The Art of Deception
or Pride and Extreme Prejudice
This started out as a weekend writing warriors post, but like most mathematicians I can’t count and put in 11 lines instead of 10 (ARRGH). It continues a spy story set in late Georgian England, the year before Trafalgar. Last week, Roderick arranged for Alice’s horse to misbehave. This week shows the two men discussing the afternoon. Since space no longer prohibits me from putting in that Mr Spode disapproved of his friend’s use of “a bolus prepared by my friends” to figg Alice’s otherwise tame mount I added a fair bit to the snippet to round it out. While crude, this put the women under a social obligation – one can’t cut off the man who rescued you. Mr Spode is struggling with his tie at the start of this excerpt.
Roderick stood in the doorway to Mr Spodes’ room, watching him finish with his neck cloth, “You really should stick to the coachman; simple, elegant and easy to tie.”
“Not this time … a waterfall or nothing.”
“The way you’re going, nothing … by the way, was your room searched this afternoon?”
“Mine was; expertly, whoever did it knew how to replace a chip, and even noticed the tell-tale hair I’d placed on my dresser door.”
“Had they not disturbed my screws I’d never have known.”
“Can’t have been that Miss Mapleton you’ve been on about; both she and Lucinda were with me all afternoon.”
“That Aunt; I don’t like the look of her.”
“Could be, I inquired and there was an older servant looking around the inn this afternoon.”
“Hmmn, I suppose. Wouldn’t put it past her. Two of them working together?”
“Probably the three of them, Edward. Don’t say I didn’t warn you when they’re all in the Tower.”
“Right, I still can’t believe Miss Haytor is involved. She’s such an innocent. What did you find with your, ah, explorations?”
“That was also interesting. The dashing young Miss Mapleton left a chip in her wardrobe door. Had a devil of a time replacing it. Other than that nothing.”
“Nothing, no letters, no diary, no nothing. Not even a lock of hair from an old school friend. Dashed odd of a female, you know. The Aunt’s room and Miss Haytor’s were the same. Except their chips were easier to replace.”
“You have a suspicious mind Roddy. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must concentrate on this waterfall.”
A few moments later Edward examined his work in the mirror. “Not perfect, but close enough. Where were we going to host dinner?”
“I arranged for a parlour at the York. Neutral ground as it were.”
“Excellent, I’ve heard good things about their chef. Shall we meet Miss Haytor and party? With your heroic ride this afternoon, they cannot refuse our company.”
Roderick smiled, “Yes. Worked out rather well, didn’t that?”
“What did you do?” Edward was suddenly attentive to his friends’ words.
“An old horsecoper’s trick.”
“You didn’t ginger up Miss Mapleton’s mount? I mean that’s just not done, figging a horse … she could have been hurt, killed.”
“Didn’t use ginger, but, ah, yes something like that. A special bolus prepared by my … acquaintances. Worked out well, so what’s the problem?”
Edward shook his head, disapproving of his friends’ activities.
“No it dashed well isn’t. Ungentlemanly of you. Not good for the poor horse either.”
“You’re right, but I had to rig something, and at the time that was the best option. Shall we meander?”
Edward paused, “I’m not sure I can associate with you Lord Fitzpatrick. That was ungentlemanly.”
“She’s a French spy, I’m an agent. You know both sides will do what they need to do. She’d have done the same, or worse, to me had she the chance.”
“And you’re going to eat with her?”
“Why not? It isn’t as if she’ll poison us, and this way I can keep an eye on her.”
“Are you sure?”
“That’s part, no most, of the reason that I booked a parlour at the York – and did not tell them where we were dining. I’m sure they’re waiting for us, expectantly. On tenterhooks as it were.”
 Gingering up is a modern term, historically it was known as figging. The idea is to stuff a stimulant such as ginger, tobacco or hot peppers into the rear end of the horse in order to give it “pep.” It is a cruel thing to do, but effective.
Now that you’ve read my hackery, please see the talented writers in Weekend Writing Warriors.
My apologies for creative punctuation.
The featured image, from Punch in 1859, shows the way the Victorians thought about Regency fashion. They considered it hopelessly old-fashioned and restrictive. Neckclothitania is a book entirely devoted to the art of tying “starchers.” While I’m a fan of knots and knot theory, as I sit here in my formal “HackGSU” t-shirt, I can’t help but be glad that I don’t have to tie these things.
Like poor Cecelia, “The Curious Profession of Dr Craven” is back from the dead.
I’ve released a sweet regency romance, Miss DeVere This is a fun read.
Frankenkitty is available.
