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  2. Defiance

    A Matter Of Importance Tuesday Afternoon - 1pm

    Now that the King had calmed some from the shock that there was some active attempt to harm the Queen, rather than just a murder occurring near to a meeting place where he was expected, he could interrogate the Duke for more information. Which he readily did. "Who told you? Explain. Everything. Now." Then to add a bit of nicety to it, he added, "George." "It was not from my circle of spies, nor anyone associated with me," he said, to illustrate the surprise of it all. The truth was that this all could be very dangerous, and he was no fool. "Mistress Wellesley came to me just now to say that she had been approached to poison the Queen to induce a miscarriage." "One of the Queen's Maids of Honour?!?" Buckingham pulled his head back some as the voice escalated to near roar-like levels. Truly, the lady in question should have acted far more quickly...and more in the immediacy of the Queen's own household, but there was nothing he could do about that now. He could not lie for a woman who was no responsibility of his own, and he was not in the habit of lying to Charles, to the lengths of saying many things the King did not wish to hear or think he had to suffer to avoid lying. That is what he told himself, at the least. The truth was that he had only very little ability to do anything for Mistress Wellesley in such a situation, and she was far from his concern. If he did not act as befit the pseudo-trust he was given by the King, he knew he would fail to have even that in the future. There was a reason the King called on him during such circumstances. He was not about to jeopardize that for Davina Wellesley. "She was approached last week by some old woman who spoke of the true Catholic church and of wanting to recruit the lady into some nefariousness for being a part of the Queen's household. The lady said she refused, but i'faith it sounded to me in a very strange way, but then brought to me a bottle of presumed poison which showed up on Sunday." "How could she have waited so long to alert anyone?!?" the King said in a voice far more dangerous than an emotional roar. There was little Buckingham could say to that. The first meeting at the chapel should have been reported. When an actual phial had shown up, it most definitively should have been reported. He had no news or information to mitigate the circumstances. The facts of the situation simply were not good.
  3. Yesterday
  4. Defiance

    A Matter Of Importance Tuesday Afternoon - 1pm

    Buckingham, in his haste to exit, had entirely forgotten about Davina's maid and allowing her up to be with her mistress, so poor Davina was left to wonder about her whereabouts. Shortly after the servant provided her with a Rhenish wine, rather than that of any other region in honor of the Queen, was not her maid but a young man with vibrant red hair. If she had even encountered Kingston's ward before, she might know who Tom was in relation to the Duke, but if she had never had occasion it would be rather ambiguous who the seventeen year old was, because he did not particularly explain! "Good afternoon, Mistress Wellesley. His Grace asked if I would keep you company whilst he is about his business." He offered her a bow that very closely resembled Francis' if she was a student of such things. "Thomas Sprague," he said, by way of introduction. Clearly, he was not a servant, because a servant would never have said 'His Grace asked.' If she heard the Duke yell his name earlier, she might have surmised he lived in the house. In reality, though, the Duke had not truly 'asked' either. He had instructed. At the very least, a lady of court like Davina could guess that a man like Buckingham would have many personages of various rank or importance in his household.
  5. Defiance

    An Unexpected Visitor | Tuesday 8 pm

    Ranelagh had seen many a lady in breeches. In fact, he had been seeing women in breeches his entire life; namely, his lady mother. One did not stealthfully sneak about dressed as a woman! It did not take very long for him to realize what was going on. The taking off of the periwig certainly helped. His reaction was certainly not scandalized or bothered in the very least. Cross-dressing was just another day in the life of a libertine. There had been a solid period where mock, cross-dressed court weddings were all the rage in the Merry circles. "Well done, my lady," he said. "I am sorry to bother you at your clearly important business," he added with a cheeky grin. For a libertine woman, it actually was important business! He stepped inside, "My intrusion need not be a lengthy one. I do not wish to disturb an adventure or rendezvous..." One did not cross-dress to visit one's proper lady friends for a cake and night cap!
  6. Caroline had all she could do to keep a straight face when the woman surmised her husband had died trying to save a valued horse. "Hardly. I will be frank and say it was not a happy marriage," and then she decided to leave it at that. As for the inquiry about the kind of party His Royal Majesty had attended, she decided to answer without divulging much in the way of detail, safer that way. "What sort? The sort His Majesty enjoys. He is a lively man who enjoys a good time as do I. In fact he insisted that my next party he be invited again, which I will be most delighted to obey," she smiled. Mentioning the fine arts, Lady Habersham gave her a golden opportunity with her next question. "Ah yes, I do. As a young girl, my mother introduced me to the cello and ever since I have continued to play it. Needless to say, all that time and effort have paid off. I have played for the Queen, played at a debut opera with the symphony at the personal invitation of the composer, and accompanied the well known singer, Sophia de Cerda, Lady Toledo, and wife of the Spanish ambassador on a few of her public performances. For all I know you may have been present at any of those occasions?"
  7. Charles Audley

