RENDEZVOUS WITH A SWORD
A Swashbuckling Adventure
By: Ted Anthony Roberts
Appointment for Midnight
"Really, you cannot be serious, John." says a tall gentleman.
"Oh, but I am, Frank." says his friend, who is a foot shorter than his fellow comrade.
"You mean to tell me,” states Frank, with great disbelief, “that this Duchess has actually asked for a rendezvous with you?"
"And why not, you doubter?" says his friend, while pulling from his person a rather delicate and perfumed handkerchief. "Here is the proof! You think that this thing is mine? As you may or may not have known,” he adds, assuring his friend, “Madame Duchess de Levy has long been my friend."
"Well, I must confess," says the other, with slight admiration, and while shaking his head a bit, "that this really shocks me. You, a mere guard in Charles II’s service, have a rendezvous with a Duchess!"
"Well, believe it, you animal!” says the second man, with a devilish grin. “The woman simply adores me."
The other merely laughs lightly as a reply.
"You may laugh now, Frank," replies John, "but after tonight, you will laugh no longer."
"Why?" asks the other, while still laughing a bit. And adds, with a bit of sarcasm: "Are you taking me with you on your rendezvous?"
"Yes." pronounces John, with a certain boldness.
At this, Frank stops his laughing completely, and starts glaring at his friend with even more disbelief. “What!” he barely stammers out.
“That’s right, Frank, you’re coming with me!”
“But, John,” he protests, “whatever for?” Then, while leaning forward toward his friend, he says in a certain way: “Isn’t that sort of thing between a man and his lover only?”
“Even though the woman loves me,” John begins, “I think that she’s a little off in her head.”
“Alright,” confesses Frank, while knitting his brows in slight confusion, “now you’ve really lost me! Whatever are you talking about, man?”
“Well, my friend, I have had a strange encounter this morning.”
“A strange encounter?” asks Frank, with a sneer. “You’re a poet, John – you always have strange encounters!”
“I’m being serious, Frank; this encounter got my poetical mind working really hard!”
“I can’t wait to hear this one!” admits Frank, while beginning to smile once again. “Alright, John, what happened?”
“Well, I was standing near London Bridge this morning, going over some compositions in my head, for you know that I have that recital tomorrow at our favorite little tavern.”
“Yes.” says Frank, all ears. “The Porker’s Inn. Go on.”
“Well, some fellow, whom I have never met before, had approached me; and he begun a conversation. At first I noticed that he was walking along the street very slowly toward my direction, so I thought that he was perhaps engaged into the same type of activity like as myself . . . you know, composition.”
“Yes.” says Frank again, still all attention. “Go on.”
“And when he approached me, he began his conversation, thus:
“‘Good morning, dear sir,” he said to me, in a French accent, “can you help me with a little problem that I seem to be having?’
“‘Well, I can certainly try.’ I answered him.
“‘Everyone seems to have a motto!” he oddly announced to me. “I am tired of hearing that. However, for the sake of conversation, I am trying to think of one myself. Do you have a motto?’ asked he of me, laughingly.
“‘A motto?" I replied, my eyes widening in surprise, for I was truly taken aback by the question. But then, my eyes turned into grinning eyes, after the example that my mouth was then taking; and I answered: ‘Why, sure; I do, in fact, have a motto.’
“‘You do?’ surprisingly asked the stranger, and with an excitable look upon his face.
“‘Yes; it expounds as: My motto is not to have a motto!’
“‘Bravo!’ yelled the man toward me, while beginning to clap wildly. ‘Truly a great motto! A treasure of a mind you have there.’
“‘So, you really hate people's mottos, aye?’ I asked the man, after he was finished showering me with complements.
“‘Mottos do not bother me as much as something else does.’ declared he.
“‘Oh?’ I asked.
“‘Tis true .’ was his answer. ‘But what truly does bother me are philosophies!’
“‘Tis true .’
“‘And do you have your own philosophy?’ I asked him, with a sinister smile.
“This time the stranger widened his eyes. But then, and following my example, he began smiling as well, while saying: ‘Yes; I do, as a matter of fact, have a philosophy!’
“‘Great!’ I said, highly amused. ‘And what is it?’
“‘This: My philosophy is not to have a philosophy!’
“‘Well said.’ I announced. ‘But you steal my saying.’
“‘It was so great, it could not be improved.’
“‘You flatter me.’
“‘I flatter a great poet!’
“‘Ah! You know of my poetry, then?’
