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A Queer Encounter

Daegaer wrote, @ 2003-09-13 17:16:00
I now have Jungle and Stream, OR The Adventures of Two Boys in Siam in my grasp. And with a title like that I suppose I don't actually need to give the author's name . . .
Under the influence of such intense manliness I offer the following: For ekaterinn who wanted something manly and full of good omens. ***************************

"We shall be able to see a great deal of each other, I hope," he said.

"I hope so," responded Denis readily.

"I am sure. There is a great banquet tomorrow. You will be there."

"Would they ask me?"

"Why, of course; but here, come this way," and Carrbroke touched the other's arm. "You are not going to dance, so let us talk out here in the garden."

Denis accompanied his friend out on to a wide terrace where there came to the ear the sound of the music still, and where there were the thousand scents of the flowers on that soft June night.

(The King's Esquires, or The Jewel of France George Manville Fenn)

"Are the gardens at Fontainebleau as fine as these?" asked Ned, slipping an arm about Denis' waist as they strolled along the terrace.

"Why yes," said Denis, then, not wishing to distress his friend's sensibilities, said, "I believe they are as fine as each other, I could not say they are better."

"Does the Comte go often to court?" asked Ned eagerly, "have you seen His Grace King Francis? What is he like?"

"He is very gay," said Denis with admiration, "as is Her Grace the Queen."

"Ah!" ejaculated Ned, "I have not had the pleasure of waiting upon our Queen she is very religious, and thinks court life far too gay. She is a very learned lady, and I have heard she converses with her courtiers and the Princess in Latin."

"How queer," said Denis, "I am glad that the Ki the Comte finds more pleasure in the chase than the schoolroom."

Ned laughed and drew Denis further down the terrace, away from the open windows. Stepping a little out from the shadow of the roses where he had been taking the air, St Simon watched them go, their heads close to one another and their boyish laughter rising up over the sound of the music from within, and felt a jealousy rise within him that Denis should have ignored him so much since he had met the English lad.

"Ah!" he cried softly, "he quite forgets his old friends!"

"Perhaps he thinks you too old?" said a quiet voice by him.

St Simon turned to see one of the English courtiers watching him, a soft smile playing about his lips. Although no older than St Simon, the fellow was dressed as sombrely as one of the grey beards who sat by the wall, complaining how costly life was these days. It was only as he stepped closer that St Simon could see his doublet was made of the finest silks.

"You are quite ten years older than the boy," continued the Englishman, "he must look on you as quite the father-figure."

St Simon glared at the man, who seemed pleased with his turn of phrase, and who now sipped daintily from a heavy chased silver goblet.

"Forgive me, sir," said St Simon coldly. "I see you wish to rest from the dancing, I shall quickly withdraw from you to allow you have the rest you seek."

"Perhaps the root of your problem lies therein," said the other man gaily. "Stay, stay! Let us talk." So saying he laid a hand on St Simon's arm and drew him away into the flower-scented night. Soon St Simon found himself pouring out his boredom and irritation to the young stranger who proved a charming and sympathetic audience for all his woes.

"Ah!" St Simon ejaculated, "I wish we were still in France!"

His interlocutor handed him a goblet kindly, saying, "Here, a taste of home."

The wine was so good that St Simon, who distrusted both thought and those who thought too deeply, quite put from his mind the fact that up till then the young Englishman had held but one goblet. He felt much better with the wine inside him and his companion's arm about his shoulders, and laughed to himself that he had ever thought that he should feel put out by Denis spending time with an English stripling.

"When you return to France as you surely must if the Comte is ever to fulfil his mission, things might be quite as they were between you and your friend," the Englishman said. "Or," he mused, "I suppose they might not, if young Carrbroke has his way, and keeps himself in your Denis's thoughts. Which would you prefer?"

"I taught Denis everything that has brought him to his current position," said St Simon, "and I want nothing more than to continue as his instructor and friend."

"And you fear he shall go from under you to serve with Carrbroke?" said the courtier, a queer expression on his face as if he were trying not to laugh. "I can assure you that will not be, if you are truly determined."

"With all my heart!" cried St Simon.

"You would give the most valuable thing you have?" the black-clad courtier asked, an uncanny note in his voice.

"It is yours," said St Simon, draining the goblet.

"Done," said the courtier, "let us seal our bargain."

St Simon looked at him and laughed. "Why, sir," he said, 'how serious you look. Am I to understand you will take my first born child as in the fables?"

"Ah!" ejaculated the man, "You wish to go with Payment Plan B? That will do nicely."

St Simon, feeling very queer, as if the wine had been much stronger than he had realised, held out his hand. The man smiled and said, "Let us have no misunderstanding, my friend. I am accustomed to French ways." So saying he took St Simon's shoulders and kissed him firmly on both cheeks. St Simon felt queerer than ever, the chill feeling of the man's kiss lingering even after he stepped back.

"I know you now, sir," St Simon said uncomfortably.

The man raised an eyebrow, his thin lips quirking into a smile.

"Yes," continued St Simon, "I have seen you with Master Leoni, several times." "Why, yes," said the man, openly smiling, "The doctor has known me from of old, and has asked my help on many occasions. Mind you," he mused, "he's running out of things to bargain with. I should make the most of my time with Denis, if I were you. Now, pray excuse me, sir. I hear the musicians have begun an estampie, and it has been far too long since I danced. Farewell."

He sketched a bow to St Simon and was gone. After a minute the young Frenchman got up and followed, deciding he too would dance. Music and company, that would set him straight and would put him in a better frame of mind to do his duty as an esquire to the king and as a friend to Denis. He felt queerly certain that Denis would not now be seeking to leave his side, no matter how much young Carrbroke pleaded the attractions of England.

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