    You Asked For It | Tuesday April 12, late at night

    Charles cringed again, slipping easily back into his servile persona in response to the anger in the voice of Venus. He meekly bowed his head to the floor and shivered, saying nothing. In truth, the pretence was growing difficult to maintain. He would never claim to enjoy pain, but there was something... clean about it. It stripped away your defences, removed distance, and left you focused and utterly present in the moment, and the anticipation of that wonderful cleansing burn suffused him. His shiver had had nothing to do with fear. And that is to say nothing of the delicious contrast... He almost smiled. Perhaps I do enjoy it, come to think of it. He drew a deep breath, and lost it immediately in a shuddering gasp that had nothing to do with pain as Venus started his punishment. "One, Domina," he managed in a hoarse whisper, counting strikes as he had been commanded.
  8. Cordelia Lucas

    Matchmaker, Matchmaker | Wednesday morning

    She had dressed with an eye for this other 'Client' meaning that what she had worn to talk with the Duchess was a step up from what she was wearing to meet a Countess. Nevertheless her gown was subtile and cut well. Changeable taffeta in the color of sage green and pear with the addition of scattered green glass beads (salvaged from another gown) and gold beads in a random swirling pattern decorated the bodice and some added sparkle down either side of her skirt opening. Her underskirt was a pale gold silk edged around the bottom with a narrow band of black velvet trim. Her hair worn up and off her neck was coiled prettily and some ribbon weaved in amongst the curls. Pearls and neck and ears. No lace edged her elbow length sleeves. Her carriage arrived and she was helped down but waited until her driver had rapped the door with the butt of his crop and then made her way up. "Lady Lucas to see Lady Basildon." He would announce. She present a calm and serene countenance and would follow whoever was tasked to bring her to Lady Basildon.
  9. Last week
  10. John Palliser

    Lead Me Not Into Temptation | Tuesday April 12, 2 pm

    He made no outward sign as she once again pressed against his arm but then could not help the half smile that came and went as he looked down at her. "I have yet to discover all those things that make up yourself Madam - but I know already the sense of Theatre plays an important part." "Then I shall speak no more about it. But save to say that you needs must keep a diligent eye on servants - even those you say are Loyal - and you must not allow for unannounced visits to have too great a gap. Tis best to catch any out doing that." "You must not tease tis most unfair. For I must take care to not offend a Lady's sensibilities so if I were to reply in kind, well, I might well be taken down a peg or two." That he WAS teasing she would know by the lack of serious tone to his words. He nodded his head at her acceptance. "Then I shall come for you at half past seven. If I might suggest that you leave off the 'Court Dress' for something more designed for country pursuits." "But I have no doubt that what ere you wear you will look splendid." "I think your carriage. That way I will also know where you live and it will be easily found." "I have a fondness for walking but now I think some less strenuous activity so that I do not tire you out." He would then steer her in the direction of wherever her carriage was.
  11. The tears continued to flow as the kind lord offered his help. This time they were tears of gratitude. "Thank ye sir. Thank ye. He began to rise to his feet as his older bones were not as nimble as they once were. "I can contact them all. Cook is still here. It is just the two of us for now." George would be able to tell that the grass looked rather long and the shubbery less well attended. "Your glove milord? I'll fetch it for ye at once," he offered dutifully at first. It began to dawn on Bernard that, perhaps, was looking for an excuse to return to the house. He led the way back through the door. If one were to look, Edith was sitting on the bench in the garden, looking fondly at the shoots and blooms that were on display. Her back was to the door.
  12. "Ah, then I shall address you as Baroness," Lady Habersham noted aloud when she heard Caroline's husband's rank. "A barn fire, how sad. Fighting to save his prize stallion no doubt." "His Majesty attended your party?" Despite her rigid look, she tilted her head in acknowledgement. "That is quite the honor. What sort of party was it?" she inquired. The King seemed bored with the sort of parties most ladies hosted, other than the libertine kind. "I am a devotee of any natural beauty Baroness," Edith remarked. "Gardens, art, music. Their sole purpose is to bring brightness into a world that has far too much darkness. Do you have a musical gift?" she queried.
  13. Blackguard