“‘No doubt.’ was his declaration. ‘You are indeed a master! I have read several of your compositions.’
“‘Truly? Well, that is why you shower me with complements then.’
“‘You've found me out! So much the better. Yes, it is because of you, that I myself have traveled the long road of poetry. But I can never out-do you on flowery words – just like your saying just now!’
“‘But there really was nothing to it.’ I added, with true consent.
“‘Oh, but you are too modest, sir. Can you not see your own genius?’
“‘Genius, you say?’
“‘Admirably and deservedly so!’
“‘Surely, you give me too much credit.’ I replied, beginning to feel a little ill at my ease.
“‘No, I don't. But, no matter; I am just glad to finally meet you – the greatest poet in London – in England – in Europe!’
“‘I think that you go too far.’ I said, beginning to knit my brows.
“‘Well, if you think so, then I will keep my enthusiasm to myself . . . shall we collaborate?’
“‘Upon what?’ I asked, again taken aback.
“‘You mean that you and I write a piece together?’
“‘Exactly, so!’ said he, grinning from ear to ear.
“‘Well . . . nothing inspires me at this time.’
“‘It will come to you; as, in time, it comes to all great poets!’
“‘Well, perhaps sometime we could, perhaps, collaborate upon some poetry or other.’ I said, truly stammering.
“‘Great! How about tomorrow?’
“‘Tomorrow!" I replied, almost in a shout. ‘Well . . . if not at that time, then some other time . . . perhaps. I will let you know . . . I tell you what, just tell me your address, and I will appear at your lodgings when I am ready.’
“‘Wonderful! I live at the hotel of the Duke de Chantilet; over on Baker street.’
“‘Well, in that case, perhaps we will meet soon. Take care.’ I say, beginning to walk away – without even bothering to ask who to call upon; that is, to whom I was just speaking.
“‘Adieu, great poet!’ he yelled out to me, as I scurried away.
“‘Adieu.’ I said back to him, while still walking briskly.
“‘Goodnight, sweet Prince,” I heard him say in the distance, “parting is such sweet sorrow!’
“And?” Frank asked, after hearing this strange story, and nearly yelling out the question, and looking truly perplexed. “What’s the big deal about that – so, you met a crazy man!”
“Didn’t you hear me Frank? His address is the home of the Duke de Chantilet. That’s where my rendezvous is supposed to be at midnight with the Duchess!”
Frank looks confused.
“Look, my friend,” continues John, “that encounter with the French stranger was a little too odd for me. I think the fellow was merely trying to size me up – for what reason I cannot say! However, if he lives at the same home as my lady Duchess de Levy, then there could be some danger involved.”
“Oh, what an imagination you poets have!” yells Frank, rolling his eyes about in disbelief.
“Well, you can laugh and believe not; but you are still coming with me!”
“Says who?” demands Frank, his brows knitting.
“Says your best friend – me! Come on, Frank, I really need your help.”
Silence ensues for a moment. But then, after breathing a heavy sigh, Frank finally gives in to his friend’s wishes: “Oh, alright, you scared woman!”
Late that night, we see the form of two men sneaking around a large home on Baker street. Trying to use great stealth, they instead look like two clumsy clowns tripping over each other!
“Hey, watch it, Frank!” yells John in slight pain. “You’re tripping over me.”
“Well, I can’t see a thing!” says Frank, in response. “Where’s the moon at tonight, anyway?”
“Quiet, you animal!” is the reply.“Do you want everyone to hear you?”
“Well, what exactly is it that you want me to do?”
“I need you for your great sword expertise, as crazy as the notion may sound.”
Frank begins to laugh. “John, I’m the worst swordsman in our regiment!”
“Well, no one will know it unless you tell them! Now, quiet about that, and if I run into trouble – you know, like fall into an ambush – the assailants won’t know that you are a clumsy cow!”
Frank laughs again. “Clumsy cow! That was a good one.”
“Quiet, you animal! You’re being just too loud. Now, stay right here, and keep an eye out. I’m supposed to meet her by that tree in about five minutes.”
“Good luck, lover boy!” says Frank, with a giggle.
“Do you have to talk so loudly?”
“Sorry, John. But I’m not good at talking quietly.”
“Well, too bad this isn’t one of your belching contests at the Porker’s Inn! You’re talking as loud as your belches are – and that’s saying a lot!”
Again, Frank laughs. “Belching contest! That’s a good one.”
“Oh, never mind! Just stay here, and try to be quiet. But if you see anything fishy, then please by all means, do something!”
