The Bodice Ripper Chapter 5

The Bodice Ripper
Part 1
Chapter 5

The Honourable the Reverend Mr Hewbert Robinson awoke in his bed the next morning with no clear memory of how he had got there. As his most recent memory was of the Grunstane House dining room, he assumed that at some point he had been bundled into his carriage and taken home by his coachman to Charlotte Square. Then he must have been taken inside by his valet Angus, divested of his clothes and put into a night shirt. His wig, he saw, was on the wigstand on the table in the dressing-room.Then he felt badly that his first waking thought was for his wig, not for his Saviour. He said a devout prayer in reparation. 

The door opened and the stocky figure of Angus appeared with a bowl of porridge and a small glass of whisky on a tray. The Reverend sat up and ran his hands through his tousled auburn hair.

'Guid morning, sir,' said Angus with a marked Highland burr.

'Good morning, Angus,' said the Hon the Rev Mr H. Robinson. 'I trust I was not too much trouble last night.'

'Oh no, sir,' said the valet, putting the tray on his master's lap. 'Just inclined to melancholy. At one stage you wept on my bosom.'

'Did I indeed? Dear me. What it the usual trouble?'

'Yes, sir, but if I may say so, sir, these political flights are only to be expected after you have been to visit his lordship the Earl of Grunstane.'

'Hmm,' said the Reverend Hubert. 'In the light of day I always regret our intemperate voicing of our unpopular political views. It really is quite imprudent.... Oh!'

He put down his glass of whisky untasted.

'That reminds me of something important, but I don't remember what.'


The cleric sighed and took a sip. 'Never mind, Angus. I am sure it will come back to me eventually. How are things in the servants' hall this morning?'

'I am afraid, sir, that there have been fisticuffs among the kitchen lads.'

'What,' said Hewbert, blowing on his porridge. 'Again?'

'I am afraid so, sir, and if you will permit me an observation---.'

'If this is your opinion that an entirely male service staff is a bad idea, Angus, I will not permit you to make that observation, for I have heard it too many times already.'

'Yes, sir.'

'No sooner do I employ a kitchen or parlour maide than she ensnares one of you lot and ends up in an interesting condition. I am then forced to place her in my Home for Indigent Slappers where she gives herself airs over the others. Frankly a kitchen lad with a black eye or bloody nose is preferable, Angus. Besides this idea that the presence of women has a magical power to calm men down is ridiculous. We are not oxen.'

He ate a spoonful of porridge, as if to prove his point.

'As you say, sir,' said Angus and adjusted his master's  pillows.

'I do say,' said Hewbert, 'and what is more I must think of my reputation. I am the only Episcopalian priest in Edinburgh with any money. Even the bishop is poorer than me, and so not only does the soi-disant Church of Scotland have their knives out, Angus, I am afraid my brother priests would be quick to accuse me of sin with maidservants. With the easing of the penal laws, we Piskies have lost our sense of fraternity, Angus.'

 'Permit me to offer my condolences, sir.'

'Thank you, Angus,' said Hewbert. 'I suppose it would be different if I were married but... Eeeeee!'

Angus started. He stopped fussing with the pillows and looked at his master in surprise. The Reverend Hewbert's dark eyes were wide with horror, and he clutched his spoon in a death grip. It was as if he had seen a ghost or--worse--and indigent slapper in his own bedroom.


'Oh  no!' cried Hewbert. 'I have remembered!'

For he had suddenly recalled the conversation he had had with Charles about marriage and some of his own rash words. He was brought back to his present surroundings by his servitor's gentle cough.

'May I be of any service to you, sir?'

'No, you may not,' said Hewbert. 'Oh, wait. Yes, you may. Tell John Coachman to have my coach ready. I must to Leith. I must see my brother. Here.'

He thrust his breakfast tray into Angus's hands and climbed out of bed. He had very good legs, by the way. He would have looked great in a kilt had they been legal at the time; I thought you should know. The Reverent Hewbert had many points in his disfavour, but ugly legs were not one of them. We must be fair. 

Angus discretely left with the tray, and Hewbert commenced to pace up and down the fine carpet beautifying his bedroom floor. Through the window he could see the sun shine on the garden. It was spring, and crocuses nodded amiably in his direction. He was, however, in no mood to be cheered by crocuses.

What exactly he had promised Charles Pewsey he was not certain, but he was reasonably sure it had something to do with marrying his daughter Prudence. Unbidden to his mind came the image of a lovely girl in pink with powder in her artfully curled brown hair. Normally the cleric was proof against the attractions of women, but there was something about very young and lovely women that sometimes tugged at the strings of his heart.

It was a weakness that he had taken some pains to overcom, normally by snapping the rubber band around his wrist. Better he should enter the Kingdom of Heaven, he had decided in his youth, with welts on his wrist than be cast into the fire without his rubber band. He never even prepared young women for Confirmation; he made his curate do that. 

'Can it be that I was momentarily seduced by a pretty face?' demanded the agonized cleric of himself. 'And have I learned nothing from the crimes of my sister Clementine? Little Prudence would have none of me, and if forced into it by Charles--for I fear Charles is not as indulgent a papa as he appears--she will no doubt poison me'.

But with his next thought he upbraided himself for uncharity. He strode into his dressing room and looked at his face in the looking-glass. He squinted and a million wrinkles raced away from his eyes. 

'Poor Prudence,' he murmured. 'What can Charles be thinking of? Still, if it is true she is fond of me'--he was reasonable sure Charles had said so--'it might not be a bad thing to be married, especially to Charles' daughter, for surely no offspring of Charles, even if female, could be thoroughly wicked. But, oh, what a responsibility!'

He quailed.

'Indeed it is too bad of Charles to pass his worries onto me. If I were a papistical Jesuit, I would write a list of plusses and minusses. On the minus side, women are generally wicked. On the plus side, they sometimes produce sons. Minus: tyranny. Plus: posterity.' He walked back into his bedroom and rang for Angus to come and dress him.

 'This is too much for me,' he murmured. 'I will consult my brother.'


  1. Bahaha! Oh the rubber band part! I knew some guys at my Protestant, conservative college that actually DID that!


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