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.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Yule

May I wish most heartily a happy Christmas to all my loyal Readers, and may this festive season find you in the bosom of your families, a glass of egg-and-grog in your hand as you warm yourself before the hearth. I myself shall be attending the Boar's Head Feast, a most merry occasion.

Celebrate long and well, and may St. Nicholas visit the young lads and lasses with great armfuls of presents. Happy Christmas!

"God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
For Jesus Christ our Saviour
Was born upon this day
To save us all from Satan's power
When we were gone astray

O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy."

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Arrangement

Dinner at the Professor’s was a most droll affair. Miss Louisa Anne made any number of foolish and idiotic remarks, and I took great delight in mercilessly and subtly mocking her. Now, many of you may decry me as being ungentlemanly, but for what other purpose are the stupid placed on earth, save to amuse the rest of us?

Besides, it was not as if she even noticed.

I, on the other hand, noticed that Mademoiselle Magee seemed rather down-at-heart, and did not take part in skewering Miss Louisa Anne. This supreme change in her demeanour gave me pause, causing me to wonder if perhaps the acid-tongued conversational duelist I had encountered previously was an aberration. I possess such a lack of adequate rivals that the loss of even a single one produced in me a gastric distress.

After dinner had concluded, I planned to retire to the library, where the Professor had informed me he had a first edition of Lawson’s A New Voyage to Carolina, which I had looked forward to reading. Stopping first at the sideboard and preparing myself a glass of port, I then made haste to the Professor’s fine book cellar.

Now I have earlier vouchsafed my dislike of my father’s library, but the corresponding room in the Professor’s townhouse could not be more different. It is light and airy, with several large windows, and much open space. The books are kept up properly, and remain obediently on the shelves. In short, it is a room where man demonstrates his prowess over the written word rather than vice versa.

Having prepared myself for what was for me an unusual occurrence--a quiet evening in--I was therefore somewhat startled to discover the library had already been claimed by the woman in black, Mademoiselle Magee.

As I entered, she looked up with a short jerk of her head. “Oh. ‘Tis you, the Professor’s errand boy,” she said, but her words lacked her usual malicious glee, and I sensed only irritation.

I prefer my opponents to be fighting fit rather than weakened by some distress, so I made a bow and said, “My apologies, Mademoiselle, I did not realise the room was occupied. I shall retire elsewhere.” In part I said this because I did not wish to seem churlish, but also because Mademoiselle Magee is rather…sharp and jagged, like a hedgehog, and that made her a rather challenging conquest indeed. I take second to no man in my admiration of the female portion of the species. Let the other men play their games of politics; give me a fine young kirtle and an afternoon free of distraction and I shall be a happy man. Ambition is but the toy which amuses our lighter hours--women are the serious business of life.

Beginning a decorous exit, I placed my hand on the knob when Mademoiselle Magee spoke.

“No. Hold a moment,” she said, in a musing voice.

“You require something, Mademoiselle?” I asked, turning. I hoped this would not take long, as my glass of port was getting rather lonely.

“Yes, there is a matter…but you could not possibly help,” she said with a dismissive snort.

“How can you know if you do not ask?” I said reasonably.

She eyed me sceptically. “Very well. Sit,” she commanded, pointing to a divan, “and drink your port, you foolish boy, you so obviously want to.”

“Very well, I shall,” I said, and drank deeply. “Now what is this matter?”

“First I must ask for your word that you will speak of this to no one,” she said in a mocking tone of voice. “Of course, you could not give your word, and even if you did it would mean nothing.”

“My word means nothing? All words mean something.”

“You are a rascal and a rakehell, a knave and a true villain, so of course if I ask for your word, you shall lie and in your most honeyed voice promise me you shall take whatever I tell you to the grave.”

“Oh, not to the grave, no.”

“You intend to divulge my secrets long before then?” she asked, cocking an eyebrow.

“Oh, no, I intend not to die.”

“You intend not to die?” she asked in disbelief.

“Indeed. I doubt God will have me, and the Devil seems the sort to trade a good pound for a bad ring, so I imagine it shan’t be too difficult to escape eternal hellfire, and then I shall be back to my highjinks and fun again,” I said casually.

Mademoiselle Magee surprised me: she laughed at this. “I find myself liking you in spite of me,” she said.

“It is my talent,” I said solemnly. “Promise me you shall take my secret to the grave?”

“No, no,” she said, still laughing. “If you shall not die, neither shall I. I shall live on, unchanging, until…until…until the twenty-first century and beyond!”

“As long as that? Why, the French will have conquered the world by then, and who would wish to live in a world where only French is spoken?”

“The French,” she said, and her laughing ceased, and she looked saddened. “’Twere not for the French, I should not be here.”

“Oh?” I said.

“My father fought at Minorca against the French, during the War of Seven Years. When Byng’s line failed, the garrison there fell back to Gibraltar. My mother--her name is Gabriella--was the girl who brought the water. It caused quite the scandal, when my father brought her back to Ireland with him.”

“I see,” I said, and took another drink of port.

“They married for love, you see.”

“While you intend to marry for money? Or land?”

“I do not intend to marry at all, and that is the problem!”

I raised my eyebrows at this. “Problem?”

She looked at me for a moment, and then said very seriously, “Do you solemnly swear to take this to the grave?”

I looked at her, and said equally seriously, “I shall do no such damn foolish thing.”

She gave me an appraising look, and then set her jaw. “Good. I should have thrown a book at you else you said otherwise.”

“Go on then.”

