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Ace of Schemes 10-12

November 02, 2017 09:15PM
Chapter 10

Marguerite might not know that her demi-monde splendour was tolerated as a not too unsuitable place for Mary to visit by Lady Remington. This was purely because the society hostess had heard of the care Marguerite lavished on her maids, and the pains she took not to permit licentious behaviour on her premises. Amabel would never receive Marguerite, but she was willing to acknowledge her. She was forced to accept certain people she would rather not, who had acquired titles, but she could make her approbation or otherwise known in whom she chose to acknowledge in the park.
Indeed, Lady Remington had given a stiff, and slightly condescending bow to Marguerite in the park, and Marguerite was sensible enough to accept that as an accolade, not cavil over the air of condescension. The accolade had been, as it happened, for Marguerite’s choice of dress, which was modest, and her smart, but not showy, horse and gig. Since Marguerite had been horrified to be compared to a certain Lady Trevett, the rather vulgar wife of a second generation baronet, she had been modifying her own dress and behaviour.
She said to Mary,
“Lady Remington bowed to me in the park; I ain’t like that Lady Trevett.”
Mary shuddered.
“No, indeed; I’ve not spoken to her, but I’ve heard of her from Amy, my best friend, and she says she’d be ashamed if her parents acted like that. Mr. Cockley is proud of his rise through industry but he’s a very genuine man, Sir Humphrey Trevett didn’t even make his own money, his father did, but he boasts about being able to buy out anyone. They call him ‘the bull’ for his way of pushing on regardless of people’s feelings, and she has no regard for other people either. And I heard Lady Trevett had him buy a farm for her, in imitation of Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon.”
“Well, fancy that!” said Marguerite. “You wouldn’t catch me grubbing in the dirt.”
“Oh a farm can be entertaining, if you understand what’s going on,” said Mary. “Though I agree with you about grubbing in the dirt, it’s not to my taste, either. Amy enjoys gardening though, but she breeds roses, she doesn’t pretend to be a farmer! I wrote a little poem about Lady Trevett, actually, it’s a bit unkind,” she added, blushing.
“Oh my dear, do tell!” Marguerite was agog. Mary recited,

“Milady thought a farm so neat
Would be so very charming,
She thought the animals were sweet
So tried her hand at farming.

She said ‘my life is very full,
But oh! I had a scare,
I milked a cow, but ‘twas a bull!
I blush at what was there! ’

‘The bull and I, we made a pact,
He thought me very pretty
And so you know it is a fact
My children are not witty.’”

Marguerite fell about laughing. Mary was a little shocked by her uninhibited showing of her teeth and gums, but it was gratifying to receive such genuine mirth over her efforts.
“Now that’s a real good piece of poetry, much better than that rubbish by Shakespeare,” said Marguerite.
“Oh, I’m not as clever as Shakespeare, but then he was writing for people a long time ago, and Miss Preston says it’s very smutty if people only knew where the dirty bits were and she wasn’t going to tell us.”
“Well now, I have to say I didn’t think the old codger had it in him! Pity we don’t know it, eh?” said Marguerite.
“Amy and I spend most of our time at school trying to get Miss Preston to explain that, but she never did,” Mary said mournfully.
Marguerite laughed.
“Well, I like your poem more,” she said.
Mary laughed.
“Well, most of it is simple enough, we can use it to help you with your reading,” she said. “Rhyming helps learning too, because it makes it easier to work out a word if you know what it rhymes with.”
“And much more entertaining than nursery rhymes,” agreed Marguerite.
Mary had written out labels for items of furniture in Marguerite’s private boudoir; as she had no lover, she did not invite anyone else in besides Mary.
“You’re the first woman friend I’ve ever had,” she confided. “Unless you count my dresser, but sometimes she makes me feel nervous! It’s not always easy being on the edge of society.”
“No, I can see that,” said Mary. “And I will not stop being your friend, even if I do become Lady Remington’s companion. She says you have pretty manners and good taste, so I think she will not prevent me from visiting, even when you have learned to read fluently and to do your own accounts with facility.”
Marguerite was an emotional person and she clasped Mary fondly to her ample bosom. It was good to feel accepted, not just an accessory to her protector.



