Sunday, March 24, 2013

Space 1889: Scandals in St. James's

Wherein five adventuresome gentlemen meet for a rather unintentionally scandalous evening at the Travellers Club in 1889. Acquaintances are made, the Russians make a move and dinner is interrupted.

The evening starts at the estate of the Sir Winston Lawrence, chanting can be heard from downstairs. As the head of the household investigates, he finds his daughter Elizabeth Lawrence listening to the chants of a human who tries to clean the house with fake Martian chants. Her sister Lydia is watching from the stairs. Sir Lawrence doesn't find that very amusing and has his Martian butler, Vincent, remove the fake Martian guru from the property. Vincent (his Martian name being unpronounceable to most humans) complies and while escorting the guru out, secretly retrieves the 20 pounds sterling that Miss Elizabeth had paid the fraudulent guru. Sir Lawrence has a stern talk with his daughter in the meantime and decides that it's best, if she gets married soon. Miss Elizabeth begs her father to not reconsider taking her to the dinner reception of Sir Robert Whitecliff at the Travellers' Club. Sir Lawrence relents and tells her that she can still come.

Meanwhile at the Travellers' Club, Humphrey Lawrence, the estranged and missing son of Sir Lawrence, is talking with his High Martian travelling companion. The winged monstrosity gulps down raw meat and speaks in a strange mixture of Martian and German.

William Herondale, gainfully employed with the Foreign Office in London and a second-degree nephew of Sir Lawrence, meets with Sir Pinterbottom at the request of Lady Amelia Pond, a woman playing in the Great Game for the British Intelligence agency. William had met Lady Amelia in Cambridge where she had recruited him for the British Intelligence agency. After spending some time in Istanbul and getting entangled with a Russian operative called Natasha Iswolska, William had returned to London and a new assignment with Sir Lawrence. Officially, his mother asked her uncle to employ him, but unofficial William is under orders of the British Intellegence agency.

Sir Pinterbottom sits on a bench and reads a newspaper as William approaches and sits down next to him. Pinterbottom tells him about the dinner reception at the Travellers' Club and more or less points out that this is important business that William is attending there. The young man should keep his eyes open.

In the evening, Mr Huntingdon, a veteran of the second Afghan war and a suitor of Miss Elizabeth is travelling by Hansom cab to the Travellers' Club to attend the same dinner reception as the other gentlemen. His cab is forced into a detour because of Irish dock workers rioting in St. James's. That is just a bit odd, because the dock worker union was suppossed to have ceased their strike some days ago. Nevertheless, Mr Huntingdon arrives at the club, limps in and deposites his big hunting rifle at the reception desk.

In the drawing room, others are already waiting. Sir Lawrence with his wife Margret and their daughters Elizabeth and Lydia, and the young aide William Herondale. Butler Vincent is standing discreetly on the side, ready to serve his master Sir Lawrence. Shortly after Mr Huntingdon enters, a big burly Russian named Ivan enters and asks the somewhat impatient Sir Lawrence and entourage to follow him to the ballroom. William finds this a bit odd, since the dinner reception will be held in the smoking room.

The assembled ladies and gentlemen follow Ivan and he leads them to meet with his employer, Duke Alexander Petrovitch Iswolski. When William is introduced to the duke, he reacts a bit impulsively and tells him to give his daughter Natasha his regards. Sir Lawrence is irritated by that. His aide is not supposed to speak before him. As introductions are finally made, Sir Lawrence belittles the Russian diplomat in a rather insulting manner. But that isn't what concerns the duke. He merely wants to present Sir Lawrence with a mutual acquaintance.

Humphrey Lawrence is waiting in an anteroom with several doors. He has been told by Mr Robert Whitecliff to wait there. Humphrey is patiently waiting for the dinner reception of Mr Robert Whitecliff to begin. He is wearing leather pants, boots and other rough travelling gear. Suddenly, one of the doors is opened by Ivan. Humphrey wonders why it is the door to the ballroom and not the door to the smoking room, when Duke Iswolski points to him and presents him to his father, Sir Lawrence. While doing so, he tells Sir Lawrence that Humphrey was found wandering the streets of Syrtis Major in a rather dishevelled state and slightly out of his mind. Humphrey is glad to see his father, but his father will have none of it, even implying that Humphrey is an imposter.

