The Fortunes of Lal Faversham
Click on image to enlarge.
by Rafael Sabatini, Jesse F. Knight
Category: Historical Fiction/Romance
Description: The King of England is Dead! Murdered by a treasonous Parliament, beheaded and buried in a desecrated grave. His son, the rightful King Charles II, is a fugitive, living in exile in Scotland surrounded only by his closest friends and retainers. One of these is Lionel Faversham, loyal Cavalier and swordsman, handsome and elegant, the toast of what passes for society among the dour Scottish Presbyterians and the court-in-exile. His adventures, escapades, and his greatest romance make up the six stories of this book. Out of print for more than eighty years, and never before collected in book form, the "Lal" stories form the second of our new eBook editions of "unknown" Sabatini stories. Edited, and with an introduction by, Sabatini scholar Jesse F. Knight. Classic adventures, of the kind that only Sabatini could write. Be with Lal on his joyful return, as a desperate nation begs its King to come home and reign; follow Lal as he defeats his enemies and exposes the treacheries that endanger the King; as he wins, and then loses, and now finally comes to happiness with the great love of his life.
eBook Publisher: Hidden Knowledge, 2005
eBookwise Release Date: August 2005
4 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [139 KB]
Reading time: 92-130 min.
Where is the man who deems himself loyal that can ponder with heart unmoved upon the indignities whereunto my liege and master, the Second Charles, was subjected during that year of his mock-kingship in Scotland? A king in name, surrounded by the outward pomp of kings, but beset by spies, and less a king than the meanest knave of the Kirk Commission that ruled and made a vassal of him.
How it befel that when in their purgation--as they called it--they banished from his court the noble Hamilton, Lauderdale, Callender and all those others whom they dubbed malignants, they should have left me beside him doth pass my understanding. For verily--to use another of their words--besides the malignancy, which quality those irreverent dogs assigned to the loyal party to which I had the honor to belong, they might in me have noted a malignancy of another sort--and one which I was never at any pains to dissemble--a deep-seated malignancy towards themselves and all that concerned their infernal covenant.
Did the King play at cards on a Sabbath he was visited by a parcel of sour-faced ministers, who preached to him through their noses touching the observance of the Lord's Day, while did they but hear of his having chucked a maid under the chin, they thundered denunciations upon his reprobate head and poured forth threats of exchanging his throne for a cutty stool.
It is, therefore, matter for scant wonder that when on that September evening the Marquess of Argyle came to Perth Castle, his ill-favored countenance monstrous sober and dejected, to acquaint His Majesty with the Scotch disaster at Dunbar, instead of the outburst of grief which he had looked for:
"Oddsfish!" quoth Charles, with a hard laugh. "I protest I am glad of it!"
"Sire!" cried in reproach the dismayed M'Callum More.
"Well, what now?" the King demanded, coldly, while his fiery black eyes flashed such a glance upon the covenanting marquess that he fell abashed and recalled, mayhap, some lingering memory of the respect he owed his King.
For a moment Charles stood surveying him, then turning on his heel and signing to Buckingham to attend him, he passed into the adjoining chamber, where, I afterwards learned, he fell on his knees, and, for all that Cromwell was his father's murderer and his own implacable enemy, he rendered thanks unto God for the Scotch destruction.
A dead silence followed the King's departure. My Lord Wilmot exchanged smiles with Sir Edward Walker; Cleveland and Wentworth looked at each other significantly, whilst the Marquis de Villaneuffe, who stood beside me, put his lips to my ear to whisper:
"Observe milord Argyle's countenance."
And truly the scowl the marquess wore was an ominous sight. Sir John Gillespie approached him at that moment and they spoke together in low tones. Presently they were joined by Mr. Wood, of the Kirk Commission, who had also heard His Majesty's rash words, and as I gazed upon the three in conversation a feeling that was near akin to dread took possession of me--'twas, perchance, a premonition of that which was to follow, of a harvest whose seeds I make no doubt were sown in that consultation.
A gayly dressed young man approached me, and hailed me in words more attuned to my tastes and calling.
"Will you throw a main at hazard, Mr. Faversham?"
I looked into the lad's face--a smooth, girlish face it was, set in a frame of golden love locks--and for a second I hesitated. He was not rich, and in two nights he had lost a thousand crowns to me. The thing was, methought, well nigh dishonest, but he spoke of the révanche I owed him, and to that I could but answer that I was his servant.
And so we got to table, and for an hour my Lord Goring and I played at hazard, fortune favoring me, who scorned her for once. 'Tis ever thus with fortune--a shameless jade that hath most smiles for him who flouts her.
At the end of an hour Lord Goring proposed that we should change the game to passage, and this we did, yet the blind goddess was no kinder to him.
One by one, those who stood about took their departure, and presently we had the chamber to ourselves, save for Sir John Gillespie, who came to stand behind Lord Goring's chair and watch the play.
The poor boy sat with a white face, his lips compressed and his eyes a-burning, striving to win as men strive against death, and damning every throw. As midnight struck he at last pushed back his chair.
"I'll play no more to-night, an' it please you, Mr. Faversham," said he in a voice which his breeding vainly strove to render indifferent.
"Mr. Faversham is truly a formidable opponent," quoth Sir John. "He hath learned much in France."
There was that in the voice of this covenanting creature and kinsman of Argyle that I misliked, yet left unheeded. I rose, and expressing polite regrets at his lordship's persistent ill luck, I pocketed a hundred crowns. Five times that paltry sum it might have been had I so willed it.
I had hoped that Gillespie's remark touching the much that I had learned in France might have proved an admonition to my Lord Goring, and led him to play thereafter with some opponent whose skill was on a level with his own. Not so, however; the boy was blind to the fact that I was his master, and attributed his losses to luck alone.
In this fashion things continued for a week, until in the end naught was talked of but Lord Goring's losses and Lionel Faversham's winnings. Men gathered round the table to watch our play--Sir John Gillespie ever in the foremost rank--and my luck grew at length to be a proverb.
One day, at last, His Majesty drew me aside with a smile that had some thing serious in it.
"Lal," quoth he, laying his hand upon my shoulder, "had I half your luck I should be King of England now. But if you love me, Lal, you'll play no more--leastways, not at the castle. You know my position; you know the crassness of this Kirk Commission. We shall have them denouncing my court from the pulpit as a gaming house, and assigning to that cause the loss of the battle of Dunbar."
"My liege," I exclaimed, "forgive me--"
"Nay, nay," he laughed. "'Tis I who crave forgiveness for inconveniencing you with such a request--but there is the Kirk Commission." And His Majesty added something under his breath; perchance, it was a prayer.
I was glad of so stout an excuse when next Lord Goring approached me with his daily invitation. But Sir John Gillespie was at hand to propose that, if we were anxious to pursue our amusement, there was the hostelry of the Rose in the High Street.
I might have asked this Presbyterian hound what interest of his it was that made him urge us to follow a pursuit at war with his religion. But my position, as you may see, was grown somewhat delicate, and it would ill become me to evince reluctance to play with my Lord Goring.