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Ace of Schemes 25-26

November 24, 2017 01:49PM
apologies for the delay, we haz kitties! We were asked to take a disabled kitten who was travelling with another kitten and then the adoption of the other fell through when transport was arranged. So they said could you please? and we said yes .... one stripy kitten with a damaged hip and one cream kitten with felonious tendencies

Chapter 25

Mary took one look at the sobbing Marguerite and whisked her away to her own room upstairs, calling upon servants to prepare a room for a guest.
“Whatever happened?” Mary asked Marguerite.
“That .... devil ....” Marguerite bit off the less acceptable word she had going to use in deference of her friend’s tender upbringing, “Mattlebere is what happened! He wanted to know where you lived, if you roomed with many other girls, but I wouldn’t tell him! He cut me and burned me, but friends don’t give up friends, but ... but I would have told him rather than let him put the hot poker in my ... you know.”
Mary gasped.
“He threatened that? Oh Marguerite, how brave you have been! Let me tend your wounds. I ... I can’t think of a word bad enough for him!”
“I can, several, but you were brung up nice, so I won’t say them,” said Marguerite.
“I pray you, don’t hold back on my account, so long as you don’t use such words in front of the children,” said Mary, quickly locking the door so they would not be interrupted by little pitchers.
“Really? Well then!” Marguerite relieved her feelings with a burst of invective she had not dared release in front of Toby and his rather grand friend. Mary listened, slightly horrified at what she did understand and morbidly fascinated by what she did not. Marguerite wound down to a halt and began to cry.
That was something Mary did understand, and she put her arms around Marguerite to let her cry her fill before turning to dressing the older woman’s wounds.

Toby had paid off the likely lads before going with Widburgh to escort Marguerite to his aunt’s house, and now he went to see Amabel. She was feeling much more the thing for having her arm immobilised, though irritated at being incapacitated. Toby made a beautiful leg.
“What have you been up to?” asked Amabel, suspiciously.
“Mattlebere’s dead,” said Toby, without preamble.
“Killed him did you?”
“No, he jumped out of a window and impaled himself on the area railings.”
“It’s a good story.”
“Not only is it a good story, but it even happens to be true, not that it matters,” said Toby.
“Couldn’t happen to a better person. What are you hiding?”
Toby shuffled.
“He was torturing Marguerite, to get her to tell where Mary lives. She’s one brave lady!”
“You ain’t falling for her, are you?” Amabel was suspicious. “Mary wouldn’t give up a friend either, you know.”
“I know that; but Mary’s a lady, so I rather expect it of her,” said Toby, apologetically. “No, I have no desires for the fair Marguerite, Aunt Amabel, I like her and no more. But I brought her here for you and Mary to see to her wounds and help her heal from .... from the threats he made.”
Amabel’s eyebrow went up, and Toby quickly described the scene he had found, and Mattlebere’s threat. He blushed a lot.
“Well, I hope being impaled on the railings killed him slowly and painfully,” said Amabel. “Of course I’ll look after Marguerite, she’s been a good friend to you and to Mary. We’ll just have to get her established in society and find her a respectable husband.”
“My friend, Justin, seemed interested,” said Toby. “He’s a duke, is that respectable enough?”
“Goodness gracious!” said Amabel. “He won’t marry her, but at least if he makes her fashionable, it will help.”
“I think Marguerite is more concerned about having friends who will help her to overcome her terrors than in being fashionable,” said Toby, dryly. “But if it is known that you will receive her, at least she won’t get the cut direct in society, whatever happens. And she has more class than plenty whom society accepts, like that wretched Lady Trevett, and a prime dell if ever I met one, who is apparently the widow of one Lord Wrexworth.”
“Wrexworth? Silly old goat, married a girl young enough to be his granddaughter and no doubt wondered why he died of a seizure within months of the wedding. Girl waited long enough to check that no issue was forthcoming and proceeded to make herself notorious, as I recall. Used coloured lip salves on her nipples and made sure they were likely to pop out of the lace at her bosom, like some decadent Frenchwoman. Gentlemen would bet on how long it would be before there was some exposure, but then, gentlemen will bet on anything.”
“Not just gentlemen, apparently there was a bet made by Lady Wrexworth that she would have me in her bed. She lost,” said Toby, dryly.
“I hope you stay well away from women like her,” said Amabel. “Marguerite is a different matter, I shouldn’t be surprised if she was the side issue of Someone, for blood will tell.”
Toby laughed, and permitted his aunt to believe that fancy if she would, it would not do Marguerite any harm to have such a guess spread about. He thought it more admirable that Marguerite had risen from nothing to learn to fit society well enough, but it was not a view likely to impress many people.
“You will have her for as long as she needs, won’t you, dear Aunt Amabel?” he asked.
“Of course I shall, and she shall go into Sussex with us to stay as soon as we are all fit to travel. And if she has any rough edges, you may be sure that I shall smooth them tactfully, as I did with dear Amy. I even managed to make her father moderately presentable, by having him to dinner a few times,” added Amabel, with what Toby considered not undue pride.
“Oh, Mr. Cockley is an original, and most people are happy to take him as such,” he said.
“Yes, dear, but an original who has learned how not to be embarrassing is easier to take,” said Amabel.
Toby had not found Mr. Cockley to be at all embarrassing, but he could see that Lady Remington might take exception to some of his utterances, and kept mumchance. He bespoke rooms for himself and his friend, and set his mind on escorting the ladies to Remington Manor as soon as Amabel was determined that she would not be shaken, or more likely as soon as she was bored and too hot in London.

