It would only be much later, after the veritable circus had died down, that Lady Angela could take the time to reflect upon the meaningful, but shattering events of the day, as all execrable affairs leading up to that unparalleled point could be likened unto a blur such as one might find on a canvas of a colorful painting without form or quality of substance, as if paint had been most carelessly dropped from some height, either purposefully, or accidentally by a bump from a careless bystander! For, it was only shortly after her mouth did drop—and to be sure this indelicate action manifested itself right before she had the sincere, but impulsive desire to pummel a certain Lady Lucretia Whetstone into the ground, who did, through no fault of her own, sweep away our heroine’s most sacred fantasy—that Roger broke free of her grasp just at the very instant Lord Devilyn did tip his hat to her; and, shortly thereafter did his lady friend—and with some nerve!—flitter a little wave of a white-laced gloved hand, accompanied forthwith by a Grand nod, though it being rather of a stiff nature, such as one might observe from a marionette; and that particular gesture most unfortunately an untimely one, as it materialized almost to the very moment our Lady Angela did stare at her nemesis with much bile! But little time did our heroine have to mull over these Dreadful matters as her attention was forcefully drawn to the whereabouts of Roger, who, when last seen, was darting off in pursuit of the Infamous cutpurse!
In the by and by, the still robustly howling Lady of Quality, who, incensed at the inaction and gross incivility(by the very nature of their lack of assistance) of passerby's, was actively calling for a constable amidst all her howls, whilst Lady Angela—having a good sense of the heroic as well as the theatric—absconded after her brother—leaving behind—and this, after not one word of greeting, not even the slightest apology to acquit herself, or as to the why, which showed a particularly egregious lack of good breeding on her part—a decidedly handsome couple, the male of whom, Lord Devilyn, was left wondering if he should do the manly thing and lend a helping hand; and the female of whom, Lady Lucretia, was left wondering just how fast the barouche could fly. She wondered naught for long. With great cunning, she produced a rather peremptory order for the whipster to move forward speedily, and on the instant! if not, she implored, they would be late to church!
Now, Lady Lucretia Whetstone was a singularly popular, first-rate Beauty of the day, being courted by beaus that numbered in the hundreds, some do say! She was the only child of Lord John St. Gerald Whetstone, the 7th Duke of Mayberry, and his wife, Duchess Judicia Whetstone—she, herself, being a famous Beauty of the day such that she was known throughout the whole of England as the Golden Pheasant; and, surprisingly a lady of somewhat mysterious origins, for it has long been rumored that her Grace is the illegitimate offspring of a titled personage who does yet retain considerable land holdings in Bath! Her lovely daughter, Lady Lucretia, had not only born in almost the exact image of the Duchess, but also with great intelligence, having been taught forth with out of the womb to be an ambitious, forward-thinking woman. Therefore, Lucretia, in her youth, had devoted much of her time to the study of the Greek classics—though perhaps, being more (unnaturally?) fascinated by the particulars of the Myths, and the Tragedies of the Greek Gods—with the readings of the Elect philosophers, such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle coming in a poor second to her level of interest.
Things of a politic nature also did not much interest Lady Lucretia, as it did her father, in whose residence—as pertains to the especial soiree’s he hosted—squabbles broke out between members of parliament over divisive issues such as corruption and parliamentary reform, Catholic Emancipation, the Walcheren Campaign, the Regency Bill, an attack on the Orders in Council, which had caused a crisis in relations with America, and widely blamed for an economic depression and unemployment in England, the assassination of the Right Honourable, Spencer Perceval, PM, and the profligacy of the Prince Regent, and would oft became so heated as to drive Lady Lucretia to distraction, and in some instances straight into the arms of any unmarried male admirer who happened to be standing nearby, though it must be said, that in the main, she was mostly attracted to those types of males who were heirs to distinguished titles, who owned considerable land, and had inherited great wealth thereof; and, to those types of males of whom can be said to possess exquisite manners, who could converse in the language of the Fancy; and, to those types of males who have, in addition to the already stated desirables, these most exceedingly fine physical characteristics: an aristocratic profile, full thick, curly darkish locks, giving the male the somewhat rakish look of the he lion, blue/green eyes the color of the purest feather of a peacock, lips and cheeks sculpted in the style of Michangelo’s “David”, and a forehead prominent in the style of the great Corinthians, as well as the intellectual giants of the day—looks, mind you, that were also of great popularity amongst the Dandies, and to which the Lord Devilyn did fit all these criteria to the very core!
