephew so much. And if he was honest, the unexpected and gruelling fight had tired him very much, and he would have preferred a hot bath with Epsom salts to a long dinner. However, that was the way things were. Toby reflected that he might be glad to be able to start putting faces to the names he had read about in the newspaper. He found he could genuinely admire Maria Fitzherbert. She was a handsome woman, and had witty conversation, which to Toby’s mind was more germane. It was a shame that Parliament, and more to the point, the king, would not permit Prince George to marry her, she was the only person who could slow him down and steady him when he was ready for a lark, and that could only make him a better king when the time came. Even if he did have his mistresses on the side. That would be no different to nine kings out of ten.

oOoOo

Mary brooded on the young man, whose name, she discovered from Mrs. Mayhew, was James Black.
“And black is his heart, Miss,” said Mrs. Mayhew, over a cup of tea. She had heard how Mary had stepped in to stop her getting the blame for Jemima’s poor posture at the pianoforte, and had consequently forgiven the governess, who was undoubtedly a lady, for speaking sharply about the state of her bed. And rightly so, for Mrs. Mayhew had overseen the beating and turning of the mattress herself. “How’s your bed?” she asked.
“Oh, Mrs. Mayhew, I should have said before, how ungrateful of me! It’s lovely now,” said Mary. “Thank you for getting the girls to sort out the mattress, they got rid of all the lumps.”
“Well with that young hellion trying to get his hands on your monosyllable, ain’t hardly surprising it’d drive everything else out of your mind,” said Mrs. Mayhew. “He’s a bad lot, I keep the maids away from him as much as I can. I send the scullion up with his water and to do his fire when he’s staying, not that he’ll need a fire this time o’ year. It ain’t right that he should make free with a real lady like you are, Miss Heatherington, and it ain’t right for the girls to see it neither.”
“I don’t like the way he speaks to Jemima as if he’s only waiting for her to be a bit older,” said Mary.
“I didn’t know that.” Mrs. Mayhew put her cup down. “I’ll be keeping a closer eye on him, and on whichever of them girls as isn’t with you, if they’re doing different lessons. You’re making them into decent children which go to prove it ain’t original sin at all, whatever the vicar says, but how they’re brought up. Brought up! Dragged up more like. Well, I won’t say no more on that head, not my place to criticise the mistress,”
“Nor mine,” said Mary. “But I fancy you and I are quite eloquent in our silence on the subject.”

oOoOo


“We missed you, Toby, where have you been?” asked Marguerite, coyly. It was a stupid question, thought Toby, since he had only been absent one night, but then nobody had ever accused Marguerite of having many brains.
“Oh, I had to dance attendance on my aunt,” said Toby.
“I doubt she’ll leave you much,” said Mattlebere, snidely.
“No, but I’ve some affection for her, and she does have a nest egg in case of a rainy day, which she refuses to spend,” said Toby. The old woman Mattlebere thought was his aunt was moving today, courtesy of arrangements made by Lucius, so assigning her a fictitious nest egg would cause no harm. “She has a stocking full of golden boys, which never goes amiss. Keeps it under her mattress. She’s a bit of a miser; lives below her means. Anyway, I found an apartment in Conduit Street, so I can be my own master.”
This was true enough; Toby was fond of Amabel, but he liked the idea of the freedom to come and go. And it meant he could permit himself to be drawn away by Mattlebere after a friendly game with Mackie, Chipperfield and Higgins.
“I don’t trust that Mattlebere fellow,” said Chipperfield. “I wager he cheats in his own club.”
“Whatever gave you the idea I did trust him? I’m certain he cheats in his own club,” said Toby.
“Don’t say so to Hawtin,” said Mackie. “He won’t hear a word against Mattlebere; says the play is good and fast there.”
Toby regarded the man mentioned, the honourable Mr. Hawtin. He was the sort of amiable young man-about-town one might meet anywhere, with a pleasant, bucolic face and slightly protuberant pale blue eyes mirroring a mind devoid of any original thought. His round, ruddy-hued face was that of any well-to-do young landowner from the eastern counties, his large front teeth giving him the air of a well-bred horse. Toby reflected that such men were slow to see faults in those they saw as friends, but if once aware of being betrayed tended to be hot of temper. Well, Mr. Hawtin was leaving early, so perhaps he was going to Mattlebere’s hell, and one might meet him there as well as at the odd levée. Toby had no intention of leaving his friends early, but he would permit Mattlebere himself to show him the way. Perhaps he might be able to demonstrate to Mr. Hawtin the perfidy of his supposed friend before the youth was ruined; but if he could not, then the lad must learn his lesson the hard way. Toby disapproved of hardened gamesters, but adults had every right to make fools of themselves in any way they pleased.