Marguerite had not previously encountered children, or at least, not children from society, and was inclined to look askance upon Jemima and Jenny. This prompted Jemima to begin the shifting of her face which was a prelude to face pulling, and Mary said, awfully,
“Well the lady is pulling faces at us, Auntie Mawy.”
“The lady is not pulling faces at anyone, she is in pain where the bad man who hurt you hurt her too.”
“Why? She wasn’t there,” said Jenny, gazing at Marguerite with interest.
“He was hurting her to make her tell him where we live,” said Mary. “And she was very brave and wouldn’t tell him.”
“You are very bwave,” opined Jemima, changing her mind about not liking the new lady. “He’s a howwid man.”
“Was a horrid man; he’s dead,” said Mary.
“Oh, good, did Uncle Toby kill him dead?” asked Jemima.
“Did he run him through and through and through?” demanded Jenny.
“You horrible infants! Nothing like as exciting, because like most horrid bullying men, he was a coward, and he tried to run away, and he was so hasty and careless that he died, running away,” said Mary.
“How did he die? Was he wunned down by a horwse?” asked Jemima.
“Or struck by lightning?” suggested Jenny.
“Or twipped and fell into a sewer and was drownded in gongs?” Jemima had another guess.
“He landed on some railings,” said Mary, who had hoped to keep the horrid truth from the children, only to find out that whatever they could imagine was more lurid than the truth.
“And good riddance,” said Marguerite.
“We won’t let bad men hurt you,” said Jemima, gravely.
“You are a pair of engaging tykes, ain’t you?” said Marguerite.
Two pairs of eyes looked to Mary for explanation.
“She said she likes you,” said Mary. “Be aware, ‘tykes’ can be a bad word, but it’s the way I call you imps, and horrible infants.”
Jemima nodded gravely.
“I see,” she said. “We’d better not say it though in case we make a mistake,”
“A wise idea,” said Mary.
“My, you have your hands full with them,” said Marguerite.
“They’re good girls,” said Mary.
“Well, I can read children’s stories to them, to help out,” said Marguerite.
“That would help, and perhaps you can hear them read to you,” said Mary. Reading stories to the girls and hearing them read would be excellent practice for Marguerite as well, since she was still far from fluent.