She rubbed her chin for a long moment, and then said, “When I was but a slip of a girl of sixteen, I made a dreadful mistake. A boy--a handsome, kind, wealthy boring boy--asked me to marry him, and I like a dolt said yes. He and I have been secretly engaged these last --well, why should I tell you how old I am?!” she said, giving me a disparaging look. “At any rate,” she continued, “When the Professor came to take me away from my flowers and make me a lady, the boy--Mills, is his name--had long since departed for other shores to seek his fortune, and I thought myself free of him. But now he has returned, and has recommenced whatever dull romantic intrigue he had planned before he left. He has asked me to marry him again, and he will not take no for an answer!”

I thought about this for a moment. “Have you considered faking your own death?” I asked. “It is surprisingly easy to do.”

She snorted. “I need a permanent solution, not some half-cocked scheme you run with a pair of roustabouts and a corpse taken from a fresh grave.”

“Why not simply call off the engagement?”

“I have my honour; I gave him my word,” Mademoiselle Magee said haughtily. Then she looked at me with something akin to inspiration. “But you on the other hand…”

“I, on the other hand?”

“…Are a scoundrel who has no honour. Think me a plan, Dennis, to escape this hateful matrimony, think me a plan.”

“And what shall you do for me?” I asked. “Not very much, while I can do many things for you--or to you,” I said, and leered at her.

“If you think such words shall put me off my feed, you coney-catching bastard, you do not know Margot Magee. The last thing I need is another suitor pressing his suit.”

“My suit is not the thing I wish to press. In fact, let us forget my suit--and you your gown, and get down to bare facts.”

She gave me a cool look. “If you assist me, I shall not give you a ‘no,’” she said finally.

“Then you shall give me a ‘yes’?”

“I did not say that, did I?”

“No you did not,” I said admiringly. “So it is to be a game then? To the victor go the…”

“The what?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “I could not think of anything salacious that rhymes with ‘spoils.’”

“Keep it that way,” she said. “Find me a way out of this engagement and you shall have your game, your Lordship.”

And with that, she swept from the room.

Now all I had to do was discover a way to extricate Mademoiselle Magee from her engagement. Without faking her death.

Boils, toils, roils…no, still nothing.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Lecture

I returned to Professor Papagoras’ in a foul temper. Whatever joy I had taken in that day’s ride had been thoroughly snuffed out by the snake Mrs. Llwynog. A man may be dashed to pieces on an outcropping of rock, or break an arm on a tree, or be shot by one of his fellows by mistake, but you go on. That is part of life, and a part of the hunt. After all, the seasons do not fear the reaper, nor do the wind, the sun, and the rain. However, I cannot stand anyone but me getting away with things.

In addition, during the long walk home it began to rain. So it was a very sodden fellow who returned to the Professor’s townhouse that teatime. I quickly stripped off my damp riding gear and changed into something a bit drier.

I was just about to sneak into the study and see if the good Professor had any “medicinal” brandy, when the man himself appeared from the study.

“Ah, your Lordship!” he said enthusiastically. “Just the fellow I wished to see.”

“Really,” I said, somewhat distractedly.

“Oh yes,” he said. “Come in, come in,” he beckoned.

Reluctantly, I followed him into the study. A wide variety of objects and curios lined the walls, filling shelves and glass-fronted cases. I turned my head upon entering, and came face to face with a strange creature, all white, with no arms but two legs, and a pudgy, bulbous shape that reminded me of a pear, or the Mayor. The small mustache worn by the creature only completed the resemblance. It was stuffed, of course.

Many other surfaces were covered with pinned beetles, their glittering carapaces setting the room ablaze with chitinous fire.

The Professor led me over to a disarrayed workbench. I idly picked up an odd-looking brass device. “What is this, pray?” I asked.

“Oh that,” the Professor said dismissively. “Device I invented for getting sunbeams out of cucumbers. Old news, your Lordship.”

I set the strange device down as the Professor gestured triumphantly at a stack of papers. “Voila,” he cried.

“Yes?” I said politely. “And? What is it?”

“Why, it is only my life’s work,” he said, looking simultaneously aghast and affronted. “A manuscript that shall put the name of Aristotle Papagoras on the map!”

Oh. Wonderful. I shall endure a lecture on natural philosophy, I thought. “Congratulations.”

“I shall tell you about it; after all, a clever young man such as yourself must have an appetite for knowledge. Tell me, are you familiar with the works of Erasmus Darwin?”

No. “Very slightly, Professor.”

“In his Zoönomia, Darwin puts forth the most novel theory: that all creatures arose from some primal ‘filament,’ as he calls it, and were not individually created by the Lord as Sedgwick would have it.”

“Well, that makes a variety of sense, I suppose.”

“Indeed,” said the Professor happily. “Clearly organisms change over the course of their lives, so why should not species?”

“And we see inheritance amongst ourselves. Everyone tells me I have my mother’s nose.”


“And when my father dies, I shall get all his money.”

“Preci--no, that is…there is perhaps a limit to how practical a metaphor is…”

I turned my attention to the stack of papers. “And I presume you have written a monograph on the subject?”

“Not merely a monograph, but the definitive work, my boy,” he said excitedly. “Why, I have found evidence of transmutation itself, on the far side of the globe.”

“Really?!” I said, interested. I care very little about natural philosophy, but I have always enjoyed tales of the exotic and of faraway destinations.

“Yes, yes, on the Galápagos Islands. Do you know them?”

“Unfortunately, I do not.”