Mary found herself caught up in a whirl of shopping outside of her time with Marguerite .
“I don’t need any more clothes,” she protested.
“Nonsense, my dear, I’ve been itching to dress you since you turned up with Amy, looking more like a governess than a schoolgirl,” said Amabel. “Aunt Amabel is always right; just repeat that several times a day and you will soon get the hang of it.”
Mary giggled.
“Oh, Aunt Amabel, you are very kind to me! I don’t want to be a burden, or cause you an excess of expenditure, Lady Evesham said that a young girl was an expense and a nuisance.”
“And you expect me to agree with that totty-headed baggage? ‘Pon rep, here’s a how-de-do of abuse, making you feel less than you are, the besom! And I wager she knew just what that Carruthers female was like. I’d adopt you formally if I didn’t think it would cause trouble with Evesham, but you may assume you are my adopted niece. Remington left everything to me, having no heirs of his body, to do with as I please, and I’m well enough off to please myself. So no more of this, miss!” she added.
“No, Aunt Amabel; I’m sorry,” said Mary. She could not pretend that she did not enjoy buying beautiful fabrics to be made up by Lady Remington’s seamstress, and that she did not enjoy the soft coolness of the chemises a la reine which were both fashionable and pretty, and not the sort of clothes her father’s wife had considered in any way suitable for a bastard to wear. Lady Remington had fashion drawings from France, and Mary thought herself very dashing in a cloud of white muslin, a frilled collar at the neck, elbow-length sleeves puffed half way along their length and held with a blue ribbon which matched the sash at her waist. A matching scarf about her wide-brimmed straw hat made Mary feel very fine.
“I am glad hair is no longer built up,” said Mary. “I would be very hot in that!”
“It was excruciating,” said Amabel. “I shaved my head and wore a wig when it was in fashion, once I had lost my poor Remington. It pleased him to play with my hair, you understand, so I would never cut it while he was alive to enjoy it. But having it shaved was much more practical, and a good big mob cap when I was not going out. In the earlier years of built up hair it was easy enough for one’s dresser to do inside of an hour or two, but the later stages of it, like the size of hoops, became ridiculous. You won’t need hoops, either, my dear, apart from court wear, they have died the death, thank goodness. But you will need more formal gowns. An overdress and petticoat answers that well enough, and all the fullness in the fabric of the petticoat, not hoops. I thought we might answer the fashion for stripes with dimity woven to have a satin self-colour stripe, and a muslin with a spot woven in would be nice too, and if you think I’m going to let you make a cake of yourself with leopard printed fabric you can think again.”
“Leopard spots look better on leopards,” agreed Mary. “And keeping stripes to the petticoat seems sensible, there are some people who take the wearing of stripes too far.”
“Did you see the caricature of the Prince of Wales last year, with every garment striped and a picture of a zebra in the background, since the Queen is so fond of zebras? I assure you, my dear, he looked less of a striped ass in the drawing than he did when we went to a fête champêtre and he was in a purple and green jacket.”***
Mary giggled.
“I know purple and the right green can be pleasing together, as with a violet flower and its leaf, but in stripes it sounds a little overwhelming.”
“It was. Yes, and you chose a very pretty muslin embroidered with violets and their leaves all over, and perhaps we might pick a lutestring in purple or lavender with a fine line of green in it, not an even stripe, to make into an overgown?”
“Yes, that would be quite acceptable,” said Mary. “And the sash and trim in green. One might also make a feature of the satin stripes in muslin by having the flounces with the stripes running horizontally, the other way to the vertical stripes of the skirt, perhaps?”
“Yes, a good idea, and perhaps also on the bodice, with the collar back to them running vertically.”


