And that is what he was doing when the Duke of Montmouth happened to come across his path.
“Paisley, I didn’t know you had returned to the city.” Montmouth greeted him with a hearty pound on the back.
“Aye, ‘tis my misfortune that beckons me,” Baldwyn answered, grimacing under the duke’s painful salutation.
“The dowager?” his friend asked, arching a single eyebrow.
Baldwyn nodded. “She insists I marry.”
“Sounds familiar,” Montmouth said. He shook his head and chuckled knowingly. “So tell me, has she yet selected the perfect target for your matrimonial bliss?”
“Worse.” Baldwyn’s stomach turned even as he said it. Certainly Montmouth would note the displeasure undoubtedly etched across his face. “She has already spoken to the girl’s father on my behalf.” Both of Montmouth’s eyebrows shot up in blatant shock. “Yes, indeed. It is true. Without my knowledge or consent, I have become betrothed to a girl I hardly know and haven’t seen in years. In fact, the last time I had the pleasure, she hurled mud balls at me.”
Montmouth’s delight broke out in a loud, bellowing laugh.
Baldwyn was not entertained in the least. He leveled his gaze on his host.
“You’ll pardon me, Montmouth, if I do not share your amusement.”
The larger man tried in vain to stifle his mirth. “Ahh! I’m sorry, Paisley.” He burst into another round of raucous laughter. When it wound down, he shook his head and wiped at his eyes with the back of his hand. “I am sorry, Paisley. I do hope she has outgrown that phase by now. The duchess would be terribly put out if the girl began flinging mud in her ballroom.”
Baldwyn glanced around the room. The very thought of the wretched child taking aim at him this evening made his throat go dry. “Have you anything stronger than champagne in the house?”
Montmouth pounded him on the back again. “Yes, of course. I can see that you need it, and if it wasn’t already necessary, it shall be very soon!” He chuckled again as he stepped to the liquor cabinet, drew a bottle of good English whiskey from its place there, and filled two glasses.
He handed one to Baldwyn and raised his own in toast. “To your engagement, Paisley. May she be everything you need.” Montmouth gulped the contents of his glass and laughed once more. Baldwyn eyed the amber liquid in his glass before tossing down his whiskey as well, then lifted his glass to request another.
His host shook his head with a smirk and took the glass from Baldwyn’s grasp. “I think not, Paisley. After all, a gentleman should be altogether alert when meeting his future wife.”
“I’d rather be foxed when the assault ensues.” Baldwyn scanned the room once more looking for some worthy place to hide.
As if reading his intent, Montmouth said, “There’s no good place to hide in here, Paisley. Your grandmother will find you if she has to bring in the dogs.” He stepped towards the door. “I have to see to my newly-arriving guests. Feel at liberty to search out a more worthy concealment…but do stay out of my whiskey.” With that the Duke of Montmouth disappeared through the doorway, leaving Baldwyn to wallow in his apprehension.
He didn’t linger. Eventually, his grandmother would come looking for him. It would be far wiser to keep moving, throw the bloodhounds off his scent. As he entered the corridor the music from the ballroom drifted into the hall. Baldwyn cringed. He would have to dance with her. She would probably trip him.