When the Duke Returns(119)

By: Eloisa James





“It hasn’t been a terrible night,” Isidore offered sleepily. “I think we had at least three hours.”



“Lovely,” he said, trying to sound grumpier than he felt.



“Dante,” the nurse said cheerfully, handing him over. “AndPietro, but he’s still half asleep and won’t mind waiting for a moment or two.”



Simeon walked back into his bedchamber, his arms full of the reasons why he had given up an attempt to remain calm. He kissed little Dante (the smallest of the three) on the nose, and handed him over.



Then he sat down holding Pietro, who opened his eyes and blinked about a little before deciding to try out his newest, most precious accomplishment.



A smile.



That was the problem with living in a clean tent on the banks of the Ganges River. There were no gummy smiles, no warm little bundles, no beautiful, impetuous wives, no responsibilities…



No life. Real life.



In other words, no love.



Historical Note



The foremost subject of this historical note must be the intrepid traveler who served as the loose model for my hero. James Bruce, a laird from Scotland, was an extraordinary Georgian gentleman who travelled throughout many remote African states, returning home to publish multiple volumes of his Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile. Among his other accomplishments, he discovered the source of the Blue Nile in Ethiopia (not to be mistaken with the White Nile, to its west). While I made up many of my duke’s experiences, Bruce did indeed meet the Bahrnagash, whom he describes as a small man in short trousers with bare feet and a knife stuck in his girdle, and he attended the festive marriage of Princess Ayabdar, a ceremony notable for including animal sacrifice and communal sex. (Bruce had trouble believing his own eyes; he insists that the ladies were “women of family and character.”) My duke wins Bahrnagash’s respect through a race; Bruce appears to have won his approval due to his expert handling of a black steed. If you are interested in reading more about a man who is definitely an early prototype for Jack Colton, the hero ofRomancing the Stone , I recommend J.M. Reid’s life of Bruce (Traveller Extraordinary: The Life of James Bruce of Kinnaird) along with Bruce’s ownTravels , which is still available through print-on-demand.



One significant difference between Bruce and the Duke of Cosway is Simeon’s faltering adherence to the Middle Way. I make no claim whatsoever to historical verisimilitude in Simeon’s recollections of Valamksepa’s teachings. The term “Middle Way” is drawn from Rudyard Kipling’s novelKim , in which the titular hero meets a Tibetan holy man who seeks freedom from the “Wheel of Things.” Had Simeon been lucky enough to meet the guru ofKim, he might well have been better prepared to encounter the mire that awaited him in Revels House. But I drew Valamksepa’s wisdom from the flotsam and jetsam of bowdlerized Eastern teaching, and they have no basis in reality.



I’ll finish this note with just a word about water closets, since their development (and failure) lie at the heart of Simeon’s greatest challenge. The 1770’s were an exciting time in the history of modern toilets; between 1775 and 1785, inventors created the S-trap (preventing the escape of foul air), the “plunger closet,” and the float valve system. None of these new inventions were yet in use in country houses, but water closets were definitely gaining dominance over outdoor privies and old-fashioned close-stools.

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