“Some miles off the coast of Peru, in the Pacific Ocean,” he said as he struggled to open a large atlas. Once he found the correct page, he pointed to a tiny archipelago. “I ventured there some years ago, as a young man, and you’ll never guess what I found!”

“What?” I asked, and was a little alarmed to realise I was amused by the Professor’s obvious enthusiasm.

“Finches!” he shouted triumphantly.


“Yes, they are a variety of bird.”

“I know what a finch is, Professor.”

“Very good, very good,” he said. “Now, these finches had any number of different types of beak, each one well suited to eating the differing fruits found on the islands.”

“That makes sense; a heron eats frogs, and a wren eats insects, and their beaks are very different.”

“Exactly!” crowed the Professor. “As the finches ate different fruits, their beaks changed to suit their food. But that is not all.”


“No indeed, my boy. For on these islands are great tortoises, as well as iguanas that live in the ocean.”

“Tortoises and iguanas. Fascinating,” I said.

“And do you know what they have in common?”

“I must confess I do not.”

The Professor grinned at me through his snowy white beard. “It was the same with me, it took me forever to see it, but the answer is…BEAKS!” he shouted.

“I see…” I did not see at all, but when a man grins at you like that, you choose your words carefully, to avoid pushing him from “modestly eccentric” to “dangerously insane.”

“Both the tortoises and the iguanas have beaks, just like the finches.”


“Therefore, what my manuscript proposes is the obvious truth: the finches must have arrived first on the islands, and transmuted themselves into the tortoises and iguanas.”

“Transmuted…into tortoises?”

“All perfectly logical, my dear boy.” Seeing my apparent confusion, he patted me on the arm. “You are obviously unacquainted with the subtler arguments of science.”

“Well, with men of such vigor and intellect as yourself in command, I dare say science is in good hands,” I said, while trying to find a convenient exit.

Fortunately for me, at that very moment, Miss Thomasina entered the room. Pausing to curtsy, she said to me, “Your lordship, a young man came by moments ago with this for you.” She handed me a small envelope.

“Pardon me, Professor,” I said, and he made genial away-with-you motions as I exited the study, relieved at the timely arrival of this missive.

Curious, I opened the envelope and discovered a thin card of vellum inside. Extracting it, I was momentarily taken aback by the words writ upon it.

Her Grace Margaret, Duchess of Devon

Wishes to Inform The Reader That She Will Be


On the Night of June --, 1794.

The Reader’s Attendance is Requested

As I held the card in my hand, I was intrigued.

The game was afoot.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Shrew

The hunt was called short on account of the poor Major. We brought his body back to the house, and when we arrived there was a great outpouring of grief. Apparently, Major Tom had been thought of as the best of men, and much beloved, although I could not see why. Not to speak ill of the dead, but he struck me as being a bit...bland, and rather a gloomy fellow. Still, his death struck me harder than I would have expected. Now, no man can reach manhood without the loss of a friend or two, but this was the first time I had personally been in the presence of death.

Feeling somewhat muddled, I stood to one side in the drive as the body was carried into the house. As the deceased passed by, I saw that Mrs. Llwynog also standing by. Now, she had given every semblance of grief during our short journey to the house, weeping and carrying on so such that I had thought it would be a blessing for all of us, including her, were she to fall into a swoon, and cease her wailing. At the house with no one watching her, however, she was dry-eyed and calm. One might have speculated that the hunt had been ended on account of rain, not the death of one of the huntsman, from her countenance. Miserable woman.

She had led him into it, damn her, the least she could have done was shown some remorse. But her gaze was as cold and as pitiless as a glacier. Cruelty, thy name is woman.

However, I cannot lay all the blame at the feet of Mrs. Llwynog. Major Caine surely deserved a large portion of it. But I myself shall never allow myself to be led around by the nose by some woman. Goaded into a fateful plunge into rough ground because he felt himself less of a man than a chancer whom he barely knew? The fool.

And Mrs. Llwynog, with her guileful ways, was judge, jury, and executionatrix of the hapless Major. Leading a man on like that, when her only eye was on his pocketbook, and showing not the slightest sign of guilt or remorse afterward.

Now, I know many a man prefers his woman to be meek and mild like so much of Richardson’s work, but I myself prefer a girl with a bit of spirit. I’ve read my Vindications. I cannot for the life of me see the appeal of milksops like Pamela, Clarissa, or young Werther’s Lotte. A girl like that is only good for one thing, and that only takes perhaps forty-five minutes, and you cannot do it all day, so how would a man fill the remainder of his time, saddled with such a pale and pious wife?

No, give me a lass with fire in her belly and a lust for life, and I shall be set for life. A girl should have a generous helping of dash, if she is to win this scoundrel’s heart.

But this Mrs. Llwynog was a harpy of another sort entirely. Major Tom may have stuck his head in the noose, but she held it open for him, and if there was any justice in the world, the constable should have her down to London, and let her dance for the crowds. A murderess is still a murderess, whether she does it with poison, a blade in the night, or with humble words.

Cold and cruel, that one. And what is worse, she shall pay no price for her crime. I watched her as she was led away by some kind “gentleman”, almost instantly comporting herself as a stricken damsel, with her handkerchief to her face and tears streaming down her cheeks.

I could have slapped her.

That fox knows many tricks, but not one good one.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Hunt

“You look like hell.” Professor Papagoras tutted over me as he held the door open. I had taken the trouble to put on my shirt and shoes during the walk back across the moors, but still held my coat and waistcoat tucked under my arm. “What have you been up to, eh?” the Professor asked, chuckling.