It was well after midnight when Mattlebere asked Toby if he wanted better sport.
“Why not?” said Toby. “Lead on, Macduff, or whatever it is.”
Mattlebere looked a little disturbed.
“Ain’t it bad luck to quote from the Scottish play?” he asked.
“Only if you’re superstitious and there’s no ‘r’ in the month,” said Toby, gravely.
“It’s July,” said Mattlebere, a trifle rattled. “You’re drunk, aren’t you?” he added, hopefully.
“Well to live, old man, well to live,” said Toby, who was stone cold sober, and was chuckling inwardly to find a weakness in Mattlebere. He accompanied the older man through the dark streets, a link-boy hired to carry a flaming torch of pitch ahead of them to frighten off mohocks and to illuminate the pavement so they might avoid dirt or potholes. Toby smiled grimly to himself, reflecting that this lad was likely a true ‘glym Jack’ and not a ‘moon curser’ or youth employed to lead travellers into an ambush of robbers. The robbery would be by Mattlebere at his gaming hell, not on the highway, and as such would be more profitable, since any despairing gamester might offer vowels above the value of any monies he carried on his person.

The gaming house in which Mattlebere had an interest was over on the eastern side of the town, and the windows were quite blacked out with shutters. Mattlebere mounted the steps and knocked in a curious manner, to which the door was opened by a dark-clad servitor who bowed to the visitors. The vestibule was lit well enough, and Toby submitted to having his hat and cane taken.
“You can leave your coat, too, if you like,” said Mattlebere, handing his over. “The candles make it hot in the gaming rooms.”
Toby nodded, and permitted the footman to relieve him of his coat, shaking out the snowy-white ruffles of his shirt after they had been abused by the passage of the sleeve over them, and adjusting his cravat in a mirror.
“You’re a dandy,” said Mattlebere, amused.
“No, just vain,” said Toby.
Inside the main room, where Mattlebere conducted him, the candle light was bright over the tables, with dark shadows in the corners. Hawtin was, indeed, there, and a few other men whom Toby recognised. He nodded to Hawtin, and to the Duke of Spensbury and to a Mr. Kennilworthy, who was plainly unaware of who Toby might be and looked confused to be thus greeted. This was hardly a surprise, since Toby knew him only as one of the many swains who had attended Amaryllis Cockley, unaware that she was in love with Toby’s cousin Lucius. Mr. Kennilworthy was one of the sillier youths, Toby recalled, unlike the duke, who was in his late thirties, and something of a slow dog unless you took an interest in farming. It was a surprise to see so ponderous and worthy a peer as Spensbury, but that worthy rose from his table, with the words,
“Well, I have lost what I have budgeted for, my dear fellow, so I will bid you good night.”
“Will you not try another hand to recoup your fortune, my lord?” asked his partner.
The duke shook his head.
“Never play with what you aren’t prepared to lose,” he said, solemnly. “My dear Mama always told me that, may she rest in peace.”
He took his leave, with a polite shake of Toby’s hand, and a quiet murmur to him,
“They cheat here, dear boy, do be careful. But it’s my one vice to engage in a little reckless dissipation.”
“Thank you, your grace,” said Toby, trying not to laugh at the concept of losing a firmly limited amount to known cheats as reckless dissipation.
“What’s your choice?” asked Mattlebere. “We’ve got Faro, Basset and Loo, Hazard and other dice games of course, and an Even and Odd wheel, which the French call roulet.”
“Oh, I thought most of those were illegal,” said Toby, innocently.
Mattlebere laughed.
“Oh, my dear boy!” he said. “Everyone plays such games; the right of anyone to have fun outweighs the views of the puritan fools in parliament, after all, even the Prince of Wales plays most of them.”