Mary was dressed in a dimity spotted all over in lilac spots with a lilac and purple striped overgown next time she went to sort out Marguerite’s correspondence.
Before doing this, she gave Marguerite a reading lesson, which went very well. Marguerite was a quick pupil, which perhaps Jeffery Fonteneau had not fully appreciated.
“You learn so fast! I’m really proud of your progress, though I have no right to be proud as it’s all your hard work,” commented Mary. Marguerite flushed, pleased.
“Truly? Jeffery sometimes got cross with me, and said I was slow and stupid.”
“I don’t think he can have had any patience then, or any understanding of how people learn,” said Mary. “I think you are a very quick and apt pupil.”
It made Marguerite all the more determined to learn; Jeffery had been unable to make her a fluent reader in one lesson, and he had given up. To be thought quick and apt by a young lady she knew was very highly educated was as much an incentive to learn as the thought of enjoying reading novels, and being able to handle her own private correspondence.
Marguerite retired for her customary nap, leaving Mary to sit down in the salon with the various bills and other letters to make sense of them for her employer. The bills she would deal with promptly, entering the amounts in the daily ledger, and pinning the bills to the page for future reference, writing notes of hand to those to be paid ready for Marguerite to sign. Most of the correspondence consisted of a fairly even mix of invitations to Marguerite to attend parties of more or less decorum, and love letters from those smitten by Marguerite’s still lovely looks. And if Marguerite sighed a little at the dewy freshness of Mary’s youthful looks, it was plain that the chit had no idea how well she looked with her hair curled into shepherdess ringlets under her wide hat and her face glowing with health, vitality and enthusiasm. And it did tickle Marguerite’s ego that Mary admired her own dark beauty!
Mary had just finished, and stood, stretching her back, when the door to the salon opened, and she looked round eagerly, expecting to see Toby come to collect her.
It was a man, not Toby, but a sneering-visaged man with the coarse skin of dissipation. Mary did not meet Marguerite’s club members, and was shocked.
“Well, now!” said Mattlebere, for it was he. “So the fair Marguerite has taken my advice and brought in some frail beauties to help us play.”
“I am not sure what you mean, sir, but I am Miss Labellette’s secretary,” said Mary.
“Don’t play coy with me; I’m a member of the club, and entitled to sample the wares,” said Mattlebere, advancing on Mary to try to slip an arm about her. She evaded him, and put the desk between them. “What’s this? I may have to punish you later for being naughty,” he said, laughing a laugh which made Mary feel sick.
She seized the ink-pot and threw it at him. It was not large enough to hurt him, but the distraction of being covered in ink meant that she had time to seize the poker.
“You don’t think I’m intimidated by that, do you?” sneered Mattlebere. “You’ve made me really angry now, and I shall enjoy whipping your pert little rump for playing coy.”
Mary had no intention of hitting him with the poker; she knew she had not the physical strength to hurt him through the heavy wool of his jacket. She plied the poker as Mrs. Preston taught her girls to ply their fans and thrust it forward like a sword into that place men do not like to be assaulted.
Mattlebere dropped to his knees, retching.
At this moment, Toby came in.
“What the devil?” he asked.
“Oh Mr. Davenport! I think this beastly fellow is in his cups, he called me a ‘frail beauty’, does that mean what I fear it might?” asked Mary.
“I’m afraid it does, Miss Heatherington,” said Toby. “You.” He said coldly to Mattlebere, “Get up; you have offered insult to Miss Heatherington.”
“What do you care about that little whore?” demanded Mattlebere, staggering to his feet.
Toby hit him.
“Miss Heatherington, who is Lord Evesham’s only daughter, is not a whore. She’s kindly helping out Miss Labellette with some paperwork,” he said. “Not that it’s any of your business. I suggested it as an interesting avocation for her, but I wasn’t expecting her to even have to meet the likes of you during the afternoon.” Toby was afraid of Mattlebere spreading nasty rumours about Mary if he did not make her situation absolutely clear.
“I called in to see Marguerite,” said Mattlebere, wiping blood from his mouth.
“Well, you didn’t seem to be very good at doing that, did you?” said Toby. “When I tell her, you’ll be blackballed from her club; and as of now you are leaving.”
“Be damned if I will, you whelp; you caught me off guard!” Mattlebere lunged at Toby. He knew some boxing, and he was bigger and heavier than Toby, but Mary had no fear that he would win. Toby knew science, and if she was not precisely sure what science was, but it was something that had made Amy’s Lucius a winner.
Mary was not disappointed, and Mattlebere received a thorough pounding. And when he went down, groggy, Toby seized him by the collar and dragged him out of the salon with no consideration for the marks his boots made in the expensive French carpet.
“Lord Mattlebere will not be returning,” said Toby, to the comptroller, authoritatively. “I am sure the same rules pertain for Madam’s secretary as for the maids …. No, she is unhurt, defended her honour most vigorously … thank you.” Prentice gave a look and gasp of scandalised horror, for he had recognised Mary as Quality from the moment he had laid eyes upon her. Equally, he recognised the unspoken offer to help lug out Mattlebere and quickly came to Toby’s aid in that quest. Toby slipped Prentice a more substantial thanks after Mattlebere tumbled head over heels down the steps.
“You made an enemy there, Mr. Davenport,” said Prentice.
“Oh well, he who never made enemies never made anything,” said Toby. “He doesn’t like me anyway; he might not have marked cards here, but he does at his own club and he don’t like above half when other people read his marks.”
Prentice shook his head.
“He might be Quality, but he’s a bad ‘un,” he said. “I shan’t be disappointed to see him excluded.”
“No, quite. Now please tell Miss Heatherington that I shall be with her presently to take her home, and that I will just tell Miss Labellette what has occurred. I fear I will have to intrude on her nap over this; pray send her maid to waken her.”
Prentice bowed.
He had crossed the line in being too familiar towards Mr. Davenport and was hiding how mortified he was. He sent Marguerite’s formidable dresser to tell her mistress that Mr. Davenport had something unpleasant to impart, and took some pleasure in not informing that curious worthy what the ‘something unpleasant’ might be. Like all good servants he dealt with his embarrassment by taking it out on another servant in driving the woman mad with unfulfilled curiosity.

Chapter 11

“Oh Mr. Davenport, Miss Labellette doesn’t blame me, does she?” asked Mary, as soon as Toby had her tucked into his curricle.
“Eh? Not in the least. She’s very angry with George Mattlebere, and has struck his name off the books. And something she said leads me to think he’s got one of his own maidservants with child; will you object to having a maid who is in the family way, and doing something to raise her child?”
“Not at all, poor girl!” said Mary, warmly.
“Then I’ll leave you at Aunt Amabel’s, to drink chocolate and tell her about your magnificent arrêt à bon temps as you might say.”
“You are teasing. Is that something from boxing?”
“I am teasing a little. It’s a term used in fencing but it wouldn’t have been a bad move with an epée if you were fighting for your life, and it stopped him, which is the main thing. I can teach you a little fencing, if you like.”
“I should like to learn; even if the poker is more my weapon than the foil.”

oOoOo

It took Brunwin very little time to track down the name of the poor little maid who had been used and thrown out by Mattlebere. Toby had sent him down the area steps with sundry spices for sale at low prices in order to get the servants talking, and talk they did.
“This little girl ain’t hardly more’n a child, the housekeeper said,” said Brunwin. “Outa the foundling house she came, saddled with a name like Hepzibah. Some people oughter be ashamed o’ themselves, and I don’t just mean rakes like that Mattlebere fellow.”
“It is rather an extreme of puritan zeal,” said Toby. “Did they know where she’s gone?”
“Well, her downstairs said the girl was talking about throwing herself into the Thames,” said Brunwin.
“Dammit!” said Toby. “He dismissed her last night, she will have already have thrown herself in if she’s serious, during the hours of darkness. He told Marguerite that it served her right for not knowing how to avoid such things, poor little thing.”
“Well, squire, you’d be wrong about already having done it, because the housekeeper let her stay overnight,” said Brunwin.
“Then we have no time to lose,” said Toby.

