This is what the neighbors saw
This cruise was not going into the log as one of his favorites, Connor thought as he stalked down the promenade towards the fo’csle and the refuge of his cabin. It was those blasted English. Such a study in contrasts: whimsical but rigid, classist but egalitarian, adventurous yet demanding. He said a silent prayer of thanks that good King Jamie the sixth had resisted the siren song of the English throne three centuries before and the Scots had kept themselves to themselves.
Connor almost wished that he had resisted the siren song of a full ship for a trans-Atlantic crossing. The English guests were affable enough, until something upset them and then they were a plague. Mrs. Portenoy Sr. felt the soup was spiced too strongly. The Duchess of Cambridge felt it was too bland. Lord Hendale disliked being required to bathe before engaging a lady. Lady Hendale resented that he wasn’t required to bathe après cavorting as well. The Captain’s day had become one long hour after another of soothing ruffled feathers, and making accommodations for guests who didn’t want to ‘be a bother’.
He was within sight of his door when a voice raked him back to his duties.
“Captain, I really must have a word with you.”
It was the Duchess, a sturdy, jowly woman, clopping along the promenade in a pair of wooden shoes with Geoffrey in tow behind her, his modesty protected by a tiny silken loincloth. The Duchess was wearing an outrageous open cage bustle with no skirts and nothing but a pair of thin cotton bloomers underneath. A horsetail was cunningly affixed to the waist in back and it swished with her movements as if it was batting at flies. Geoffrey held a set of reins that trailed from and leather headband across the Duchess’s expansive brow.
“Really, my good man, you cannot believe what dear Geoff and I have to put up with from that French fellow in room 112.”
“Do you mean Milord Rougeot?” Connor asked, pronouncing the name row-gut. “The Earl of Northumbria?”
“That may be how he styles himself, but we all know that Milord Roo-zyaa is only one generation removed from his froggier relations. And really, he has no respect. You will not believe the sight poor Geoff and I were exposed to when we were out for an innocent ride.”
“Now, Milady,” Connor tried in his most soothing voice, “You know that the Palace officially has a play and let play policy.”
“Play? This would not matter a whit if it was play! He was pretending to be a dog! He was with that girl of yours, the French one, Yvette, and she had him on a leash! And he was barking! The indignity of it all is frightening. I shall never forget the sight!” She emphasized her outrage with the stomping of a wooden hoof.
Connor nearly choked on his swallowed laughter and made a mental note to give Geoffrey a bonus for keeping a straight face through all of this. The Duchess would, Connor was certain, not only never forget, but would probably never stop telling the tales if he did not find a way to diffuse the situation. He did not care a whit for the Earl’s reputation, but the Palace had her own reputation to look to.