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.
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.