Toby had no doubt that the heir to the throne would play most of them, that worthy having very little understanding of numbers and less discrimination. As, indeed, did the clientele here, by the look of it. There was no conversation to speak of, as the players concentrated on their hands of cards or the fall of dice, and the rattle of various dice was loud in his ears, interrupted by the occasional ruffling noise of cards being shuffled.
“What is this Even and Odd wheel?” he asked. Mr. Kennilworthy was one of those bent over a wheel of some kind, into which another black-clad footman presided over the game, and tossed a small ball of some kind as it turned. Kennilworthy was muttering,
“Come on, evens, come on evens!” as the ball scuttered about the rotating wheel.
“Come and see, my dear boy,” said Mattlebere. He led Toby over to the table on which the wheel was situated. It was marked out around the perimeter with divisions, even on the inside and odd on the outside, for the players around the table to place their stake into. There was an inner wheel in which odd and even alternated, with three blank spaces. Toby counted eighteen each odds and evens. Now he was closer he could see that it was the inner wheel which spun, and was slightly sloped. As it slowed the small ball descended the slope and plopped into one of the small divisions at the bottom marked ‘E’ for ‘even’.
“Yes!” Mr. Kennilworthy exulted.
“Hell!” the swarthy gentleman beside young Mr. Kennilworthy swore. The footman smiled blandly and collected up the money laid on the odds trays on the outer part of the wheel to divide up amongst the winners.
Toby narrowed his eyes, and observed another throw of the ball. Mr. Kennilworthy stuck to evens, and the swarthy gentleman changed his bet to the evens tray in front of him. The other players, all frowning in concentration, laid their bets.
The wheel spun. The footman tossed in the ball, which bounced and bucked a few times before rotating on the sloping face, and then slowly, slowly wound down towards the bottom, the various players exhorting it to go to odds or evens, until it finally ran out and dropped into the three-section wide portion marked ‘house’. There was a collective sigh which was almost a groan from the players, and Toby realised their undue excitement had almost affected him; he had been holding his breath.
“My luck is damnable,” said the swarthy gentleman, angrily. “I swear, it is because Saturn is in the ascendant.” He got up and stalked off.
Toby thought that the arrangement of the wheel had more to do with it than any arrangement of heavenly bodies.
“So there are thirty-six marked compartments, and eighteen chances to win, and one is paid off at a matching bet to what one has made?” he asked.
“Yes, naturally; you have a fifty percent chance of winning,” said Mattlebere.
“What about the other three compartments?” asked Toby.
“Oh, in those, the bank wins,” said Mattlebere. “There has to be some slim chance for it to do so, you know!”
“Yes, I see,” said Toby, who did not think that a payoff on a chance of 18:36 for what was really a chance of 18:39 was worth playing. This was purely a game of chance, no opportunity to use statistical skill at all. He accepted that the house needed a chance to win, but this meant that in every twelve throws, the house won, and without any speculation on the part of the keeper of the bank at all other than to cover the bets if more was bet on one chance than the other, and the divisions with the fewer bets won.
“I think I’ll pass,” he said. “It’s card games I like most, what about whist, or piquet?”
“Don’t you find them slow?” asked Mattlebere.
“No,” said Toby.
“Well, come and watch the fun people are having playing Hazard,” Mattlebere tried. “Perhaps we can convert you to playing with dice.”


