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Memoirs of a Spy

spy

My first mission, as commissioned by, King Charles II, sounded simpler than the genuine affair. I wasn’t prepared to put my life in the hands of dastardly expatriates. While I was escorted by two fully armed compatriots they were of little assistance when establishing intimacy in the name of the crown. I had been given the directive to entreat William Scot, a rogue Englishman, to infiltrate the Belgium political corridors and report his discoveries to the King Charles II. In essence, I was to make a double agent of the man. It was with this request and whisper of a financial benefit that I should employ all my feminine wiles to subdue him into submission. I being in all ways, aligned with the King of England and a true patriot, never mind that I was broke, I took my task with fervor, as you are about to see. 

It was a lengthy journey and I had traveled by coach, horseback, and sea, with my two fellow compatriots in search of William Scot. As I’m sure you can imagine, it was an exhaustive journey to say the least. While we were subject to every ill met experience of, sea sickness, fatigue, soured food, and dehydration, nothing prepared us for the alehouse wherein we would find Scot. 


spy

I was told by King Charles II himself, that the likes of William Scot, would be found in Bruges, Belgium. Probably, in a pub, down by the river, where singing and lascivious dancing is practiced. Indeed it was true. The stench of spilled ale, over burnt meat, and bodily oils wafted through ale house as I entered. Immediately, I pulled a scented kerchief to my nose but the overripe smells of the alehouse drained all perfume from my nosegay.

Coughing and sputtering in the stale rancid air I unwittingly drew attention to myself and my companions. Since it was not customary, in Bruges, for reputable women to visit alehouses I garnered the attention of every patron in the building. The dancers stopped in misstep and the singers held their tongue in surprise.

A stinging silence befell the room and I was at a loss to comprehend which of these drunken lords was William Scot. My two companions were silenced to the bone and I was left to my wits and my good graces to scrutinize the crowd of twenty-five, thirty, or possibly fifty inebriated men.

You understand my predicament, I’m sure. But I took the moment at hand and stood tall enough to see the entire room. I spoke gently and I admit only batted my eye’s just enough to get the gentlemen’s attention. I cleared my throat so my best voice would rise to the occasion. I began.

“Dear Sir’s,” was all I managed until the room broke out in loud jags of laughter and hoots of folly. I was startled to the point of laughing myself.

“Ain’t none of Sir’s, woman,” one man shouted above the din.

Understanding my idiocy I made a second plea once the room had started to silence again.

“I am in search of William Scot, might any of you know his whereabouts?” I said. Silence again fill the alehouse. A man moved forward toward me, slowly and distinctly. I admit until this time I had not ever considered that William Scot would be as handsome as the ocean is wide. In an effort to maintain my constancy, I once again pulled my kerchief to my mouth and batted my eyes. I can assure you it was not to entreat him so much as it was to calm my own nerves. 

As he approached me, I could feel my composure slip.

“Who is it, that’s asking for my attention and why?” he asked, expressing a devilish grin.

I couldn’t lie at this point, but my intelligence reminds me that saying too much in front of this crowd may lead me down the wrong path.

“I come bearing news of a private nature, my good sir, and if we have a place to talk then I can express more fully my duty to you,” I said with a slight bend and upward glance.

It wasn’t a moment before the room was again filled with hoots, whistles, and howls of laughter. With a deep breath Scot, held out his arm, and in the most courtly fashion ever displayed. I took his arm and we walked out of the alehouse and embarked on the path by the river. We were followed at some distance, by my two silent companions.

“Now, M’Lady, what news do you bring to me?”

I had to take a moment to clear my head and find the words to entreat him to our political ends.

“”M’Lady, your taking so long to tell me of your plans, I’m afraid I’m under arrest,” he said with his broad smile.

“I am waiting sire, until we are out of earshot of the crowd, this business I have for you is delicate and not meant for all,” I said and couldn’t help but grin.

“Oh, if it’s that important, then your appealing to a man who is half drunk. Are you sure this will get the answer you seek?”

I looked up at him, “We’ll then, I’ll only make my appeal to the sober half of you, if you’re inclined to listen,” I said stopping on the path.

“With a wit like yours I’ll happily listen to your plea. But understand, I’m not the kind to easily sway my beliefs even for the prettiest of maids,” he said.

“Oh dear, it’s been a number of years since I’ve been a maid, your kindness is treasured. But, I have something of a delicate nature to put to you and need your full attention,” I said.

