Master Wilson was dead to begin with. That poor sot. Oh the hell I had given him over the years! Only his death could draw me back to Stokington, only his death could set me free of that horrid place. In my youth I had been quite the hellion, and Master Wilson, the Royal Mail Inspector and Schoolmaster, had been the poor soul I had tormented. I had considered myself a reformed man, but many a reformed character may relapse, and indeed my return to Menacing House had been under a cloud of ill-repute, for I had just been expelled from Oxford.
It was the work of that bloody bastard Hobbes, the upstart son of some third-rate clerk with no name, that I was so forcibly ejected from the hallowed grounds of Magdalen College. And for what? For dueling?! Damn them, I shall have justice. How dare they lay their hands upon a personage such as myself! And that...boy, Hobbes, with him I have unfinished business. Cal, his friends call him, as though he were a common dog. We had not even crossed swords when the porters burst in upon us. My second, the Right Honorable William Keane, fled, the cowardly wretch. Hobbes, who had not even bothered to bring a second, hurriedly tossed aside his blade, flinging it into the ferns that ring the Meadow. Being a gentleman, I held fast to my own rapier. Hobbes, a man barely more than a peasant, could perhaps be excused for treating his weapon so shamelessly, but the son of the Marquess of Stoke knows the importance of proper swordsmanship. I do not know who betrayed us that day, although I suspect the Dutchman van Pelt. He had always blamed me for the ruin of his sister, but a girl like that cannot be ruined, for she had already ruined herself.
And so I, Dennis St. Michel, Viscount of Stokington, returned to Menacing House in disgrace, only to find the hapless Master Wilson had finally returned to ashes and dust.
They buried him in the rain, which I found to be somewhat appropriate, for he had always put forth a gloomy facade. The droplets sleeted down my redingote as the Widow Wilson, called Martha to those close to her, clung to me and wept.
"Oh, young Dennis, he has gone to a better place, but what of us here and now?" she sobbed.
I hate crying women.
I made some comforting noises, and eventually fobbed her off on some of her relatives. My nerves were somewhat shaken--why can women not be more like men? One never sees men break down and weep at a funeral. I needed a brandy.
I was just making to leave when I felt a hand upon my shoulder. "Dennis, it's been too long."
I forced a smile upon my face. "Hello, Joe," I said. I could tell by his voice old Joey was drunk. Perhaps I would forgo that brandy. I turned to face him. Time had not treated him well. His cherubic face, so beautiful as a boy, had now, at nineteen, turned to a softly pink grotesquerie. His black hair was greasy and lank, and the ripe stench of the most basest spirits assaulted my nose, rising from his dandified garments.
Plus, he was as bent as an old nail.
"You're a good fellow," he slurred. "A damned fine fellow." He was getting a trifle loud, and I saw faces turned our way. Now there is a time and a place for crapulence, but the funeral of our old schoolmaster was not it. "Easy, Joe," I said, "You don't wish to do anything you shall regret."
He sighed drunkenly. "Always looking out for me. Good old Dennis." He leaned in close, his foul breath assailing my face. "You always were my favorite, you know," he said, and brushed his hand against my cheek.
"Remove your hand, you sodomite," I said very coldly, "or I shall remove it for you." Joseph MacDonald is by all means a fine fellow and one of my oldest chums, but I'll be damned if he'll pass at me in a public place.
Thankfully, salvation arrived in the very convenient form of my mother. "Dennis, I have been hunting everywhere for you," she said, charging at me like a battleship. "Word has come from Oxford--expelled?! Your father is livid with rage, I--"
"Mother, how incredibly splendid of you to arrive," I cried, nearly beside myself with jubilation. On any other day I should expect a tongue-lashing but not today! "Here you are," I said, heaving Joe off my shoulder and onto my mother's. "Of course you remember the Honourable Joseph MacDonald?"
Obligingly, Joe said, "Plzz to make yr acq'ntance, Ladyship. What a lovely dress you have," and then vomited all over a headstone. My mother stared at the reeking mess in shock as Joe clung to her.
"Must be going now Mother," I said gaily. "Have other people to talk to, you know. Have a good time with Joseph," and I quickly strode away.
Check and mate, Mother.
The Life, Times, and Misadventures of Dennis St. Michel, Viscount of Stokington, Soldier, Gambler, Diplomat, Scoundrel, Notorious Rakehell, and Lord of Menacing House, in his Own Words.