The sad waif hesitating at the edge of the docks was certainly trying to make up her mind about something.
“Would you be Hepzibah?” asked Toby, doffing his hat as he would to any female.
She turned.
“Does … does the master want me back?” there was half hope, half fear.
“Never mind about the master; I know a young lady who has just rammed a poker into his tender parts who said any maid of his who he had got into a predicament was someone she was going to look after,” said Toby.
Hepzibah stared then put her hand to her mouth to cover a hysterical giggle.
“It’s all right; I laughed myself silly myself,” said Toby. “Mind, I came in as she had just done it so I also saw his face. Very funny. Almost as funny as when I hit him.”
“Oh sir! He is powerful, he might hurt you!”
“Doubt it; I’m not without friends m’self,” said Toby. “And Miss Heatherington doesn’t have a maid of her own yet, so perhaps you’ll like to learn how to be a personal maid to her, hmm? No men in the household bar the other servants, and they know not to interfere with the maids! Just m’aunt and Miss Heatherington.”
“Oh sir! I know they say a girl didn’t ought to get with child, but oh sir, how can you help it when he’s bigger and stronger than you, and I don’t really want to die!”
“No, of course you don’t, though a name like ‘Hepzibah’ can’t be conducive to being cheerful.”
“Oh sir, you understand! It’s a sad affliction to me,” said Hepzibah.
“Have you ever wanted to change it?”
“Yes, sir, I call myself ‘Marie-Antoinette’, after the beautiful Queen of France.”
“Stap me if it ain’t as much of a mouthful as Hepzibah, but if you’ll answer to Marie, that will do,” said Toby. “And you new mistress is named ‘Mary’, so it ain’t a name as don’t do high and low, even if it is pronounced different.”
“Oh, sir, thank you, sir,” said Marie.
Toby delivered Marie to Mary, and left them to it.
He had a visit to Bow Street to make, regarding Mattlebere’s gambling house which was unlikely to be licensed and was certainly not a private club to permit the illegal games it ran. Had Mattlebere not managed to come to his attention twice in one day in negative situations, Toby might not have bothered, but the man was beginning to annoy him in the way a louse annoys, and it was an itch Toby intended to scratch.
Marie, meanwhile, confided shyly to her new mistress that she was four months gone, and the child had quickened in her womb and she felt fluttery kicks quite often now.
“Dear me, that must incommode you at times,” said Mary, who was nothing if not practical. She added, “You must slip out to use the necessary offices whenever you need to, do not feel you have to stop to ask my permission.”
“Oh miss! You are an angel!” declared Marie, in deep gratitude.

oOoOo

The fair Marguerite, deprived of one of her clients, and hoping not to lose her secretary too, was as gay as could be, to make sure nobody knew that anything had been amiss. She had the kind of memory so often found in the illiterate and amused her party by reciting the poem Mary had written about the Lady Trevett. It was very well received.
It did not occur to Marguerite that Mary had told her the poem entirely in confidence, and that she would be mortified to find the poem in public circulation.
Indeed, Mary was mortified at a soirée she attended with Amabel, with Toby for once in attendance, to hear it repeated.
Toby saw her face, and dragged her behind a potted palm.
“Whatever’s the matter, Miss Heatherington?” he demanded. “You ain’t friends with the Trevett besom are you? Why she’s a cousin of your father’s wife!”
“I know, which makes it worse, only, oh, Mr. Davenport, I wrote the poem and told Marguerite, never dreaming she’d either remember it or pass it on!”
“Oh damn Marguerite! She is not the sharpest stick in the bundle, I fear, but she can memorise things very well. It’s why she’s an adequate card player. Listen, ignore it. If anyone tries to tell it to you, smile faintly and say that it was amusing the first time, but repetition leads to ennui. If need be, I’ll take the blame for it.”
“Oh, Mr. Davenport, I can’t ask you to do that!”
“Yes you can; Prinny and his swains will think it uncommon clever of me, and anyone likely to hate me isn’t the sort of person I’d want to be friendly with anyway.”
“I wouldn’t for the world have let other people hear anything so unkind, even if it does suit her,” said Mary.
“No, you’re a kind-hearted little thing, and I wager any poems you wrote about Lady Evesham you tore up and burned as soon as you’d let your feelings out in them.”
“Oh, how did you guess?”
“Stands to reason, if you’ve written one poem, you’ve written others, and if you’ve written others, they’re likely about people you don’t like. Now, go and repair your eyes and powder your cheeks or whatever it is ladies do when they are looking dismal, and come out looking gay. It’ll be a nine-day wonder and you’ll never hear of it again.”
“Oh, I hope so,” said Mary, fervently!
The poem continued to do the rounds, and Toby smiled enigmatically when the authorship was questioned, and murmured that it was no great shakes in the poetry line but that he believed it was amusing. This firmly led the ton to assume him to be the author, and he was duly congratulated on his wit by sundry acquaintances.
“Too funny by half,” said Higgins. “Knowing something of farming, it riles me to see those who play at it. I wager she’s the sort of woman who would try to milk a bull, because she can’t tell the difference.”
“Face it, she probably couldn’t tell the difference between a bull and a bullock,” said Toby.
“Wouldn’t get very far getting children with a bullock,” commented Higgins, with earthy good humour.
“And I never had you tagged as a poet, Cherub” said Mackie.
“There’s a lot of things you don’t know about me, Poxy,” said Toby.
“I don’t think you did write it, but if you’re covering for someone who did, it’s fine by me,” said Mackie, doggedly. “If you were going to go in for satirical verse, I’d wager you’d have already done it at school.”
“Poxy, you always had a long head,” said Toby, impressed. “Well, I admit it, and only to us four, but yes, I’m taking any disapproval from the head of another. As a friend of the Prince, I can get away with scurrilous rhymes.”
The third of his friends, Mr. Chipperfield, nodded sagely.
“It’ll be a lady,” he said. “And ladies being coarse ain’t looked on with approval, even when they’re spot on.”
“No comment,” said Toby.

