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November 30

Observations 1 & 2

Fey Mr. Gray's Wandering Bonds have knocked poor Jack quite out of his senses; the blow will be double now that the month is over and the Crimson Unicorn due to collect.  I had assumed the return promised by Jack's con would shade his eyes from the bill for my fortnight's sequestration.  If his mood darkens further I may well retire to the homestead for a time.

The Advent Season being upon us, I must in good faith reveal to Sean the truth behind the plague of misfortunes that has beset him this past little while.  As the attempts come nearer to the mark I fear that 1) one might finally hit; and 2) it may be of such a scale that it catches innocents nearby as well (such as me).

November 23

Profit and Loss

I have been remiss in not posting the last few nights, but you will hopefully find my excuse to be a sound one, viz. that I have been lately struck down by a terrible loss, which has kept me to my bed these past days. I am no stranger to bereavement, having suffered the loss of two wives and as many children (though it must be admitted three of those passings were long wished for and much rejoiced), but this most recent tragedy has hit me very hard indeed.

On the Monday of this week, I called upon Mr. William Gray to enquire about the East India stocks which he had promised to sell me. I brought along the Irishman, Sean, and asked him to remain outside in view of the house, in case the memory of his foul temper and quick fists should prove a more powerful incentive for Mr. Gray to make good on his promise than my own gentle diplomacy. Such was indeed the case, as Gray, visibly shaken upon seeing the man whom he believed to be his father’s friend Seamus O’Flanahan (and who had done such violence upon him a fortnight before), asked me what on Earth could have possessed me to fall in with such a brute. I replied that we had met by chance at The Griffin, discovered that we had a mutual acquaintance in Gray, and fallen to discussing this gentleman’s distressing reluctance to part with the goods which he had, at different times, promised to each of us.

It was at this point that Gray, sobbing and heaving like a woman who has been caught in a lie, clutched my arm and begged for forgiveness. He had known for some time that the deeds he had promised me were lost irreparably—he could not think who might have stolen them or where he had misplaced them, but he had “turned his home inside-out in despair” and come up empty-handed. His fear at, as he put it, “losing a dear friend” (by which I believe he meant to indicate me) had compelled him to forestall the inevitable result and pretend that nothing was amiss. I was inclined to believe the fellow, as I do not consider him capable of dissembling with any real art, and—too dejected even to kick him in the shins—I returned to my home with Sean, where we sat in silence for some hours as the wine bottles piled up around us.

This is a bitter, bitter blow, but it is made worse by my increasing suspicion that Patrick is somehow involved in the affair beyond the role that I had originally entrusted him with. As I have described before, Sean has been subject to a surprising number of accidents and near-fatalities since this East India business began—run down in the street by a cart horse, grazed on the shoulder by falling masonry, chased by a pack of dogs outside The Griffin, and countless other such mishaps. At the same time, Patrick has taken to spending an unaccountable portion of every day with the Irishman—quite contrary to his character, which naturally inclines to fops and hypocrites as companions. On top of this strange behaviour, he has of late, an air of guilt and nervousness about him that is far beyond his accustomed awkwardness, and when I spoke to him this morning about the strange coincidence of Sean’s repeated misfortunes, he became so flustered and distressed that I thought he was like to have a stroke.

Now that I am back on my feet, I shall get to the bottom of this. Someone is playing me for a fool, and they will pay for it, whether I see my stocks or not.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention. I interviewed a new chambermaid today (Sean informed me this week that old Bess, who has been with me these ten years, has been pilfering my silver right under my nose), and she is very pretty indeed. It has quite brought me back to my senses.

November 16

Fools and Madmen

God preserves the drunk, the mad, and the fool: I find this the only explanation for the great fortune afforded Jack, Sean, and myself.  Had He bound the universe with a simpler sense of Justice, Jack's disrepute would have condemned him to a short and disagreable life instead of the great wealth he continues to accumulate.  (Perhaps He bestows Jack's rightful due on his beleaguered mother instead.) Similarly, Fate continues to foil the murderous plots of Sean's antagonist, spinning our orb momentarily faster, perhaps, so that the stone crown pushed from aloft crashed half a pace afore him instead of atop his sloped skull.  It is my Christian duty, I realize fully, to alert Sean to the source of these ill-aimed acts, but I think the combination of Sean's quick reflexes, his Astounding Luck, and his antagonist's demonstrated incompetence will keep him safe.

