The Duchess of Duke Street: For Love or Money

Previously on The Duchess of Duke Street: Louisa and Charlie started an affair that resulted in a daughter who was adopted by one of the grooms on Charlie’s estate. Louisa realized mothering wasn’t really in her genes and promptly returned to the hotel.

Louisa proudly shows a new guest, Sir George, to a room in the hotel. He seems inclined to be critical, but Louisa’s either really good at faking being cheerful with guests, or she’s in a really, really good mood. He asks if there’s a parlor room open, but she tells him they’re all taken, including Charlie’s, because they’re expecting a friend of his.

Downstairs, Starr’s doing an admirable job keeping the evening traffic running smoothly, handing off theatre tickets, ordering carriages, sending guests up to rooms where they’re expected as Fred looks on. Sir George is there as well, impatiently waiting for his wife and complaining about her lateness. While he paces, a young man with a French-esque accent comes in and hands Starr his card. He’s a baron, one of Charlie’s friends, and he’s expected. Just about then, Sir George’s wife, who’s much younger than he is, comes down, apologizing for holding him up. She and the baron eye each other for a moment, which does not escape her husband’s notice. As Starr takes the baron in to see Louisa, Sir George asks his wife who the man was. She claims not to know. Hmmm.

In Louisa’s office, the Baron informs her he’s come over for new clothes, basically. She tells him he’ll be housed in Charlie’s rooms, since he and Charlie are buddies. When asked, the Baron assures her Charlie’s doing well, and he’s the toast of Monte Carlo.

At the mention of Monte Carlo, a hitherto unnoticed guest sitting in an armchair by the fire perks up and starts talking about the place in an absolutely terrible American accent. Louisa introduces the Baron to the other guest, a Senator. The three settle in for a glass of champagne, which is poured from a comically huge bottle.

Later, things are quiet in the front hall as Starr reads the paper and Merriman shuffles through with brandy for the Senator, who’s playing poker in his room and cheating. We soon see he’s playing with the Baron, who claims never to have played before. As he goes to pour the whiskey, the Senator reveals he’s not a senator at all—that’s just Louisa’s little pet nickname for him. He’s really a Mr. Crocker who’s just “a country boy from Cedar Rapids, Iowa” who made a bunch of money canning beef in Chicago. Yummy.

Things are pretty swell for him, aside from the fact that his wife “took religious” and is now anti-alcohol. The Baron obligingly pours Crocker another drink and Crocker asks the Baron what he does for a living. The Baron’s confused by this notion of a “living,” but fortunately we manage to steer clear of “what is a weekend?” territory. He lives off of family estates, like most aristocrats. In fact, he only had one forbear he knows of who really made money, and that was a great-great uncle who, he claims, literally made money. As in, managed to manufacture it. Crocker asks for clarification, and though the Baron demurs for a second, he’s finally persuaded to tell the story.

See, his great-great uncle had a kid on one of his estates who was very talented with mechanical inventions. So, he sent the kid off to study in Vienna, where he proved to be a sort of genius. One of his inventions was, essentially, a Xerox machine for money, described by the Baron as a “sort of box” that could reproduce cash. Crocker thinks that sounds pretty cool, and he’s definitely interested when he hears the box still exists and it’s with the Baron in London. How very convenient. Crocker asks if he can see it, and the Baron agrees to bring it out the following day.

Crocker thanks him profusely and goes to collect his poker winnings, commenting on the singing their next-door neighbor is engaging in. Crocker leaves (after lending the Baron £10, which the Baron promises to return the following day), and once he’s gone the Baron listens to the woman sing for a few more moments, then discovers a hidden door between his room and the singer’s. He peers through the keyhole at her (it’s Sir George’s young wife, of course) as her maid’s undressing her for bed. He pulls away from the keyhole and contemplates the possibilities.

The following day, the Baron’s cooling his heels in the front hall when Starr comes in and informs him there aren’t any cabs to be had. The Baron’s disappointed to hear it, since he has an important appointment with his tailors to go to. The young wife comes down the stairs just then and asks him where he’s going. When she learns they’re heading in the same direction, she offers to share her carriage. Louisa overhears this and bustles right over to say hello and to comment on this budding friendship. The Baron heaps on the charm with the young wife (Lady Adam) before sweeping off with her.

