Of Profit & Pleasure
Summary: John Wilmot, poet, playwright and 2nd Earl of Rochester returns to London after recovering in the country from smallpox to find his dear Elizabeth Barry out of favor with theater-goers. A new actress has taken her place that is rumored to be the best performer the London stage has ever seen. But John soon discovers her act extends far beyond the theater doors and decides to see how far she'll go to keep her secret.
Disclaimer: I do not own The Libertine.
A/N: I am back with another story. Thanks to LinaLove for her inspiration and for listening to a frustrated writer talk on and on. Also, check out the banners for this story - she made them! I am forever in her dept. Hope you enjoy!
The Earl Returns/A Piece of History is Found
As he stepped out of the carriage his boots met mud and horse dung, not the wood plank of the side walk, nor the stone walkway that led up to his city estate. His lip curled in disgust. How he hated to break in new footmen.
He stepped up onto the path and looked over at the boy who appeared to be sweating. Whether it was from the unseasonably warm temperatures that burdened this early May morning or from fear of what his new master would do, the Earl did not care. He reached over and ripped the cravat right from the boy's neck, then leaned down and cleaned the filth from his shoes. He usually would never dream of doing such a thing himself, but he was realizing more and more that if you wanted something done right, you had to do it yourself.
Once he was slightly satisfied with them, he stood back up and shoved the dirtied cravat down the waist coat of the footman who stood their looking as if he was about to cry.
"Next time I depart this carriage I will set foot on stone or wood or it will be your face that I wipe the shit from my boots upon," he said darkly.
It was only when the Earl of Rochester was inside the manor that the footman let out the breath he had been holding.
Olivia fingered the delicate gold chain between her ring finger and her thumb, amazed that after more than 300 years it still retained its shine. The grand pendant that hung from it held a deep blue sapphire that was the size of the center of a large daisy. However the pendant itself was about the size of an American quarter. Intricate flowers were carved into the gold around the sapphire and three pearls hung from the bottom. The back was covered in a complicated swirling design and written around the circumference was a small line of text that had almost disappeared over the years. She tried to make out what it said with her magnifying glass but found it was not strong enough. She made a mental note to ask her supervisor for a better one.
She looked once again at the sack the pendant had been stored in and the description card that had been attached and read for at least the tenth time the origins of the beautiful piece.
The necklace had belonged to Lady Charlotte Fitzroy, b. 1664, the illegitimate daughter of King Charles II by one of his most notorious mistresses, Barbara Villiers, 1st Duchess of Cleveland. The necklace had not been a family or royal heirloom so where it had come from, no one knew.
In its more recent history it had been a gift from an anonymous donor to the Chiswick House Museum in the 1950s when the house was given to the Ministry of Works. But the 18th century building had fallen into disrepair and needed to be restored so the pendant had been put into storage and long forgotten. After all, Chiswick House was not the type of museum to display jewelry or other items of daily life, but it did have an impressive art collection.
Olivia had been hired as part of the most recent restoration effort on the House. She'd just completed her studies at Oxford in History of Art that May and had been working for two months at Chiswick House but was already finding her chosen path rather boring. One can only be interested in dusting off busts and telling off construction workers for walking on the priceless carpets for so long.
And until the box containing the sapphire pendant had been dropped on her work station earlier that day, she was seriously considering quitting and going back to her first love, acting. But now she was intrigued. Just from her studies she knew that pieces as grand as the one she was holding came with detailed histories. Most art historians could pick up a pair of earrings in a museum collection and tell you the ten most famous people that wore them and where they wore them and who they received them from.
But for the sapphire pendant, only the single owner was known. Olivia had the strong urge to try the necklace on, just for a moment. But she noticed the chain was broken and there was no clasp. She held it up again in her gloved hand and looking around the room, realized she had been left alone. The rest of her colleagues had gone home for the day. Quickly she slipped the glove off and gently set the pendant in the palm of her hand. A strange sensation overcame her; a feeling that was deep and dark and very intense.
Her knees started to feel weak and her breathing became shallow. A familiar warmth curled in the pit of her stomach. If she didn't know any better she'd think she was aroused by the pendant.
She heard footsteps echoing down the hallway, coming towards her. She quickly placed the pendant back in its sack and replaced her glove.
As she went to place the description card back into the sack, she noticed writing on the back.
Diary missing – dated 14, July 1954
That was all that was written. So the pendant came with a diary that had been missing for decades?
Olivia was beginning to feel like her summer internship might not be so bad after all.
The Earl finally heard the hurried steps of his butler coming towards his study.
"Yes, my Lord?"
"Finally," the Earl sighed, "be useful. Find out whatever play Ms. Barry is in currently and make sure that my regular box in that theater is available for tonight."
The Earl then waved his hand to dismiss his butler but the man did not move. At this John Wilmot cocked his brow.
"Is there a problem, Alcock?"
"Well, my Lord, it's just that - "
"Out with it, Alcock."
"My Lord, Ms. Barry has somewhat, fallen out of favor with audiences. She has not performed on the London stage for a season or two."
The Earl turned towards the window to hide his surprise. He had made Barry who she was and now London no longer loved his little project. How dissatisfying.
"My Lord there is one actress who has become quite popular with the public recently. I've seen her in a few plays myself. She's known equally for her talent and her extraordinary beauty."
The Earl rolled his eyes. He found the words "talent" and "beauty" were often bandied about too frequently for his taste. Most of what London found beautiful or talented he found to be boring and trite.
"And I've heard she is quite the hunter when it comes to the opposite sex," Alcock continued, "Well just this week I heard a rumour that she was caught down on her knees with the director of her most recent engagement, and the next morning she was seen leaving the estate of the play's patron."
The Earl turned to face his butler with a sly smirk upon his face.
"Well draw me a bath, set out my best clothes and then go to the theater and make sure my box is ready."
"Yes my Lord," Alcock made a shallow bow and turned before he was called back by his master.
"What does this actress call herself?"
"Katherine Parker, My Lord."
He let the name roll around on his tongue before he sat down and began to write.
A/N: Thank you for reading. Please take a moment to review. Just a note on the historical aspect that will be heavily involved in this story:
This story will adopt an alternate universe look at the life of John Wilmot so unlike history, in our tale he does not die in 1680.
Lady Charlotte Fitzroy was actually the illegitimate daughter of Charles II and thought to be one of his favorite children. She was known to be one of the most beautiful women of the day.
Chiswick House is a museum in London and it is more of a house museum than an art and artifacts museum though it's collection of paintings and busts are quite beautiful. It was giving to the Ministry in the 1950s but was in bad shape and underwent extensive repairs. In 2005 it received another face-lift.
Also, if you'd like to get an idea of what the pendant looks like, you can go to my profile page and click on the link.