Major Monty Twydall paced back and forth across the broad terrace of Saxon Lodge, ignoring the handsome view of the park, focusing on nothing but the dark clouds hovering at the edge of his life. Monty was unaccustomed to rumination of any sort whatsoever, and he particularly had disdained self-examination. But a crisis loomed if he could not think of a solution to his shortage of ready cash.
An objective observer could have listed for Monty the many times in which his continual good luck smoothed his way. From being born to a wealthy family as a younger son, thus relieving him of duty due to the ancestral estate….to Life Guards postings which brought a certain degree of cache while Monty had only to stand upon the fringes of military action…to a welcome legacy from a distant aunt…Monty’s life thus far had been one in which his dark good looks, fine manners and impressive sense of humor took him everywhere. Above all the supplemental income provided by his skills at the card table and eye for fine racing horseflesh allowed him to frequent the fitting rooms of the finest tailors and paid the cost of his lease on the Lodge where he could entertain his friends and sport with the Naxians without limit.
Until now. Monty stopped and leaned against the corner of the house. Nothing had come up for him lately, not the cards, not the runners, not the cocks, and not even the boxing mills. His debts of honor added up to an inconceivable amount.
Almost all of the legacy had gone for the Lodge. Its furnishings put him in contact with a number of men who were happiest on dark nights which allowed them to bring ashore a considerable number of undeclared items from across the Channel. These proved quite lucrative for Monty, who sold these items on to well connected friends. Everyone loved French cabinetry, it seemed. The older the piece, the more Monty could realize. At first the smugglers thought he was daft, wanting the oldest objects they could find. But he also took a large share of their primary product – the rich, red clarets so prized at a gentleman’s table.
As Monty stood deep in thought, his mind settled upon the few remaining pieces of furntiture that stood in a storage room behind his stables. When the shipment had first arrived, Monty had given the members of the Naxians their choice of the pieces, much to the delight of their wives, as Monty had he’d heard afterwards. It was time to sell what he had left, but the pieces were of fine quality and would benefit from being placed in surroundings which suited their quality. Monty needed a place to invite guests of a different sort than his raffish friends who came to the Lodge.
It was time, Monty chided himself, to call upon his most influential, and potentially profitable, contacts. If he called upon his friend, the Dowager Baroness Bloxley, might he be able to persuade her to invite some of her own set to her home in order to show off a few of his pieces? He needed to pique Louisa’s interest and to appeal to her sly sense of humour. Perhaps he should frame the party as a caper that would make for a tale she could tell many times over at the tea or dinner table. Wouldn’t it be amusing for her to tell everyone how she, Lady Louisa, the imperious baroness, daughter of an earl, had dabbled in trade?
The more he thought about it, the better Monty liked the idea. The suggestion was just outré enough to appeal to Louisa, who had, as Monty had learned to both his chagrin and amusement, a decidedly naughty side. An aristocrat Louisa may be; a pillar of the community and matriarch of a distinguished family. But as Monty well knew, Lady Louisa could also be a bit of a minx. Monty smiled. Oh, but he was a naughty boy. However, needs must as Shakespeare had so rightly pointed out.