Chapter 8

Toby shrugged and came over to a table where pallid gentlemen threw dice. Hawtin was one of them, and Toby nodded to him, and to Lawrence, Earl Fulfleet, whom he had met at the fête Champêtre, as his bottle holder, when he fought the big sailor, Doyle.
“Bit slow after the Carlton House set, ain’t it, Fulfleet?” asked Toby.
“Oh, I like to slum it a bit,” said Fulfleet. Toby sensed Mattlebere stiffening in irritation beside him at this description of his gaming house.
“I never played dice, Fulfleet, what’s the rules? I see the chap in play is throwing more than once, not letting the rest of you take a turn.”
“Oh, yes, the caster throws until he loses. It’s a simple game, the caster has to throw until he achieves what’s called a main, that is, a number between five and nine. Then he has to make a winning throw. If you threw a main of five or nine, you win on a five or a nine to follow, but you lose on two, three, eleven or twelve and forfeit your stake and have to pass the dice on. A main of six or eight wins on six or eight respectively, and twelve for both, losing on two, three or eleven. A main of seven, which is most common, wins on seven or eleven, and loses on two, three or twelve.”
“My goodness, so sometimes twelve wins and sometimes it loses,” said Toby, hoping he sounded sufficiently fatuous. He did the calculations; to win with the common main of seven there were eight chances in thirty-six, to lose, four chances in thirty-six, so half as many chances to lose as to win, and the greater likelihood to be a neutral result. Other mains were riskier; the mains of five and nine each had four chances in thirty six to win, and six chances to lose. A main of six or eight had each a chance of six in thirty six to win, and four chances to lose.
This assumed the dice were fair. Toby watched the play, and absently memorised the fall of them. There was a slight edge. The six on one die after the main was called was falling more often than it should do; around eight in thirty-six instead of six. The corner was loaded, not the face, a clever thing to do, as it was not as obvious as true fulhams. This meant that a main of six became the main to bet on for a win, then the chance of a win on six and twelve went up from seven in thirty-six to more than nine in thirty-six, and to lose, something less than five in thirty-six, since two and three had a lower chance of being thrown when the six was loaded.
“A main of six!” several of the players muttered, as the caster threw.
Toby inwardly smirked but his face showed no sign of his inward glee. It looked as though this player was switching dice to give him the edge of a main of six, having one die weighted at the corner of the three and the four, and the other at the three and the two, then switching to the dice with the slightly weighted six.
The man holding the dice was part of the bank, a man by the name of Curren, whom Toby recalled had also been named a card sharp by his friend Mr. Mackie. Toby had no doubt that the dice would be switched when he did eventually lose. In the meantime, Toby said,
“I wager he makes a win inside of three throws,” he said.
“You’re on,” said Fulfleet.
Two other gentlemen were ready to take Toby’s bet.
“I’ll take your money, happily,” said Hawtin.
“I have a fondness for the number six,” Toby explained, cheerfully. The odds on getting a win in three throws was about even; it was almost thirty chances in thirty six that it would happen with the fulhams, and Toby was happy to take those odds. Curren flicked back the lace of his cuffs and tossed the dice with an elegant wrist. Six and two; no win. Next throw was five and four, still no win. Toby mentally shrugged in case his gamble lost; over time he would win, if he remained at this table making side bets.
He was in luck; the slender fingers of the cheat tossed a third time and the dice both came down as sixes! Curren smirked and took the stakes of the others, and Toby accepted his own winnings from the side bets.
It was not a huge amount to win, but it was a start, and Toby continued to bet every time Curren threw a main of six. When Curren eventually lost, throwing two on a second throw, Toby declared mournfully that the number six had let him down.
“Well, that has seen me done, I’ve had enough of this game.,” said Toby. “You’re right, Mattlebere, there is interest in the dice.”
“What, not done already? It’s not yet two in the morning,” said Mattlebere, jocularly.
“I was hoping for a game of piquet,” said Toby.
“I’ll play you myself,” said Mattlebere.
Toby smiled.
Mattlebere was good, but Toby’s memory for what had been played was phenomenal, and he was able to quickly calculate the chance of making a sequence or a set. Being ahead before playing for tricks in the exchanging round was always good. Mattlebere became more and more frustrated as Toby made small, but definite gains.
Toby left when he was up three and a half thousand; it would do well enough. Whether he reported Mattlebere’s house to Bow Street would depend on how bad a loser Mattlebere turned out to be, but Toby did intend to mention to his acquaintances the use of fulhams there. Whether Mattlebere had shares in the house, or was merely paid to introduce flat young gulls, Toby did not yet know, but if Mattlebere owned it, Toby had half a mind to get it closed.
He sauntered home, with Brunwin just behind him, much pleased with himself. It was a nice bright morning, with plenty of tradesmen already at work, and the likelihood of being set upon much reduced.
However, the last person Toby had expected to see, standing forlornly in the street was Miss Heatherington, his cousin’s wife’s friend.


