quinta-feira, 17 de outubro de 2019

A Victorian Romance - All those Dukes - chapter 2

Hello!
The lovely Victorian Romance, ALL THOSE DUKES, is already available and I'm posting the first two chapters here!
enjoy!

First we met Duck, the Marquess and his father, the Duke. Also a longtime thorn in his side, the difference in their appearance.
Soon after they meet - and we get to witness - a lively family of a tradesman called Johnson who has a pretty niece. Jessica Ellen is a widow dedicated to anthropometry.
Nothing much comes from their first meeting aside from a casual interest and an amusing coincidence in their lack of interest in marriage...
Now, as we dive into the story, the plot gets more serious...


Well, no. There's no Duke Ellington here. 
The Duke of Wellington is mentioned, but we do have many Dukes in this novel...

let's get to the 2nd chapter:


ALL THOSE DUKES
a Victorian men novella
read chapter 1
chapter 2
1

Unfortunately, instead of turning dark in features to look more like the father Duck adored, as he so wanted, what came was the day he met a hurtful truth: a tall, fair, handsome distant cousin had spent a long visit at their estate, Storm Grove Hall, in 1824, the year before his birth.

And what made matters worse was the occasion of discovering such a thing: the passing of his adored father, the Duke of Somerchester.
Unstoppable coughs, ever so durable tiredness, ineffective bleedings, useless cordials, all that the best surgeons in London could offer the Duke only provided the Marquess one week with his infirm father. Should he had been better advised, he would have left Spain earlier to spend the last year at home, he could have done more, taken his father abroad where the weather was warmer, so many possibilities hurting his heart that was already bruised with the regret of never inviting the Duke to Madrid because of the frown -  lips’ pursing - eye averting – exaggerated compliment ritual

Now it seemed irrelevant.

His father was dead, he was the new Duke and finally could face the ugly truth of his paternity.

For that, he even had started to devise a plan…

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At the other side of town, in a comfortable townhouse, Frederica read the paper while Johnson and Ellen tried their luck with a giant jigsaw puzzle at the table by the window.

As they discussed where did a particular part of the coast of Cornwall fit, Frederica gasped loud. Stood. Cried. ‘Good Gracious!’

‘What?’ Johnson looked at his sister over his lenses that rested on the tip of his nose.

‘The Duke, such an elegant little man, could be one of my figurines over the mantle, so well attired and polite, wise too… With that beast of a Greek god of a son, bless that lad.’

‘Somerchester?’

‘Yes, Somerchester, we just met the man the other day.’

‘Eight days.’ Ellen mumbled. How could she forget? The day she had arrived in London after spending most of her life in India and France, and on arriving, was exposed to a huge shaming.

‘Dead.’

‘What?’

‘Dead, the little elegant rich Duke. Dead.’ Frederica turned the newspaper.’

‘Let me see that.’ Johnson crossed the room bumping his shin on a chair and a side table, took the paper from his sister’s hand and almost glued it to his nose.

‘What killed the Duke, aunt?’ Ellen whispered. ‘Poor man, he seemed fragile, didn’t he?’

‘He was sickened for a while, always had been if you ask me. He was a weakling.’

‘Don’t speak nonsense, Freddy.’

‘He was, brother, and you know it!’ She stomped. ‘He was our customer, bought tea and opium sometimes.’ Rushed voice. ‘But comparing to the rest of his family, he was the smaller of them all, short and dark. You saw the son, tall and strong.’

‘The duchess was a beauty, then? Have you met her?’

‘She was a handsome lady, yes. But the lad, the Marquess, he has the family blood. The weak blood from the father didn’t pass on to him.’

‘That does not make sense, aunt.’ Ellen shook her head. ‘It is the father who produces the son.’

‘With the blood from the grandfather.’ Frederica shook a finger in the air. ‘I may not have a diploma as you do, smart girl, but I do know the dealings of nature. I have watched the chickens that feed us, I observe the neighbors breed. Nature has not blessed me with children because it has given me sagacity.’

‘Amen!’

‘You jest.’

‘I do not!’