Later, Lady Adam’s back from her shopping trip and being given quite the dressing down by her husband for giving a strange man a lift in her carriage and possibly courting gossip. From his own room, the Baron overhears the altercation. Sir George gets nasty, telling his wife she was behaving like a whore. He swirls out, locking her door from the outside as she pounds childishly on it. The Baron, still listening, smiles to himself.

The following day (presumably), Crocker arrives at the Baron’s room to see this wonderful little machine. The Baron first swears him to secrecy, then produces the machine, which is a lovely little wooden box with a bunch of dials on the front, a slot on one side, and a drawer down at the bottom. When Crocker asks for a demonstration, the Baron pulls out the £10 note Crocker gave him, feeds it, along with some similar paper into the slot on the side, turns a key on the front, and tells Crocker their new note will be all done in about 12 hours. Oh, God, Crocker’s an idiot if he doesn’t smell a scam here.

The Baron puts the box away in a cupboard just as Starr arrives to ask if he has any shoes that need cleaning. The Baron steps out into the hall with him on a pretense, but it’s really just to give Crocker a moment alone with the machine, so he can admire it some more. The Baron pokes his head back in, unnoticed by Crocker, and smiles when he sees the man’s fascination. He comes back in for real and invites Crocker for a drink, but Crocker quickly clears out, begging a previous engagement. As soon as he’s gone, the Baron pulls out ink, a pen, and a glass plate, then retrieves the box and the note within, which he proceeds to start forging by hand. Wow, that’s a lot of effort for one scam.

Starr, meanwhile, is downstairs with Louisa, informing her that the Baron has asked for the key to the connecting door to Lady Adam’s room. Creepy! Louisa, insanely, pulls the key out so the Baron can “have his little bit of fun” since he’s a “nice looking boy” and all. Excuse me? How do you know this is consensual, Louisa? For someone so concerned with your hotel’s reputation, you sure don’t seem all that worried about a possible rape under your roof.

Twelve hours later, Crocker reappears at the Baron’s room, and the Baron pulls the machine out of its cupboard. He turns one of the handles on the front of the machine, and out come the original note and the forgery. He hands them over to Crocker to inspect, and Crocker is suitably impressed. Crocker pockets both notes so he can have them examined at a couple of banks and leaves.

Soon after, Merriman comes in with the Baron’s evening coffee and hands over the key in an envelope. Once he’s gone, the Baron pulls out the key and unlocks the door to Lady Adam’s room, scaring the hell out of the poor woman, who’s sobbing pitifully. He pretends to be surprised to find this is her room and claims he came in by mistake. As he goes to leave, she runs towards him and he invites her into his room to warm herself by the fire and have some coffee and a sandwich. She helps herself to some of the tea sandwiches and admires the room. She wanders around and finds the counterfeit machine in its cupboard. The Baron asks her not to touch it, and she comments that he’s like her husband, who never lets her touch anything. Her husband’s turned into a jealous monster, too, locking her in her room because he’s noticed that men keep looking at her. She also mentions that he was pretty pissed that she gave the Baron a ride the other day. The Baron offers to explain things to her husband, but she discourages him, since her husband doesn’t like foreigners. She starts to cry again, realizing her husband’s kind of a jerk, and the Baron comforts her. He asks her why she married Sir George in the first place and correctly guesses she wanted to escape from something. She admits that’s true—she wanted to escape from home, where her sister was hateful and they had no money. She married George after having known him for all of a week, and now she’s kind of paying the price. There’s a weird moment where she apologizes for having eaten all his sandwiches, even though there’s at least a half-full plate in front of her, but the Baron waves it off and offers her some advice: behave well around her husband and anyone else in public, and then she’ll have a lot more freedom to do as she wishes in private. She asks him to teach her how to “enjoy [herself] more easily in private” and he says they’ll just have to see.

The next day, Crocker dashes through the lobby and right up to the Baron’s room, where he informs the Baron the notes both passed muster at two banks. The Baron helps himself to one of the notes and tears it up so he isn’t seen to profit from this little machine of his. Crocker offers to buy the machine from him, but the Baron refuses, since it’s a family heirloom and all. Crocker accepts that and suggests a game of poker later.

Merriman finds the torn up note and takes it to Louisa, because it’s a bit of an odd thing to go tearing up money. Merriman takes her up to the room and shows her the box, which he recognizes because he’s seen something just like it being used by a grifter on an ocean liner Merriman was working on at the time. Merriman proposes warning Crocker about the scam but Louisa tells him not to interfere. If there’s any interfering to be done, she’ll do it, thank you very much.