My good fortune calls herself Odyllia; I find this an unlikely Welsh praenom, but she is so genuine and kind in all other ways that I do not begrudge her it.  My disappointing encounter this week past found me in the street, dripping ham, muttering invectives against the female race as one. These ill-words compelled Sean -- from compassion for my poor condition or from a hidden sense of chivalry obliging him to dissuade me from these harsh views, I do not know -- to steer me towards the Crimson Unicorn, that I might be exposed to some exceptions to my recently established, grotesque, and largely unfair hypotheses on the True Nature of Women.

Odyllia and I spent a Very delightful evening together.  She has a wondrous bosom and a marvelous oval face, and a keen eye for nature.  We chattered late into the night about the coastal waterfowl of her hometown, drank a great amount of truly fine Port, and slept well into the morning.

Normally the greatest pleasure, putting the whole night's affairs on Jack's account, was but the feather in the cap of this joyous evening.  I am fully aware of the nature of the exchange between Odyllia and myself; nevertheless, when she cried out to me, as Jack and I returned from the Dorset Garden, I found myself short of words and had to excuse myself.

Man of Mode

I am just returned from a play, which I went to see with Patrick at the Dorset Garden theatre. George Etherege's Man of Mode. It is likely that I would have enjoyed the production, which was not lacking in wit, had it not been for Patrick's insistence on jabbing me with his elbow and grinning at me like an ape with every half-joke or pun that escaped the actors' lips. I had forgotten the solemn vow I took last year, after A Midsummer Night's Dream, that if I intended to watch a play with Patrick again, I would take pains to select a tragedy. 

Nonetheless, the last laugh was my own, as, on our way out of the theatre, we were accosted by a harlot from the Crimson Unicorn – one of the new ones, I think – who called Patrick by name and asked when he would be coming back to see her again. I have never in my life seen a man's face turn such a shade of red, and Patrick, who is prone to stuttering in any case, diverted us both greatly with his attempts to form a sentence, before giving up and walking briskly in the opposite direction.

Patrick has asked me on numerous occasions to make an effort to call the Irishman by his proper name, and for the sake of our friendship, I am inclined to do so, though for the moment I have forgotten precisely what it is – I believe it is either Seamus or Sheridan, though I cannot be certain. As a show of good faith, I had intended to invite him to drinks with us, but the unfortunate fellow was run down by a cart horse on his way back from The Griffin this afternoon and nearly killed! I am certain that I have never before met a man with such bad luck as our Sheridan.

November 13

An ill wind blows

I have never felt so vexed and weary. I believe that an ill omen has fallen upon as but for the Grace of God I should have been dead three times over. But perhaps to merely state that I am cursed is not enough and it would be better to give example to illustrate my current state.

Friday Morning on the way to the Griffin – A large chunk of masonry landed not inches from my person. Large enough to fell a man, I was lucky to have stopped and admired the new acquisitions at the Crimson Unicorn, who had just recently shipped in from Wales.

Friday Evening on the way back from the Griffin – Four large barrels went tumbling across my path, nearly smashing me flat. I looked about for the barrel maker to give him a good thrashing, but there was not a soul near the shop.

Saturday Morning on the way to the Griffin – A wild pack of dogs chased me nearly a mile to the door of the pub. At least I thought they were wild but at least two of the brutes appeared to have collars. I could not check closely as my efforts were dedicated towards flight.

Saturday Evening on the way back from the Griffin – A shadowy figure followed me to the little one’s property. Even after several direction changes the figure continued its pursuit and I again found myself again running nearly a mile until I felt safe within the confines of the little one’s house.

Sunday I spent upon the grounds. I fear I shall not set foot outside until the curse is lifted. It was also the Sabbath.

Now of course my initial suspicions lead me straight to Pat. He is wont to use his JuJu to his own gains, and is not averse to tricking the little one with simple feats of magic. However, he was in such high spirits after his visit to the Crimson Unicorn that I doubt he would bear any ill will towards my person. I have resolved to consult him about this curse and employ any methods he may see fit for removing it. I know I have sunk low to be conspiring with a master of the dark arts, but no amount of prayer has thus far proved worthwhile.

November 9

A four-legged tipple

Let it not be said that I am not a charitable man, nor am I want to look askance when charity is given unto me. The Good Lord has provided me with the little one, whose food and lodging I take great advantage of while also providing me with a Great Project in the form of the ugly one.

Despite all his dark magicks, Patrick, as the ugly one is called can conjure no witchcraft when it comes to women. Despite being able to ensorcerele the little one, I have seem him make a great fool of himself around the fairer sex, flapping his arms like a bird and gasping at them in a most ungentlemanly fashion. To escape his attentions they haven even taken to depositing their dinner upon his head, which is amusing to many a bystander excepting those in his company.