oOoOo

Mary was finding it easy to work with Jemima since the little girl was happy to learn about flowers. Mary was glad of the thorough grounding in botany Miss Preston had given, and the equally thorough information imparted by her friend, Amaryllis, or Amy as she had been known. She was able to entertain the children with folk-stories about plants as well as having them draw them and help Jemima to write a little about them. Jenny was more interested in animals, but Mrs. Carruthers would not countenance a pet. Mary brought up the subject after Mrs. Carruthers had been particularly pleased with Jemima for showing her sketch book to an early morning visitor, and keeping her entertained while Mrs. Carruthers dressed. It was extremely bad manners, so far as the ton was concerned, for anyone to visit before eight in the morning, of course, but then, the Carruthers were connected with trade, however much Mrs. Carruthers liked to distance herself from it. Fortunately, she had enough wisdom not to antagonise an old business acquaintance of Mr. Carruthers, arriving on an early Mail Coach in the metropolis, and calling to take pot luck for breakfast before being about his business. Mr. Carruthers had taken a trip out of town, and he would have been most displeased had his wife been churlish to an old friend, and this Mrs. Carruthers knew.
Jemima suffered herself to sit on the old man’s knee and chattered to him about how she loved drawing flowers. Meanwhile, Mary braved Mrs. Carruthers’ foul morning temper with the news that she must rise to be polite whilst her husband was away on business.
Mrs. Carruthers had apparently been mollified by the praise of her daughter as she presided over breakfast with the visitor. Jemima, of course, had gone upstairs for nursery breakfast with her sister and Mary. Mrs. Carruthers might be expected to entertain a connection at breakfast time, but Mary knew from experience that bright childish chatter would drive her to distraction.
“Jemima is a good girl, she has made some good studies, I hear,” said Mrs. Carruthers. “Thank goodness she was able to entertain that vulgar old goat while I dressed, he has no idea of how to behave, plainly thinks himself still in Yorkshire to drop in on acquaintances with the expectation of being given a meal. And at such an hour! Why you’d think he would realise that a lady is not up before noon. But Carruthers would fuss if I sent him away,” she added with an angry little titter.
Mary bit back the comment she would have liked to have made, that Mrs. Carruthers was no lady, and lay in bed from choice rather than because she was attending functions which went on into the small hours. It was improper for an employer to use terms like ‘vulgar old goat’ of the visitor too, but then, Mrs. Carruthers had little idea of proper behaviour. Mary made her tone colourless, and spoke only of Jemimia.
“Yes, Jemima is very accomplished with her drawing, and botanical studies may be made in the garden or in the park, but drawing animals in the park for Jenny’s development is not ideal,” said she. “It would be excellent for their understanding of nature if they had a dog or a cat. A kitten would be best, of course, as a dog has to be walked. ”
“Nasty dirty things,”said Mrs. Carruthers, primming up her mouth.
“They don’t have to be,” said Mary, mildly. “Kittens may be trained to accept bathing once a month to make sure they are free from fleas, and are a source of great amusement to children, and educational as well in teaching them how to care for animals. Of course, being stuck in town, one cannot take the children to the home farm to learn about animals … Ow! Why did you strike me?” Mrs. Carruthers had backhanded Mary with a vicious blow that made her stumble.
“You stuck up creature, how dare you rub my face in not having a country estate?” hissed Mrs. Carruthers.
Mary worked on not putting her hand to her stinging face.
“I had no intention of ‘rubbing your face’ in anything,” she said, coldly. “But it’s no surprise to me now that Jemima lacks breeding. She plainly gets it from her mother.”
“You’re fired,” said Mrs. Carruthers.
“Good,” said Mary. “You don’t deserve a governess of my calibre. So far, according to the servants I’ve lasted longer than any other governess has with your ill-conditioned and spoilt brats who are now finally learning to be little ladies, and I even managed to build a rapport with them, but do you know what? I am sorry for them, because they’ll grow up unmarriageable if they don’t learn how to behave properly and if you slap me again, now I’m a free woman and not your property I will slap you back.”
“Get out!”
“I will go and pack; if you try to deprive me of my goods, I will complain to my friend, the Viscountess Rokemere, and you will not be enjoying her response.”
“Hoity toity! The sooner you are out of my house the better.”
No!” It was a screech from halfway up the stairs from Jemima. “No, Mama, Heathy is the best governess we have ever had, we wants her to stay!”
“She is insolent and I will not have her in my house!” Screeched Mrs. Carruthers back.
“Hush, Jemima, come and help me to pack, you and Jenny,” said Mary, holding out a hand to the child. Jemima let herself be led away, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“It isn’t fair!” the child declared. “You were only asking for a kitty for us!”
“I know,” said Mary. “And now you understand what I was saying about having to be ladylike. Now promise me you will try to remember all that I’ve taught you about nice manners, and then one day you and Jenny will be nice young ladies not Billingsgate fish wives.”
“I pwomise,” said Jemima. Mary hoped she would remember some of it, for if they truly went through governesses every four days as Moll, the nursery maid, had said, it did not bode well for their education or their dispositions.
“And you be nice to the next governess and give her a chance, hmmm?” Mary added.
Jemima thrust out a mutinous lip.
“I could drive a horse and cart onto that lip,” said Mary. “Give her a chance.”
“I s’pose so,” muttered Jemima. “I don’t want you to go.”
“I am sorry to leave you,” said Mary. “But your mother misunderstood something I said and thought I was taunting her. I was not. I spoke carelessly; see, even grown-ups can say things without thinking.”
“I heard,” said Jemima. “Papa ought to have a home farm so we can see lambs and things.”
“Well, not everyone does, and I didn’t realise that he didn’t,” said Mary, sighing, “Which is my mistake for making assumptions. To assume, makes an ass of ‘u’ and me, doesn’t it?” She wrote it out for Jemima, adding a picture of an ass and a quick sketch of herself and Jemima with asses’ ears. Jemima giggled.
“I will keep this for ever’n’ever,” she said.
Mary finished packing and kissed both children.
“You be good children for me,” she said, ringing for a servant to carry down her trunk and picking up her bandbox.
The little girls were sobbing as she went out of the door, and Mary resolutely turned away from their mother’s futile shouts to them to be silent.
She had done something disastrous as she now had no job and no references, for Mrs. Carruthers would never write about how Jenny was just learning to read by her efforts and Jemima was now reading fluently, nor that she had them behaving beautifully in her few weeks in the household. No, she would write only that Mary was insolent and harped on about her position as the illegitimate daughter of Somebody. For one lapse.
And she needed to find some beggar strong enough to carry her trunk to a post inn, or hope a hackney carriage passed by.

