Percy

f you look at British portraits from the eighteenth century you’ll notice two things: the British have always liked their canine companions, and the dogs in the paintings fall into two categories. There are ladies’ lapdogs—tiny spaniels (Mignon,) pugs (Her Grace,) and white fluffy things (Bon Bon)—and gentlemen’s hunting dogs. Simply being able to hunt was an aristocratic privilege—most land was privately held and closely guarded against poachers—so even if the gentleman in question was dressed in his studied rustic attire, the viewer knew this guy had money because he was surrounded by hunting dogs.

Maximus Batten, the Duke of Wakefield and the hero of Duke of Midnight has both money and dogs—three in fact. Belle and Starling are greyhounds and Percy is a rather silly spaniel. Here’s a short excerpt featuring Percy:

 

Maximus woke just before dawn with a gasp, the image of his mother’s white face burned into the darkness behind his eyelids, the emeralds being ripped from her lifeless neck. The stink of gin seemed to linger in the air, but knew that was merely a phantom from the dream.

Percy nosed his hand as he lay in the ancient Wakefield ducal bed. Above him, dark green drapes surrounded a gilded coronet carved into the canopy. Had any of his ancestors been plagued by dreams and doubts? Judging by the proud faces lining his gallery, he thought not. Each of those men had attained their title by the peaceful death of their father or grandfather. Not by violent murder unavenged.

He deserved his nightmares.

Percy licked his fingers with disgusting dog sympathy, and Maximus sighed and rose. The spaniel backed a step and sat, wagging his tail enthusiastically as he dressed. Percy, like the other dogs, was supposed to spend the night in the stables, but despite the fact that he wasn’t nearly as clever as Belle or Starling, he somehow usually found a way past innumerable footmen and Craven into Maximus’s bedroom at night. It was rather a mystery how he managed it. Perhaps providence had granted luck where it hadn’t graced intelligence.