    Partners In Rhyme | Tuesday 10 pm

    Dorset had a pair of breeches and stockings showing under the robe, should she care to observe it; but, he seemed to be without a shirt under his robe. Some blond chest hair could be seen as he lounged. "Quite right. We do not twirl," he laughed. "We pivot." He judged her walk as she approached. "Women, the graceful ones anyway, walk like a feline whereas we men walk like canines," he observed. "Except those fops that enjoy their mince. I suppose a ladies could better emulate a fop." He smiled at her bow. "It needs work. More bend at the waist, and the head has to tilt at just the right angle," he counseled. "Eyes upward as you do, to see if a lady extends her hand." "What shall we call you sir? If I should write further correspondence to the ... gentleman ... I see before me, what name might I use?" He sat up as he thought to her liquid refreshment. "Real men drink whiskey," he noted as he pointed to a full bottle on a nearby table. "Men help themselves to liquor."
  14. Manfried gave pause, appreciating the delicacy of the question. "Perhaps that, you discovered that there was no malice intended towards either England nor Savoy, nor between them. But rather the token of a gift might be a forbode of greater union." The savoyard's eyebrow rose, wondering if the Regent would be upset greatly! The thought was enough to make him smile.
  15. George Hardwick III

    May I have your Blessing? | Edith & George - 12th after Lunch

    It was shocking news while it did explain why Edith had sacked her maid (all of them apparently!), the problem was far greater than just helping her to find replacements. A chill swept George's brow, but he kept composure for poor Bernard’s sake. He would find the man to vent his fury upon in good time. Putting hand upon the loyal servants shoulder he reassured, "You have done the right thing by telling me, Lady Edith needs someone to look out for her, I shall take the due steps necessary to see her finances restored and this Desmond Hoare put behind bars." George drew a breath as his mind whirred, and this time he was he who looked towards the house windows. “Bernard, if you have means can you contact the old staff and have them report to me. I would put them upon a pension until this is resolved and they can return to their rightful employment.” Though that did nothing to allay the distress Edith was currently living under. And he’d unwittingly made it worse, having her host an Art Exhibition. Georges frown deepened, “I think I misplaced a glove, would you see me back inside please.” He replied quietly as an idea formulated in his mind, “and don’t worry I shall not reveal your disclosure.” Frankly he wanted to sweep Edith away to his home, his sanctuary.
  16. Raconteur