“You want me to belch?”
“Wow! You are in a mood tonight!” At this, John walks away from a giggling Frank, and advances toward the tree.
As midnight approaches, John waits patiently for his lady to arrive. Trying hard not to look into Frank’s direction, so as not to arouse any suspicions of his presence, John keeps busy by watching the front door of this mansion – even though it is hard not to look into Frank’s direction, for he seems to be making small noises every so often, which is infuriating John to no avail!
At about one minute after midnight, John gets tapped upon the shoulder, which causes him to jump slightly. Spinning around, he finds that he is face to face with the lovely Duchess de Levy!
“Oh, my dear!” he says to her. “You have startled me. Why didn’t you come from your home? I’ve been watching the front door, and I didn’t see you come out.”
“I’ve been walking for a while, taking in the lovely air.”
“Of London? If you call smelling people’s toilet products thrown upon the streets and alleyways a breath of fresh air, then I must get you out to the country more often!”
“Stop toying with my emotions!” she suddenly says, with a sigh, and while turning her back toward him, acting as if she is about to cry.
“By speaking of people’s toilet habits?” he asks, slightly confused.
Suddenly spinning around once again, she throws herself into his arms. “How strong you are, you handsome devil!”
“Well, I can’t complain myself.”
Suddenly, they both hear a small giggle coming from Frank’s direction.
“What was that?” asks the Duchess, alarmed.
Knowing who it is, John tries to clear the air. “Pay no attention, my dear; it’s just an owl that I had heard earlier.”
“I need you to kill my husband!” she quickly shouts, almost in a scream. But then, she turns her back toward him once more, and starts sniffing, as if she is really crying this time.
“I’m not so sure that sounds like a good first date, my dear.” he says to her. “Shouldn’t we at least kiss first?”
“How can you even think of kissing at a time like this – when my life is in such danger?”
“Danger? What kind of danger?”
Spinning around, she throws herself into his arms once more! “Oh, you are so handsome;” she exclaims, “it is so hard not to look at you!”
Again, giggling is heard from the shadows, and coming from Frank’s direction.
“Shut up, you mangled trash of an owl!” screams out the Duchess into Frank’s direction.
“Such passion, my dear.” says John, with his wide eyes. “Kiss me before I lose it!”
She suddenly plants a huge kiss upon his lips, while they both begin hearing loud belches coming from Frank’s direction.
Breaking their embrace, she asks: “Was that the owl?”
“Actually,” says John, “I think that’s our cue that someone is coming!”
“I’m not going to ask you how you know this, but if that is the case, then we must part ways. I will contact you with your instructions.”
“But I didn’t say that I was going to . . . .”
With her slipping away, he’s not able to finish his sentence, and it dies upon his lips as she disappears into the night – not even walking near her home, but instead disappears somewhere upon a lonely London street. And, while still looking into this direction, John receives a tap upon his shoulder from someone behind. After jumping once again, he spins around.
Expecting to see Frank, he is surprised that it’s not his friend at all, but instead he is facing his unknown French poet from this morning.
“Ah, it is you, Monsieur John Smith!” says the Frenchman.
“Oh, how do you do, mister . . . mister . . .?”
“Paul du Voy’s the name.”
“Ah, Mister du Voy!”
“A bit late for composition, do you not think, Monsieur Smith?”
“Composition?” asks John, taken aback. “Oh, on poetry! No, sir; I’m not here for that . . . in fact, I was just passing through, and found that I just admired this tree!” he says, patting the tree lightly with his left hand.
“Surely you must, monsieur – it’s one of your famous English oaks! But you mean to say that you came all the way over to this hotel just to admire our oak tree? Oh, I just knew it!”
“Knew what?” John asks nervously.
“I, too, have to come to this tree to get inspiration for my poetry! I see that great minds think alike – do they not, monsieur?”
“Oh, I agree!” John adds, with a sigh of relief. “But now that I’ve been inspired, I think that I must be heading along to my own apartment.”
“Not so fast, monsieur! Why waste the evening? Since you are inspired, and are already here, then perhaps we can go ahead and collaborate!”
Suddenly, more giggles are heard coming from Frank. At this, both men slowly turn their heads into that direction, and stare for a moment into the darkness, until the Frenchman suddenly cries out: “Shut up, you loathsome owl!”
Not daring to look back at Monsieur du Voy, John merely starts jetting out of the yard, while saying: “I’ve got to go! Take care, Monsieur du Voy!”