That afternoon I ventured out to Piccadilly. The elegant townhouse in front of me bespoke prosperity, the façade a testament to the days of ancient Athens brought forth to the modern era. It also had peonies.
I knocked smartly on the front door. After a few moments an addle-pated young man, whom I initially took to be a servant, opened the door. A thick shock of wavy ginger hair surmounted a visage of astonishingly banal stupidity. However, the cut of his clothing and the smartly turned-out shoes he wore argued against the servant theory.
I politely raised my hat. "Is the young Reverend Keane within?"
A look of dull incomprehension settled on the young man’s face. "Is he within what?"
"You must be Geoffrey," I said kindly. Keane had mentioned his brother, apparently the local idiot, several times.
"Must I?" he replied, seemingly puzzled.
From behind the fool a voice hailed. "Whatever is happening, Geoffrey?”"A round-faced young man, his blonde hair slicked back from his forehead and dressed in the manner of a parson, appeared from the next room. "I can hear all variety of commotion, and--Oh no!" he yelped, as he caught sight of me. To my utter astonishment, he turned on one heel and sprinted from the foyer. I grimaced ferociously, and laid chase.
"William Keane, get back here!" I bellowed as I passed through an elegantly appointed sitting room with all speed. Three matronly ladies watched with startled expressions as a young minister dashed through their tea, followed closely by a well-dressed young noble. As I passed these three worthies, I collided with a young auburn-haired lady seated upon an ottoman, who let out a loud squawk as I sent her and her knitting sprawling. "Pardon me, ladies," I gasped, and resumed the chase.
Through the hallway, down the stairs, through the kitchen, and out into the garden, where at last I was able to corner my prey. Keane had, through all our years at Eton and Oxford together, been a doughy sort of boy, and I easily overtook him in our steeplechase through his house.
As he sprinted across the lawn I tackled him from behind. We grappled, his conduct, in my opinion, most unbecoming a man of the cloth. He managed to land several heroic blows, but at last I seized hold of his wrist, and with his own fist managed to lay a punch on him that took all fight out of him. "Stop hitting yourself," I said, panting, as I rolled off him. Both of us lay on the cool grass, momentarily exhausted by our exertions.
"What the bloody hell was that about, Will?" I asked at last.
Indignant, he raised himself to a seated position. "Here I am, newly become a man of God, and you arrive, as smart and neat as you please, ready to embroil me in some half-baked school boy prank! No thank you."
"You owe me, you coward! Dashing off like that in the middle of my duel with Hobbes. Most dishonourable, most dishonourable indeed. What would your father think?"
Keane grumbled unhappily. "Bringing my father into this--not cricket, old man, not cricket at all."
"He’d be ashamed of you, running like a little girl--coincidentally, was that fine specimen of womanhood I knocked over in your parlor your sister?"
"Yes, and I’ll have you stay well away from her, thank you very much. Besides, she’s very religious, although I must admit her theology’s worse than her knitting."
I idly flicked some blades of grass from my breeches. "Now, to business."
Keane groaned. "God preserve me, what now?"
"In order to make good for the gross insult you delivered to my person when you fled so shamefully, I have need of your services in a little parlor game I am planning."
"You must have any number of scallywags at your beck and call. Why me?"
"Because you possess the necessary mettle, the necessary steel. It runs in your family," I said, flattering him shamelessly. "The Keane spirit seizes the prompt occasion, makes the thought start into instant action, and at once plans and performs, resolves and executes! That is the sort of man I need to help me, not some stick in the mud with his head up his arse."
"So...definitely not Geoffrey then."
We both laughed at that.
When our peals of merriment had at last ceased, I said, "You shan’t find it difficult, Will. Just be your usual earnest, priggish self."
Keane glared at me. "You say the sweetest words to me."
I stood, and held out my hand. Helping him to his feet, I said, “I have a young lady to whom I need you to minister. I imagine you have done it a hundred times before. The only difference this time shall be that you shall cleave closely to the script I have prepared for you.”
Keane eyed me critically. "You do not ever change, do you?"
"I would like to change, but I am wicked," I said. I clapped him on the shoulder. "I will let you know all the details."
I took my leave. With luck, the young reverend would not realise he was playing two roles at once. Now, to see what Walker had unearthed, and what high-jinks Mister Mills had committed of late!
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.