Updated: Aug 20, 2021
And today, we have a little more Paul and a little more Lee and a little more stagecraft. This happens before the events of Duke of Misfortune, so they're quite young, here. I hope you all like it! You can read it without having read the novel, as is the case with all of my short stories.
“Go rouse up some money instead of bleeding it,” said Slim.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Mr. Fell, I do not want you near any material that cost me money. You are terrible at constructing. I find it far better to set you a duty which I know you will be able to complete.”
With an annoyed little huff that said he knew exactly what Slim was on about, Paul set down the small bucket of papier mâché, glancing at Lee for a confirmation that he should do so.
His friend — the turncoat — nodded, his hands pausing as he sanded a cheap plank of wood.
“If you go out wearing that new greatcoat, I am sure we will get any number of patrons,” Lee said, by way of being conciliatory.
It was easy for him to be so magnanimous; he was a budding actor. Paul bit back the reply he wanted to make, which was something like, “If it is so easy to stand about and make a spectacle of one’s self, then you do it” — because that was, in the end, what Lee did do.
Seemed different, less manipulative, if one was doing it within the confines of a role.
It was another thing altogether for one to be able to attract others under one’s own power, without even trying… without the artifice of another man’s imagination to give you a character. One year away from the age of twenty, perhaps Paul should have been used to it, now. He was not a child.
But the gift always felt odd, leaving him not unlike a boy who had grown very tall over the course of one summer and knew not what to do about it.
His brother could galvanize people, too. Perhaps it was a family charm. A Hareden gift of the lineage.
“I am proud of the coat,” said Paul. It was currently flung over the back of a chair downstage, a safe distance from anything that could ruin it. He ought not to have worn it, but they did not realize they would end up here.
The change in plans happened, sometimes, leaving him very overdressed. Too overdressed to be mucking about in the company of actors and managers and people securing props or painting scrims. If Paul knew they were headed anywhere close to the back of a stage, he tried to dress down for it. Still, everyone knew Mr. Fell was a bit of a dandy.
He thought, I am far more useful than a dandy, though I may look like one, and definitely more useful than a fop. His preoccupation with being fashionable did not extend to making him single-minded or affected. He had plenty of other interests. He was even interested in stagecraft, although he was not good at it.
He was particularly disgruntled because he was not good at it.
When he chose to do something, usually he was above proficient. This was a rare experience and one he did not appreciate. He glowered at Lee, who would not retaliate against any show of bitter spirits. But Paul was less certain that he should pull any kind of face at Slim.
Slim was enigmatic. There was much he did not make known about himself. Still, he gave off the air that he could, if he so chose, gut one like a fish.
“Then go use it for good,” said Lee, grinning. “Go outside and help us fill the house.”
Sighing, Paul nodded, sauntered downstage, and prepared to use the new, bottle-green greatcoat to his best advantage.
One day, he’d show them he very well could be trusted to make something.