    Away & Here Notices

    Hi All. I’ll not be able to post for a few days as my IMac desktop is going into Apple for repairs. I guess the graphics card has died so I’ll be dropping it off tomorrow afternoon. 🤞🏻 That it’s something else! As it’s not cheap to replace!
  17. Fountain In the middle of the Privy Garden there was a fountain. It was a simple thing... a wide round of water with a single statue in the middle, sprouting water. Unlike last year both the garden and the fountain had been well tended to, and as a result the fountain itself almost sparkled. Around it sit benches, nearly hidden by rose bushes, both red and white. So nervous that standing still was impossible, Sophia paced back and forth in front of the fountain. She had been looking forward to this moment since the Duke of Buckingham had agreed to meet with her, but now she wondered if she was up to the challenge. What if she failed? This was the only chance she was going to get to convince him to build an opera house in London. If he dismissed the idea as too risky or too expensive, there would be nothing else she could do. However, he loved music and the surprise she had promised him at her concert had pleased him. Those things could work in her favor. And Francis would accompany him. He must know what she hoped to accomplish today. Sophia had spoken of it often enough when she had been his ward. He had influence with the Duke which might be able to help her. Most of all, she wanted him here for moral support and because she didn’t feel comfortable being alone with Buckingham. Oh, he was charming and she loved to banter playfully with him, but he was formidable as well. Butterflies fluttered furiously in her stomach. They felt different than they usually did, a bit stronger and more erratic. She had been feeling them for a few days now, and not only when she was anxious. At first, she thought it might be the baby kicking, but it was much too early in her pregnancy for that. Wasn’t it? Juan’s child was making its presence known in other ways too. Her clothes seemed to fit more tightly every day and her belly was no longer completely flat. If it kept expanding at this rate, she would need her maternity gowns soon. For now, it was enough to just loosen her corset a bit. Sophia wanted to look her best today and was wearing a confection of coral silk, embroidered all over with pale yellow flowers. It was trimmed in Venetian lace around the moderately cut neckline, beneath the each of the four puffs of her long sleeves and around the elongated bottom of her corset, forming a peplum. The sides of the skirt were pulled back with white lace bows so that her yellow silk underskirt, embroidered in pink flowers, could be seen. Her white-gold hair was arranged in its usual cascade of curls, held in place by combs featuring coral fabric flowers. Most of her jewelry was comprised of pearls, but around her neck she wore the cameo Juan had given her on a coral ribbon. Hopefully, it would bring her luck. I’m going to need it, she sighed as she turned to look at the fountain spraying its liquid diamonds into the basin. The rhythmic bubbling usually soothed her and she breathed deeply and tried to concentrate on it. Singing calmed her as well, and perhaps her voice lifted in song would captivate the musically-inclined Duke and make him more amenable to her plan. At the very least, it would lead both gentlemen to her location. Closing her eyes, Sophia began to sing an aria from one of her favorite Italian operas, her sweet soprano voice soaring through the air on wings of exquisite and ethereal beauty.
  18. Sophia de la Cerda

    Easter 1678 | Easter Monday (11th all day)

    It seemed that all they could say to each other was ‘thank you,’ which was much preferable to telling each other where to go and what to do when they got there. John had every right to hate her, but nothing in his voice, expression, or body language indicated that he did. He was polite and courteous, and her opinion of him improved immensely. I shall speak well of him to my unmarried friends. Perhaps one of them will be fascinated enough seek out his company. She hoped her rejection had not turned him away from the notion of marriage altogether. Darlene and George seemed to be faring much better. They looked like they were flirting, and Sophia smiled when he kissed her new friend. Turning back to John, she cursed the blush that colored her cheeks. If John had seen, he chose not to say anything about it, once more rising in her estimation. “Your good wishes mean a lot to me,” she said. “I hope you enjoy the rest of your day.” In an attempt at levity, she added: “At least we don’t have to go to church again tomorrow.” With a respectful nod, she turned away from him and walked toward her carriage, expecting Karl to follow her. She remembered what Anna had told her about her bodyguard’s suspicions. Maybe he would tell Esteban he thought she was interested in John. That would definitely hurt his credibility, for she had told both her husband and Juan that she feared her guardian would choose John over Esteban. And they had both been there when she had boldly stated that she wished to marry Esteban.
  19. "Ah St. George's Square, I shall have to pass by there some time and see. I am sure if it is most elegant. I inherited this place from my late husband, Henry Baron Kendishall. I also lived for a time in his country estate, Glandon. Soon after his unfortunate death in a barn fire, I decided to come to London and sample court life. I have met so many wonderful people at court including George. I do not normally care to boast but I hope you will indulge me this one time. I have had the good fortune to have actually had His Royal Majesty attend one of my private parties and we got along splendidly." Perhaps that might impress her, well unless she was not all that pleased with the King, though doubtful she would ever admit such. Trying to think of something else which might put her in a more favorable light she suddenly thought of her cello playing! "Oh, by the way, Lady Halbersham, would you happen to be someone who has an appreciation of the fine arts especially music?"
  20. Anne-Elisabeth Devereux