Patrick sought me out the other day in an obvious attempt to escape the confines of the mansion. The little one has taken to his study as of late to count his coppers, which has slowed down the rate of my pilfering to unacceptable levels. Instead, I have found myself whiling away my days by getting copiously drunk in the company of the little one’s horse, Bucephalas, who holds his ale admirably well. It amuses me greatly to watch the little one attempt to mount his horse, only to have it crumple beneath him to the accompaniment of his screams and curses.

Patrick danced around the issue for a bit but it soon became apparent that he would like to frequent one of the many brothels that the little one and I knew of in the city. I felt sorry for the man, as it was likely that any prostitute worth her salt would have his throat slit and his purse cut within moments of any business transaction being completed. Being a good Christian, I offered to ferry him to his destination as it had been a few days since my last visit. Patrick, in his gratitude, offered to take me to his Physick as he unnecessarily cautioned me to the ramifications of consorting with whores.  I agreed, in part because my tooth hurt, and also because I wanted to see what another magician looked like.

It turned out that other magicians are just as strange as Patrick, though perhaps not as threadbare or pedantic. Instead of looking at my tooth, the Physick insisted upon measuring my head and asking me questions about my lineage. Most insultingly, he inquired as to whether my family had ever had relations with the remnants of the Armada. Fit to be tied, I stormed out of the office only to come upon Patrick, who once again had managed to have a meal tossed at his person. I grabbed him by the shoulder and resolutely pushed him through the door of the Crimson Unicorn where perhaps a little consorting might better his mood.

Ham from the Past

I do take satisfaction from the well-played plot, though I should never let Jack hear of it.  When Sean and I left him this morning he was hungover and surly, as usual, but I noticed a tinge of satisfaction in his curt dismissal, and perhaps even a little pride.

I nevertheless had some cause to despair by the end of the day. By chance I encountered a figure from an earlier period of my life, a woman I was much taken with for some years. I have liked to think that I have improved myself over time, that I have managed to cultivate those aspects of my person that I feel most worthy and rubbed away at those I have deemed unpleasant, base, or petty.  Further, I have thought casually -- never at a formal, philosophical level -- that this process, though  effortful and conscious, is nonetheless natural, one that most are prone to undergo overtime, regardless of his emotivations.  And yet, despite her claims to the contrary, she had not changed at all.  She impressed this fact upon me, and the correlated fact of the distance, rendered by time, between our current characters, when she threw a half-eaten ham at my head.  She had reached, I think, for the nearest object that would serve her needs, and that ham, which had until then sat cooling on the table between us, ably complied.  I am grateful that the ham was first in her line of vision, and that the carving knife lay on my side of the platter.

Sean is with a dear colleague at the Society, a physician of the highest rank and discretion, that we might gain something from the study of this fascinating specimen.  I am returning to them shortly, and I look forward to the conversation that will follow.  And, despite the hard-tossed ham, I am very well pleased to be out from under Jack's tyrannical eye.

November 8

Peace at last.

I should note, despite the title of this post, that I am not a little anxious over the fact that I have not heard hide nor hair of Mr. Gray and my East India stocks since my last entry, but though my business proceedings remain a cause for concern, calm (of an uneasy sort albeit) has returned to my home, and I am verily thankful for it. Patrick, perhaps because he is used to consorting with sorcerers, witch doctors, and Indians in his travels, appears (or at least heroically pretends) to understand the Irishman's utterances, and the pair seem to have formed some sort of a bond. I have not discouraged it, since it keeps them both from plaguing me, on the one hand with incessant chattering about the doings of the preposterous "Royal Society" (a boys club for failed alchemists with too much time on their hands) and, on the other, an incomprehensible Irish brogue, which grows louder the closer we are to lunch – though I have been unable to ascertain much more than that about its purpose or signification.

Nonetheless, they keep each other's company and leave me to my own for the time being, and it is with some relief that I am able to turn to settling matters pertaining to my estate, which I have been at for the better part of today. It is no small relief, I must say, that, with the exception of this pair (and my mother, who will not cease to be at me about my apparent filial and, worse, theological negligence), there is no one in the world who would have occasion to bother me at the moment. It has been nearly a full day since I have heard from either of my houseguests, and the quiet in my home is a gift from Heaven. My God, I'm bored. 

November 4

Bounder, pay up!

