Friday, June 27, 2014
Charlotte in London (Draft)
Charlotte's first visit to a faro house and an opera in London. I've changed Lady Maplerod to Lady Bellingham.
Charlotte is beginning to warm to Freddy. The manuscript is just over 30,000 words, and I have a few more twists in the plot to implement.
Charlotte's experience was somewhat different. Lady Bellingham immediately retired to recover from the exigencies of the journey leaving her guest hungry and confused. There were only a few servants, ill-dressed and surly. They were not inclined to help her either with her luggage or her dinner. As dusk firmly settled in the evening, Lady Bellingham arose from her slumbers, chased up Charlotte and proposed a journey to one her favorite hells.
Saying, “Lady Luttrel's house parties are always good for a little flutter and they'll give us dinner,” She bore Charlotte off on her first visit to a gambling or faro house.
Faro is a relatively simple game to play, and an easy one for a card sharp and his confederates to control. The punters place bets on which card will be turned up from a deck. Pairs of cards are turned, the first looses, the second wins. The dealer and his chums can know exactly which card will be dealt when by using a little misdirection and slight of hand in the shuffle, or if brazen enough gain advantage with a slightly marked or a 'stripped' deck. They can lure the muggins into placing successively larger bets, then wipe him or her out. High class and honest gambling dens would never use such techniques. Lady Luttrel's parties were neither high class nor honest.
Charlotte found herself at the faro table. She naively asked, “How do I play this game?”
Lady Bellington explained the rules, “You place your money on one of the cards on the table, like so.” She put a few guineas on number seven. “It's my lucky number.” Then the dealer dealt two cards. The second was a seven. “You see.” She took her winnings. “Now why don't you try it?'
Charlotte asked, “Is that all?”
“Well, you can bet against a card by putting a copper on top of your bet.”
“So if I thought the next card wouldn't be a seven I'd put a copper on my guinea?”
“No quite, that's if you'd expect the first card to be a seven.”
“Oh. I think I've got it.”
“Good, would you care for some Champagne?”
By the end of the first night a decidedly tipsy Charlotte returned home with Lady Bellington a couple hundred pounds to the plus side. The cards just seemed to be going her way.
The next morning Charlotte could barely contain her excitement. Early in the morning, that is to say while it was still morning, and before Lady Bellingham even stirred in her sleep, Charlotte rushed out to find the Oswith's house on Portman street.
“Lizzy,” she excitedly began after threading the maze of doorman, butler and parlors, “I went to Lady Luttrel's faro house last night. Look what I won.”
“I see. Charlotte, you know they're just luring you in. You won't win that much again.”
“It was so fun. You really need to go. Food, wine, even some music, and gambling.”
“If you say so.”
“I do. You should come sometime.”
“Maybe.” Elizabeth searched her mind for any diversion that could steer her friend from the dangerous waters she was heading into. The idea she found revealed the depth of her friendship. Even though she was profoundly tone deaf and found the high screeching sopranos painful, she asked, “There's an opera performance at the King's Theatre in Haymarket tonight. I'd much like to see it, would you come?”
“I don't remember, I think it's”
Freddy knocked on the door, “Adelasia e Aleramo, in Italian by Simone .” Elizabeth gave a sigh of relief. “At least, that's what I remember, either that or 'Boadicea Queen of the Iceni' by Pucitta. They're both worth a hearing.”
“Mr. Oswith, what are you doing here?”
“I live here. Lizzy and I were up late talking last night, so I'm on the late side for the city. Would you like me to pick up tickets?”
Charlotte thought, then politely replied, “If you could? I've long wanted to see a real opera. But Lady Bellingham will be disappointed, she wanted me to visit Lady Luttrels again.”
“Some other time. She can wait a day or so.”
Lady Bellingham was initially disappointed, but realized that giving her guest time to build anticipation for her next visit to the faro house, would simply make the plucking easier, gave her reluctant assent to Charlotte's visit to the opera.
Charlotte found the opera, which was actually Puccitta's Aristodemo, entrancing. The box Freddy rented a quarter the way around from the stage and halfway up the row of boxes gave her a fine view of the action, clear sound, and a chance to look with wide eyes at the cream of London society. At intermission she turned to him and said, “Mr. Oswith, Thank you so much for getting the tickets. I don't deserve this after all the things I said to you.”
“I know, but Lizzy wanted to see the opera, and it would be boring to attend with only one's sister.”
“Now you are being silly, aren't you?”
“A little, but I'm truly pleased that you don't see me as such an ogre.”
“Lizzy, wasn't that divine music.”
“If you say so.”
“Didn't you like it?”
“It was alright, for Italian opera.” Charlotte shot a glance at Mr. Oswith. He whispered in her ear, “Lizzy is a bit deaf, she doesn't really appreciate music.”
Charlotte blushed, then hugged her friend, “Lizzy, I didn't know you weren't keen on opera. Thank you so much for suggesting it.”
“I come for the society, endure the noise. It's a fair swap.”
The conductor strode into the orchestra pit and the agony for Elizabeth, or ecstasy for Charlotte began again.