“My doctor prescribed a brisk run in the country,” I said austerely. The warmth of the entryway to the townhouse was a pleasant change from the chilly morning air, and I resolved to get some food in me as quickly as possible.

“Oh,” said the Professor, “a young fellow stopped by for you, not half an hour ago. He said to tell you the running of the hounds would be at nine on the dot.”

“Nine?!” I cried, and hurriedly looked at the clock. “Why, ‘tis already half past eight!”

I rushed up the stairs, and with all due haste dressed in riding clothes and made a desperate attempt to look presentable. This would never do, I looked a sight, but needs must, and so I dashed from the Professor’s in the hopes of catching Joseph before he left Stokington Court.

It seems I am forever running from place to place, but I would not pass up a chance to run the fox for all the world.

At last I arrived at Joseph’s, and not a moment too soon, for he was pacing in front of the manse with a pair of fine stallions tied and ready to ride.

“Where the devil have you been?” he cried on catching sight of me. “We shall be late!”

“To the deuce with being late, get me on a horse, man!” I said, and swung myself into the saddle of a fine looking roan. The horse sidestepped, and Joseph leapt forward to untie the reins. Both mounted now, we spurred the horses into a gallop and made haste to the Duke of Marma’s.

Now this Duke kept a most exquisite estate, especially for being not only a foreigner but a Spaniard. We galloped up the main thoroughfare with mere minutes to spare, and found ourselves in the company of the rest of the hunt. Pulling the horses to a stop, we dismounted, and Joseph led me through the crowd of sportsmen. We soon came upon the Mayor of Great Stokington, a man of some years and stoutness.

“Milord Mayor, of course you remember Dennis, the Viscount of Stokington,” Joseph said by way of introduction. I bowed, and doffed my hat.

“Of course, of course,” the Mayor harrumphed. “Splendid, splendid. You arrived just in time, we were beginning to commence.”

“But where is the Duke of Marma?” I asked. “For I was most looking forward to making his acquaintance.”

“Under the weather, under the weather, the poor chap,” said the Mayor.

“Nothing serious, I hope,” I said.

“No, no, just too much of that Spanish food, if you ask me. Heathenish stuff. Uses chillys, whatever those are.”

“I do believe you mean ‘chiles,’ Mayor,” I said.

The Mayor stared at me blankly, then turned to the assembled party. “Right then, since there are sixteen of us, we shall hunt in teams of four.”

I was handed a gun and shot, and met with my teammates. Joseph was on my team, of course, and also a doughty military fellow, and best of all, a fine looking woman all in scarlet. A scarlet woman, indeed!

“Ah, Dennis, allow me to introduce Major Anthony Caine and Mrs. Maureen Llwynog of Cardiff,” said the Mayor.

“A pleasure,” said Major Caine, and bowed. Mrs. Llwynog, to my surprise, shook hands.

“Is that how they do things in Wales?” I asked her with a smile.

“That is how they do them, your Honor,” she said coquettishly.

As we walked back to our horses, Joseph muttered, “For God’s sake, keep your eye on the fox.”

“Indeed I shall,” I said, watching the pert bounce of Mrs. Llwynog’s rump as she walked toward her own horse.

“You know what I mean,” said Joseph irritably. We mounted, and the hunt began. We were set with a rather wily-looking auld master of the hounds, and his pack of fine curs, and he began to lead us on a goodly chase.

We saw neither hide nor hair of Reynard during the first two hours, until the Master of Hounds called a brief halt. In the distance we could hear the halloo of the other hunters and the call of their horns.

“Sounds like they’re having a merry run, Major Caine,” I said to the tall, sad-looking soldier.

“Please, call me Tom. Everyone does. Everyone save me wife, that is,” he said.

“Very well, Major Tom,” I said. “And from where in England do you hail?”

“Upper Canada, actually.”

“Ah! The New World, how damnably clever.”

“Yes, I serve under Lieutenant-Governor Semcoe. My wife is there now.”

“Does this wife of yours have a name, or must I be forced to refer to her as Major Tom’s Wife in conversation?” I asked, jokingly.

“The Lizard, least that’s what I call her. Frightful woman. Just like her mother.”

“Ah well,” I said, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

“That Mrs. Llwynog, there’s a woman I wouldna mind getting closer to,” he said, grinning lasciviously, which did not quite work on his mustachioed face.

“But did you notice she’s Mrs. Llwynog?” I asked, and cocked an eyebrow.

“No hazard, lad; I hear her husband caught a musketball in Holland. Look at that bosom,” he sighed. “She’s ready for a right tupping, that one.”

As if overhearing our conversation, even though she was some distance away, the lovely, and indeed as Major Tom put it, quite bosomy Mrs. Llwynog turned in our direction. I tipped my hat, and a wink, towards her. Seeing this, she smiled in return.

“Oh, she likes you,” Major Tom said bitterly. “Never fails. I see a lassie I like, and some other man-jack steals her away.”

“What kind of a military man are you, Caine?” I asked, and snorted. “Give up at the first sign of opposition much? Thank God you’re in Canada and not in Belgium. Besides, you must have some charm. You caught that Lizardy wife of yours, didn’t you?”

“Aye, and much good it’s done me,” he said gloomily, but before he could say more, a great baying went up among the hounds.

“They’ve caught the scent, sirs!” cried the Master, and the dogs bolted into the woods in pursuit of their quarry. The five of us followed swiftly.