It is common etiquette while conducting business in a pub for the seller to match the buyer drink for drink. Every man in Christendom knows this fact and it is not an uncommon event to find a man in his cups slumped over a table signing his name to this document or that. After all, the Royal Navy has to be preserved some way. Instead, I found myself four cups in with the odious Mr. Gray swishing his first glass of port (port!) around his teeth and making tut-tut noises in my direction. I attempted to remain calm and give the full weight of my attention to his interminable jabber.

The little one had pledged me to arrive at the Griffin, meet with the aforementioned Mr. Gray, and make such a spectacle of myself that Gray would refuse to sell me whatever it was the little one wanted all to his own person. I was told to be “exceedingly Irish” and talk in a ridiculous brogue and exclaim such nonsense as “faith and begorrah” and “as the Virgin as my witness.” Needless to say, the little one’s grasp on what a real Irishman was left something to be desired. I was all set to proceed with my own plan, which was to obtain the documents through simple intellectual discourse, but Mr. Gray took his time in getting to his point. Instead, I had to hear about profit this and earning that and how many ships it would take to bring back 600 monkeys from the Indies. It was so dreary that I resorted to stabbing myself in the leg with my knife to stay awake and downing another pint every time Gray mentioned “low interest.”

I must remark that what happened next I am not proud of in the slightest. We came to the end the meeting and Gray seemed more and more discomfited by the moment. It seems that he expected to for me to pay for my own drink as he had only had the one. Well, the very idea is shocking. Over business, the seller always purchases the buyer’s drinks. At the whorehouse, drinks are on the house as they know you’ll be paying for other services later on. I was so shocked at that man’s usury that I rose from my seat and clubbed him about the head. He fell like a sack of flour. Luckily for me, his purse came undone upon his fall and being a wise man, I helped myself to his coppers and some scraps of paper contained therein. His bent coppers were just enough to pay for my drinks at the Griffin, and another drink down at the Laughing Moor. I left Gray groaning on the floor, it would be up to the constabulary to determine how he would have to pay for his glass of port.

The papers I kept on my person. They look fairly useless (I have posted one above), but as the little one is parsimonious in giving out tinder for the fire in my room, I might sleep warmly for the first time in a month.

November 2

Nary a Hitch

I begrudge him it, but Jack's plan has seemed to go off well.  I finished my part in it sitting in the mud. My cloak had just been pulled over my head  by the "Irish" acquaintenance -- himself a con, of course -- of the foolish Mr. William Gray, right before he pushed me roughly to the side of the road, swearing vengence against my counterpart Sean.  At that very moment Sean was doing his best to disgust Mr. Gray (and succeeding admirably, no doubt).  It was comforting, really, sitting with my arms stuck above my head and my face muffled in the warm, dark folds of my cloak.  The mud, though cold, was soft and familiar, bringing to mind a happy childhood of rough-housing with cousins and the neighboring children, after which play I often found myself in a similar position. Yes, I have ended Jack's plans in much, much worse states: bedridden, for example, in the tropical heat, suffering shuddering fevers induced by the bite of a Macque, or trying to determine, before sunrise, the appropriate bribe for a eunich gaoler.

I titled this post "nary a hitch," but in fact there was one, although the knowledge gained from it may well offset any harm suffered by it. I had realized that the simplest way to dismiss this man's claims on the notes, a way that precluded any attempt on his part to persuade me to reconsider my decision, by violence, bribery, or otherwise, was to explain that they had been stolen.  Perhaps he doubted my story, although I did (I think) a passable job of affecting a distraught fool bearing bad news.  But after I had explained my position to him, he asked one question I had not prepared for: "Did I suspect anyone?"

The RIGHT answer, of course, was "no." But I was flustered, perhaps, by the question, or perhaps I bear greater malice towards Sean than I had realized previously, but looking away I said, "We suspect Sean Fagan." 

"Sean? The loo scrubber at the Griffin?" he cried in a base Cockney, dropping all Irish pretense.  Swearing  great and emasculating harm towards Sean, the brute initiated the final steps of our encounter, described above, by grabbing the hem of my cloak.  After this I had trouble hearing, but I believe the man called for reinforcements, and some smithy tools. 

Sean, of course, has no conception of any financial instrument that does not sparkle. It would never occur to him to steal the notes, and even if did he would have no notion of their worth.   But our plan has a happy result all the same: Mr. Gray's buyer has been knocked off course and, assuming Sean is successful, Mr. Gray will sell to Jack before the week is out.

When Sean and Jack and I collect to celebrate our victory, I must remember to warn Sean of this rogue's wrath towards him.  I wonder that Sean has known him previously...Regardless, I am feeling satisfied with my role in this scheme, and I am assured that Jack will be well pleased.