Miss Elizabeth swoons upon seeing her lost brother, but Mr Huntingdon manages to catch her and carries her to a nearby couch. He tells Vincent to get some water. The Martian butler leaves, but encounters Ivan who tells him that Sir Whitecliff is already waiting for his guests to arrive. Vincent goes back to the ballroom and tells Sir Lawrence that Sir Whitecliff is waiting. Duke Islowski leads Humphrey back into the anteroom. Everybody else leaves for the smoking room granting Miss Elizabeth and Mr Huntingdon some time alone. She complains about her tight corset and asks Mr Huntingdon to please loosen it a bit. Of course, the love-struck Mr Huntingdon complies. Then both of them go to the smoking room, just in time before Sir Lawrence sends Vincent to get his daughter.

Besides the entourage of Sir Lawrence and Duke Iswolski, Mr Runark is attending the dinner reception. Sir Whitecliff is a tycoon building etherships for her Majesty, Queen Victoria. The HMS Canterbury is his most recent project and is affected by delays. The dock workers strike is just one of many issues. The HMS Canterbury is suppossed to contain a lot of new and innovative designs, yet none of the patents have been registered yet. The maiden voyage will take the HMS Canterbury to Mars, but things are not going well. Apparently, Sir Whitecliff is getting desperate by inviting a Russian duke and his competitor Mr Runark to  dinner. He hopes to gain something here.

Before the dinner begins, Sir Whitecliff opens the door to the antechamber and introduces Humphrey to his family. None of the assembled guests hint at meeting Humphrey earlier already. Sir Lawrence greets his son a lot warmer than just minutes before and asks Vincent to pick out some suitable suits from among those stashed at the club. Vincent leads Humphrey upstairs to help him get changed. When the two return, the dinner has already started.

Mr Huntingdon flirts with Miss Elizabeth who tries to get William Herondale to join into the discussion too. William obliges and smiles at her. Something that Mr Huntingdon doesn't find very amusing. He gets into a duel of words with Mr Herondale. Mr Herondale likes the dance of words and secretly delights at appearing to flirt with Miss Elizabeth. Though his true target is Mr Runark. The other tycoon is rumored to still be single at a rather advanced age and to have a rather unseemly close relation to his personal secretary and aide. William know the secretary from meetings in circumstances best not mentioned in polite society. Now, William is casting occasional glances at Mr Runark. Mr Huntingdon elbows him in the side causing William to loose his composure on the first try. But finally, Mr Runark notices the young man's interest.

During dinner, Vincent uses the opportunity to nose around the club a bit. He notices Ivan, the butler and bodyguard of Duke Iswolski going upstairs. Discreetly, he follows him and observes that Ivan exchanges coin with a person guarding a door, saying something about 9 o'clock and the duke leaving at that time. Vincent looks around a bit and finds another door leading into the guarded room. There he picks the lock and carefully opens the door. On the other side, a High Martian is sitting in the room still chewing on raw meat and muttering words Koline and German.

Shortly before 9 o'clock, Ivan enters the smoking room and whispers to Duke Iswolski. The duke gets up and excuses himself from the dinner, since he has to attend to urgent business elsewhere.

After the duke leaves, the dinner is interrupted as an angry young man intrudes into the smoking room. He confronts Sir Whitecliff and apparently is his son Michael Whitecliff. Father and son go into the adjoing room. Then a loud noise is heard like someone hitting somebody right in the face. William very rashly jumps up and goes into the other room to see if everything is alright. Sir Lawrence tries to stop him by asking for a few words, but William brushes him aside more concerned with the well-being of Sir Whitecliff.  Unfortunately, invading a families privacy in Victorian times is a social gaffe. As he opens the door, he watches Michael Whitecliff storming out of the room and Sir Whitecliff holding a bloody handkerchief to his nose. William asks if everything is alright and then escorts Sir Whitecliff back into the room. None of the others have noticed the blood.

Sir Lawrence is rather angry at his aide, and even Miss Elizabeth is not so sure, if William will be adequate competition for Mr Huntingdon. Suddenly, noises can be heard from outside. Mr Herondale walks to the window and sees rioting dock workers in front of the club. They throw a brick through the window which narrowly misses Mr Herondale. From downstairs noise indicates that the front door has been broken open. Upstairs, Vincent sees the guard lifting his rifle, turning to the door and shooting through the door - presumably to kill the High Martian.

In Closing: This report is of course heavily biased by the person witnessing the events and reporting them to his superiors in the British Foreign Office.

No comments:

Post a Comment