Chapter 9

Toby doffed his hat and made a beautiful leg as he perceived Mary, standing forlornly on the street.
“Miss Heatherington! May I be of assistance to you?”
“Oh Mr. Davenport!” Mary was almost ready to burst into tears of relief. “You are a white knight in shining armour!”
“Steady on, old girl, I’m a bleary-eyed dissipated gambler on his way home.”
“You look like the most wonderful person in the world to me,” said Mary. “I’ve just been given my congé by Mrs. Carruthers.”
“Your congé? Ain’t you on the town looking for a husband?” asked Toby, confused. Mary gave a short, bitter laugh.
“Bastards don’t rank a Season,” she said. “My father’s wife insisted that I become a governess, and though it wasn’t a surprise it was still hard. And she, my employer, is such a low creature, with a voice you could cut with glass, and she hit me.”
“Good G-d!” said Toby.
Mary poured it all out to him, and Toby was infuriated.
“Your father would not countenance you being treated like that. You’re coming with me straight to my Aunt Amabel and we’ll see about you not having a season, though it’s too late really this year.”
“I can’t ….”
“You can and you will; Lucius would have my ears if I didn’t look out for his wife’s best friend, even if I didn’t think we were friends. We are friends, aren’t we?”
At that moment Mrs. Carruthers descended.
“You little whore, don’t you dare pick up lovers on my doorstep!” she screeched, advancing on Mary. Toby stepped quickly in front of her, and Mrs. Carruthers found herself being observed through a gold quizzing glass of indisputable quality by a man dressed in impeccable evening clothes.
“Good Gad, whatever is Evesham thinking of, letting his girl come to some prime dell like this?” demanded Toby. “Miss Heatherington, I am sorry that this female should have had anything to do with someone of your birth. She will not dare to lay a finger on you, as I am a witness, and she won’t like being whipped at the cart’s tail for common assault, which is what I promise will happen if she tries,” he stared with that overly-enlarged eye at Mrs. Carruthers’ still upraised hand.
“She’s nothing but a cheap ….”
“There are laws of slander, you know, madam,” said Toby. “And Evesham might let his wife have her way over some things, but he won’t permit some … nobody … like you to drag his name through the mud. Miss Heatherington will be staying with my aunt, Lady Remington, who likes her very much and would have been more than happy to have her stay as a companion had she known that Miss Heatherington had been placed in such an invidious position. Unless you also want to insult the Rokemere family as well, I suggest you retire indoors and stop insulting your betters.”
“I ….”
“You were standing in my way still for what reason?” asked Toby. “I’m not averse to calling a constable and having you arrested for accosting me on the public highway, you know.”
Mrs. Carruthers paled and fled; that would be interpreted as charge of soliciting.
“Oh Mr. Davenport, you could not!” Mary was half shocked.
“I damn well could, and I would,” said Toby. “Bad enough to throw you out at such an ungodly hour of the morning, she didn’t have to pursue you out and start screeching at you just because a gentleman stopped to be civil, and indeed if I had had designs on your virtue, she should have been rescuing you, not calling you names. Brunwin, my dear fellow, we need a hackney carriage; pray procure one.”
“Yes, squire,” said Brunwin.
“I’ll get him speaking like a regular valet some day,” said Toby, after Brunwin had departed on his quest. “Pray be seated, Miss Heatherington; your trunk appears suitable, and it may be a bit of a wait.”
“He looks more like a pugilist than a valet,” said Mary.
“He is,” said Toby. “Fellow we met while Lucius and I were engaged in that little business. Looks after my back; I’m making some enemies in town and I’m planning on irritating more people before I’ve done.”
“Oh, tell me more!”
Toby explained his quest, and was delighted to see that Mary was ahead of his explanations into the odds.
“Stap me, if you ain’t a jolly well educated girl,” he said. “Amy laughs at me.”
“Oh, Amy would,” said Mary. “She’s not interested in figures at all beyond keeping accounts, but I find it all very interesting.”
Toby laughed.
“Maybe I should loan you some capital and let you play with some of the dangerous men and women of the gambling world too,” he said.
“I don’t think I have the confidence,” said Mary. “Oh, unless it would help you, and I might pay my way?”
“I tell you what,” said Toby, “If you want to pay your way, I’ve been doing the accounts for a female who runs a gaming house; she’s shrewd but not clever, but I wager she’d like a secretary to go in two or three times a week to handle her correspondence, and maybe to teach her to read as well. She came up from the gutter, you know, and I respect her.” He grimaced. “I’m avoiding her toils; I don’t want her as a mistress!” he added. “But she’s a woman who won’t let the men who gamble with her interfere with her maids, so she has a decent heart.”
“It sounds ideal,” said Mary. “Would it be more suitable if I lodged with her than with your aunt?”
“Not at all,” said Toby. “Aunt Amabel will be delighted, ah, and the inestimable Brunwin has found us a carriage.”


