No one who would see him now could ever guess precisely how primitive Sir Simon Keith’s beginnings were. Thanks to Providence, his teeth were mercifully straight, his black hair clipped a la Brutus, his shirt points starched high, his cravat snow white, his jacket tailored to perfection—the list could go on and on with a plethora of commas. He was a veritable nonpareil, tall, dark and almost too handsome.
It was only when one noticed his long fingers, their nails irrevocably grease-stained from years of manual labor in its truest sense that one realized that Sir Simon had not been to the manor born. He’d been very good with his hands (whether with women or machinery or removing the odd watch from an unsuspecting cove’s pocket) since he was a boy on the streets of Edinburgh. When he joined the army at the age of seventeen, under some duress if it be known—there was a price on his head and the local constable was keen on his trail—the military seemed preferable to prison. His superiors had soon discovered whatever you put in front of Private Keith he could fix. When he put his mind to something, he could turn a bit of string and a scrap of metal into anything one would like. His mid-battle adjustments to a crate of useless but much-needed rifles earned him a rapid promotion, until he was taken out of the field altogether and put to work at a drafting board in the War Office. One thing led to another, and now Sir Simon owned his own foundry and a fistful of patents.
With peacetime cutting into his profits, he’s seen the way to convert his materiel to less deadly accoutrements and was now deep into the promulgation of a railway system to stretch from one end of Britain to the other, using his own engines, of course. He had been knighted for his service to the crown in squelching that fiend Napoleon, was unbearably rich and only thirty. Who knew what his future held?
It should hold a wife. Some nice, proper well-bred girl who would help him advance in society. She needn’t be rich—he had more money than he knew what to do with—but she’d have to have a pedigree to make up for the one he lacked. Simon supposed a girl like that would be rather dull in bed, but that was all right. He had an appointment this very afternoon to meet with Lord Percival Ferguson, a fellow Scot. The gentleman was a bit eccentric—the earl preferred to wear his kilt even in Town—but Simon didn’t mind. He’d heard old Percy was hard up and planned to sell his Jane Street house. Simon could set up a mistress there to escape from his boring future wife.
If Simon purchased a property on that sought-after street, he really would consider himself ‘arrived.’ Imagine, a boy from the Edinburgh slums keeping a high-class London courtesan. What would Lucy say?
Ah. Poor Lucy. His lost love. Dead and gone for years. Whilst he was out and about fighting and inventing for King and Country, she toiled like a slave for her wretched aunt. He’d come back for her too late. The aunt had chased him out of her hat shop with a fistful of hatpins and he’d lost himself in a pint or two for longer than he cared to remember.
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