Indeed, oh! how the Lady Lucretia was most enamored of his Lordship; so much so, that any perceived threat to her supreme efforts to stake a permanent claim on this charming rake—particular to the fact that Lady Lucretia had come lately to fervently desire an attachment of the marital kind—would most certainly be dealt with harshly, or, quite possibly, like in the manner of a Greek Tragedy!
Perhaps it was just as well then, that our Lady Angela had not one whit of an idea that Lady Lucretia’s aspirations, and avidity for Lord Devilyn ran deeper than the healing waters of the Lake at Abbotsford; nor, that Lady Lucretia would do most anything to secure Lord Devilyn’s affections, including, but not limited to: gross deceit, manipulation of situations such as would be favorable to Lady Lucretia, spreading malicious gossip of the kind as might be believed, gross outlandish exaggerations as pertains to the order of the vanities; like, perhaps she would say, Lady Angela was at the advanced age of thirty and a most decided bluestocking with a mole on her neck resembling that of a troll, or, Lady Angela was of a certainty preparing to join a nunnery as her aunt and uncle could not keep her adventurous spirit under control, or, Lady Angela was engaged to her first cousin, the mildly amusing, the Hon. Winston Brumbly, or, Lady Angela was consumptive not only in the lungs, but also in personality! It was these types of slanderous speakings, and evil doings which had long been laid to Lady Lucretia’s charge in the past—with her not in the least caring that these lies would indubitably importune great suffering, (and oh! how reprehensible and utterly without moral conceit that is)!—for those misguided enough to unseat her as Queen of the May Day.
However, all is not lost! There is still one exceedingly important fact, or astute observation, if you will, that could yet work in Lady Angela’s favor: the Villainous Lady Lucretia has yet to secure the permanent affections of any one male despite all of her Opprobrious machinations! But sadly must it also be pointed out—and this at the risk of the author contradicting herself—that Lady Angela is on the whole unable to think with such a high degree of common sense, or with the kind of sensibility normally acquired by her advanced age, and so vital to the application of one’s character and spiritual growth—only to react; and this, of course, is the result of her being exceedingly immature. Therefore, it is with woeful and virtual certainty—now that our heroine is most decidedly aware that her Foul rival has secured the attentions of Lord Devilyn—that Lady Angela will call out Lady Lucretia much as an oyster toadfish calls out to its mate in a most decidedly unpleasant and hideous fashion, like as to the sound of a swamp horn from the colonies! which will undoubtedly enkindle a bloodbath not seen since the Napoleonic Wars!
Whilst Lord Devilyn weighed the circumspectness of his irresolute desire to render aid to Lady Angela; whilst Lady Lucretia made certain he could not embark upon any such noble effort without first jumping out of a fast-moving barouche; whilst the Lady of Quality continued to bellow until a constable appeared; whilst Aunt Joan and Uncle Peter were crossing the street to help in the search to find Roger, and whilst Lady Angela ran as if the wind was in pursuit of her, like as not to toss her on her head for mischief’s sake, or, perhaps not, since in the spirit of reciprocity of good will, with our heroine showing a most considerable heroic side, the wind might be inclined to be more generous, and aid the celerity of her feet in order that Lady Angela may capture her brother in a more timely manner, so as not to allow him to come to harm’s way; for everyone knows that to pursue a cutpurse is to risk life and limb!—that is to say, everyone but Roger Rosecroft—Lord and heir to the 11th Earl of Slappingham, nephew of Lord Peter Brumbly, Earl of Craplehaste, grandson of Lord Cavanaugh Brumbly, 7th Marquess of Craplehaste—whose impetuous, excitable nature along with a distinct lack of an organized way of thinking, and whose imaginings do sail far beyond the galaxy, and whose precipitance and headstrong ways may very well lead to the sort of life that does not bode well for it to be a lengthy one!