    Partners In Rhyme | Tuesday 10 pm

    Anne-Elisabeth stretched her hands toward the fire. It had been a lot colder outside than she had expected. Bess was sewing a gentleman’s coat for her, but it wasn’t even close to finished. With my luck, she’ll complete it during the heat of summer. It would have been better to have one made by a tailor, but she did not know how to locate one. It seemed that the art of making a gentleman’s attire was a closely-guarded secret and never spoken of to ladies. If Dorset likes me dressing as a man, perhaps he can assist me in obtaining proper male clothing. She turned around when she heard a single pair of footsteps enter the room. Dorset looked quite handsome in his yellow robe. Is he wearing anything underneath? His mask was rather redundant, and when he commented on it, she tilted her head to the side, studying his face. “It would never fool anyone who knows you but it does add a mysterious flair.” She didn’t deepen her voice this time, for he was well aware of her identity. Anne-Elisabeth watched as he sprawled upon one of the couches adorning the room. His smile made her entire body tingle pleasantly. So he wanted to assess how well she impersonated a man? She feared he would be disappointed, but perhaps he would give a few pointers. With the intriguing Earl as her teacher, she would be able to fool even the most skeptical of courtiers. Maybe he would even take her with him to places frequented only by gentlemen just for the fun of it. Deepening her voice as low as possible, she feigned shock. “You want me to twirl? Real men don’t twirl.” Squaring her shoulders and holding her head up high, she swaggered over to him and gave him a sweeping bow. If she had been wearing a hat, she would have used it for dramatic effect. I’ll have to remember to acquire a hat as soon as possible. She wished she could take off her periwig instead. It was so itchy that it felt like ants were crawling around on her head. How long would she be able to ignore it? Rising from her bow, she looked straight into his eyes. “Good evening, Lord Dorset. I am pleased to make your acquaintance."
  21. Anne-Elisabeth Devereux

    Lead Me Not Into Temptation | Tuesday April 12, 2 pm

    “Oh, you wouldn’t proposition me that way.” Pausing, Anne-Elisabeth widened her dark eyes and placed a hand melodramatically over her heart. “You know I’m not that kind of girl.” As they resumed their stroll, she pressed her bosom against Lord Silverbridge’s arm again, proving what he already knew: she was definitely that kind of girl. “I have a steward. I spent my first year in England mourning for my late husband, and I had a lot of time to find someone I trusted. It took a few tries, but the man who passed all my tests is loyal to me and he keeps the rest of the employees in line. He sends me reports every now and then, informing me of what is going on and apprising me of situations that need a decision only I can make. When I went back in January, everything was running smoothly and the accounts were correctly balanced.” The young Countess looked forward to assisting Lord Silverbridge with redecorating the interior of his manor. Renovations didn’t happen overnight, so she had plenty of time to discover his unique sense of style and to tailor everything from the wallpaper to the furniture to his own tastes, but with a charm that would appeal to his future wife. Perhaps his sister would be willing to help as well, with his permission, of course. She would eventually be managing a household of her own. Anne-Elisabeth winked at him when he speculated that she was capable in all manner of things. “Maybe you’ll get the chance to find out.” Her voice had a teasing quality about it. I will certainly enjoy showing you just how ‘capable’ I am. She was glad that Lord Silverbridge agreed to a picnic. “I don’t mind starting early. Nor do I care if we get back after dark. I can do as I please and I answer to no one but myself.” The life of a widow was so freeing that she didn’t know if she’d ever want to marry again. Then again, she had not been a widow for very long. In a few years, she might change her mind. The kitten made its presence known. He took it from his coat and pet its little head. “Yes, that’s a good idea. I think she may be hungry.” Anne-Elisabeth held out her hand and the tiny creature sniffed her fingers and then rubbed up against them. She was an affectionate little thing. “I came by carriage, though if you would rather walk, I can send my driver home without me.”
  22. Lisa had prepared the garden room for her meeting with Lady Lucas. It was her favorite room in the house and it was difficult to feel anxious surrounded by the beautiful plants that decorated the area. Two couches and two chairs, upholstered in green brocade with a floral print in red and blue accented in gold thread, formed a semicircle in a corner. Pillows in complimentary colors adorned each seat. Large potted plants were arranged on the sides and between each piece of furniture. A low table covered by a blue tablecloth, with red flowers and green leaves embroidered around the edges, sat in front of the seating at the exact center. Upon it sat a golden vase filled with red roses that gave the room a sweet fragrance. The setting was lovely and serene, a perfect place for a friendly discussion. Margaretha roamed restlessly around the room, obviously nervous. She was dressed in a lilac gown that contrasted beautifully with her bright red hair. Lisa had known that she would be too curious to miss this meeting, as it had to do with her future. The girl was well-behaved and quiet and the Countess expected no trouble from her. In case she was asked to play, she had brought her violin, which was lying on the table that Lisa usually used when answering her correspondence. Lisa wore a gown of pale blue, sprinkled liberally with pearls. Pearls formed her necklace, earrings, and bracelet as well. Her curly blonde hair was arranged into a bun with a few ringlets left loose to frame her face. Though she didn’t show it, she was not quite as composed as she looked. What if Lady Lucas refused to help her ward find a husband when she found out that Margaretha was born on the wrong side of the blanket? It didn't feel right to keep such important information from her. The young Countess sighed. This might be a very short meeting. Or perhaps she will sympathetic to Margaretha’s plight. Myriad scenarios, both good and bad, ran through her mind as she waited for her guest to arrive.
  23. Aria