Crocker and the Baron play their poker game, and it seems the Baron’s suddenly figured out how to play the game very, very well. Crocker once again brings up the box, which he thinks is a great historical find. Crocker wants to build a science museum in Chicago, and he wants the machine to be the star attraction. He offers the Baron $24,000 for the box.

Crocker, who has handwriting like an eight-year-old, gives Starr a note to take to the bank asking for the cash. Starr, naturally, takes said note to Louisa, who tells Starr to be on his way with the note, and while he’s out, to take a telegram to Charlie.

Later that night, Lady A is relaxing next to the fire in her room. After considering it for a while, she goes and knocks on the Baron’s door. When he opens it, she tells him she’s cold and a bit lonely, so he comes in, kisses her, and says they’ll have to do something about that.

The following morning, Crocker lays out all $24K and the Baron reluctantly hands over the machine. Crocker asks for instructions, and the Baron gets nervy, saying Crocker won’t be using the machine, so what does he need instructions for? Crocker claims he wants to have them posted next to the exhibit, so the Baron hands the instructions over. The Baron shows Crocker out and pockets his ill-gotten gains.

Sir George has evidently released his wife—he’s escorting her down the stairs that evening, all dressed up. The Baron comes in as they’re leaving, and meets up with Louisa, who comments that George and Lady A make a handsome couple. She asks if the Baron’s enjoying his stay and he says he is, but he’ll have to leave the next day. Louisa tells him she’s glad she won’t have to kick him out after all. He chuckles and pretends not to understand the British sense of humor.

Much later, he’s with Lady A again. She’s reclining with her head on his knee by the fire while he strokes her hair. She wishes he’d found her before George did, and he, seemingly sincerely, says he wishes he had too. She’s suddenly struck by an idea and excitedly suggests they run away together. He tells her that simply isn’t possible. I don’t think it’s because he’s not interested in her; it seems more like he knows he can’t go dragging her into this life he’s living, just at the edge of the law all the time. She pouts and asks him to come back for her someday. Without agreeing, he escorts her back to her room, hugs and kisses her, and gets ready for some sexing. Still locked in her little fantasy, she starts talking about how very romantic their story is, and how tragic, and they can tell their grandchildren all about it someday. Sure you can. Keep believing that, you poor girl.

In the middle of the night, she wakes alone in bed and watches, astonished, as the baron quietly steals one of her necklaces from a drawer in her dressing table. He sneaks back into his room, thinking she’s still asleep, and once he’s gone she hurries to the table and confirms that the necklace is, indeed, gone. She looks heartbroken for a moment, then indignant, and she pulls a dress out of the closet and starts to get changed.

She steals downstairs, bypassing Starr in the front hall, and goes right into Louisa’s office. Louisa asks her what has her up so early, and Lady A tells her that the Baron stole her diamonds. Louisa’s shocked for a moment, but then comes to a decision and tells Lady A to come with her for a good old-fashioned confrontation.

But first, they stop by Lady A’s room, where she opens the drawer and finds that the diamonds have been returned. She figures she must have dreamt the Baron’s thieving up, just as George comes in, all smiles and affection, accompanied by Merriman with the breakfast tray. George sits down for breakfast and tells Louisa that his wife did well at her first ball, getting the attention of no less than the king himself.

While the Baron packs, a note is slipped under the door. It’s from Lady A, thanking him.

When he goes to leave, Louisa presents the Baron with a bill for 90 guineas (she quoted Sir George a price of 3 guineas a night at the beginning, so there’s quite a big markup here). The Baron protests the cost, but Louisa says it’s fair, considering he’s no baron at all, but a thief and a grifter wanted by police all over the Continent, according to Charlie’s recently acquired information. Bet that’s the last time Louisa accepts a “friend” on his recommendation. She asks the Baron who he really is, and he drops the act (and his accent) and tells her he was born in Hounslow and went into service, where he soon learned how easily a fool and his money are parted. So, he started to make a living from it. He swears he came to the Bentink looking for a rest, but then he met Crocker and couldn’t resist. Especially since Crocker cheated him at cards. Louisa adds one more “0” to the bill and tells him she’s happy to take the cost in dollars, if it’s more convenient. The Baron obligingly peels off a few bills and hands them over. Before he goes, she asks him why he put the diamonds back. He tells her it’s because the diamonds were actually fakes, and not very good ones, at that. Heh.

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