In my Victorian-era romance Duke of a Gilded Age, Wesley is obliged to hire a valet to tend to his new wardrobe and help him navigate the potential minefield of moving in Society as an American duke. Bristling at the idea he can no longer dress himself nor enjoy the complete freedom he’d had in Brooklyn, Wesley is determined to hire someone who will stay out of his way. When valet candidate Cavendish appears, he represents himself as a drunk who enjoys baseball–thereby fulfilling all of Wesley’s requirements. Although Cavendish wins the job, he quickly proves himself to be much more than he seems…starting with a rather extraordinary collection of walking sticks.
As he reached for a freshly baked fruit muffin, Wesley noticed yet another one of Cavendish’s walking sticks propped up in the corner. This one was slender, fashioned of a highly polished dark wood, and sported a deep blue cut‐glass knob handle. I wonder how many walking sticks the man has?
Since there was much to be done, Cavendish didn’t allow his master to linger overlong at breakfast. After Wesley bathed, the valet gave him a shave and manicure. Wesley examined his buffed fingernails, impressed.
“I’m not uncouth anymore,” he said.
“I daresay you never were, Your Grace.”
“Tell me, Cavendish, how many walking sticks do you own?”
“I’ve never actually counted them, Your Grace, but I am quite the collector.”
Wesley read Jules Verne until his mother was ready to go, while Cavendish sat nearby reading a pocket‐sized copy of L’Art de la Guerre. Wesley gave the book’s title a curious glance.
“Is that French?” he asked.
“Yes. It’s The Art of War by Chinese military general Sun Tzu.”
“He speaks French?”
“No, he lived thousands of years ago. This is a translation from Chinese.”
“Why don’t you read it in English?”
“Sadly, the English translation does not yet exist.”
Wesley returned to his book, puzzled. The man is extremely learned for a valet. Could there be more to Cavendish than meets the eye?
An an author, my imagination is seized by the idea of Victorian-era walking sticks serving more than one purpose. Cavendish has all manner of decorative walking sticks, but he also has a very cool walking stick with a compass, a tippling stick containing a compartment in which alcohol can be stored, and a cane with a blade for self-defense. Although admittedly low-tech, it’s rather James Bond-ish, to my way of thinking. Here are a few resources, if you’re inclined to do further research or purchase one for yourself. Some of these walking sticks are truly amazing works of art. Like Cavendish, I suspect one could build an impressive and fun collection.
~ S.G. Rogers