    Back in the Office Tuesday Afternoon

    At first, Sam had thought that Charles was only teasing about the secret room and the skeleton. She had heard that he liked to frighten ladies with his scary stories and practical jokes. But she was no lady, and had seen things that would cause most ladies to faint. She wasn’t even certain that Charles saw her as a woman. Sometimes she wished she could tell him the truth about the tryst at Newmarket, but she was afraid that it would ruin their friendship. He might feel betrayed or used, perhaps to the point that he would either have her reassigned or tossed out for impersonating a man. She didn’t regret what she had done, though. No, she would always savor that experience, even if it was destined never to happen again. Now she believed that he was telling the truth about where he had found the dagger.. It wasn’t impossible that a secret room ... or several of them ... existed in the passageways below the palace, and somebody could have been murdered there and left to rot for a century. Sam wondered how Charles had found the room, but that was something to ask him when they got there. As for the ghost, she was absolutely certain he was either teasing her or he had stumbled upon the room when he was drunk. If an inebriated Life Guard didn't want to be see until he sobered up, the passageways were a good place to hide. She didn't think that he was a sot, but she imagined all nobles drank too much occasionally at all those balls they attended. “The witching hour?” she asked, a playful tone to her voice. “That’s fine with me. Are you hoping that your ghost might make an appearance if we show up at midnight?”
  24. Juliana admired the image in the mirror … she holding the end of the leash looking gorgeous in her peplos of purple silk and Charles on his knees beside her, adorned only in the collar that proclaimed him her pet, or perhaps her possession. I should have our portrait painted like this, she thought, though I doubt he would ever agree. The collar did suit Charles and he wore it with pride. A little too much pride. When she saw him preening, she wondered if he was doing it just for the sake of more punishment. “You dare show vanity in front of your goddess? Have you not learned by now that I like my slaves to be humble?” She called for one of her ‘priestesses’ to bring her riding crop. “You will receive ten lashes for your arrogance.” In truth, she loved his arrogance, but in his current role, it was inappropriate. Moving behind him, she bent her knees and swung the whip low so that it once again bit into the flesh of his arse. Charles would be able to see what she was doing in the mirror and know when each strike was coming. “Count each lash for me,” she instructed and continued until all ten had been delivered. They were hard enough to sting but didn't break the skin or leave permanent marks.
  25. Early Afternoon, Wednesday 13 April 1678 Juan shook his head as he descended the steps of the humble, relatively non-descript building in which the Portuguese embassy in London was housed. He cast an eye down the street and could not help but feel a pang of annoyance when his senses were accosted by the more potently virile and almost tastelessly gaudy embassies of other nations. Of course the French one should stick out like a sore thumb, with more marble and sculpting that all the tombs of the Popes in Rome barrelled together. Size, always an issue between gentlemen, vexed him in the contrast between that of Spain and Portugal. At least today the Spanish Habsburg flag hung limp and lifeless: a fine allegory for the Spanish state itself which seemed to be in a century long siesta, punctuated by spasms of rebellion, famine, financial crisis and war. Juan would have thought that now, at roughly a decade after securing independence under the House of Braganza from from tyranny of those Castillian hidalgo carpet-baggers, the Crown could have done better in funding their showpiece property in England. England was, after all, the oldest of Portugal's allies. The nation's rejuvenanted vigour should be put on display. Instead, it felt as though Portugal had slipped back to the table unnoticed, like an errant child. Diplomacy is nine tenths all in appearances. Why did people assume Louis XIV was so great? Because he showed them that he was. Yes, the giant army helped, but it was also all in the stage management of public spectacle. Act like an Empire which has seen better days and you will be treated like one. This view was not shared by his nation's formal ambassador to England, the Count of Ponte. Juan had known him when he first came to England, just over ten years ago now. Only a little older than Juan, he nevertheless came across (to him, anyway) as a tired, old soul. Unlike Juan, who had embraced aspects of English lifestyle which he found to his taste, the pallor and demeanour of Ponte always suggested to Juan