Be that as it may, our heroine turned the very same corner as Roger, though he was far beyond her in giving chase to the dipper; and, as eluded to before, our Lady Angela did run in a manner that could be likened to a greyhound chasing a hare, but, oh! how much faster she would have run if she had but known that dear Roger had—in the course of his own pursuit—stumbled across the silk purse emptied of all its contents near the entrance of an Illustrious park; and, that he did pick it up with the intent to continue his present course of action as he eyed a trail of mud which further led the brave lad to the fluted hornbeam tree—a tree of great height, and with a Magnificent crown canopy of dark green leaves with which to give shade on the hottest day, and a tree with so thickness of trunk that even a Grand horse and rider could hide behind—where, in his unseemly haste to follow the trail to its end, he spotted a youthful urchin peeking about to see if it were being followed—which of course it was, whereupon the justice-minded boy hastened behind the tree only to discover to his shocking dismay! that the lone cutpurse, the criminal mastermind behind the pinching, the object of our plump Lady of Quality’s distress and considerable ire, was but a mere slip of a girl who was most certainly in age not less than nine, nor more than twelve, and wearing the rottenness of mud cake all over her face, with her clothes in rags, and in shoes far better suited for the gung pile! Even more shockingly, laid out before her on the ground like as to an evening gown on a bed awaiting its wearer, was the prodigious sum of 10 guinea, 12 shillings, and 6 pence.
“‘Ere now, yer ain’t gon spout off on me, eh? Dis’ll feed me muvver an’ meself fer a year.”
Roger stared at the child in dismay. “You’re so little. And so very filthy. What is your name, then? Mine’s Lord Roger Rosecroft. I am an Earl.”
“Uh . . . Charity . . . that’s roight, Charity Offett at yer service, milord.” The cheeky rogue grinned as she picked up the coins, thrusting them one by one into a smallish silk coin purse that had at one time been a fashionable, and exceedingly expensive accessory on the slender figger of one Lady Florinton. Charity abruptly stood with seemly grace and exquisite flair for a poor urchin off the streets. And a cutpurse at that! She winked and curtsied. “And most regretfully do I take my leave, your Lordship.” Giggling like as to a mischievous child who does wreak all kinds of tomfoolery upon its teachers, Charity Offett turned, and with blond ringlets bouncing about her head in a severely chaotic manner, ran as if the Wookey Hole Witch had come flying out of a cavern to nip at her heels!
Most astonished, and most decidedly enthralled was Roger by the ragamuffin—though a bit puzzled by the change in her manner of speaking, that he did impulsively yell after her, “Wait! Wait! Where do you live, Charity? I won’t tell. I promise!”
There was ought a reply as the girl dashed away and became as an ant disappearing into a hole. Roger was exceedingly chapfallen, for the most exciting adventure in his life was of a surety over!— and, he had always allowed as to how it would be nice to have a friend like Charity Offett, despite the proclivity for thievery such a friend might have; for, there was nothing more exciting to Roger than to be around intrigue of all sorts and of whatever nature.
“You won’t tell who . . . what? you naughty, naughty boy,” Lady Angela said, drawing up beside Roger, her breathing heavy, and her temper most significantly out-of-sorts with the little nipper, a not uncommon occurrence as we have come to know.
“I just met an angel, Angie. A veritable angel.” Roger’s perfectly round eyes were as two heath snails strolling up a blade of grass in the moonlight, their shells glowing incandescently. A lonely sigh escaped from the boy’s mouth as his imagination did take flight, soaring on wings of the future, and where love’s first tender sprig begins to take root in fertile soil.
Lady Angela wasted no time in bringing the irrepressible boy back to earth. “What am I to do with you, Roger? You have no thought of me, nor of your aunt, nor of your uncle. No thought whatsoever. You are a decidedly ungrateful, thoughtless boy, and you will spend the rest of the day in the cupboard without food nor water.”
“Gladly will I do that, Angie, for . . . her.”
“For who you wicked boy? . . . Bah, I am singularly unimpressed with your remarks. Come, we must be off to church where you will do penance as well.”
With nary a reply, Roger, in possession of a grin to light an entire sovereignty of angels, followed his sister willingly down the street where they, in turn, were met by Lord Brumbly and his wife, Joan, who did rapture over the return of her prodigal—her very brave nephew, and to whom Joan thought with great resolve embued all the qualities of a courageous lion; and, she did remark as such whilst they strolled into the churchyard.
There would be no cupboard-sitting for the young lad on this particular day!
Author note: You will notice the mud is getting deeper and deeper. In fact, I'm up to my knees in it. But, I couldn't help myself! I just had to throw a Charles Dickens character in there somewhere. Then, I just had to spout off English history as if I'm smarter than the average bear. Then, if that wasn't enough, I just had to throw a phrase in from one of my all-time favorite movie scripts in recent years! Can you fine it? Well, I'd be very surprised, because that's in the next chapter. Gives you something to look forward to, tho, doesn't it? Oh, and by the by, just so you know, there is no healing waters at the Lake of Abbotsford. I made that up. Hee, hee, hee.