‘Here.’ Frederica moved to the mantle and chose three china figurines, delicate ladies in ball dresses. ‘The lady in white is grandfather, the lady in blue is the father and the lady in pink is the son.’ She arranged the three on the table over the half-assembled puzzle.

‘I see.’

‘The grandfather is a big man but during his life he spends his health in games and houses of ill repute.’

‘You know that of the former Duke.’

‘I suppose.’ Frederica shrugged. ‘Let us make suppositions.’

‘Fine.’

‘So, the grandfather seems strong but his blood is tainted. He passes it to his son, the father.’

Ellen shook her head. Son becomes the father… Oh, dear.

‘During his lifetime, the son is a weakling, for that he has a clean bill guided by good surgeons allowing the family excellent blood to gain strength, returning to the previous form.’ At that, she returned to the mantle and selected several other figurines to arrange behind the white lady. ‘These are the ancestral, all good blooded.’ She nodded, Ellen nodded back. ‘So, when this one, the father produces an heir, the child is blessed with the family blood.’

‘Good blood restored.’

‘Exactly!’

‘Ah, I see…’

‘Careful with these theories using the Nobledons, Freddy.’ Johnson mumbled. ‘The Dukedom of Somerchester is rich and powerful, a good client of ours.’ He shook his head. ‘I’m heading down to the office at the warehouse, surely there is something I can send for the lad. A card, perhaps.’ A moment of silent was spent in honor of the dead Duke. ‘You should come with me, Freddy, to help with etiquette and all.’

A quarter of an hour after her uncles left, the doorbell rang announcing morning visitors. Ellen should only expected callers in the afternoon since she had no close acquaintances in town, but didn’t think it odd at first, her aunt usually stayed at home in the mornings.

Even so, when the housekeeper delivered the expensive card, she was intrigued. ‘Am I well dressed, you think, Mrs. Warner?’

‘A bit Frenchy, dear.’ The housekeeper twisted her nose. ‘This fashion is… modern.’ She said as if it were something pejorative.

‘This has to be god enough until the new dresses I ordered with aunt Freddy arrive from the mantua maker.’ Ellen smoothed her skirts, inspected her face and hair on the mirror between the windows. ‘Show the Marquess in, he is too important to wait in our hallway.’

‘I will send your man servant as well. Better take care.’

Ellen could complain or say it wouldn’t be necessary, but she didn’t know what the grieving nobleman could possibly want.

‘Mrs. Dearstring.’ Duck said at the door. ‘Thank you for agreeing on seeing me without previous arrangement.’

‘Milord.’ Ellen curtseyed. ‘Allow me to pay my respects. We just read in the paper about your father, the Duke. I am horribly sorry.’ Her eyes met his, both of them could see they shared the same sentiments. ‘Barely two years since my father passed, it still feels like it was yesterday.’

‘I appreciate your words.’ He nodded with his hat and cane between his hands. ‘The last few hours have been absolutely…’

‘Heart-wrenching.’

He nodded again.

‘My uncle has left.’ She said. ‘He took my aunt to the office, to take care of pleasantries for you, actually.’

‘I know, I had someone waiting outside. I wanted to speak to you alone without calling much attention.’ 

‘Milord?’

‘May I?’ He pointed the sofa.

‘Please!’ Ellen hurriedly collected cushions to open space for the big man and sat on an opposed armchair holding them all to her chest.

‘I have come to hire your science, Mrs. Dearstring.’ Duck said. ‘Forgive me for being blunt, but my bearings are lost these last hours. My mind is filled with worries.’

‘The remembrance is vivid, rest assured I understand you perfectly.’ She waved without taking her eyes from him. ‘How can my science help you, milord? I mean, your grace.’

Duck twisted to where she waved and saw a dark skinned man, face of one who has very few friends in the world. ‘That man… He was at the restaurant when we met last week.’

‘Was he?’

‘I am sure.’ Duck turned completely to the door. ‘Please, sir, what is your name? What do you do for a living?’

‘He is called Jai, your grace, Jai Agarwal.’ Ellen answered. ‘He is my friend, works for me, with me actually. My father raised and trained him as a skilled secretary and when he passed, we were both orphaned.’

‘Your man servant follows you, is that so?’