“More delicate than your neck,” he said reaching and touching her just below her right ear.

His touch was more seductive than anticipated and I felt a ripple of heat run the entire length of my body. When I collected myself to the point I could speak he outmaneuvered me again.

“Or is it a subject more delicate than your sweet blushing cheek?” he said and this time ran the back of his hand over my cheek and I could not stop the rising and falling of my breasts.

“Or maybe it’s the fine china of your décolleté  that is the delicate subject upon which you wish to speak,” he said touching my cleavage in the most tempting way. By now, as you can assume I was all a flutter. Hardly able to gasp a breath I was astonished at his boldness and yet, I could see swaying him politically might be simpler than I had assumed.  

“Sire, it is my rouged lips that bring you news directly from King Charles II, himself.

Upon hearing the news that the King had directly sent me on this errand he backed away in suspicion.

“That is a high honor indeed, and here I am thinking you were here to empty my pockets with your feminine charms. Tell me more,” he said.

“It is a high honor he would like to bestow upon you, Sire Scot. I am humbled to bring a request from the King, that you might, sway your intellectual ideals to include the Crown,” I said and waited a moment for him to respond. He was only still and quiet.

“His Highness, has requested to entreat you to bring news of Belgium to Britain,” I said with more misplaced enthusiasm than intended. 

“What is your name?”

spy, Aphra Behn

“Dear Astrea, does your Highness have such a short memory? The Crown had sentenced my father to death only one year ago. Now they ask for my allegiance?” he said in such a harsh tone it was difficult to hear.  

“ I am Astrea,” I said hoping to regain my station.

“That was a matter most regretful. The Crown was only protecting the King, after all your father, good sir, had planned to murder his Highness in the dead of night. Retribution is customary in a case such as that,” I said. 

He stood ponderously looking out at the passing river then turned slowing to face me with eye’s glowing like embers from a fire and he spoke his final words. “If the King could see his way to pardon my father and rename the misdemeanor, then I would consider aligning with the crown once again, but never until the King honors my father. Upon this, I am settled.” He said and walked away.

At this point, I could tell my duties were going to be considerably more difficult than I first understood.

About the Story and the Author

This memoir is based on a fictitious conversation between Aphra Behn and William Scot. Aphra Behn, when she was actually working as a spy for King Charles II went by the name, Astrea, as listed in the story. It is believed she is the first woman to make her living as a writer, as a playwright and novelist. Prior to taking up the pen, she worked as a spy for the King Charles II, among other things. The portrait above is Aphra Behn, painted by Mary Beale (1639-1699).

Daphne Masque writes contemporary romance set in the theatre. Currently she’s giving away an Autographed copy of Haunting Indiscretions, the second book in her series, “Romance at the Empire Theatre”. She plans to begin writing historical fiction.

Daphne has spent a good number of years acting, directing, teaching and writing for the theatre. And she loves romance, what better way to combine her two passions. To signup for her newsletter go to http://www.daphnemasque.com/contest/


At Home With Mark Virtue

Long before the sun came up, Mark Virtue kissed his sleeping wife and dressed quickly in the darkness. The door glided open on well-oiled hinges and he crept into the hall like a shadow without his boots on. Twenty-four stairs stood between him and his coffee, and he needed to cross them all without waking any of the beasts that slept in his house.

One, two, three—skip the fourth, it creaked—five, the outside corner of the sixth, and he landed like a cat on seven. His breath was shallow and slow; even the slightest sigh could unleash unholy chaos. Eight, nine, ten, and he reached the floor below. The middle floor was the most perilous. Six of the little blighters were split between the two rooms nearest their parents so Jane could hear if one of them so much as hiccuped in the night. He passed the open doors on the balls of his feet until he made it to the banister at the top of the long stretch of stairs.

That final stretch was his favorite. Though he’d only installed them a few years before, they still creaked enough beneath his weight to give him away. Short of flying, there was only one solution.

He sat on the railing and slid on his arse to the bottom.

Mark dismounted with a smile, pausing to listen for any stirring from the top of the stairs. He hadn’t taken to the highways in years, but he was as quiet as ever, a fact that gave him no little satisfaction. As it happened, being a father required many of the same attributes as being a thief: patience, agility, awareness of one’s surroundings, and a loud, clear voice.

When two full minutes had passed without a sound, he carried on into the kitchen, started the fire, brought in a bucket of water from the well, and set the coffee to boil. It would be some time before it was ready, but Jane would appreciate it when the baby woke her up. God knew he would need it. He left it bubbling away and headed outside and through the back garden to his workshop, lantern in his hand.

