Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chapter 2

     The knighting process occurred at Westminster, an uncomfortable journey from Monmouth. A great preparation was made in fashioning a new wardrobe for the duke and he practised bending to his knees. When the moment finally arrived, he knelt with great awkardness before the king while a stabbing was sent jabbing throughout his hips and legs.  Matilda hid her embarrassment, protracting high her aristocratic chin.
     "I dub thee, Lord Neville, 5th earl of Abergenny," the king said, droitly dubbing each shoulder with his sword.
     "Take heed my husband and know that you are George Neville, 5th earl." Matilda told him afterwards, still angry over the fact that she was unable to display the diamond brooch on her dress when she was presented to the king.  "Do not speak to me of  Manigault ever again.  That name is a soiling memory in Cornwall and a humiliating influence in this great house."
     "Yes, my dear.  Oh fain that I should remind the nobility that you stooped to marry a mere duke, a Manigault." The intonations of his voice were sarcastic, intended as an insult,  yet said softly so the unclever Matilda did not know for certain. 
     And so it was.  The former life disappeared. The dreams of being Lord Neville had come true but the prospect of sharing it with the cold and arrogant Matilda was depressing. And for all of his cravings to be the earl, he had no idea of the responsibilities and hard work necessary to maintain a solvent estate of so many impoverished tenants. Nor did he understand the wealth required to staff such a large house and entertain the nobility. When he became emeshed in that burden, he soon forgot the ongoing quarrel between himself and Matilda,  As a matter of fact he also forgot the promises that he had made to himself respecting being faithful to his wife.  The duel with Angus McDonald served to teach him the lesson of discreetness, a challenge which he seemed to enjoy as he set upon himself the course of using unmarked coaches on his trips to the baudy houses in London. His adoption of an alias (George Mans) was a brilliant stoke of genius and was in frequent use.  The fleeting comfort that he found with these whores was demeaning and shameful but surmised that so long as he was George Mans he could do anything and not get caught.
     Oh the flesh! So weary, so tired, so needy.  Alas, the time arrived when his weary old bones were too exhausted to make frequent trips into London and he defied his own rules.  As luck would have it, the young daughter of an older maid trained to clean the third floor was re-assigned to his quarters.  In all of the years at Abergenny, Matilda had only visited him once so lowering the mantle of caution and  secrecy was a rational conclusion that he could use this maid.  Milly was too young, too cooperative and too anxious to please.  All of these qualities went against her as she encountered an earl who could seduce and impress with power and influence. He was the age of her own dear father, but more dashing and handsome as he flaunted his silken dress robes and jewelled fingers. Not that she had ever entertained the idea of kissing an older face, but this one shone with a zest for life and told her stories of foreign lands.  Too, it was well-known among the servants that the earl had never slept with the marquess.  After awhile, Milly gave birth to their first child, a son.  The earl counceled her into the utmost secrecy and to give the boy the name of her father, Trask Martain. He then sent the child to the family home in the village to be raised by her grandmother.  With the child out of sight, Milly was less tearful over the fact that the child was a bastard of the earl and that she had to pretend that she'd slept with one of the boys from the village.  Her permiscious nature thus established among the servants, the earl was satisfied.  She gave birth to another child, and then another until finally Milly demanded more of him than his banishing her children to the village.  She complained that her grandmother was too old to raise more children.  He resolved the issue by retiring Milly's mother from Abergenny service and providing a pension adequate to support the family.  But of course Milly would continue in service. The arrangement was pleasing to all parties.  Did Matilda know?  If she did, she never spoke of it. In fact, Matilda was so emeshed in entertaining her peers and the nobility that she was separated from the reality of the earl's labors to maintain the solvency of Abergenny.  And the earl was well aware that he went unloved by his wife and his mistress. The middle-aged marquis examined his soul and emerged with deep probing questions as to his true purpose in life.  And there was always his pragmetic self warning "take care, take care of the future".

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