If Amabel raised an eyebrow over having acquired a youthful duke as both her guest and as an escort into the country, she said nothing about it, and Toby left his friend Justin to get to know Marguerite as well as he might desire. She would have nothing of him until she was free from scars, by which time he might have decided that he was over his passion for her, or that he wanted more than a flirtation, and it was, Toby thought, none of his business, since both were of age. He was more interested in getting to know his wards, for Mary’s sake; with which in mind, both girls took their first riding lessons in front of him as he rode as an outrider, leaving Brunwin bringing his gig.
“Can we learn to dwive, Uncle Toby?” asked Jemima.
“You may, but whether you can will depend on your skill,” said Toby. “But if you mean in my gig and on the road, you neither can nor may, grammar and ability aside, it’s not safe.”
“We’d be careful,” said Jemima.
“Jemkin, it doesn’t matter how careful you are, there are always people who will drive like idiots on the open road, and if you are experienced, you can avoid trouble. If you are not, they’ll put you in a ditch. And even if you are experienced you can make an ass of yourself and put yourself in the ditch; I did on the way here, by misjudging a corner. You’ll learn to drive at Aunt Amabel’s in a training cart with an ass or a pony to drive, and you’ll have your own ponies to ride too, of course, with her, and when we move to Bath.”
“Why are we moving to Bath?”
“So that when you are older, you can have the fun of making friends by going daily to the school where Auntie Mary used to go, and learn more. And then you can have friends home to tea and to stay.”
“Oh.” Jemima was a little dubious. “I like Aunty Mary teaching me.”
“Oh, and she will for a while, but Aunty Mary might want babies of her own.”
Jemima went very quiet, and when returned to the carriage, she climbed onto Mary’s lap.
“Do you want babies of your own, Auntie Mawy?” she asked.
“Why, I think most ladies want their own babies; when you grow up, I expect you will, too,” said Mary. “Jemima, tell me what you are worrying about at once, and stop letting yourself think bad things.” It was a look on the child’s face Mary was coming to know.
“Willyoustillwantus?” asked Jemima in one word.
Mary gathered her close.
“Of course I will still want you both,” she said. “It will be like being big sisters to other babies, and you will help them and be special big girls for them.”
Jemima clung to her, and Mary sighed; it was too hot to be clung to, really, but she had to reassure the little girl.
“Mama said you would have children and would make us go out to beg to keep them,” said Jenny.
“Yes, and your Mama said I would dress you in rags and feed you on crusts as well, as I recall,” said Mary. “Now what part of your clothing is rags, and what did you have for breakfast?”
“Aunt Mawy,” said Jemima, rather snottily from between Mary’s breasts, “Did Mama tell untwuths on purwpose?”
Mary sighed.
“Oh, Jemima,” she sighed. “Yes, I’m afraid she did. She wanted to scare you because she was cross that you wanted to be with me, and not with her, and because you are good girls for me, and little hellions for her.”
“Well, you spend time with us and love us,” said Jenny. “She doesn’t so of course we love you best.”
“Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings,” said Amabel.

Chapter 26

The children, no less than Marguerite, were much awed and impressed by Amabel’s home. They had been sufficiently taken aback by the size and opulence of her London home, but the sheer scale of a country mansion kept even Jemima a little subdued for a few days. Toby took off for Brighton to see the prince to give him a full report.
“And it was fortunate that he really did impale himself on the railings, which was seen by people in the street,” said Toby, “for I was much concerned, having come upon him at a time and place not of my choosing, but having very little choice.”
“You could have told him to wait on you at dawn,” said Prince George, frowning.
“And he’d have skipped town, maybe left the country, and Mary would always have felt she was looking over her shoulder in case he came back, whether he really would risk it or not,” said Toby. “I’m sorry, sir, but my bride’s peace of mind is everything to me; how would you feel if it was Mrs. Fitzherbert he had sworn to despoil?”
“When you put it that way, I see your point,” said the prince. “Well, he was house breaking, as the servants can testify, and he died an accidental death, suitably publicly, and it never need be known that you or Widburgh were in the house at the time.”
“No, sir, nor even Miss Labellette, who is staying now with my aunt, and who might have been with her at the time of the break in,” said Toby. “Widburgh is interested in her, and it won’t do for scandal to attach to her person either.”
“No, no, quite,” said the prince, hastily, having considered having someone speak to the press with ‘inside information,’ throwing Marguerite to the wolves as somehow inflaming Mattlebere to his actions somehow. “Can’t have that. Staying with your aunt? Quite a stickler, Lady Remington.”
“Marguerite Labelette could support the position of a duchess if she had to,” said Toby, serenely. “She’s more a lady than some with the right to it.”
“Well, well, a small gift to her for her loyalty and for her trouble, I think, would she like rubies?”
“She’d love rubies, sir,” said Toby, who knew that there was no point in mentioning that there was no reason for the prince to gift Marguerite. He was a soft touch where beautiful women were concerned. “And rubies would love her; she looks well in rich colours.”
“Then that’s settled. You and Widburgh had better play least in sight for a while, just in case anyone mentions you,” said the prince.
“Yes, sir; he wishes to let you know that he has decided to learn estate management now he is of an age of discretion and should be considering his duchy, his lands, and an heir.”
“Excellent, excellent. And you are thinking of buying land too?”
“Yes, sir, probably near Bath.”
“Bath? Vile place, full of old fogeys.”
“And a lot of Mary’s friends too,” said Toby. “I may enter local politics or something.”
“Just don’t play whist with the old fogeys and set them by the ears, eh?” laughed the prince. “And don’t neglect me forever.”
“No, sir,” said Toby, with his fingers crossed behind his back. Doubtless a new favourite would arise and he would be free from such obligations.