Now, I am no mean horseman, so it was no surprise to me that I soon took the lead in front of my fellows, but I was quite agape when I saw that riding beside me and keeping pace was none other than Mrs. Llwynog. She flashed a toothy grin at me and spurred her mare forward.

“Oh no, Madame,” I cried, “The fox is mine.”

“We shall see, your Honor,” she called back.

Soon we came upon the dogs clustered in a tight knot, around a hedgerow at the bottom of the hill. “T’scent’s confused, lordships,” panted the Master of Hounds as he returned to us after investigating.

“By God, I hope the fox has not gone beyond that stile,” said Joseph, pointing. “’Tis all fen in there.”

Silently I agreed. A horse could be crippled or even killed on ground like that. “If the fox is indeed in the marsh, I recommend we leave off and wait for him to emerge,” I said.

Mrs. Llwynog looked at me with disdain. “Where’s your sense of adventure, lads? I dare say I shan’t look at a man who won’t risk a horse or a thousand pounds for a good thrill.”

“Madame,” I said sternly. “I am many things, and a chancer is one of them, but I will not kill a good horse for ten pounds of foxflesh.”

“Fine,” she sniffed. “You looked to be the poorer, commoner sort of aristocrat anyway.”

The Major stirred in his saddle, and looked uncomfortable, but whatever words he would have spoken died on his lips when the Master of Hounds cried, “There he goes!” and sure enough, the dogs swarmed through a gap in the row after a scarlet blur.

Major Tom looked at me, then at Mrs. Llwynog, then at me again. Apparently, he made up his mind, for defiantly he said to me, “’Kill a horse’? Cowardice.”

He spurred his horse forward down the hill.

“Hold Tom,” I cried. “Don’t do it, man! The ground’s too rough!”

“I shall do as I like, and no one shall tell me otherwise!” he called back without looking.

“A brave man,” cried Mrs. Llwynog, gaily. “Tally-ho, Major, tally-ho!”

“A damned fool, is what he is,” I said angrily, and turned on her, “the same as you.”

I spurred my own horse to a gallop after him. For all my skill I could not beat him to the hedgerow, and by the time I and the roan jumped it, he had vanished into the misty fen. Now as I said, I am many things, but I am no fool, so I slowed the roan to a walk.

I could no longer see Mrs. Llwynog, Joseph, and the Master of Hounds on the hilltop. The bog was shrouded with mist, and seemingly from all around me came the distant baying of hounds. I felt a fool. I had not spoken quickly enough, and the devilish Mrs. Llwynog had spurred Major Anthony Caine to some mishap. But it was not the Welshwoman alone who drove him. Perhaps it was some need to be his own man, free of his wife and commander and king. And perhaps he thought it well to act on this need. But it is not given to man to know his own needs.

The roan and I walked for what seemed to be an eternity, but was probably only five minutes, in that marsh of mist and fog.

And at last we came on Major Tom.

His horse stood at some distance, with the natural respect that all animals have in times of danger. It did not seem hurt, which was a blessing. Tom, on the other hand, was in much worse shape.

I dismounted quickly, and carefully making my way through the treacherous mud, came over to him and knelt beside. His head lay at an odd and frightening angle.

“Tom,” I said softly. “Can you hear me, Major Tom?”

For a long moment he did not answer. Then at last, his lips parted, and he said, “I hear you.”

“What happened, Tom?”

“Lost the foxie in the fog. Dogs all gone. Horse came up on a hummock, stumbled.” His voice was weak, and confused. “Horse threw me.”


A long silence. “Aye.”

“Tom, I think your neck is broken. Don’t move.” He shifted his arm, and I quickly grabbed it. “Don’t move.”

“Canada,” he said, and coughed violently. “I’m feeling very still.”

“Yes, Tom,” I said, my voice hoarse.

He seemed to think for a long moment. “And I think my horse knows which way to go.”

“I’m sure he does,” I said, biting back tears.

“Tell my wife I love her very much.” His voice was very faint.

“She knows,” I said.

He said nothing for a long while. And after a bit, I saw that his chest was not moving any more.

“Can you hear me, Major Tom?” I asked, the first time a bit desperately, but then I asked again twice more, and grew calmer every time. He was gone.

Eventually Joseph and the Master of the Hounds came down, and together we got him out of there. All that because some woman smiled at him. The bloody fool. The poor, bloody fool.

We never did catch the damned fox.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Escape

I awoke to birdsong, and the soft sighs of June as she slept next to me. The sun shone brightly through the window, and all was right with the world. Lust, whether newly born, or aroused from a deathlike slumber, must always create sunshine, filling the loin so full of radiance, that it overflows upon the outward world.

I gently caressed June’s shoulder until she awoke. I was feeling rather frisky, and so we made merry upon the bed for a time.

“Oh, June,” I said, “You are a glorious woman.”

She smiled bashfully. “You have made me happy, Dennis.”

“And may I continue to do so,” I said, “although I fear your bed has ensnared me.”

“Oh pooh,” she giggled, and walloped me with a pillow. With a roar of false outrage, I held her down and tickled her until she begged me to stop, tears of merriment cascading down her cheeks.

“Oh! Oh oh!” she gasped. “Stop, Dennis, please stop, I beg you, I shall do anything you ask!”

“Anything?” I teased.

“Yes, anyth--what was that?” she said, suddenly alert.

“I heard nothing,” I whispered.

We listened intently. “There!” she whispered. “Do you hear it?”

I did. The most feared and hated sound of all: a tread on the floor below! A moment later, I realised there was a worse sound, for to our aghast ears came the muted murmur of male voices below us.