oOoOo

“I didn’t really write it, sir, so I’m sorry, I won’t be able to write other witty and scurrilous poems for you,” Toby confided privately to Prince George, “But I claimed authorship to cover the confusions of a lady, who had never intended for it to be shared, and only recited it to someone she thought would be discreet.”
“Ah, I understand; damned shame though, having a poet who could manage something useful rather than the usual June and moon or rose and pose nonsense might have been entertaining,” said the prince. “The lady wouldn’t consider ….”
“No, I’m afraid not,” said Toby. “Her sensibilities are too delicate to hurt anyone’s feelings by her studied wit, though she can make the odd cutting remark if it’s needed. But there’s something different about the heat of the moment and cold-blooded character assassination by pointed ode.”
“Haha, very witty,” said the prince. “Well, well, I appreciate her sentiments. Not that overblown piece whose house you frequent?”
“Poor Marguerite, no, not her, a friend of the Viscountess Rokemere,” said Toby.
“Understood; must look out for Rokemere and his good lady and their friends,” said the prince. “Tol lol; there’ll be other amusements.”
Toby fervently hoped so; Mary was such a nervous girl in public, not because she was boring like the friend she had made, Miss Loring, but because she was used to being slapped down by that wretched woman her father had married. Well, he was declared the author of the outrageous poem, and Sir Humphrey Trevett had thrown a most magnificent hysterical outburst and demanded that Toby should meet him.
“Certainly, sir, whenever and wherever you please, though I have to say it’s a little impolite to challenge a fellow you haven’t been introduced to,” Toby replied promptly. “As challenged party, I choose swords.”
Somebody was whispering to Trevett, who went a sickly colour.
“I … I was joking,” said Trevett. “Even as you were, of course when you wrote that. My dear lady thinks it hilarious. Hahaha!”
Apparently he had been seen working out in Angelo’s. Toby did not think he was good enough for someone to go that colour, but then, he compared himself, as he did with boxing, with his cousin, Lucius, who was a fine sportsman.
Toby bowed.
“I am glad your good lady takes it with such good humour; I can only apologise to you that it is has been taken up by the public since I assure you it was only ever penned for personal amusement. I should not leave copies of such things on my desk for visitors to read and publish abroad,” he said.
“Oh!” said Trevett. “Not meant to ridicule the wife publicly?”
“Not at all, Sir Humphrey. It’s not at all the thing to do; why, nobody should publish such a thing about a lady, but now the poem is out, the best and most dignified thing to do is to ignore it, and wait for it to be forgotten, which it will be soon enough. The Prince is retiring to Brighthelmstone, or whatever it is he calls it now, Brighton, and all the world will be waiting to see what Mrs. Fitzherbert is wearing when she goes to Steine House.”
“Oh, yes, quite.” ‘The Bull’ was a little mollified.
“Come to dinner with me,” said Toby. “I’m dining at Brook’s with my cousin’s father-in-law, a most excellent man; Mr. Cockley is in corsets, and I’m sure he deserves a baronetage like your esteemed father for managing the figures of the multitude. I’d be scared to meet a lot of women if they weren’t confined with a good corset!”
Sir Humphrey managed a laugh.
“I didn’t know you were in trade,” he said.
“Oh, I’ve a foot in both camps as you might say,” said Toby. “I’m a parson’s son, but my cousin, Viscount Rokemere, says that the aristocracy are nothing but farmers with coronets, and that diversifying into trade is sensible.”
“Well now!” Sir Humphrey was amazed. Brought up by a mother who was an impoverished aristocrat to distance himself from his father’s source of wealth, he had managed to alienate both men of business and aristocrats.
“Your father was a clever man, I believe, shrewd enough to recognise a need for steel buttons for the military,” said Toby, and firmly took his erstwhile adversary to dine with Nathaniel Cockley. Sir Humphrey still held all the patents and gained his income from the mills, even if he was a disappointment to his father in taking no interest in them, and Toby felt that there was room for trade discussion regarding eyelets, if not buttons, for the lacing of corsets. Or at least to discuss changing fashion from France.
It may be said that Lady Trevett was never going to be mollified about so scurrilous a poem, even being told it was not meant for publication. But then, Lady Trevett had even lower antecedents than her husband, having been an actress when her husband had met her. This was a fact she had attempted to cover up by the invention of a whole spurious family tree, emphasising her connection to a respectable branch of her family who barely knew she existed. In this little fiction, Sir Humphrey also indulged her. He would have been hurt to know that his wife despised him for his many indulgences, and having provided him with an heir and a spare, she sought her pleasures elsewhere. By coincidence she had found a lover from amongst those who had known her as Betty Bounce, and of whom she was at least as much afraid as she was attracted to him. His name was George, Lord Mattlebere. And he was a man who was ready to sympathise with his paramour about her dislike of Toby Davenport.
“Wretched creature, won a packet off me at cards and then went and told Bow Street about the place where I game. Everyone gambles!” he moaned. “And he beat me like a lackey because I wanted to get better acquainted with a nice little whore, and told me some taradiddle about her being Lord Evesham’s daughter, and I have never heard of Evesham having a daughter.”
“He does have a daughter,” said Elizabeth Trevett, “because my respectable cousin is married to him, and gave him three sons, I ask you, three! Two is quite sufficient for any man. And there’s an illegitimate brat whom he insisted on educating. I think she has to make her own way in the world as a governess or something,” she added.
“Well now!” said Mattlebere. “A secretary to the fair Marguerite Labellette would, I suppose, count as ‘or something.’ The girl’s a fool; with her ladylike air she could make a fortune as a Paphian.”
“I am not interested in such things,” said Lady Trevett, coldly.
Mattlebere’s eyes went flinty.
“If I am interested in such things, you will be interested in such things too, Betty, my dear,” he said.
“Y … yes, George,” Lady Trevett almost whimpered.
In a good mood, George Mattlebere was an entertaining lover.
In a foul mood, his idea of entertainment was a little more exotic than the former Betty Bounce enjoyed.
“How come you have a cousin who married a real lord?” asked Mattlebere.
Elizabeth Trevett wondered whether to resent that and shout at him, and decided that the consequences might be too painful.
“Her father was the older son, who had a small estate. My father was the younger son, who was cursed with having to go in for the church. I had no intention of being a nice little vicarage daughter.”
“No, I wager,” said Mattlebere.
He did not say that the idea of corrupting a nice little vicarage daughter made him burn with lust, and that it reminded him of the cool, virginal charms of Mary Heatherington. She wasn’t as beautiful as many women, but she set him afire.
And he intended to have her, one way or another.