The children had largely settled in by the time Toby returned, and he was dragged all around the house and grounds by enthusiastic little girls showing him what they had found. Toby was boyish enough to be beguiled by a priest’s hole, and a hidden stair to the linen closet for the laundress and seamstress to use without disturbing anyone, and a nursery fully equipped for the children who had never arrived.
“Aunt Amabel, how did Remington leave the estate? Is there no male heir? I would hate some usurper to turn up and throw you out.”
“There’s only some fellow in America, and as they’ve determined that they ain’t British any more, it don’t count,” said Amabel. “It’s a tenuous connection at best anyway. The title died with Remington, and the property isn’t entailed, so it’s mine to leave as I choose, as he left it to me, having managed to end the entail so I’d not be troubled. I’m planning to leave the lot to Jemima, and a smaller property near Southampton to Jenny. You don’t need to worry about providing for them, my boy.”
“I could dower them very well,” said Toby.
“Yes, but you’ll have others of your own,” said Amabel. “I’ve no kith and kin of my own, and I wish you will stay here, you and Mary, and let me enjoy these little girls. You can always go to Bath when they are older, if you must put them through school, not get a governess.”
“Well, we have plenty of time to think about our options,” said Toby. “That’s generous but please don’t tell them.”
“I’m not such a fool,” said Amabel. “Now, boy, away and arrange your marriage. You can have your father here to perform the ceremony but we’ll have a nice private wedding here, and Evesham can come and give the girl away if he’s so minded. I had the rector here put up the banns while you were gallivanting off to Brighton, for you’re in residence if not always in the house.”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Toby, who knew when not to argue.


The Earl of Evesham and his sons, together with their housekeeper, both travelled to Sussex to stay with Lady Remington, and the Earl made his peace with his daughter.
“I should not have permitted Marianne to have any control of your life, my love,” said he. “I was weak, and permitted her to have her way for an easy life, and I have put you through undue misery because of it.”
“Papa, it has brought me the joy of my wards, Jemima and Jenny, and my dear Toby. I could just have wished that Lady Evesham had been more kindly disposed to me than she is, for I have never been a threat to her own children and their inheritance.”
“I think it is that she resented a loveless marriage and yet was also jealous, knowing how I love your mama,” sighed Evesham. “As do your brothers, who turn to her more as a mama than they have ever done to their own. It was a marriage doomed to failure. However, we are legally separated, and if she meets a man she wishes to marry, then I suppose we shall have to go through the courts for a divorce. But such lovers as she takes, I have said I will not notice, and if she has any other children, I have offered my home to them, for the sake of their half-brothers, without that being a refusal to let her see them. I will not stop your brothers from visiting her.”
“Do you think she is likely to have any children?” Mary was sceptical.
“No; she’s not very keen on the physical side of marriage,” said Evesham, frankly. “But I had to offer it.”
“That’s the kind, gentle, generous Papa I know,” said Mary.
Arthur hugged his sister without reserve.
“I like my soon-to-be brother, and Jemima and Jenny sound great fun to be an uncle to,” he said. “John’s a bit upset about Mama leaving, but he’s not really cross at you.”
“I am sorry Papa felt there was no alternative,” said Mary. “I did not ask or expect it.”
“John knows that, and Thomas don’t care; Mama never took to him anyway,” said Arthur.