‘He is my friend, a brother; my father’s friend.’

‘Your late husband used his services as well.’

Ellen glanced at Jai who had one of worst frowns one could get and back at the Marquess – or new Duke. She nodded. ‘How can I help you in this hour of need, your grace?’

‘Can we be left alone?’ He asked. ‘Send him away.’

‘Jai holds my total confidence.’

‘Not mine.’

‘Your grace, you came to me with some sort of request on the day of the Duke’s passing-’ She widened her eyes. ‘Something secretive, you want my scientific opinion on?...’

Duck tilted his head towards the door.

‘Jai, please give us a moment. Could you close the door and make sure no one bother us?’ To Duck, she half smiled. ‘Can I offer you tea or-’

‘No, nothing.’

‘Please, Jai?’

The man answered something Duck didn’t understand, Ellen nodded, they heard the door close and she nodded to him. 

‘No one will bother us. Jai will post guard at the door.’ 

‘Mrs. Dearstring, since the night we met at The Golden Plate, I have been thinking about you. Something you said struck me.’

Oh, no… Good thing her uncles had left or she might hear the m most charming hoarse voice expose her… So handsome…

‘Your science deals with genealogy, you said.’

‘I did say that, yes.’ She agreed with relief.

‘I need you to investigate me.’

‘Pardon?’

‘Your uncle said that you can measure people to determine genealogy.’ He extended and twisted his arms. ‘I have a suspicion of a cousin of my father who will be coming for the funeral, therefore you shall have the opportunity to find clues and guess as you please.’

‘Just one moment, your grace.’ Ellen showed him both palms. ‘I do not play a guessing game; neither do I search pieces to make them fit as jigsaw puzzle.’ She pointed the table where she had been playing with her uncle. ‘Anthropometry is a serious science, we research morphological characteristics of the human body, anthropometric measurements to identify individuals.’

‘Are you saying you answer my needs?’

‘Tell if the cousin is indeed part of your family.’

‘That is irrelevant. I am interested in my own genealogy.’

Ellen paused for a moment. ‘Identify your real genitor?’

‘Yes.’

Merde!’ Ellen swore in French. ‘This is insane, your grace.’

‘This doubt taints my being, Mrs. Dearstring!’ Duck stood to hold the mantle and hang his head. ‘I need to be sure that the most perfect man who lays motionless in his death bed was my real father. There couldn’t be a biggest honor in this nation, and I feel inappropriate to take his title.’

‘Resist the grief, your grace. It’s the pain talking.’

Duck turned from the mantle with such a stare that spooked Ellen. ‘You don’t know me, you cannot know.’

‘I have experienced terrible losses, I know.’ She whispered.

‘Devil take me!’ He groaned. ‘You are unable to work on such matter.’ A strong feeling of despair took him over and he could only hold in a tremor. ‘How much do I owe you for this inconvenience and your silence?’

‘I didn’t say such a thing.’ She shook her head. ‘But to determine what you ask through anthropometry; there are steps to be taken. First, I would need to… measure the Duke. That is a disgraceful thing to -’

‘Can it be done?’

‘Sure. That is how we study, in fact. Measuring cadavers.’ She finished in a whisper.

‘You are strong willed enough to do it on your own, then.’

‘I count on the assistance of Jai.’ She pointed at the door. ‘My friend who you just met and distrusted.’

‘If you vouchsafe his discretion, as I believe yours is to be gained, I can arrange opportunity for you to take these measurements tonight.’

Ellen was silent.

‘By then I shall have a contract for us to sign in the presence of my valet and your man, they should provide witness enough. You will not be able to make public any results acquired with this, even if in the end you think the payment I offer is not enough.’ Duck said. ‘I offer three thousand pounds; we can make further agreements later tonight. Will 9 in the evening be convenient?’

She could only nod and watch in astonishment as the handsome man nodded back and left without another word.

That much money for such a task!

A fortune one takes a lifetime to amass… It meant freedom, independence, means to dedicate to science, further specialization, funding for university studies!

How would she justify her absence to her uncle and aunt?

And how to conduct such an investigation without supervision of a professor?

How exciting!...

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