Mary found herself exclaimed over, embraced, and tenderly installed in a guest suite in Lady Remington’s town house.
“And just as well Toby is about his mad venture for I should have retired to the country by now, ordinarily, and was considering doing so now he has his own apartment,” said Lady Remington. “Naturally you will be my guest, and we shall retire presently to my country house, and I will be letting Edmund Eves know exactly what sort of besom was chosen by his wife to whom to send his daughter, because if she didn’t do it out of malice I’ll be surprised. Marianne Foljambe was a spiteful piece when she was first out and she’s doubtless no less of a spiteful piece as Countess of Evesham. I will take great delight in putting Edmund right, and serve him right for marrying her on the rebound.”
“What do you mean, Aunt Amabel?” asked Toby.
“I turned him down,” said Amabel. “I’d already met Remington, and though he was much older than I, I loved him. I was only sorry not to have been able to give him children, and believe me, if he’d had an illegitimate daughter, I’d have taken great delight in lavishing affection on her. So, my dear, I plan to look on you as the daughter I never had, and if Evesham wants to make anything of it, you are employed by me as my companion.”
“Please, Lady Remington, Mr. Davenport said I might pay my way for working for a woman who runs a gaming establishment.”
“Well, if you want to earn a little more for a few weeks before we withdraw to Remington, I won’t stop you, there’s precious little here to keep you busy and I wouldn’t want you to be bored; but only if Toby drives you there and collects you,” said Lady Remington. “And you will call me ‘Aunt Amabel’.”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Mary.
“There, you poor child, you are overwhelmed, and I doubt you have even had breakfast, for I have not, though it’s too early to even be up, if you ask me. We shall have chocolate and bread-and-butter in my boudoir and no doubt Toby will cajole a more manly breakfast out of my servants.
“By Jove yes,” said Toby. “Chocolate wouldn’t go amiss, but bread-and-butter? Tame stuff for a man who has been playing piquet all night against a fellow who marks his cards. Damned hard work keeping abreast of his marking system, I can tell you! I need beef, pickles, coddled eggs and toast as well as bread-and-butter and chocolate, I assure you!”
“Such a lovely healthy appetite the boy has,” murmured Amabel.
Mary permitted herself to be drawn away to discuss a lighter breakfast and to pour out all the vicissitudes of working for Mrs. Carruthers and to win Amabel’s heart by worrying about the little girls.
“Well, my dear, if they do as you have told them, they will do very well, and you might consider sponsoring them when they are grown up, by way of heaping coals of fire on That Woman’s head, for you will undoubtedly make a brilliant marriage. I will see to it,” said Amabel.
Mary, overwhelmed by everything, burst into tears, and received a most motherly demonstration of affection from Amabel, who was genuinely pleased to have a surrogate daughter once more, after the fun she had had in bringing Amy out.