The sun shone for the wedding, in the little stone church, which was reached from the Manor by a back path wide enough for vehicles so there was not too far for those in residence to go. The bride was radiant on her father’s arm, and the bridegroom as solemn as he could manage, with his cousin Lucius along as best man. As Lucius’ wife was Mary’s best friend, Amaryllys, she was an attendant, in charge of the two little bridesmaids, Jemima and Jenny, who were adorable in white muslin chemises a la reine and wide straw hats, and little baskets full of flowers. Adorable, that is, until the urchin son of one of the happily gawking village folk pulled a horrible face, and Jemima promptly returned one of equally horrible aspect. Mary herself had a new gown, which if not hooped was over a modest bum roll, and flowed into a short train. It was in rose silk, shot with gold, with gold embroidery on the stomacher, and gold ribbon roses around the flounce on the petticoat. Mary wore a straw hat trimmed simply with a matching chiffon scarf, and Toby thought her the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He wore white satin small clothes and white damask waistcoat with a coat of satin woven in gold and brown stripes so subtle that the striping was not immediately apparent. Mary thought it looked like toffee.
The time-honoured words from the book of common prayer bound them together, and the bridegroom was cheered as he threw handfuls of pennies for the uninvited villagers to drink his health.
“And not just my health will they be drinking, I wager, but my vigour,” he murmured to Mary, who blushed.
“Then give then a few handfuls more so they get the toast right,” she said. Toby laughed, and complied.
“My wife!” he said.
“You’ll disappoint Aunt Amabel if you are too uxorious before the wedding breakfast,” said Mary.
“I’ll just have to make up for it later,” said Toby. “I wish I’d thought to commission a painter to paint you; you are beautiful.”
“We will remember,” said Mary. “You know, it is as well that painters cannot find some way to magically fix any given moment of an event; for if they were able to do so, can you not believe that it would be of Jemima with her tongue lolling out and her eyes going in different directions?”
“Pest that she is!” said Toby. “You are right, perhaps pictures of weddings would only be contentious in later years, over who was smiling and who was not. I think that any picture would but ruin the happy day, and intrude the harsh reality of life on what should be something remembered more rosily than otherwise.”
He drove his new wife back to the Manor for the wedding breakfast, .
“I decline to make a speech,” he said, “On the grounds that speeches are usually fatuous and dull or fatuous and facetious, and I shall not insult the culinary excellence of my aunt’s excellent cook by delaying the partaking of the viands any longer.”
Mary laughed.
The married couple slipped away as soon as was tactfully possible, which involved handing a slightly mutinous Jenny over to a blooming Amaryllis, after Jenny had sat firmly on Mary’s lap, and withdrew to the rooms Amabel had made ready for them as a couple. The decor was impeccable, the sitting room they would share being decorated in the Chinese style, with brocade panels depicting wonderful birds and flowers, and lacquered cabinets and screens. Their respective bedrooms were in lavender, white and gold stripes for Mary, and red with gold accents for Toby. Both bedrooms had fine, modern furniture, which both were secretly relieved about, since Amabel herself leaned to the baroque in her tastes.
“Aunt Amabel has done us proud,” said Toby, kissing Mary. “Wench, you have a cushion around you.”
“I wanted the dress to sit properly,” said Mary. “You’ll have to help me take it off, I’m taped so firmly, I don’t think I can escape.”
Toby participated in this delightful occupation with great enthusiasm, and sighed with relief to find his wife’s natural figure beneath all the confection. He picked her up and they continued their disrobing on the bed, with much kissing.
Much later, Mary said, timidly,
“Oh, Toby, I hope I did not bore you, after the sophistication of the ladies of the Prince of Wales’ court.”
“My dear darling, if that was fishing to see if I slept with any of them the answer is no; for when I had laid eyes upon you again, there was no other woman for me,” said Toby. “Besides, I would rather have your honest responses to my body than the artifice of any silly woman who takes lovers. Which you, by the way, will not; you’re mine, all mine, and I’m not going to share.”
Mary sighed contentedly.
“Good; because I’m not going to share either,” she said.
“Why were we still talking?”
“Because you’re a gabster, Toby.”


Ace of Schemes 25-26

Sarah WaldockNovember 24, 2017 01:49PM

Re: Ace of Schemes 25-26

Agnes BeatrixNovember 26, 2017 08:15PM

American heir etc

Sarah WaldockNovember 27, 2017 08:27PM

Re: American heir etc

Agnes BeatrixNovember 28, 2017 10:08PM

Re: Ace of Schemes 25-26

Teresa DouglasNovember 24, 2017 11:41PM

Re: Ace of Schemes 25-26

KarenteaNovember 24, 2017 08:26PM


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