Once he made it inside and closed the door, he let out a noisy sigh of relief.

“Good morning, Daddy.”

Mark just about jumped out of his skin at the tiny voice greeting him from the darkness. “Christ wept, child! What are you doing out here?”

Lily rolled out of one of the workshop’s dozen wardrobes with a yawn. “Mary snores. Is it morning already?”

“Not quite,” he yawned, the impulse contagious. “Tell me you didn’t sleep out here.”

She pursed her lips.

He waited. “Well?”

“You told me not to lie.”

Mark ran a hand over his face. “You’re too little to be sleeping out here on your own, darling. You should be in the house with the others.”

She shrugged and put on his old hat, looking more like a tiny cutthroat than a child of six. Without a word of argument, she meandered out of the workshop and into the house. He watched her until she was inside with the door closed. She was safe enough within the house, the workshop, and their little walled garden, but he knew his daughter well enough to make sure she didn’t try to jump the fence.

Alone, he sat at the desk and put quill to paper. He would have precious little time to himself and there was a letter he had been meaning to write. He had sent many like it over the past years, and would continue to send them until one of them reached his cousin.

10th May, 1679

Dear Harry,
I am writing you again with hopes this letter finds you. I do not know if you are alive or dead, or where you might be. You have a son. His mother did not survive his birth and he is with us now. We’ve called him Hugo after your father. He is four years old and he’s a good little chap, healthy and with your look. We love him as one of our own and he will always have a place with us, but he should know his father. Every day we pray you can find your way back

A coffee appeared at his elbow. Lily watched him with curiosity over the rim of her own mug. She took a noisy sip.

“That coffee won’t be ready yet,” he warned her. “It has to boil for an hour.”

“Tommy’s dad only boils it for ten minutes. Try it.”

Mark rolled his eyes. Ever since Meg had married Jake Cohen, all the children could talk about Tommy’s new father. He was teaching Tommy to box, he’d made Meg kinder, and by all accounts was making progress in fixing Chris Cooper’s busted leg. Now he could boil coffee faster than anyone. No doubt he didn’t have to use the bridge to get into town at all as he could walk straight across the river.

He was a long ways better than Tommy’s real father, so Mark couldn’t complain. He liked the man fine, he just didn’t need to hear about his accomplishments before he’d had his breakfast.

“It’s better,” Lily insisted.

“Oh, for God’s sake.” Mark gulped the coffee. Instead of the tepid water he’d been expecting, the coffee had a texture closer to ale than the thick, black sludge he was accustomed to drinking. It was much better. “I’ll be damned.”

Lily gave him a smug little smile but she didn’t gloat. “What are you writing?”

“I’m writing to your uncle Harry in the Carolinas.”

She wrinkled her nose, the one gesture she had in common with her mother. Everything else about her manner was him. “Will he come home soon?”

Mark’s heart sank. Transportation and the labor that followed was notoriously difficult. Few survived it, let alone found their way back to England. He hoped Harry was alive, but it got harder to hold that hope with every passing year.

If anyone could do it, it was Harry.

“I hope so, sweetheart.”

***

You can read more about Mark and his family in The Southwark Saga. Mark and Jane’s book is Virtue’s Lady:

Virtue’s Lady

Lady Jane Ramsey is young, beautiful, and ruined.

After being rescued from her kidnapping by a handsome highwayman, she returns home only to find her marriage prospects drastically reduced. Her father expects her to marry the repulsive Lord Lewes, but Jane has other plans. All she can think about is her highwayman, and she is determined to find him again.

Mark Virtue is trying to go straight. After years of robbing coaches and surviving on his wits, he knows it’s time to hang up his pistol and become the carpenter he was trained to be. He busies himself with finding work for his neighbors and improving his corner of Southwark as he tries to forget the girl who haunts his dreams. As a carpenter struggling to stay in work in the aftermath of The Fire, he knows Jane is unfathomably far beyond his reach, and there’s no use wishing for the impossible.

When Jane turns up in Southwark, Mark is furious. She has no way of understanding just how much danger she has put them in by running away. In spite of his growing feelings for her, he knows that Southwark is no place for a lady. Jane must set aside her lessons to learn a new set of rules if she is to make a life for herself in the crime-ridden slum. She will fight for her freedom and her life if that’s what it takes to prove to Mark–and to herself–that there’s more to her than meets the eye.

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