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June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  George Hunter on Sat Apr 14, 2012 9:36 am

Hunter picked up a biscuit and nibbled on it, while listening to Torrington's story. He winced dramatically but could not stifle a bark of laughter at Torrington's expense.

'And did you ever find out why your lordship received such treatment?' If Torrington was going to pull rank, he could damn well put up with being addressed properly.
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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  Edward Torrington on Sat Apr 14, 2012 9:55 am

Edward snorted.

"Well, after I managed to get in a word edgewise to that effect, I was quickly educated: The road we were constructing ran on the line of an old drovers' path, but was considerably larger, requiring the landowners of the plots on each side to give up a stripe of their land each. With some difficulty I understood, however, that when those transactions had been made, the official in charge had been handled similarly and had not in fact returned to complete his business. You must understand that the spot where the new road was going to cross her piece of land was the exact spot where she was growing ... I think radish it was."

He paused again, sipping a bit of water.

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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  George Hunter on Sat Apr 14, 2012 9:59 am

Hunter managed to stifle all outward signs of amusement except the glint in his eyes. 'Well, then are you at all surprised? I think the lady showed admirable restraint. Certainly if you threatened my radishes I would do a lot more than give you a clip on the jaw."
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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  Edward Torrington on Wed Apr 18, 2012 12:34 am

"I will make very sure to be prepared for battle before I threaten your radishes then!", Edward stated as pompously as he could. A small smile tucked at the corners of his mouth and his eyes glinted mischievously.

"Although I doubt that you ever will inspire the same amount of helplessness that I felt there. You see, with you under similar circumstances I should have no compunction of retaliating in the same manner."

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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  George Hunter on Wed Apr 18, 2012 12:54 am

Hunter leaned forwarded eagerly: 'I was hoping you'd say that.' He grinned. 'So do tell, how you got out of that? Did you have to plant a new patch of radishes for the woman?'
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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  Edward Torrington on Wed Apr 18, 2012 1:27 am

"Unfortunately, no. I think in the end we would all have preferred that outcome."

Edward toyed with his cufflinks again.

"I send of course to inquire, and it turned out that her land really had never been purchased or any further measures instigated. I can only suppose that whoever had been responsible for this must have thought that by the time we arrived there the problem would have sorted itself out in a natural way. Anyway, after three days it was clear that although we had finished the road right up to the borders of her land (we had of course used the time to continue on the other side), we could not legally cross that gap of fifty feet. You must keep in mind that this was Scotland, and she was the widow of a minor Scottish peer, so nobody sensible wanted to talk of compulsory surrender after the matter had clearly been mishandled the first time. In the end, there was nothing left but to try to persuade her, but to no avail. I know for certain that the Duke of Argyll in quiet desperation had offered her a far better piece of his own land in exchange for the required piece of hers, but she defended her radish patch in a manner worthy of Boadicea - and far more successfully. In the end, we had to admit defeat. It was getting late in the year, the road needed to be completed ... The owner of the opposite plot was willing to sell additional ground - for nearly twice the price it was worth - and now, if you travel that road, you can spring the horses for a mile and a half, then will be thrown into a perfect radish garden because the street swerves sharply twice, and after you have been picked up by the old lady, dusted off and invited to tea, you can continue for another mile and a half without having to touch the reins."

The engineer ducked his head and a fondly exasperated smile lit his face briefly as he remembered the few days when they had built the detour: He had been invited to tea every day, been fed with delicious bisquits and at least once a day been happily told how nice it was now and that there really had been no cause for all this to-do now, hadn't it? When they had been finished and were preparing to move on, the men had even been treated to some radish salad - to keep up their strength for the next road.

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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  George Hunter on Wed Apr 18, 2012 7:52 am

Hunter chuckled appreciatively. "This lady certainly seems to be a woman after my own heart. I have to admire your perseverance too, I am sure we both know those who would have fobbed the whole business onto others."
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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  Edward Torrington on Wed Apr 18, 2012 8:10 am

"Well, her tea was superior and the bisquits delicious!", Edward deadpanned.

He didn't tell Hunter that the fact that he could have probably gotten away with dumping the whole thing into somebody else's lap had kept him from doing so. He had a stubborn streak, that was all - nothing that deserved praise.

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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  George Hunter on Wed Apr 18, 2012 8:33 am

"Biscuits, eh? Cushy job you had, Captain. Well, I sincerely hope that the most danger you come cross will be another old lady hell-bent on preserving her garden."
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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  Edward Torrington on Wed Apr 18, 2012 8:53 am

Edward shrugged.

"Actually, I would prefer the French. Them I can at least try to hit back. I can assure you that a nice sturdy cane, silvertipped and wielded with some conviction is not a comfortable weapon to get hit with."