“My husband!” whispered June in terror.

“Well,” I said, “Last night was highly enjoyable, but I must away. Good day to you, madame,” and gathering up my clothes, I made for the stairs.

But O! What tragedy was this? I could hear the creak of nail on wood as a man’s shoe trod upon the lowest step!

Trapped, damn my eyes!

I hurried back to the bedroom. “Your husband comes to greet us and commend us on such a vigorous night of field tilling.”

“Oh God,” she moaned in terror.

“June!” came the cry up the stairs. “Does your lazy rump still lie abed?”

“Behind the door,” she whispered, gesturing frantically.

Seeing immediately what she was about, I quickly sprang behind the open door. The cold brute who dared to call himself my angel’s husband strode into the room not a moment after I had secreted myself. Frowning, he stood just inside the doorway, eyeing his wife carefully, and with extreme inconsideration blocked my escape.

“Why aren’t you up and about, wife?” he asked coldly. “Been teasing the kitty while I was away?”

I nearly reached out and assaulted the dastard for his vulgarity, but restrained myself. June, meanwhile, hurriedly arose from the bed, sheet wrapped about her, and threw her arms around her husband.

“I was…merely trying to surprise you,” she said, with only a very slight touch of desperation.

The Doctor recoiled slightly from her embrace, and said, “Surprised I am--at your indecency. You should cover yourself.”

You damned fool, I thought. If she had any decency, she would go uncovered all day long, looking as she does. Thinking this, I resolved to perform some mischief on the Doctor, perhaps leave some sign that he had been cuckolded. I dare say I doubt he would care if another man made toad in the hole with his wife from a purely natural standpoint, but I imagine his pride would be affronted.

The Doctor turned and called back down the stairs, “Nicholas! Fetch the bags up here, would you? And be quick about it!”

So he would shame his wife in front of a servant, would he? The arrogance of the man! Resolving to listen to my own devils, my hand snaked out while his head was turned and I gave June a firm pinch on her bare buttock. She yelped.

Morgan turned back, startled. “What was that?”

“Nothing,” said June quickly. “I trod upon a nail-head.”

“Oh,” he said dully. I imagine he would not care if she trod upon a bayonet.

“I shall dress, then? While you manage your bags?” she asked hopefully.

Morgan stared at her uncomprehendingly for a moment, then said, “Yes. Yes, I imagine so.” He turned and began descending the stairs.

Thank God.

I hurriedly struggled into my breeches. “You must leave,” said June.

“Madame,” I replied, “Even the promise of more of your sweet kisses could not keep me.” She melted a little as I said this.

From outside I could hear Morgan bellowing at his hapless catamite, Nicholas. Feeling rather daring, I pulled June close to me and gave her a long kiss. Releasing her, I asked, “Is there another way out of here, besides the front door?”

“No, so hurry before--” but before I could descend the stairs and flee, I heard Morgan and Master Nicholas entering, grumbling and straining under the weight of their bags.

“Damn!” I whispered furiously. I placed my hands on her shoulders. “Think, June. Is there any other way out?”

She thought for a moment, then the light of remembrance dawned upon her face. “Yes! The window out Rexford’s study. ‘Tis not high, and there is a shrubbery directly below.”

“Thank you,” I said with feeling, and checking rapidly to ensure I had all my clothes, quickly crossed the hallway to the Doctor’s study.

“June!” Morgan bawled from below. “I am famished! Get down here and make me some breakfast post haste!”

With some urgency, I rammed up the paint-encrusted window. The resulting gap was just large enough for a rather fit young man to shimmy through. I eased my legs through the gateway to freedom. Twisting back towards June, I said, “Adieu, madame mon amour, jai passerai chaque nuit rêvant à votre yeuxl.”

She gave me a pleased, soulful look, and I slung myself out the window.

June was right, there was indeed a privet bush beneath the window. However, she neglected to mention that there was another window betwixt the bush and the study window, this one leading into the kitchen, and as I plummeted to earth I passed before the startled eyes of Doctor Morgan.

For a heartstopping moment, he was transfixed. Luckily I had been wearing my breeches, else he should have gotten a good look at my bare arse. As it was, I efficiently used the seconds he had given me through bafflement to extricate myself from the shrub. As I finished, I heard him bellow from inside the house. “June! Who the devil was that?!”

One of my mottoes is: Never look back. That way they won’t get a good look at your face.

I sprinted across the lawn towards the lane, my bare feet pelting through the sodden grass. Behind me I could hear Morgan charging like a bull out the front door of the cottage, hot in pursuit. Luckily, the lackwitted physician had taken too long to take to the chase, and I soon left him huffing for breath and hollering impotently. “I’ll catch you, you rascal, whoever you are!”

I chuckled to myself as I trotted down the lane. He didn’t even know who I was! I had stuck his wife, squeezed through the window, and outrun the furious husband, and I still left behind no clue as to my identity!

One of my better exits, I must say.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Wife

Dusk fell on the moors. Dusk like thunder, like a cloak broad and black, turning the heath to shadowy gravemould. Along the horizon tors sprang like giants against the ruddy sunset. I walked along the lane towards Glenwood Cottage. In general, I avoid the moor in those hours of darkness when the powers of evil are exalted, but my liaison with Madame Morgan could not be delayed.

The earth had long since descended into inky darkness when I arrived at Glenwood Cottage, the solitary window a gleaming beacon of hope in infinite blackness. The house itself was modest; a cozy fit for a family of five but more than ample enough for a doctor, his wife, and his assistant.