Chapter 12

Mary was determined not to permit Marguerite’s indiscretion to spoil the friendship which was growing between them. Though she would be leaving soon, with Lady Remington, she had promised Marguerite to stay in touch.
“Just write a nice round hand, Mary, love, and don’t do no pothooks,” said Marguerite, nervously. “Nor any jawcrack words.”
“I promise,” said Mary. She would write to Marguerite in the same fashion she wrote to the child, Jennifer, who resided full time in Miss Preston’s school, unwanted in a home where the stepmother presided, and favoured her own children. Mary felt for Jennifer, who was in a similar situation to herself, with the added insult of being her father’s legitimate child, who might be said to have more of a call upon him than Mary had on her father. “You’ve come so far so fast, it’ll be me complaining of your fancy calligraphy and pothooks before we know where we are.”
Marguerite giggled, and reflected how nice it was to have a female friend to giggle with. She would miss Mary when she had left London; and doubtless it would be no time at all before Mary was married to Toby Davenport. She sighed.
“When you are a fine lady and married, will you forget me?” she asked. She almost bit her tongue; she had not meant that to sound plaintive!
“No, of course not, even if I was ever a fine lady!” said Mary, indignantly. “We are friends, and wherever I end up, I hope we shall always be welcome in each other’s homes. If I ever have one,” she added a little forelornly.
“You’ll get married, my love, Lady Remington will see to that,” said Marguerite. “But I suppose it remains to be seen if your husband will let you be friends with me.”
“I’m not marrying anyone who would not let me be your friend,” said Mary, tilting her chin up firmly.
Marguerite embraced her, and hoped it might be true, but prepared herself for disappointment.

