Menacing House! O thou monstrous edifice, a testament to man’s vanity, greed, and arrogance! The ancient seat of the St. Michels loomed before me, its slate and granite mossy and damp, its gargoyles leering insolently out over the heath. Behind me, Margaret’s coach slowly trundled off. For a brief, fleeting instant, I contemplated calling after it, to take me away from this most hated of places. As much as I detested Margaret, my skin crawled as I considered entering that mighty hovel.
At last, I made my way up the cracked, potholed avenue leading to the narrow, cramped vestibule. I paused upon the lintel, my very feet loath to cross into those decaying halls. But duty cannot be denied. With a great feeling of unease, I entered. My unease only increased as I passed beneath the disapproving eyes of the long generations of my forebears, whose portraiture lined the great hall.
What nonsense is this, I thought with mad bravado. What fear? What shame? I am Dennis St. Michel! But even as I made plans for the appeasement of my father, the dread settled into my very marrow. Perhaps, if I told him that I intended to make an honest man of myself, to make an honest woman of Margaret, he might be lenient on the matter of Oxford. For, it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a scoundrel not in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
But I knew in my breast that this would not pass. My father, Henry, Marquess of Forth and Stoke, latest of a long line of nobility stretching back to the Conquest, has never seen me as anything other than a wastrel and layabout, despite my efforts to dissuade this. Eton, Oxford, nothing is ever good enough for him. Well, to the devil with that! I shall make my own way in the world, Oxford or no Oxford.
Finally I reached my father’s most inner sanctum: the Library, a rarefied and dignified place in which I had never felt quite at home. The occasion I defaced the portrait of the King in the schoolhouse, the time I pelted Lady Margaret with soft apples, the occasion I tricked Joseph MacDonald into jumping in the cesspit; all the childhood transgressions had terminated here, with the stern, disappointing voice of my father.
Well no more! I shall accept no more the lashings of St. Michel pere! On the Continent and in the colonies, revolutions have sprung up, a new age is dawning, and my father’s ancient manners and decayed regime is dying, dying, dead. Who is to say that the coming age may not be one in which an enterprising, honest scoundrel might make off very well indeed?
My hand is on the door now. Whatever my father should harry me with, I shall endure it and prevail. It is a new era, an era for the knave and the villain and the rake. It is my era!
I open the door.
Time to meet the new regime, Father.
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.