Before knocking, I made sure that the Doctor himself was not at home. A quick check of the stables revealed the absence of two horses. These the Doctor and his apprentice must have taken to Londontown. Thus reassured, I made my way back to the cottage. The rustic brick was cool to my touch as I guided myself by feel through the darkness to the front door.

I straightened my coat and waistcoat, then rapped upon the door. Inside, there was a brief noise, then silence. After a long moment, the door opened a crack.

A woman’s quavering voice said, “If you be a highwayman, I warn you I am armed.”

“Madame,” I said, “I am just a poor traveler momentarily lost upon the moors. Perhaps you could allow me inside to warm myself by your hearth?”

A brightly twinkling eye appeared at the crack, and I leaned into the light from the window, allowing her to see my visage. Madame Morgan opened the door with great haste, saying, “Your Lordship! You gave me quite a fright!”

“My apologies, Madame. I meant no harm. But I truly would like to come in, as it is becoming rather chilly.”

“Of course,” she said, and favored me with a broad smile. “Where are my manners?” She ushered me inside.

The interior of the cottage looked as though an ossuary had exploded. Bones of all kinds lined the walls, as did more arcane objects, which I could only guess to be the tools of the sawbones’ trade. On closer inspection, many of the bones were not human, a fact I greeted with some relief. I spotted the skulls of a horse, a cow, and other, unidentifiable creatures on bureaus, tables, even chairs. The Doctor’s experimentation had taken him far afield in search of bones.

June Morgan, having left me in the maw of this ghastly ribcage momentarily, returned with a tea tray. “Perhaps you would care for some tea?” she asked me.

“Of course,” I said, and in the light of the cottage I allowed myself to get a better look at my quarry. By God she was a fine looking woman. Proud features set into a face of alabaster, with raven-black hair artfully coiffed so that the delicate tips brushed her blushing cheeks. Having caught her unawares, I now saw she was in a state of mild dishabille, her bodice loosened slightly, and as I sipped my tea I could see the tops of her delightful breasts bobbing with every breath.

I glanced around the room. “Fascinating,” I commented. “It must be stimulating, living with a man so concerned with the natural philosophy.”

“Oh yes, my husband is a man of…science,” she said, and I detected a note of bitterness in her voice.

“I personally see myself as a man of history,” I said.

“How so?” she inquired. Did my eyes deceive me, or did she lean towards me as she asked the question?

“Science is so cold and clinical,” I said, and stood. “Only by understanding one’s place in history, and acting to change it, does one have the potential for the heroic.”

“’The heroic’,” she said, and this time there was teasing in her voice. “Words most often heard from limp-wristed dandies in lace and silk before they declaim their latest sonnet.” But she smiled when she said it.

“Oh, there is room for poesy in the heroic, and room for heroism in the poetic. What of Lancelot and Guinevere? Of Tristan and Isolde?”

“Romeo and Juliet?” she suggested, and winked at me.

“Truly their epic loves were not undercut by the heroism of their lives but enhanced. To live and to love--heroically,” I said, and sat down close to her. “One is not possible without the other.”

I took her hand in mine, raised it up between us. “A left hand. A right hand. Perfect matches, yet opposites. The heroic and the poetic, the epic and the romantic, together in one climactic impulse, that life impulse, impossible to deny, impossible to dissuade, rising inside you until--can you feel it, June?”

“I feel it, Dennis,” she gasped, her hand trembling in mine.

“The urge, June, the urge! To live without regrets, in the moment, from peak--to peak--to peak,” I said, squeezing her hand. Her face was very close to mine now. “Heroism, June, is knowing what must be done, and doing it, doing it as hard as you can. No matter how hard life pounds at you, you must not submit, but pound back, and when at the end you are bruised and exhausted, you will bask in the glory of your triumph. That is heroism, June,” I whispered.

“Oh Dennis!” she whispered, “you speak with such passion, such intensity, a woman might--”

“A woman might what?” I whispered.

“Oh!” she said suddenly. “I must apologise, Dennis, I forgot to give you the tour of our fine cottage.” She stood and grasping my hand, dragged me up from the sopha and into the kitchen. “The kitchen,” she announced hurriedly, and pulled me upstairs. “Rexford’s study,” she said.

We quickly went down the hallway, and she opened a door. “And our bedroom,” she said, and gestured to the bed. “Notice how fine our quilt is, I made it my--”

I pushed her up against the wall and kissed her, hard and hot and how she wanted it. Her lips were soft and moist beneath mine, and I felt my tongue brush against hers.

“Oh Dennis, yes,” she gasped as our lips parted.

“No more talking,” I said mock-sternly, “the time for talking is over. Now is the time for doing,” and I swept her into another long kiss. I kissed her neck, brushing her silky skin with my lips, tasting the sweat on her, as I untied her corset. When the last stay came loose, I stood back.

Her dress fell away in one glorious motion, revealing an exquisite body, untouched by the ravages of time or decay. A pair of beauteous breasts, high and full with skin the color of pale ivory and tipped with delicate pink nipples, were only the most prominent of her advantages. The curving hips, the honeyed thighs, the delectable navel set like a pearl in the center of a smooth flat stomach—the result of her arrayed features was one of staggering beauty and incipient tumescence.