that he was long in need of several months on the Algarve or in the more salubrious climate of Bahia in Brazil. Soot, dust and rain did not seem to have become second nature to him even after all this time. When Juan had heard of the vacant position in London, he had leapt at it, even thought it meant vacating the potentially more prestigious position he had previously held in Versailles. But in England Juan had history. It was the country in which his children had been born and from which he late wife had hailed, even if she was now buried in Rome, so far from the iron grey skies of the land of her birth. Perhaps Ponte would soon be recalled and then Juan could seamlessly step into his shoes? Plans, plans, plans. Anyway, it was clear that the Count of Alcobaca's vision of a rejuvenanted Portuguese nationalism and position on the international stage was at odds with the opinions of the Count of Ponte. "There is enough trouble in the world," Ponte had groaned, "let France and Spain and England and the Empire fight, just so long as they leave us all in peace." In expressing quite bluntly what he thought of those words the pair - now ostensibly colleagues - realised then and there that their future relationship may not be as harmonious as either would wish. Both left the initial interview internally vowing to write to the ministero-chefe in Lisbon about the other. Juan always found the best way to de-stress himself after such a bout with "pigheaded" colleagues lay in the form of a brisk walk or ride in the company of his hounds. A view, it seemed, which was shared by much of the English squire-archy and endeared them very much as persons after his own heart. Descending the steps of the embassy he scanned the already busy Square to locate two of his servants, Martim and Tomas, both of whom had been charged with meeting the Count here and bringing him his favourite gun-dog, Cid, with a view to the Count taking him for a long walk through some of the better parks in the city to clear his (not the dog's) mind. They were nowhere to be seen. Muttering a curse under his breath, he stood on the raised pavement and looked up and down, his vision obscured by the tottering mass of wigs and bonnets undulating in the crowd of pedestrians passing by. The pair had likely decided to sample some of the taverns on the way here. If they were not good with his animals he would have sent them on the first ship back to the Tagus to sober them up in steerage. At length he saw the pair in the distance, rounding the corner and laughing together. Pulling his gloves off, the Count folded his arms and waited to give the pair a scolding. He could see Cid straining at his leash, his gaze obviously being taken by something the Count could not see from here. Lost in their private jokes, the pair had let their attention wander. Tomas, doubling over with laughter at something that had just been said, let his grip slacken ever so slightly. That was all it took. Cid was a seasoned gun-dog. The moment his leash was slackened or removed, he would fly like a bullet towards his quarry. Horrified, the Count watched as the dog lurched free and disappeared at a run into the centre of the Square. "Tolos!" he shouted ("fools!"), he pushed passers by out of the way and raced in the direction of the fleeing hound, vainly trying to catch up with it before it did anyone a mischief or, more likely, before it disappeared into the labyrinth of the city.
  26. Davina Wellsley

    A Matter Of Importance Tuesday Afternoon - 1pm

    The Duke's exit was followed by a servant who asked about any wants ..... suddenly parched she asked for wine uncaring of its color but sure to be of a Quality. Where oh where was her maid?! Reaction set it as her hands began to shake and her heart seemed to skip a beat or two as she took to her chair again. Gnawing on her bottom lip her thoughts ran riot. Had she indeed been followed here? But that in of itself was nothing for she could well be on some errand for her Mistress of even Lady Mountjoy who sought out the Duke. But she had not done what she thinks was the intention regarding that small bottle so whoever was placed as spy within the Queen's side would know it and, she supposed, would then try to succeed where she had failed. A hand went to her stomach as the very thought caused her to feel sick with worry - what IF they managed to really get close enough to harm the Queen and her child ..... Getting to her feet she began to pace back and forth lost in her thoughts
  27. Things progressed in good order, making arrangements with one of York's many clerks or secretaries. The only thing gnawing at Charles was the secret mission alluded to by the pair of Savoyards. As Manfred bade him farewell, Charles inquired "what would it be that Victor would want me to write to his mother?" Perhaps he could glean something from that.
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