The Velvet Glove

English: George Clifford, Earl of Cumberland.
English: George Clifford, Earl of Cumberland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once upon a time there was a velvet glove.  It held a delicate lace handkerchief.  The handkerchief did not belong to the glove. It belonged to a very sophisticated young lady named Beatrice.  A bribed maid had delivered the handkerchief to the Duke of Armand, who owned the velvet glove.

The Duke wished his cousin, Jason, to inherit the estate of Cumberland.  But his cousin was second-in-line to inherit behind the current Earl of Cumberland. The current Earl of Cumberland was known for his wit, his wealth, and his hot temper. He was also betrothed to Beatrice.

The Duke was known for his cunning, his manipulations, and his ability to kill his opponents during a duel.  He was a crack shot, and two dozen men had fallen to his hand.

At that evening’s gathering, which featured a piano forte and mediocre talent from the Austen sisters, the Duke made certain to pull out the handkerchief at numerous occasions directly in front of the Earl.  The lace B on the handkerchief was quite large, and the Earl could not fail to notice that only his betrothed had such fine lace work.  He inquired of the Duke where he had gotten the handkerchief.

In a brilliant bit of playacting, the Duke looked at the handkerchief as if for the first time.  He told the Earl that he did not recall, but that it had been some loose moraled wench who had pressed her affections upon him in a hallway at their last gathering.

The Earl, incensed, told the Duke a number of things, including the fact that he was a lying villain.  The Duke took the opportunity to slap the Earl across the face with his velvet glove.  It was the classic challenge to a duel, and the Earl accepted.  The Duke’s plan had worked perfectly.

Only as his temper calmed did the Earl realize that he was likely to die in the morning.  Beatrice arrived and told him that her handkerchief had likely been stolen by her maid, and didn’t he realize that the Duke’s cousin would inherit the Cumberland estate if the Earl was killed?  The Earl realized how he’d fallen into the Duke’s trap, but honor would not allow him to run from the duel.

Beatrice, shedding bitter tears, left the stubborn Earl and returned to her home.  She resisted an urge to fire her maid on the spot and instead called the girl to her room.  She confided that the Earl intended to wear a metal undershirt to the duel and that he was to take a speeding draught in the morning so he could outdraw the Duke and fire first.  She showed the maid the precious potion and set it on the bedside table.  In a few minutes she was asleep, snoring softly.  She fully expected the light footsteps that crept across her floor and in the morning the speeding draught was gone.

The maid made haste to the Duke’s mansion and told him of the metal undershirt and the speeding draught.  The Duke considered the draught and asked to be sure this was the only one.  The maid confessed she didn’t know.  Just to be certain of his victory, the Duke decided to take the draught himself.

In the dawn the Earl arrived at the designated spot.  The dew sparkled on the grass, and the thudding of his heart made him feel all the more poignantly that it might soon be stilled.  His second arrived, followed shortly by Beatrice.  They waited while the Duke’s second fidgeted and looked at his pocket watch.  After nearly an hour, the duel was declared forfeit.  The Duke’s honor was lost, and his second made haste to his mansion where he found the Duke snoring like a hive of bees.

As he gratefully left the dueling field, the Earl of Cumberland inquired of his beloved Beatrice about her insomnia and what the doctor had prescribed.  She replied that the sleeping draught given to her by the doctor was as effective as he had advertised, and had put her mind at ease. She would order more that very day.

If you enjoyed this story, you might like the book: Page Turner: Avarice and The Arcane. (I promise that I’m not telling stories just to support the book, this is what is occurring to me to tell each night. I don’t premake up any plot, I just let the story unfold.  Once the boys are asleep if I have time I type in what I told them. The above is unedited.)

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