He held up the wine caraffe.

"Would you care for another glass, a glass of Port or some tea? It goes with some biscuits, if you want to have a taste of my cushy existence."

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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  George Hunter on Wed Apr 18, 2012 9:09 am

"Tea will fine, I thank you."

Hunter looked at Torrington appraisingly. "Look, Captain, believe me I do not want to offend you in any way, but I think I have seen a little more of this war business than you, so allow me to warn you. Don't dismiss the French so easily. It is not just the rank and file that die. And it is not only the French that are dangerous, there are plenty of bandits and guerrillas who will not care a jot whose side you are fighting on."
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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  Edward Torrington on Wed Apr 18, 2012 9:41 am

Edward nodded curtly, got up and poked his head out of the tent, telling Rottlaender to prepare tea and clear away the plates.

When he came, he had himself under control again, but his jaw ached from the struggle. Did the Captain think he was stupid? He had not come here with romantic notions of battles, he knew that this was dangerous business, but he had come here of his own free will and was willing to take that risk. He'd do his damn best not to get killed in battle (or hit by old ladies, for that matter), and frankly between several excursions in the more unhospitable parts of Scottland and Wales, a trip to Italy and Greece and his recent forays into the mountains here, he thought that his experience with bandits should rival Hunter's quite nicely.

Stiffly, he said:

"I thank you for your warning, but you may believe me that I have no intention of underestimating our enemies."

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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  George Hunter on Wed Apr 18, 2012 9:57 am

Hunter did not smile or in any way react to Torrington's words at first, though he lowered his eyes to hide the amusement in them. Hunter did not know the extent of Torrington's experience, but one thing was certain: the man has not learned to hide his emotions yet.

He took a hold of himself, letting the amusement dissipate into seriousness. 'Captain. It will not do you any good to get angry with me. I like you. I will not stop just because you decided that I underestimate you. And because I like you, I want you to be careful. You probably think that I have no right to teach you anything being only two years your senior. Well, perhaps not. I do not want to sit here and recite my career at you. Let me just say this. I have killed my first man when I was not yet fifteen. It is nothing to boast of, but it does mean that maybe, just maybe I am a little better acquainted with the savagery of this world.'
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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  Edward Torrington on Wed Apr 18, 2012 10:26 am

Edward suddenly became very calm.

"My dear Sir, if you indeed had the misfortune to have to kill a man before the age of fifteen, you certainly are more acquainted with the savagery of the world. However, it is the ability to stay out of this kind of situations that is under discussion."

This was certainly much too close to the border of what was acceptable behaviour for a host, and a small voice in the back of Edward's head was screaming at him to be quiet, apologize and for heaven's sake stop acting like Hunter's opinion mattered, but that voice was easily ignored. That he hadn't killed a man so far was hardly something he could be accused of. After all, it was hardly his fault that whenever it had become relevant his seconds had done their job rather well and ended the thing either before it had really begun or as soon as first blood had been drawn.

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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  George Hunter on Wed Apr 18, 2012 10:35 am

"Oh, I do think you are possessed of that ability. Unfortunately, this kind of situations can happen no matter how sensible one is, especially at war, which one could say is one big this kind of situation." Hunter shifted in his chair, for all the world looking like he was having a comfortable conversation about nothing important rather than treading this close to making an enemy out of a man he just met that morning.

"You took offence. I apologise for that. I will not however apologise for wanting you to be careful."
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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  Edward Torrington on Wed Apr 18, 2012 10:57 am

'For taking offence, only I can apologize - but I don't think I will without a better reason than an immediately qualified and carelessly worded apology!'

Edward didn't say it loud - even in his current state he realized that part of it was hinged on semantics. But the fact remained that he wouldn't take a half-hearted apology from a man who looked as if he couldn't care less whether he did or not. His demeanour now was perfectly calm and controlled again, but that was only because Edward's rage never took the form of useless yelling - that was just a sign of displeasure with people he trusted.

"Would you prefer it then that I should leave Iberia again? Or why do you have such a vested interest in my safety?"

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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  George Hunter on Wed Apr 18, 2012 11:07 am

"I have a vested interest in the safety of anyone that I happen to like. Is that so strange? As for your somewhat abrupt suggestion that I have any right to dictate what you do, such as leave Iberia, well, I do not understand where you get such an idea. All I wanted is to give you a little advice. God knows, I never got any, so perhaps I am overcompensating.' Hunter rose.

'If you want a better apology than perhaps you should try and see past your anger and realise that my intentions, though perhaps mistaken, were not to offend or insult you. If however you choose to be unreasonable..." Hunter made a dismissive gesture.
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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  Edward Torrington on Wed Apr 18, 2012 11:46 am

Edward was not going to stand up and be towered over by the other man, so he remained calmly seated, displaying a cool disinterest in Hunter's actions.