oOoOo

Toby, meanwhile, was leaving for Brighthelmstone to join the Prince; he had agreed to act as an escort to Mrs. Fitzherbert, following down to the resort a few days after the prince. She travelled with her own servants, of course, and hardly needed an escort for safety’s sake, it was more a matter of showing her consequence that the prince wanted. Prince George was glad of those few young men who put a duty to their future monarch and his beloved ahead of the delights of the seaside resort, out from under the eye of the royal court.
The journey was uneventful, though nothing like as fast as he might have accomplished it had he been travelling by himself with just Brunwin. It was also amusing at first, but increasingly irksome, when people in the places they passed would run out to watch the cavalcade, and gawp at the finery of those going by. The migration of the prince’s set to the coast was a relatively recent occurrence, but it amazed Toby that it still drew forth the bucolics to stare. Mrs. Fitzherbert was very gracious about being the centre of attention, and waved in a friendly fashion to those who were staring. It confirmed Toby’s opinion that she would have made an excellent queen.
Brighthelmstone was something of a paradox of a town, with a number of fishermen’s cottages and a selection of new houses which had been built over the last thirty years or so. The prince had promised to arrange rooms for Toby in one of the more modern houses, since Toby was delaying his move on royal business. He took his leave of Mrs. Fitzherbert and went in search of the house on the other side of the Steyne, or Steine, as people variously spelled it, where three floors were shared between six young men and their valets, with a cook and housekeeper and parlour maids in residence. Somebody had been forward-thinking in building a house which could readily break up into apartments, in order to let it out.
And there in his apartment, convenient on the ground floor, there were a pile of invitations from the prince to dine and play cards.
Toby sighed a satisfied sigh.
Now he could get on and do what he had intended to do, without being interrupted by worrying about Marguerite, and Mary and sundry maidservants.
Toby sighed again.
He was actually missing worrying about Mary; it would have been nice if she had been here.
What was he thinking about? Mary didn’t want to be involved in playing stressful games of cards with Prince George and his set! And if she was not playing cards, he would not see much of her anyway.
Toby snorted. He was here, and Mary was safe with Amabel and that was what he wanted. It was what he had planned the moment he had met her in the street. Mary would have a Season next year and marry some eligible bachelor and if the cub wasn’t worthy of her, he, Toby, would wring his neck.
It suddenly dawned on Toby in a moment of revelation that he did not want Mary to marry some eligible bachelor, because he had started to like her very much indeed.
More than liking, in fact. She was sweet, clever, and very pretty, and he wanted to spend more time with her.
There was no reason he shouldn’t court her himself.
Once this revelation had cleared much of the confusion from his thoughts, Toby was ready to change for dinner and walk across to the Marine Pavilion, as Prince George’s house was called, and he did so with a spring in his step.
The dinner was heavy and exotic, and the drinks were many. Toby bribed a servant to keep his glass topped up with water; he did not have as hard a head as many of the Carlton House set!
He was glad he had done so, for the gaming after dinner was intense and with frighteningly high stakes, but there was no cheating as one might find in a gaming house, so that at least was not something that needed watching for.
Toby won some games and lost others as he started to learn the tell-tale signs that gave away what sort of hand the other players had; and he came out of the play with about as much money as he had gone into it.
Another time he would be able to do better.

oOoOo

Lady Remington’s country estate in Sussex was beautiful.
The grounds were extensive and landscaped to show the most beautiful vistas at every turn of both the main drive, and the pathway through the flower garden, and Mary happily got out her watercolour paints to record the views, as well as the beautiful flowers in detail.
“Amy would love this,” she said to Amabel. “She is very accomplished at drawing and painting, though I, at least, can manage perspective, so I may capture the vistas. Amy would get out of reason cross painting the scenery, for she cannot make it look as though it has any depth. Her flower paintings though are truly exquisite, but then she is something of a botanist.”
“I think you have made a very good likeness of the flowers you have painted,” said Lady Amabel.
Mary smiled ruefully.
“Oh, for working drawings to put into embroidery, maybe,” she said. “Amy’s flowers are such that you feel an urge to lean over to smell them, for they leap off the page like real blooms! However, she cannot embroider to save her life. And if only poor little Jemima does not neglect her skill, I fancy she would surpass both of us, for she has remarkable talent for her age.” She sighed; she could not miss Mrs. Carruthers in the least, but she missed Jemima and Jenny, and wondered what their horrid uncle might do in a few years time.
“We all have different talents, my dear, and your embroidery is exquisite,” said Amabel. “How I have been marvelling at the mend you made to that skirt torn on the carriage step, and the exquisite white-work you have done to cover it, the idea of using a tendril of honeysuckle to run up the tear, and just run around the bottom of it would never have occurred to me.”
“Oh, I do like to embroider,” said Mary. “And I could not bear to be wasteful and throw it away as you first suggested.”
“So long as you enjoy such work, my dear, then it was well worth doing, and perhaps you might put your unique stamp of talent on other fine muslins over the winter, ready to make up into gowns for the Season,” said Amabel. “For we shall launch you properly then.”
“Do you think Mr. Davenport might come to town for the Season?” asked Mary, bending over her sketches to hide her blushes.
Amabel looked at her thoughtfully.
“He’d be a fool if he doesn’t,” she said.
“Oh Aunt Amabel! Do you think we might … might visit Brighthelmstone and … and go sea bathing?” suggested Mary, greatly daring. “It is so beautiful here ….”
“Sea bathing indeed!” said Amabel. “One can visit Brighthelmstone without going sea bathing, and I should have thought you would have had enough of water, having lived in Bath. But we shall not go yet. We will give him time to miss you.”
Mary blushed bright scarlet round to the back of her neck; Aunt Amabel did not miss a trick!
“I do at least swim like a fish,” she said. “Miss Preston hired the private use of one of the baths and the attendants at unfashionable times so she might have us taught to swim, for one never knows when it might come in useful. I … I believe she knew someone who drowned,” she added, having surmised that from Miss Preston’s pithy comments, even though she did not know the story of how Miss Preston’s fiancée had died trying to save the lives of drowning sailors. “She said it was extraordinary how sailors often did not know how to swim.”
“Well, well, an unusual accomplishment, but then, one reads so often in the newspaper of lives lost within sight of shore, because passengers on packets cannot swim, if they are capsized by freak waves or weather,” said Aunt Amabel. “You may bathe if you wish when we go to Brighthelmstone; but I most certainly shall not.”
“Oh, thank you for saying we might go!” Mary embraced Amabel.
“There, child! Mind my feathers,” said Amabel, belying her words by embracing her charge back. Toby would do very nicely for the girl; he had a head on his shoulders, and did not gamble what he could not afford to lose. And for her to marry a wealthy man-about-town who was part of the fashionable set, however much one might decry them, would be one in the eye for Edmund Evesham. The fool had written back that he saw no reason for Lady Remington to take an interest in his daughter. He had added that if she chose to employ her as her companion, that was no business of his. He had at least said that he was sorry that his lady had been mistaken in the character of the woman with whom she had placed Mary, but that he could scarcely be held accountable for it. Amabel had said one or two short, pithy phrases regarding Evesham’s refusal to be held accountable for anything, the reason she had turned down his suit in the first place when he had still been Viscount Birkenhewe. That this had left Edmund Eves to an arranged marriage, at his father’s wishes, to a most unsuitable girl. Lady Evesham’s only merit appeared to be that her father had been a friend of the then viscount’s father when they were both at Oxford was not her problem.
Well, as he had essentially washed his hands of Mary, Edmund Eves could scarcely complain if Amabel made the girl into a fashionable hostess like herself.
Mary knew it was improper to write to a man, but she could not resist penning a note to Toby Davenport a week later when they were ready to leave. If it were addressed care of the Marine Pavillion, surely one of the footmen there would find him.


