‭"You are always welcome for dinner at my estate, Mr. Michael."
    "Call me Peter.‭  '‬Mr.‭ ‬Michael‭' ‬has more syllables,‭ ‬and therefore exerts unnecessary extra energy to pronounce.‭”
    "Of course Peter.‭  ‬I wouldn't dream,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬of calling you‭ '‬Peter‭' ‬in an informal manner.‭  ‬Such disrespect it would be.‭"  ‬The Duke of Wellington chuckled.‭  ‬The wrinkles hanging from his long face swished around when he laughed,‭ ‬like party streamers.‭  ‬His entire body was long and skinny,‭ ‬and his smile extended only a few inches in each direction on his narrow face.‭  ‬What the smile lacked in length,‭ ‬it made up for in vitality.‭  ‬The Duke was noted for smiling at all times.
‭    "Formalities are a joke," Peter said.  "A joke on the upper class.  I can assure you, the peasants find it a very funny joke."
    "I never thought of it that way.‭  ‬It seems that every time you say something,‭ ‬Peter,‭ ‬it is different from the common perception.‭"
    "That's why you invited me to dinner.‭  ‬Because I amuse you.‭"
    "Exactly right.‭"
    "It seems that we are dining together tonight for the same reason.‭"  ‬Peter took a sip of wine.‭  ‬A few trickles caught in his beard.‭  ‬He didn't wipe them off.
‭    “I amuse you, Peter?”
    “Oh,‭ ‬Mr.‭ ‬Michael,‭ ‬your lack of niceties is so refreshing.‭”
    “Isn’t that the glamour of sin‭?”
    “Sin can be refreshing.‭”
    “If one thinks that sin will be refreshing,‭ ‬sin will be refreshing,‭” ‬said Peter.
‭    “Oh I forgot, Peter.  I’m inviting my friend to dinner tonight as well.  Cardinal Blackwell.  I would much appreciate if you could inform him as to your views of religion.”
    “Will he listen‭?”
    “Of course,‭ ‬Peter my boy.‭”
    “Then it wouldn’t be nearly as amusing.‭”
    “Come come,‭ ‬Peter.‭  ‬We all want to know how you feel about hell and Jesus and everything.‭  ‬You gave me a summary the other night,‭ ‬and it was ever so interesting.‭”
‭    "He could save the trouble and simply come to one of my shows.  Everyone there seems to ask me about religion rather than magic."
‭    "Isn't that the goal of a magician?" asked the Duke.  "Don't you intend to distract the audience?"
‭    "Not I.  I intend the opposite."
‭    "You intend to help your audience focus?
‭    "Exactly."  Peter took another drink and noticed the Cardinal standing at the doorway.  The Duke didn't notice.
‭    "Now now," said the Duke, "you told me that you don't believe Jesus was a magician."
‭    "He wasn't.  It's just not his style."
‭    Cardinal Blackwell burst into the room.  "Are you saying that the Bible is wrong?  That Jesus did not perform miracles?"
‭    "I'm saying that Jesus was not immune to the laws of nature."
‭    "That makes no sense.  Jesus was divine.  He had the power to do anything."
‭    "Then why did he create the laws of nature?"
‭    "For us imperfect mortals," said the Cardinal.
‭    "Now, now," said the Duke.  "Don't start an argument in my house.  I simply will not have it."
‭    "Tis only friendly discussion," said Peter.  "Was Jesus an imperfect mortal, Cardinal?"
‭    "He was Word made Flesh, but he was perfect.  He did not sin."
‭    "Why was he flesh?"
‭    "To live in our shoes, so to speak."
‭    "So why was he perfect?"
‭    "I suppose perhaps he wasn't perfect, but he never erred.  He simply lived a perfect life and made perfect decisions."
‭    "To show us that we could?"
‭    "We cannot be perfect.  We are born with original sin."
‭    "Says who?  Didn't Jesus intend to show us that it's possible to live perfectly?  What else were his intentions?"
‭    "To die for our sins."
‭    "You mean to live for our sins.  To live, and live perfectly, to show us that we can escape sin."
‭    "I never thought of it like that, Mr. Michaels."
‭    "He always does that to me," said the Duke.  "Now sit down.  The wine is grand."
‭    "So, Mr. Michaels, I have been hearing some very unhappy rumors about you.  These wouldn't happen to be true, would they?"
‭    "Call me Peter.  What are the rumors?"
‭    "Some say that you spoke ill of our King.  The discussion involved Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte of France."
‭    "It is true.  I did not speak ill of the King, however.  I simply refuse to bow to him."
‭    "Why?  That is treason."
‭    "How did the King earn his title?"
‭    "He inherited it from his father, of course."
‭    "I believe you misheard me.  I asked how he earned his title."
‭    "You don't believe in hereditary nobility?"  The Cardinal glanced uncomfortable at the Duke.
‭    "Napoleon Bonaparte earned his power.  He rose through the ranks of the French military. Our monarch did not."
‭    "These are dangerous ideas, Mr. Michaels.  Why are you trumpeting them?  You have nothing to gain."
‭    "But they are true."

The End

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