I pulled her close to me, and kissed her again. While doing so I caressed her dainty buttocks, feeling the velvety, supple flesh beneath my hands. As we kissed, I spun her around and guided her to the bed. Now her hands were on me, and I momentarily relinquished my hold on her glory to slip off my coat, my waistcoat, my shirt. She ran her hands over my bare chest, and teasingly tugged at the hair there.

I love a tease.

My breeches soon joined the rest of my clothing on the floor, and naked, we slid onto the bed. Very quickly I was hard, and she whimpered when she caught sight of my ever-present friend. I have been gifted, I cannot deny it, and no woman who has been with can, either.

I cupped her breasts in my hands, feeling the delightful sensation of her nipples brushing against my palms. Gasping with pleasure, she arched upwards, and as she did so I slid into her.

The next hour was ecstasy.

For both of us.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Delay

My apologies to all my loyal and intelligent Readers for the lack of a new chapter in my memoirs today, but tragically your Hero has momentarily succumbed to a catarrh and was unable to complete his latest missive. I shall return on the morrow, with the tale of my adventures at the house of Doctor Morgan, and what came afterwards.

Thank you most kindly for your patience.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Fox

Flossy turned out to be much amenable to being returned to Joseph, so once in the saddle I piloted her towards Stokington Court. The village seemed more welcoming than it had since my arrival; a weight of money in one's pocket and the promise of a well-warmed bed can do that to a man. Even the dull tones of Flossy's hooves upon the cobbles were music to my ears. Soon we reached the Court, and I found a most obsequious groom waiting for me there. The decrepit butler ushered me into the parlor, where I found Joseph engrossed in what appeared to be stitchery.

With a broad grin he looked up and brandished the cloth in his hands. "This new design I am making shall be the talk of Londontown this season," he crowed. "No other gentleman shall have a waistcoat half as fine!"

Now this was just pathetic.

Obviously, poor Joseph, under the influence of his henpecked father, had while I was away lost that urge to create mischief that I had spent years instilling in him. When I encountered him first in the cemetery, I had hoped that his dishevelment was an indication of some increased sense of the frailty of life, and that I was witnessing the birth of some new, devil-may-care Joe MacDonald. Alas, it seemed it was not to be.

It is one thing to enjoy fine clothes. I know many a strapping fellow who delights in a well-turned pair of breeches or a particularly fine cravat. Indeed, I myself have been known to play the jack-a-dandy, especially when some young petticoat is the prize. But there is a world of difference between appreciating garmentry, and a pallor-making obsession, doubly so when said obsession keeps one from adventuring.

With this in mind, I added a new entry to the private list of objectives I had been keeping since arriving in Stokington. Right after the entry reading "Plow Mademoiselle Margot Magee," I added "Revive Joseph MacDonald's Spirit."

"How did you find Flossy? I trust she is well?" asked Joseph anxiously.

"Oh quite well," I said easily. "I think the trot did her good. You should take her out more. 'Tis fine country for riding."

"Good, good," Joseph said with relief. "No broken legs then?"

"No, but very nearly a broken back," I said.

Aghast, he cried, "What?"

"You needn't worry, the only back injured was my own," I said, and gave him an abridged version of the previous night's revels.

"Oh, Dennis, I told you to be careful! That Brutus, I hear he is the devil himself. Why I heard he once knifed a man for offering him a spinach salad instead of steak! Can you imagine?"

"Unfortunately, after meeting the man I can. Although I must admit my interest has been piqued by the mysterious Mister Walker."

"Some damnable raconteur, no doubt," said Joseph dismissively.

"My dear Joseph, need I remind you that I am a damnable raconteur?" I asked lightly.

"Will you have dinner with me tonight, Dennis? I am near sick to death for lack of company, and I think I could perhaps use a damnable raconteur."

"Sorry, Joseph old fellow, but I have a prior engagement. Perhaps tomorrow? If your father is in the village, the three of us could trade stories over watercress Earl of Sandwichs and tea."

Joseph heaved a huge sigh. "Alas," he said bitterly, "tomorrow the fox hunt rides and my father rides with them."

The fox hunt! O happy day! I had not been on a fox hunt in nearly five years, and I immediately espied an opportunity to both slake my desire for the sport and perhaps draw old Joe out of his shell.

"Even better," I said. "You and I shall track the wily Renard to ground as well!"

"Oh Dennis," Joseph groaned. "I cannot stand the fox hunt. The poor fellow! Let him be, I say."

"He and I are kindred spirits, but it is hunt or be hunted, and I dare say I should never be caught, so it must be him. Besides," I said cunningly, "imagine the fine ruff you could add to your waistcoat from the sly one's tail?"

Joseph frowned uneasily, but I could see the temptation roiling in him. "Very well," he at last relented. "We shall ride."

"May I ask who runs the hunt?" I asked.

"Formally, it is the Lord Mayor of Great Stokington, but on this occasion he has seen fit to extend mastery to that Spaniard, the Duke of Marma."

"Who raises the mastiffs?"

"The very same."

"Well then, have your man over to the Duke of Marma's and get us some horses, and we shall have a merry run, in my case the unbeatable in full pursuit of the uneatable." I stood. "Good day to you sir, I must call upon the Duck and Deacon for my effects."

"Oh?" said Joseph, as he escorted me out. "You have returned to Menacing House?"

"Far from it," I snorted. "The fine Professor Papagoras has invited me to be his houseguest."

"Well, that is splendid," Joe said, and we reached the foyer.

"Good day to you, Joe," I said, and left.

My schedule was fair full: coney-catching at Doctor Morgan's in the evening and fox-catching at the Duke of Marma's the following morning.

The hunt was on!