One of the footmen did find Toby, and he read, with much pleasure,

“Dear Mr. Davenport,
Lady Remington’s home is beautiful, but I confess that I miss your presence sadly.
I trust I do not read too much into your kindness in seeing a friendship? If I do, then you are forewarned so that you might avoid me when we next meet to do me the kindness of preventing my mortification of spirit if I am being unduly optimistic in hoping that you enjoy my company as much as I enjoy yours.

Your obedient servant,
Mary Heatherington.”

So stilted a little note might not warrant the punching of the air by many young men, but Toby was no fool and could read between the lines that Miss Heatherington missed him as much as he missed her.
He called the footman back and vailed him in gold before executing a neat gavotte along the corridor.
The footman smiled indulgently; he knew a young man in love when he saw one, and Mr. Davenport was as nice a young gentleman as ever stepped. And a vail in gold would go into the bank towards the end of marrying his own best girl.

oOoOo


As a current favourite of the Prince of Wales, Toby found himself the recipient of plenty of invitations to the balls, soirées, routs and card parties of people who wanted to be thought fashionable, even if they were not. This led to him almost having an argument with the prince.
“Why can’t you come to my rout party?” Prince George pouted.
“Because I already accepted an invitation to go to the soirée held by the brother-in-law of one of the gentlemen I reside with,” said Toby, patiently. “And I don’t know how you were brought up, sir, but my father impressed upon me most firmly that you are never rude enough to sidestep an obligation just because a new and more flattering proposition arrives.”
Prince George scowled.
“You’re correct, of course, damn you,” he said. “You’ll be bored.”
“Doubtless,” said Toby. “Mackie wanted someone to stand up with his little sister, who is living with his older sister and brother-in-law, and told me ingenuously that I was the most harmless fellow he knew.” Theodore Mackie had decided to join his friend in Brighthelmstone rather than remain in town, having rediscovered the acquaintance, and Toby strongly suspected that his friend hoped to make a brother of him, but that was something he did not mention.
This tickled the prince’s sense of humour that someone considered Toby to be as harmless as he looked, and he laughed.
“He hasn’t seen you rooking hardened gamesters like Devonshire,” he said.
“No, but I am fairly harmless where young females are concerned; they all look upon me as something between a brother and a cocker spaniel, I think, and besides, I was at school with Mackie, so he has first call on me, as well as having known me before I developed such a fine sense of vice,” said Toby. “Though I have had a letter from one young lady which leads me to hope that she might be broader in her views of me.”
“Aha, romance in the air?” the prince was pleased to be jovial.
“I hope so. Miss Heatherington mentions that my aunt might bring her to the seaside a little later.”
“Dear me, you have met a charmer and failed to introduce me?”
“I would have done if you and she had been at the same functions; she’s a friend of Lady Rokemere,” said Toby.
“Not the fair poetess?”
“Yes, and if you mention it to her, sir, I’ll …. I’ll tell Mrs. Fitzherbert you were ungallant!”
“Striking below the belt, egad!”
The prince was back in good humour, and Toby inwardly sighed in relief. The prince could be inclined to the sulks and to take offence rather easily.

The prince was even better humoured when Toby won fifty thousand pounds from him, and Toby discreetly slipped his prince’s vowels back into his hand when the card party broke up. Toby had no compunction about keeping the vowels of most of those he played with, even though he had little expectation of them ever being paid. He was doing well enough from the cash gambled, and he was happy to take jewellery and give a reasonable chance for it to be redeemed. They did not have to play, after all; they were mature men and women. And if he occasionally slipped a vowel back to someone he thought was in real trouble he never mentioned it.
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Ace of Schemes 10-12

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