Sir Charles, fifth Baron of Trapton and Justice of the Peace, braced his hands against the arms of the soft chair before letting himself fall backwards onto it. His backside met the cushioned seat and he sank into it with a content smile.
“Worn out, eh?” His companion asked.
Sir Charles looked across at his friend, Albert, who was sitting in a matching lounge chair on the other side of the billiard room. A lit pipe protruded from the corner of his mouth and the smell of good tobacco hung in the air around them.
The sweet scent complimented the light wooden panelling of the walls and the red velvet curtains which were drawn across the windows. A soft yellow glow from the electric lamps on the walls cast dark shadows into the recesses of the room.
“I had to let one of my servants go this morning.” He explained.
“Not that O’Riley chap?” Albert asked. “If he’s looking for work I’ll take him on in a heartbeat, he’s the best valet in the county.”
“Heavens, no. I meant my handyman. He was called William I believe.”
“That’s a shame. I could use a good valet now that my dear wife has passed. What did the handyman do then, if you don’t mind my asking? Was he a thief?”
“Not that I’m aware of. His father beat the landlord of the public house quite badly, disfigured him I’d say. Of course, I had to let the boy go.”
“Perhaps I’m being thick, Charles. Why did that mean you had to send the boy away?”
“Imagine if it became known that I was employing the son of the man I’d just sent to prison. They’d say I was biased and his conviction might be overturned. We can’t have drunken brutes like that roaming the streets.”
Sir Charles decanted a measure of strong brandy into his glass and offered the bottle to Alfred. His friend allowed himself a double helping and the two sipped thirstily at the amber liquid.
“Look, Charles, I know that these new Labour types are causing a stir in Westminster, but I hardly think we’re about to see convictions by honest and upright magistrates such as yourself being overturned. That’s a fantasy.” Alfred said, setting his empty tumbler down on the side table.
“You’re right, of course, I spoke in haste. But I can’t afford to have riffraff like that about the place. What if he chose to follow in his father’s footsteps?”
“Now there’s sound reasoning.”
The two men nodded to each other and slowly allowed their eyes to wander across the portraits set into the panelling of each of the four walls.
The first showed Sir Charles’ mother and father, the fourth Baron of Trapton, with their children. Another showed his grandfather surrounded by a few of his favourite hunting dogs. The third was a romanticised portrait of the second Baron of Trapton, with all but his head covered by polished plate armour.
To the best of Sir Charles’ knowledge and that of the local Oxford historians he had consulted, his great-grandfather had never taken part in so much as a fistfight in his entire life.
His favourite painting, however, was the one which hung between the two windows facing the landscaped garden. It showed the first Baron of Trapton standing outside the manor house with an artist’s idea of an aristocratic frown on his face.
Sir Charles’ great-great-grandfather had been a candle merchant from Holland who invested part of his fortune in raising mercenaries for a local nobleman. That nobleman had gone on to invade England during the Glorious Revolution and became King William III. The humble candle merchant’s reward was to be declared baron of a small town in Oxfordshire, Trapton.
“Penny for your thoughts?” Albert asked.
“I was just thinking, Albert, if it wasn’t for the actions of our forefathers, where would we be today?”
“I suppose it’s all down to chance, Charles. Greater forces are at work in our lives than we’re aware of. Would you care for a game of billiards?”
“One more drink, old boy. If I have to fight my way out of this chair and be thrashed at billiards in my own home, I’d prefer to build up some Dutch courage first.”
Sir Charles laughed at his joke. He wondered whether the first Baron of Trapton had needed a stiff drink before crossing the channel with his mercenaries, or if that sort of courage came naturally to the Dutch.
If his ancestor had been a more timid man, Sir Charles wondered what he would be doing at that moment. It was more than likely that he would not be living in a comfortable manor house in Oxfordshire.
More historical fiction here.
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