What happens when teenagers get to play with Dr Frankenstien’s lab notebooks, a few odd chemicals and a great big whopping coil? Mayhem, and possibly an invitation to the Transylvanian Neuroscience Summer School.
Get Free Stuff and try out my landing page. There are three free complete short stories (including an ARC for Frankenkitty) available after you’ve gone through the hoops.
14 thoughts on “The Art of Deception 31”
I’m curious what you mean by “chip” that everyone seems to have left in their room as a telltale to reveal if there had been intruders. I of course being modern, flash to computer chip LOL but unless you’re telling a time travel tale, it can’t be that. Interesting to have a longer excerpt today…
Thank you for commenting. A chip is just a little piece of wood that you wedge into the opening between the door and door jamb next to the lock or somewhere unobtrusive. It will fall out when someone opens the door leaving a tell-tale that someone’s visited. If you know about them you can replace them. (I probably should reference John LeCarre here – his characters use them all the time.)
OK thanks for the clarification. I’m guessing if I was reading along in the actual book, this would have been made clear earlier on….I was puzzled why people would be sticking wood chips here and there. I’ve seen this device in other forms of course, with string and tape and what have you. Anyway, much obliged!
Great details in this!
If she’s that good of a horsewoman, though, I’m surprised she didn’t correct her mount when it started trotting without her say-so.
The mare was “gingered up” to make her unmanageable. Alice’s correction (see #’s 29 and 30) where having little effect. Thank you.
On further thought, I realized I hadn’t made this as clear as I could – either in my answer or the original text. A bolt is when the horse doesn’t respond.
Thank you for the comment!
Interesting banter. I’m curious to know how their meal together will go.
I’ve read so much about cravat and the difficulties of tying them, but I’ve rarely heard explanations of WHY BOTHER.
About mathematicians and counting, I know what you mean. Facility with numbers is not necessarily a prerequisite for a mathematician.
In school, teachers had me pegged for a future mathematician because I was so good with numbers. For example, give me any pair of two digit numbers and I automatically know their sum. I never set out to learn them, I just know the answer like normal humans know 2+2.
Arithmetic was intuitive — but I floundered badly as soon as I got to calculus. It isn’t intuitive and requires learning the silly equations and applying them — which I’d never had to do, even in, say, non-calculus areas of physics. I did math by feel, not by logic.
Anyway, I did very poorly in calculus in high school and again in university. I concentrated on music, instead. Eventually, after a couple decades, writing as well.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I agree about cravats etc, and never could see the point – one reason I’m an academic instead of a much more highly paid engineer is they have to wear ties (or had to in 1985).
I wasn’t taught much of grammar in school. The teachers told my parents “He’ll have a secretary for that.” So I’ve had to learn the structure of English the hard way (a class in classical Greek helped no end, but that’s a different story.) Writing, at which I’m semi competent, bit me hard a few years ago.
I was a victim of the “New Math.” We learned our times tables in weird bases like 7 or 13 – nothing useful mind you. College calculus and the like were an eye-opener. But I’m still not the best formal mathematician out there by a long shot. I tend to be quick and dirty. Still I have a really low Erdos number (the mathematicians version of 6 degrees of removal from kevin bacon) because of publishing with a couple of colleagues who have numbers like 3 and 4.
I ended up taking FORTRAN my last term as an undergraduate – on punched cards no less. After that I was hooked. We’re not even supposed to admit as computer scientists that we know that language now.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I think I’m older than you, because I learned … well, was taught; big difference … Fortran in high school. The school could send a senior to the local tech institute for selected classes, and because of my facility with numbers I was the sacrificial lamb. Mind you, no one asked me if I wanted to do this, so you can imagine how diligently my 15 or 16 year old self worked at the task. Unlike you, I was not hooked. In hindsight, a terrible waste of an opportunity.
My high-school had a 300 baud line to one of the computers in Philadelphia. Unfortunately you had to be good friends with the math teachers to use it. I wasn’t one of their favorite students. Mind you the “Award Winning” head math teacher later turned out to be a fraud who’d barely completed calculus. I always wondered why she wanted us to memorize stuff you could easily derive. There were two courses that truly useful – touch typing and drama. The drama teacher actually had a PhD in drama and I haven’t been afraid of public speaking ever since.
I have a character studying college FORTRAN in my second book, which is set in the early 1980s. Enjoyed the snippet and your convo with Ed. 🙂
Nice snippet, though I think I’d like to smack the one responsible for gingering her horse. (Odd term as well, but so was the age I suppose.)
Comments are closed.