oOoOo

Toby was assured a welcome by Marguerite at an unfashionably early hour, since that lady got up well before the fashionable hour of noon. She rose early, however late she had gone to bed, in order to see to anything which was needful in the running of her house. It was her custom to take a nap in the afternoon once servants had been set to performing any task required, and Toby knew better than to call on her between the hours of two and four.
Marguerite, still clad in a chemise and light cotton dressing gown for comfort, regarded Mary warily as she came into the room to see what Toby wanted.
“Miss Labellette! May I introduce Miss Heatherington?” said Toby, making a punctilious leg to his hostess, as Mary curtseyed. “She’s Evesham’s daughter, and has been governess to a harpy who looks like a prime dell, and could win screaming contests with the women of Billingsgate. I bethought me of your needs, and Miss Heatherington’s desire to pay her own way, and thought the solution quite fortuitous. Miss Heatherington is more than capable of doing accounts, and answering letters, and if you wanted lessons in reading and writing with more facility, she’d be ideal.”
“Are you giving up my accounts, Toby?” asked Marguerite.
“As I’ve found you a replacement, yes,” said Toby. “I’m expecting to go haring off to Prinny’s little seaside place shortly.”
“Then I am most pleased you have found me a replacement,” said Marguerite. “If I had known, however, I would not have appeared en dishabille.
“Don’t see why not; you always go through the accounts with me in your dishabil,” said Toby.
Mary dimpled at Marguerite.
“Men are so direct and wanting for tact, aren’t they, Miss Labellette? I quite understand your desire to meet a new employee in formal wear, but please be assured that I take no offence, having been rather thrust upon you. And I wish I might look half as lovely as you even dressed carefully!”
Compliments from other women were always to be treasured, and Marguerite preened.
“Between you and me, I have a bath and have my hair done before I rise into a clean chemise,” she said. “I dress to please myself in the summer heat!”
Mary nodded.
“Very wise,” she concurred.
“Right, I’ll leave you two ladies to get acquainted,” said Toby. “Pick you up about two, Miss Heatherington; your servant, Miss Labellette.”
When he had gone, Marguerite regarded Mary thoughtfully.
“I ain’t bowing and scraping to you, for all you’re the daughter of a lord,” said Marguerite.
“I would hope that you’d be as civil to me as I was going to be to you, and not act like that low creature I have been working for who resented me for who my father was and tried to put me down for it,” said Mary. “Mr. Davenport says you have most of the instincts of a lady, which puts you well above Mrs. Carruthers.”
“He did? He is a nice boy,” said Marguerite. “He said I might like to learn to read off of you, and I feel a bit defensive about it.”
“Oh, there’s nothing to feel defensive about,” said Mary. “It’s a skill I have, and I know how to pass that skill on. I managed to teach Jenny Carruthers to read, and she started off by declaring she didn’t want to learn.”
“She must be touched in the upper works,” said Marguerite. “Having the opportunity to learn when she’s just a nipper, when it comes easy, she don’t know she’s got it made.”
“Oh Miss Labellette, neither of those poor little girls know that they’ve got it made,” cried Mary. “Their mother teaches them to screech and to grab, because it’s what she does, and they have nobody to teach them that nice manners and a polite request gets more than demanding.”
“Jeffery taught me that, Mary,” said Marguerite. “I wouldn’t of … have … known it either. And yet they’re well off? Goes to show, don’t it?”
“It does,” said Mary. “And if you want to learn to read, why then, it will come easier for you, though I will have to find more interesting starting phrases when I have shown you the sounds the letters make than ‘Tab the cat sat on the mat’.
“Oh, well, I can put up with silly things so long as nobody knows,” said Marguerite.
“The beautiful thing is, once you start to read, you find yourself puzzling out more and more, and you start to learn without even realising you are progressing,” said Mary.
“Truly? I should like to be able to read things like Fanny Burney’s novels, ‘Evelina’ and ‘Cecilia’ which I have heard so much about.”
“Then perhaps I may read to you, between lessons, and sorting out your correspondence, and it will then be easier for you when you come to read them for yourself,” said Mary.
“I like the sound of that,” said Marguerite. “My thanks.”
“You’re welcome. Are we going to be friends or do you want me to be very much your secretary?”
“We’re going to be friends and you are going to call me Marguerite,” said Marguerite, who was delighted to find Mary’s manners so easy towards her. And if a part of that was the ability to mention ‘my friend, Mary, Evesham’s girl, you know,’ well, Marguerite knew how to drop names. It kept her in her demi-monde splendour.
SubjectAuthorPosted

Ace of Schemes 7-9

Sarah WaldockOctober 29, 2017 08:47PM

Re: Ace of Schemes 7-9

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Re: Ace of Schemes 7-9

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Re: Ace of Schemes 7-9

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