"Your intention is appreciated, though unneccesary", he told Hunter's glass of wine calmly.

"May I inquire whether I have in any way offended you? You seem to be much more agitated."

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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  George Hunter on Wed Apr 18, 2012 11:51 am

Hunter guffawed. "Oh, I do like you. No, I doubt you could do anything to offend me. It is just that I am never really calm." Hunter smiled at Torrington as if they never were having an argument. "The tea seems to be taking a while, or do you think your man is giving you time to kill me and dispose of my body?"
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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  Edward Torrington on Wed Apr 18, 2012 12:07 pm

"Should I decide to kill you, I would do so in less conspicous surroundings, but I hope that my servant would feel inclined to help dispose of the body. He may, however, have deemed it prudent to wait until it is less likely that his treasured porcelain will suffer."

Edward's temper had by no means died down, but it was rather difficult to maintain a hot rage towards somebody who did hold up that all was done with good intentions - especially if one was the host and usually a quite mature individual. So instead it had become something different - a willingness to play the other's game and win. Perhaps even by making Hunter really like him.

"Will you sit down again and drink it with me? I even will swap cups with you to proof that it is not poisoned."

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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  George Hunter on Thu Apr 19, 2012 5:29 am

Hunter sent down, giving Torrington a small smile for his effort to be amusing. He felt somewhat disappointed with himself: it seemed that he did diffuse the situation somewhat, but he clearly did not read Torrington correctly. Hunter had thought that Torrington may be a man to whom one could speak seriously, but for now it was clear that for all his protestations, the man was too aware of his position, too proud. Perhaps if Hunter was a Duke or twenty years older, Torrington would at the very least not fly into an unnecessary rage. Or perhaps if Hunter was an old friend. But Hunter was not in the business of wooing people unless it served some necessary end: you either took to each other or you did not, to Hunter it was as simple as that.

Hunter studied Torrington's face for a moment. There was nothing he needed from this man. Torrington may be an Earl's son, he may have money and position, but Hunter had money of his own, and even if he did care about position, well he was a baronet and once his grandfather died he would become a Count. He could leave after drinking this wretched tea and never talk to Torrington again or he could try and cut the knot that his earlier outburst created and see whether Torrington could be directed onto a path of friendship, where one did not have to mind every bloody word.

Hunter braced himself. This was either going to work or he would get a fist in his face for his trouble. "You see, Captain, I've never been good at minding the finer feelings of others. That is a trait that has not earned me many friends, if you could believe such a thing. I would just like to know, why were you so offended by my words? Is it because I am not much older than you? Or is because I am a son of rake and only a baronet to boot? Or is it simply the fact that our acquaintance is short-lived?" Hunter spoke mildly, gently, like he was trying to calm a wild horse.
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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  Edward Torrington on Thu Apr 19, 2012 8:30 am

When Hunter mentioned their difference in rank, Edward looked up sharply, shocked at the suggestion and not bothering to hide it, but he didn't interrupt Hunter.

When the other man had finished, he asked simply:

"You urge me to caution, yet you wonder that I did not yet give you the right to advise me or meddle in my affairs?"

He went to the entrance and poked his head out again, assuring his batman that he could indeed serve the tea now. When he sat down again, he asked curiously:

"Why do you suppose I have become an engineer?"

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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  George Hunter on Thu Apr 19, 2012 8:36 am

"I would think that you became an engineer because you liked the the work involved and because you thought you would be good at it." Hunter ran a hand through his hair, mussing it.
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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  Edward Torrington on Thu Apr 19, 2012 8:53 am

Rottlaender appeared with a tea tray, placed it on the table with a minimum of fuss and a somewhat dubious expression, then quickly vanished with the dinner-plates.

Edward carefully poured a cup for Hunter and offered it to him.

"Well, you are right, of course, but not many see it this way. It appears that most people think that I had become an engineer because I'm clearly not suited to the more vigorous arms of the service - obviously being nobility does automatically prevent me from being a good engineer."

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Re: June 24th, evening: Having dinner with the Engineer

Post  George Hunter on Thu Apr 19, 2012 8:56 am

Hunter sighed.

"Well, may be you can see your way to understanding why I said what I said then. Imagine two men meeting on the road. One has just passed a very muddy stretch and he sees the other headed that way, so he calls out a caution. They don't know each other. They will unlikely to ever meet. For all the first man knows, the second man may be perfectly aware that the road ahead is muddy. Yet he stilled cautioned the second man. Do you think that was wrong?"
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